Russian Black Box Defence Against American Booby Trap Offence

Yves here. It’s hard to know where to start unpacking the US political class’ “WMD in Iraq” level of misrepresentations about Russian actions and intentions for Ukraine and NATO. But one of the foundational ones is the assertion that Russia is refusing to negotiate, which comes straight from the New York Times to your eyeballs this morning. The headline of its lead story: Biden Says Putin Has Chosen ‘Catastrophic’ War Over Diplomacy.

Needless to say, a look at the record paints a different picture.

Now the US is at best trying to depict Russia having presented clear red lines as being tantamount to not being willing to negotiate. But the US and NATO are not willing to acknowledge that what they’ve made noises about to Russia is tantamount to threatening to move arms into Monterrey, Mexico. The Russian position is that both sides are entitled to national security. The US refusal to respond to Russian documents stating that position comes off as an admission that we won’t concede what ought to be an apple and pie proposition.

As David put it yesterday in comments:

What’s happening is quite simple. The Russians have been signalling for sometime that they are unhappy with the eastward expansion of the western bloc, and that western troops deployed on Ukrainian territory will not be tolerated. They are therefore supporting separatists in the East of the country, and creating confusion and panic, as a way of signalling this, and keeping the Ukrainian and the western governments guessing about their intentions. They have no interest in absorbing this area into Russia, and even less in invading the country, not least because the latter move would have the perverse result of bringing NATO forces closer to their (new) borders. The Ukrainians seem to understand this, and there are already the faint outlines of a deal in which the Russians will turn down the volume and stop supporting the separatists so much, while the Ukrainians will back off any idea of NATO membership and won’t allow foreign deployments. It’s unlikely such things will ever be put in writing, because they aren’t.

NATO does not want a conflict, because its military hollowness and political weakness will be immediately revealed. A military alliance with no weapons except economic sanctions is not a military alliance. There is no master plan by the way: nobody who has seen NATO at work could possibly imagine such a thing. It’s the usual mix of bureaucratic inflexibility, striking of postures, lack of any real forward planning, political divisions and short-term panic. For thirty years NATO has been a car with no reverse gear, and now people are panicking because they can’t find it when they need it. The trouble is that nobody knows how to de-escalate, so the nearest thing to a strategy seems to be to keep making blood-curdling noises to appear strong, whilst allowing the crisis itself to be de-escalated by those concerned, after which NATO can find some way of taking credit. It’s not much of a strategy, and I doubt if it’s articulated anywhere, but it’s about all there is.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

In the Foreign Ministry’s new paper for the State Department, delivered on Thursday afternoon and then published on the Ministry website,   there is a restatement of the Russian proposals for security in Europe which the US refuses to address. There is also nothing new in the threat: “In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees to ensure our security from the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures.”

President Vladimir Putin said the same thing to the assembly of the Russian officer corps on December 21. “Is anyone unable to grasp this? This should be clear…I would like to emphasise again: we are not demanding any special exclusive terms for ourselves. Russia stands for equal and indivisible security in the whole of Eurasia. Naturally, as I have already noted, if our Western colleagues continue their obviously aggressive line, we will take appropriate military-technical reciprocal measures and will have a tough response to their unfriendly steps.”

Putin’s point was repeated by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Geneva on January 10, following his talks with his State Department counterpart, Wendy Sherman.  For more detail on those talks, read this.

What is meant by “military-technical measures” is Russia’s black box defence. This is not the place – it will not be the place – to read what this will be. Anglo-American think-tankers are paid by their governments to guess what is inside the box, as is the new source for analysis of Russia in the Anglo-American media, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Three things are certain about what is inside the black box. The first is spelled out emphatically in yesterday’s Foreign Ministry paper: “There is no ‘Russian invasion’ of Ukraine, as the United States and its allies have been officially declaring since last autumn, and there are no plans for it.”  This rules out a land force invasion of Ukraine, as well as aerial bombing, missile and drone strikes launched from Russian territory.

The second sure thing about the black box defence is that it is black: it will be a surprise.

The third thing is, as Putin said last December, it will be “reciprocal”. This  means the Americans and their European allies are already using comparable measures in their attacks on Russia directly and in the Donbass. Reciprocal in this Russian vocabulary may mean comparable; it does not mean symmetrical along the Russian land border with the Ukraine; offshore, in the Black and Azov Seas; in the airspace above the Donbass or in the cyberspace .

The Russian paper was handed to US Ambassador John Sullivan at the Foreign Ministry and then posted publicly. The ministry website,, was then incapacitated for more than an hour. The official English translation will follow during Friday.


“The package nature of Russian proposals has been ignored, from which ‘convenient’ topics have been deliberately chosen. They, in turn, have been ‘twisted’ in the direction of creating advantages for the United States and its allies. This approach, as well as the accompanying rhetoric of American officials, reinforces reason for doubt that Washington is really committed to correcting the situation in the field of Euro-security.”

The paper then itemizes the specific security measures and treaty articles which have been tabled by the Russian side since December, and which the US and NATO replies have so far ignored. For analysis of each of the booby traps contained in the US paper released in Spain a fortnight ago, read this.

Twice the new Foreign Ministry paper uses the term “concrete”. The first is to signal that this remains to be provided in the papers sent to Moscow by the US and NATO so far. “We expect concrete proposals from the members of the alliance on the content and forms of legal consolidation of the rejection of further expansion of NATO to the east.”

In the second application of the term “concrete”, the paper says: “the United States and its allies should abandon the policy of ‘containing’ Russia and take concrete practical measures to de-escalate the military-political situation, including in line with paragraph 2 of Article 4 of our draft treaty.”

Article 4 says, not only that NATO will not include Ukraine and Georgia as members, but that even if formal membership is ruled out, there will be no US military bases in non-member states, no military infrastructure (arms stockpiles, for example), and no “bilateral military cooperation” targeted at Russia.


Among other concrete issues required for negotiation, the Russian paper identifies “heavy” (nuclear) bomber flights close to Russian airspace, combat vessels in the Black and Baltic Seas, the Aegis Ashore missiles batteries in Romania and Poland, and intermediate and short-range nuclear missiles.

For a Russian analysis of Russia’s black box options, published at the end of January in Vzglyad, read this.

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      1. Eustachedesaintpierre

        Same thing as it states in your link, but I chose the above as I decided perhaps incorrectly that it was the more recognisable name – either way I like the allusion to Mother Russia.

              1. Michaelmas

                There’ve been so many reports on Poseidon from so many sources besides the Pentagon over the last few years that it’s unlikely to be simply psyops or vaporware.

    1. Acacia

      When I visited Russia in 2019, I searched a number of markets for a Matryoshka doll of Trump that contained a Putin doll within, and then a Stalin/Lenin/Takeyourpick doll within, etc., but in vain. Evidently, the Russian doll makers weren’t onto that meme.

  1. Carolinian

    Thanks for this. Biden is shooting for prize as worst president since James Buchanan and if this situation blows up in his face we are all going to be the fall guy as gasoline prices explode. But the real concern should be for all those non Americans who will die as a result. Not that we ever care about that. It should be emphasized that Congress is just as gung ho for this idiocy as Biden is.

    There are also increasing reports of mobilization by the Eastern Ukrainians, lots of mortar shelling (mostly coming from the Ukrainian government side) etc. So while Zelensky seems uninterested in war there are other parties and the East has in the past asked to be absorbed by Russia and may want to stimulate that result. Seems likely that almost any violence will provoke Biden and Congressional hotheads to “maximum sanctions” and those exploding oil prices. Shoot first, ask questions later, that’s our Biden/Blinken. It almost makes one nostalgic for war criminals Nixon and Kissinger. They may have had lots of bad motives but at least they weren’t idiots.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . . at least Sanders isn’t President.

        Somewhere Obama is smiling. And counting his money.

    1. ACPAL

      This has got to be the strangest shit-show I’ve ever seen. Usually you can get a hint at what’s going on by knowing a few facts, history, and who’s who. Not this one. It could be that whoever is actually running the show is intent on destroying Biden, or maybe the democrats/liberals. Or they may have a different target altogether. It’s possible that the marionettes intend to pull a rabbit out of a hat and surprise us all. Worst of all they could actually be trying to start WWIII having some perverse idea of what a “win” would look like. Maybe they’re planning a coup de tat of some sort.

      I’ve read lots of theories about what’s going on but so far none of them track with the facts on the ground. Those doomsday preppers may be a bit wonky but the store shelves are showing more and more empty spaces, the protests are spreading, and prices are rising. Maybe they’re not so crazy after all.

      1. Infinity Knot

        a few facts, history, and who’s who

        I think you can go back to 2016 and look at the articles involving Nuland and Blinken with the Russian threats that started in 2014 to get an idea ‘who might be involved’. I believe the defeat of Clinton forestalled what is now fast becoming the inevitable.

        I can’t help but suppose the “democrat/liberals” currently running the show are the ones running the show and carrying out policies developed at the end of WWII. Recall, it was REPUBLICAN Eishenhower’s statement expressing “concerns about the growing influence of what he termed the military-industrial complex”. The Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War soon followed.

    2. ardj

      The analysis by Hellman is deeply flawed – for instance west to wothdraw from Russia borders but Rusai can mass troops on its own borders to threaten Western nations. No Western battleships in Black Sea or Baltic – where does that leave Sweden / Lithuania / Latvia/ Estonia – or German coast,Denmark &c ?
      There are as many reports of shelling originating with Donbass as with Ukraine, and indpendejt journalist pictures of damage in Ukraine, as well as nonsensicall propaganda damage pictures from Russia
      A plague on both their houses, but anyone thinking Russia is the good guy is sadly mistaken.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the “Western Side” decides to adopt for concrete negotiations, perhaps Russia can give up those other things in return for NATO never ever including Ukraine, Georgia, or any other country not already in NATO. And also not forming a military alliance between NATO and any other not-quite-NATO country, ever ever.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Exploding gas prices would finally provide a real push to real energy conservation, and if the gas prices could stay exploded for the next couple of decades, the real push for real energy conservation might stay real for real.

      Nothing else has any hope of de-warming the global. So maybe this would.

    4. the last D

      It has to be noted that it’s a fiction that the u.s.’shoots first, asks questions later.’ The u.s. shoots first, asks no questions, and always jacks up the death count.

  2. EEarlK

    Well, it looks like ‘they’ could be ready to do the world a favor and teach the us senate and military a lesson.

  3. Carolinian

    A very sensible suggestion

    What does this mean? The UN Security Council should meet and pass a resolution obliging all parties to the conflict to cease firing and withdraw a certain distance from the front lines. It should also mandate the immediate dispatch of an international peace keeping force to occupy the territory between the two warring parties. Sanctions, or other forms of coercion, would be enacted against those who refuse to comply.

    But of course the US would veto.

  4. Susan the other

    Just from a comment tossed out by Lavrov not too long ago asking us just exactly what we were doing still in Syria – to which then he added “We (Russians) aren’t messing around in Venezuela” – makes me think that is exactly what is in the black box. We are obviously threatening Russia’s southern oil resources and we have been at it for quite a while. I’d submit that nothing would make the US and NATO happier than for the EU to control its own oil supplies, now controlled by Russia. The new phrase should be, Whoever controls the oil controls the EU. This isn’t Russia’s first Rodeo. Remember Stalingrad? So now fast-forward 80 years to the age of cyberspace and remote warfare. The Russians have excellent technology and will certainly consider it “reciprocal” behavior to use it to threaten our oil supplies in the Caribbean. And they can do it by nuclear submarine, nuclear missiles, cyber-hacks, and by being better partners with our southern allies than we have been. There has been no mention of Israel being a new energy broker for the EU. I find that a telling omission as well. And it is another vulnerable spot to be included in Russia’s black box. Which Iran would be more than happy to help with. The best Biden and US warmongers can hope to achieve at this point is some hideously obvious face-saving propaganda that nobody believes and leaves us as exposed as the Wizard of Oz. But still in control of our own oil.

    1. ISL

      Interesting, you note of Venezuela – such discussions have been military; however, here is an idea – China pre-buys Venezuela oil with Russian guard of tankers, and the Venezuelan flow to the US stops – $10 gasoline would send the US economy into a deep recession and its not as if interest rates can go lower.

    1. Rob Dunford

      I was thinking that Trumps idea to extricate the US from Europe, could have been part his undocumented talks with Putin.

    2. timbers

      Biden is mentally gone, senile, complete non factor and much more easily manipulated by the deep state, blob, whatever you call it…than Trump was. Not that Trump did a good job of pushing back or wasn’t without his own blind spots. But in comparison, Biden is a total pushover. I expect the blob is very happy he’s in the WH.

      1. JTMcPhee

        No surprise, the Blob worked the Mighty Wurlitzer Keyboard and the Kayfabe Machine pretty hard to ensure Biden’s elevation/ascension/apotheosis…

    3. LawnDart

      Is it just me or does Biden’s foreign policy seemed just as unhinged as Trump’s?

      Very different approaches for very different reasons, I believe, but neither work(ed) to the benefit of the USA public.

      Welcoming back Victoria “F the EU” Nuland, the neocons “under” Biden get another chance to accomplish what they couldn’t get done under the Bush/Obama administrations, which is to create an induced dependency of the EU upon USA– keeping our poodles in line– and the world’s resources under “our” control, under the world’s policeman’s eye.

      Oh, and the neocons would love to see “regime-change” in Russia, take Russia back to the 1990s in order to control (by proxy) Russia’s abundant and mostly untapped natural resources.

      Trump’s policy was an incoherent clusterf<_k of a mess, mainly aimed at self-preservation on the domestic front– "RussiaRussiaRussia!" ring a bell?

      In my opinion, "Biden's foriegn policy" is much more dangerous and unhinged than Trump's ever was, as these policies actively put "our allies" directly in harm's way both militarily and economically.

      With thanks to Trumpism, the democrat wing of the party has clearly become the more-invective evil in geopolitics.

      1. Michael C.

        Lawn Dart, you hit the bull’s eye. Reining in the EU and keeping it under the US umbrella is the goal. Europe is balking at it, as are many other nations in the world. As Argentina, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, many nations in Africa, etc., are all showing that being kept under control by IMF and WB is no longer the only game in town. The US is being completely outmaneuvered. China, resource hungry and dealing with other nations on their own terms, is actually creating useful infrastructure so extraction provides some benefits. It’s taking an approach that gives much better terms. I welcome the outcome of a mult-ipolar world where the US will not act with maniacal hubris. I just hope that those running the US don’t act like a caged animal and destroy the world in the process.

        1. Ashburn

          Completely agree. I would add that the entirely US-manufactured Ukraine crisis is a product of US elite desperation in the face of a rising China, now in a de facto alliance with Russia. It spells “peak Empire” for the US. The end of our unipolar moment.

          Europe’s growing dependency on Russian energy and being chafed at US third party sanctions that limits their trading opportunities spell danger to the US plans for new Cold Wars with Russia and China. Biden desperately wants to apply heavy sanctions on Russia but needs a viable pretext in order to gain European support. Unfortunately for Biden, Putin sees the game and has decided he’s not playing.

          Huge federal deficits, and trade deficits, along with an unquenchable demand for more military spending to satisfy the insatiable beast that is our overextended militarized empire makes for a difficult math problem. I don’t see the Three Stooges—Biden, Blinken, and Sullivan—working that problem out.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            If EUrope reeaaaaallllly feels so chafed, why doesn’t EUrope abolish NATO? They can leave NATO and declare it dissolved any time they want to. So why don’t they?

            They could create their OWN defence alliance any time they want to. They could call it NEATO, for North East Atlantic Treaty Organization. So why don’t they? Because then they couldn’t secretly exploit America anymore and they would lose all their American NATO hostages ( “soldiers”) held captive in Europe.

            Calling the EUropen countries ” American lapdogs or poodles or whatever” is completely backward. America is EUrope’s pitiful helpless giant. NATO is a Euro-Brittanic conspiracy to keep America enslaved to Euro-Britain’s desire to rule the world. It works as long as America is ruled by a pro-Euro-Britanic anti-American leadership elite in NATO-occupied Washington.

      2. Expat2uruguay

        In my opinion, “Biden’s foriegn policy” is much more dangerous and unhinged than Trump’s ever was, as these policies actively put “our allies” directly in harm’s way both militarily and economically.

        Yes, the things that the Biden Administration is doing to our allies really seems unhinged and counterproductive for a declining power to say the least. I’m also thinking of the big hoopla over Mexican avocados. How the EU, and Latin America, respond to the Big Brother ministrations of the u.s. is the big question. Interesting dimes!

  5. Irrational

    It seems Zelensky is demanding a timetable for NATO membership in his speech at the Munich Security Conference. Doesn’t exactly help de-escalate and runs counter to one of the commentariat comments yesterday (sorry, don’t remember who) that the outline of a deal is in the making.

    1. b

      The predicate timetable would be for Ukraine to become a democracy, per NATO requirements. How long will it take to stop locking up opposition leaders and bribing Vice President’s drug-addled sons? That’s years of breathing room.

  6. juno mas

    As for the idea of a Blackbox, the Russians rarely present their hand before it’s time. Boasting is a decidedly
    American trait. . . USA!! USA!!! USA!!!!

    1. Douglas

      Until you recall those undersea cables near Norway “breaking” and, umm, ‘foreshortening’.

      Now we have ‘BlackBoxGate’ wherein a “kraken” rears-up, rears-down, and refuses to “vacation” in Ukraine because “glo-Bull warming” ‘made the mud make us do it’.

      There. Something like that? Something like that.

      1. ambrit

        Yeah, and the American submersible sneaking into Russian territotial waters in the Pacific and ‘tapping’ a main Russian military communications cable.
        And yes, all of us ‘guys’ will be cognizant of the ego destroying effects of ‘foreshortening.’

        1. The Rev Kev

          Turns out that that American sub left a souvenir for the Russians as they left. To make their getaway, they fired off a torpedo-shaped object that serves to split targets on radar and acoustic monitoring equipment. Kinda like a decoy. After sinking, it either re-floated or was retrieved so now the Russians are checking it out to see what they can learn from it to help their detection equipment. I would imagine that eventually it will end up in a museum somewhere.

      2. JohnA

        Until you recall those undersea cables near Norway “breaking” and, umm, ‘foreshortening’.

        The vast majority of cable breaks are due to natural sea forces or trawlers snagging on them. Plus all important undersea cables have plenty of redundancy.
        The threat of Russia breaking cables is vastly overhyped.

        1. Douglas

          “Overhyped” or underhyped.

          A background of the concept of NATO putting nukes in Ukraine is the ever-present Russian subs seen with regularity along America’s Atlantic coast, and some distance closer than Ukraine to Moscow.

          Subs with “160” warheads?! *

          Those that’d have us forget that, chanting .. “Russia! Russia! Russia!”

          Ironies lost while decrying incursions ..

          Those “separatists”, also, weren’t about to “mobilize”, now they have, too. So must be “niche” products, that denying the box isn’t black.

  7. nippersdad

    I think the CIA stenography pool has reached peak incoherence here:

    “Russian-backed separatist leaders in two territories in Ukraine have called for general mobilization of able-bodied men in the region to take up arms amid fears of a Russian invasion in the country.”

    Why would Russian backed separatists take up arms amid fears of a Russian invasion? That was just the first sentence; it gets worse.

    There is just about nothing in this that makes any sense, even within their own reality. Someone needs to tell the writer that Kiev is not in Russia; one suspects that this could have been ghost written by Liz Truss.*

    1. JohnA

      Bargain basement Thatcher Truss is already squealing that Russia is going to invade the Baltic states as well.

    2. Susan the other

      I caught that one too. Seems an example of what the Russians were referring to as inaccurate or flexible language. This one is just incoherent. But it slips under the radar because we are so used to sloppy language. There are plenty of other examples, of ambiguous referents allowed by lenient grammar, which create useful confusion as well. Just who/what, exactly, are we talking about? It’s no wonder people who only read headlines and first paragraphs from single sources of media get so confused.

  8. LawnDart

    A take from Oceania– the editorial view from an unrepentant neocon; key statement:

    How the West responds will send a message not just to Putin but to other would-be marauders as well. Certainly China, currently contemplating swallowing up Taiwan, will take careful notice.

    In other words, though Ukraine is the nation at immediate risk, in an era when fascism is on the march, much more may hang in the balance.

    The reader comments to this piece are worth noting as well, for insight to the liberal mind.

    “…in an era when fascism is on the march…” This may be a poor choice of words considering that much of the non-conscripted Ukrainian army is far-right or blatantly neo-nazi and proud of it (see Azov Battalion).

  9. Gulag

    As David mentions above the Russians have been signaling for quite some time that they are unhappy with the eastward expansion of the Western bloc.

    But I believe that they have now decided that (among other things) their limited military campaigns in Ukraine (2014-2015) have not gotten what they want diplomatically so they are now going to attempt a large military operation in Ukraine to achieve on the battle-field what they have not been able to achieve diplomatically.

    If anyone is interested I can summarize the persuasive (to me) open intelligence analysis of Michael Kofman and Rob Lee on the likelihood of a maximal Russian military strategy to achieve Russian diplomatic goals in Europe

    1. nippersdad

      It would be well to note that there would be no military campaigns at all had the US not supported a Nazi coup in Ukraine in 2014. The civil war there started when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine were faced with a far right government that was bent upon erasing their heritage, if not actual ethnic cleansing.

      Why would Russia want to invade Ukraine when they have already achieved nearly all of their diplomatic ends? The only reason this has come up is because they tired of watching the US/NATO ignore the Minsk protocols and upped the ante by sending treaties to both the US and NATO directly. At this point it would appear that everything is on the table that they really wanted; invading Ukraine would nullify that effort by giving the US its’ only real chance at changing the subject and maintaining the status quo.

    2. LawnDart

      If anyone is interested I can summarize the persuasive (to me) open intelligence analysis of Michael Kofman and Rob Lee on the likelihood of a maximal Russian military strategy to achieve Russian diplomatic goals in Europe

      Gotta link?

        1. nippersdad

          Published by a club for retired neocons:

          “The FPRI’s claim of independence should not be mistaken for non-partisan, nor should their deep roots within higher education imply an intent of a simple advisory role. In a speech given at the Heritage Foundation on June 5, 1991, former FPRI member Daniel Pipes stated that the FPRI is an activist organization driven by its own ideology:”

          “Put most baldly, we have always advocated an activist U.S. foreign policy; we have shared an abiding suspicion of the Soviet Union and other Communist states; and we have always maintained a strong interest in the promotion of democracy, free-enterprise, and the rule of law. Perhaps most controversially, the professional staff is not shy about the use of force; were we members of Congress in January 1991, all of us would not only have voted with President Bush and Operation Desert Storm, we would have led the charge.” [4]

        2. LawnDart

          Jesus, thanks for the effort Gulag, but the cadence in that podcast rivals that of many an auctioneer– no time for a listener to think about and reflect upon the points that the speakers are trying to make. Any chance of a transcript?

  10. Mick

    All the Russians have to do is take down Cloudfare, sorry NC, and Amazon web services, and the whole country implodes.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Cloudflare was up but I get the point. I don’t know what the issue was since we are effectively a tenant who has been asked to leave but our host is letting us stay on. So I really can’t press him.

  11. Gulag


    What diplomatic ends concerning Ukraine have the Russians achieved?

    I would argue that Moscow perceives its strategy in Ukraine as having generally failed, with diplomacy over the Minsk ceasefire agreement (as you say) at a deadlock, while Ukraine is treated as a de facto NATO member. Over a long series of statements in 2021 Russia had made it clear that they believe that Ukraine and its territory are being used as an instrument against Russia by the United States and if they cannot compel a policy reversal, they may seek military solutions–(which given the nature and magnitude of their present troop deployments indicates they may be about to attempt).

    “If our Western colleagues continue their obviously aggressive line, we will take appropriate militarily-technical reciprocal measures and will have a tough response to their unfriendly steps.”

    It seems to me that Russian political statements and military activity are in close alignment. And a likely scenario in Ukraine may be an intention by Moscow to install a pro-Russian government backed by its forces.

    My best guess (and of course I could be totally wrong) is that the best way in which Moscow could attain lasting political gains is to use massive force on a large scale and commit to an occupation for some time.

    Of course, this would all be terribly risky, dangerous and costly but perhaps Putin is gambling that such a military move is necessary for a genuine revision of Europe’s security order.

    1. nippersdad

      “What diplomatic ends concerning Ukraine have the Russians achieved?”

      Are they not sitting at the table discussing bases, weapons, treaties and pulling back troops? Blinken is now even referencing Minsk II, something that they have totally ignored for the past seven years, in trying to gainsay efforts that would make implementation moot. If Russia officially recognizes Donetsk and Luhansk that would effectively make them the autonomous regions that Minsk II was aimed at creating, albeit outside of Ukraine proper. Who exactly is going to invade eastern Ukraine to tell them differently?

      There is no rationale for Russia not supporting autonomous bodies, and NATO/US would lose its’ argument that they cannot become a part of the UN. You can’t sanction Russia for acknowledging reality on the ground with a straight face; the world has been watching, after all, and there are limits to what even the US can do with popular perception through the press.

      That is called a win.

      And that is even before you start to talk about the US implementing the sanctions they have been talking about. Menendez and Risch have finally figured out that imposing sanctions on Russia’s oil industry would destroy NATO as it is presently configured. Germany and France will not tolerate their economies being held hostage just to make us feel better about ourselves. The Treasury will not tolerate our losing the petrodollar. The people of the US will not tolerate ten dollar a gallon gas because we suddenly need to replace (even if that were possible) and subsidize the forty percent of NG and 27% oil imports to Europe; that on top of the ten percent of oil imports to the US that that we would lose which are presently provided by Russia. They may have also figured out that there are new pipelines being built to China to eat up all the reserves they cannot sell to the west, and China will buy it all at a discount. So what they came up with is essentially a sternly worded letter with nothing to back it up.

      Again, that is called a win.

      I think the real plan is to fall back into western Ukraine* and hope that Russia will fill the political and military vacuum left in the central portion of the country. They will then call that the Russian aggression they have been squeaking about, but I doubt that Russia would do such a thing before there was a hue and cry about western powers hanging a third of the country out to dry. They would make damn sure that they were invited into Ukraine in public, at the UN, and that their intervention was to popular acclaim. Why, after all, would they willingly fall for a trap, replete with American trained special forces derived from the Azov Battalion, that could easily destabilize anything they did there? Just because we lost to irregular forces in Afghanistan does not mean that they want to do it themselves, again. They remember Afghanistan, too.

      So where does that leave your rationale?

      *The US and its’ coalition of the willing have already relocated to Lviv on the Polish border. Kiev is being emptied out as we speak. If the new capitol of Ukraine is to be Lviv, then it would appear that they are in hopes they can retain some portion of the country to grandstand from rather than have it divided up amongst the other countries that surround it and have a greater claim on the ethnic groups closest to them.

  12. VietnamVet

    The Western Empire is falling. Its member states are sick, vastly unequal and fragmenting. Western neoliberal rulers are so bad they even triggered the ongoing workers’ skirmish in Canada. This is inevitable if western governments cannot serve or protect its citizens. More than a million Americans have died or have long-Covid due to the US government’s failure eradicate coronavirus.

    Russia hasn’t been passive opponent. It sees the opportunity to pull Europe into their orbit. They have cut fertilizer shipment and natural gas supply to the EU Spot Market. I don’t think Joe Biden gets it but William Burns at CIA may. Their rule as hegemon is over. If nations join the China, Iran and Russia Axis they no longer have to pay protection money to Wall Street or City of London.

    The Comments in Moon of Alabama have come up with the best term that I have seen for what the West is doing. “War Baiting”. For NATO to survive it has to draw Russia into attacking Kiev. Poland will never voluntarily leave NATO. After all, Soviet Union took East Prussia and moved Poland 100 miles west into Germany after WWII. But Europe needs Russian resources to have any chance of avoiding climate change chaos. France is pledging to construct 14 new generation nuclear reactors. But at the same time France is pulling out of the Southern Sahara Islamic war and Niger, infamous for uranium yellow cake that Saddam Hussein did not buy that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

    Joe Biden is facing a worse energy crisis than Jimmy Carter ever dreamt. It is questionable if North America can extract enough energy from its own resources that are left to convert to renewable energy. Venezuelan oil would help. But stealing it likely will destroy what remains. Economies die if energy and workers are unavailable to deliver the food, utilities, and goods needed for survival.

  13. David in Santa Cruz

    The yapping of media lap-dogs is getting out of control. Today’s Failing New York Times led with a “Ukraine” explainer from their Jerusalem correspondent (who recently called dragging an 80-year old man out of his car, blindfolding, handcuffing, dragging to a nearby building site, and berating him until he suffered a fatal coronary as “briefly detained”), berating us that we must stand tall because:

    First and foremost, a Russian invasion would upend the lives of 44 million Ukrainians. But its fate has huge implications for the rest of Europe, the health of the global economy and America’s place in the world.

    C’mon man

  14. ambrit

    Is there any information available about the Ukraine’s movements opposite the peninsula connecting Crimea with the ‘mainland?’ That would be a tripwire for the Russians. The Donbass, eh, life is hard for a kulak. An invasion of the Crimea could well end up with Russian amphibious troop landers coming ashore at Odessa and Mariupol. First, for that to happen, all the NATO military shipping in the Black Sea would have to be sent to the bottom. Then air superiority would have to be achieved. Both could be done by Russia. Then what would the Pentagon do, nuke Sevastopol? After that, it’ll be; “All hail our Grey Alien saviors!”
    Every year that goes by without Armageddon is a bloody miracle.

  15. Wukchumni

    Is anybody else weirded out by the idea of a ‘peace in our time’ attempt by that Harris pol in of all places, Munich?

  16. Dave in Austimain

    There’s a 2015 Charlie Rose interview of Putin on YouTube that’s worth watching. Note the subjects Putin speaks about with annoyance and passion.

    As far as I can tell the Ukrainian army is not deployed near the Crimea or to the north and northeast of Kiev to defend against the proposed Russian assault.

    The danger is an accidental esculation along the breakaway region front. Who’s firing first? Hard to tell but I noticed nobody has suggested UN peacekeepers between the two parties with radar to see whose firing the first shot. If Putin calls a Security Council meeting (they are presiding right now and can call a meeting) and asks for such a force the US and GB are in a bind.

  17. Bill Carson

    Radio War Nerd has a good podcast this week—discussion of Ukraine and an interview with Ben Aris about Russian pipelines and their significance to the present conflict.

      1. ambrit

        There’s a cramped little gadget filled room in the basement of the Langley Complex that specializes in that. I believe it’s called “Cygnets Intelligence: Division Noir.” Probably a cooperative program with La Surete.

  18. Jack

    In my opinion, for the US this is all theater to prop up Joe and make him seem relevant and that he is accomplishing something, anything. The US media is in support of this propaganda. And the media even admits in a way that the Ukraine “crisis” is being used by the Biden team to shore him up! This article was in the WAPO today headlined, “With or Without War, Ukraine gives Biden a new lease on leadership”;

  19. Moneycircus

    The U.S. clearly opposes Germany increasing its reliance on Russian gas by opening the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia via the Baltics. Despite raving about energy security for a decade NATO achieved nothing. Perhaps on purpose. What’s the more distant objective?
    Fortified Europe

    France and Germany are tentatively exploring an independent European foreign policy, hardening the European Union by circling the wagons around a wealthy northern laager. This would include the Netherlands and Italy, whose northern provinces is a manufacturing powerhouse, like the aforementioned countries. If you look at a map, you will see that Switzerland, though not a member of the EU, sits in the bullseye.

    Without long-term contracts locking in Russian gas at a set price or formula (as China has negotiated) the European Union remains handicapped, and its single currency the euro weaker than it would otherwise be. It is the same century-old City of London strategy of isolating Germany by limiting its access to markets and energy sources to the east.

    As a historical twist, Britain’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), precursor to the single currency, the euro, in 1992, followed the re-unification of Germany. Was George Soros, “the man who broke the Bank of England,” acting on behalf of the City in what would later become Brexit?

    The UK’s departure from the EU weighted the balance of Britain’s resources and military commitment away from the continent and towards the U.S..

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