Some Additional Comments on Russia’s Ukraine Surprise

The Russian gambit of recognizing the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk blindsided the West, to the extent that some pundits are still braying that Russia will invade Ukraine, as if it wants Ukraine, as opposed to making it untenable for the US/NATO to continue to use it as a staging ground to threaten Russia.

I thought it would be useful to clear up some points where the press reporting has been less than stellar. Most of the information is also found in our posts in Links today, but we thought we’d highlight some issues:

1. The Germans have not cancelled Nord Stream 2 but have instead put it on hold. We pointed that out in comments yesterday and some outlets, from the Wall Street Journal to Al Jazeera, made that explicit.

2. The EU will have difficulty replacing Russian fuel, even with LNG. From Reuters:

“Russia (provides) I think 30-40% of the supply to Europe. There is no single country that can replace that kind of volume, there isn’t the capacity to do that from LNG,” [Qatar energy minsiter Saad al-]Kaabi told reporters at a gas conference in Doha.

“Most of the LNG are tied to long-term contracts and destinations that are very clear. So, to replace that sum of volume that quickly is almost impossible,” he said.

As I read it, the EU, particularly Germany, has a short-term problem of filling a supply shortage if there’s a cold snap before winter is over, since inventories are already low. And even if the EU can arrange to get more fuel before next winter, it certainly won’t be at the old Russian price. While the US financial press is keen about the opportunities for frackers, US courts have increasingly been sympathetic to environmental objections to pipelines. The Supreme Court just refused to hear an appeal by the operator of the Dakota Access Pipeline to sidestep certain environmental provisions, for instance. So protracted and occasionally successful fights over pipelines could throw a spanner in shale gas expansion hopes.

3. The Russian recognition is not without precedent. NATO describes how its role as a “peace keeper” preceded the establishment of Kosovo. The State Department write-up is oddly silent on details; readers said, and I am not able to confirm in reasonable time thanks to the terrible state of search engines, that the domestic mechanism was a vote of the Kosovo parliament. I am also told that Russia had at the time depicted this approach as inadequate, and so wanted a referendum in Crimea on the specific question of joining Russia.

Note that there had been some acknowledgement of the separatists. The Donbass and Luhansk “republics” had been observers at the Minsk negotiations and even signed the agreement despite having no official role. Keep in mind there were also other means to address the concerns of the separatists, as the example of Quebec shows: more autonomy and specific protections for the aggrieved population.

4. Even Bloomberg is pointing out that the new US sanctions are wet noodle-level:

U.S. President Joe Biden’s debut set of sanctions on Russia for its actions over disputed Ukrainian territory hit markets with a whimper and were quickly criticized as limited in scope.

Instead of a sweeping package that crippled top Russian banks, cut its financial transactions off from the global economy, or personally singled out President Vladimir Putin, the U.S. and its allies settled on a modest “first tranche” of penalties. Markets responded with a shrug.

As reader Maxwell Johnson pointed out:

Joining the fray a bit later this evening, but a few quick observations re Russia sanctions:

a. After 10 years of this, Russia is pretty well insulated from further damage. It is self-sufficient in the most important stuff: food, energy, weapons. It can buy consumer goods and electronics from China and medicines from India (and I highly doubt these two will seriously comply with any USA sanctions regime). Even the fabled SWIFT cutoff is overrated, IMHO: SWIFT is a messaging system not a payments system, and in any case for intra-Russia bank transfers the Russians already have their own system (as do the Chinese).

b. Nordstream 2 isn’t cancelled, its certification process has been suspended. Lots of wiggle room there.

c. The two Donbas states have not been annexed (yet), they’ve only been given diplomatic recognition; again lots of wiggle room for future diplomacy.

d. During my daily visit to the BBC website, I was amused to see the screaming headlines about BoJo’s Russia sanctions (along with his soaring rhetoric)…..only to scroll down and read what the sanctions are actually targeting: three Russian (quote) businessmen (unquote), that would be the Rotenberg brothers and Timchenko, who are businessmen in the same mold as Hunter Biden and Mark Thatcher. And 5 Russian banks, 3 of which I’ve never heard of, and the other 2 are essentially pocket banks for the Russian government (and only 1 of the 5 is in the top 10 of Russian bank

s). In short: a nothingburger so far. Let us wait and see.

We are still very early in what’s likely to be a long slog. But if things get nasty, the EU will definitely suffer. Russia still has a lot of cards to play.

5. The best one-stop shopping on what is likely to come next comes from Gilbert Doctorow. His latest post is worth reading not only for that analysis but also his careful reading of Putin’s speech yesterday. A key section is Putin laying forth the reasons Ukraine is a defacto junior NATO member and an active threat to Russia, particularly its ambition to become a nuclear power.

A key Doctorow point early on is an invasion remains Russia’s least preferred option. Note that even major Western news outlets like The Hill and the Financial Times were calling the Russian an ‘invasion’ only in quotes in headlines yesterday. As he pointed out:

Though from the beginning I had stressed Putin’s likely reliance on psychological rather than kinetic warfare to win his objectives, I also succumbed to the temptation of more dramatic methods…

However, we see so far that violence is not in Putin’s playbook. The recognition of the two republics is, like the massing of troops earlier at the Ukrainian border, a way of preventing violence. Moreover, in diplomatic discourse, this recognition can be likened to the precedent that the United States and its NATO allies set when they recognized the independence of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. The justification then was alleged genocidal intentions of the Serbs, the very same issue that Putin has raised with regard to Kiev’s intentions in Donbas.

Russia can get what it wants by other means. A big weapon, oddly not mentioned in the English-language press despite being discussed regularly on Russian TV, is sanctions against Ukraine. From Doctorow:

At present, Ukraine receives electricity, oil and gas transit revenues from Russia, and despite everything there is a substantial two way trade. This could all be halted at a moment’s notice with or without Zelensky’s possibly cutting diplomatic relations. Russia can claim that Ukraine is a hostile nation and put an end to all commercial dealings. Still more, Russia could impose a naval blockade just as the USA once did to Cuba to force the removal of Soviet missiles. All of this has historic precedent to support it. Moreover, with its great love for draconian sanctions, the United States and its allies cannot say a word about any sanctions Russia chooses to impose on Ukraine. Obviously, the objective would be to destabilize the Kiev regime sufficiently to promote regime change.

One assumes (literally) broadcasting this option was to attempt to knock some sense into Zelensky, which failed, and secondly to give Russian businesses that might be harmed by sanctions the opportunity to hunker down.

Another option is to mess with the US, as in given them a taste of what they subjected Russia to via Ukraine:

I have in mind two types of threat to America’s overblown sense of its invulnerability. The first would be for Russia to position its latest hypersonic missiles and Poseidon deep sea drone in international waters off the U.S. East and West coasts. Some ‘peek-a-boo’ surfacing of untracked Russian submarines carrying these super weapons off the coast would attract a good deal of media attention That would expose the American political establishment to the same kind of threat the Russians see coming from America’s various offensive missile systems targeting them with negligible warning times.

The other possible Russian counter measure that has been mentioned among analysts in Russia is the stationing of Russian strategic bombers and nuclear armed naval vessels on permanent watch in the Caribbean, making use of port facilities in Nicaragua, Venezuela and possibly Cuba.

And what Doctorow does not mention is the US will be destabilized, to a much lesser but nevertheless real degree by continuing high energy prices and high prices and inflation in other key commodities where Russia is important. High fuel prices are on the way to becoming embedded in other goods and services prices, which will make what should have been a “transitory” inflation sticky.

The abject US failure to recognize that Russia had very important cards it could play that it had held back is remarkable. It seems that Russian patience, as in waiting for a propitious juncture, was bizarrely interpreted as weakness. The US is about to learn a costly lesson.

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  1. Bart Hansen

    Does Biden regret his choice of National Security Advisors? They must have told him that the fear of heavy sanctions, a coward’s tool, would check Putin.

    Gilbert Doctorow last night suggested a possible next move would be for Russia to cut off Ukraine economically.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It already has. No one will insure anything with Biden and Blinken ranting.

      I’m somewhat of the mind that Ze went to Munich, had Harris babbling about America greatness, and saw the bright lights and subsequently lost his mind. He’s a performer after all.

    2. Harry

      Forgive but I cant help but suspect this policy was decided on in the last days of the Obama administration. Hillary’s loss through a spanner in the works, but only delayed. The policy is now being implemented by pretty much the same crew (adjusted for age and promotions) that had suggested it in 2014.

    3. Soredemos

      There are a whole lot of ‘experts’, people like Doctorow, Mark Ames, Patrick Armstrong, b at Moon of Alabama, the War Nerd, who need to eat a great big piece of humble pie, and probably just kindly shut up and go away now. They were catastrophically wrong, all of them.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Oh, really? Ames just pointed out (again) that Russia is following the precedent we used in Kosovo.

        And the Kosovo precedent put this in the “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” terrain. The announcement of the recognition and sending in peacekeepers = troops would be moved in. That was a given. Your view of whether that is an invasion or not depends on what your view of the Donbass “republics” is. Obviously the West and Russia do not have the same view, and amusingly held opposite views on Kosovo because their geopolitical interests were the reverse then (who benefitted from recognition v. status quo ante).

        Russia is justifying entering Donbass to stop low grade ethnic cleansing.

        At a minimum, Russia had committed expel Ukrainian military types. That would get ugly if the Ukrainian soldiers didn’t leave quietly, which was certain not to happen.

        So what does Russia do then? Sorties into Ukraine? Strike to take out airstrips and rocket/missile launchers? Even if the intent is not to take terrain beyond Donbass, and they stick to that, they will still wind up attacking the rest of Ukraine.

        So far, it does not appear that Putin has gone beyond the “military-technical” operation by the Russian forces he warned about before, to destroy the Ukrainian capacity to attack the LPR and DPR — the Bayraktars, the ordnance and materiel stores, etc., on the ground from Kherson in the south to Kharkiv in the north; total no-fly zone over Ukraine.

        So the question is whether Putin attempts to take territory beyond Donbass. Doctorow and others have repeatedly said Russia does not want Ukraine, but Russia does want Ukraine not used to house troops and materiel clearly meant to and capable of threatening Russia.

        1. Soredemos

          Look at Ames’s Twitter feed. A lot of it is mocking people predicting an invasion. But the invasion is happening right now. There are Russian boots on the ground. And Putin has hit targets far beyond the Donbass.

        2. Daniil Adamov

          What worries me right now, apart from the military realities on the ground and those crushed underfoot of all this, is the “denazification” part of our president’s promise. How, precisely, does one “denazify” Ukraine without occupying it? How are all the war criminals (and many of them do deserve the title, I am sure) going to be brought to justice? For that matter, at what point is a country suitably “demiliarised”? To me, it reads like an open-ended pledge to keep hitting whatever for as long as we see fit. Very likely, the end result will still be much more modest than a full-on conquest, but I do not yet see how it could stop at taking over the Donbass and knocking out a few military targets from a distance.

          (Incidentally, after recognising the republics, Putin said that their rightful self-claimed borders will be restored by means of diplomatic negotiations and cautioned that it may take years. That sure didn’t last…)

  2. Strategist

    It’s the Donetsk and Luhansk (or Lugansk) separatist oblasts or regions. The term Donbass (Donets basin) covers both territories.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Will fix. Copied that from a MSM story (!!!) so thanks for correcting the error. Easier to say Donbass but the two republics each are named for their own oblast.

    2. Louis Fyne

      and the LPR-DPR constitutions both consider all of the territory of the old Ukrainian oblasts as their legitimate territory, even though LPR-DPR forces only control a portion slightly larger than New Jersey.

      And there is the off-ramp if DC has some sense. Frozen conflict, territorial dispute freezes out NATO.

      Don’t hold your breath

    1. voislav

      Yes, and elected representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk (and Crimea) likely voted for independence with similar majorities. Catalonia is another example.

      The issue is not whether majority of Kosovo legislators voted for independence, it’s whether they had a right to declare independence. US and most of the EU position is that Kosovo is special because reasons, but the international law doesn’t recognize special cases.

      International Court of Justice ruling on the Kosovo independence effectively said that any group of people have a right to declare independence and it’s up to them to enforce it. So this is what we are seeing, entities that have enough external support to enforce their independence (Kosovo, Taiwan, Abkhasia, Ossetia, Transdniestria) are independent, while entities that don’t (Catalonia, Chechnia, Palestine, Tibet) are not.

        1. Fazal Majid

          Why is it surprising? They both have separatist movements in Catalonia and Donbas respectively. The Spanish had also threatened to veto an independent Scotland’s readmission to the EU.

  3. DJG, Reality Czar

    I was wondering what regime historian and “intelligence community” gal pal, Heather Cox Richardson, is up to:

    Her latest posts are designed to contradict what is asserted by Yves Smith. Note Richardson on the benefits of sanctions.

    I post this here because she is one of the official voices of liberal propaganda. Note the 22 Feb post, which asserts that the Republicans are traitors. Also, the laughable politics-stops-at-the-water’s-edge stuff.

    Yet with 1.5 million followers, she is shoveling out the official word.

    These people adore war. It gives their lives meaning.

    1. Lee

      Thanks for the link. Hard to believe this lecture was delivered over five years ago and not yesterday. Nothing has fundamentally changed in terms of U.S. delusional foreign policy hauteur.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Great lecture – thanks for that one. I’m a little surprised youtube hasn’t yanked it or put a “misinformation” warning on it yet.

    3. Martin Davis

      Many thanks to you for the Mearsheimer, and to Bill Carson for the Posner reference. Both excellent and sobering analyses and perspectives. And now, with the apparent invasion, more relevant than ever.

  4. JohnA

    It would appear that the Ukrainian forces are still shelling the separatist republics. I suspect they will shortly be given a very kurt warning to cease and desist, or else. And the or else will come. The Russians want to eliminate the Azov lunatics and have also promised to seek out and bring to account all groups that have been causing atrocities such as the Odessa massacre etc.
    The british msm coverage has been hysterically one-sided. Even to the point that British politicians who voted against bombing Syria when Cameron was PM now claim they regret such ‘pacifism’.

    1. Eureka Springs

      One of many things not clear to me, is Zelensky the commander in chief of the forces firing into the separatist republics? If not, who is?

  5. WJ

    According to several independent reports coming out of the Donbass, Ukraine has not ceased shelling LDNR territory and is, indeed, continuing to build up troops along the contact line.

    Russian electronic warfare measures have been activated to the extent that, according to reports, Ukrainian servicemen are receiving text messages telling them that Russian Federation Troops have been given the go to operate outside of Russia, but that there is still time for you to leave the contact zone and save your life.

    Russia is clearly planning for Ukraine’s decision to force the issue in Donbass. It may not come to kinetic warfare, but I unfortunately see that possibility as increasingly likely. Ukraine itself has nothing to gain by contesting Russia militarily, but I do not believe that Ukraine is actually making its own decisions at this point. Zelensky, I suspect, does not have real control over the mercenaries and more nationalist Azov-connected national guardsmen at the contact zone. The US press is already prepping the domestic populace for Zelensky’s replacement–several opinion pieces have called into question his leadership in recent days.

    One could argue that the US would benefit in several ways from kinetic warfare between Ukraine and Russia. It would reinforce domestic propaganda as to the bellicose nature of Putin and would be presented as confirming the accuracy of the intelligence leaks of the prior month; it would make it more difficult for European leaders to express any disagreement with future US-directed policies against Russia; and it would also likely lead to Russian casualities, and in general complicate the situation even further for Putin both domestically and internationally.

    The US has little to gain from the situation being resolved without warfare at this point.I believe it is willing to sacrifice many Ukrainian lives to make a point.

  6. Donald

    I read the latest Doctorow piece and in it there was this paragraph—

    “ From there he explains how the popular outrage over misrule which led to the Independence Square anti-government demonstrations was manipulated by radical nationalists with foreign help as cover for the coup d’état of February 2014 that brought to power those same nationalists. Together with neo-Nazi militants they were intent on building a Ukrainian identity based on rejection of everything Russian. What has followed is suppression of the Russian language in government institutions, in schools, in the media, even in shops and a vicious genocidal campaign against the two Donbas oblasts which, like Crimea, refused to accept rule by the illegitimate new powers in Kiev.”

    As someone who closely follows a few other issues, but not the Ukraine, I feel lost concerning the competing narratives, as people say these days. If you follow the Western propaganda version of this, the Ukraine is this noble democracy and Russia the fascist state and their criticisms of the Ukraine are all made up ( I refuse to use the term “ disinformation”).

    I assume that like in virtually every other conflict I read about, there are people on both sides ( or multiple sides) who are behaving badly, but it is hard to tell what is really happening if you don’t have some human rights groups that try to monitor it closely and make some attempt to get the facts right.

    Is there anything like that for the Ukraine? Some source that goes down the list of actions taken by the various actors?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Just look at 2014.

      Yanukovich, the Ukraine president, was polling so badly that there was no way he would be re-elected. In fact I believe he planned not to run again.

      Yet bizarrely there is a coup….six weeks before the scheduled elections…with no live threat of the elections not happening. Coup is a coup by virtue of tearing up the existing constitution and rolling back to the version one prior with NO democratic process to support that act.

      And we are supposed to see this as legitimate? Even before I see rabid Nazi descendant Chrystia Freeland with George Soros at a not-big INET gathering (circa 2018), with Soros proudly telling Freedland that his Open Society foundation provided grants either directly or to immediate family members of every person in the new Ukraine government? With that government having about 15% neo-Nazis in key offices, way out of proportion to the representation of neo-Nazis in Ukraine (about 1%)?

      1. Bill Carson

        One event that I’ve recently learned about and that seems important to the Russians is the 2014 massacre of pro-Russians in Odessa. That’s the “kill list” we were warned about that Putin mentioned in his speech. (Something to the effect of “We have not forgotten Odessa. We have their names and we will see that they are punished.”)

        I don’t know if this link will work. Images and videos appear to be blocked. But just google “2014 Odessa Massacre” and look past the pro-western whitewashed sources that call it a “conflict.”

        1. Kouros

          The images and videos are horrible. I have seen them quite some time ago but cannot retrieve.

          As horrible as the images with the killed Chinese soldiers in the Tiananmen Square, with bodies of soldiers, hanged and burned.

      2. Bill Carson

        I made another reply that may or may not have vanished in moderation, but something in 2014 that seems significant to the Russians was the massacre of pro-Russian protesters in Odessa. Putin referred to this in his speech:

        “One shudders at the memories of the terrible tragedy in Odessa, where peaceful protesters were brutally murdered, burned alive in the House of Trade Unions. The criminals who committed that atrocity have never been punished, and no one is even looking for them. But we know their names and we will do everything to punish them, find them and bring them to justice.”

        (from the official speech transcript. Thanks for the link Yves.)

        If you want more information about it, google “2014 Odessa massacre” and look past the whitewashed sources.

      3. Skip Intro

        Is the term neo-nazi really accurate here? It seems like these Banderistas are dyed-in-the-wool, 4th generation, original nazis. They don’t source cheap new Chinese swastikas, they have the originals from their grandparents still hanging on the wall.

        1. No it was not, apparently

          Well, “neo” in neo-nazi, means the revived visible ascendance of the movement that came out and about “in the open” in the early 90’s, so, literally moments after the collapse of the communist USSR; it does not mean that the movement itself is new, or different, or populated by different persons (though it will have new – younger generation – members as well, obviously).

          Neo-liberalism isn’t new either, it’s the same as the one in the early 20th c., with the same results coming in as well, exactly the same, apparently.

        2. Kouros

          Ultra nationalists. The N in nazi comes from The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP).

          It is only partially accurate, since their phobia refers mostly to Russians.

    2. Keith Newman

      Donald, I was thinking something similar with respect to explaining what is going on in Ukraine to people who have not followed the situation. No-one can follow all important issues all the time. MSM coverage selectively tailors its narrative to suit the US+ propaganda line which is confusing. It so happens I have been following the Ukraine situation since the coup in 2014 so I know the MSM/US take is nonsense and that Yves’ take is correct. However I am profoundly ignorant about many other regions.
      I think the only way to counter the propaganda is to do what Yves has done above and point out some key past events, as well as noting Russia has life-threatening security concerns that have been ignored.
      Finally I am glad Gilbert Doctorow has been highlighted in today’s post. A week ago he outlined why recognising the Donbas republics would be a good move for Russia. And bingo! they did it.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          i feel the same way.
          i hear about the ruckus…and go look at reporters i have learned to trust, over many years: Pilger, Consortium News, right here at NC…as well as Doctorow, and MoA, and even the Saker(although i do find him a little breathless and giddy of late)…and Pepe Escobar, who is likely my favorite foreign correspondent.
          well and good…their reportage gels with what i know already, regarding the history of the region/continent, going back to the viking age.
          but then i go and look at CNN….and the sky is green i tellya!
          msdnc is even worse.
          it’s cold as hell here—23…85 yesterday, while i sat in the truck for 10 hours while wife was getting an infusion…so i’m beat, and stoned and feeding fires…and don’t have the stomach to look at faux newts, or glenn beck, or gateway pundit, or any of those other hyperventilators, on the right.

          whatever, stick with NC for an aggregator of decent, well rounded info on whateverthehell is happening over yonder.

          (and now i see a “trucker convoy” will be heading down I-10, and approaching San Antonio just as wife and i are returning to there friday.

          1. Offtrail

            Amfortas, the epic of your life is recorded here in NC. Gathered together your posts would make a book. Quite a good book.

            Do you also write about your life on other sites?

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              no. i abandoned the rest of my presence on the web some years ago.
              i’ll occasionally comment(usually with great ire and an arid wind) elsewhere…but generally under another alias.
              and thanks,lol.

        2. Soredemos

          Robinson won’t be providing any further commentary, if he honors what he said in his most recent post.

          Armstrong I would say has zero credibility left.

          Martynov will be a good resource for insight into military and techical thinking. The breathtaking speed and brutal effectiveness of the ongoing Russian assault will give him plenty to talk about. I expect the tone will be smug and joyful; the Saker crowd is downright gleeful in their bloodlust right now.

    3. Grebo

      Branko Milanovic says Putin’s “view of history which in many respects is accurate, but limited in the sense that all actions are viewed from only one angle: enmity to Russia.”

      I also think the Russian version of things is more accurate than the western. The US is not driven (primarily) by enmity to Russia though. Russia is just another roadbump on the way to global empire.

    4. Donald

      Thanks to everyone who has responded. As Kevin says, it’s a real problem for most people when we want to find out what is really going on in the latest crisis–unless you follow a particular subject fairly closely, preferably for years, it is very difficult sorting out the various lies and half truths flying about. I get the impression the press is in full war propaganda mode right now.

      1. Psheek

        Agreed. A further problem is that people tend to get upset if you (more than) indicate that they have been duped or manipulated, and their ideas are not their own. So it’s not just about finding good information: how to communicate it when things get heated?

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          that’s what happened in my county about Iraq 2.0…since we’d lost a couple of young men over there, no one had any tolerance for antiwar…no matter how principled.
          i even got on the front page of the san antonio paper for just being there at the very last demparty rally in this county(04), and stared down the most vocal and spittle flecked righties at the little library(painted on my shirt:”just say no to fascism”).
          demparty went into hiding after that, and hasn’t emerged, since.

        2. fringe element

          same here but now it’s liberals

          some fellow yesterday laughing about how stupid Trump was to praise Putin’s political skills

          odd to watch someone make a complete fool of himself like that while he thinks he is having a good laugh at the expense of a dumb conservative

    5. Sausage Factory

      Ukraine has never been a democracy. it is an ex soviet oligarchic kleptocracy. it was in the process of discovering democracy when the US co-opted legitimate protests and it became a coup at that point. Nuland and her freedom cookies etc. Ever since then it has become a permanent US provocation on Russian borders with the Nazi Azov as the boot boys keeping the people in line. Poroshenko who became president (he’s a CIA boy since 2006 – wikileaks) was handled on the ground by igor kolimoskii an oligarch. there is a lot of back stabbing and internecine fighting for the spoils. The 2 separatist states (culturally and ethnicly Russian people) won the civil war in 2015 with Russian assistance. This led to Minsk accords which Kiev has never abided by since, even though they signed them. It is at this stage a failed state. Zelensky was elected on a stop the war ticket but quickly had attitude adjustment lesson from Azov. US over extending itself and ran away when the Russians said ‘enough!’
      This is really a US/UK failure through and through, they could/should have negotiated when Russia requested security guarantees instead we are where we are. Some say Putin asked for something he knew he would never get thus legitimating whatever happens next. The Russians are turning East, into Eurasia and china and don’t want their western borders to be problematic. They don’t care about losing the west as a ‘partner’ the future is not western. The joint Russian Chinese statement from Feb 4th is worth a read, full of plans. A good article by Karaganov in RT today too. explains a lot. long read.

  7. The Rev Kev

    If the Russians are going to do a ‘peek-a-boo’ surfacing of untracked Russian submarines carrying these super weapons off the east and west coast of America, they may have to do it next to commercial ocean liners. Why you ask? So that people will know that they were there. Let me explain.

    A coupla days ago two Chinese ships were in the Arafura Sea. I case you are wondering where the hell that is, it is the sea between Australia and Papua New Guinea so right at our front doorstep. One of them shone a laser at an Australian Boeing P-8A Poseidon causing outrage in Canberra. I wondered why the Chinese pulled such a d*** move and then the thought occurred to me.

    We have been getting boastful when we send our warships near those Chinese artificial islands on Freedom of Navigation exercises. So obviously the Chinese decided that turn-around was fair play and sent warships near our coastline. Question is – would our media even tell us that they were there? By using that laser, it has forced the government to acknowledge them publicly and for all I know, this was not the first time Chinese warships were on our doorstep.

    So if Russian nuclear submarines surface of the east or west coast of America, would it be reported in your media at all? (crickets) That is why I suggested ocean liners as the picture snaps would force Washington to acknowledge that they were there-

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If the Russians really wanted to be mean, those subs could tail (or even lead, that would be more funny) US LNG carriers going to Europe. They might freak out and demand escorts.

      1. nippersdad

        That would be funny.

        In my head I was picturing a Russian submarine captain with a bullhorn asking if they needed a tow.

  8. hemeantwell

    Nothing to add, just keep contributing ‘sitreps’ like this, an antidote du jour against the NATO-minded MSM.

  9. Boomka

    While I appreciate having an antidote to the relentless one sided propaganda that is the MSM today, I think we are giving Putin a bit too much benefit of the doubt here. Yes, he has valid grievances with the west regarding security concerns. Yes, what he has done so far does not seem too outrageous (also explains why sanctions are weak).
    But in his speech this week (and his article from last summer) he went much further than that and argued that Ukraine should not be a country at all, and that a big chunk of its territory has been unfairly gifted to it from Russia, by communists. And in the speech, he then directly threatened to take it all back (his “show you decommunization” comment).

    That is all very dangerous talk, and really you don’t want to see stuff like that said out loud in foreign policy. Saying that a country does not have a right to exist simply because that right has been successfully denied to it in the past would probably disqualify 2/3 of existing countries from sovereignty – should they still belong to their respective empires? And if we start revisiting land disputes going back 100 years ago… well if you want to know where that takes us, just look at some maps from 1922.

    All of this does and should scare everyone else, as it sounds too much like the platforms that were used to justify great (and not so great) conquests of the past few centuries. Plenty of precedent for that…

    1. nippersdad

      He also said in the “decommunization” part of the speech that they had yet to meld the various portions of the country into a viable whole. That was just an illustration of facts on the ground that recent events have only served to underscore. If they had managed to become a viable country they would not have been in such dire financial straits, or been in the midst of a civil war, to begin with,

    2. curlydan

      The U.S. and world has known for some time that Putin and Russian leaders have said Ukraine in NATO is a redline. In 2008, William Burns (then U.S. ambassador to Russia and now CIA chief) said in a cable, “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”

      So if Putin is getting a little crazy about the subject, it is not surprising to me. He’s been ignored for 14+ (or he probably thinks 30) years. He’s asking for respect and attention, and he’s not getting it. He knows, though, that with Russian power, missiles, etc that he deserves more respect.

      All of this calls for the U.S. to get back to the negotiating table with Putin’s goals in mind. There can be some kind of win-win ala the Cuban Missile Crisis where both countries removed missiles. Who cares what the other country’s media says as long as there can be some kind of victory declared? Although I’m convinced that any victory has to involve Ukraine not joining NATO.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I don’t think that it is a matter of going back to the negotiating table though they will eventually. Like it or not, we are now in an era where the US-based unipolar world is passing and once more the world reverts back to a multipolar power structure. The hegemony the US enjoyed from the 90s on was an aberration and now with shifting patterns, we are going back to a more balanced world power structure. But Washington is determined to keep American hegemony alive for the rest of the 21st century (that was what the Iraq invasion was all about) and is challenging those powers that have re-arisen – China and Russia in this case. And so they are using their financial and military power to put the genie back into the bottle once more and forcing subordinated countries to toe their line. It won’t work as we no longer live in that world but expect such confrontations in other places as well.

      2. Bart Hansen

        Jack Matlock warned against NATO expansion back in the 1990s. He was the last, but for three months, the last US ambassador to the USSR.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Please tell me where this is in his speech. I see nothing of the kind. His first statement clearly acknowledged Ukraine as independent (gotta love the misspellings in the official translation):

      I would like to emphasise again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us….

      When it comes to the historical destiny of Russia and its peoples, Lenin’s principles of state development were not just a mistake; they were worse than a mistake, as the saying goes. This became patently clear after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

      Of course, we cannot change past events, but we must at least admit them openly and honestly, without any reservations or politicking. Personally, I can add that no political factors, however impressive or profitable they may seem at any given moment, can or may be used as the fundamental principles of statehood.

      I am not trying to put the blame on anyone. The situation in the country at that time, both before and after the Civil War, was extremely complicated; it was critical. The only thing I would like to say today is that this is exactly how it was. It is a historical fact.

      Then Putin goes through more history, basically that the confederation was not governable, that Stalin engaged in pretty ruthless centralization but never cleaned up the underlying formal structures.

      Then, skipping forward:

      Despite all these injustices, lies and outright pillage of Russia, it was our people who accepted the new geopolitical reality that took shape after the dissolution of the USSR, and recognised the new independent states. Not only did Russia recognise these countries, but helped its CIS partners, even though it faced a very dire situation itself. This included our Ukrainian colleagues, who turned to us for financial support many times from the very moment they declared independence. Our country provided this assistance while respecting Ukraine’s dignity and sovereignty.

      Long discussion of how Russia loaned Ukraine a ton of money. Other former USSR members made restitution, Ukraine did not.

      He argues that Ukraine has become in large measure a government designed to support oligarch looting:

      A stable statehood has never developed in Ukraine; its electoral and other political procedures just serve as a cover, a screen for the redistribution of power and property between various oligarchic clans.

      Corruption, which is certainly a challenge and a problem for many countries, including Russia, has gone beyond the usual scope in Ukraine. It has literally permeated and corroded Ukrainian statehood, the entire system, and all branches of power…

      It all came down to a Ukrainian economy in tatters and an outright pillage of the country’s citizens, while Ukraine itself was placed under external control, directed not only from the Western capitals, but also on the ground, as the saying goes, through an entire network of foreign advisors, NGOs and other institutions present in Ukraine. They have a direct bearing on all the key appointments and dismissals and on all branches of power at all levels, from the central government down to municipalities, as well as on state-owned companies and corporations, including Naftogaz, Ukrenergo, Ukrainian Railways, Ukroboronprom, Ukrposhta, and the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority.

      There is no independent judiciary in Ukraine. The Kiev authorities, at the West’s demand, delegated the priority right to select members of the supreme judicial bodies, the Council of Justice and the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, to international organisations…..

      Russia has done everything to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity. All these years, it has persistently and patiently pushed for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2202 of February 17, 2015, which consolidated the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015, to settle the situation in Donbass.

      In other words, this looks like Making Shit Up based on relying on MSM distortions rather than reading the actual speech.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Krystal and Saager did a segment on Putin’s speech yesterday and they seemed to do a complete 180 from their previous reporting, now saying that Putin had shown his true colors, that he was now definitely the aggressor and wanted more than just to defend Russia from NATO encroachment. But the clip they showed of the speech was relying on some translation done by one of those Stephen hawking-type computer generated voices and I’m not sure that they were relying on the best translation. They did get called out in the comments for having a very bad take on the speech – I normally don’t read the comments on youtube but I wanted to see if anyone else felt the same as I did that they had a very bad interpretation of the most recent events. Here’s the clip –

        Anyway, I know we have a lot of Breaking Points listeners here at NC judging by the comments here, and Krystal and Saager are generally pretty trustworthy and mirror a lot of the skepticism at NC about pretty much everything. It was odd to see them do sort of an about face on their Ukraine coverage – we’ll see if it changes on their reporting tomorrow after they took a little heat for it yesterday.

        Thanks for this post today – very helpful in cutting through all the fog on this issue.

        1. ChrisPacific

          The Kremlin has an English translation up now, which I just read. I found it quite coherent and well argued, certainly much more so than the Western position. I did not agree with all of it, but the underlying assumptions and the conclusions that followed were quite clear and most of his assertions were easily verifiable. I recommend that everybody read it first before checking the Western media reactions, so you can form your own opinion.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            yeah. i always go to the Kremlin(or the official thing in Tehran, etc, etc) for translations of what appear to be important speeches/statements by “the enemy”.
            of course, Iranian intertubes get you all manner of malware…and i’m sure i(we) all have a file somewhere with our names on it, for trying to get a little closer to the horse'(bears’) mouth.

            Putin, since i first did this with the first really big speech i saw from him(2015?2005? idk) is the real deal…smart, measured, witty…pretty much the opposite of the clowns and manipulators we get to listen to.
            doesn’t mean i want to be russian(sigh)…but objective facts(such as they can be determined) lead me to lean towards russia being in the right in this case…and the usa being true to form, and blundering along while looking into mirrors, and potentially screwing up the whole world, yet again.
            (and i really wish i could be proud of my country…but it has given me no reason to)

        2. fringe element

          “but I wanted to see if anyone else felt the same as I did that they had a very bad interpretation of the most recent events”

          I felt the same way. Did not finish listening to the segment.

          Saagar has always struck me as more hawkish on China than has ever made sense to me, so I guess his take on these events is no surprise. It is still disappointing and will make me more skeptical of his opinions going forward.

      2. Zach Braff

        Yes — and this is nowhere in his essay, either. In the essay, he mentions more than once the right of nations to self-determine, including Ukraine specifically. And yet every headline about the essay described it as unhinged, crazy, obsessed with a “mythical past,” denying the existence of Ukraine — that’s just not true. Putin is offering a conservative nationalist reading of history that, by the standards of most nationalists, would be very mild.

        Normally, I’m the type of person to say it’s worth hearing all sides at least to hear what’s important to them — but the level of disinformation we’re subjected to in the US/UK/etc, around foreign policy, is total. It’s good that you want to avoid simply seeing what the MSM is saying and assuming the opposite must be true — that is not a good way to develop an analysis. But the way to develop your own good analysis is not to assume “the truth must be somewhere in the middle” — there’s no middle ground in foreign policy discourse, because the media is used as a weapon of war, not as a tool of domestic persuasion.

        Putin’s essay and speech actually stand out from that — although certainly they are a form of propaganda as well, it’s a world leader publishing their analysis. It’s not really useful for “Kremlinology” or for predicting what Putin will or won’t do — it’s interesting.

      3. Boomka

        You picked passages where he sounds more reasonable, but even in what you quoted one can see him calling the process that led to formation of Ukraine “mistake and worse than a mistake”. One does not just go around telling other countries that their existance is “worse than a mistake”. Imagine if Biden gives a speech tomorrow where he says that the process of creation of Isreal was perhaps “a mistake” – how would people interpret that? I think they would interpret that as the first step towards rectifying that mistake.

        Later passage from his speech (using your source) has this:

        Actually, as I have already said, Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can be rightfully called “Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.” He was its creator and architect. This is fully and comprehensively corroborated by archival documents, including Lenin’s harsh instructions regarding Donbass, which was actually shoved into Ukraine. And today the “grateful progeny” has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization.

        You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine.

        How can you claim that this is innocent reciting of history? In official speak this is as close as one can come to saying “another wrong move and we are taking any land that Lenin has given you”.

        Yves, I am not sure how you don’t see the same threat level here that I do.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I did not cherry pick. You did. That’s bad faith. A statement that Russia could do more if provoked is in fact weaker than an expression the US uses all the time: “All options are on the table”.

          Putin laid out how Ukraine is a screwed up mess due to how it was established and operated, and how the government became a vehicle for oligarch looting, creating understandable resentment. The post-coup government has engaged in low-grade ethnic cleansing of those of Russian descent. Members of the neo-Nazi faction were put in charge of what amounts to domestic security, and at one point even announced that soldiers that took the land of ethnic Russians could keep it. They didn’t follow through much (maybe not even at all) but those statements had to have been chilling. The use of Russian, which was one of the two main languages in Ukraine, has been banned. 2 million Ukrainians of Russian descent have fled the East to Russia. This isn’t what you’d see if they felt safe.

          Russia’s immediate pretext, if also convenient, is not fabricated. Russia can and will prevent further abuse of Ukrainians in the Donbass.

          As many commentators, as well as this site, have explained at length, Russia has no interest in invading Ukraine. Ukraine is a complete mess and an economic basket case. It’s of no value to Russia except to deny the West a place to stage weapons and men to threaten Russia. As we said in the post, Russia can achieve its ends (destabilizing Ukraine) through other means.

        1. Kilgore Trout

          Not to contest the accuracy of the facts presented in the link, but the author is Anne Applebaum, a noted hardliner when it comes to Russia.

        2. ChrisPacific

          No, but it’s entirely consistent with the general tone of the speech, which was that (a) modern Ukraine exists in its current form due to Stalin and the Communist party and (b) they screwed it up. Your link is just supporting detail for the second point.

        3. Kouros

          Stalinization of agriculture (cooperativization) was harsh everywhere and peasants died everywhere in the Soviet Union. As a proportion, Kazakhstan likely had higher proportion of deaths from the population (likely mostly Russian). Regardless, the death count has been highly exaggerated.

        4. Poul

          Did Stalin’s extraction of grain from Ukraine result in millions of dead, Yes.
          And I can understand the Ukrainian view of it as evil.

          But seen from a Danish view it was a great policy. The grain taken feed the Soviet workers building the Soviet heavy industry which enabled them to produce the 100,000’s of tanks, artillery and AT pieces etc. to defeat Nazi-Germany.

          Without industrialization Germany would have won and Denmark would have been assimilated into Germany as a province. The population forced to become “Germans” in short the end of Denmark.

      4. marku52

        That speech is appallingly written at a very high level, as contrasted with the blathering of US leaders, which barely get out of grade school comprehension level.

    4. OnceWereVirologist

      The Western media has been playing it very coy with what Putin actually says for a long long time. The most famous example was a speech in which Western media claimed that Putin said he wanted to reinstate the former Soviet Union. He DID say that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest disaster of the 20th century, but in the context of the massive collapse in industrial production, life expectancy, and standard of living that accompanied it. It was in no way a call to arms to rebuild the Soviet Union but that’s the way it was spun by Western commentators for years afterward. Having read the full transcript of this speech I find once again that as in the previous example where I couldn’t find the part of the speech that said that the Soviet Union should be rebuilt, I can’t find the part of the speech that argues that

      Ukraine should not be a country at all, and that a big chunk of its territory has been unfairly gifted to it from Russia, by communists. And in the speech, he then directly threatened to take it all back (his “show you decommunization” comment).

      This entire section of the speech is historical background. You might disagree with the history as he presents it, but it is overtly stated to be just that “background” not a “call to action”. He speaks at great length about the history of the formation of the Ukrainian SSR within the Soviet Union and says that it was a mistake of the leadership of the time to try and make a unified republic out of culturally disparate territories, some of them previously Russian. The entirely correct statement of historical fact that the Ukrainian SSR was created at the stroke of a pen by Lenin has been paraphrased by Western media as something like “Ukraine should not be a country at all”. If you’re taking that as what he he really means then you’re doing it entirely from the subtext not what was actually said. To say that something subtextual is very dangerous talk, and really you don’t want to see stuff like that said out loud in foreign policy seems ludicrous.

        1. OnceWereVirologist

          Thanks for that. That’s the speech I was thinking of. Though in the the interests of complete honesty it has to be said that one point in that blog post is wrong.

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

          Not the greatest; not the most important; not the largest of anything. Not Number One. Not the superlative. One of many geopolitical disasters of the century, but a “major” one.

          крупнейшей is in fact the the superlative form of the adjective крупный ‘large, major’ so the official translation is itself wrong and Putin did say “largest catastrophe of the century”.

          1. No it was not, apparently

            “Krupni” is large, true, but,

            “Krupnejši” is a form that means “having more of large” not “largest, with no larger option.”

            It is not the ultimate superlative, it can’t be, as the language doesn’t work that way.

            I should note that I’m not a Russian speaker, but I do speak two slavic languages, and as such I do slightly understand Russian l., and my interpretation of the relationship of the two words should be exactly correct.

            1. OnceWereVirologist

              Yeah, that’s true, the absolute superlative uses самый but at the the same time it’s not simply ‘a large …’ either. Seeing that there is no direct English equivalent any translation has to be somewhat of a fudge, perhaps ‘one of the very largest’.

            2. Daniil Adamov

              As a Russian-speaker (but not a Russian teacher…), I’d say that it can be either. If asked to literally translate krupneyshiy, I would say “largest”. It _can_ operate as an ultimate superlative. But it’s true that in practice it is often used to mean “even larger but not ultimately largest” so the fit is not exact.

  10. Otis B Driftwood

    Does our government ever learn anything positive from its foreign policy disasters, really?

    We are nothing more than a big, lumbering bully on the world stage. Stupid. Stubborn. And inoordinately overconfident that might always makes right.

    It isn’t cynical to assume this latest example of our toxic hubris won’t change our thinking one bit.

    1. John B

      Possibly Biden has learned a little bit. The fact that he has imposed “wet noodle” sanctions for recognition of Ukraine’s breakaway republics suggests he may be content to let Russia take parts of eastern Ukraine, and is faking outrage to appease the US/UK war complex. At least, he has apparently ruled out sending US troops to Ukraine. Not great, but it could be (or get) worse.

      1. Duke of Prunes

        I don’t know, but maybe the “wet noodle” sanctions are all that we can muster. Haven’t we already shot most of our Russian sanction bullets, and now must rely on the EU to “step up”… which is a lot to ask when they’re the ones who are going to be damaged by the high energy prices (for example).

  11. Carolinian

    A couple of weeks ago Galbraith talked about how the 70s oil shocks had a lot to do with our industrial decline and you’d think lessons would be learned from that but you’d think wrong. Of course these days AGW is a major concern and there are many in the echelons of the Dems in particular who think if not say “bring on the oil shocks” no matter what chaos results to the economy and the flyovers.

    But then Escobar does call us the “empire of chaos.” We are all going to pay for the hubris of the thinktankers and most especially Ukraine which not so long ago seemed an up and coming country that even showed off by hosting the famous Eurovision song contest and now looks to become a dismembered wreck.

    1. TimD

      Interesting about Galbraith. I think the decline started a bit earlier, the US hasn’t had balanced trade since the early 70s and these things take a while to happen. I remember reading a quote from the President of Ford Motors in the 70s, something like: you don’t like America, we make cars in over 20 countries, which one do you like.

      I think profits had a lot do do with it and deindustrialization has been relentless for almost all developed countries.

      1. Carolinian

        I believe he said it was a factor with a turn to a financialized economy being another. Lately though we talk a lot about the latter, not so much about the former.

        1. TimD

          Thanks, I cringe a bit whenever I hear about financialization as an answer to an economic situation. In capitalism people need to consume and to do that they need to go to work and earn money. Making things used to be a larger part of work but than has changed with deindustrialization. When an economy delivers services it consumes manufactured goods, vehicles and equipment.

          I am thinking that Financialization grew because of companies buying each other out, the change from defined benefits pensions; and that people and companies, making a lot of money from the reduced labor costs associated with offshoring, need to park their money.

          Many of the US service jobs that replaced manufacturing pay less, economic growth is about 1/2 of what it was in the 60s, the trade deficit is near $1 trillion per year, the national debt is $30 trillion and inequality is at historic levels. At the same time the country celebrates its rich people – many of whom got rich in finance. Maybe that is what financialization is all about.

    1. nippersdad

      A perfect example of selective outrage on our part. Not surprising insofar as Israel can do no wrong in the eyes of our overlords, and, of course, we are presently occupying a third of Syria ourselves. I read that as Putin just wanting to clear the boards as much as he could; Israel has been there for long enough that it is unlikely they will ever leave, anyway. He just wants to move on.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I read recently that Russian warplanes have been overflying the US-occupied part of Syria at Al-Tanf. Just to remind them.

        1. MT_Wild

          Joint missions with Syrian Air Force. Old MIGs and new MIGs. I’m curious if this more directly confrontational tone would be shown in Syria as well.

          I read an interesting perspective on the Catch-22 Russia faces with its air defenses in Syria. If they continue to allow the Israelis to bomb Damascus at will buyers of their air defense systems might doubt their ability. But if they shoot down an Israeli jet they escalate the conflict. Assuming the S-400 has the capability, they seem to be showing much restraint.

  12. mikeyoe

    Sky News has shown some good coverage of where the Ukrainian army face the forces in Eastern Ukraine. The coverage mentioned the conflict has been goin on for 8 years. Many of the buildings along that line are blown apart by mortars and shells. An interesting feature of the conflict are trenches dug into the ground with mud and snow covering the soldiers boots. About 100 years ago there was trench warfare in Europe and a pandemic. .

    1. begob

      There was trench warfare in Crimea in the 1850s, back when cholera was going through its global waves. Napoleon III took the honours, leaving the Tsar defeated and the British humiliated. Then Bismarck hove into view.

  13. simjam

    The Unintelligence Community’s weapon of choice in this kind of situation may be assassination I assume Putin knows this. His precautions may may be sufficient.

        1. No it was not, apparently

          Yeah, about that, where are the Skripals?

          Has anyone actually seen a new video or voice recording of them, has anyone actually seen them?

          Because the UK formally claims they are alive, right, and they are known to have survived the so-called “novichok poisoning” by the so-called “Russian spies.”

        1. The Rev Kev

          Putin has said in the past that when he grew up in the streets, that if there was going to be an inevitable fight, that it was best to hit first.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            A fine rule. How do you determine that a fight is inevitable? I’m not seeing how this one was. I think we could and should have frozen the conflict. Perhaps we still will after this – I really hope so.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Let’s see. Half of the Ukrainian military on the borders of the Donbass. Tens of thousands of tons of weapons and ammo being shipped to them from NATO and from afar away as Canada. Sabotage teams sent into the Donbass & Russia to blow up infrastructure and murder leaders. Mass artillery, mortar fire all along the contact line. Artillery strikes on the gas lines and other infrastructure of the Donbass. I’m going to stop here and say that such behaviour by the Ukraine is at the very least suspicious.

              1. Daniil Adamov

                “Suspicious behaviour” does not “an inevitable fight” make. Surely there were other things we could have done.

                I truly cannot believe, barring some extraordinary revelations, that the Ukrainian military was prepared to do some sort of suicidal rush against our positions. I think they were deploying there partly for show (Zelensky could hardly stay away from the sabre-rattling, if only for internal politics reasons) and partly in response to the concern that we might attack.

                As for the shelling, there has practically always been shelling for the last few years, though granted both sides did step it up while leading up to this. Even so – could we not have confined the retaliation to their positions in Donbass? That would at least have been somewhat justifiable, if, to my mind, taking unacceptable risks with lives of civilians on either side.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  You do know that about 80% of the civilian casualties in this civil war have been in the Donbass? And with the mass deployment of weapons fire the past few days, why would the Donbass not expect yet another invasion? The Ukraine has done it twice already. Zelensky could have left the troops in place and ordered the heavy weaponry pulled away from the border like it was supposed to be and that would have put a lid on events but I do not think that Zelensky actually has that much power. And instead of restraining the Ukraine, NATO has been giving them weaponry, ammunition, training, advisors, technical assistance, access to the latest recon intelligence and anything else they need to destroy the Donbass Republicans. This fight was always going to happen unfortunately.

  14. Bill Carson

    This article made me realize something I had not seriously considered. All of the buildup of NATO over the years wasn’t really about defending western Europe against a Russian incursion. It was all about arms sales. Biden will never acknowledge this, but I would love it if he would say, “Hey Putin, we didn’t really mean anything by all of those bases, troops, and weapons. Our intent was only to transfer 2% of European GDP to our defense contractors.

    1. tegnost

      Arms sales, higher commodity prices, I mean the deplorables are just sitting on all that stimmy cash…what’s not to like if you’re a wall st trader ?

    2. Zach Braff

      I’ve heard Katrina van den Huevel making great points about this recently. I didn’t realize, there are requirements for interoperability of weapons systems when joining NATO — so when you enter, you have to re-purchase tons of equipment, and then when NATO upgrades weapons systems, you have to purchase all-new equipment again. Great system for business — and when conservatives like Bolton or Trump talk about “NATO not paying its fair share,” you can see the real critique is that they aren’t buying enough new gear from Raytheon, not that they’re piggy-backing on America’s hardware.

    3. redleg

      You might be late to the party, but you’re welcome all the same.
      The next step is to apply that idea to quality, e.g. Zumwalt destroyers, F-35s, etc. The weapons systems are incredibly expensive, high tech things that reliably perform only within a narrow range of conditions. In other words, these weapons are designed to be sold, not fight.

      As a former Army artillery officer, both my soldiers and superiors were always worried about getting new weapons systems (in my case, howitzers, mortars, machine guns) because the new versions were both harder to use and less capable than the systems they were replacing. It took me a while to realize that the new systems were about money instead of capabilities.
      This is basically everything in the US nowadays- money over capabilities, privatisation over public good, etc.
      Back to weapons, the US arms vendors and their customers are in for a very rude shock if thier wares get pitted against the Russians. Not only are these things built for sales instead of combat, but the Russians (and everyone) have had decades to study these systems and tactics to devise effective counters to them.
      Let’s hope we never find out, as any shooting between Russia and the US will end up nuclear.

      1. marku52

        And the Russians have spent many years testing those same weapons in Syria. And rotating troops in and out to train on them in actual use.

        They should be very well prepared for any “kinetic” events.

  15. FD

    “its electoral and other political procedures just serve as a cover, a screen for the redistribution of power and property between various oligarchic clans.”

    That’s a bit rich coming from Putin.

    1. Basil Pesto

      hey! that’s no way to talk about the world’s most-apologised-for-by-the-left multimillionaire plutocrat!

      1. Alex Cox

        Perhaps the reason the western MSM and its fans keep claiming, without presenting any evidence, that P is a multimillionaire plutocrat is that in their limited imaginations money and power are the same thing.

        Whereas anyone in possession of actual power knows that it is far more interesting and useful than money.

      2. No it was not, apparently

        What do you mean “most-apologised-for-multimillionaire,” they claim he’s a billionaire!!

        Don’t be rude to Putin now, you’d be reducing yourself to western MSM levels, and that’s beneath you, or so I should like to believe.


        In all seriousness though, we do need to observe this: power is (or, if you will, begets) money and since the west is controlled by plutocrats, then by (their) definition actual politicians (western word for them is “autocrats”) in the non-west must be plutocrats themselves.

        The argument is plausible, but irrelevant, Putin has vastly larger support than Biden or Boris (or any western politician), and he has infinitely larger support than any of the west’s plutocrats.

        Pretending then, that Putin has an illegitimate access to power (money), by people far less legitimate than him is a form of farcical fallacy, a comedy one would think the Monty Python troupe would be needed to utter in public, unfortunately this type of nonsense is typical for the level of quality, the “critical media,” we are unfortunate to have, is operating at.

    2. Late Introvert

      That’s a bit rich coming from Biden, Nuland, et al. You don’t have to like Putin to see that he’s got a point about how NATO should f off.

      Lot’s of other Putin bashing sites out there, go find them!

      1. FD

        Have to have some balance to the Putin apologists who disbelieve that Putin carries any responsibility here. When you are on the same side of a foreign policy subject as Trump, it can’t feel too solid a spot to pitch your tent. Biden’s a fool and has ignored the danger and fueled the fire, but Putin acting his best Rodney Dangerfield doesn’t justify his actions.

  16. TimD

    Thanks for providing alternate points of view. Legend has it that mainstream newspapers used to publish whole speeches from enemies so people had a better information to base decision on. Today’s world is quite Orwellian.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      One good thing I will say is that at least some Russian news sites (notably fontanka, the St. Petersburg city news site) reported adequately on the Ukrainian and Western side of the conflict. Quoting Zelensky’s Russian speech at length, citing Ukrainian officials, etc. Who knows what the use of it all is, of course.

  17. MarkinOz


    “thanks to the terrible state of search engines”

    I thought it was just me, as even Duck Duck Go now requires search parameters that look like lines of code to get the algo to drill down to relevant areas.

  18. Stove Goblin

    Forget obsequiousness, this is rah-rah for violence by a wealthy isolated secret policeman and his retinue of anti-civil servants against a flawed democracy. Celebrate the annexing of the Sudetenland, an illusionary comeuppance for those who believe in term limits, if you’ve got nothing else going on, but don’t pretend this is justice.

    I will be impressed when Putin wins a fair election. That is statesmanship. Or if his state media publishes a decent novel. Or if Russia addresses its endemic tuberculosis.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      Last I checked, even the liberals here were certain that Putin would win a fair election (based on both overall impressions of public opinion and their alternative vote counts). Just with a smaller margin. I don’t think it takes much “statesmanship” to win elections, though, how ever fair.

  19. SouthSideGT

    From Putin’s speech: “Corruption, which is certainly a challenge and a problem for many countries, including Russia, has gone beyond the usual scope in Ukraine.”

    That is pretty funny in a ruefully ironic way coming from a super yacht owner who also owns eight homes including one worth nearly two billon dollars. Granted, our government protects our oligarchs but Putin’s speech is nothing more than a fig leaf to provide “legal” and “historical” cover for his efforts to protect himself. Violating the “Minsk Agreement” means as much to him as jailing journalists, poisoning political rivals or killing Muslims in Crimea.

    I forgot everything I learned in Foreign Policy Skool so I will defer to John McCain who said, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” I would only add that the current gas station owner is an amoral murderous thug who only cares that the profits of the gas station go to him and his friends.

    Despite decades of study it looks like no one from the Foreign Policy Skool has figured out how to respond to Putin’s amorality nor his efforts to protect himself and his oligarch friends.

    It also looks like no one from the Foreign Policy Skool values Ukrainian lives.

    This will end but not well for the Ukrainians.

    1. juno mas

      That also can be said about the US “invasion” of Iraq. And the US has little concern for the lives in other nations. See: Afghanistan, or Iran, or Chile in the 70’s. (I won’t mention native Americans after the Louisianna Purchase; Article III of which gave ALL people already in the territory the same rights to their existing property as any other US citizen.)

      1. SouthSideGT

        OK. I understand. I get what you’re saying. And you are correct.

        I believe we can also agree that Yves’ post and this thread is not about past US interventions nor Manifest Destiny.

        1. judy2shoes

          Yves’ post is also not about unsubstantiated, ad hominem attacks like these:

          “That is pretty funny in a ruefully ironic way coming from a super yacht owner who also owns eight homes including one worth nearly two billon dollars. Granted, our government protects our oligarchs but Putin’s speech is nothing more than a fig leaf to provide “legal” and “historical” cover for his efforts to protect himself. Violating the “Minsk Agreement” means as much to him as jailing journalists, poisoning political rivals or killing Muslims in Crimea.” SouthSideGT February 23, 2022 at 11:36 am

            1. Polar Socialist

              Are you sure you’re not confusing homes with 8 official residences of the president?

              Technically Russian president is obliged to declare all his/her assets annually or risk both “loss-of-trust” (permanently ineligible for any public office) and confiscation of the undeclared assets.

              I’m sure there are many, many ways around that, but I’m also sure Putin is not as rich as journos in the West think he is.

            2. No it was not, apparently

              You are “uncertain” [etc., etc.,] eh, really now?

              The brazen use of weasel words by yourself, good sir, is stunning.

              You are, of course, completely well aware that your words constituted exclusively lies and insinuations, they would have only been fair mistakes if uttered by one far less eloquent than yourself.


              Note to propaganda bot overseers, issuing stupid lies (via omissions, insinuations and straight up making things up) requires that the person that does the mumbling-and-stumbling maintains an appearance of a misinformed simpleton, as otherwise the image of a fairly concerned citizen falls apart .

              Your man fails here, plainly.

            3. Yves Smith Post author

              I am late to this and very much appreciate the patience and persistence of readers in dealing with persistent bad faith argumentation by SouthSideGT, including not even bothering to understand what “ad hominem” means and why it is an invalid logical basis for making an argument.

              The site Policy violations are repeated and willful. Our admins considered ripping out the entire thread but advocated letting it stand since the rest of the commentariat did a very able job of articulating what house rules are and why the comments in question were out of line.

              I take the refusal to behave properly, compounded by the smugness, as a reader assisted suicide note, which I am only too happy to implement.

              1. judy2shoes

                I’m probably whispering in the dark here (the crowd’s moved on), but I wanted to say I’m glad the admins advocated for leaving the thread because I find these types of interactions useful in an educational way. Thank you, Yves and crew.

    2. Wukchumni

      Texas is a gas station masquerading as early 20th century Prussia, but we did get the 2-step from them, so not a complete loss although it hardly compares with the Bolshoi Ballet.

    3. Zach Braff

      When you start talking about individual leaders as “amoral” “thugs” you’re out of the realm of actual Foreign Policy and entering the land of fables.

      The degree to which foreign policy in the West relies on story-telling — establishing “characters,” whose “behavior” needs to be modified to restore a “rules-based order” (suddenly we’re not talking about America / Biden as a character with motivations and follies, like Putin, but instead as a deux ex machina for an order that transcends personality) — the character of this analysis should tell you how unserious it is.

      1. SouthSideGT

        At this point I can say “my bad” for calling him an “amoral thug” or I can stick to the preponderance of circumstantial evidence available to me.

        It could well be that since I have never personally witnessed Putin murdering or ordering the murder of a journalist or political opponent it may well be a (wow) “fable”. We should all be held to such an empirical exacting standard. Unfortunately in the real world that is not possible.

        With all due respect I am going to go with the preponderance of second hand and circumstantial evidence.

        1. judy2shoes

          February 23, 2022 at 1:18 pm

          “With all due respect I am going to go with the preponderance of second hand and circumstantial evidence..”

          And yet you provide no links to substantiate your claim that there is, indeed, a “preponderance of second hand and circumstantial evidence.”

          1. SouthSideGT

            There are rules here for posting in bad faith, hijacking a thread and giving assignments so this is it from me. It is not my wish to anger Yves.

            But if you are so inclined look up the sad cases of Alexei Navalny and Viktor Yushchenko. Also look up Anna Politkovskaya. Which reminds me that the Committee to Protect Journalists has some basic information.



            1. judy2shoes

              “There are rules here for posting in bad faith, hijacking a thread and giving assignments so this is it from me. It is not my wish to anger Yves.”

              Yes, there are, and I’m going to leave it up to Yves and the mods to determine which of us has transgressed.

              1. tegnost

                Yes, there are, and I’m going to leave it up to Yves and the mods to determine which of us has transgressed.

                Good idea.
                Usually there are clues…if the reply option disappears from someone in the thread it’s time to mind oneself, regardless of which side you are on…

                1. tegnost

                  I think NC is best described as a sort of debate club and debate rules apply.

                  “5. He who asserts must prove. In order to establish an assertion, the team must support it with enough evidence and logic to convince an intelligent but previously uninformed person that it is more reasonable to believe the assertion than to disbelieve it. Facts must be accurate. Visual materials are permissible, and once introduced, they become available for the opponents’ use if desired.”

                  final agency of proof is the speakers responsibility, i.e., you own it, so if you’re going to the mat you must mind the particulars of your argument if you hope to prevail. If you carry on (i personally have a “bezos thing” that has gotten me noticed in the bad way) then you can cause yourself problems…

                2. judy2shoes

                  “if the reply option disappears from someone in the thread it’s time to mind oneself, regardless of which side you are on…”

                  I did not know this. Thanks, tegnost.

                  1. Basil Pesto

                    I think the reply option for individual posts disappears once there are lots (too many) of nested comments in a comment thread

            2. No it was not, apparently

              “There are rules here for posting in bad faith, hijacking a thread and giving assignments so this is it from me. It is not my wish to anger Yves.”

              Personalising an enemy superpower and painting its formal lead as an evil comic book character is a form of debased war propaganda, you have stooped far beyond the formal rules of good behavior on this blog (or any civilised conversation) and you know it.

              Now, if you were an idiot simpleton (or a high-schooler) this would be forgivable (expected, even), but you are clearly not, you understand full well that you write lies and you hide behind assumptions of innocence afforded by free-speech memes.

              If your underhanded insults and attacks don’t get deleted, it will be merely because the blog software only allows for the removal of whole conversation branch as opposed to only the offending comment, which often stay the hand of moderation around here.

            3. Cat Burglar

              Also look up Ukraine. In the period since the 2014 coup, 8 journalists have been killed, as against 10 in Russia. Numbers are similar in the US.

            4. The Rev Kev

              I tried to ask Julian Assange about those names but I was told that he could not accept calls at the moment. And Alexei Navalny is not a sad case. If he was an American he would probably be best buddies with Ted Cruz or even Alex Jones. Viktor Yushchenko is a rabid nationalist who went along with abolishing Russian as a language in the Ukraine while Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated on Putin’s birthday which is just dodgy.

            5. Yves Smith Post author

              Lordie. This is brazen and offensive to me and the readers. You’ve violated many house rules and then get smarmy.

              I trust you will find your happiness elsewhere on the Internet.

        2. Kilgore Trout

          The western (read: US) narrative on the downing of an airliner over Ukraine, the Skripal poisonings in the UK, and at least two of the “poison-gas” attacks in Syria have all come into question subsequently. And this: No nation has been responsible for the deaths of more people since the end of WW2 than the US. What does this fact say about those who lead us? And what does it say about us, the “indispensable” nation?

    4. Cat Burglar

      Your condemnation of Putin as amoral is certainly on target, and is an example of saying the quiet part out loud.

      But why not state the whole thing out loud, the things that everyone that watches foreign policy takes as read? Just like Putin, Biden, as the head of a powerful state, is covered by just as much of the blood of innocents. Look at the current theft of Afghanistan’s money, Biden’s key war criminal support for the Iraq attack as Senator, among many other things? How about his support for the neo-nazi nationalists in Ukraine? There is a solid factual record of evil — but that is standard for these types.

      No, they don’t value Ukrainian or any other lives. That’s what they do. If a person does value the lives of Ukrainians — and those of their loved ones — you don’t want to add your support to the killers by being their dog.

  20. juno mas

    As I have said before; Russia does not boast about its next move. It waits, watches, and then implements its plan. It appears to be astute at 3-dimensional political chess.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      It’s not 3D chess, it is just the difference between, say, 10-ply and 0-ply lookahead. Unless that is your third dimension?

  21. Mikerw0

    Strikes me that everyone is getting what they want. Biden gets a distraction (“wag the dog”) as does Putin. Both have serious domestic challenges. Nothing like a made up crisis to distract the masses.

    That said, other than the talking heads on US MSM I can’t find a friend that cares about the Ukraine. Most people I know, on both sides of the aisle, are sick of much of this nonsense while they watch the continued deterioration domestically.

  22. Cat Burglar

    The illegality of the Russian recognition of the L/DPR was a headline feature of the US reaction. But the specifics of the allegation were pretty vague, and there seemed to be some strategic ambiguity at work.

    The contention is that the existence of the L/DPR violates the UN Charter because they were set up by a Russian invasion; the borders of a sovereign nation were violated. The real events were far less clear than an invasion — muddy like the Kosovo precedent. The constant MSM bleating about the Russian invasion is very poorly founded, but at least a consistent position by the US (if you forget about Kosovo, or the US claims of sovereignty for the Iraq government established under the occupation).

  23. LawnDart

    On the propaganda war for control of Western minds:

    YouTube blocks Denis Pushilin’s account

    American online video sharing and social media platform YouTube has blocked the channel of the DPR Head Denis Pushilin.

    TikTok Blocks RIA Novosti’s Account, Deletes Video of DPR Leader as Kiev Continues Shelling

    So the corporate media networks now are banning the accounts of heads-of-state– under whose orders, or, who are the names of persons who make such decisions as to what we are permitted to read, view or listen to?

    Also, in terms of perception management, British government is considering banning RT.

    Lambert posted this about 5-years ago, and now seems like a good time for review:

    Xnet fights to empower people because we believe that a real democracy resides in the fact of making it possible for each and every person to access the necessary tools to monitor their institutions and to be autonomous in their judgments and, consequently, in protecting their rights and freedoms.

    NC and it’s commentariat are truely one-of-a-kind– I really hope that we’re not reduced to using VPNs and the like to share news and commentary, but the uniparty’s creeping authoritarian tendencies seem to make that a distinct possibility.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      Just look at the news we’ve heard over the last few years – the US military cannot even seem to run drills without accidents. Yesterday’s blackhawk helicopter crash is the latest, but we’ve had a recent F-35 crash, and naval ships run into each other. It seems we can’t stay our of our own way. Now, overlay a well equipped adversary defending their home country (Ukraine is much closer to Russia and it is to the US). That’s why, unfortunately, the talk of a nuclear option is not so unreasonable. We’ll never win a conventional war so let those nukes fly! I pray cooler heads prevail, but I’m sure there’s a contingent promoting “what’s the point of having nukes if we’re not going to use them”

    2. David

      I thought it was pretty convincing, because its essential argument is that if your military is not trained and equipped for a certain type of war you’ll be no good at it. The type of war discussed here is high-intensity air-ground operations against a sophisticated opponent, which is not something you can improvise if you haven’t done it for a while.The US Army trained for this kind of thing during the Cold War and selected its commanders and equipped its forces accordingly. None of that is now true. As the article says, too much of the US military is light forces, easily deployed but only any good against weak opponents. After twenty years of Afghanistan, the US military is, inevitably, trained, equipped and commanded to fight that kind of war. The Russians are ready to play rugby whilst the US is ready to play netball (or choose your equivalent.)

  24. Anthony G Stegman

    Patrick Cockburn ( see today’s Counterpunch article) has a very different view of things. He is of the opinion that Putin has made a grave mistake in recognizing the two breakaway regions, and sending soldiers into Ukraine, and that Russia will suffer consequences not unlike that of Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      I didn’t read the article so maybe there are answers to this, but I think the fact that it’s Russia and not Iraq changes everything. Also, ~30 years of war (desert storm 1 and 2, afganistan) have taken their toll on the US citizens’ appetite for conflict. It’s going to take quite a false flag to work up a jingoistic fever like the one that propelled us into Iraq. I say false flag because Putin seems too careful to pull a Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>It’s going to take quite a false flag to work up a jingoistic fever like the one that propelled us into Iraq. I say false flag because Putin seems too careful to pull a Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

        I would say that like with RussiaRussiaRussia!, the media is going to ready push another Gulf of Tonkin for the ratings at least. About a third of the country, mainly of the ruling and administrative classes are already there and are capable of ignoring what the other two-thirds of the country wants.

        1. Wukchumni

          I would confidently state if given a map of the world with delineated borders, that 99.44% of the our population couldn’t locate Ukraine.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        In fairness, he does acknowledge that. As I understand it, he expects the result would be a deepened cold war, once the shooting dies down. I wonder whether it would look very different for most of us.

    2. LawnDart

      Russia will suffer consequences not unlike that of Saddam Hussein when he invaded

      Geezus, has Cockburn gone totally Team Clinton on us? That article is off-the-hook– as if the Saddam Hussein comparisons were’t enough: “The calibre and intelligence of the men around Putin is probably below the level of any group of advisers to a Russian leader since Tsar Nicholas 11 [executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918],” said one expert on Russia.

      Excuse me?

      Sergey Lavrov has been a pain in our ass for nearly 50-years, and mutually-hated by both Team Obama and Team Hillary, but it can’t possibly be claimed that he is other than a sophisticated and accomplished diplomat.

      General Sergey Shoigu is the guy who’s probably most responsible for restoring professionalism to the Russian armed forces, as well as the delicate destruction of Al Queda and ISIS in Syria– something our armed forces were both unwilling and incapable of doing.

      If you’re gonna fight, it’s never good to underestimate your opponent(s).

      The best we can offer Ukraine seems to be breathless accusations, idiotic caricatures, crappy and overpriced weaponry. Cockburn’s slander should not be mistaken for informed commentary, as it’s easily refuted by any semi-literate amateur who takes a few minutes for research.

      I hate to say this about the guy, because he has some good, well-written articles. But I could also say the same about the Bush-era Maddow, before she sold her soul to become the Liberal Limbaugh, smugly spewing her two-minutes hate, and trading principles for coin…

    3. Michael McK

      I very much hope he is wrong. Any attempt to make Russia suffer like Saddam will lead to nuclear winter. The ignorance, greed, hubris and hypocrisy of the US empire may be the end of us all.

  25. Matthew G. Saroff

    A couple of notes:

    * Russia could declare an EMBARGO, but should not declare a blockade, as Kennedy did with Cuba, because an embargo is not an act of war, but a blockade is technically an explicit act of war.

    * The example of Quebec is what Russia fears, as it prosecutes a rather genteel form of ethnic cleansing, which, among other things, has led the majority of the largely English speaking Jews there to flee to Toronto, and Russia sees this happening to ethnic Russians in both the Ukraine and the Baltics. This is the source of much of the tension between Russia and other members of the FSU.

    * The Blob WANTS a war with Russia, preferably cold. They think the Yeltsin years, with the grandparents forced to live on the streets, and Russian daughters forced to walk the streets, is a good thing that did not go far enough. (Also Blob member in good standing Anthony Blinken is nuts)

    * The social stressors that Russia is allegedly uniquely suited to exploiting are largely of the West’s own making. They are the fruits of neoliberalism.

    * The Ukrainian right wing paramilitaries, and their allies in the Ukraine’s state security apparatus are almost as eager for conflict as the Blob, because they believe that it will lead to greater power and the expulsion of ethnic minorities.

  26. Dave in Austin

    I think that for the next few days the most useful thing I can do is give information, not opinion and speculation.

    1) The long-term Russian contracts to supply gas to western Europe end in 2024. The two pipelines to China being completed will add more than twice the capacity now used to send gas to Europe. That is not counting the Kamchatka gas going there already.

    2) Russia has $630 billion in foreign reserves, equal to 30+ percent of GNP so it can ride-out sanctions.

    3) The OSCE web page on shelling should be a first stop every morning, The shelling in both directions has been heavy. There is a bit of opera bouffe here. It takes serious effort on both sides to fire more than 1,000 rounds each day and in a heavily populated region and hit nobody. Good work guys.

    4) The rights of Russian language speakers in the Ukraine is a very big issue. Type into Google “first language of people in the Ukraine map” and see for yourself what the problem looks like. The 2014 new Ukrainian government’s decree that Russian could not be the language of schools is what precipitated the Donbass breakaway. According to the Russian speech today at the UN General Assembly, the 6 Russian language TV stations in the Ukraine were shut down months ago. And the Ukrainian government leaders have been quoted as saying “If they (Russian speakers) don’t like it they should leave”. If the line of contact stays “hot” then a Russian takeover of all parts of the two regions may be in the cards.

    5) Every nation has a memory of trauma. The south has the civil war. Blacks have slavery. The Jews have the exterminations. The Ukrainians have the 1920s famine. The Russians have the great civilian evacuations and shelling of 1941. Today, February 23rd, is Fatherland Day in Russia. Mess with your adversaries traumatic memories at your own peril.

    So tomorrow I’ll see if the OSCE website says February 23rd was a good day or not. The “person-on-the-street” interviews in both Russia and the Ukraine are filled with common sense, the memory of WWII and a sympathy for the people on the other side. The UN speeches today by both the Russians and Ukrainians were measured. As Churchill once said: “Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war”.

  27. notabanker

    Thanks for the post, nice to have a cheat sheet on all of this. And “transitory” inflation, haha good one!

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      The coronavirus is almost done with us. Happy days will soon be here. Nothing but blue skies ahead.

  28. Quill

    Sanctions have been weak because what Putin has done so far (while technically a violation of international sovereignty and an act of war against Ukraine) don’t change the facts on the ground. Ukraine hasn’t had control of the two separatist enclaves for years, hasn’t really had any prospect of obtaining such control and, honestly, Ukraine’s life is somewhat simpler without those areas.

    On the other hand Putin is still likely to invade Ukraine. His objective is not simply to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and his objectives have not yet been achieved. Putin has massed a large number of troops around Ukraine. It the kind and size of force you would need if you were going to invade and take over a large part or all of Ukraine. And it is not free to put this kind of force in place.

    But taking over Ukraine doesn’t make much sense. He’d likely be signing up for a protracted guerrilla war and severe sanctions.

    I assume what he is trying to do to Ukraine is roughly to (i) slice off a chunk of territory in the east, presumably the entire Donbass and perhaps everything east of the Dneiper and (ii) Finlandize the rest. But note that doing this to Finland took a three month war and over 400,000 casualties.

    1. Cat Burglar

      The 22nd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade is based in Rostov-on-Don, so if it is them, they didn’t have to get up too early to get on the road.

      It is well to remember that about 250,000 Russian troops are permanently stationed in the military districts along the border, and we still do not have solidly sourced reports on the origins of the 70,000 or 100,000 or 127,000 or 190,000 or whatever possibly additional troops that may or may not have been moved there this week, or January or December or April.

      This information is available on Wikipedia, and cites Russian sources. You always have to approach relying on information on the internet with the same care and skepticism you treat government and MSM sources with, but it can be useful.

      Now, when we are in the middle of a huge infowar, it is worth taking the time to check out locations, numbers, and distances of claimed for things — often their credibility and precision will disappear faster than a pontoon bridge in a state radioecological preserve

  29. ScottS

    Why does Russia care if Ukraine joins NATO? The I in ICBM is intercontinental, so I don’t believe they’re worried about nukes on their doorstep.

    1. Polar Socialist

      It takes 31-35 minutes for ICBM from launch to hit, the launch can be observed from space easily and an early warning radar will see an ICBM 10 minutes after launch.

      An intermediate range hypersonic cruise missile with nuclear payload will reach Moscow from Ukraine in 5 minutes, it’s much harder to detect and very hard to intercept.

      With the first one, there’s time to validate, verify, communicate, alert and make other decisions, with the latter none – it’s a hair trigger of nuclear holocaust.

      1. ScottS

        So Putin is seriously concerned that NATO is planning an imminent nuclear sucker-punch and invading eastern Ukraine is how he’s going to mitigate it? It just rings completely hollow.

        Far more plausible is that Putin has imperial ambitions and recently has had relatively low approval ratings. Getting the Soviet band back together is one way to improve both of those drives.

        I can believe the west has nefarious motives but haven’t heard a compelling theory yet.

        1. Car Burglar

          The US does not have a no first-strike policy on nuclear weapons.

          Putin said this week,”American strategic planning documents confirm the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike at enemy missile systems.” He certainly wants us to think he is seriously concerned. As with the proposed treaty given to the US, he is also concerned with NATO ABM strikes on Russian ICBMs from launching sites in Ukraine or other NATO allies.

          I recall the preemptive (non-nuclear) strike on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction — we’ve done it. So his stated concern would seem to have a realistic basis. What is the realistic basis for believing otherwise?

        2. Cat Burglar

          The US does not have a no first-strike policy on nuclear weapons.

          Putin said this week,”American strategic planning documents confirm the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike at enemy missile systems.” He certainly wants us to think he is seriously concerned. As with the proposed treaty given to the US, he is also concerned with NATO ABM strikes on Russian ICBMs from launching sites in Ukraine or other NATO allies.

          I recall the preemptive (non-nuclear) strike on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction — we’ve done it. So his stated concern would seem to have a realistic basis. What is the realistic basis for believing otherwise?

          1. ScottS

            So the plan to avoid having NATO on his doorstep is to annex Ukraine and have two NATO members on his doorstep?

            This is so much less believable than wanting to control economic interests.

            I’m not saying the west is a saint in this story. They want control of oil and gas as well, and to poke the Russian bear.

            But the idea of an imminent NATO invasion of Russia is ludicrous. It’s obvious propaganda meant for internal Russian consumption — “Daddy Putin is saving regular Russians from imperialist Americans” plays better than securing resources for cronies.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Not an invasion of Russia but the stationing of tactical nuclear missiles on Russia’s borders. Think that Washington would be cool with the same on the Canadian & Mexican borders? America nearly launched WW3 because of nuclear missiles in Cuba once.

              1. ScottS

                In the days of Dr. Strangelove when B52s had to fly under the radar. ABMs in Ukraine today don’t seem like a compelling threat.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  These days B-52s are typically sent against places that don’t have an air force or air defenses – like in Afghanistan. And pretty soon they will be flown by the great-grandsons of the original pilots that first flew them. But if the US stations tactical nuclear missiles – followed on by hypersonic missiles – in eastern Europe, then the Russians will have about 6 minutes warning in case of a US first strike. That being the case, the Russians would have to launch their own nuclear missiles in a use-it-or-lose-it ploy. Does this strike you as a better situation than we have at the moment?

            2. Cat Burglar

              A Radio War Nerd interview with journalist Ben Aris (paywalled) of BNE Intellinews described the Ukraine piplines as old and in poor repair — and most are connected to gas fields near the end of their useful lives.

              Aris pointed out that the sources of gas in Russia are from discrete areas (newly developed arctic fields supply the Yamal pipeline across Ukraine and Poland, but also both Nordstream pipelines; the westernmost fields supply the southern pipelines through Ukraine and under the Black Sea and Turkey; the eastern Siberian fields supply present and new pipelines going to China) — and they are served by separate pipeline systems. So if Nordstream 1 and 2 are not used, and Yamal across Ukraine is shut down, basically no arctic gas will get to Europe.

              Russia being attacked by NATO seems as exactly as ludicrous as a second Pearl Harbor.

              1. The Rev Kev

                Thanks for that. I have been hearing for years at the sorry state of those pipelines with no money being allocated to keep them in proper repair but had not heard that those pipelines were linked to specific fields. And if those fields are being depleted, then the clock may be ticking on European supplies. Meanwhile, old Joe has ordered more sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 project-


        3. Polar Socialist

          The whole Russian security apparatus is seriously concerned for extremely hostile NATO to have the capability. That’s why there used to be treaties about this.

          You don’t have to believe it, you don’t even have to believe that the Russians believe it, but you still can’t deny that it is very plausible explanation. Considering that he snapped at his head spy for suggesting annexation of the republics he doesn’t seem to have much imperial ambitions and his approval ratings have been hovering between 60-70% for years.

          And, of course, if 7/10 Russians approve of his handling of the situation in Ukraine, it seems to me that it’s the imperial ambitions of the whole Russia you should be blaming. Then again, Russians likely don’t think Putin’s invading Ukraine but trying to prevent civilians from getting killed.

        4. Amfortas the hippie

          “I can believe the west has nefarious motives but haven’t heard a compelling theory yet.”

          see: zbignew brzinski(i don’t even try any more), as well as the last almost 100 years of usa foreign policy/imperialism…including the history of the frelling cia.
          and see also francis fukiyama’s “end of history”, and observe how that sent the entire foreign policy set into satyriasis…
          also,siberia has an enormous amount of resources, and parts of the machine wants it.
          of course, any strategic reasons from pre-1990 are just habit, now…since we are no longer the hyperpower we thought we were then.
          instead, much of the prancing by the blinkins and sam powers and nulands of the world are akin to sundowning dementia patients, who go walkabout and rob the likker store naked(this really happened!…armed only with their own shit!…didn’t make the papers,lol)…except in this case, with nukes.

          1. No it was not, apparently

            Thanks for this comment Amfortas, a really funny angle on the insane episode of the sleepwalkers we are forced to watch.

            Humor is all we’ve got left it seems…

        5. Kouros

          Articles on War on the Rocks and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists seem to indicate an appetite and stronger belief in the US military planners that there is room for nuclear war and good prospects for winning… Scary stuff, all written in bland, academic language, like some matter of fact technical documents to follow and then go home and plan your week-end.

    2. Carolinian

      By that logic why did Kennedy care that there were nukes in Cuba? Perhaps because they made a “decapitation” strike more feasible. After all what kept the peace all those years was mutually assured destruction.

      In fact there have been some US “strategists” in recent years who have said that a decapitation threat is just the thing to make the Russians dance to our tune. Strangelove now a documentary….

      1. ScottS

        MAD and ICBMs weren’t quite a thing then.

        With nuclear subs, ICBMs, space lasers, etc., I’m not sure why we are meant to care about physical proximity.

        I imagine Putin’s motivated by his ego and by oligarchic economics for control over Ukraine. Especially as it’s his gateway to Europe. A Ukrainian president with western sympathies may not bend to Russian economic interests.

        1. The Rev Kev

          ‘Ukraine. Especially as it’s his gateway to Europe.’

          Turn it around as historically the Ukraine has been the gateway to Russia in terms of invasions. Doors swing two ways you know.

          1. ScottS

            Sure, any day now NATO will start an unprovoked land war in Asia. That’s more probable than Putin wanting to secure European gas pipelines through Ukraine and access to the Black Sea.

            1. No it was not, apparently

              “Sure, any day now NATO will start an unprovoked land war in Asia.”

              They literally did, It’s in the past tense!

              Have you not noticed the Afgan campaign that lasted for 20 years (do not mention any US-funded Saudi terrorist, thanks), or the constant warmongering noises aimed at Iran? (Or, for that matter, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc.,)

              It’s unbelievable, the faith in The West(TM) as the global Good Guys(R) who can do no evil, and whose motives cannot be questioned, and whose actions are always innocent – at least in intent, is so strong that people deny as possible reality even the things that happened in front of them.

              Propaganda, it works, taxpayer dollars well spent.

              ” […] Putin wanting to secure European gas pipelines through Ukraine and access to the Black Sea.”

              Russia literally has pipelines into Europe (aplenty, and would have more of them if EU graciously accepted them), and full access to the Black Sea, they have absolutely no need of Ukraine for any of that.

              Scott, tell me, have you ever seen a map of the region, one that shows where Ukraine is, where Russia is, where Black Sea is and, possibly, where pipelines are?

              1. ScottS

                And how did Afghanistan go? Who’s eager to repeat that debacle?

                The west is quite bad, or at least self-interested. That doesn’t make Putin good. It’s possible (probable) that there aren’t any good guys in positions of power.

                I have seen a map. The map shows me that Russia doesn’t have land access to Crimea. Though control of the separatist areas would give them that.

                1. Carolinian

                  Russia built a large bridge connecting Russia to Crimea (now also Russia).

                  As for proximity means nothing, let the Russians start building missile sites in Latin America and see how much nothing it means. Indeed if it means nothing then why would NATO or the US build them at all?

                  There’s utterly no excuse for America to be meddling half way around the world. Those of us old enough to remember Vietnam know what mindless belligerence leads to. It’s on a wall in Washington.

                  1. ScottS

                    Russia is shelling Mariupol, the first big city between Russia and Crimea via land in Ukraine. I suppose it’s a coincidence.

                    What is this tu quoque argument? If Ukraine stays as it is it’s exactly like Russia putting nukes in Latin America? This is a non-sequitur.

                    The US absolutely should intervene when a superpower invades a neighbor like Russia invading Ukraine. I don’t defend the US intervening in propping up an abjectly colonial system like French-occupied Vietnam.

                    You can say Donbas separatists have legitimate grievances that should be addressed and I’d agree. From what I can glean at a distance, Ukrainian leadership in Kyiv has done a better job as of late to address those grievances and devolve some power.

                    So what exactly is precipitating Russia’s invasion? Do we have evidence of NATO placing advanced military hardware in Ukraine? The rationales I hear are largely nonsense like Ukraine doesn’t have a cultural identity of its own and should just be a part of Russia. That’s obviously not true. The last eight years have shown that Ukraine does have a national identity.

                    1. Daniil Adamov

                      Even if it didn’t have such a thing (does America have a national identity? I’m genuinely asking), what would it matter?

                    2. Yves Smith Post author

                      Two million Ukrainians have fled to Russia to escape persecution.

                      Zelensky has been talking too much about Ukraine becoming a nuclear power. As Putin laid out in some detail in a press conference, they are missing only one capability to create nuclear weapons (as in they are closer than Iran). Would not take them long to develop. They already have devices that can send missiles 110 miles, which could be readily upgraded to 300 to 500 miles, as in enough to hit Moscow.

                      The US had taken much more belligerent tone toward Russia than the Trump regime (which despite occasional Trump verbal bouquets, imposed quite a few more sanctions).

                    3. Carolinian

                      The US absolutely should intervene

                      What did you have in mind? And do those of us who live in the US get to have a say? Apparently polls show that the US public doesn’t want to intervene thousands of miles away in a war that has nothing to do with us. Go figure.

                      Mariupol? Isn’t that where lots of the Nazis live? Think Putin spoke to that.

            2. Amfortas the hippie

              yeah…those preps have been being laid in since the clintons sent in the “experts” to “help”=gin up some oligarchs/crimelords(who the West knows how to work with) and loot the whole place. since then, the baltics, poland, balkans ,a great chunk of the hither east, and even bases in a couple of the other stan countries….(the recent apparent attempt at a color revolution in kazakhistan(sp-2) seems to have failed, driving them into the russian fold…not newsworthy any longer, i guess)
              everywhere else on russia’s periphery has been rendered into chaos(iraq, afghanistan).
              look at a dern map…it’s encirclement.
              and why? for fear of a failed state?
              and again, go forth and read zbigniw’s magnum opus: the grand chessboard.
              it’s about a unified eurasia…with all those unexploited reources and all those new markets…under the aegis(at least tacitly) of the enlightened lords of westeros(wall st, foggy bottom, et alia).
              what’s happened, instead, is driving russia and china together, with most of the rest of asia tired of the usa’s destructive incompetence and hyperbolic hubris.
              so zbigniw’s dream, but with russia and china in charge, and the great casino of the west left out in the cold.

              the usa/nato foreign policy set is living in a bubble, with a mirrored interior membrane…they think it’s still the second clinton administration, and that history has ended.

        2. No it was not, apparently

          “With nuclear subs, ICBMs, space lasers, etc., I’m not sure why we are meant to care about physical proximity.”

          Speed of delivery, window of response (be it defense or counter-attack), costs of the platforms.

          Ukraine (and eastern europe as well), presents a launch polygon that can allow for a cheap and maximally effective way of threatening and extorting the Russian side, or, if the US wanted to, a high-probability-of-success decapitation strike.

          And it is not necessarily true that a nation’s remaining forces would opt for a vengeance counter-population strike,after the leadership is terminated (they would know they are killing all of humanity, or at least their own remaining populace and it would give them pause).

          To illustrate my point further, let’s put the question thus: Washington DC, New York city and LA are destroyed, what does Texas (et al) do? Open their best bottles of Champaign?

        3. Swamp Yankee

          ICBMs came in in the late ’50s, so yes, they were in play during the Cuban Missile Crisis, though the issue was decapitation by intermediate range ballistic missiles, as others point out.

          And you may think the idea of a NATO invasion of Russia is fanciful, ScottS, but the Russians — who lost 27 million people the last time someone invaded from the West — do not. “You may not care about the dialectic, but the dialectic cares about you.” (Trotsky).

          This does not, nota bene, justify the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. It is, however, to point out that there is a deep historical context for all of this.

  30. MT_Wild

    So is it me or are there a whole bunch of new screen names posting “anti-Putin” viewpoints today?

    Not sure if the recent news is triggering some cognitive dissonance, or something else.

    1. Foy

      It definitely does seem like that MT_Wild. Tres tres interresant. It’s happened before on NC at times of, um, heightened geopolitical interest with overly dynamic situations, here we go again it seems.

    2. ambrit

      It’s everywhere. It’s a side hustle of the Military Industrial Complex: “Keeping the homefires burning.”
      I’d use the ‘H’ word to describe it, but that would send the comment into moderation.
      Oh well, the ‘H’ word is Hasbara, which is now pretty much a generic term.

  31. Dr. George W Oprisko

    Your post completely mis-represents the position of the DPR/LPR during the Minsk negotiations.
    At that time, the UkroNazi forces were surrounded and in danger of anhilation…
    Merkle prevailed upon Putin to create an agreement to stop that.

    Putin engineered the agreements, and strong armed Zacharchenko etal into accepting them.

    This gave time for the UkroNazis to assasinate Zacharchenko, Motorola, Givi, and Mozgovoi, the most effective leaders of the resistance.

    You should stop listening to the MI6/CIA/NSA propaganda machine, and get your info from Russia. As I do…


    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is an interesting theory but you provide zero substantiation, as we require here. We have readers and contacts who are fluent in Russian. You need to provide links. John Helmer, who has been watching Russia closely for decades, says your take is a rank distortion and even misorders events in time.

  32. RobertC

    Returning to my theme that Ukraine is Putin’s and Xi’s cat’s paw for weakening the Atlantic alliance.

    Putin sent the majority of his amphibious forces to the Mediterranean and Black Seas to accomplish two objectives:

    (1) to punish Odessa for the neo-Nazis’ 2014 genocide of Russian-speakers.
    (2) to inflict costly but repairable damage to Odessa’s port facilities through which Ukraine’s wheat and corn is exported to MENA nations.

    Europe will be left rescuing the MENA nations from starvation or facing another mass migration into its cities.

    1. No it was not, apparently

      Are you being serious, or is this meant to be funny?

      I can’t tell and I don’t think it’s my sarcasm meter that’s the problem here.

      Dry jokes can be a problem, folks, sarcasm tag can help.

      1. RobertC

        I am 100% serious. I was also optimistic. I believed Russia would not occupy Odessa but now I think it will.

        Last November for the first time, food security appeared as a priority in China’s national security strategy.

        Russia and Ukraine provide a quarter of the world’s exported wheat and corn. China will be first in line for those exports. The previous MENA recipients will be Europe’s burden to feed.

        Similarly Russia has halted ammonium nitrate fertilizer exports until April. Its plans beyond that are not apparent.

        For seafood, China has created a three prong fleet: hundreds of thousands of fishing ships; the world’s largest coast guard; and the world’s second largest navy. And it has developed, trained and demonstrated integrated coercive grayzone fishery operations with that fleet.

        Putin and Xi deeply accept the ramifications of rapid climate change and are acting to protect their populations.

        Just to clarify, I am stunned and horrified by the immensity of their efforts.

        1. No it was not, apparently

          Yeah, you were apparently right.

          Writing this on the following day, as the situation worsens a full scale operation is now in progress across Ukraine; and fears about energy and food security are now coming to the front.

          Personally, I didn’t expect Russia would bother to expend too much resources towards this operation, but it seems they were being perfectly serious with their last effort towards diplomatic solution in December (something you never see with western pols – seriousness).

  33. RobertC

    From The Drive:

    He [Zelensky] addresses Russians in Russian.

    “We are divided by a shared border of more than 2,000km. Almost 200,000 of your troops and thousands of military vehicles are standing alongside it. Your leadership has ordered them to move forward, onto another country’s territory.”
    — max seddon (@maxseddon) February 23, 2022

    “They’re telling you that this flame will liberate the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free. They remember their past and are building their future,” Zelensky says. “Ukraine on your TV news and the real Ukraine are two totally different countries. Ours is real.”
    — max seddon (@maxseddon) February 23, 2022

    Zelensky remembers a lot of specific places in Donetsk and Luhansk oblast he’s been. “I’m speaking Russian, but nobody in Russia understand what these places, streets, and events are. This is our land and our history. What are you fighting for? And with who?”
    — max seddon (@maxseddon) February 23, 2022

  34. Gulag

    Latest from Michael Kofman–Economist Feb. 23, 2022– Potential Russian military moves in Ukraine

    The Russian disposition of forces suggests that its general staff intends to conducts two major pincer movements into Ukraine. The lesser of the two will advance from the north on the capital Kyiv. The larger attack will seek to encircle Ukrainian forces near Donbas. Russian-let units there may serve as a pinning force, while the main Russian grouping would advance from the north-east by Kharkiv and from Crimea in the south. In this scenario, Moscow would try to prevent Ukrainian forces from being able to conduct an organized retreat to more defensible terrain west of the Dnieper river.

    This war would begin with air strikes, missile strikes and use of electronic warfare and cyber-attacks. Their goal would be to degrade and fragment and paralyze the Ukrainian armed forces along with its political leadership. This air campaign would be brief, followed by a combined arms ground offensive. Russia’s ground force is an artillery army with tanks and mechanized infantry. It emphasizes decisive use of firepower. These formation would be backed by attack helicopters, tactical bombers and missile brigades. Those supporting elements would dramatically increase the effectiveness of Russian ground formations in combat.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Or Russia could inform the Ukrainian military that if they do not remove every piece of heavy military equipment from the contact like that they made an agreement to do so, that they will lose it. And any unit that still continues to fire on the Donbass villages and infrastructure, that they will receive counter-fire. And it must be noted that Russian artillery units can fire from Russia proper, over the territory of the Donbass, and into those forward zones of the Ukrainian military. Also, Russia has no desire to invade the Ukraine because of the Pottery Barn rule – “You break it, you own it” – as mentioned by Colin Powell.

  35. The Rev Kev

    I see that the EU has sanctioned every man, woman and their dog in Russia right now which includes Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, 351 deputies in the Russian legislature and hundreds of officials & even media figures. Doesn’t matter as the EU had destroyed virtually every bridge with Russia that they had a long time ago-

    So I was watching a brief interview with Maria Zakharova who is as sharp as a tack. The western interviewer asked her if she was worried about Russia’s reputation and Maria had that you-don’t-get-it look on her face. So I sat back and reflected what would Russia need to do to get a “good reputation” with the west and concluded that they would have to go back to the way that they were in the 90s. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. O Brave New World that we are now in.

  36. Daniil Adamov

    …More the fool me. I was 99% sure that nothing would happen, but it appears that it is happening anyway. By it I mean an actual offensive against Ukraine. Other details are not clear, but it is hard for me to see it as anything other than a war of choice being imposed on a population that has already suffered far too much from far too many corners. Dammit.

    1. Basil Pesto


      I posted a comment linking to Zelensky’s address to Ukraine but also 7 minutes in Russian addressed to Russians, but it glitched and didn’t come through. I had no official translation but from what I read it was apparently anti-war rhetoric addressed to the Russian people. He seemed quite concerned indeed.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        In brief, he said he does not want a war, whether hot, cold, or hybrid, insisted he has no plans to attack, and said he called Putin to express his willingness to negotiate, but got no answer.

        But that was a few hours ago now, before the operation began.

        1. OnceWereVirologist

          A little late to be willing to negotiate now. Honestly, on what points would the western alliance be willing to negotiate ? I haven’t heard a single Western leader offer a quid pro quo of any sort. The only offer on the table seems to be “Leave Ukraine immediately with no conditions and no possibility of any concessions to your concerns”.

          1. No it was not, apparently

            Indeed, there is no negotiation attempt, the Russians are the Bad Guys(TM) and they need to stop, while the West and Ukrainians are blameless peaceniks who desire nothing more than harmony and good will.

            Why won’t the bad guys listen and “leave them alone,” why, oh, why?

  37. rjs

    re: “While the US financial press is keen about the opportunities for frackers, US courts have increasingly been sympathetic to environmental objections to pipelines.

    the LNG facilities have dedicated pipeline supplies under contract; they’ll get gas before US consumers do…that said, we are currently exporting the maximum amount of LNG we can; some weeks, our capacity utilization even goes over 100%…no one can build a new plant to add to that capacity overnight..

  38. KFritz

    As of 5 a.m. NC time, Russia has launched what appears to be a multiple-front attack on Ukraine. If the goal isn’t to conquer the entire nation and re-incorporate it into Mother Russia, it would be interesting to know what Putin’s goal is.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you read what Putin has said.

      He is not invading, if you accept the Kosovo precedent. Russia was asked into the Donbass.

      But he does plan to demilitarize Ukraine without taking it over. So he intends to take out its key weapons sites. Russia is also apparently forcing a no fly zone.

      You may not think he can square that circle, and the use of force is dynamic. So we’ll see. But as we have actually said before Putin said it yet again, Putin does not want to occupy Ukraine. But he does want to no longer be a platform for troops and material intended to be used against Russia.

      There is plenty of precedent for attacking to deny an opponent resources without seeking to hold territory. Start with our napalming of Cambodia in the Vietnam war, to deny the Vietcong of tree cover when moving south.

      1. Martin Davis

        My reading of his statement does accord with your view of what he says he wants achieve. My problem is the I cannot see how he achieves this without an ongoing political control of the Ukrainian state. I.e. he can’t just invade, stir things up (‘wreck it’ as some commentators have observed) and the leave (albeit detaching the secessionist republics). Insofar as this is done without the consent of a major part of Ukraine society, and likely antagonising a significant portion of the same, then he will have entered the complications of being responsible for a puppet state.

        1. Acacia

          If you re-read the above, it’s not an invasion and the aim is not to achieve “ongoing political control of the Ukrainian state”. The aim is to have an independent Ukraine that is not run by UkroNazis or the Washington Blob, and is not being used as a convenient staging ground for NATO weaponry. It is very sad that we have reached this point, but it is important to bear in mind that the red lines have been clear for years and they were knowingly crossed by the West. Minsk was a possibility to resolve this diplomatically, but the Ukraine never honored their own agreement on that. Our media is spinning this very hard as some sort of unprovoked aggression, which is a pretty big stretch, to say the least.

          1. Martin Davis

            You evidently don’t believe in unanticipated consequences. You reiterate and justify his intentions. But my comments were not about them, but the possible consequences of his actions. I cannot see how they can be achieved short of taking full political control of the state. It is only by doing this that he can guarantee the outcomes he desires.

  39. KFritz

    He’ll need a very decisive victory not to have to occupy Ukraine, given the magnitude of the operation he’s launched.

  40. JohnDoe

    If Russia re-positions nuclear weapons in Ukraine, it can effectively use it as a buffer.

    Ukraine asked to join NATO but got no response. Putin tore up the previous security agreement in 2014. NATO knew this was coming for a very long time.

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