Olaf Scholz and Vladimir Putin Talk Past Each Other as Ukraine Pushes for Formalizing Ukraine’s NATO Lite Status

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has a 90 minute phone call yesterday. We’ve embedded the readouts below. Contrary to common practice, there’s no indication as to who initiated the chat. But it’s not hard to think that Scholz did, since the German readout depicts him as presenting demands to Putin, the most cheeky being that Russia declare a ceasefire and immediately withdraw from Ukraine. We’ll return to these documents shortly. The striking quality of the readouts is there is almost no overlap between the two of them. It appears that each leader regarded virtually of what his counterparty said as not worth dignifying by repeating.

The timing of Scholz trying to arm-twist Putin does not appear to come out of the media-gasm over the Ukraine Kharkiv offensive. It instead appears to be driven by NATO attempting to escalate with Russia. I say “attempting” because like the Kharkiv offensive, this NATO bristling may be more optical than real. I must confess to having to rely on third-party takes as opposed to having read some of the key documents, so feel free to add confirming or conflicting information (preferably with links).

Right now, some of the Ukraine war-watching commentators are speculating on whether Russia will escalate due to the setback in Kharkiv. Note that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this morning said that Russia is not considering general mobilization.

As we’ll also cover soon, the more information comes out, the more it appears that this was a PR success achieved at real cost not just to Ukraine’s war-making capability but also its position on the battlefield.

However, Ukraine is seeking security guarantees from the West which would come awfully close to making Ukraine a de facto member of NATO. This may be just another Ukraine big ask, like its constant demands for more money and huge weapons deliveries. My guess is that if Russia escalates soon (and the occasional hits to the electrical grid would not amount to that; it would take major missile strikes and/or increased troop commitments), it would be that Russia regards the security guarantee threat as serious and decided to get out in front of it, and not due a mere battlefield embarrassment that might even be a plus in the long term.

To back up and give a timetable: NATO had a major meeting on September 8. Various commentators reported on rumors that Western officials had told the Zelensky government it needed to show some sort of success by this meeting so as to get more goodies. Personally, I think the goodies would have been forthcoming regardless. Western governments are too deeply invested in Ukraine to appear to back out now. And the reality is the West is running low on weapons it can send Ukraine. Note that Brian Berletic, who makes a habit of reading Department of Defense, Department of State, and NATO documents, read the new NATO, really US, commitments made at that meeting and didn’t find them to be impressive. As I read it, it’s $2.2 billion, half Ukraine, half to 18 other countries. Berletic noted most of Ukraine spending was going to training, not equipment.

Ukraine had obligingly ginned up offensives. The one in Kherson was a disaster. The one in Kharkiv was either a stunning success or Ukraine pushing on an open door, depending on your vantage. My comments here are based on the latest roundup by Alexander Mercouris, who remember was highly critical of Russia not having prepared for and stood up to the Kharkiv offensive, since it had been known to be in preparation at least two weeks before. Mercouris reported that the evidence was supporting the view that Russia had engaged in a planned retreat. It had had a force equivalent to 10 BTGs in Kharkiv, but had reduced that to one by the time of the Kharkiv attack. The remaining forces consisted of DPR/LPR militia members and territorial officers and they got out with very few losses. It also appears Russia is holding the line at Oskil River.

Mercouris has changed his original view of the withdrawal from disastrous to “deeply cynical” but also said it left Ukraine “punching at air”. Even more important, Mercouris claimed that Ukraine had had to pull troops out of other positions in Donbass, including defending the linchpin city of Bahmut. Many believe that once Bahmut falls, the last Ukraine defense line in Donbass will collapse. The Wagner Group has apparently entered the Bahmut suburbs.

So if Russian forces can take Bahmut in the next couple of weeks, that suggests it might be possible for Putin to tamp down demands with Russia that the SMO kick into higher gear. Even if the Western press downplays the loss of Bahmut, the Russian public will understand the significance. And there’s a dustup under way between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Defense and Foreign Ministry might need to take stock of it, since it could make resource demands.

Nevertheless, there’s every reason to think that Scholz was trying to take advantage of the perceived big Ukraine win in his call to Putin. But he hit a brick wall. Scholz’s push to get Russia to negotiate with Ukraine based on a ceasefire, withdrawal of troops, and “respect for the sovereignity of Ukraine” which I take to mean “respect for Ukraine’s right to join NATO” was not dignified by mention in the Kremlin writeup.

Nor did the Kremlin readout acknowledge Scholz that Putin to implement the measures in the IAEA report on the Zaporizhia nuclear plant immediately. Instead, the Kremlin summary comes off as if Putin gave Scholz a lecture on what the document contained and pressed the point that Ukraine had been shelling and hence caused the safety risks.

Consider this section as an example why Russia hasn’t made any substantive response to the document:

As many have pointed out, the IAEA would not acknowledge who was doing the shelling. The IAEA does say the shelling needs to stop, but then presents “agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone” as a precondition. First, one assumes Russia is a relevant party, but Ukraine won’t negotiate with Russia and the feeling is mutual. Second, it’s unseroiusness verging on bad faith not at a bare minimum to recommend UN peacekeepers police any safety zone.

As to Scholz’s demand that Ukraine POWs be treated properly and give the Red Cross access, the only part of that discussion reflected on the Russian side is Putin telling Scholz that Russia was compliant here and Ukraine was not.

Putin similarly made points that were not acknowledged in the German readout. The Kremlin account shows Putin complaining about Ukraine shelling civilians and destroying their infrastructure.

Putin also objected to “unblocking the ports” deal not being respected, since the rationale was to get grain to poor countries. Instead, Putin before this call publicized that nearly all of the Ukraine grain has gone to Europe. Putin also pointed to the failure to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports, despite promises to do so.

Shockingly, the only Scholz readout reference to the discussion of grain and food was Scholz telling Putin “not to discredit the agreement”. If anyone from a poor country that thinks it’s been shortchanged on grain connects the two readouts and sees Scholz as trying to hector Putin into not calling out Europe for hogging the Ukraine grain, it’s not hard to imagine they’d be even more unhappy.

Finally, Putin again offered to open Nord Stream 2 and said it was “deeply cynical” for Europe to blame its gas mess on Russia.

Finally, back to the new Ukraine bright idea of bigger, better security guarantees. Yesterday, TASS featured this story prominently, including a detailed summary of what Ukraine was seeking, suggesting that Russia thought it important to acknowledge that this was on its radar. However, this scheme has been published after the NATO meeting last week, and was developed by Ukraine with the input of “ex-Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen,” as in no current NATO or NATO member officials are involved. So this looks like Ukraine lobbying to get this item on a NATO agenda.

Dmitry Medvedev made clear that Russia would see any such move as a major escalation. As TASS described in a companion story, Medvedev describes Kiev’s draft of ‘security guarantees’ as prelude to WWIII:

Kiev will not receive any “security guarantees”, in particular, because its draft is essentially a “prologue” to World War III, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev believes.

“The Kiev camarilla has given birth to a project of ‘security guarantees’, which are essentially a prologue to a third world war. Of course, no one will provide any ‘guarantees’ to the Ukrainian Nazis,” he wrote on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.

He believes that the agreement proposed by Kiev is tantamount to “applying Article 5 of the North Atlantic Pact to Ukraine.” This article refers to collective defense as a principle central to NATO’s founding treaty. Collective defense means that an attack on one of the alliance’s members shall be considered as an attack on all members.

Reader Lawn Dirt translated Medvedev’s Telegram statement:

Dmitry Medvedev: Prologue to the Third World War

The Kiev Camarilla gave birth to a project of “security guarantees”, which are essentially a prologue to the Third World War

Of course, no one will give any” guarantees ” to the Ukrainian Nazis. This is almost the same as applying Article 5 of the North Atlantic Pact (Washington Treaty) to Ukraine. For NATO, it’s the same shit, just a side view. That’s why it’s scary.

Our sworn friends-Western superiors of various calibres, to whom this hysterical appeal is addressed-should finally understand one simple thing. It directly concerns the hybrid war between NATO and Russia. If these idiots continue to rampant pumping the Kiev regime with the most dangerous types of weapons, sooner or later the military campaign will move to another level. It will have no visible boundaries and no potential predictability of the actions of the parties to the conflict. It will follow its own military scenario, involving new participants in it. It has always been so.

And then the Western countries will not be able to sit in their clean houses and apartments, laughing at how they gently weaken Russia with someone else’s hands. Everything flares up around them. Their people will get their hands full of grief. They will literally burn the earth and melt concrete. We’ll be hard hit, too. It will be very, very bad for everyone. For it is written, “By these three plagues, by the fire, smoke, and brimstone that came out of their mouths, a third part of the people died” (Revelation 9: 18).

But for now, dim-witted politicians and their dim-witted think tanks, thoughtfully twirling a glass of wine in their hands, talk about how they can deal with us without entering into a direct war. Dull idiots with a classical education.

Let’s hope this trial balloon goes nowhere. Things will get even uglier if it doesn’t.

00 Bundeskanzler Scholz telefoniert mit dem russischen Präsidenten Putin
00 Telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz • President of Russia
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  1. Lex

    I’ve heard but can’t verify that Scholz called Putin and the German readout with demands backs that up, IMO.

    Opinion only (mine) but I see desperation in the call and demands as well as a disconnect from reality. On the latter I see an example of western leadership’s weird relationship with media and their own propaganda. If Ukraine/NATO had routed Russian forces on the battlefield and recaptured large pockets of territory with this swiftness, then this is the kind of call you make. But zero evidence points to that even though the major news sources state it.

    As for cynicism, warfare is only idealistic in the ramp up and the history books. “Not a step back” type orders are for existential moments and national survival, not some villages in NE Ukraine. Yes, Russia abandoned civilians to whom vague promises were made but it apparently also offered evacuation. That’s about all you can do and those promises were probably Ill-advised. (I think they’re real in the south because the south has geostrategic importance for Russia.)

    1. Stephen

      Yep. I think Yves made a comment that Russia never planned or announced a referendum in Kharkov. That underlines the point that this was not seen as strategic territory. Hold it if you can with minimal effort but do not get sucked into a Verdun style operation in the process.

      The Russian read out of the conversation looks far more specific and even correct on factual points than the German one.

      Unclear to me how NATO can escalate further in any meaningful way that is not just PR bluster, short of outright war. All the west’s prime negotiation levers were deployed without making specific asks first. It has hardly been best practice. Putin seems much better versed on advanced negotiations:

      1. He kept his most critical levers around gas supply in his back pocket rather than firing them immediately;

      2. He has then been turning off the gas tap in a very incremental way that is never really obviously his decision but is caused by weird turbine travel schedules and so forth. That is more negotiation best practice : “I am not doing this, blame person x”. Some of the blame may be genuine too, which is even better;

      3. He is open too to getting gas to flow again as well, if I understood correctly. Just needs some decisions around NS2 and so forth that the collective EU does not want to make. Even more best practice.

      Sounds to me that he is a far better negotiator. Not omnipotent but a smarter player. As we say in corporate negotiations, you must stay rational and not get angry. Also good to keep wider stakeholders such as the Global South on side too. The west’s ideologues seem to have been unable to do much of that. Or, perhaps worse, they simply do not want to and prefer an irrational war of mutual destruction.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I have two thoughts:

        -one, this was scripted ahead of time. Russian troops were supposed to be captured with two collapsing fronts and a third one being opened. Scholz may not be responding to events on the ground, just what he wanted to hear. As noted, Blinken was in Kiev at the height of the counter offensive. It was supposed to be crushing. Instead, the Russians denied combat in the Kharkov area and seem to be killing up to a 1000 Ukrainian troops plus material each day.

        -the other is Western leaders still believe cutting off luxury cars will unseat Putin as the Russian oligarchs get upset, ignoring the West weakened the Russian oligarchs, who are the primary obstacle to Putin’s administration. In the midst of the propaganda, the Western leaders are holding out for Russian and Putin to simply collapse. Iraq collapsed in the wake of the coalition of the willing, but now all of Europe is united. How can they lose?

        1. Stephen

          Re the pre-scripting and meeting pre choreography that sounds very plausible. Maybe a bit like the whole Queen Elizabeth mourning process that has been pre planned for years.

          Agree too on the hope that liberal dovish oligarchs will unseat Putin. Of course, any unseating of Putin is now far more likely to come from the hawks not the doves.

    2. David

      Yes. In general calls like this are only made when you want to ask for something or put pressure on someone to do something that’s within their power to do. Neither is the case here, and there would be no point in Putin calling Scholz anyway. Even allowing for sequential interpretation and the technical stuff, both readouts are quite thin for a ninety minute call, especially the German one. I can see only two possibilities : one that the Kharkov offensive was perceived as a much more serious setback than it really is, and so Scholz thought that he might actually get some concessions. But if that were so, you’d expect a flurry of calls from western leaders, not just one. More likely this is internal NATO and EU politics . As solidarity starts to crumble, Scholz is signaling that Germany is still on side. In that case, the purpose of making the call was to make the call.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        One problem is Scholz et al may have crossed a Rubicon with energy prices and business performance. Can Scholz take a loss on Ukraine while energy prices remain higher than expected pre-conflict? They don’t need to be as high as they are now, just significantly higher. He’s already committed to massive military increases which is going to have effects on every sector as resources are devoted to an unproductive sector. NATO countries aren’t being threatened. With Covid, it’s been a long stretch for businesses especially in the service industry. If one has built a nest egg, why keep running with a ridiculous energy bill? Even if it might get better in the Spring.

        Rev Kev notes a EU official comparing sanctions to a diet. A baffling metaphor. They see Russia crying mercy any day now. Early in the conflict much of the “diplomacy” was to get China to separate itself from Russia aren’t bouts if Xi would fall for that. The EU strategy was that Russia would simply be isolated. Problem solved. Now they don’t really know what to do. The sanctions from hell are now being described as a diet.

        1. Sibiryak

          Rev Kev notes a EU official comparing sanctions to a diet. A baffling metaphor.

          Idiotic comment from Borrell. Reminds me of this from Feb 23:

          “Russians who undermine Ukrainian sovereignty won’t be able to shop in Milan, party in Saint-Tropez or purchase diamonds in Antwerp, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Tuesday. The post was deleted hours later, as it sparked mockery from its intended audience and raised eyebrows in Europe.”

      2. Bugs

        This is right. There was a meeting. It was decided that one of the European NATO member state leaders, probably either Scholz or Macron, would call Putin. Macron said he doesn’t think it will be useful and last time they talked, he got a lecture.

        Scholz gets the job. Call made.

    3. Skip Intro

      western leadership’s weird relationship with media and their own propaganda

      This is really the heart of our dilemma in the west, I blame PMC symbol manipulators’ ascendence as essential to the problem, as the pattern is roughly that tactical messaging becomes the dominant tool in the box, and the unified message becomes so important that deviations are punished/eliminated. At that point, no one is permitted to question the messaging, and message discipline becomes internalized, an effective cognitive embubblement that floats away from reality as far as it can before it hits something sharp. As threats to the bubble appear more existential to its inhabitants, they start burning structural members for fuel as the go ‘all-in’.

      I will place the start of the explicit process in the Clinton campaign in 2016, where the narrative of inevitability went from campaign tactic to article of faith, with shunned apostates and everything. Not only did this blindness prevent hillaroid dead-enders from seeing it coming and dealing with it afterwards, it even lead the campaign to a fatal overconfidence. This campaign completely coopted the DNC, NYT, MSNBC, etc., dragged them into Russiagate with the ‘intelligence’ ‘community’ and the FBI. These institutions were substantially discredited in the ‘all-in’ effort to beat then neutralize Trump, who they created in the first place. Another casualty of the war on Trump was the cancellation of valid arguments against unsecure voting systems. It is not a stretch to imagine this backfiring at some point.

      The next evolutionary phase of the process, IMO, is the vax-cult pandemic response, which demonized some treatments (IVM), while exalting others. The combination of vaccine virtue signaling, with a public health threat justified an escalation of cancel culture to government mandated deplatforming and legal attacks against people who ‘didn’t follow the science’. In this effort the social media platforms and the public health infrastructure were recruited for the ‘all-in’ battle, and also substantially discredited when the lie of a vaccine that only reduces symptoms meets the reality of millions of fully-vaxed bubble-dwellers bumping into the spikey corners of covid.

      The final latest phase surrounds Ukraine, which has been a hidden player at the edges of the Russiagate and Hunter Biden laptop media debacles. Now the west’s belief in its own propaganda has led them vastly underestimate the abilities and resolve of the Russian armed forces and the extent to which the 4-year pause in the war gave the Russian economy room to become more independent of the west, and Obama’s fracking revolution time to peter out before taking over the EU gas market. Now the economic war will regime change most of the west before it regime changes Putin, the Swift and petrodollar hegemonies have been discredited by the all-in effort, and the NATO army is being drained of matériel and exposed as suitable only for bombing mud villages in the global south.

      1. Kouros

        Our resident David // Aurelian has a very nice essay on the topic of PMC that is well worth a read: https://aurelien2022.substack.com/p/duty-calls-and-nobody-answers

        Essay that goes well with a link presented yesterday at NC, https://scheerpost.com/2022/09/07/patrick-lawrence-unmaking-history/

        which ends like this:
        “In publishing the series of pieces I briefly review, The Washington Post proposes that we continue insisting on our innocence, inscribing it once again in history, destructive as it is to ourselves as well as the rest of humanity. In this The Post is as un-innocent, as responsible, as all the people it depicts for its readers as innocent. Our nation will not do well in this new century unless we can think and act honestly and so find our way out of this delusional state. The Post has chosen to stand against this project.”

  2. The Rev Kev

    It’s hard to believe that they are talking about the same war but I do wonder if Scholz really believes with what he is saying. There may be some context for this phone call happening. The Ukraine has just published what they call the Kyiv Security Treaty and it lays out the roadwork for what hapens in the years to come and were drawn up by an advisory group headed by former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen. From what I have read, Russia pulls out of the Ukraine entirely and the Donbass & Crimea become demilitarized until an “international” group settles their fate. Russia also pays for all the damage of the war. To guarantee their security, an international force moves into the Ukraine which will be composed of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland, Turkey, France, countries of Northern, Central, Southern Europe, and Baltic states. By a coincidence, nearly all of them will be NATO countries. The Ukraine will be turned into a fortress with a solid military industrial basis and all those countries will commit themselves to sending the Ukraine a steady stream of money for years, if not decades, to come. And at some point, the Ukraine officially becomes a NATO country. And I bet that Scholz would be more than willing to sign Germany up for this “mission”-



        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Not to worry. I appreciate the link to the Ukraine government original, which I had not run down, but TASS out of character looked to have hoisted it, or at least the major points.

      1. Polar Socialist

        It could be slowly dawning on the European leadership that the Festung Ukraine is already bankrupt: according to UN 12 million citizens have left the country (that plus the 10 million who left before the war and those living in occupied areas make about 50% of the population!), it can’t pay salaries of civil service or military, it has no small arms left for recruits. Not to mention the suppression of all political freedoms.
        Without continuous western support, both money and weapons, Ukraine would cease to exist as a state and fold in a week or two.

        1. Ratard Ed Guy

          One Kalashnikov to be shared by 3 Ukrainian conscripts is more than ample. Dunno what you’re talking about.

          On a more serious note, you make good points that I mostly agree with. But to play devils advocate a bit… when it comes to small arms, there’s a bagillion AKs floating around the Eurasian continent. As we’ve seen with a decade of conflict in Libya, Iraq, and Syria the supply of Soviet era small arms is virtually limitless (NLAWs, Javelins, Stingers are not included in this, they are clearly becoming exhausted). IMO the reason we have all these stories about Ukr conscripts or some foreign mercs sent to the frontlines sharing one AK & getting less than a few mags, is due to corruption, not shortages. Their role is to literally serve as cannon fodder in these heavily fortified defensive lines.

    1. LawnDart

      I have some feelings of inadequacy when it is the Russians who seem to find the most accurate words and observations when describing Western “leadership.”

      Camarilla is a keeper.

  3. KD

    It would be a mistake to focus on the content rather than the meaning of the action. Scholz called Putin to discuss a negotiated peace. For political reasons, he made stupid demands which were total nonstarters (never make an offer you opponent will accept), and for political reasons, Putin lectured him on why the Ukrainians suck and rebuffed his demands.

    Scholz cannot afford to look weak on Russia, and Russia cannot afford to look like it cares what Germany thinks. However, it is important that Germany (and France) have the political freedom to reach out to Russia to discuss terms of peace, and Putin will take their calls. (Remember Russia wasn’t returning calls from the US DOD when this thing started.) If there was to be a negotiated peace, it would invariably be done in the first instance through back channels, and non-publicly. The problem is that its never going to happen unless the US is on board, and there is little evidence that the US is on board, especially where it has the EU in the vise grips committed to economically and politically suicidal sanctions. Maybe the US would change if the far right parties take over in Europe, threatening to freeze out US influence, but short of that, I doubt the US would blink.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I beg to differ. Germany and France did try to revive Minsk, so they sometime act like they have daylight between them and the US, when they don’t have the votes that count.

      It actually is a problem that Scholz made stoopid demands. First, as I read it, he’s 100% backed Ukraine save not explicitly demanding an exit from Crimea. These guys do not need reinforcement if there is to ever be a deal. Second, the stoopid demand has an anchoring effect. Now that Scholz has specifically articulated it, rather than making a fudgier “We back Ukraine. Ceasefire and negotiate” it’s now his position. He’s just formalized that there is no way, no how the West and Russia will come to terms. That’s been generally understood but now hardening the gap was not a good move.

      1. KD

        I’m not sure, in the discussions of April there were similar proposals on Crimea and joint security put forward (it would be interesting to compare this package to the April package) and there were genuine hopes of settlement on both sides until BoJo tanked it. As long there is a proposal that addresses the status of Crimea and Donbas with a question mark beside them and as different from the rest of Ukraine, there is a basis for discussion with the Russians. It sounds like NATO is trying to get back to the April 2022 framework, ignoring the bluster. The problem remains is whether there is actually enough overlap between the sides to put together a deal–probably not at this time.

        1. Ratard Ed Guy

          BoJo is only the messenger. There is a schism between the industrial capitalists and the financial ones (via Hudson’s definitions). The elites and their puppet leaders fall within those two camps. Right now the finance capitalists & their proxies have more power and run the show.

          Also, after Minsk 1 & 2 (& not to mention the total unreliability and incompetence of the West) I seriously doubt there’s any negotiated outcome to the SMO until the West has a much needed change of leadership. Moreover, if Russia were to pull back & settle for some kind of deal, that would come off as a major capitulation, or even imply that this whole affair is rotten theatrics between global elites to enslave the world. I pray that’s not the case but who knows

      2. Stephen

        Yes, it is yet more bad negotiating in this context, if that is what you want to do. Making definitive demands that cannot be reversed or fudged easily and then publicizing them to make that even harder for yourself.

        I guess that “…based on a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty…” gives very little room for adaptation. Maybe possible to play later with time lines in any deal and to strangle the definitions of “based on” and “respect” to allow wriggle. But it would definitely be contrived!

        Says to me that Scholz was partly playing this for internal / EU / US consumption (per a comment above) and that there is actually no desire to negotiate any form of deal. There must be professional people in the German administration who would understand the significance of publicly broadcast definitive demands and at least give that advice, even if then overridden.

        Putin does seem to avoid such pitfalls, focusing on “facts” and telling us what a reliable supplier of gas he is, how well he follows the rules on treating prisoners and how he is happy to feed the Global South. Master versus Apprentice perhaps!

        Still: just saw a picture of Von der Leyen making a speech dressed in a very bright yellow and blue outfit, obviously to be the Ukrainian flag, and Borrel is talking about “diets”. All of the western “leaders” are competing with each other to see who can be the most childish, it seems.

      3. David

        Remember that he is new in the job and that German Chancellors tend to last a while. I think he’s given up’ and is thinking of the next stage of the game. In post-Ukraine Europe, he wants to be the strong man, the man of principle but also the man who had an independent channel to Putin. In terms of EU manoeuvring he is staking out a maximalist position, such that other nations will have to come to Germany in search of any flexibility, in advance of the inevitable climb-down. I don’t say this is sensible or that it will work’ but it makes a twisted kind of sense in terms of intra-EU politics. Don’t talk about the war.

        1. tegnost

          Thank you David,
          Even if they’re talking past each other I’m glad the’re talking.
          That Scholtz is thinking farther down the road is also heartening.
          . In terms of EU manoeuvring he is staking out a maximalist position
          First mover, but no I also don’t expect anything out of it but a communication channel and that is maybe better than nothing.

          1. hk

            I don’t know. Supposedly, Molotov and Ribbentrop met in early 1943 to negotiate possible ceasefire, after the (more legitimately) successful German counteroffensive around (of al places) Kharkov, which turned out (surprise!) to be a nonstarter. Let’s say that this got me wondering about some punny variations on Scholz’s name to rhyme with some historical figure.

    2. pogohere

      Re: “The problem is that its never going to happen unless the US is on board, and there is little evidence that the US is on board, . . .”

      Russian policy posits that NATO must withdraw to its pre-1997 borders. Russia believes the US is incapable of keeping an agreement.

      The US is incapable of getting “on board” with any agreement that leaves it without the ability to accomplish its goal: break up Russia and seize the resource collateral that will make more debt feasible.

      The US Government’s Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) holds a briefing on the “moral and strategic” necessity of partitioning Russia

      The US policy makers have no reverse gear and the Russians don’t intend to cooperate in Russia’s demise.

  4. nippersdad

    Scholtz appears to have fully internalized Dale Carnegie’s lesser known work, How To Make Enemies and Irritate Everyone Around You. I had thought that one was out of print.

    I still don’t get the end game, here. The prize at the end of the tournament should not be having to burn the furniture to stay warm.

    1. johnt

      I am becoming more inclined to the belief that this is a planned failure in preparation for The Great Reset.

      1. nippersdad

        There is certainly the potential for that kind of plan, but Mark Blyth’s point that The Hamptons are not a defensible position is still valid. I think I saw somewhere that if you were to categorize the various US police forces as a military organization it would be the second largest army in the world, and every one of them has an extended family.

        All these SWAT Teams and militarization of the police…one has to wonder if this will work out any better for the Ubermenschen than their big plan for Ukraine is. People will eat the rich, perhaps literally, before they will eat roaches. A year or two of privation and Nancy will soon discover what a real insurrection looks like.

        And, really, I don’t think that is just chest thumping. That is just human nature.

      2. Basil Pesto

        Does “The Great Reset” actually mean anything? It just seemed like some tepid sloganeering circa 2020 when organisations everywhere felt the need to Say Something about the crisis, or appear to be Doing Something. The wording of the slogan has a minatory vagueness which accordingly means it has been seized on by CT artists (such as that “2nd smartest person in the world” substacker who published the probably-forged “leaked” Rand document that has been discussed elsewhere on the blog this week) – to the extent that one suspects that this minatory vagueness was probably a deliberate aspect of the meme’s construction. On its face, this idea of a “great reset” makes little sense given how propitious the status quo is to the people that came up with the slogan, and how, in actuality, the international pandemic response to which this slogan was directed has, at every step, been implemented with the aim of preserving that status quo.

      1. nippersdad

        Scholtz really does need to get on the ball. And, as mentioned above, the German readout of that conversation was suspiciously short. If he doesn’t watch out we are soon going to hear from Mercouris that, as with Macron, Putin is no longer interested in hearing from a time waster like Scholtz.

  5. The Rev Kev

    For what it is worth, Scholz is just typical of the EU leadership at the moment. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen was saying earlier-

    ‘Let us be very clear – much is at stake. Not just for Ukraine, but for all of Europe and the world at large…This is not only a war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, this is also a war on our energy. It’s a war on our economy. It’s a war on our values. It’s a war on our future. It’s about autocracy against democracy…I stand here with a conviction that with the necessary courage and with necessary solidarity Putin will fail and Ukraine and Europe will prevail…Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakable.’


    Meanwhile, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Joseph Borrell said-

    ‘We cannot lift [sanctions] until they have had their effect. They may not have an immediate impact. It’s like going on a diet to lose weight and being upset that you haven’t lost kilos and kilos after just a couple of weeks. According to Borrell, the sanctions “diet” must remain in place, otherwise the “kilograms you’ve already lost will be very easily put on again.” ‘


    As YouTuber Alex Christoforou says, these people have no reverse gear and when things fail, they always double down.

  6. juno mas

    Olaf talking dumb stuff to Putin is what makes me believe escalation is the best option for Russia. Crush the bastards.

    1. tresmegistus

      the collective west nneds to wake up and smell the coffee. would one trust the west to honour its guarantees or promise obligations? in 1994 did the usa not promise Russia it would not move one inch toward Russia if the berlin wall came down? Not on your nelly. a reminder – nato kept creeping closer to Moskow with ukraine being their red line (which the west continued to ignore despite Moscows warings). Minsk 2 agreement was guaranteed by france and germany. where were they when Ukraine restarted shelling Donbass and Lugansk and killing 14000 women and children to enforce the agreement? is ukraine a sovereign country? not by any definition as it ceased to be one following the usa supported coup d’etat of a freely elected government in 2014.
      So why are the west spending billions to support a noncountry when these funds could be better used for the improvement if its own population? all this balloney about steeply rising food and energy prices (all manipulated) would disappear if sanctions against Russia were removed. talk about shooting oneself in the collective feet.

  7. Irrational

    It really seems quite a bizarre phone call well described by Yves. NC gets a shout-out in today’s Moon of Alabama post for this.

    1. nippersdad

      I am experiencing the same thing. It looks like some Langley public/private partnership is having a busy day.

      1. tegnost

        the entities that view NC as the enemy……yet another reason to donate, for those who are still on the fence.
        There has to be 1100 people out there…

    2. Mark Gisleson

      Typing a reply but expecting to see the Cloudfare page. Again.

      Coinkydents that just as the comments get super extra good, sh*t happens.

      1. Irrational

        Reflects my experience earlier.
        Eventually gave up posting what I was going to say and posted something else later, patience!

  8. anon in so cal

    Slightly off-topic:

    “Weakening Germany, Strengthening the U.S.”

    “continuing deterioration of the [US] economic situation is highly likely to lead to a loss in the position of the Democratic Party…urgent need for resources to flow into the [US] economy, especially the banking system….only European countries bound by EU and NATO commitments will be able to provide…major obstacle to it is the growing independence of Germany…

    …current German economic model….is based on…unlimited access to cheap Russian energy resources…”



          1. Lambert Strether

            The Yandex version has a cover, which was helpful. I agree we’re working our way upstream. To quote George Smiley, the same quote I used in the earlier discussion: “It therefore had an impressive topicality which at once, in Smiley’s eyes, made it suspect.”

        1. Polar Socialist

          Are they trying to imply that the fake report was all Russian disinformation? How I wish some independent journalist would ask RAND to agree or disagree with the points made in that false report.

  9. Irrational

    Headline in the online version of Frankfurter Allgemeine this evening (already behind paywall, sorry):
    “Our weapons help save lives” – Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister.
    She is the “top diplomat” by virtue of that job title.
    Meanwhile the defense minister says “no battle tanks just yet”.
    Maybe a job swap is in order?
    Also meanwhile, Sahra Wagenknecht is being criticized by her own Left Party because she is saying sanctions are bad for Germany. The extent of “Gleichschaltung” is frightening.

  10. James J. O'Meara

    “Our weapons help save lives” – Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister.

    As I’ve observed elsewhere, Who/Whom is their only “principle”. Thus “our weapons save lives, yours commit war crimes”.

    Compare: Our violence (e.g. antifa, George Floyd) is speech; your speech is violence (and to be censored).

  11. Sibiryak

    Russian president Vladimir Putin still believes he was right to launch an invasion of Ukraine, [surprise, surprise!] German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday after a 90-minute-long telephone call with the Russian president.

    “Sadly, I cannot tell you that the impression has grown that it was a mistake to begin this war,” Scholz said in a press briefing, Agence France-Presse reports.

    “And there was no indication that new attitudes are emerging,” he added at joint press conference with his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Garibashvili.

    –The Guardian

    1. ComradePuff

      I think this was the point of the call; Europe could claim to the public that top level diplomatic efforts were made to bring about peace, but naturally the evil Russians persist. Nobody in the west will bother to look any closer to see how ridiculous the demands were, and NATO will have ticked a box on it’s “how to escalate war of choice while looking innocent” checklist.

  12. Altandmain

    Either German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is just out of touch or he’s posturing politically for a domestic audience.

    Nothing was accomplished and it’s become clear that the Western powers are not negotiating in good faith. Either that or Scholz is just desperate but the Russians know the reality of the situation. The losing side is the one that asks for a ceasefire, not the winning side.

    Scholz doesn’t seem willing to accept the idea that Russia right now has the advantage. Even with the latest Ukrainian attacks, the Russians still have the overwhelming advantage. There wasn’t that big win that the West was hoping for.

    It’s entirely possible that had Scholz made more reasonable demands, Putin might have been open to them. For now though, Germany seems to be burning up its political capital with demands that Russia might be willing to accept.

    This is an incredibly bad move on Germany’s part. This winter, Germany is going to desperately need Russian gas and oil. Using political capital to waste Putin’s time is going to leave the Russians even less willing to talk this winter. This posturing is going to backfire very badly – either that or Scholz is hopelessly out of touch.

    Germany needs better leadership than the Scholz and the Greens.

  13. Susan the Other

    Anthony Blinkin seems to have such a fragile ego that he would not have been in Kiev for the big counteroffensive if he thought it would fail. That means it was an all-out effort on the part of the US and other advisors to defeat the Russians decisively – and they believed they could. So now I’d expect little Tony to slink back to the State Department and hide for a month or two; maybe make another absurd appearance on Colbert’s show. The Russians just rope-a-doped the whole attack. Not only had Russia evacuated the Donbass/Lugansk area, set up UN inspectors at the ZNPP, and set up their own proper defense in waiting (which included missiles and bombs aimed at the previously populated areas because they knew the Ukies would rush headlong into a nice little firestorm), they also somehow let the West think Russia would be surprised, surrounded and shot like sitting ducks. But the Russians were ready and waiting. How else do you explain the total incompetence of the Ukrainians and their allies? The Russians didn’t retreat – they got their own troops out of the way so they could turn the Ukies into more pink mist. Anthony Blinkin must have been very surprised. The look on his face must have been priceless. And if Milley and Austin were likewise surprised, then we are in serious trouble. So maybe it is safe to assume that Scholz himself is at a loss for words. He certainly sounded vacuous.

  14. hemeantwell

    Wolfgang Streeck posts on Schauble’s proposal for an alliance of France, German, and Poland to form the EU’s political-military core. Once he works through his astonishment at the foolishness of the formerly wily Schauble’s plan, Streeck settles into an astringent assessment of the EU’s toadying to the US.

    “…Seen this way, the fact that the special €100 billion defence budget announced by the German government three days into the war will have its first effects on the ground only in five years’ time does not mean that it is wasted; it only means that it has nothing to do with the Ukrainian war as such. What Germany is preparing for, following a request from its American friends that it could not refuse, is a world that is one big battlefield impatiently waiting for out-of-area NATO interventions for the propagation of democracy and as an opportunity for overfed post-heroic citizens to stand up for ‘Western values’.”

    1. Susan the Other

      Streeck is usually pretty accurate. This morning, noonish, the sky rumbled with jets flying east (or so it sounded) for about 15 minutes. That’s a long time for military jets. The sky sounded much the same when Little George took us to war. It’s ominous. Those are long distance flights, probably destined for Ramstein or Ukraine or Poland. Our new parking lots. It will be interesting to see what excuse we use to declare war on Russia. One thing that still holds true is that we need boots on the ground to take and hold oil fields. I’d be surprised if there are any Ukies left to draft.

  15. square coats

    To offer a piece of possibly contrary info regarding who called whom, I did happen upon an article on Lenta last night/very early this morning that says (translated by google) “Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz.” The verb phrasing used in Russian was “созвонился с” which can be translated as something like “had a call with” (“с” in Russian usually means “with”) but it seems that it’s generally taken to mean “called up”.

    When I was reading the article then I thought maybe Putin was following up on his publicized displeasure/anger with how the Ukraine grain situation went down, and it reminded me of the yearly marathon televised session of taking calls from around Russia Putin does that I once watched, during which he often said that he would be sure to follow up with so and so about various such and such problem someone brought up, which I have no doubt he eventually did do.

    Then again it could’ve been a perfectly innocuous phrasing in that article. (*shrug*)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s a useful find. Perhaps there will be additional intel. It’s conventional for readouts to indicate who asked for the call, so the omission is odd.

      1. Zet

        First time poster here but maybe I can shed some light:

        In Germany the reporting on the call is more or less clear that Scholz did in fact call Putin. As the German “Tagesschau” puts it: “Nun hat der deutsche Regierungschef den Gesprächsfaden wieder aufgenommen.” which translates to “Now the German head of government has picked up the thread of the conversation again.” and most other media report the same (e.g. Der Spiegel, Welt, etc.).

        As Scholz himself said: he wanted to tell Putin his view of the state of affairs, see the link for Die Welt below.

        Here are some links: Tagesschau | Der Spiegel | Die Welt

          1. Ignacio

            The messages that come from Germany including there von del Leyen and her latest speech dressed in blue and yellow imply total confrontation with Russia and supposedly total defeat of Russia. This is where they are leading us no matter the cost.

            That is it. There won’t be any negotiation with Russia except unconditional rendition. We are heading to direct confrontation with Russia and the leadership is setting the narrative preparing us to the outcome.

            1. Stephen

              One commentator described her as looking like Big Bird from Sesame Street. Sums up the level of (im)maturity that she and pretty much every other western leader displays.

    2. Sibiryak

      …The verb phrasing used in Russian was “созвонился с” which can be translated as something like “had a call with” (“с” in Russian usually means “with”) but it seems that it’s generally taken to mean “called up”.

      Two points:

      1. The Lenta article says it’s based on a TASS article. The September 13th TASS article does not use the “созвонился с” phrasing—it simply reports on a “telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz” (“телефонный разговор президента РФ Владимира Путина с канцлером Германии Олафом Шольцем”). There is no indication at all in the article as to who initiated the call.

      2. In any case, in this specific context , “созвонился с” would reasonably be translated as “had a call with” or “had a telephone conversation with”. This was confirmed to me by several native Russian speakers. So the unequivocal “Putin phoned German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz” appears to be just a Google translator error.

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