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.

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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.

AMERICANS NEED A CONSPIRACY THEORY THEY CAN ALL AGREE ON

No subtlety of thought survives in the culture of unreason. Public space is populated with poseurs, cutouts, and imposters. Public discourse, with some exceptions, is much of the time not worth bothering with.

Patrick Lawrence: Obituary for Russiagate.

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

There is a conspiracy theory that the CIA put the very expression into general use to discredit alternate theories about the murder of President Kennedy. Perhaps that’s true – there is a CIA document – but the expression has been around for a long time. At any event it has become a slur to discredit political opponents. The accusation replaces rational discussion.

There have been actual conspiracies in history. There was a conspiracy to murder Caesar. And to murder Anwar Sadat. The Bolsheviks did conspire to take power and so did Guy Fawkes. Sometimes they succeeded – often surprising the conspirators – and sometimes they didn’t. Many times the conspirators thought the deed itself was all that needed to be done but Caesar was succeeded by Caesar and Sadat by his chosen successor. There are probably fewer conspiracies than people imagine but they do exist.

Conspiracy theories abound in the USA today. But, it should be made clear from the outset of this discussion that there are two different kinds of conspiracy theories – unacceptable ones and acceptable ones. An example of the first kind is the assertion that Trump was cheated of victory by vote-faking in key areas. The assertion is “baseless”, pushed by the “far-right-wing” and the “deluded“; has been “debunked” in detail; its so-called arguments are “bogus, none credible“; there is “no evidence” and so on. The full weight of the corporate media stands against this idea and it flourishes only in the undergrowth. Nonetheless, 29% of Americans in a March survey “completely” or “mostly” agreed that the election had been stolen from Trump (66% of Republicans, 27% of independents and 4% (!) of Democrats). So that particular conspiracy theory has significant support.

Other conspiracy theories are respectable: for example the one that the Russians got Trump elected in the first place. Loudly trumpeted by the corporate media for the entirety of his term, the indictment of a principal source of the famous dossier ought to have killed it. But no: to the believers the revelation that a key foundation of the conspiracy theory was a made-up and paid-for fraud makes no difference – “Even if every single word in the Steele dossier was wrong, that would not change the fact that the Russians sought to manipulate the US election“; “it wasn’t a hoax“; the fact that it was a fake was further proof that it was Kremlin-managed.

And so the American population is divided between those who think that Putin won the 2016 US presidential election and those who think Trump won the 2020 election. There is no common ground.

A lot has been written about conspiracy theories, the how and why of them – here’s one and there’s plenty more. But something that is seldom mentioned in these discussions is falsifiability. As Karl Popper argued, a real theory must be capable of being proved false. There must be some imaginable empirical datum that would disprove it. Sometimes, as with the addition of the Lorentz transformations to Newtonian/Galilean transformations, an old theory is proven to be accurate but incomplete. Sometimes an old theory is completely disproven as the aether theory was by the Michelson-Morley experiment. But all real theories are falsifiable. A scientific theory, in short, is true until someone proves that it isn’t. As Richard Feynman said: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. And, as another great physicist observed, these changes are not necessarily accomplished by rational argument: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents… but rather because its opponents eventually die.”

This principle can also be applied to conspiracy theories. For example, if it could be established that Dominion voting machines can not be connected to the Internet, that fact would be a fatal blow to one of the pillars of the Trump won story. Likewise, if it could be established that a fundamental source of the Dossier was a fake then a pillar of the Putin elected Trump story falls. A theory that cannot be falsified is nonsense. Likewise a theory whose believers will never accept any contrary evidence is nonsense. Q-Anon rolls on for years promising the Complete Revelation every tomorrow and the one after that; the Russiagate conspiracy theory rolls on mutating as required. The more contrary evidence, the more tightly believers cling to them. Actual conspiracy theories therefore are not falsifiable because they’re all conspiracy and no theory.

If they are falsifiable, therefore, “conspiracy theories” are theories; no modifier. The examples in the article cited above – Pizzagate, Q-Anon, Obama’s place of birth and Soros – all happen to be theories that violate conventional wisdom and therefore are tossed into the conspiracy theory bin by the conventionally-inclined. Typically, the author makes no mention of a conspiracy theory that occupied far more space and effort and had much greater effect on the real world than any of these. And that’s because Trumputin was conventional wisdom, pushed every day by the corporate media, and the others weren’t. Trumputin was said to have “a mountain of evidence” and “proof“; the others were dismissed without consideration.

In short, rather than using the useless expletive “conspiracy theory”, it would be more accurate to say that theories that run counter to conventional wisdom abound in the United States today. Some of them – Q-Anon – fail the test of falsifiability, others do not. Some have received enough attention to make them more or less probable, others have not. In this respect, it is appropriate to look at what Americans think of their mass media. To an older generation “I read it in the paper” meant something but a Gallup poll in October tells us that it doesn’t mean much today. Only 7% of US adults surveyed had a “great deal” of “trust and confidence” and 29% “a fair amount”; the “trusters” were outnumbered by the 29% who had “none at all” and 34% “not very much”; in 1997 the trusters were 53%. Does anyone expect that decline to reverse? Another poll says the USA ranks last in media trust of 86 countries. One more shows a major political division. No one should be surprised – the mainstream media was full of one conspiracy theory and ignored the other.

COVID-19 is another revelation that there are two separate islands of opinion. Take, for example, the simple factual question – yes or no – did Dr Fauci’s organisation fund gain-of-function experiments in the Wuhan laboratory? A rather important matter, one would think. Snopes, that reliable defender of the status quo, says “unproven” in May in a long-winded piece. Denied by Fauci in May: The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” Two Pinocchios said the WaPo. But finally admitted in October: “a top official at the National Institutes of Health has conceded that contrary to the repeated assertions of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH did indeed fund highly dangerous gain-of-function research on bat-borne coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” And more: “The annual report described the group’s work from June 2017 to May 2018, which involved creating new viruses using different parts of existing bat coronaviruses and inserting them into humanized mice in a lab in Wuhan, China. The work was overseen by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is headed by Anthony Fauci.” And so May’s conspiracy theory became October’s fact.

Did the virus leak from these US-funded experiments? No one knows but it cannot be ruled out. As to Dr Fauci himself, he may have overreached by telling his critics that he represents science; when even the WaPo carries a piece entitled “Fauci Can’t Use Science to Excuse His Missteps” perhaps his best-before date is nearing. Despite the prayer candles. In this respect, the fate of Robert Kennedy’s book, The Real Dr Fauci, is indicative; it’s Number One on Amazon with 96% five-star ratings. This is the more remarkable because of the full-scale attack on him from the establishment media: he is “the dumbest Kennedy“; “race-baiting ‘documentary’ and disinformation to advance bogus theories and seed anti-vaccine sentiment“; “documented history of promoting debunked theories about vaccines“; banned on social media. Tucker Carlson, in “a new escalation of his anti-science rhetoric”, had an interview “with longtime anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.” Nonetheless, a lot of people are buying and reading it. These media campaigns don’t work as well as they used to. Indeed the 29% who had no trust at all probably believe the reverse of what the conventional media says. I know I do: if they’re all shouting the sane thing, I take it as a powerful indicator that the opposite is true. We should read Western media the way the Soviets read theirs.

However, there are unrelenting attempts to create conspiracy theories that all Americans can agree on. For years we have had the conspiracy theory that Putin is behind everything bad; in its current manifestation he’s about to invade Ukraine (or as the US Defense Secretary put it: “an incursion by the Soviet Union into the Ukraine“). Another fast-growing set of conspiracy theories focus on China, the “Wuhan lab leak” being one example. (Dangerous that because of Fauci’s funding of GoF research in Wuhan). China is about to invade Taiwan or starving Uyghers are forced to stuff themselves with pork or tennis players are disappeared; these conspiracy theories are safer. One of the principal pushers of the first conspiracy theory is switching to the other: he senses the change in the party line. And there’s always North Korea where the rats eat the babies and the babies eat the rats.

The China conspiracy theory seems to be working – a survey by the Reagan Foundation found that 52% saw China as the “greatest threat” to the USA (Russia well behind at 14% and North Korea just behind it at 12%). Three years ago Russia was 30% to China’s 21%. More striking is that China has gained twenty points since February. Can the Putin-won-2016/Trump-won-2020 divide be bridged by a Chinadunnit conspiracy theory?

But agreeing on a common enemy is one thing, the internal divisions are something else. In this respect the Reagan Foundation survey cited above is indicative. It finds that disbelief is spreading rapidly in the American population: trust in all institutions is dropping; confidence in the US military is dropping; support for active global leadership is dropping. A survey just now shows a slight majority of American youth regarding their democracy as in trouble. Not the strongest foundation for more foreign adventures.

A deeply divided country: there is no common conversation in the United States today – one person’s conspiracy theory is another’s truth.

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.

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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.

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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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 9 DECEMBER 2021

RED LINES. Eng. Rus. Putin lays them down: “we will insist on the elaboration of concrete agreements that would rule out any further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to Russia’s territory… we need precisely legal, juridical guarantees, because our Western colleagues have failed to deliver on verbal commitments…” What do you do when someone is threatening you, lying about you, breaking every agreement, getting closer and closer to you? Salami tactics: each step is small but there’s always another. Eventually some thin slice will be one thin slice too many. I think that this is the last time Putin & Co will ask; I really get the feeling that they’ve had enough. Read the speech yourself – the important bit is short and the Western propaganda mill will distort it. As the joke goes, it’s not a threat, it’s a promise. Kinzhals off the US coasts? Poseidons lurking at every port? Burevestniks in a holding pattern just offshore? How about these things? Destroy the Azov Battalion to illustrate will and capability?

PUTIN-BIDEN. Neither side is saying much about it (Kremlin, White House). Maybe the only significant outcome is this: “The two leaders agreed to instruct their representatives to engage in meaningful consultations on these sensitive matters.” Western propaganda predictable: “warning“, “warns” “confronts“, “strong response“. There are reports that Biden is telling Kiev to back off and Doctorow sees Western propaganda easing a bit. A NATO/Russia meeting is coming. The Saker is hopeful. Want my take? First tell me who’s in charge in Washington: all I see are bulldogs fighting under a rug and nothing to indicate that Washington is agreement-capable. Let alone Kiev which has yet to act on any part of the Minsk Agreement. Biden is capable of reading threats from a script but is he capable of the give-and-take of real negotiations? We’ll see.

INDIA. More significant was Putin’s visit to India. Joint statement (note “mutual settlement of payments in national currencies”). Lots of agreements signed; pretty widespread interaction.

DOESN’T MAKE ANYTHING. On Tuesday Moscow opened ten new Metro stations completing another piece of the 70-km Big Circle Line.

SWIFT. If Russia, China and the other “non-democracies” weren’t thinking of setting up their own system for moving money and credits around, they are now. (Of course they have – what we don’t know is how close they are to pushing the button and how much gold that button will have.)

AURUS. Interesting video on the development of the luxury Aurus car (and Putin’s ride). Has much to say about import substitution, Soviet engineering and Russian qualitative development.

PORTENTS OF THE END. Just watch this and weep. This guy is on the US Senate Armed Services Committee and is supposed to know something. Any US warship entering the Black Sea to “rain destruction” would have three or four minutes to detect and deal with a swarm of hypersonic missiles coming at it. As to nukes, Russia has them too. Crazy dangerous empty ignorant threats.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Media taking a “limited hangout” in reaction to the implosion of Trumputin. NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Nyah nyah, we’re not coming! But you weren’t invited.

STASIS. While a poll finds that 52% of Americans see China as the “greatest threat” to the USA, they have little confidence in much, not even the military. Another shows American youth pretty pessimistic. Not the strongest foundation for firing threats in all directions. Particularly when 30% think the POTUS is illegitimate and few believe the MSM. And Trump would beat Biden today says a poll.

BELARUS. Developments crawl along. Lukashenka promises a new Constitution for people to vote on soon next year. Suggests Russian nuclear weapons might be stationed in Belarus if NATO moves farther. And he promises to “team up” with Russia if it faces “aggression from Ukraine. Once again, Washington’s policy unites people against it.

TROLLING. Beijing trolls USA on democracy in US practice. Both Beijing and Moscow are getting less polite. Check out Lavrov’s picture and its probable meaning. The correlation of forces is changing.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. The new Norwegian government says it wants Norwegian forces patrol the border with Russia. Is this a way of saying “we don’t want our oafish provocative allies to do something that we’ll have to pay for?”. France isn’t joining in.

UKRAINE. Zelensky has begun actions against Rinat Akhmetov after accusing him of being behind the alleged coup attempt. Not likely to make his position stronger.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

MACKINDERGARTEN LESSON

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation)

In 1904, the British geographer, Halford Mackinder, read a paper named “The Geographical Pivot of History” at the Royal Geographical Society. In the paper he advanced a hypothesis on the influence of geographic reality on world power relationships. This is sometimes regarded as the founding moment of the study of geopolitics. Looking at the whole planet, he spoke of the “heartland” – the great landmass of Eurasia – and the Islands – the large islands of the Americas and Australia and the small islands of the United Kingdom and Japan. (Parenthetically, he does not seem to have much concerned himself with Africa or South America.) For most of history, Europe was an isolated and not very important appendage of this great world mass, subject to continual raids from the nomads of the Heartland, and the outer islands played no part in world events.

All this changed about five centuries ago when what he called the “Columbian Age” began. That is to say, the time when Europe discovered sea power. This gave the Islands a great dominance over the Heartland. In 1905, however, he saw the situation changing with the construction of railways which could connect the Heartland. In 1919 he produced his famous “triad”:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland.

Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island.

Who rules the World Island commands the world.

His fear then was Germany+East Europe=world dominance. But the triad was not intended to be true for all time – he would not agree thirty years later that the USSR’s rule over East Europe plus the World Island meant rule over the world; Mackinder adapted his theory to the realities as he saw them. And, after the Second World War, he believed that the Islands (USA+UK+allies) could control the Rimlands and therefore lock out the Heartland (USSR). The “Rimlands” were an later addendum to his 1904 theory: these were the territories subject to influence by sea power; that is the edges of the Heartland.

His theory has been in and out of favour – because it was taken up by some nazis (Germany must conquer the Heartland to gain world dominance) geopolitics became tainted for a time. Some think that it’s a textbook – Washington must maintain naval superiority; the Middle East is a key area of conflict because the Heartland can break the Rimlands in half there; Russia lusts after a warm water port and so on. This is an overstatement: Mackinder believed that he had elucidated an important driving factor in world power relationships – not some deterministic law but a important principle.

And so he had. We take it for granted today, familiar as we all are with world maps and world globes, but the discovery of The Ocean was a hugely important event in world power relationships. By “The Ocean” I do not mean the trivial observation that, eventually, all land ends at the water’s edge, but the understanding that the water is all connected. Here is an interesting projection of the world map as seen from the perspective of fishes – the Spilhaus Projection. It’s all blue except for bits around the edges and the blue continues, round and round, through the Bering Strait. This connectedness was not obvious until about 500 years ago when Spanish and Portuguese navigators made it so. A good illustration of the connectedness of The Ocean is the career of the British Admiral Nelson: his career in the Royal Navy took him to the Caribbean, the Arctic, India, the North American Station, the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas and the Atlantic Ocean. All of them equally reachable from the principal base at Portsmouth. This was the great world-shattering discovery that made Europe ruler of the world – once you put out to sea, you can go anywhere. Or at least to anywhere in the Rimlands where most people live. With that discovery – and the accompanying technology – Europe ceased to be a minor isolated appendage at the edge of the world; it was able to surround the Heartland. And so we have the tremendous dominance of Europe over the world for the last five centuries. (Not just mastery of the Ocean of course: Europe’s greater killing skill and its ever-attending diseases were powerful aids to conquest too.)

There is a great weakness to the Heartland’s power. Mackinder began his 1904 paper by listing the difficulties with the Heartland. Its rivers flow the wrong way – either into the inaccessible Arctic or into internal lakes like the Caspian or Aral Seas. There are too many deserts and too many mountains. There isn’t enough rainfall. Much of its territory is too cold, too far north and too forested. Distances – from the perspective of muscle-powered transport – are immense. The Heartland is simply not hospitable and therefore, will never have much of a population. The Rimlands, on the other hand, are much more populated and always will be. In short, the Heartland can never have the population to dominate the Rimlands and, without sea power, it can’t get to the Islands. Perhaps the closest that the the Heartland peoples came to conquering the world was when Temujin unified the Mongols. But there, as history has many times shown, when the horse people arrive in the cities, the cities win in the end; only in the Russian lands did the khanates linger for much longer than three generations. Therefore – and it seems that Mackinder came to realise this – the Heartland is less of an actor in geopolitics than a subject: it is valuable if possessed by, say, Germany, or if its controlling power can break through and gather some of the Rimlands.

Mackinder’s theories are considered to have influenced Zbigniew Brzezinski who saw it as very important for Washington to control “continental bridgeheads” in the Rimlands. For example Afghanistan and the Middle East. (Mackinder saw the Isthmus of Suez as key position – “the weakest spot in the girdle of early civilisations”). From the perspective of 2021, enough said – the USA has received no benefit at all from its fiddling around in these areas. Indeed, when the history of the end of the Imperium Americanum is written, these two areas will occupy many pages of text: utter failure. On paper Afghanistan may look like a “bridgehead” but it is, in fact, impenetrable to outsiders. And the Middle East has too many people who are, as Putin put it: “more cunning, clever and strong than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose”. Some bridgeheads are best left to theory.

But time marches on. Mackinder in 1904 was very impressed by the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway (then with a spur through Manchuria; the all-Russian route was only finished in 1916) and predicted

the century will not be old before all Asia is covered with railways… it is inevitable that a vast economic world, more or less apart, will there develop inaccessible to oceanic commerce.

The curse of the Heartland had always been the immense difficulty and slowness of movement – sea movement was always faster and easier – but railways could change all that and he saw this first trans-Heartland railway as a world-changing event. Today the line is double-tracked and electrified and its capacity is continually increasing. In fact, today it is theoretically possible to take passenger trains from Yakutsk – about as deep in the Heartland as one can imagine – to London and then a taxi to the Royal Geographical Society and contemplate a copy of Mackinder’s original paper.

As it happens, his prediction has come true, although not as soon as he expected. But it’s not Russia that’s building trains through the Heartland today: this video of high speed railway construction by country over time says it all. China first appears in March 2003; has the most rail in March 2009 and, when the video ends in December 2019, has well over half the world’s total. And it shows no signs of stopping – high speed railways are a vital component of its Belt and Road initiative and Laos was just connected. And China has just produced a 600 kph prototype maglev train, already having a 400 kph one in service.

And now, a century and a quarter later, we come to something that I’m sure Mackinder never envisaged and that is the Heartland plus population. Russia plus China: millions of well-educated, well-situated people, lots of science and technology, an enormous percentage of the world’s manufacturing capacity together with all the natural resources one could want. The Heartland plus population plus manufacturing plus resources. There’s still more: the Islands have relied on their sea power for centuries but Russia has a large and competent navy and China now has more ships than the US Navy (and probably more than all of NATO too).

What a shame Zbigniew Brzezinski isn’t alive to enjoy the fruits of his efforts! In The Grand Chessboard he warned that the greatest danger to continued America primacy would be a Russia-China alliance. He was (idiotically?) confident that US diplomacy could prevent that from happening. Quite the contrary – the arrogance of his “New American Century” followers have driven Moscow and Beijing together.

The Heartland plus population plus production plus sea power: that’s the end of the “Columbian Age”.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 25 NOVEMBER 2021

UKRAINE. Lots of bogus hysteria about how Russia is about to invade Ukraine – for example. Here’s my view – Russia Inc has no desire to pay for “Country 404” – the US/EU/NATO broke it, they own it. But, eventually, the provocations will get to be too much – it’s a cost-benefit analysis and I’m not privy to the data – then Russia will liberate those parts of Ukraine where Russians will be welcomed as liberators and leave the rest to its fate. When/if it happens, it will be fast, decisive and surprise everybody (like every Russian military operation since 2000). There is nothing the West can do (sanctions escalation – that’s a spavined horse) unless it wants to go nuclear in which case the USA will certainly be obliterated. Orlov and Saker. From the West, nonsense and more nonsense (complete with The Misquotation). How about this from the country with one fully-staffed infantry battalion? The safety of the world hangs on the patience of Putin and Xi and the hope that not all Western generals are future VP Sales of MIC rackets.

RUSSIA/CHINA. The two Defence Ministers have agreed to still closer ties. This relationship is much broader and deeper than a mere “alliance”: it’s Mackinder’s Heartland plus population plus production plus sea power. The end of the “Columbian Age”. Moscow and Beijing, learning from the failures of the USSR and the Imperium Americanum, won’t try and run the world: they know it can’t be done.

OPINION WORTH LISTENING TO. This guy is connected: NATO’s mistake is that it still thinks it’s dealing with the weakened Russia of the 1990s. Another mistake, I would add, is that NATO thinks it’s the (imagined) NATO of the 1990s; it isn’t: only a paper tiger then, it’s become a paper pussycat.

RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. Levada poll (Googlish) shows Russians highly value social rights. Situation seems OK but read Levinson’s notes: he detects differences in the young. But another poll suggests that the young aren’t all that much different (despite, IMO, a heavy effort by the interviewers to elicit opposition sympathies).

KURSK. The former Northern Fleet commander says the Kursk was sunk after a collision with a NATO submarine. “No comment” says Peskov.

PLEISTOCENE PARK. “This complex will be a basis to implement one of the super tasks the World Mammoth Center is facing – the ambitious idea to revive mammoths by using biotechnologies“.

GAS TRANSIT. Spreading invasion rumours, Kiev wants another gas transit agreement with Russia.

NORD STREAM 2. More US sanctions and delays by Germany. OK, Russia loses some money but Europe will lose more (even the Greens have figured that out). “This is a game where Germany does not hold a winning hand“. As to money, Russia’s FOREX kitty is now USD620 billion and growing and China will buy anything Russia has.

THOSE PESKY RUSSIANS. They want to spread chaos in the USA and there’s a diesel shortage exacerbating the supply chain problem. So naturally Moscow would like to make this worse – or so we’ve been told over and over. So why is it selling the USA two million barrels of diesel? Another question your MSM outlets will neither ask nor answer.

WESTERN VALUES™. Natylie Baldwin explains why Russians are no longer interested in the West’s “values”. I wrote something similar. Apart from other reasons, they’re not impressed by the gap between promise and performance. Another possibility destroyed by arrogance and ignorance. See below.

WE MAKE THE RULES. “NATO reiterate that they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members“. Yeah but the famous Rules-Based International Order doesn’t mean we have to stick to the rules.

REFUGEE WARS. Lukashenka spoke to Merkel (I guess there’s no more pretending that she’s in charge). Coincidentally, as it were, Belavia cancelled migrant flights from UAE. The one time I was in the same room as Lukashenka, I didn’t think he was very smart. I was wrong: watch this interview with a “journalist” who thinks he’s a barrister. PS I think Lukashenka has had enough of smug Westerners.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Five corrections we won’t see from the MSM, instead Applebaum hits it out of the park – even when it’s false, it’s true.

MY WEIRDOMETER IS BROKEN. Not even in the USSR was there Ilyich and Koba; Boy Detectives.

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN. More fighting. It’s reported that Putin will meet the two presidents on Friday. Russia has a mutual defence treaty with Armenia (which does not cover Karabakh).

GUNS. A US general says American hypersonic capabilities are “not as advanced” as China’s or Russia’s.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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.)

Even if every single word in the Steele dossier was wrong, that would not change the fact that the Russians sought to manipulate the US election using hacked material and a disinformation campaign. Nor would it change the fact that the Trump family welcomed this intervention.

– Anne Applebaum, 17 November 2021

WHO’S ON FIRST?

Answer to question from Sputnik on significance of Sullivan-Patrushev phonecall

None of these questions can be answered until we have an idea who’s in charge in Washington. For example: are Russian troops massing at the Ukraine border — the State Dept says they are, the Pentagon says they aren’t. Is Taiwan part of China or isn’t it? Are they trying to have predictable and stable relations with Russia or are they provoking Russia by arming Ukraine and sending ships and aircraft near Russia? Are they trying to return to the JCPOA, or destroy it for all time? 

Meetings with Russia, China and Iran consist of the usual demands and accusations combined with more-or-less pathetic requests to release oil supplies or do something on global warming (immediately spoiled by boasting that we showed up and they didn’t.) 

What we see, to quote Churchill, are bulldogs fighting under a rug as the USA declines further into stasis.  

As to Sullivan himself, he’s too deeply involved in the Russiagate nonsense to be credible.

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.