Navigating Russia/Ukraine Warmongering Disinformation

Readers have been doing a very good job of navigating the very heavy propaganda surrounding Russia’s supposedly belligerent intentions towards Ukraine. We are featuring some key finds and commentary below, including from members of our Brexit brain trust.

To stress an overarching issue, which most of the Western press refuses to acknowledge: Russia’s position now very closely parallels that of the US during the Cuban missile crisis. We did not want Soviet missiles in Cuba. Russia does not want Ukraine turned into a staging ground to attack Russia, whether via NATO membership or less formal means. Russia is already unhappy about the NATO putting supposedly defensive missiles in uncomfortably close proximity of its borders.1

In addition, Russia does not want to occupy Ukraine. It is an economic basket case and would be a huge money sink, even apart from the high cost of holding the terrain. Russia wants Ukraine to be a buffer zone.

We’ll address three issues: the claim that Russia has escalated in recent months and is on the verge of attacking Ukraine; the backstory of what Russia was and thinks it was promised by the West; and the lack of good next moves for the West.

Is Russia Threatening Ukraine?

The notion that Russia is massing troops with an intent of attack doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. First, Russia not unreasonably has servicemembers near its borders. Those who want to depict Russia as a a belligerent are throwing in units not stationed close enough to be part of a strike force. Moreover, while it’s hard to get good numbers, any increase has not been huge (on the order of 100,000 soldiers) and took place early in 2021, contrary to claims of aggressive increases in October and November. On top of that, Russia has not put in place the logistical support needed for combat, such as medical teams. By contrast, the first sign the US was serious about invading Iraq was that it started pre-positioning hospital ships nine months before the attack.

Cat Burglar provided a good overview yesterday in comments:

The poor reporting on Russian troop levels in regions adjacent to the Ukrainian border make it hard to figure out what is happening. Getting so many soldiers into the CIA evidence room might mean finding a new place to store Saddam’s Weapons Of Mass Destruction and the torpedoes from the Gulf Of Tonkin incident, to say nothing of the bomb used to blow up the USS Maine. Some counting and basic geography have been absent from most reporting, so I took an excursion on google and Wikipedia to find out more.

But according to the Polish Institute For International Affairs in a 2016 report, the Western and Southern Military Districts in Russia had 372,000 troops stationed there as a matter of course. With the addition of 90,000 or 127,000 more, you could get up to a half million (about twice as many as we have in the states bordering The Mexico).

Not all those troops — the Russians, I mean — are close to the border according to the standards of western reporting. Yelnya, an alleged base of a big chunk of the 100,000 troops,has been declared “nearby,” and is 150 miles from the border, but the headquarters of the 20th Guards Army (2 divisions and 7 brigades) is 175 miles from Kharkiv — is that still nearby? The Southern Military District Headquarters are a couple hours away from the Ukraine border, in Rostov-on-Don, and the 8th army (about the same size as the 20th) is headquartered 175 miles from the border. There is also the Black Sea Fleet, and the 22nd Army Corps (smaller than the Armies) in the Crimea.

Just looking at this, and at the map, the extra 100,000 troops don’t appear to make that big of a difference from normal. If Russia wanted to, say, invade Ukraine as far west as the Dnepr, it looks like it could have done so any time it wanted to. There is also the unclearly reported fact that the extra troops appear to have been in place since April, after big military training exercises in the region — the advent of the 100,000 troops was no November surprise.

So my guess at this point is that the timing of the crisis at hand has been manufactured for political convenience.

dk linked to an article in Intellinews dated January 27 which described how some key Ukrainian officials are trying to dial down the war talk:

The chief of Ukraine’s Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, can hardly be accused of being an appeaser of the Kremlin. It was he who signed off the sanctions against Putin’s man in Ukraine, Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the Political Council of the Opposition Platform, For Life Party, at the beginning of 2021. That was one element in what appeared to be a co-ordinated attempt by Ukraine and the US to change the delicate equilibrium established after the hot phase of war in Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region in 2014-15….

It was this abrupt change of tack in Ukraine’s behaviour in the first two months of Biden’s presidency that has likely prompted the amassing of Russia troops at the Ukrainian border at the end of the same month. Their menacing presence continues up to the moment. Observers with better knowledge of regional politics and Putin’s patterns see it as a show of force that backs up Russia’s negotiating position but is unlikely to result in war. The White House has chosen to interpret it, at least publicly, as a threat of imminent invasion.

A year after it all started, Ukraine and the US are hardly speaking with one voice.

Interviewed by the BBC on January 24, Danilov accused Western allies of spreading panic by hyping up the possibility of Russian invasion. He claimed that the scaremongering, primarily fuelled by the US and the UK, was harming Ukraine and benefiting Putin…

Danilov mentioned that he even attempted to argue with the Washington Post after it ran an article on October 30, which was the first in a massive wave of alarmist publications….But he said the newspaper wouldn’t listen to him.

The WaPo piece was based on comments by anonymous US officials claiming there was a serious uptick in October in the number of Russian troops deployed near the Ukrainian border. These comments were backed up by military analyst Michael Kofman, who in the next few weeks emerged as a vocal proponent of the looming invasion narrative. But it also contained a quote by Danilov who contradicted the premises of the story by putting the number of Russian troops massed at the border at 80,000 to 90,000, the same or even lower than what was estimated back in the spring.

John Pilger describes what the Chinese would call a provocation:

Last March 24, the Ukrainian president decreedthat Ukraine would take Crimea back from Russia, with “military measures” to achieve “de-occupation.” The U.S. and NATO voiced “unwavering” support.

In April NATO backed a Ukrainian offensive in its civil war against Russian-allied separatists in the eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk. That is when Russia moved more troops to its borders with Ukraine, signaling it would defend its allies (Former CIA Case Officer and CAM columnist John Kiriakou has reported that the actual number of Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, estimated between 70,000 and 90,000, was the same number that had been there for the last eight years, and that Western media reports of a Russian troop buildup were inflammatory. Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, the head of the German navy, was forced to resign after saying talk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was “nonsense” and that Russia was merely seeking “respect”for its security concerns in Europe).

The West’s Broken Promises to Russia about Its Security

Russia is correct to deem the US “not agreement capable,” particularly in light of this history. From vlade by e-mail:

One of the Czech internet dailies has a long-form take on the NATO/Russia, specifically the “no inch eastwards”.

But since you probably don’t want to google-translate it, here’s a summary:

They say that:
– There was no formal promise of NATO non-expansion from NATO, ever.
– There were informal pronouncements by Baker and Genscher (the then West Germany foreign minister), mostly by the latter

– who had no mandate to make any such promises, while he had a clear interest in getting USSR to agree to German unification
– both Baker and Genscher presented USSR with options that were at least somewhat misleading (not only in terms of NATO).

– US/Germany formally committed to

– limit the size of German military
– not deploy any WMD to former East Germany
– not deploy any non-German troops to former East Germany/West Berlin
– not expand any NATO-specific infrastructure in East Germany/West Berlin
– i.e. basically “exclude” East Germany territory from NATO.

– Gorbachev accepted in 1990s that NATO expansion is likely, “as a number of Eastern European countries expressed with to leave Warsaw Pact and enter NATO”.

– although he didn’t like it, and considered it against what Genscher/Baker said, cf above

– In 1990/91 most Western leaders were against expansion of NATO, and the US was against NATO expansion until at least 1993

– the change was driven primarily by Havel and Walesa, who spent much time persuading Clinton and his team about the expansion
– while there were attempts to include USSR, including talks about how NATO would one day include USSR.
– cf 1994’s Partnership for Peace (see Interestingly enough, it also talks about Ukraine, and the need not to alienate Russia..
– personal note. When I keep commenting that “I have this from the person who was in the room”, this doc has the name of the person I mean. Go, have a guess ;)

– They point out that Putin in 2002, when Baltics entered Nato, said about Ukraine: “Ukraine is an independent sovereign state, and it will choose its own path to peace and security,”

– of course, the situation then was quite different, but it shows the distance pols managed to create….

– They point out that regardless of what was/wasn’t said in ’89, in ’99 Russia signed up to Founding Act, which restricted NATO from “permanent deployment of any significant forces” or WMD on the new member’s territory, but at the same time explicitly acknowledged the right of countries not in NATO (including former Soviet Republics) to join NATO.>

This is consistent with the major point we’ve made, that when the USSR was about to disband, James Baker promised Russia that NATO would not expand eastward. This was a verbal commitment only. Russia, based on its belief about how top-level negotiations worked, took this as binding when it wasn’t.

Another critical point that goes virtually unmentioned is the Ukraine problem was supposedly solved in 2015 in the Minsk II agreement, except the US effectively retraded that deal by not implementing it. An indirect mention of Minsk II came when Macron pushed last week for Europe to have a seat at the table in any negotiations with Russia, invoking the Normandy format (having the West represented by the US, France, Germany, and the UK) as it was in the seemingly-successful Minsk II talks.

John Pilger elaborated:

The Normandy format has been a vehicle for implementing the 2015 Minsk agreements designed to end the separatist war in Ukraine’s Donbas region. This solution has already been proposed and accepted in principle, according to Anatol Lieven, who wrote in The Nationthat the Minsk II agreement was already adopted by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in 2015, and endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council.

Key elements of the Minsk II deal are full autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions in the context of decentralization of power in Ukraine, demilitarization, and restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty. Despite agreement by all parties, political analyst Anatol Lieven says “because of the refusal of Ukrainian governments to implement the solution and refusal of the United States to put pressure on them to do so,” the settlement is a kind of “zombie policy.”

As David in Santa Cruz remarked in comments:

Macron’s remarks to the MEP’s and Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks about proportionality are evidence that Blinken and Nuland are nothing but a pair of Cold War-nostalgic chicken-hawks who confuse Russian-Roulette with diplomacy…..

This should be a purely European issue. The United States has no business deploying missiles in Poland and Romania — Yves is precisely correct to compare these missile launchers to the Soviet launchers deployed in Cuba in 1962.

As I read the English language Russian outlets, there is a very likely chance that the Russian government will launch “surgical strikes” against these launch sites, as well as missile sites in “Ukraine.” Based on the doctrine set forth by JFK, Rusk, and McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis, such strikes would be justified.

Since the EU was foolish enough to admit the economically weak quasi-democracies Poland and Romania (the reason some of my British friends supported Brexit), this makes U.S. threats over “Ukraine” an issue that should be resolved by the European Union.

Western Paper Tigers Growl

The US does not appear to have any good plays despite its shows of aggression (and no, resorting to nukes is not a good play). At best, it appears to be trying to provoke Russia into being so stupid as to throw the first punch. A second concern is a false flag attack in Ukraine….and not even organized by the US. All it would take would be some local hotheads workings towards the Furher.

Our Clive offered a brutal take via e-mail:

From a UK perspective, this in one of those where it is a case of everyone, and that doesn’t exclude anyone, is all-aboard the failboat.

In some sort of order of causality (but not attempting to say who is most to blame):

  • The Anglosphere. The UK and the US want to intervene, but don’t want direct military involvement in the Ukraine. And everyone knows that. So they have limited tools in their toolbox, which means that they’d be better off doing nothing. But since when did the Anglosphere be content with doing nothing? Never, that’s when. It became, then, a matter which could only be influenced by economic sanctions on Russia. Which…
  • Isn’t going to happen because Germany. Mercantilism is going to be pulled from Germany’s cold, dead hand. So it will continue to make obtaining raw materials, Russian gas, here, the top priority, outcompeting everything else. Including any obligations to Ukraine, which it foolishly started incurring when it pushed Ukraine to become more aligned with the EU and NATO.
  • Germany is then an unreliable security partner for countries which need, or think they need, solidarity against Russia, such as Poland and Romania. Those countries are left looking to something which might give them some support. Like France.
  • France can’t convince Germany to do anything that might interfere with its economic aims, so its notions of a “European” security or defence positioning is in tatters. It might get somewhere through the EU. But…
  • The EU has no competency in either foreign policy or defence. But still it tries with its High Representative. Who, between the Commission undermining them and the Member States either ignoring him or expecting him to stich up their pet policy aims with the other Member States, a task he has neither the authority nor leverage to achieve, almost defines the adage “responsibility for everything, power over nothing”.  And it’s never going to fly anyway. Once one country claims “it” is “the EU”, there’s no EU. The only country which has any hope of making good on any promises of a joint EU security framework is France, but few if any of the other Member States will hand that much power to France and, if France can’t convince Germany (or any of the other big-hitter Member States) to let it have it, and it can’t, it is bye-bye European Defence Force.

I really do have to hand it to Putin. Just by having “a hundred thousand troops” faff around on the Ukranian border (or even, maybe more likely, a few tens of thousands of troops, but moving around a lot so it confuses everyone trying to find out how many troops are really there), he’s a) exposed a whole six-pack of cans which the US, the UK and the EU have kicked down the road for decades, b) shown how utterly conflicted and divided the whole lot of them are and c) got record prices for selling the same old natural gas into a market which paid nosebleed prices, all winter long. And, just for kicks, he can keep pulling this same stunt for a whole lot longer, if he likes, before there’s any chance for demand destruction to get going. Oh, and he can pull it again at any time in future he wants. Masterful.

In fairness, you can’t blame Russia on the prices Russian gas buyers are paying. Gazprom actually encouraged customers to enter into long-term, fixed price contracts, but they opted into market price deals. Oopsie. From CNBC:

Russia has repeatedly dismissed charges it has played politics over gas and says it is meeting all the amounts it is contracted to supply. Companies with supply deals have also said their contracts have been met.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Europe was missing out on additional Russian supplies because of delays to Nord Stream 2, which still needs German approval to start up…

He also said European leaders had made mistakes in reducing the use of long-term supply deals in favor of the spot market, where prices are more volatile.

“The countries, which receive gas via the long-term deals, they receive it much cheaper,” Novak said.

David (the former UK civil servant) added:

The thing in politics, especially the international flavour, is that the long term tends to be a succession of short terms, often decisions taken under pressure for reasons that seemed good at the time, but which nobody can now explain. As a result, a very common reaction when a real crisis breaks out is to say “****! how the **** did we get here?”, where “here” is a place that you would never wanted to have been at the beginning, given a free choice.

It’s no comfort to those of us who predicted this kind of outcome a generation ago (let’s face it, it wasn’t difficult), that the outcome was indeed predictable, but part of that is that very few decisions in this game are ever taken with the genuine long term in mind. Say you are the Defence Minister of a medium-sized country, confronted with the latest proposal for NATO enlargement. You may have all sorts of doubts (where will this lead, What about country X?) but even if you can get your government as a whole behind you, you’ll be attacked by the opposition and in the media for appeasing Putin, your major allies will be cross, the Foreign Minister will be upset as a result, and, in the end, you won’t be able to sustain the pressure from advocates of enlargement, so you can’t win. In which case, why bother? After all, by the time the consequences arrive, you’ll be doing another job: you may well be out of politics altogether. Notice that none of these judgements have anything to do with the underlying merits of the case.

That’s pretty much what’s happened here. The long-term is finally the short-term, and I think that NATO nations are actually rather bewildered and don’t know what to do. Apart from anything else, the intra-NATO and intra-EU politics are now so massive and complicated that they by themselves are creating enough problems to keep Foreign Ministries busy all day.

So it’s obvious, as it has been for a while, that the US should de-escalate and find a face-saving way to back off without looking like it has. Recall the US offered the USSR a concession regarding missiles in Turkey in 1962 which really wasn’t a new deal but was bruited about as if it were. Instead, the US acts as if it can bring Russia to heel with yet more sanctions….when having been leveling sanctions since at least 2014, that cupboard is bare.

It would be nice to think that saner heads will prevail. But Blinken has been anything but, and Biden does not seem willing or able to knock heads on his team together. The best hope now is the Europeans injecting some sanity into these discussions (or alternatively, gridlocking them, which would also put some brakes on the US). Keep your fingers crossed.


1 For instance, from Radio Free Europe in 2019:

NATO’s land-based missile defense system in southern Romania has been a bone of contention between the alliance and Russia since it began operations at the start of 2016.

Russia claims the facility, along with a similar NATO base in Poland, are meant to undermine Moscow’s nuclear deterrent….

Fitzpatrick said the 24 SM-3 ballistic missile interceptors at the facility are mounted on a “Mark 41 Vertical Launch System.” The same launchers can be used to fire a range of surface-to-air missiles as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles and other offensive weapons.

My understanding is these launch systems can have their missiles swapped out in a matter of hours, and can launch nuclear missiles.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    At this stage, even the Ukrainian government is unhappy at all the hype about a non-existent invasion. One official was bitterly complaining in an interview that there are about one hundred Embassies in Kiev but having a few try to start a stampede by pulling their staff out was not helping things as even he knew that the Russians aren’t about to drop in for a visit. Going by memory here but I believe that the countries which have pulled their staff out of their Embassies in Kiev are the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany. Yeah, that list is skewed to the Five Eyes nations. Funny that. For the Ukraine, it is understandable how they are riled up about some countries trying to get a stampede of Embassy closures going as when they go, so do all the investors in that country as well as it will be deemed unsafe and the Ukraine needs that like a hole in the head.

    1. Polar Socialist

      You’d think that the current Ukrainian leadership would look at what has happened to Yeltsin, Janukovitš, Lukasenko, Assad, Ghani and others to see how much they actually mean to the collective West. They only have value as tools towards some other end than Common Good.

      So maybe, just maybe it could be the time to rethink Ukraine’s long term needs and see if other friends would serve those better?

    2. ptb

      “even the Ukrainian government is unhappy at all the hype about a non-existent invasion”

      Yes, their success came back to haunt them. NS2 is 99% dead now. Indefinitely postponed at the regulatory level, but there’s more. Sanctions moves in 2021 also happened (I recently learned of this). Putting pressure on EU partner firms including Wintershall, key tech partner to Gazprom, owned by BASF (huge natgas consumer) and oligarch Fridman. Indicates that they will be targeted more in the future. Big shot across the bow for Gazprom, IMO.

      So that’s been done for months. Killing NS2 was supposed to help Ukraine’s negotiating position vs Gazprom in 2024, and was also is a primary objective among political obligations to US for support.

      Gazprom may have concluded that NS2 is going to be delayed infedinitely, in reality never happening. At the same time, the backswing from 2020 natgas glut, and the 2021 Chinese energy balance situation, combined created unexpected tightness in the LNG market. Perfect opportunity for Gazprom to make a larger-than-expected response, which the suppression of NS2 provoked.

      The continental energy price shock we now have hits Ukraine’s industrial mix especially hard. I have a feeling that because there isn’t so much cash, they also have more short-term exposure to energy markets. Ukraine oligarchs lose money. Political action results.

      1. Maxwell Johnston

        I don’t think that NS2 is dead. Not unless the Germans plan to shut down their industrial economy (which I very much doubt, despite what the new Green ministers might secretly wish for), or unless the Germans suddenly decide to reactivate their coal and nuclear plants (which I doubt even more). They really don’t have much choice. Merkel was a clever politician, so she kicked this can down the road for her successors to handle. It will be interesting to watch how they finesse this without enraging the USA.

        1. ptb

          IMO, for Germany, NS2 is more of a safety net, and a bargaining tool to reduce the natgas price. There will at some point be a direct financial impact on industry, depending on how far out industrial firms are hedged. I’d be more specifically concerned about the business cost transmitted via global customers, who are in a weaker position than Germany itself.

          Unfortunately I agree that though they might try to reduce tensions, it seems they are not in control here. US seems quite determined to kill NS2, and sabotage EU-Russia industrial cooperation. It’s a zero-risk proposition in the near term, as far as Washington thinks

          1. TimmyB

            That’s not close to being true. NS2 is a direct gas pipeline that goes directly from Russia underseas to Germany. Other Russian gas pipelines cross Ukraine and/or Poland to get to Germany.

            NS2 allows Russia to shut off gas transit through both Ukraine and Poland and supply gas to Germany. It isn’t a safety net for Germany. Germany already imports more gas from Russia than any other country. Instead, it prevents Ukraine and Poland, states hostile to Russia, from extorting gas from Russia under the guise of transit fees. Basically, NS2 forces Ukraine to use cash it doesn’t have and has no hope of getting for Russian gas. It’s a game changer.

            1. Polar Socialist

              NS 1 goes directly to Germany too. I’ve understood that main point about NS is that it’s tapping into a different gas fields than other pipelines, that’s the main way to raise capacity. Yamal can produce only so much gas per day, and a lot of it goes to India and China.

              NS taps into Yuzhno-Russkoye field of which German companies own 50% minus two shares. There are plans to connect it also to Shtokman field (worlds largest) under the Barents Sea.

              1. ptb

                Not exactly, from what I understand. Take a look at gazprom’s pipeline network


                all the stuff in the West is interconnected. Yamal can be routed to other trunklines in the westbound routes. NS2 allows more net takeaway capacity, which would open the door to raping up in the supergiant (tho part “unconventional”) fields in north siberia.

                The East Siberian parts, as of now, are an isolated connection zone. The future PS2 / soyuz-vostok pipe would interconnect East to West, but that’s some years off, PS1 isn’t fully fed yet.

            2. ptb

              re: alternate route option in case of geopolitical trouble in poland/belraus/ukraine -You’re absolutely right. To me that sounds just like a safety net.

    3. Skip Intro

      Maybe they were pulled so they wouldn’t be targets for a false flag attack by their Nazi allies.

  2. farmboy

    “…the United States now has an interest in a Russian assault because it would be Russia’s last war. Demographics have told us for 30 years that the United States will not only outlive Russia, but do so easily. The question has always been how to manage Russia’s decline with an eye towards avoiding gross destruction. A Russian-Ukrainian war would keep the bulk of the Russian army bottled up in an occupation that would be equal parts desperate and narcissistic and protracted until such time that Russia’s terminal demography transforms that army into a powerless husk. And all that would transpire on a patch of territory in which the United States has minimal strategic interests.

    That’s rough for the Ukrainians, but from the American point of view, it is difficult to imagine a better, more thorough, and above all safer way for Russia to commit suicide.” from
    Russia and Ukraine account for about 1/3 of the World’s exportable supplies of wheat on an annual basis
    Natural Gas, Corn big worldwide affects too

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? First, the US has had a less than replacement birth rate since the 1990s. It’s now 1.7, and even that to some degrees is due to higher birth rates among recent immigrants. And our high level of immigration has now become an economic flash point.

      Second, we need to find a way to manage global populations down. More people puts us on an even faster path to catastrophic outcomes.

      1. farmboy

        from the article…”Least importantly, if somewhat amusingly, is the Russians are now flat-out falsifying their demographic data so the situation does not look so…doomed. Check out the bottom two age categories in the above graphic; the section for children 10 and under. A few years ago the Russians started inflating this data. Best guess is there are probably one-quarter to one-third fewer children in Russian than this data suggests. That’s roughly a four million child exaggeration.

        Most importantly are the implications for a potential Russian-Ukrainian War. Any Russian solider lost anywhere cannot be replaced. If Putin commits to an invasion of Ukraine, Russia will win. But the cost will not be minor. The war and occupation will be expensive and bloody and most importantly for the world writ large, it will expend what’s left of the Russian youth.

        1. Polar Socialist

          According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Russian Armed Forces have about 2 million men available in trained reserves. That means they can loose every man in service twice before starting to have issues.

          Of course, Russia won’t need to send one man over the border to destroy Ukrainian military capability, and let the anti-Maidan forces present (a.k.a. opposition) in Ukraine to deal with the current regime. Almost half of Ukrainians don’t want into NATO, why would they fight for the corrupt government that is looting the country and pushing for something they don’t want?

          What I’m wondering here is why Putin used so much of his speech to Duma two years ago to lament the low birth rate and how nothing the government has done is helping, if they then started inflating the stats? That would make him look stupid, and I don’t think he would like to look stupid.

          There’s a perceivable drop in Russian birth rates every 25 years or so due to losing so many young people, especially men, in the Second World War. The latest downturn began 2016-17, so that adds to other problems they have like stagnant economy and lack of trained kindergarten teachers.

          1. Sean Oliver

            Ukraine’s pro-Russian faction has dwindled to some 20% at best entirely due to Putin’s aggression. Ukraine is more unified against Russia than ever, as is Europe and NATO.
            Putin’s goal has always been to ‘erase the pain of 1991’ and recreate Stalinist Russia but minus the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ hallucinations. This can only produce one thing: An explicit corrupt govt/corporation owned state, which remains in power due to its security services, phony elections, its paranoid state-owned media, its militarized, xenophobic schools, and its aggressive posturing, i.e. fascism in its most essential form.

        2. OnceWereVirologist

          You seem awfully certain that the Ukrainian army won’t drop their weapons and head west as fast as their legs can carry them at the first sight of the Russian army. That’s the historically typical behaviour of US trained and armed forces.

          1. Sean Oliver

            Whenever US trained and armed forces went up against Russian trained and armed regular forces the results were consistently in favor of the US:
            Middle East 1967
            Middle East 1973
            Various African proxy wars
            Iraq 1991 + 2003
            Afghanistan 1980’s
            In most of the fighting, US armed did far better than Soviet, and today’s Russian armed forces while ‘evolved’ somewhat are still plagued by similar problems directly affecting its combat effectiveness.
            Insurgency warfare shows regular forces consistently had far greater difficulty than insurgents, regardless of which country armed them.

            All of this spells bad news for Russia, since the Ukrainians are now more united than ever, and if Russian forces bulldoze to Kiev, Ukrainians will be World-backed insurgents fighting against Putinist aggression.

        3. The Rev Kev

          I am afraid that you are thinking in terms of WW2 armies which were like meat-grinders. The Russians won’t need to put most of their troops at risk as they will be using things like stand-off weaponry, Kalibr missiles, EM disruption, long-range heavy artillery (heavier than what we use in the west), etc. Yesterday in Links Yves put in an article by the Saker called “Reassessing LDNR military capabilities” which I recommend you glance through but the main thing to remember is that those Donbass troops will be fighting to protect their families in their immediate rear whereas the Ukrainian troops will be fighting for what exactly? Ethnic cleansing?

      2. Hayek's Heelbiter

        And don’t forget the fact that American life expectancy declined by a year-and-a-half in 2020.

        1. Douglas

          .. and that Covid has slammed Russia, somewhat like human wave attacks in the Great Patriotic?

          Irrelevant in the end , supposedly, as this isn’t WW2 where Stalin’s factories behind the mountain were unreachable in single strikes.

          To that end, it would profit Russia to evolve their relations rather than default to Comrade Faceless Epaulets, aye? Then displays of belligerence dispersed worldwide, literally, would seem less likely & .. baiting .. as too-obvious overreach.

          & those NGOs recently ‘retired’ from Afghanistan, they’d have a much harder time “baiting” society, aye-aye?

    2. The Rev Kev

      There might be a qualitive difference to the wheat produced by Russia and the Ukraine as I believe that Russia is GMO-free whereas since the Maiden, western countries are pushing the Ukraine to use their vast farmlands for GMO grains. As for your idea about Russia going into the Ukraine – not going to happen and there is the difference why. Russian professionals tell their government that if they invade, it will be a black hole for money, men & materials as it will be even more broken and would be worse than Afghanistan so they won’t. American professionals told the US government twenty years ago that if they invaded Iraq, it would be catastrophic, would cost trillions of dollars, would kill thousands of US lives alone and only Iran would emerge as the winner. So of course Bush/Cheney went in. And they did the same for Afghanistan as well.

      1. farmboy

        no GMO wheats anywhere yet, China will be first. The article states it would be suicide for Russia to invade Ukraine, so no not likely to happen.

    3. KD

      In the first place, its not clear that Russia needs to invade Ukraine. They can just launch missile strikes as strategic targets, as well as bringing nukes and soldiers into Belarus and their territory in the Baltics to put pressure on Europe. Second, if they do invade, they would probably march to Kiev, destroy all of Ukraine’s effective military infrastructure, and then go back to Russia. Putin is not going to try and occupy Ukraine, and if he did, it would be the Russian-speaking regions in the East which are already aligned favorably to Moscow. Zeihan’s analysis basically assumes Putin is a Neo-con. The real loser in all of this conflict, war or no war, is probably going to be German manufacturing, because its not clear how the German’s can compete if their paying through the nose for energy. Granted, that is self-inflicted, but the most probable casualty.

      1. Douglas


        And the Russians, referring to another commenter on lock-in gas prices, certainly understood greatly expanded flow to China was to squeeze non-locked in customers.

        So, to be accepted, it IS hardball.

        Throwing nukes because of hardball??
        I don’t like rolling eyes unless necessary.

        1. Douglas

          And on “basket case” economy, quite sad: from a search pairing Montenegro & Ukraine, this result:

          Montenegro GDP per capita: $17,800.
          Ukraine: $8,800 ! as per 2017. A true basket.

    4. Samuel Conner

      Oddly, or not, this description sounds to my ear a bit like ‘projection’.

      US has little military flexibility, having spread itself across the world in a what looks like a ‘garrison the planet’ agenda.

      ‘Unlimited COVID’ (as the “Indignity” ‘blog linked yesterday put it, may hollow out US military capabilities. I think I have read that the services are already having trouble finding sufficient fit and healthy young people to meet recruitment goals. Endemic COVID and widespread long COVID will not help.

      Hmmm …. maybe when COVID becomes a ‘military readiness’ problem, our rulers will revisit the question of its ‘containment’. When military readiness conflicts with “let ‘er rip” economic “growth,” it’s possible that sound public health policy might be the winner.

      1. philnc

        … except the senior officers, bureaucrats and politicians who are supposed to be responsible aren’t really “our rulers”. They’re at best a very small minority of the oligarchy that is. “Let ‘er rip” is a function of the whole oligarchy’s undisciplined greed and naive, ignorant, belief they can simply buy their way out of any crisis: or flee to safety if that fails. Of course we mere mortals understand that both assumptions are batsh*t crazy.

    5. Rodeo Clownfish

      The demographic projections for Russia in that first link, with regard to recent births, are pure speculation, with willful denial of the actual demographic data reported by Russia. I would take the author’s conclusions with a big grain of salt.

    6. Alex

      What?? Population isn’t everything – if it were Bangladesh and Nigeria would have been superpowers.

      And Ukraine is definitely not Chechnya or Afghanistan. There are no mountains except for the Carpathians in the very west of the country, the culture is very similar and everyone in Ukraine still speaks Russian. The small passionate anti-Russian minority will either emigrate, be frightened or imprisoned.

      Sure, it will be expensive, especially given sanctions. Now Donbass gets billions in transfers from Russia (population 4 million). While the average Russian might see their economic situation worsen, I am not convinced it will bankrupt Russia.

    7. Maxwell Johnston

      Russia’s demographics are not bad compared to many of its western neighbors (notably the Baltic trio and Ukraine and Georgia). I’m not aware that Rosstat has been fiddling with the population data; in fact during the entire covid pandemic, Rosstat has consistently been reporting excess deaths that are much higher than what the Russian health ministry has been admitting as official covid deaths. Rosstat generally has a good reputation.

      I’ve been reading about Russia’s impending demographic collapse for 30 years now, and I don’t see it happening. What I do see is young educated Russians emigrating and being replaced by young semieducated immigrants from Asia. Russia is gradually becoming more dark-skinned and muslim (like many western European nations). But its population has been holding pretty steady since 2012 or so. Wikipedia’s summary is here:

    8. Anthony G Stegman

      Don’t discount or overlook Russia’s massive landmass. Humans can’t live in cybespace. They require land, water, etc…all of which Russia has plenty. If Russia can stabilize their population to 200 million or so they can be a formidable opponent to those who cross them. The Russia people are intelligent and very capable. And they are able to bear great hardship and ultimately prevail. Ask the Germans for confirmation of this.

    9. Mike

      Are these the same demographic predictions that told us the Democrats were going to win forever because the Republican Party was literally dying? How has that turned out, as the Republicans begin to sweep up the Latino vote?

      How many Americans are even going to be willing to fight for their country in 20 years, considering where it is headed politically?

  3. BrianC - PDX

    By contrast, the first sign the US was serious about invading Iraq was that it started pre-positioning hospital ships nine months before the attack.

    I knew they were going to attack Iraq way back then, because they mobilized POW processing units from the US Army Reserves. There was no way they’d activate and deploy POW units if they were saber rattling.

  4. bwilli123

    In Ukraine one sees again the dead hand of Clinton’s foreign policy. One could argue that the evidence of his youthful patriotism (in relation to serving in Vietnam) necessitated a muscular over-reaction on defence and foreign policy matters.
    Melvin Goodman, a Professor of Government at John Hopkins and former CIA analyst, interviewed James A Baker and Russian Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1994.

    …”The expansion of NATO marked a betrayal of President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III’s commitment in 1990 to not “leapfrog” East Germany if the Soviets removed their 380,000 troops from the East. The continuing flirtation of membership for both Ukraine and Georgia, which started in 2008, has caused Russia anxieties over the changing European balance. Expanding NATO was a gratuitous provocation, which belies U.S. accusations from high-level officials that the crisis over Ukraine is a “manufactured” one by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In January 1990, the West German foreign minister confirmed that there would not be an “expansion of NATO territory to the east” in the wake of the Soviet military withdrawal. In my interviews with Baker and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1994, Baker acknowledged (and Shevardnadze confirmed) that he told the former foreign minister the United States would not “leapfrog” over a reunified Germany to move closer to the borders of the Soviet Union. There are reports that Baker was willing to put this commitment in writing, but that national security adviser Brent Scowcroft convinced the president not to do so.

    The sad fact is that the international calculus had nothing to do with Clinton’s decision to expand NATO. He was concerned that his Republican opponent in1996, the late Robert Dole, was going to use the failure to expand NATO in the campaign for the presidency. Clinton, a masterful domestic politician, moved to take the NATO issue off the table by endorsing expansion.
    This played well domestically among East European communities in key states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. George W. Bush worsened the strategic situation by recruiting former Soviet republics, the three Baltic states, for NATO and deploying a regional missile defense in Poland and Romania.”…

    1. Bart Hansen

      Thanks for this, Willi. I’m getting tired of the excuse that nothing in writing sealed the agreements regarding the ‘no inch eastward’ issue.

      For one thing, the U.S. has proven time and again that neither writing nor a gentlemens’ agreement will prevent us from breaking a treaty or promise.

      For another, there was plenty of documentation of what was agreed upon when Germany was reunified. Here again is the link to the GWU archives:

      Many European statesmen of the time were in agreement.

    2. Cat Burglar

      US reporting on the NATO non-expansion assurance has been misleading; it is usually characterized as a Russian “accusation,” with zero attempt to report on the truth. You could rightly call such reporting disinformation.

  5. KD

    We’ve had decades of the Mainstream Media gushing with Russophobia and constant equations between Putin and Hitler. The PMC’s whole “case” against Trump involved making up some nefarious plot with the evil Russians, which we are told to take on faith. Biden is very much in the position of LBJ, he has to be tough on Communism, er, the Russians, and he has no political option but military escalation into a conflict in which the U.S. has no national interest, because he cannot afford to be perceived as soft or weak against Putler. The U.S. foreign policy establishment appears to be Russophobic and positively wants a war with Russia, and since we are the good guys, God will be on our side and we can only win the Crusade. The only thing that might take Biden from the brink is to remember what happened to LBJ, going from the most powerful man in the world in 1965 to unable to stand for a second term in 68 (although powerful enough to hamstring Humpreys by preventing him from saying anything intelligent on Vietnam). However, it is not clear that a lot of deep thinking is going on in Biden’s brain, except maybe about what is for lunch today. Given where the so-called “Democratic Domestic Agenda” is, why not a foreign war to distract people, and then you can label everyone who points out the war is stupid and against the national interest as traitors. Maybe take away their bank accounts? Get the Capitol Police to work up dossiers?

    Maybe the Europeans can do something, but then again, they are spineless for the most part, and dependent on America for their national security. If America said screw you, we are pulling out of Germany, how long before Germany became part of a new Warsaw pact? In the end game, the Europeans are dependent on American force to survive, and they will ultimately cave. Further, they would all rather be American satraps then let one of their own become preeminent, so why not be an American tributary over giving France first among equals status? No, Biden’s gonna LBJ, how many Americans you gonna kill today, and Europe is going to grumble and then bow to kiss his ring.

    The reality is that America only seems to like to fight wars when there is nothing at stake if they lose, like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They also seem to prefer weak countries like Grenada, and they may get clobbered or in a nuclear exchange with Russia, but maybe this is a test run for Taiwan, which actually does matter. That is my guess is that they can afford to lose the fight with Russia, look at what went wrong, and then retool hopefully before Beijing paratroops into Taipei.

    1. KD

      Right now, the US is signaling it doesn’t want to use US forces (but its pretty clear we have plenty of special ops on the ground), but Russia will clean Ukraine’s clock, and so it will be like South Vietnam, we will have to send more and more military advisors until we are in a ground war against Russia, or Biden will be “soft” on Russia.

  6. George Phillies

    “The Southern Military District Headquarters are a couple hours away ” Army Headquarters are typically a decent distance behind the front. They are not what you attack with, so this number, especially for permanent headquarters rather than field headquarters, is not significant.

    1. Cat Burglar

      Good point, though regional command headquarters are where they are exactly because of proximity to the troops they command. Unit locations in the District suggest there is some significance to command locations.

      In the case of the 8th Army, about half their forces are disposed near division headquarters in Novocherkassk, and a few units are even closer to the Ukraine border. But another division is further away in Volgograd Oblast, much further to the east. The missile units are south, in Krasnodar Oblast, across an arm of the Black Sea from Ukraine. I used headquarters location as a workable shorthand summary to express how little we are getting about the reality on the ground, but your point about the lack of accuracy in the method is well made. There are still a lot more troops near Ukraine than the famous 100,000.

      But why aren’t we getting this discussion from our credentialed and vetted US media? If they are not propaganda professionals, but journalists, they are failures. There’s your meritocracy for you.

  7. Michael Fiorillo

    All Hail Banderastan!

    Let’s get Rachel Maddow, Stormy Daniels, David Frum, Pikachu (he/she/it is pissed that Pooty-Poo hacked his game software) and other Russiagate-era All Stars to start doing some public service announcements for the Azov Battalion… that’ll ll teach The Russia a lesson!

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        She’s a big reach, I know, but I still wanted to mention her because she so beautifully represented the magical thinking (almost on the level of 9/11 Trutherism) that Trump-unhinged liberals were/are caught up in, believing wholeheartedly and for far too long that a porn actress and her #*+”bag (and now-convicted felon) lawyer were the keys to removing Trump. Good times, which I’m feeling nostalgic for.

        Bogie and Bergman may have always had Paris (80th anniversary of Casablanca’s release happening about now), but we’ll always have Stormy and Russiagate…

        1. Alice X

          Well, Stormy had the unenviable position of having done Trump. Along comes the campaign and he decides to buy her silence. She took the money, that is also unenviable. But that in no way connects her to Russiagate. That people thought they could use her and the imbroglio to take down Trump wasn’t her fault. I just don’t see it. As you say, it’s a reach.

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            You are correct: she was not connected to Russiagate, except in so far as the motivation to devote so many news cycles to the preposterous assumptions that 1) she was going to bring Orange Man down, just as 2) Trump would be brought down when his (essentially non-existent) Russian ties were exposed.

      2. Douglas

        Idk, she might be a Koch money conspiracy vector who failed to take out Daschle & Leahy with anthrax, and didn’t even try to take out Xi, so time for Greenwald to accuse others of “hero-seeking” or ‘trumpgate’, the gift from “the foul spirit”.

        And WHERE IS that vaccine from the defense dept with the variants-covered? An hour too late?

        Idk, it’s so ‘all-before-the-eyes’.


  8. Louis Fyne

    the idea that US shale gas can fuel Europe is the insane cherry on top of this nutty cake.

    Newsflash: every LNG tanker going to the EU raises the electricity, heating, and petrochemical costs for the US—particularly given the de-coal and de-nuclearization of the US.

    And to all the DC Never Trumpers, the surest way to get Trump POTUS 47 is energy inflation.

    the house used less BTUs of nat gas than 12 mo ago, but the heating bill was still $100 more. This is how you get WI, MI, PA (the pivotal swing states ) to vote all GOP in 2022 and 2024

    1. Harry

      Maybe they can rebrand it “freedom gas”?

      Who wouldn’t want to sell Europe “freedom gas” at twice its domestic price?

      Why do poor Americans hate freedom for Europeans so much?

      1. GF

        “Who wouldn’t want to sell Europe “freedom gas” at twice its domestic price?”

        Every NatGas company in the USA because markets.

        We need a law that states the USA gets supplied first at the lowest possible price. Any leftovers would be exported. As clean energy comes more online here, there would be less cheap gas that the industry would need to supply domestically and more that could be sent off-shore to the highest bidder.

  9. eric Bowman

    re: warmongering. Has anyone noticed the photos, almost fashion-ish & almost news-ish (soldiers,trenches,sandbagged whatevers..) not, it seems related to a specific story, showing up on the (my) NYT/web version & more recently in the Guardian (web)….no photo atribution. Would these be ……..well….propaganda ? Where from?

    1. Offtrail

      They are propaganda of course. They are everywhere in the major media. I’m sure most of them actually are from the Ukraine.

  10. Sawdust

    It’s all just a wag-the-dog manoeuvre to distract us from Biden’s approval rating, the covid fiasco, and 7% inflation.

  11. TimD

    Maybe this has something to do with Biden’s polling numbers? Rallying the country against some evil has been a time-honored tradition for American and for other governments. Soon there will be songs about Big Bad Joe making the free world freer – I don’ think they will be Rap songs though ;-). It is probably good for Vlad’s popularity at home as well – although he doesn’t really need to worry about re-election.

  12. Quentin

    What a perversely contrived set of conditions. Venezuela and Iran that, combined, must have the largest known reserves of oil and natural gas in the world, are almost completely prohibited from selling them abroad because of the USA’s sanctions while energy prices are extremely high and, as a consolation, LNB is being pushed on Europe which, by the way, has a pipe line standing ready to help relieve its needs with cheaper Russian natural gas. What gives?: logic, greed, acute nastiness?

    1. Douglas

      Well, think of it in terms of the money Russia is spending on their war games. If they valued Venezuela’s products they’d build what’s needed in Vene- to supplant dilutants for sour crude. So, is it “nastiness” on their part in not doing that, or status quo greed tied to larger-scale conditions?

  13. urblintz

    It’s probably apocryphal but nonetheless spot on, that Putin is reported to have described dealing with Obama as like:

    “playing chess with a chicken that struts around like a big cock, knocking all the pieces everywhere, takes a big dump on the board, then flies away and calls it a victory.”

    American foreign policy in a nutshell.

    1. Soredemos

      That quote’s been around for years. I’ve heard it in the context of trying to debate creationists.

  14. curlydan

    The “troops on the border” is just a cruel joke it seems. If they’re 150 miles from the border, that would be like Mexico complaining to the U.S. about troops massed in San Antonio (where there used to be 5 military bases). Ahh, here come the Yankees any day now!

    And the comparisons to Cuba in 1962 are apt. It was 199 years ago that President Monroe laid down the Monroe Doctrine (only named after him in 1850) that has been a guidepost for our more regional foreign policy since then. What is Putin doing but applying the Monroe Doctrine to his own slice of the world?

  15. KD

    My guess at the probable end game is that Ukraine is partitioned, RF absorbs Eastern Ukraine, RF feels it has a sufficient buffer from NATO and concedes Western Ukraine can be in NATO. Popular perception would be that it is a Russian victory, and certainly the US doesn’t care if Ukraine is in NATO, its just about putting pressure on Russia, so I do not see this as a brokered deal, as the Americans are better off with Ukraine intact and NATO membership an ambiguous threat. However, it is clear that Russia is not going to be tolerating the status quo, and Ukraine can’t defend itself, and the US won’t defend it, so I don’t see how the partition can be avoided, and if Ukraine is partitioned, then the rump with join NATO and you will have irredentism of the first order for a century but then it is just a done deal. Further, if it goes nuclear, the world ends, if America tries to play Vietnam, its going to be very bloody and the public will get tired very quickly and we will pull out and have another lost war because Russia is not going to quit if the war is in their backyard. Great Team America! Why can’t you just decide to put off Ukraine joining NATO for 5 years?

    1. Polar Socialist

      The big irony here is that NATO members don’t want Ukraine to join, Ukrainians don’t want to join, but for some reason pushing this rather moot point as “freedom to choose” has caused German vice-admiral to resign, Croatia to reconsider it’s NATO commitments and Belarus to openly take Russia’s side.

      If there’s a point to this, I’m too dumb to see it.

    2. Louis Fyne

      Putin does not even want eastern Ukraine. (The jewel is Crimea, Donbas is a “push”).

      A bulk of abled-bodied, motivated Ukrainians have emigrated to Poland or Russia. Ukraine has the highest population of outbound migration diaspora in the world (not counting war-ravaged countries).

      Ukraine is of corrupt oligrachs and old people who need pensions and free heat. No way Russia wants to nation-build that.

    3. TimmyB

      Russia was on its back after the breakup of the USSR. The US believed it was a unipolar world and we could do as we wished. So when former Warsaw Pact and later Soviet Republics joined NATO, Russia could only watch.

      When the US installed anti-missile system in Poland and Romania, using the obvious lie those missiles were to protect Europe from Iranian missiles, Russia could only watch.

      But when the US helped overthrow the friendly to Russia government in Ukraine, Russia had the military power to do something, which was take back Crimea and support rebel breakaway provinces.

      As we all should know at this point, talk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is a US propaganda invention. There has not been a build up of troops on the Russian border.

      Now, Russia is no longer as weak as it was. It sees itself as being pressed by the US controlled NATO on its borders. It rightly sees the assisted coup in Ukraine as a hostile act by the US. It will ever allow Ukraine to join NATO. That is the last straw.

      Russians seems to be rejecting the status quo. It has made demands on the US. The US will not meet any of these demands. So Russia will take actions to convince the US to meet those demands. I don’t know what actions those will be, but there is no reason to believe they currently involve a land invasion of Ukraine.

      There is also no reason to believe that the US will start a war with Russia if it invaded. The US government has used Ukraine as a pawn. What happens next will be interesting.

      1. Dwight

        I think the U.S. anti-missile missiles in Romania and Poland are better compared to the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey in 1961 than to the Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962. Both were considered by the Soviets as possible first-strike threats. And both came first. Russia reacted by placing missiles in Cuba, and we reacted to that.

        In the above article, Krushchev is quoted saying to Strobe Talbott: Americans “would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you; we’d be doing nothing more than giving them a little of their own medicine.” Seems that Khrushchev miscalculated the American response, almost leading to our annihilation.

    4. ptb

      re: “endgame = Ukraine partitioned” …

      IMO, not for a long while, possibly not ever. Existing borders work for key oligarchs. Rearranging them would mess up the existing hustle

  16. Skip Intro

    We can just make a generic headline:

    President __________’s poll numbers plummet, war with ___________ looking increasingly likely.

      1. Douglas

        .. and,

        “They can study what we have done for years afterwards … ”

        One of Bush’s “chimpboys”, described as “biting the faces off of those cleaning-out their desks”.

        ‘History is re-writable.’

  17. Harry

    One observation on the long term contracts. The decision to avoid them was taken because it was suspected that it would be possible to induce lower prices via the spot market. High prices would encourage LNG imports, which would cap them price spikes. The plan was always for increasingly copious renewables to force spot prices lower over time. So why give the Russians a dollar more than you have to?

    Of course, that was before the wind failed to blow. Europe is lucky the weather has been quite benign.

    I don’t think the Russians manipulated gas stocks in the summer. But they sure as hell wont be supplying any extra gas with the threat of a Donbas campaign by the Ukrainians hanging over their head.

    Perhaps I am a cynic, but the suspicion in Russian blogs is that noise about Russian invasion is meant to cover a restart of the Ukrainian Donbas offensive, using the new weapons that NATO has been stove-pipping into the Ukrainians. People seem very enthusiastic about the performance of the Turkish drones in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. The Ukr is currently being trained in the use of all these new weapons. Russian sources suggest the separatist forces should expect an attack at the start of the Beijing games.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Prices are always lowers on the spot market until they aren’t. Talk to holders of adjustable-rate mortgages.

      In general, fixed rate deals are recognized as a tradeoff between decent odds of higher average prices v. the risk of being killed by a period of really high prices.

  18. Gavin

    I look forward to the future “Come Join The Azov Battalion Nazis – Because Hey, They’re A Smidge Better Than Russians, Dontchaknow” Public Service Messages that won’t remind me of Starship Troopers at all, nosiree!

  19. urblintz

    Two videos worthy of the time required to watch and listen, imho:

    the late, great Stephen Cohen debates Obama quisling Michael McFaul (yes, my bias should be evident) courtesy of the Harriman Institute: “The New Russia-US Cold War — Who is to Blame”

    and from Yale: “How the United States Created Vladimir Putin” with Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner who many in my generation will remember as a co-host with Phil Donahue when his atypically important “talk” show ruled the afternoon airwaves:

  20. ptb

    Timely overview.

    An element I think is worth repeating, is that decisions about military posture are made in Washington. Decisions about sanctions are made in Washington. But the harmful side effects are much more to EU than US.

    Both in geopolitical (eg refugees), energy price shocks (worldwide impact), and a minefield of commercial barriers for western mega-industrial firms whose growth is in the “rest of the world”, giving a leg up for Chinese counterparts entering the same market.

  21. Frank Little

    I’ve been reading about the history of NATO’s formation in light of all this recent stoked tension and came across an interesting bit of lost history, or at least unknown to me.

    In response to attempts to form the European Defense Community which would have included a re-formed West German military, the USSR submitted a proposal for it to also join NATO on April 1, 1954. You can read an English translation on the NATO website (PDF). The proposal was rejected of course, but the breakdown of these negotiations was followed by the formation of the Warsaw Pact and the creation of the Bundeswehr (named by former Nazi commander and then West German politician Hasso von Manteufel) would occur a few months after that.

  22. Stove Goblin

    The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances guaranteed sovereignty for Ukraine and Kazakhstan. “Assurances” is right on the tin. – The accuracy of a troop count is a state secret [in some EM spectrums, footprints can be “seen” from space] but commercial satellite imagery can confirm a lot of parked vehicles that used to be parked out east including Iskander-M’s. Some are parked in Belarus 120 miles north of Kyiv. — This is hybrid warfare: where military assets are used in the political arena and politics is used to gain access or deny territory better than 10 divisions. Both of the above are used for commercial advantages in energy markets… It is madness to believe Russia and Belarus can achieve objectives through a direct kinetic campaign against… the entirety of Europe including the traditionally non-aligned Sweden and Finland, plus Turkey, Israel, the Gulf states on the Syrian front. China will not be making an amphibious landing in Kaliningrad in the near future.

    HOWEVER, in 1939 the British press was still ridiculing the “sitzkreig” until France, Norway, and Denmark fell in the Spring of ’40, The twilight was over, things got real. There is a logic at work more fundamental than reason.

  23. Dan Berg

    best comments I’ve seen so far ref. Ukraine have been by Alexander Mercouris @ the duran on rumble.

  24. Dave in Austin

    What has driven a 2013 frozen conflict in the Ukraine to unfreeze at this particular moment?

    The answer, I think, is NordStream 2, the pipeline that the Ukraine and the US want to block. The US denied all sorts of export permits for equipment, software and materials to the project but it is now completed and ready to go into operation. It runs under the Baltic Sea From Russia through Finnish and Swedish territorial waters to Germany and entirely avoids Poland and the Ukraine. If it goes into operation, the gas from Russian and the Stans will no longer need the pipeline through the Ukraine and the Ukraine will lose the strategic leverage it has to shut down Western Europe’s gas supply.

    The Ukrainians and to some degree the anti-Russian foreign policy crowd in the US see NordStream2 as a real threat and began to heat-up the frozen conflict in early 2021 as NordStream2 was being completed. The Ukraine announced that that it intended to regain the Crimea by force and the US with no announcement bypassed NATO and started to send large stocks of advanced weapons to the Ukraine. The aim was to create new “facts on the ground”, a crisis and force Germany’s hand. The US and the Ukraine thought this would keep NordStream 2 off-line. It worked; the multi-billion dollar pipeline remains closed.

    But Russia viewed this as the next step in NATO’s march to the east without any official NATO buy-in, a bridge to far and, understandably in my opinion, viewed it as a real threat to national security.

    Biden appears to be clueless, a Clinton-style domestic politician fundamentally unaware of what he has stepped into. His smug profanity on-mike to a corespondent who asked a reasonable question on the subject was the sign of a man who sees this as a PR problem not an international crisis.

    Europe is being dragged unwillingly into a confrontation most members consider unnecessary. The US, the EU and NATO have said “No troops into the Ukraine”, basically what we said in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Imagine what would have happened in 1968 if the US had decided to pump arms into Czechoslovakia? The results would have been the same with far more bloodshed and possibly a nuclear confrontation. Today the American economy, industrial base, financial resources and social cohesion are a lot weaker that they were 50 years ago in 1968 and we are really not in a position to backup our loud barking with real biting. And Europe really doesn’t see the point in sparking this confrontation.

    The American slightly-left-of-center press, already traumatized by Trump and unexpectedly facing a likely Democratic Party electoral meltdown in 2022, has felt the need to first, ignore the coming storm and support Biden, second, blame it all on Putin’s “adventurism”, and third say “negotiation is weakness”. Inadvertently, people who should have known better, have now boxed-in Biden and made it hard for him to back out of the crisis.

  25. Irrational

    Thanks for this excellent overview and compilation of insights from the commentariat.
    FWIW, I recall the Baker-Genscher promises making quite a splash in the European press, so I can see how the Soviets thought they had a deal.
    Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

  26. Louis Fyne

    the cacophony of crickets from the so-called “progressive” squad is deafening re. the Ukraine war drum beats.

    The 100% preventable tensions around Ukraine is going to get Trump re-elected because soaring natural gas = higher heating bills, higher electricity bills, higher plastic input costs, higher fertilizer costs.

    You reap what you sow.

  27. Slow walk

    Did anyone else have the misfortune of listening to NPR’s Mary Louse Kelly yesterday interviewing Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, some Ukrainian opposition party parliament member? The interview really was several shades of revolting. Klympush-Tsintsadze, a mother of two teenage girls, was noted as being seated at a comfortable old wooden table sipping coffee from a Nato mug. At some point during the interview Kelly asks Klympush-Tsintsadze what she is telling her daughters about the imminent Russian invasion? The whole thing was shameless despicable. At the same time, Zelensky is tweeting about USA saber rattling and about how Russia is a non-issue. I know NPR is propaganda, but pull the story for gods sake? It’s all “damn the torpedos” 24/7 from the MSM, and I’m really tired of it. But this kind of thing is useful – keeps the domestic cortisol levels high, which is good for distraction and business, justifies some bomb sales, and if something does end up happening they’re in a position to say “I told you so”.

  28. Alice X

    We are the United States of Amnesia. In 2013 the EU and Ukraine was negotiating the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. This include a loan. Duly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose base was in the Russian prevalent east received a better offer from Russia. Russia was open to a three way agreement with the EU, they were not. In early 2014, Yanukovych demanded the EU improve the terms and declined to sign the agreement as it was. In February protests in Kiev turned violent with elements of the Banderist Right Sector contributing and blaming the government. In a dubious procedure Yanukovych was impeached, but as its constitutionality was questionable, it was held that he had abandoned his duties. He was replaced and the EU agreement was signed, in full, in June 2014. The US hand in what was essentially a coup is notorious. I am in no way an expert on Ukraine, Russia, the EU or anything else in the geo-political realm, but these are my clear recollections from following the situation as closely as I could in 2014, and hearing Stephen Cohen, who was an expert, speak a number of times. Afterwards the Donbas et al broke away.

    1. Cesar Jeopardy

      A very good post. Not so much Amnesia, but the involvement of the U.S. in the overthrow of Yanukovych was never reported in the U.S. mainstream media. The MSM is complicit in all this evil-doing.

      The EU? They ran out of natural resources 300 years ago. This, rather than a quest for freedom, accounts for their worldwide colonialism, genocide, destruction of civilizations, looting of other continents, etc. What a wonderful group of people! They are still at it, albeit in a slightly less violent way–mainly stand back they let the U.S. destroy other countries, which the U.S. government and its people are happy to do. As near as I can tell, the readers of the New York Times are now the pro-war crowd.

      1. Harry

        Agreed, very good. But Donbas didn’t just “break away”. RF provided assistance, but of course it would.

      2. Alice X

        Well, maybe the United States of the Oblivious could replace Amnesia, but I didn’t want to say Ignorant.
        I was just thinking of Gore Vidal, but of course, while he was so astute, he was not without fault.

        Most working people go about their lives and do not have the energy, after working to care for their families, to uncover the deception of the M$M.

        Many have revealed this, Parenti, Chomsky, Nader, Hedges, others. Think of Walter Lippmann in ‘Public Opinion’, a hundred years ago, who coined the phrase ‘manufacturing consent’.

        I mean to be most kind to the working class of all countries, they deserve so much better than they have generally gotten.

  29. NotThePilot

    The one thing I’ve been trying to figure out in all of this is why it suddenly started heating up now. I don’t necessarily take Russian assurances at face value, but they sure don’t seem as manic about the possibility of this war as the US, Canada, and parts of Europe are. Ukraine clearly (and understandably) isn’t thrilled about it either.

    In the end, the only sort of logical reason I’ve heard is also the stupidest one: the US power-elite (as C Wright Mills would put it) has missed the last chance to start seeing foreign relations other than LARPing a game of Risk. They now recognize they’ve pushed most of Eurasia into an informal alliance, and time is on Eurasia’s side.

    Instead of having a come-to-Jesus moment about real American society and its real global interests though, they’ve come up with this loony idea to pin down Russia in Ukraine, then focus everything on China and maybe Iran. I expect NATO’s Schlieffen Plan will go over just as badly or worse than the German one did.

    As for me, I just wish America’s elites would…
    A. Order pizza, buy some beer, and have their friends over to play Risk like sane people
    B. Barring that, at least be grounded psychopaths instead of delusional too

  30. Safety First

    One thing that seems to be missing from most/all coverage of the issue are the parallels that might be drawn between the current state of things and August of 2008.

    Specifically, in August of 2008 we had, one, Putin flying off to Beijing for the Summer Olympics, and two, a US client state (Georgia) choosing that exact moment to launch a military assault on one of its breakaway and generally pro-Russian regions (South Ossetia), going so far as to attack the barracks of the Russian peacekeeping battalion stationed in the region under some 1990s accord. In the event, the Russian military had anticipated this, rushed its troops in, knocked the Georgians back on their heels and staged a multi-day raid into Georgia proper, looting and pillaging any military base within driving distance of the border. At one point even managing to pinch a shipment of US Humvees with some top-secret comms equipment, which the US then tried unsuccessfully to get back while the Russian government played innocent in a singularly unconvincing manner.

    The point is, it does not look to be beyond the realm of possibility that the Russian government and General Staff are looking at Ukraine, a US client state, looking at the pro-Russian breakaway regions the Ukraine is pointing its army at, looking at Putin once again flying to Beijing for yet another Olympics – seriously, can we just move them to China on a permanent basis at this point? – and connecting a few dots. Perhaps planning to, as with Georgia in 2008, not only rush reinforcements into the DNR/LNR region should the Ukrainians actually launch an attack, but also stage a “deep raid” into Ukraine proper with the view of thoroughly smashing up its military potential before withdrawing back. I mean, it’s worked for them before, Georgia has been very much a basket case since, and hardly a military threat to anyone. That would certainly explain an extra contingent of pick-your-figure troops meandering in the area as a sort of a rapid reaction force, not enough to stage a full-on invasion but certainly more than enough to stop any tomfoolery and inflict some punishment in return.

    Mind, this is how the Russians might be thinking about the whole thing. The motivations of the US, the Ukraine, the EU and so forth are a different matter entirely.

  31. Susan the other

    And what exactly did we accomplish in the Middle East? So what exactly do we intend to accomplish by hostilities with Russia? The answers are ‘nothing’ and ‘nothing’.

  32. RobertC

    I believe the scales have finally fallen from Zelensky’s eyes after his conversation with Biden yesterday.

    I envision the possibility (likelihood?) of an abrupt turn of Ukraine’s leadership towards Russia as it realizes their US/EU/NATO “friends” care less about Ukraine’s interests that Russia does.

    Russia wants Ukraine as a healthy neighbor.

    The US/EU/NATO want Ukraine as a pawn and a battlefield.

    I can see Putin making a deal with Zelenksy: “I’ll give Crimea back and leave the Donbas if your renounce your Western “friends” and join the CSTO/EAEU/SCO etc. So let’s make a peace deal so I (Putin) don’t waste money destroying your (Zelensky) military facilities.”

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the next three weeks.

    PS I’m posting my hopes here because I’m less likely to be flamed than elsewhere.

    1. Acacia

      I believe when Putin was asked about Crimea becoming part of Ukraine again, he laughed quite hard and then said: “never”.

      This raises another issue: the claim that Russia “annexed” Crimea (actually, there was a vote) is made repeatedly in the Western media, and also needs a thorough debunking.

  33. Gulag

    Michael Korfman (Director of Russian Studies at the Center of Naval Analysis, specializing in Russian military capabilities, deployment strategies and operations has a highly persuasive piece as to what Putin is really up to (based on his own analysis of Russian troop deployments around Ukraine), that is entitled “Putin’s wager in Russia’s standoff with the West.”

    He argues persuasively that a large war in Europe is quite likely in the coming weeks (sometime before the end of February). He believes that the current security architecture of the continent, the future of NATO and America’s role in shaping security outcomes are all at stake along with America’s best-laid plans to focus on the eroding military balance with China.

    He argues that the Russians, have indeed conducted a substantial buildup around Ukraine (will go into details on this later if anyone interested) and believes that if Putin is not able to achieve his goals at the negotiating table he will indeed initiate unilateral military measures.

    Kofman sees Russia’s 3 initial political demands as purposely designed non-starters (because it no longer trusts the words of the U,S,) and he believes the Russians should have thrown in giving them back Alaska as a fourth demand!

    He goes on to argues that Russia is assembling a military force in a manner designed to conceal its operational aims as well as deploying its forces slowly and deliberately, with equipment that can be parked in the field for months. (Troops can be sent to these encampments, fall in on equipment and begin dispersing.
    This conceals the final disposition of forces and scope of operations).

    Based on Kofman’s indicators (again, primarily the nature of troop deployments ) he believes that any Russian military operations will have to attain political gains that give Moscow the ability to enforce implementation.

    Kofman thinks that the most likely scenario will first include the use of artillery, precision fires, and airpower. The ground forces would then conduct a multi-axis attack from Belarus, Russia, the Donbas and Crimea.
    (Can go into more detail if anyone interested).

    End result could be that Putin would be seen as the Russian leader who restored much of historical Russia and established a new buffer against NATO.

    1. Polar Socialist

      It’s not about Putin at all. Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Medvedev had same issues with the USA. Russia having always been a land empire with no defensible, natural borders every ruler since Alexander Nevsky has had same issues regarding Russia’s borders.

      So instead of looking for a patterns in multidimensional chess Korfman would have been better off actually listening what the Russian have been saying for 30 years now. It’s not a wager and nothing is under the table. The demands are pretty much the same Medvedev proposed ten years ago.

      As an analyst specializing in Russian military he should also be aware that sometimes 2016-2017 Russia moved from large, central storage and repair bases for military equipment to a new system of contracted reservists. This means that in modern Russian army all the equipment for war time units is stored with the actual unit and filled with these reservists who practice with the unit several weeks each year.

      So for the last 4 or so years the huge bases with endless rows of war machines locate safely in Central and Eastern Russia have been closing down while the equipment has been transferred to the active unit’s motor pools. Yes, it means that any unit is can reach it’s operational strength much faster than previously, but it’s still not (necessarily) nefarious slow build up.

      In order to use any troops outside Russia, the president has to clear it with the Federation Council (the upper house of Russian parliament [Fun fact: current chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko was born in Western Ukraine]). It’s in the constitution, and so far Putin has not walked over it once. There’s a loophole, of course, for imminent danger but again, Putin’s government is adamant that there’s no danger yet so they’re not likely to use that card. Unless Ukrainians do something really stupid.

      So there’s no troop movement to the border, both sides deny any intentions or indications of preparations for such movement, Russian constitution and Minsk 2 prevent the Russian government from using wanton aggression… and then there’s the public opinion in Russia. For all the authoritarian traits he’s claimed to have, Putin is as much a populist as any politician, and Russians don’t want to fight Ukraine. They may expect and fear a war with the NATO, but they don’t want to fight Ukraine (with the exception of some opposition figures like Zhirinovsky or Navalnyi, but that may just be bellicose rhetoric) just like Ukrainians don’t want to fight Russia.

      tldr; my bet is that in a month Mr. Korfman may need to refine his arguments, if not look for a new job.

      1. Gulag

        The beauty of the Kofman analysis, from my perspective, is that he is not playing multidimensional chest but is using as his primary indicator of Russian political intent, Russian military deployment moves in 2021/2022–and of course this is only his interpretation of these moves.

        He stated a month ago or so that military forces near Ukraine (250-300km) can be estimated at 60 battalion tactical groups (BTGs). These are task organized combined arms formation averaging 800 personnel in size, but structure varies–they can be 600-1000. However, BTGs are a rough way to measure.

        He argues that permanently based ground forces around Ukraine constitute 55-60k. Roughly half of these 60 BTGs are therefore being counted from units garrisoned in the area, the other half represents the buildup.

        When he totals the number of Russian forces from perm based and those of recently added formations it is likely to be 85,000 plus. This does not include Russian separatist forces in the Donbas (and he ballparks them at about another 15k but much lower combat effectiveness.

        He is not counting aerospace or naval forces in this equation, just ground troops. The 60 BTGs therefore represent at 35% of Russia’s total available BTG formations. More are on the way from the Eastern military district and have been increasing over the past 3 weeks.

        The addition of 30 BTGs technically more than doubles Russian ground force potential. But these units
        sent thus far are equipment without personnel. They are prepositioning equipment, not sending manned formations. Deploying this way is les expensive and disruptive. When the Russian military sends personnel it will be another important indicator of military intent, according to Kofman.

        Kofman has also argued that the key decision-maker is indeed Putin. Kofman doubts that even most of Russian high command is on board because of the high risks and unknowns. In addition, Russia’s three stated political goals (concerning NATO and the U.S.) could certainly be considered a geopolitical emergency–if necessary for any of the supposed legal checks you mentioned.

        I my opinion Russian public opinion has no relevance to this potential military move–I believe initially 60% of Russian public opinion was against going into Syria–but swung to 60% in favor once it was seen as both militarily and politically successful.

        I also have a meta-point I would like to discuss with you. None of us really know what is going to happen (only Putin, in my opinion really knows).

        All of us as observers, or analysts or just informed/concerned citizens may enjoy predicting what might happen, including you, me and Kofman. I see all three of us as using are reasoning abilities to try to be right in our predictions and if someone in Kofman’s position ends up being that wrong he might indeed have to look for a new job–he suffers a real status downgrade, if any of us are right we will experience some type of minimal status up-grade, if only in the eyes of some of our peers.

        So all of our reasoning seems connected to something beyond itself–some type of power interest like, in this case status. Do you see our reasoning ability as always linked to something beyond itself, like power or status?

  34. David Jones

    Just a very small point on Russian demographics and it’s effect on the Russian Army .Read
    The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich – the Nobel prizewinner.

    Women played major,major roles in the Soviet Union’s Great War.After all, as communist women they were supposed to be equal.One guesses that they will do so again for Mother Russia.Interesting tho’ how an unspoken male bias appears even in NC.

  35. dcblogger

    so I went to the peace demonstration in front of the White House yesterday. Apprx 50 demonstrators, Code Pink and a few other regulars. Sadly the United States has no peace movement worthy of the name.

  36. scott s.

    “My understanding is these launch systems can have their missiles swapped out in a matter of hours, and can launch nuclear missiles.”

    Don’t think so. While Mk 41 launcher did have the capability to handle nuclear Tomahawk in the past, that missile was decommissioned per Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. Trump was interested in a new ship-launched nuclear cruise missile and it was included in his 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Now under Biden SecNav in his July 21 POM guidance directed termination of any SLCM-N development, but this caused push-back on the Hill I think the Biden position today is “wait for my Nuclear Posture Review”. So today there is no missile to put in that launcher.

    Note that Mk 41 launcher does not provide fire control, so you need some other system to do that. That’s assuming there still exists capability in the launcher software (maintaining software is not cheap). After Bush 41 stopped routine deployment of nuclear Tomahawk, what residual capability remained was limited to submarine, not surface launch.

    Plus you need some sort of NC3 for it.

    That being said, agree that pushing those systems into Russia’s periphery is a problem for Russia.

  37. Biswapriya Purkayastha

    Every time I hear these claims about Amerikastan’s promise to not enlarge NATO and how Gorbachëv should have got a written promise on paper, my reaction is, are you serious? Haven’t you noticed Amerikastan tearing up treaties or signed on paper, from the ABM and INFT to the JCPOA, as soon as they were no longer convenient? Do you really imagine that they would adhere to anything unary might promise about NATO? Really?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We never said such a thing. Customs differ. Your humble blogger worked in Japan, where nothing was done contractually. We said that the USSR leaders assumed promises by top level officials would be respected.

  38. David in Santa Cruz

    To reiterate four little words: Pine Island Capital Partners

    To add three more: Wag the Dog

    The Military-Industrial Complex needs a new boogie-man. Why is it that the Democrats — without debate — increased the Pentagon budget after the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan and Iraq? It’s a self-licking Flexian ice cream cone, and Joe’s down in the polls.

    But it’s a new world. Clinton, the Bushes, and Obama wrapped an illusion of American respectability around their corrupt war profiteering, but Trump broke the spell. The French and the Germans learned their lesson from the “crisis” ginned-up by the Americans in Syria. They have no use for another “crisis” and will cut their own deal over American threats to destabilize Eastern Europe for fun and profit. The German intelligence service has already announced that they see no sign that Russia intends to invade Ukraine.

    More interesting to me was the arrest and temporary imprisonment in the U.S. of the Mexican general and defense chief Salvador Cienfuegos in late 2020 (freed through diplomatic pressure) and the subsequent donation of 24 million doses of the Sputnik V Covid vaccine to Mexico by the Russian Federation in early 2021. Maybe AMLO and Putin have their own ideas about placing missile launchers close to foreign bullies.

    Turnabout is fair play and Biden, Blinken, and Austin are blinded by their greed and self-interest…

  39. VietnamVet

    To reiterate, “The USA will give up Texas to Mexico before Russia gives up Crimea”.

    The problem when two nuclear powers get tied up into a conflict is that the slightest mistake (shooting down of each other fighter jets or sinking of s naval ship) quickly escalates. When one or the other starts to lose the war, nuclear weapons are ignited. Memos of understanding have, so far, kept this from happening in Syria.

    Russia is as much an oligarchy as the West except the Kremlin has kept a degree of control over intelligence and the military. The US government (e.g. the mishandled pandemic response or the 5G airport debacle) has broken down into corporate/state fiefdoms which are more less at odds with each other. The fate of the American people is absolutely of no concern in their pursuit of increasing corporate profits.

    There is absolutely no one to tell the NATO corporate/state fiefdom to back down. If Russia’s blackmail of Germany to get Nord Stream II’s natural gas supply on line in support of the neutralization of Ukraine is successful, it means that one freezes this winter in the West and it avoids a nuclear war. That is a win for human survival. But not for the western Death Cult who wants/needs to control Russia’s energy resources.

  40. Pokhara

    The position of the UK in all this is particularly shameful.

    As NC readers will know, Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life after the revelations about lockdown parties in Downing St during 2020. In the last few days, the Metropolitan Police (the London force) has come to Johnson’s assistance. The Met has asked that some of the facts uncovered by the inquiry into the parties be withheld while the police carry out their own investigation.

    This buys Johnson time, which his team is using to pitch the war talk to full volume. According to Johnson, ‘the intelligence is pretty gloomy’ and Russia’s ‘plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see’.

    That was on 24 Jan. Two days later, all Covid-related restrictions were lifted in England.

    Interestingly, the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, is one of Johnson’s main rivals. She is aligned with the most powerful faction within the Tory Party, the libertarian hard right (aka the Brexit Ultras, who are also, unsurprisingly, the anti-public health, pro-virus wing). Not to be outdone by Johnson, Truss is echoing his bluster that a war in the Ukraine would become ‘another Chechnya’.

  41. Ignacio

    I’ve been trying to avoid reading on this being my main source the anglosphere-knotted El Pais in Spain which is doing CIA work here in Spain propagating all the propaganda.
    As if we hadn’t enough to be worried about. In Spain we say “éramos pocos y parió la abuela” that can be approximately translated as ‘look what the cat dragged in’ though this doesn’t capture all the meaning.

      1. Ignacio

        It is at the same time funny and desperate. I like these kind of exchanges and keen on learning English idioms. These tend to say a lot in a few words.

        1. rowlf

          I interact with technical people all around the world and try my best to stick to simplified English and proper nouns to avoid misunderstandings. (I’m also the acronym referee and throw cards for using an acronym before the definition is given) That being said, when we can get together as a group we do have a lot of fun comparing idioms from every language.

  42. nothing but the truth

    the real problem is the iron grip of the neocons on all hiring and management in the media and the State dept.

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