Western Narrative Escalation Over Ukraine War: A Warning of Coming Strong Countermeasures? Or a Sign of Desperate Impotence?

First, a diatribe against the word “narrative,” now pervasively used in commentary, particularly what purports to be political/geopolitical reporting. What is a narrative? It is a story. Until recently, “narrative” referred to plot lines in works of fiction, such as screenplays. So the widespread use of the word “narrative” to describe various official and press efforts to ‘splain what is happening in Ukraine is an up-front warning that what you are being told could very well be the product of overheated imaginations.

Lambert is sometime wont to say: “You can’t reverse engineer the truth out of bullshit.” But then he adds, “But God knows we try.” So here we go again.

Some of the sources we follow on the Russia-Ukraine conflict were painting in awfully bright colors in their latest updates. One wonders if this is due to discomfort with comparatively limited action on the battlefield even as Russia is moving troops from its partial mobilization into place and Ukraine is supposedly about to Do Something Big, like launch its much ballyhooed Kherson offensive or blow the Kakhovka dam to flood Kherson city.

But this isn’t impatience isn’t due just to the tense surface stasis during this preparatory/transition phase of the Russia operation. Many readers, commentators, and increasingly Russian citizens want Russia to get on with it, even though fast and aggressive prosecution of the war is not a great course of action. The fact that the new theater commander, General Surovikin, looks like a human incarnation of a mailed fist has only somewhat reduced their anxiety.

Alexander Mercouris, who did stay measured, pointed out at the top of his Sunday show that he’s never seen such a stark divergence between Western and Russia-friendly commentary, and then unpacked which version had better factual foundations, focusing on the battlefield.

As we will see below, the Russian leadership, even in this front-line to-ing and fro-ing stage, sees Ukraine as readying to escalate, and in particularly nasty ways. So this may be the phase when energy is building up in a system before it goes chaotic.

To try to step back from the fog of narrative:

Russia’s campaign against the Ukraine electrical grid and selected military targets looks to be very effective and very much underreported. The fact that the Western press is acknowledging only in passing that Russia has seriously damaged up to 40% of Ukraine’s electrical grid (this from a Ukraine official at the end of last week) is a tacit admission that the US and NATO don’t want to talk about it. It’s a big problem for which they have no answer.

Having said that, the one aspect of this development that is getting traction is the accusation that Iran has provided Russia with some of the drone that are proving to be mighty effective in these attacks, and the West is therefore readying yet more sanctions. Russia and Iran have both denied that Russia got the drones from Iran. Even though Iran does apparently have (very) similar drones, these are technologically not complex, so it’s possible, as some claim, that Iran and Russia wound up in pretty much the same place via parallel development.

Because reporting is fragmentary, I hope this 50,000 foot recap is more or less accurate; please feel free to correct and/or update in comments. (Mercouris cites John Helmer as doing the best reporting on this topic and Helmer’s last account was on the 18th).

Russia started heavy strikes on Ukraine’s electrical system and other military or combined use targets on Monday, October 10. Even though the timing of the attacks looked to be in retaliation for the Kerch bridge bombing, experts deemed that the campaign had been planned before that. Russia reduced the level of attack on subsequent days, leading observers to speculate that Russia was probing, to see what hits produced what damage and how quickly Ukraine could repair it, as a combo heavy-duty softening up/intel gathering before a presumed really big grid assault in conjunction with a ground campaign.

It also appears that Russia is targeting transmission lines (particularly substations) and not so much generating capacity. One assumes that the lines are easier to repair. But since Ukraine’s system is 330kV, used only in Russia and CIS states, it is pretty certain that Ukraine will soon run out of needed equipment.

However, Russia again considerably picked up the intensity of its attacks over the past weekend, seemingly back to the assault level on day 1. Does this mean Russia is already at the point where it is degrading the electrical network immediately before a big combined arms campaign? Does it mean Russia learned whatever it was seeking to garner during its reduced scale phase and now has a clear picture of what it wants to take out and how?

I wonder about the idea of even bigger “shock and awe” electrical system attacks right before the expected big offensive. The fact that the Western press is barely acknowledging the Russian grid destruction is close to saying it does not officially exist (mind you, that could change when the Anglosphere figures out how to spin it and/or Ukraine tips into a crisis, particularly flood its neighbors with refugees).

That alone argues for Russia making maximum use of this approach in the face of the US/NATO inability to respond. Why should Russia use more men and materiel than it needs to, and subject Ukraine cities to more shelling (and impose more rebuilding costs on Russia), if it can prostrate Ukraine by turning off nearly all its power?

101st Airborne Division in Romania freakout. The Naked Capitalism commentariat did an exemplary job of taking the hot air out of a lot of the patter on this story, both from Western and Russia-friendly venues. A typical account, this from AntiWar:

The White House has deployed thousands of American soldiers just miles from Ukraine to prepare for war, according to CBS News. Officers speaking with the outlet revealed they were there for combat against Russia.

Brigadier General John Lubas confirmed nearly 5,000 troops from the 101st Airborne recently joined the 100,000 American soldiers already deployed to Europe. Lubas described his troops as being on “full deployment,” and they are preparing to fight Russian soldiers in Ukraine. “This is not a training deployment, this is a combat deployment for us. We understand we need to be ready to fight tonight,” he said.

As you’ll see below, there is actually not much there there. That leads me to wonder if this obvious media plant (the deployment took place in June and was significantly a rotation of the 82nd Airborne, so why all the puffery now?) is a threat display aimed at Russia, posturing for the US and EU, and/or throwing a bone to Ukraine.

GF quoted a story from the US Army’s website:

“Note that these guys replaced the 82nd Airborne Division, so this was not then and is not now a new deployment of U.S. troops. Moreover, these troops have been in place for a little more than four months:

Elements of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) began arriving to the Mihail Kogalniceanum Airbase in Romania June 20, and are scheduled to continue arriving during the next several days.

Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, will support the U.S. Army V Corps’ mission to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank and engage in multinational exercises with partners across the European continent in order to reassure allies and deter further Russian aggression.

The deploying 101st Soldiers do not represent additional U.S. forces in Europe, but are taking the place of Soldiers assigned to 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters and the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division.

In all, approximately 4,700 Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are scheduled to deploy to locations across Europe.

Several readers picked apart Brian Berletic’s contention that the 101st Airborne deployment to Romania may reflect plans for US military to enter Ukraine in the western and Odessa region to prevent Russia form taking all of Ukraine coast. If this actually is a plan, it doesn’t look so hot. First from David:

I doubt it. The 101st is a Light Infantry Division, for heaven’s sake. It’s used for fighting wars in places like Afghanistan. The only situation I can see it being used is as a purely deterrent force, ie it could enter Ukraine by invitation and set up shop somewhere, denying the Russians a chance to take and hold the area without a serious risk of escalation. This would be, to put it mildly, very dangerous, since a single weapon firing in the wrong direction could start something nasty. It would also rapidly become, in effect, a hostage unit for the Ukrainians, and I would have thought the US realises this. In any event, for all that it could influence the battle, the Russians could simply ignore it, and perhaps just manoeuvre to get it out of supply.

I wouldn’t pay any attention to the reported words of the Commander, by the way. Generals don’t get to decide things like that.

And then The Rev Kev:

Agreed that the 101st does not have any heavy equipment and even if they managed to get into Odessa, there would be the matter of back-up and logistical support. Still, you can bet that there would be some White House policy makers like Blinken or Sullivan who would think that this would be a great idea because they did that in Syria and got away with it. I doubt that the Pentagon would let them do it though as the thought of the 101st Airborne coming up against a combat-experienced Russian battalion tactical group is not an idea to be lightly entertained. And if the 101st called in air support, because they would have to take off from bases in NATO countries, that would be as good as a declaration of war against Russia.

And Kouros:

The problem with 101 crossing into Ukraine from southern Romania, where has been positioned is that there is no bridge over Danube between Ukraine and Romania and the first highway /road that links Ukraine with Romania, starting in Galatzi, crosses through Moldova. And then, given the destroyed bridge in southern Ukraine, another pass through Moldova would be necessary to reach Odessa. Logistically I don’t see how they can accomplished any transfer, maybe this is why Romania accepted to participate in this charade.

Finally from Karl:

U.S. troops entering Ukraine would presumably require a Congressional AUMF for offensive operations. No way.

Without an AUMF, you’d probably need a covert operation. A covert force to save Odessa is a pretty ridiculous operation to contemplate, given its high chances of failure, human loss, exposure, and consequent U.S. humiliation. Biden may be dim, but too many cooler heads would have to sign off….. And then, who would sign up for that mission impossible?

Still, these are extreme times, and our leaders have surprised us with extreme stupidity many times, so it’s not out of the question I guess!

However, the good news is that the press for the moment has dropped its obsession with Putin starting a nuclear war.

What about the October Surprise? YouTubers, based presumably on Telegram gossip, have said that the Biden Administration had told the Zelensky government to take Kherson city by the US midterms. Given the fall rains setting in, that attack should have happened if it were going to happen. Rain means the ground becomes so muddy that most Ukraine armored vehicles have to use roads, as opposed to open steppe, which makes them even easier to attack and counter.

Lambert believes that a Ukraine “stunt” as in a terrorist attack, even on the scale of the Nord Stream sabotage (not that we know who was behind that) or the Kerch bridge attack, won’t do for electoral purposes. He thinks Americans would want to see Ukraine taking ground, as they did in the Kharkiv offensive.

Even though blowing up the Kakhovka dam an a resulting big flood could be spun as a Ukraine victory if it force Russian to pull out of the west side of the Dnieper, even temporarily, there’s been enough talk of that that I would bet any attack would only be partially successful, as it in could damage the dam and increase outflow, but not create a big flood. Dams are very substantial and need to be blow up from the bottom to be largely destroyed. And Russia has also been lowering the water level in the reservoir behind the dam so as to reduce the damage potential.

The cynic in me has to wonder if this talk of the dam is diversionary. The two big sabotage attacks, the Nord Streams and Kerch bridge, were complete surprises. And any splashy splashy destruction would boost Ukraine morale and pry some more funds from Western coffers.

Dismissal of Russian “dirty bomb” warnings. I wonder why Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu bothered, unless this move again was to play to the Global South, particularly since the first defense minister Shoigu called was Turkiye’s. The Western knee-jerk dismissal and trying to depict the alert as a dastardly Russian scheme was predictable.

As Lambert said, this is not how serious players are supposed to act. From Aljazeera:

Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb and blame it on Moscow.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in the Ukraine war in calls with NATO nations on Sunday….

“The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theatre of operations and thereby launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world aimed at undermining confidence in Moscow,” the RIA Novosti news agency said on Telegram.

“The calculation of the organisers of the provocation is that if it is successfully implemented, most countries will react extremely harshly to the ‘nuclear incident’ in Ukraine,” the post said. “As a result, Moscow will lose the support of many of its key partners.”

After Ukraine shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, it’s hard to see how the idea of a Ukraine dirty bomb rejected out of hand, particularly since my impression is that dirty bombs are actually crappy weapons qua weapons. Notice how one has yet to be used? There is a tradeoff between how much nuclear material you use and how much in explosives. My guess is they can actually only effectively contaminate a relatively small area, and would best be used in a high volume transit hub, like Grand Central. But to Shoigu’s point, any dirty bomb, even one not all that effective in radiation/detonation terms, would still taint Russia if Ukraine could pin it on Russia.

Aljazeera said (presumably based on Western sources) that Shoigu provided no evidence. That may be true, but a phone call is not a venue for providing evidence. And even if Russia had some indicative or even pretty solid intel, Russia might be leery of sharing it due to not wanting to reveal sources and methods. Perhaps Turkiye could have served as a confidential intermediary, to comment on the degree of credibility. But the fact that Russia presented evidence of the US biolabs in Ukraine to the UN and that investigation has gone nowhere says Shoigu was not likely to be believed even if he had been willing and able to serve up bona fide substantiation.

So the reaction was predictable. From the Wall Street Journal:

Late Sunday, the U.S., U.K. and France released a joint statement on Mr. Shoigu’s remarks.

“Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” the statement said. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”

As I indicate in an earlier post, the more the prospect of battlefield success recedes for Ukraine, the more Ukraine will fall back to terrorist acts. The dirty bomb idea, whether just (potentially idle) chatter or a more advanced scheme, is just an example of what Ukraine could try to execute.

If I were Russia, that argues for hobbling Ukraine as quickly as possible. And the fastest way to achieve that is doing enough damage to the electrical grid to severely limit movement and communication across Ukraine. That won’t stop attacks, but it ought to markedly reduce their number.

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  1. John R Moffett

    The most surprising thing to me is that anyone in the world believes anything the US states publicly now. Everyone knows that the US uses corporate owned news outlets as “information warriors” and I am sure the government even uses terms like that to keep the press motivated to disseminate false narratives (there’s that word again). US credibility in the world is at a very low ebb, but for whatever reason, people seem to take what the US claims seriously (at least if you listen to or read the corporate owned news).

    1. divadab

      This is true across the west. The Guardian, the Times, French tv, Italian and German newpapers and tv – they all parrot the same line that “Ukraine is winning” and “we will do all we can to support Ukraine against Dictator Putin’s perfidy”. It’s obvious and very disturbing – the degree to which the mass media is lying to its readers and viewers. And the degree to which it is coordinated internationally. Sure thing, we have “democracy” and a “free press” – pull the other one, whatever dark forces are responsible for this disgraceful state of affairs.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, D.

        It’s relentless and crops up in some odd corners.

        On Friday evening, the BBC’s Gardeners’ World featured an American accented couple hosting a Ukrainian family at their elegant rural cottage. The hosts and refugees have turned their typically English garden into a corner of Ukraine.

        1. Synoia

          The UK hosts Ukrainian refugees? How nice.

          It wold be better if the UK focused on housing all its people, as was the practice up to Thatcher. As I child, I believe there were no Tramps (Homeless) in East Anglia and I recall none in the parts of Lindon we frequented, and never any living or busking (begging) in the London Underground.

          All this under both Labor and Conservative Governments.

          1. howard

            It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, sometime in the early 1980s in Chicago, that I heard the term “homeless.” It was presented as a new word and had to be explained to those of us who saw the strange spectacle of a confused individual wandering down the street. The person doing the explaining was very clear that it was due to the austerity-driven emptying out of the mental health facilities.

        2. wilroncanada

          A corner of Ukraine. I was going to comment, “How many hookers were in the corner?” but that would be cruel. Were the guests very recently in Ukraine? Many of the “refugees” who have come to this part of Canada haven’t actually been in Ukraine for years. They’ve been living in Poland, or other parts of Europe, working there, and sought to take advantage of Canadian largesse to start new (again) lives here.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, W.

            I know what you mean.

            What you say applies to Mauritius, too. It has not gone unnoticed in the tropics.

        3. Earl Erland

          A Jeopardy Question during the Double Jeopardy Round, today: This Country dropped its objection to Sweden and Finland becoming NATO Members.

          Answer: Turkey (spelling as on the blue board).

          Jeopardy is filling its Tournament of Champions Bracket by using this season’s highest scoring losers. Maybe Zeitgeist?

      2. Tempestteacup

        As a writer, I am also interested in how the need to deceive readers so constantly and egregiously has impacted their most abilities to describe events in terms of even very basic readability. Yves is right of course that the endless deployment of the dreaded word “narrative” is a constant tell that you being delivered a carefully scripted arrangement of cherry picked information, developments and context, with all the rest suppressed as needlessly complex/irrelevant/”doing Putin’s work for him”. While the current Ukraine conflict has taken this narrative building to new heights of folly, none of it is particularly new – especially not in a Western world conditioned now by the widespread elite acceptance of things like Lyotard’s (essentially anti-Marxist) ‘critique’ of meta-narratives. Put bluntly, these people do not believe there is a material or objective basis for why things are the way they are, or what is actually going on all around us. Instead, and because we live in Western societies where the freedom of political movement has been narrowed down to basically nothing, making almost all of us mere passengers, elite opinion-makers focus on ‘winning’ a battle of narratives that exists primarily in their own minds.

        If that is all familiar, what I have noticed in the Ukr coverage has been the way even ‘narrative’ has been displaced by outright propaganda so facile, so hectoring, it makes the mainstream press almost unreadable. Russian attempts to alert Western ministries of their concerns over a possible ‘dirty bomb’ provides a perfect example. Every sentence devoted to describing Russian actions, perspective or issues must be weighed down with sarky qualifiers, needless adjectives and asides – Russia using diplomatic channels to inform the West of their concerns becomes instead: “Russian so-called officials spin already debunked claims of ‘dirty bomb’ in illegally annexed areas of Ukraine following fake referenda as part of evil, unprovoked invasion – what you need to know about the horrible things Russia is planning next.”

        The leakage of editorialising into straight news reporting was obviously noted throughout Trumpmania. The self-regarding cottage industry of ‘fact-checking’ became in practice a justification for reporters turning into scolds. But this is something else, orders of magnitude worse. The media has become literally incapable of describing events at all.

        I could be wrong, but this seems to me an expression of weakness, not strength. Weakness in the ‘narrative’ as publicly understood for what is happening in Ukraine, the history and context. But also weakness in media/political confidence in the extent to which their fellow citizens share the war frenzy currently roiling elite Western circles. Perhaps they are getting jittery as they suspect that the good people of Europe may not be quite so enamoured with Ursula von der Leyen’s antics as they all seem to be, that the good people of the United States do not in fact find Anthony Blinken a paragon of diplomacy and adroit geopoliticking. Better leave nothing to change – better bash us all around the head, over and over, just in case we get any crazy notions like forgetting Russia is evil and everything that happens in Ukraine (and beyond) is their, and only their, fault!

    2. Carolinian

      James Bennet, the NYT editorial chief who was fired for allow an anti BLM op-ed, made some revealing statements lately. He said publisher Sulzberger is terrified of losing the digital subscribers that have saved the paper financially and that the transition from a news to an advocacy business has been quite deliberate. And there has been talk of continuing financial problems at the Washington Post despite support from the mercurial Bezos.

      In other words these famous media names now live less to serve their advertisers than, yes, “the narrative,” which is a perfectly legitimate description popularized by Caitlin Johnstone. While I’ve always thought 1984 was far fetched, our culture is increasingly taking on Orwellian features and Orwell’s “warning, not prediction” describes what our establishment would like to make true even as the notion that it could happen is a stretch.

      I think we are all hungry for some clarity on Ukraine. Putin however seems to be more focused on results than narrative.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, C.

        Your first paragraph sounds like what the Guardian (group) has become, too.

        The group, now owned from the Caymans by a consortium of banks after a debt for equity swap when the Scott family controlled group went bankrupt in 2008 and reliant on reader, Soros and Gates donations to a Delaware charity, has about a billion pounds in the bank, but can monetise its readers.

        The Guardian also devotes more resources to US stories than British ones. Its the same with the BBC.

        1. Tempestteacup

          Even if one was aware that the Guardian has always been a stalwart organ of the left-liberal British mainstream, its degeneration over the last 5-10 years has nonetheless been pretty incredible. As you say, it now moves in lockstep, and amplifies, primarily the news and perspective of its US editorial offices. But many of the most significant milestones in its deterioration took place in the UK. I seem to recall that the appointment of Katherine Viner as successor to the outgoing editor, Alan Rusbridger, was not uncontroversial – and what came next was, in practice, a purge or banishment of every contributor whose views were not entirely embedded in a transatlantic bourgeoisie that was, over the same period, veering wildly towards the right, tossing those quaint old-timey principles of free speech, association and expression overboard as fast as you can say “Julian Assange”.

          I mention Julian because the G’s abandonment of their erstwhile collaborator is one of the shadiest, and most despicable, episodes over the last 10 years. Their capitulation to GCHQ demands to destroy the Snowden hard drives is another – and significant because it was entirely symbolic, since the material was also in the possession of other news organisations. Since then, they ran their self-serving “The Web We Want” – the Guardian We is an unintentionally comedic cipher not for the public or their readers, but the tender hearts of their own opinion writers. It resulted, predictably, in the shutting down of comment sections beneath every article on any ‘controversial’ subject: Russia, China, identity politics, Israel-Palestine. Their moderation policies in turn essentially boiled down to suppressing anything that didn’t agree with whatever it was their editorial line dictated.

          But for many of my British friends, I think the Corbyn era, and the G’s reaction to it, marked the time when previously loyal, if critical, Guardian readers finally confronted the reality of what it was/had become. It wasn’t just that they opposed Corbyn. As with Assange, they quite shamelessly exploited their own credibility to run interference and undermine him precisely at a moment when it may genuinely have been possible to blow open the scope of what was politically possible. And now, of course, they assist in the Starmer project’s burial of Labour as anything other than the B team of neoliberal (AND neoconservative) British capitalism.

          At the same time, and less remarked on, I’ve noticed that their culture section was likewise disintegrated into an absolute morass of IdPol and paeans to corporate dross so excessive as to make me suspect it is bought and paid for. Their film reviews are absolutely worthless, their music section is little more than a series of advertorials for the worst pop acts, and they appear to have given up almost entirely on covering visual art, theatre or classical music.

          As you note, the Guardian affects to be making ‘difficult’ decisions regarding its ever-increasing willingness to sell its services to ‘sponsors’ like the Gates Foundation on the basis of financial necessity despite the fact that its unique history and ownership structure probably insulated it from the worst difficulties faced elsewhere in the world of print media. I wonder if they do so because, in fact, extending the begging bowl to billionaire oligarchs provides a welcome alibi for their by now total collapse into reactionary politics, warmongering and disdain for civil liberties. The independence supposedly conferred by the Guardian Trust became an inconvenience as Western elites abandoned any pretense of liberalism or anti-war sentiment. Even if they could afford to do so, the Guardian didn’t want to miss out on complementing the sentiments of their friends in the political, corporate and cultural classes – they might not get invited to the nicest parties in London, New York or Washington DC!

      2. Colonel Smithers

        I forgot to add that, over the week-end, the BBC kept saying that Ukraine was a periodic table, chemistry set and THE commodity superpower and PUTIN was responsible for famine in Africa.

        Having worked in banking / trade finance since the mid 1990s, including for firms that operate(d) in the former USSR, and being a keen student of geography, I was surprised by that.

      3. Lex

        I’d be much more willing to buy that reasoning from Bennet if it was new behavior. The NYT almost single-handedly launched the “crack baby” narrative and was deep in the “super predator” narrative construction that played into building the prison industrial complex. They swore they’d stop using single anonymous sources after Iraq, but went right back to it. It took them a year to correct the record they set about how the 2008 Georgian war started. I don’t doubt that trends are accelerating, but the NYT has the track record to argue that the trends aren’t new.

        1. John Wright

          The NYT will lobby for a war (Iraq), get their war, then later have a retrospective about how they got it wrong.


          This is “having your cake and eating it too” assuming the newspaper doesn’t lose many disgusted subscribers.

          I quit my NYT digital subscription about this time (2004) and got a phone call from someone representing the Times.

          He asked why I didn’t renew and I said because of the Times Iraq War advocacy.

          He responded that he had heard this from others.

          Not enough people are disgusted with the Times to get them to change, if that is possible.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          I remember reading Libra back in the 90s, which is a fictional account of the runup to the JFK assassination written by Don deLillo.

          At one point in the story, a spook type is explaining to one of the main characters that a commonly believed news story is false. The main character replies that the story can’t be false because he read it in the newspaper. The spook then points out that he was the one who had the false story planted in the newspaper to begin with.

          Given that the novel was fictional and I was still rather naive at the time, I remember wondering whether something like that could really happen.

          These days I wonder if there was ever a time when that type of thing didn’t happen.

          1. Acacia

            Operation Mockingbird.

            It’s a measure of the “news” establishment when we learn about this from a Don DeLillo novel.

      4. XXYY

        There’s no reason to hypothesize any recent change in the New York Times business model to explain the paper’s role as a propaganda organ. Those of us who were around for the Vietnam war in the 60s and 70s, for the Central America invasions in the 80s, and the various Iraq invasions in the 90s and 00s remember well the New York Times pushing the various narratives of the day in support of US military action. The paper’s management is long known for pushing what I believe they call The Narrative in service to the larger goals of US elites.

        1. Telee

          And don’t forget the daily articles by Judith Miller centered on Iraq’s aluminum tubes which “proved” that Sadam was making nuclear weapons. These articles were an essential part of building up support for the invasion of Iraq. Even more egregious was the headline at the top of the front page of the NYT proclaiming that there was no radioactivity released as a result of bombing Japan with atomic bonds. They were supporting US propaganda denying the sickness and death resulting from radioactivity. Such is the integrity of the NYT and our press in general. Why be surprised that our ” news’ is frequently just amplifying government propaganda?


          This article completely ignores the views of Col. Douglas MacGregor and Scott Ritter who know the military and give rational explanations of the motives and strategy of Russia’s military stance.
          The main thing we need before we engage in nuclear war are negotiations which the US adamantly refuses to allow. I suppose the US would rather engage in nuclear war instead of any compromise that allow for a neutral Ukraine. A policy supported even by Bernie and the squad. Biden’s policies are wrecking the European economies and may well lead to the incineration of us all. Jeffery Sachs among others is completely clear about this.

      5. Librarian Guy

        I mean, to be fair, I assume the “anti-BLM” op-ed that Bennett was dismissed for was the Arkansas neo-segregationist Tom Cotton’s (gosh, wonder why that’s his family name) “call in the troops” & “gun all the (n—–s) down so they learn not to be uppity” piece? That was pretty over the top for a genteel Imperialist/ covertly white supremacist Legacy media piece not just in my mind, but I think even much of the PMC assumed that would be a “bad look.” Also, let’s not forget, since the main topic of this thread is Russia and conflicts in the Slavic lands, that Russia might never have had a full on Red revolution and killing of the Romanovs had that Czarist government not massively gunned down the serfs peacefully coming to beg their “loving” patriarch for relief from misery. Not that the likes of Cotton would know any European history, but I’m sure his attitude toward non-whites is rather like what the Czars thought of their serfs, so the piece was a true reflection of how little history changes even after a century.

      6. digi_owl

        For the longest time warnings like Orwell’s were brushed aside by two elements.

        First was the sheer logistics off it.

        Second was the need to appear better than the enemy on the other side of the iron curtain.

        Well the enemy is gone, and the digital world has eliminated the logistics off it more or less completely.

      7. Yves Smith Post author

        Caitlin Johnstone does not have remotely the reach to have popularized the use of “narrative”. Media insiders and political consultants in the US were all over it long before her.

        1. earthling1

          Sharon Atkinson wrote a great book on it called “Slanted”.
          In it she describes it’s use in her early days.

      8. lambert strether

        > a perfectly legitimate description popularized by Caitlin Johnstone

        Not so. I can’t even remember when it was first popularized, but my guess is pre-Obama

        1. Brian Wilder

          it would be impossible to date precisely how a phrase transitioned from ordinary denotation to a stock cliche heavy with connotation: obviously a process with loads of repetition spread across a community.

          I remember the early political blogosphere was obsessed with observing and taking apart framing and both deliberate and inadvertent attempts to exploit semantic generalization and reaction. Digby was once upon a time outstanding and subtle in observing, for example, how “voter fraud” as a meme evolved out of the partisan fever swamps and a body politic that listened to “the discourse” with all the attention and analytic understanding of a dog in a Gary Larson Far Side panel. Even before Digby, the Daily Howler (bob somerby) was calling out the Media for its use of “scripts” in political reporting. The venerable Atrios has continued lo these many years to generate observations along similar lines.

          more academic or book-length pieces have been appearing for decades. I failed just now to find a book in my pile aimed at trial lawyers explaining how “narrative” works and can be structured to persuade and cannot give a publication date which has to have been more than 20 years ago. and I recall, too, interest in the use of hypnotic trance induction in advertising and salesmanship traceable to the 1950s at least. remember “neuro-linguistic programming”?

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      yeah…and again, i’m using mom as my representative sample of PMC/Maddow Fan…so apply salt.
      the other day when i mentioned the ridiculousness of russia shelling a nuke plant it’s own people were currently occupying…1. she didn’t know that russia was occupying it and 2. kept insisting that russia was doing the shelling…because of the Evil putin and his Evil Plan to take over the world.
      when i countered further, citing various studies and reports from long before the current conflict, that Russia’s long term military spending strongly indicates Defensive Plans, rather than World Domination…or even a hankering for rebuilding the Soviet Empire…she laughed maniacally(!)…while, notably, offering no actual rebuttal.
      it is simply TRUE that Putin has designs on Empire.
      similarly, when i list…more or less(this was all ad hoc extemporaneious, in the car, flying down the highway)….the history of US/Nato provocations and warmongering and color revolutions and NED and Vicky Nuland and on and on….i’m met with a re-parroting of the latest “gosh darn” revelation from Rachel.
      if mom is more or less representative…it’s pretty damned scary.
      the certainty….”I KNOW”…especially.
      no circumspection, no studied veil of ignorance or “i know that i don’t know” as first necessary step to finding out…just strong assertions of things that my own approach has indicated are patently false…even straying into Bizzarro World territory.
      i almost hope desantis can provide a near trumpian level of chaos and crazy so as to negate the need for all this…at least desantis doesn’t have nukes.

      1. semper loquitur

        Forget coke. Forget heroin or fentanyl. If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that the most addictive drug in the world is a sense of certainty.

        1. Earl Erland

          Thank you sl.

          What spare time we have we all get to go about on the certainty of the Anthropocene. I do not see that as a drug. Certainty of Death Blinds. Certainty of Death can be Confusion (not required). Certainty of Death can cause Renunciation. Certainty of Death can creates End of Days. Certainty of Death can Create Hope. I do not recommend this, but since we seem to be suicidal, why not go out with a bang?

      2. Fred

        I do think there seems to be a type of woman who is really susceptible to the evil Putin narrative.

        Iv had friends come up to me breathlessly in the street asking if I know about ‘Putin’.

        Its almost like some kind of psychosexual hysteria

        They are all totally convinced they are not being propagandized as they read the Guardian.

        Frightening indeed.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Conversely, there’s a set of men (Bush, Trump) who are attracted to him… maybe it’s those awesome beefcake (boy, am I dating myself here) shirtless horseback pics…

        2. Paul

          Ok. Just for Freudian giggles… My 1st wave feminist aunt is getting dementia and just says it now. Per her view on this trend:

          Is it because Putin is a macho, sorta 1/2 dark, and foreign kind of father figure? Like a Victorian would see the Sultan figure in a risque novel?

          Not exactly attractive but maybe with a few of the old Sean Conneries could be a bit moreso?

          See also would always make wildly inappropriate comments about how Putin would intimidate western women like Pelosi who saw their men as unable to defend them from his advances…

          Then launch into how for the men it was rather similar!

          So its also a certain type of man as much as woman here. Before we labeled everyone categorically I’d just say some men a bit bored with heterosexuality are a bit curious about all those strapping lads in spartian like terms.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Huh? Putin is super pale and blonde. And he’s not strapping. He’s 5’7′, learned judo because kids were beating up on him. Maybe it’s the martial arts mystique.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              This makes me think that Biden would be a regular at Socchi if Putin was 6’1″. They think he’s a Rahm Emanuel because of his height.

        3. digi_owl

          Cognitive autoimmune disease.

          Kinda like how to a certain degree mild allergies are possibly related to underexposure of substances, this “hysteria” is produced by a mind not accustomed to “hardships”. Thus any news that may produce a fear response end up producing screaming panics.

    4. fairleft

      The former major news outlets in the West transformed themselves (roughly 20 years ago) into makers of propaganda for the Western foreign policy and military establishment. There are far more real (though far from perfect) news sources out there.

      I don’t like wasting time reading propaganda, and I don’t understand why others (still) knowingly take in so much of it. I’d rather have Alex Mercouris provide real news and occasionally read and parse revealing samples the West’s propaganda (so I don’t have to).

      1. Joe Renter

        I read the propaganda while in WC. I think it’s apropos. Knowing what the enemy’s putting out is a starting point to understanding the baseline.

      2. Fred

        I think the broadsheet papers were always there to make sure the middle classes supported wars/empire.
        The red tops exist to make sure the working class vote tory and the broadsheets are there to make sure the middle class dont make a fuss about the latest war.

      3. Tom Bradford

        I don’t like wasting time reading propaganda, and I don’t understand why others (still) knowingly take in so much of it. I’d rather have Alex Mercouris provide real news

        I follow Mercouris too as my main source and am impressed both by his generalised background, bringing up things from >20-30 years ago I’d forgotten if I ever knew, the amount of reading of news-feeds etc. he does and what he claims he gets ‘privately’ from others of his followers.

        Nevertheless he and Christoforou don’t make any secret of where their sympathies lie and the line between ‘real news’ and propaganda isn’t always clear. I don’t think they’d knowingly report anything false but inevitably they are going to be reading propaganda amongst their sources, and even when passing it on with disclaimers that it’s unverified your own propaganda warning filters are going be have to more finely tuned to pick it up at second hand. Plus there is the ever-present, and inevitable, danger of their taking a more favourable slant on the news – especially ‘bad’ news – than it might objectively deserve.

        I understand ‘trust but verify’ is actually a Russian saying that was adopted by Reagan, but while I do trust Mercouris to honestly call it as he sees it I’m unfortunately not in a position to verify it and so don’t accept everything he says uncritically.

        Never forget: “Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” — Joseph Goebbels

        1. fairleft

          The caveats are wise, and over several years you do see that bias toward ‘collapse of the collective West’ in the Duran’s reporting. But it’s increasingly slight (reality is catching up with wishful thinking), and I think Mercouris has been excellent in his Ukraine war coverage.

          But did he see the successful Ukraine August offensive in Kharkiv coming? No. Should he have? Maybe, but nobody knew how undermanned Russian forces had become until after the fact. And his analysis of why the offensive succeeded was very quick and excellent.

        2. Jen

          I have heard Mercouris state more than once that any analyst needs to be aware of the tendency to gravitate towards conclusions that support their own biases. He’s also usually quick to acknowledge when he’s gotten something wrong.

      4. Alan Roxdale

        There were always propaganda. The only difference now is people have the internet to find other sources, so it is far more obvious.

      5. fairleft

        Two latest exposures …

        Moon of Alabama comes through with an excellent example of how “opposite of news” these former news outlets now are. You would be misinformed on the two most important aspects of the Davos in the Desert story — the Saudis snubbing the Biden admin, and the Biden _not_ discouraging US business execs from participating in the conference — if you had read the NY Times fairy tale.

        Also …

        1. fairleft

          Also, this story from Sputnik News (can’t link, I guess) — “Western Economic Experts Bet Against China’s ‘Zero Covid’. They Just Lost” — lists seemingly every top Western financial ‘journalism’ site (Bloomberg, WSJ, NY Times, Financial Times, Economist) and its prediction that ‘Zero Covid’ would fail and/or hurl China into a recession.

          Big reveal: ‘Zero Covid’ is not expensive in China. Lots of moderately/poorly paid security guards and medical technicians, a few well-organized planners, a free app, and the rest is semi-automatic. But the easily gathered facts didn’t fit the propaganda need, so Western ‘prestige journalists’ did what they do.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            That story is highly simplistic. Its not correct to say China is not suffering economic losses from zero covid – for one thing, its been absolutely devastating for numerous small businesses especially in the hospitality sector and has clearly reduced overall economic growth which is much lower than previous projections. Nobody – certainly not the Chinese government – is denying this – it has enacted many local level initiatives to try to mitigate the considerable damage.

            Zero Covid is clearly the better strategy to save lives, and almost certainly better in the long term for any economy. But to claim that its just an administrative cost is objectively not true. It has been enormously disruptive to normal economic life in many Chinese cities.

            1. The Rev Kev

              A question. You say that it has been enormously disruptive to normal economic life in many Chinese cities. Would that not be only true for cities fighting of mass infections? Those cities that are clear of the virus would only need the constant monitoring so would not be so disrupted so much.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                From what I understand it, most disruption comes not from crackdowns, but the fear of getting caught in one. People aren’t going out socializing much or travelling because of the potential for finding yourself stuck in a restaurant or hotel or office if someone tests positive. Its not just inconvenience – if you go somewhere for a weekend or a work trip and find yourself having to stay a week in a hotel because of a local lockdown, you pay the bill.

                There is also a problem with the sheer randomness of local responses, there is little consistency on how local health authorities deal with a suspected outbreak. Its having a hugely cramping effect on peoples lives – which for most is a price worth paying I would guess. But for many businesses its a nightmare. And the testing itself is biting heavily into peoples time.

                1. fairleft

                  The constant testing is not a major problem economically or timewise, but I was mistakenly focusing only on that and not the other main aspect of ‘Zero Covid’, the ‘lockdowns’ and partial lockdowns. You’re right about their sometimes serious effects on small businesses and travel/leisure industry. But the recent economic growth data shown in the Sputnik article indicates they have less overall effect than some had thought. Two possible reasons: they’re generally much less severe and much briefer than the Shanghai lockdown of several months ago, and they always affect a very small % of China’s population at any given time.

    5. Glen

      MSM, and even some “alternative/independent” reporting is turning to complete [family blogging] crap. It’s interesting watching even some of the “independent” reporting turn to mush. I would imagine fearing losing the YT channel can bring maximum pressure to conform. (If your business depends on google, you don’t have a business.)

      Yves was very prescient to get the NC web server moved.

      1. Librarian Guy

        PBS turned to garbage in the last 2 decades. I stopped watching “The News Hour” c. 2019 when they had on the “Venezuelan ambassador” who immediately began raving about Maduro’s “corruption” & how he would soon be ousted from power (couped). I immediately realized this was a Juan Guaido stooge. Now, the “News” Hour could’ve respected its (somewhat, usually) educated audience just a smidge and put in some statement prior to the broadcast that “he represents the ‘alternative’ (CIA-MIC-Bolton) “appointed” ambassador” but couldn’t be bothered. Such an insult to my intelligence as a news watcher that I resolved never to watch them again. And I haven’t. (Did see the clip of Schifrin interviewing the “freedom fighter”/Nazi mayor when a big painting of a glorified Bandera on his wall was accidentally shown, on an alternative site, probably MoA or Ben Norton.)

    6. amos untermench

      Right. But that is why you CAN engineer truth out of bullshit. I am using the American preconception of ‘bullshit’ here in a philosophical sense, guided by the learned droppings of professor Harry Frankfort in his trenchant philosophical trreatise ON BULLSHIT.

      You have to assume that the US power system is an oligarchy pretending to be a democracy who uses the corporate media to serve its own interests rather than those of the American people. You then can try to determine what the truth is for the people, discarding the customary truthdreck as being part of the ficitonal narrative.

      1. LifelongLib

        There was that guy who went through WW2 in Germany, where the news always said the Germans were winning. He could tell what was really happening because the ‘victories’ kept getting closer and closer — we’ve destroyed the enemy at Normandy, we’ve won a decisive battle near Paris, we’ve driven the Allies back from the Rhine. Sad that we have to read between the lines of our ‘free press’ in a similar way…

        1. digi_owl

          That is the benefit of physical media, one can keep it around and compare and contrast.

          These days a robot.txt change and poof it is all gone from every search engine and even achive.org.

    7. ChrisRUEcon

      > The most surprising thing to me is that anyone in the world believes anything the US states publicly now.

      The inception is deep. Remember, we have had eight years of #RussiaGate planting seeds weeknight after weeknight by the likes of Maddow. It’s truly incredible. There is very little critical thinking in #TeamBlue masses …

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes but most observers believe a ground attack on Kherson had to happen by at latest last week and this week would result in Ukraine vehicles being largely limited to using roads to advance.

      1. John

        The attack on Kherson sounds more and more like the German breakout from Stalingrad … coming any day now.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          This makes me think the current Team Blue strategy is to build a paper trail to tell donors that they tried. Donors, not the crooked ones, are just like local committee Dems. They’ll buy almost anything.

          At this point, Biden doesn’t need a win for the midterms. He needs a win to justify the ask for 2024. He will blame the voters for not recognizing his greatness and Republicans for cut and run policies.

          Biden promised a vote on Roe on day 1 of 2023. He needs this for the choir and front row types who can kind of recognize Biden did jack about abortion among other issues.

          1. Skip Intro

            Who needs Manchin and Synema as an excuse for betraying your voters, when you have a GOP-run House.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              This is a goal, but their defense is local committee Dims and “well meaning” donors. Think of the dips who took down their weathered blm signs to put up Ukraine flags. They still need a picture of red meat.

      2. Alan Roxdale

        I am deeply skeptical that American’s would care about an attack on Kherson or any city outside of Keyev. For what interest they have, the killing of some general or destruction of an airfield maybe. Even then I don’t see it influencing voters in the least. You’d need a dam break, or dirty bomb, or total Ukranian blackout, and even then would Americans then given more votes to the chief war party?

        1. Paula

          Personally, I cannot vote for a party that with not negotiate, will not stand by their own platform of more diplomacy, and relentlessly pursue actions that keep a war in play and keep voting to send more arms to Ukraine to kill themselves with. “They murdered the best. We’re stuck with the rest.”

    2. Louis Fyne

      to pierce the echo-bubble world of DC…a tacticak/Kherson victory, or loss, in ukraine is going to change zero votes!

      Voters are P.O.ed about (take pick) inflation or a culture war issue.

      Ukraine is out of sight, out of mind. Apart from being a massive resource sink that is distracting the White House, Congress, Dem. intelligensia from US domestic issues

      1. Karl

        You’re right, up to a point. As the election heats up more, Biden’s failed foreign policy may start leaching into voters’ brains particularly if Republican candidates bring it up as one more reason to vote Republican. A lot of the problems of our globally-dependent economy (e.g. inflation, which you cited as a top voter concern) is due to supply effects from anti Russia/China/Iran sanctions. In close races, Republicans may play this card, and it may be effective. I suspect right now, both Parties’ DC HQs have told candidates to avoid discussing Ukraine, but in close races I think this restraint will go out the window close to election day.

      1. polar donkey

        Bureaucrat has to spend the money by end of fiscal year or no more money next year. hmm..Can’t say monkeypox because stigma and reminding people CDC sucks. Already did our Covid quota of PSA’s. What’s left in the news?….Nuclear war with Russia. Dusting off Dick Clark’s PSA greatest hits. Everyone loves nostalgia!

    1. semper loquitur

      The best part of that bizarre episode was the narrator looking at the camera with a confident eye and telling the viewer “You got this.” As if it was about finishing a 1K run or learning to walk on crutches. But it jives with my experiences talking to people about the prospect of nuclear war with Russia or China. I’ve been told that we have to do what we are doing because, despite the risk of nuclear war, it’s the right thing to do because Putin is a monster. I’ve been told that no one would actually push the buttons anyway. I’ve also been told that even if there was a nuclear war, it can’t happen here because we are too far away.

      1. Joe Renter

        Putin a monster… I was involved in the family garage sale over the weekend and struck up a conversation with older guy who served in the military in the 70’s. Somehow the proxy war came up, he said Putin was like Hillter. “You have to stop him now”, as he will take over the rest of the continent. I replied about NATO’s expansion and presence next to Russia. He might have gotten something out our conversation. I am just amazed that people don’t take the time to question the spoon feeding. It’s like Goebbels X 2.

        1. semper loquitur

          Per my comment above, people crave certainty above all else. A villain, a righteous war, and a hero like Zelensky hit all the right notes. A clear moral mission in a world of swirling gray.

          1. digi_owl

            Maintaining one’s bearings on a sea of churning gray can be exhausting. Lump some health and economic issues on top and it can be easy to default back to pack mentality. Less energy needed that way.

        2. The Rev Kev

          Pat Lang over at Turcoplier has really gone off the deep end with Russia and the Ukraine. And he was a professional once upon a time. Sad that. If you could talk to him and mention about NATO’s expansion, he would now accuse you of being a Putin agent.

  2. OIFVet

    “I wouldn’t pay any attention to the reported words of the Commander, by the way. Generals don’t get to decide things like that.”

    Here is why this talk still bothers me. Simply put, generals also do not get to decide to say such things unless authorized at high level. Given the gravity of the situation, I would even say the authorizatuon for such talk must come from the highest level. So, we are left with two possibilities:
    1. The highest level decision-makers are bonkers and think that they can posture and bluff Russia into backing off. We all know that Russia will not back off, it’s an existential matter to them. So we are left with the classic scenario of a posturing buffoon in a bar who can’t back off because he can’t lose face. And we know the US is one such buffoon,
    And 2. We have a rogue circle within the military, likely encouraged from interested civilians, which is highjacking a high-stakes issue. The danger here is self-evident: breaking the chain of command makes things unpredictable and people – unaccountable. That’s a bad combination.

    I don’t like either possibility and prudence demands that the issue is not dismissed out of hand.

    1. Ignacio

      Regarding rogue actors my opinion is that it is quite possible you might find lots of these in Western countries. This is what transpires from the noises made by the media. Whether state controls are really in control of the situation i hope so. But it is only hope right now. There are, of course, lots of noises in the other side so it is nearly impossible to evaluate whether the dirty bomb stuff makes sense or not. Problem is that the concentration of such rogue actors may be highest in Ukraine given the awful situation there. One wonders, for instance, what extremes Banderite types might actually reach in pursue of their objectives or in self defence.

    2. David

      I think if you look carefully, all that the General said is that his troops are combat-ready. It’s the journalists who have invented the idea of a move into Ukraine. I suspect that the General was simply told to say that his troops are ready for combat, on the understanding that they were defending NATO territory against some hypothetical attack. If the US government really wanted to pass a message as sensitive as that they were considering a move into Ukraine, they would have chosen a much more high-profile way to do it. I don’t think there are any rogue actors here: the last thing the US military wants to do is fight Russia, and being sent to deploy between Russians and Ukrainians is the stuff of which nightmares are made.

      1. OIFVet

        David, he said the 101st is ready to go to Ukraine. The general’s exact words were “We are prepared to fight tonight, depending on how the situation escalates ACROSS the border.” Translating the military speak, he says they are ready to deploy INSIDE Ukraine and fight.

        I repeat, such talk does not emanate from any general’s mouth of his own volition. The US is huffing and puffing and hoping that Russia will back off. The question is, will this talk escalate into action once Russia does not back off. I submit it is highly dangerous to make statements like the general’s because the potential loss of face becomes greater, i.e. the stakes escalate for the US as well.

        1. hk

          My hunch is (still) that the troops are there for “Pristina”ing the Russians: if the Russians are approaching too close to a key objective, and Odessa seems eminently reasonable, they will be airlifted in rapidly not so much to fight (as everyone noted, they aren’t equipped to fight) but to dare the Russians to attack them. Very risky: no one can be sure that Russians won’t “Clark” them, and/or if the paratroopers will get too aggressive for their own good notwithstanding their weakness. The 82nd had been staying put b/c Russians have not made moves on Odessa (and do remember that Biden himself made noises about them going into Ukraine, iirc, when they were being deployed.). Do the current noises mean that the West is once again expecting a big Russian move aimed at Odessa? (A lot of ppl seem to be expecting it, after all)

          1. OIFVet

            Putting them in the way of the Russians is going to lead to WW3. Simply put, the US, EU, and NATO have no treaty with Ukraine whatsoever. And Obam himself said that the US has no vital interests in Ukraine. So why would they be ready to go into Ukraine? Yes, to try to get between Russia and Odessa is one possibility. Another is our old and much-dreaded friend, the “responsibility to protect,” which actually dovetails nicely with Russia’s warnings about Ukraine planning to use a dirty bomb as a false flag and excuse to get US/NATO involved.

            Sorry, but being dismissive of the risks represented by the words spoken by the commanding general is a rather nonchalant stance given the US track record and its deeper descent into irrationality. Just in case the viewers didn’t catch the gist of the general’s words, the CBS transcriber statet it clearly enough at the end: the 101st is ready to go into Ukraine at a moment’s notice.

            I don’t want to be the fly in the ointment but I don’t want to close my eyes and ears to the reality either.

            1. hk

              I fully expect that they are intended to go in as I expect Russians will make their move on Odessa sooner or (than?) later. I think no one serioys is stupid enough that 101st can actually “fight” the Russians, for R2P or whatever–if they go in for R2P reasons, I figure their MO would be the same as if they were sent in for Odessa, as expensive human shield/tripwire. But, unlike the English at Pristina, I don’t think Russians will have any compunction against sweeping them aside if they pull off that trick.

            2. digi_owl

              US the nation may not. But it may well be that certain high up politicians have. Why else was the son a certain one bouncing around there for years?

        2. David

          It depends which version you read: the Antiwar quote above has the bit about fighting in Ukraine outside the direct quotation marks. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, and I strongly suspect that the conversation may have gone as follows:

          Q: Are you ready to fight?
          A: Yes we’re ready to fight tonight.
          Q And are you ready to fight in Ukraine?
          A: If we’re sent there, yes.

          I’ve seen too many cases where the media have constructed artificial quotes not to be suspicious here. In any event, Washington is going to have to make a clear statement about this before too long.

          1. OIFVet

            Here is the CBS report in full. The general’s words begin at about the 1:30 mark: https://twitter.com/i/status/1583596082541383680

            And here is another version of the report, https://twitter.com/i/status/1583830986785030144, where the MSM transcriber explicitly states “It’s not just about defending NATO territory, if the fight escalated and NATO partners are under threat, they are fully prepared to cross into Ukraine if ordered to do so.”

            There you have it, said NATO “partners” is Ukraine and I repeat, the message is not something a general or a colonel will say without approval from higher level.

            1. David

              Thanks. It’s the words “ordered to do so” that are important though. Any commander is going to say that he’ll follow orders. Whether there’s someone stupid enough to give such orders is obviously another issue.

            2. Fred

              The phrase ‘NATO partners’ can be read two ways.

              The partners of NATO, so possibly refering to Ukraine.

              Or ‘The NATO partners’ meaning every country that makes up NATO, so NOT Ukraine.

              I wonder if he intended to be so vague?

            3. anon in so cal

              >Anyone think Kherson is a diversion?

              >101st Airborne—Russia has to take Odessa. When Russia makes its move, the 101st enters the scene. 101st gets attacked, then the US and NATO escalate. They are itching to do so.

              > “cooler heads” who might these be?

  3. eric bowman

    Well, I’m sure this is a result of reading too much fiction, but I wonder if the airborne are, at one level , the suggestion of a threat ( multiple fronts ). And, depending on the “success” of the Ukrainian forces (some planning to “realize” that threat… Helicopter assults here & there) or the “loaning” of transport (helicopters) to the Ukrainians to do that work.
    The political footwork will get interesting….Russia, Romania, US, Ukraine, NATO.
    I’m sure we’ll find out.

  4. Irrational

    Some very enlightening discussion here today, not that it makes me feel better. Thanks to all, but in particular PK and OIFVet.

  5. nippersdad

    There has been such a lot of fuss over the personnel at the ZNPP that, perhaps, the dirty bomb idea had something to do with that.

    Potential scenario: Perhaps there was the possibility of letting off a dirty bomb in the reservoir behind the dam being used as a pretext. Say one lets off a bomb in the reservoir, the radioactive material is detected and then referred to the UN inspectors at the ZNPP. In a false flag they say it is a problem with the way the Russians are managing it, and then that forms the nucleus for the need to get the DMZ they have been asking for for months.

    Dirty bombs may not make for good weapons, but they would be wonderful for PR purposes.

    1. Polar Socialist

      According to Russia media (vz.ru, in Russian) the idea of a Ukrainian “dirty bomb” would be to create a dispersal of suitable isotopes simulating a Russian low-yield detonation (a.k.a. tactical nuke). And then make a huge ruckus out of that.

      Some experts seem to think that Shoigu spilling the beans makes it harder to sell (in the Global South, that is) possible detonation as Russian nuke, which is likely to defuse the situation. Other think that West’s refusal to trust the claim makes it more likely to happen.

      1. nippersdad

        Even tactical nukes would inflict a lot of damage, though. Conventional weapons of that size sound like they are thin on the ground in Ukraine. Seems like you would have to disguise the size of the bomb blast in order to make it believable, even for the Western press.

        The tell for me, anyway, was the sudden outcry of “transparently false accusations”. It just sounds like there might be something to it and they got caught with their pants down. I used to have more faith in the UN inspectors, even after the Syrian chemical weapons debacle, so my disappointment in the inspectors at that nuclear plant may be at the root of my distrust that they have nothing to do with it.

        One always hates traitors more than actual enemies.

      2. wendigo

        One version involves a simulated “fizzle”, by spreading highly enriched uranium. Certainly a way of disposing of any weapons grade material you have laying around.

      3. David

        Well, yes, but if I’ve understood you correctly, you’d still need the detonation, and even a “low yield” (multi-kiloton) detonation would be noticeable and detectable by other means, or rather its absence would be. I wonder if western denials this morning are a coded message that the Ukrainians have indeed been Spoken To about this.

      4. Petter

        These low yield nukes aren’t that low, as discussed in the latest War Nerd podcast, to name one example. Even the name “tactical” is problematic. The Hiroshima Bob was 12 metric ton, “tactical” nukes can be up to a hundred -or more, I’m not so sure on the specifics.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Now talk of dirty bombs is bandied about? I just finished watching the HBO series “Chernobyl” again. I know it is a dramatization of events but if it is at all close to the reality of what happened and what could have happened — what kind of Elite in the Ukraine could order shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant? Might they willingly ruin Ukraine rather than see it go down in defeat? Consider this speculation combined with this closing observation from the post:
      “…the more the prospect of battlefield success recedes for Ukraine, the more Ukraine will fall back to terrorist acts. The dirty bomb idea, whether just (potentially idle) chatter or a more advanced scheme, is just an example of what Ukraine could try to execute.”
      I can only hope Russia succeeds in hobbling Ukraine very quickly indeed.

  6. Dave in Austin

    Thank you for the Lambert reverse-engineer quote. It made my morning. Now about reality:

    A Ukraine official says that the economy and employment will shrink 30% in the first year of the war. Inflation is at 30%. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2022/10/24/russia-ukraine-live-news-kherson-announces-local-militia. 20-25% of the population of 43 million has left. Three million Ukrainians, mostly men, were working in Russia before the war and there is no indication that any large number has returned to the Ukraine and no indication that either Putin or the Russian public consider them to be a security threat.

    As US Civil War and WWII experience indicates, a first rush of patriotic sentiment creates a wave of volunteers. A year later the stream of volunteers has shrunk and by the third year governments are dependent on the draft. Profiteering and black markets also increase. The message is most people don’t like the danger and inconvenience of war. While there seems to be no large-scale resistance in Russia to the draft or the reserve call-up, there also seems to be no enthusiasm. This winter the lack of consumer goods will be hard on Russians and the deprivations caused by the war will be much harder on Ukrainians.

    A 30% unemployment rate in a significantly shrunken Ukraine population even after many men have entered service indicates that real civilian employment is down very significantly. The 30% inflation rate indicates that the large infusion of EU and US cash has not made-up for the reduced production and probably the reduced value of Ukrainian exports. Remittances are also probably down.

    The day-to-day events in the war are what we see in the press. This short summary is not a prediction. It is an attempt to describe where we are and provide hints on where we are likely to be going.

    1. nippersdad

      “While there seems to be no large-scale resistance in Russia to the draft or the reserve call-up, there also seems to be no enthusiasm. This winter the lack of consumer goods will be hard on Russians and the deprivations caused by the war will be much harder on Ukrainians.”

      Russians have endured far worse things over the years than the temporary inability to buy a toaster. They had seventy thousand volunteers in addition to the call-up and all the reports I have seen indicate that the shelves are full for normal needs, so I think they will prolly be fine. But you are right about the Ukrainians. They are in a leaky canoe on a pond full of alligators.

      1. tegnost

        “Kuska, dear, please hand me my dostoyevsky, I’m already on page 1,150 of war and peace, and could you turn up the heat a bit? Are there any more blintzes, or maybe a stuffed cabbage….ням-ням!” (i don’t know about the blintzes, it just sounds russiany to me)

        1. nippersdad

          “…And don’t forget that the Bolshoi is on at seven.”

          The funniest thing I think I have seen the past few months was that Russian troll on YouTube that had his gas stove on twenty-four/seven, and how YouTube delisted(?) him for
          violations of community standards.

          You can apparently talk about access to gas, but you get the shiv if you actually show that you have it.

          1. semper loquitur

            I’m curious about how they arrived at the concept of “community standards”. Did they ask the community? Don’t answer that…

    2. Karl

      I’ve heard that probably 50% or more of Ukraine’s GDP is in the annexed regions. So economically, it’s already half the country it was. Yesterday, Mercouris quoted Zelensky as having said that Ukraine needs more cash infusions from the West to stay afloat. It is now, for the U.S., a dependent that will need our support probably for decades. The annexations of the East have disrupted the economic connections with the surrounding areas still under Ukraine’s control. This undoubtedly worsens the economic losses there, while the annexed areas will benefit (over time) with increased connections to Russia.

      Ukraine’s population was reportedly around 40 million at the time of the collapse of the USSR, and declined by 10 million over the next 30 years. With the invasion, it lost perhaps 4 million refugees and another 6 million in the annexed regions. Losing approximately one third of your population since February is going to have reverse multiplier effects.

      As John Mearsheimer predicted in 2015, the U.S. and NATO would lead Ukraine “down the primrose path” and would end up “wrecked” as a country. And now here we are. This should be a big campaign issue as we approach the November mid-terms, but of course it won’t.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘I’ve heard that probably 50% or more of Ukraine’s GDP is in the annexed regions.’

        More like about 80-90% from what i have read. Most of their industries as well as their major farming regions are located in those lost territories. The Ukraine is now officially a basket case.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Please read a broader mix of sources. There are no shortages of consumer goods in Russia. Plenty of accounts from people visiting Russia and vids from stores. Their grocery stores are in way better shape than ours.

      The big ouch for Russia is auto spare parts and some consumer electronics. Some smartphone companies pulled out of Russia. But Samsung was considering returning this month. Apple is not selling iPhones in Russia but is selling computers.

      And I don’t know where you get your claims re enthusiasm for the war. The Russian public is more hawkish than Putin. 70,000 volunteered in addition to the partial mobilization. Support for the war remains at ~80%. It has dropped a teeny bit but that is again largely due to the perception that Putin is not pursuing it aggressively enough.

  7. Gregorio

    Considering how the media has shamelessly floated the narrative that Russia blew up it’s own pipeline and bridge, it’s certainly not a stretch of the imagination, to believe that if dirty bomb was to be detonated in say Sevastopol, Donetsk City, or even Moscow, that the Ukrainian propaganda ministry and their corporate media parrots would label it a desperate Russian false flag attack.

  8. The Rev Kev

    I’m afraid that we can expect more wild news stories in the next several weeks. I mentioned before in another comment how the west has literally bet the bank on Russia being toppled and then eventually looted. But that did not happen and no matter how much they double down on their actions, the end is slowly and relentlessly approaching. Some of what is out of the media is almost sounding frantic now. I think that any elite always follows one principle if corrupted – ‘We must always win.’ And here you can extend it to relations with other countries or cracking down on workers wages & conditions or the performance of any major corporation. We must always win. A smart elite would take occasional losses in order to win the important ones and this is epitomized by that quote ‘If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change.’ But yeah, we do not have that sort of elite. Probably Biden was hoping to go into the Midterms with having beaten Russia down as his main election point.

    But the west is losing. Their bolt was shot long ago any there is very little left in the gas tank to mix some metaphors. All those financial bets are long gone and now they have crippled their own economies still trying to still win. They are left to having people like Macron say that any negotiations must be on the Ukraine’s terms which has no relation to reality. To the narrative perhaps but reality diverged from the narrative a very long time ago. But they know what is coming. In several weeks when the ground is frozen, the Russians will probably go on the offensive. The Ukrainian army will fight but it will be completely outmatched. So I really do not know what the west will do when this happens. Any NATO units sent into the Ukraine will be destroyed. But who knows what stupidity will happen. Maybe trying to seize all Russian ships at sea. Maybe finally trying a no-fly-zone over western Ukraine. Maybe classifying Russia as a terrorist state. In fact, anything to tell the Russians that they have to let the Ukrainians win. The financial stakes for the west if this does not happen are too appalling to even consider. But now reality is about to steamroll all over the narrative.

    1. Lex

      Western “leadership” has painted itself into a deep, deep corner. The panic is becoming palpable, and that’s worrying.

      1. anon in so cal

        The West is frantic and that makes it more unpredictable and much, much more dangerous.

        At this point, the West is capable of anything. Look at the terror attacks they already committed: bombing bridges, blowing up pipelines, assassinations, etc.

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      If the West actually has no way to prevent Asian integration, what do you expect will be the financial and economic impact on the West as Asian Integration happens, and obstructions like Ukraine/Taiwan are tried and have failed?

      Let’s take a poll on what the impacts are. Here’s my short list:

      a. De-dollarization. This is very likely to be a gradual air-leak-from-balloon, not a sudden pop. That will result in a gradual reduction in U.S. borrowing power, curtailing domestic spending for a while, maybe decades.

      b. Energy re-flows to EU. That’s a positive.

      c. Massive war spending curtails a bit in the U.S., where most West military spending happens. West must start choosing between guns and butter.

      d. Attention gets focused on solving big problems, like degraded planet and reduced living stds for Western citizens

      e. Rich people have to concentrate on extracting wealth from Western citizens, instead of Asian citizens / resource pools. Bad for Westerners, good for East. Might be bad for South, tho. They are more vulnerable.

      f. Western oligarchs making a bit less (and maybe not that much less, come to think of it…look at corporate profits lately)

      g. Mfg’g will continue to move back into the West. Wages will go up some.

      What do you see?

      1. spud

        once the free trade empire implodes, the dim wits in the PMC class will see how expensive imports really are.

        the dim wits in the PMC class will find themselves looking into the point of a barrel, as the never can be satiated free traders turn on them, its all they have left to loot.

        it will be entertaining, i hope to be alive to see the fun.

        1. semper loquitur

          Someone, probably here, pointed out that the PMC live in a kind of Limbo. Precarious yet privileged. Smug yet scared. Living the High Life at the convenience of VISA or MasterCard or a second mortgage. 2.5 kids to feed, insure, and educate at the best school they can get into.

          If you think Roe v. Wade or Trump brought out the venom in the PMC, wait until they start losing jobs and homes en masse, becoming the people they deplore. Oh the wailing and rending of cloth. The finger pointing.

      2. John k

        Under a.:
        De-dollarization means to me foreigners are less willing to accept and retain $, which seems to be happening in China, whose dollar holdings are slowly declining in spite of massive and growing trade surplus with us. Perhaps all that surplus is being quickly spent on belt/road projects? I think saudi, too. So far others are willing to hold those $, but seems likely to me these others will eventually have enough? Who knows when eventually arrives.
        But there is no limit to domestic spending, granted if resources are not available at stable prices, Inflation results.

        1. Kouros

          The issue is not only holding USDs but pursuing bilateral trades in their own currencies… which also deprives the US of intel.

      3. Guest2

        I think the US has a way to prevent or rule over Asian integration. I remember Chas Freeman, a very respected retired diplomat, saying month ago that the US was setting up Ukraine for a nuclear exchange. Then Pompeo said somewhere that Ukraine would be another Israel. Israel is allowed to have a nuclear weapon. So what happens, if Ukraine is allowed to “develop” its own nuke and with that deterrent wage conflicts around unpunished in the region a la Israel.In that case, the US does not even need NATO anymore. Then, the Russians, China, the EU, an Central Asian countries face an unsurmountable barrier between Western and Eastern Europe and central Asia. Now, one can say that Russia would not allow that to happen. But, it seems to me that the root cause of this war is this scenario, and gas, energy, everything else is secondary. The past few days developments show that how difficult situation the Russians potentially can be in. How can the Russians square the circle If the US/NATO says they are not party to war, and if the Russians have problem with Ukraine threatening/using/ dirty bomb or tactical nukes, than go to them and cut a deal. But if the Russians would use one, than the US or NATO would strike in response. What if the US simply implies that Ukraine has the permission and the means to use one, but it is up to the Ukraine to decide. How can you even mount any large scale counter-offensive with large troop concentration not knowing whether it is true or not, especially if you have the prospect of not being able to replace your modern army once you lost it.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Well thought out logic, Guest2, and there’s no doubt that Russia anticipated, and continues to anticipate this potentiality.

          There are two possible factors that are now, and will progressively mitigate against Ukraine wielding nukes .vs. Russia:

          a. Russia has made it abundantly clear that any use of nukes against it, from any quarter, starts MAD. No doubt that’s at least part of the text of the flurry of phone calls between Russia’s military brass and their counterparts elsewhere.

          b. The West has just a few months left to put the Ukraine nuke delivery mechanism in place, and goad the fools that would deliver it into action. After that, Russia controls whatever it wants of Ukraine. Range of movement constricts rapidly after that, and the weeding-out process will commence. Recall that the final trigger for SMO was this very talk – Zelensky made reckless remarks about siting nukes in Ukraine pointed at Russia. Just a day or two later, SMO began.

          The logic and consequences of using Ukraine as the nuke launchpad extends to several other countries in the immediate area.

          Neutrality – faux or legitimate – has served those countries well this past several decades. Nothing has changed. If nukes happen, we’re all toast.

          Russia – and therefore the West – has been facing this threat since the start of the SMO. That’s why we were all freaked out about it – Russia was not, is not, will not bluff.

          1. nippersdad

            Also, too, Mercouris and Ritter et al have been saying since the inception of the SMO that the Ukrainian intelligence services and military are thoroughly compromised. That is probably how they found out about a plot like the dirty bomb scenario in the first place.

            If anything comes over that border that smells funny, I suspect it would have the half life of a fruit fly.

          2. Tom Pfotzer

            I direct your attention to remarks made today (24-Oct-2022) by Maria Zakharova, who is the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

            Her short speech – in plain English – is here.

            Below I’ve quoted the final paragraph, but I suggest you read all six short paragraphs if you haven’t already. It is unmistakably clear.

            We demand that the Kiev authorities and the Western sponsors who control them stop taking actions that lead the world to a nuclear catastrophe and threaten the lives of innocent civilians. It is foolhardy to ignore Russian warnings in this regard. It is dangerous to escalate things. The West should not measure the width of the “red line”.

            You’ve been deliberately exposed to this enormous risk by the NeoCons.

            Reflect on that for a minute. Everything you value, in the hands of these crazed fools. That is _not_ hyperbole. Look at what they’re doing.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I have read your comment several times without successfully parsing its meanings. The u.s. is “setting up the Ukraine for a nuclear exchange” according to a respected retired diplomat — Chas Freeman”. If that is the considered opinion of Chas Freeman as you claim, I must say I have little respect for his respected opinion however respected he might be. A nuclear exchange in the Ukraine makes very little sense to me. What target could Ukraine strike if allowed to have a nuclear weapon? — or do I need to assume that some kind of long range delivery platform comes with the allowed nuclear weapon? What objective would a nuclear strike and nuclear exchange achieve? Why would the Russians have to negotiate with Ukraine if the Ukraine is threatening/using/ dirty bombs or tactical nukes … and why would they assume that Ukraine is the origin for these threats? What if the US simply implies that Ukraine has the permission and the means to use one, but it is up to the Ukraine to decide? — What if Russia sees that threat as a direct threat from the u.s. — as I believe it would and should? Russians are not stupid. There is no way Ukraine could be an arms-length proxy nuclear power any more than Cuba could — not so long ago.

          “How can you even mount any large scale counter-offensive with large troop concentration not knowing whether it is true or not, especially if you have the prospect of not being able to replace your modern army once you lost it.”
          That is a question you should ask Ukraine as it awaits an old-fashioned artillery barrage if it should “mount any large scale counter-offensive with large troop concentration”.

    3. spud

      what most people are over looking about this current mess is that the people behind it, the free traders, are completely bankrupt immoral specimens. they have no morals, ethics, empathy, remorse, traits that make a person a whole complete human being.

      they are worse than wild animals, they view everything as theirs, get in their way, you die. whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussions about this period.

      like wild animals, if cornered, watch out. many wild animals once they know the jig is up, they collapse, not a free trader, they become even more dangerous.

      and if i was the military brass who think they are part of the top, they are not. you can see this with hillarys deplorable speech. the free traders are seething with anger more of the deplorable did not die fast enough after what bill clinton did to them with massive incarceration and deaths of despair.

      you could hear the acid in hillarys voice, joe biden just did the same thing. that is why there is the attack on food now. the free traders have ran into what the nazi’s found out, they simply cannot kill the deplorable off fast enough, and the average grunt in the military i am sure are privately viewed as deplorable.

      so if i was military brass, i would view what a free traders does as simply a means to a end, no logic, just pure ferocious greed. maybe the generals do not care, but from a colonel on down should care.

      their greed is ferocious, and can never be satiated.

    4. Kouros

      I would really like to see the no fly zone instated in western Ukraine against the Russian cruise missiles….

    5. Karl

      In several weeks when the ground is frozen, the Russians will probably go on the offensive. The Ukrainian army will fight but it will be completely outmatched.

      During the summer, the Russian strategy seemed to emphasize reducing the Ukrainian military by massive daily artillery shelling. In military parlance this is “preparation of the battlefield” for the next phase, the arrival of troops.

      Now that winter is approaching, it seems Russia has adopted a different method to “prepare the battlefield” for a coming offensive: missile and drone attacks to destroy major portions of its electricity/energy supply. Over the next weeks and months, Ukraine’s soldiers and civilians will then be subject to the wasting effects of cold and hunger. By the time Russia invades, Ukraine’s ability to resist will be significantly reduced by the effects of winter alone.

      Battle field now prepped, and the ground frozen, the artillery barrage can begin anew. The troops will then be able to advance with much greater ease.

      Winter has always been Russia’s ace in the hole.

  9. trapped in Europe

    Even though Iran does apparently have (very) similar drones, these are technologically not complex, so it’s possible, as some claim, that Iran and Russia wound up in pretty much the same place via parallel development.

    Sorry, but i call bs on that. These clearly are Iranian drones. The development of every Russian drone has been widely reported in the Russian and international media, even if the drone is in the prototype stage or only a mockup exists. If Russia had developed a drone (or loitering munition) that is identical to the Shahed-136 we would have known that for quite some time.

    Martyanov, for all his good sides, cannot accept that Russia doesn’t have the best weapons in every area. He is an exceptionalist in that regard.

    1. hunkerdown

      “Iranian” must be the new performative emotion for creatively improvised materiel that punches above its weight. There are a limited number of roles in the ruse-based international order, and Iran drew “wily”.

      1. nippersdad

        “Ruse-based international order.” Loved that!

        There also appears to be a limited vocabulary. “Transparently false” has showed up in every news feed I have to join “unprovoked” and “brutal.” It must be tedious to be a news writer these days; so many templates that must be observed that there is little room for anything else.

        The guy who was assigned the Jack D. Ripper project must have been thrilled to have a diversion from stamping out pie plate journalism for a minute. It must have been a lot more fun than the one who had to write up the “genocide” in Nikolaev because the Russians had turned off the water taps.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Do you make a habit of putting your foot in mouth and chewing?

      You went off the rails in your assumption about the sophistication of these drones. They are very low tech. And I don’t recall Andrei Martyanov making any claims re their sophistication, merely that a subsidiary of the Kalishnikov Concern (sp? not checking due to late hour) was cranking them out.

      Admittedly Larry Johnson made the same mistake as you, thinking the Geran 2 drone was derived from the RQ-170 stealth drone. They are very different. Geran 2 is so simple it’s basically a hobbyist drone with a more powerful prop engine. It’s fired at a static target. Among other differences, the RQ-170 has a turbine engine, not a prop engine.

      See some of the comments on his post:

      I have designed model airplanes (i.e. remote controlled), and fly them as well.
      It’s not really difficult, and there is a mass of documentation and tooling out there that can do significant parts of the work for you.
      Creating a RQ-170 however is a LOT of work (they are after all very expensive).
      Creating a Geran 2 looks very doable to me, a simple fuselage with two stubby wings attached. Pretty conventional if you ask me….
      Btw: You can find a lot of Geran 2 type ‘drones’ at hobby stores all over the world.
      Looking at the Geran 2, I am struck by the simplicity. You could design a Geran 2 with a slide rule and some (profile) charts. Building them is also incredibly simple, each part can be build on its own, and then “glued” together in the final assembly. Set up a factory, and you can churn them out by the thousands. Very cheap too. Given that Iran had reasons to assume an attack by the US was likely, it would seem plausible to me that this is what they have done: created/stockpiled thousands of Geran 2’s to swarm the US troops if it ever came to a conflict.

      I tend to agree.
      100 dollars gets you a basic design…

      So I find it plausible that this drone is so dumb Russia would not list it in its drone program because it has no novel tech and pretty much any country can make it (ie, no military sales value) and Russia would look sorta stoopid to list it as something it had “developed”.

      I also owe an apology to Dave in Austin. He was correct in identifying that these were simple prop engine drones. I got derailed by Larry Johnson. People like me are too often only as good as their sources. One good thing about Mercouris is he will admit to getting things wrong based on incomplete/early information.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          With all due respect, Doctorow is not informed about drone tech, and his commentary, while subtle and astute, is based on public information (watching Russia political TV shows and other news, carefully parsing speeches) or anecdata from his travels. His sweet spot is his reading of the popular and elite/opinion maker mood, and not adjudicating facts.

          He does not have the expertise or contacts to opine on drone tech and manufacture. He is likely replicating the same mistaken assumption as Johnson, that these are technologically sophisticated drones (and because not in Russian drone program, must have been acquired) as opposed to a souped up consumer drone than anyone who can make propeller engines can make.

          Plus I didn’t read him as actually strongly opining. He was conceding the point that the drones were Iranian and saying given all the US support for Ukraine, it was ridiculous and super hypocritical for the West to make a stink even if you assume that’s true.

          1. Stephen

            That was my understanding of what he said too. Calling out hypocrisy seemed to be the prime point.

            I have seen various comments in media saying that wreckage of the drones has been identified as Iranian! Sounds like total garbage too. Does every component have an Iranian flag on it, or a “Made in Iran” sticker in Perso-Arabic script?

            Western MIC clearly cannot cope either with the fact that even today effective weapons can be made cheaply if you put your mind to it. Multi decade, multi billion dollar programs and mega pork barrel deals might not always be needed. That’s a horrible insight for them.

            Reality seems to be that we do not know what, if any role Iran played with respect to these drones. However, blaming them seems to be convenient for other objectives that the Biden administration has in mind anyway. If it were not convenient then the possibility of an Iran connection would simply be ignored. As so many other things are ignored when it suits them.

            1. DMCP

              I agree. If the drone wreckage were identifiably Iranian, we would see photos of that on every newspaper and tv news broadcast. The absence of such displays argues for the absence of any such evidence.

              1. Polar Socialist

                I believe I saw claims that one (1) engine had some Iranian markings, and it’s similar to the Iranian copy of a Chinese copy of a German 4-cylinder 2-stroke engine.

            2. Karl

              Then there is the issue of whether the drones are of Iranian design but licensed for manufacture in Russia.

              Or, Iran sends the parts with instructions– a military “IKEA” type of product– and Russia assembles them.

              In this way Iran can say, truthfully, that it is not supplying “drones” to Russia. Of course, in war, truth is always the first casualty.

            3. Lambert Strether

              > wreckage of the drones

              I think you mean images of the wreckage of drones, i.e. digital evidence. Rather like “captured enemy documents” in the Vietnam War. (Speaking of Vietnam, I saw a thread on Punji sticks on the Twitter recently. Low tech and brilliant* design, highly lethal. Too bad our military has lost that ability.)

              * Or psychotic, in the way the designer understood how to inflict pain:

        2. Skip Intro

          The story I saw (MoA or Telegram?) was that Russia bought/licensed the entire drone specs, or whatever, and was manufacturing an Iranian design, so the Geran drones match the Shahed or whatever, but are now largely produced in Russia. As simple as the parts are, I imagine a fair amount of development went into perfecting the entire design for use as well mass production.

          My speculation is that Iranian imported drones were brought into battle, proved themselves, and the mass production in Russia was then quickly established.

          1. Lambert Strether

            > My speculation is that Iranian imported drones were brought into battle, proved themselves, and the mass production in Russia was then quickly established.

            That is my, er, narrative, but I have to admit that if I were asked to prove it with links, I couldn’t.

      1. trapped in Europe

        Where have i said anything about the sophistication of these drones? Nowhere.

        Also I did not make the mistake of thinking the Geran-2 drone was derived from the RQ-170 stealth drone, because they obviously aren’t.

        Btw: You can find a lot of Geran 2 type ‘drones’ at hobby stores all over the world.

        No, you can’t. Concerning the link you provide you realize these are toy models, yes?

        And of course Shahed-136 (or Geran-2) are loitering munitions.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Ahem, you are now descending into bad faith argumentation.

          First, this was your criticism of Martyanov on the topic of the drones: “cannot accept that Russia doesn’t have the best weapons in every area.” Having the best weapons, here drones, = sophistication. Yet you are trying to deny what you said.

          Second, these “toy models” can and are flown. The point is they are existing and widely used design concepts. Other readers who seem expert agree that these drones are very, indeed elegantly, simple. The point is they are not novel, not sophisticated, and therefore not hard to design and fabricate.

          Third, I admit to having contributed to confusion on the loitering v. non loitering drone issue by not being somewhat clear on it till working through these comments. Alexander Mercouris is interpreting Russian Telegram and he’s not a technical guy. However, he has repeatedly said things to the effect that a lot of the damage is being done by technically very simple drones, and I infer simpler than the Geran 2, since they are definitely NOT loitering drones. They are aimed and shot and have ways to course correct/refine but not via communicating with the home base, which is what the loitering drones do. The lack of that type of comms signal apparently enables them to evade some important means of dectection.

          1. trapped in Europe

            First, this was your criticism of Martyanov on the topic of the drones: “cannot accept that Russia doesn’t have the best weapons in every area.” Having the best weapons, here drones, = sophistication. Yet you are trying to deny what you said.

            No, that’s not what i said or at least not what i was trying to say. My point is that the claim that these are indigenous Russian designed drones is almost certainly wrong because we would know about them if they were. They would have been presented at Army Forum or Zhukovsky, there would have articles or videos about them. PlutoniumKun made a very similar point I believe.

            Russia clearly has a capability gap between the missiles and artillery and the Shahed-136 fills that gap very nicely. That has nothing to do with how sophisticated or cheap they are. For instance Russia’s Orlan drones are very simple and cheap and they seem to do a good job, even though they lack a laser designator.

            Martyanov can’t accept the fact that Russia has capability gaps. See this post for instance, where he agrees with a statement that “Russia has no problems with drones, they are the best and there are enough of them”. This is clearly nonsense, Russia has developed some good drones in recent years, but most of them are not in serial production yet. The Forpost has seen very limited production, serial production of the Orion has only just started (most likely at slow pace as the factory in Dubna seems not to be completed yet). The Altius also is not in production yet and Sirius and Helios haven’t even flown yet. Production of the top-end Okhotnik is set to begin in 2023.

            The lack of these drones is a big problem, especially as Ukraine has extensive air defense.

            I infer simpler than the Geran 2, since they are definitely NOT loitering drones. They are aimed and shot and have ways to course correct/refine but not via communicating with the home base, which is what the loitering drones do.

            Wikipedia: A loitering munition (also known as a suicide drone or kamikaze drone is an aerial weapon system category in which the munition loiters (waits passively) around the target area for some time and attacks only once a target is located.

            Shahed-136/Geran-2 can do that and does do that in Ukraine. It has destroyed pieces of artillery. See here for instance. Quote:

            “Facts about the use of kamikaze drones “Geran-2” (aka Shahed-136) voiced by Colonel 92nd Brigade in an interview with the American Wall Street Journal. According to him, UAVs of this type destroyed two 152-mm self-propelled guns, two 122-mm self-propelled guns (apparently meaning 2S3 “Akatsiya” and 2S1 “Gvozdika”, respectively), two armored personnel carriers and one 155-mm howitzer M777.”

            Another main capability of this drone ist that it can find and destroy sources of radiation. That is extremely important because Ukraine still has a lot of radars (both anti-air and counter battery radar for artillery). Geran-2 can loiter over an area until the radar is turned on and then hit it.

            It is true that most videos show Geran-2 drones flying to and destroying pre-programmed stationary targets. This may be misleading though. These videos are filmed from the ground and there are a lot more people standing around in Odessa or Kiev that can film these drones than in the fields of Kherson Oblast or Donbas.

            1. Lambert Strether

              > Martyanov can’t accept the fact that Russia has capability gaps. See this post for instance, where he agrees with a statement that “Russia has no problems with drones, they are the best and there are enough of them”.

              I don’t think Martyanov “agrees” with Shugaev; he’s presenting context in contrast to the WSJ. What Martyanov does say is that “you can sense butt-hurt miles away from all kinds of Western media and ‘military’ outlets.” That is undeniably true!

              For the rest of your comment, I find the drone coverage very confusing. Too many names, too much technology, too much propaganda. (As your quote points out, the motivating factor for literally all, 100%, of Ukrainian coverage/sourcing is “give us more weapons.”) A taxonomy/inventory of all drones in the Ukrainian battlespace would be incredibly useful, and then we wouldn’t be quibbling over detail. (For example, I don’t understand why one would use a loitering drone against a powerplant. It’s not like the powerplant is going to go anywhere; it’s a fixed target.)

        2. Lambert Strether

          > Btw: You can find a lot of Geran 2 type ‘drones’ at hobby stores all over the world.

          > No, you can’t. Concerning the link you provide you realize these are toy models, yes?

          I did a cursory search on YouTube for “DIY drones,” “DIY RC aircraft,” etc. There are plenty of craft large enough to be plausible analogs of Geran 2s. (Mostly RC aircraft, since “drones” tend to be small quads.)

          You seize on the “hobby shops” like, but everything important in the comment at Larry Johnson is correct to me:

          Creating a Geran 2 looks very doable to me, a simple fuselage with two stubby wings attached. Pretty conventional if you ask me….
          Btw: You can find a lot of Geran 2 type ‘drones’ at hobby stores all over the world.
          Looking at the Geran 2, I am struck by the simplicity. You could design a Geran 2 with a slide rule and some (profile) charts. Building them is also incredibly simple, each part can be build on its own, and then “glued” together in the final assembly. Set up a factory, and you can churn them out by the thousands. Very cheap too.

          Frankly, I wish we had a taxonomy of drones; “kamikazi” just isn’t helpful, because it conceals the no-comms, no heat signature nature of the Geran 2.

          1. trapped in Europe

            I think PlutoniumKun answers that right below.

            The “no-comms, no heat signature nature” is an oversimplification i think. Of course the engine is a heat source, but it may be not enough heat for IR seakers. It also does receive radio signals.

            1. Lambert Strether

              > oversimplification

              My dude, I made a big “This Way Out: The High Road” sign for you, and you chose to not to take it.

              Link-free speculation on drone tech could not be of less interest to me, especially when no consideration is given to tactical or strategic significance. Try Reddit.

          2. Raymond Sim

            Frankly, I wish we had a taxonomy of drones…

            As in biology, external morphology is a poor guide to ancestry, so not much hope of resolving those arguments.

            It can also be a poor guide to internal anatomy. “A simple fuselage with two stubby wings attached.” doesn’t match what I think I see in the videos from Kiev, but even if it did it might convey a very false impression of how aerodynamic stresses are distributed, and thus of what can go where on the inside.

            Then there’s neuroanatomy, literally a black box I guess, but the airframe/powerplant combination is going to come with a minimum i.q. requirement for its robot pilot. A weapon, as opposed to a reconnaissance system or hobby aircraft, will likely need either a smarter pilot, or to have its control responses and flight characteristics remain comprehensible to a not-so-smart pilot during more extreme maneuvers.

            In the pictures I’ve seen from the skies over Ukraine I think I discern an airframe that’s likely simple to make by aerospace industry standards and can do so much with a small powerplant and modest computing power that it can be adapted to many roles. As a result I’m guessing some sort of clade will be defined for them eventually, with the arguments over who really invented them becoming ever fiercer.

            1. Lambert Strether

              Your comment confuses taxonomy and geneology. A taxonomy is a system of classification, nothing more or less. For example, type, subtype, subsubtype, and so on.

              A taxonomy can be arranged so that it corresponds to a timeline, but does not necessarily need to be so.

              A taxonomy, can also be a forest, not a single tree structure. If one’s taxonomy is about ancestry, tech independently invented several times would be best represented as a forest.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                A taxonomy of drones would be potentially clarifying, but probably so complicated as to be beyond any real use. Mostly because the term ‘drone’ has no real definition beyond that it is an aerial vehicle lacking a pilot. And this will become even less useful as aircraft are being developed that can fly in both modes. Plus many air forces are re-using old aircraft as kamikaze drones (arguably, this goes back to WWII where the Germans experimented with this).

                The term ‘UAV’ is possibly more useful, but as things develop its becoming ever more complicated. The Chinese alone have developed an utterly bewildering collection of UAV’s, some of unknown use. And thats even if you don’t count their data collection modes on existing commercial drones, which may mean that someones hobby drone could be used against them. Its already been claimed that the Chinese have given the Russian locational data based on Ukrainian use of Chinese made hobby drones. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant – it shows how murky this world is and how resistant it is to taxonomy.

                Incidentally, much the same applies to the term ‘hypersonic missiles’. A lot of people are throwing that term around without really knowing what it means and coming to rash conclusions. If, for example, you include ballistic missiles capable of flat, high atmosphere travel and manoeuvring as ‘hypersonic missiles’, then contrary to what so many people confidently assert, the US is actually well in advance of Russia and China in ‘hypersonic nuclear missiles’, because the US has had these for decades and Russia/China do not. Its all definitional.

              2. Raymond Sim

                Your comment confuses taxonomy and geneology.

                I think I’m clear on the distinction. However my discourse would certainly seem to have been confusion-making, because my whole point was that any taxonomy based on the data we usually have, i.e. external appearances, would be unlikely to be a useful sorting tool.

                The same goes for many characteristics that people tend to seize on: powerplant, range, guidance system etc.

                I could add that the functional categories I see being used, ‘loitering munition’ vs ‘mini cruise missile’ vs ‘swarm drone’ strike me as probably being outmoded – the best evidence for that being the advent of these very aircraft which seem to function well in all three roles.

                In the old days the Soviet navy fielded huge supersonic cruise missiles that were meant to function as autonomous swarms acting on the swarm’s collective sensor data as well as information transmitted to them from various sources. I don’t think they ever exactly ‘loitered’, but they searched. Nowadays, and for quite some time too it would seem, aircraft utterly puny by comparison, can do the same things carrying sufficient quantities of explosives over long enough ranges to make them of extreme tactical, and even strategic importance.

                In my opinion the fact that we don’t even know what to call the damned things is yet another sign of the deep state of decay of our military-industrial academia.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        The Geran, and multiple variations on it, are all seemingly derived from the Israeli Harpy, a 30 year old design. The Chinese and Taiwanese have almost identical looking drones – they may have copied the Israeli design (as the Iranians did), or they may simply have hired a few retired Israeli aerospace engineers to do it for them.

        The aerodynamics are pretty straightforward, and there tends to be a lot of convergent evolution with aircraft designed in the same era. But it can also be just plain easier to copy a basic design when it obviously works.

        This type of drone is so simple to make that any number of general purpose manufacturing plants could churn them out. There is nothing high tech about them, so it would be a simple enough matter to just hire a few engineers from the ‘home’ country, as nobody would be too bothered, there is nothing high tech involved. It might well be that some private manufacturers in Russia simply took it upon themselves to buy some plans off the Iranians (or Chinese or Taiwanese or South Koreans) and churn out the basic airframe.

        I do agree with the comment above that if it was a genuinely indigenous Russian design, we’d know about it. The Russian aerospace industry is very export oriented for obvious reasons, so designs (or mock-ups designed to stimulate interest) appear in the industry press very quickly. There would be no reason to keep a design like this secret and no incentive for a manufacturer not to have them on display in the international aerospace events pre-war.

        But the real test of a loitering drones effectiveness is not its airframe or engine, but its guidance system. A hobbyist could build a basic Geran type drone in a home workshop. But I doubt anyone without major tech support could incorporate an anti-radiation guidance system or an electro-optical or IR sensor to complement a basic gps guidance. Its possible though that with a simple gps system they could take out static infrastructure like a substation without too much high tech getting involved. Of course, if Ukraine had the most up to date jamming and spoofing equipment this wouldn’t be possible, but either the west can’t, or won’t supply it (most likely the latter).

        I would not rule out that Iran would be selling some key guidance components because a lot of the mid-tech Russian equipment uses off the peg western electronics, which are likely to be less available at the moment.

        One issue that I think is not commented upon enough is that the Russians are likely very aware of the intense on-going live monitoring of Ukraine by Nato. They have a strong incentive not to use the weaponry or sensors that they would likely use in a conflict with Nato. This is, I think, a key reason why they are only using their airforce in a relatively limited and fairly crude manner. In this context, using alternative weapons sources makes a lot of sense, as Nato planners will learn relatively little that they don’t already know. For that matter, the Iranians will not necessarily want Nato learning too much about their drone capabilities. So if some Russian bike manufacturer told the Ministry they could churn these out quickly and cheaply without running down stocks of any western chips, and there was no need for lengthy integration programmes, they were probably welcomed with open arms.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I see that the Russians are modifying the basic drone design with their GLONASS GPS system as well as more powerful explosives-

          https://www.bitchute.com/video/ZA18MzZV0Sx0/ (8:25 mins)

          I’m just waiting for western media to report that the Russians are ripping out the engines from western-produced lawn-mowers to power these drones.

          1. Stephen

            Which in a sane world would beg the question: why do western militaries not create such simple equipment cheaply from standard consumer parts? But, of course, corporate media defence correspondents will not ask that.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              While the defence industry in the west is quite ridiculous in its design approach, in its defence such cheap and cheerful drones aren’t really all that useful in any likely war involving a western power against a peer or near peer. As the Russians have shown, they are fully capable of knocking them out of the sky by the hundreds without any problem, and the Iranians know how to spoof even quite sophisticated ones. It was the Israelis (with the original loitering drones like the Harpy and others) that showed how effective they could be, and the much copied Predator was a US design. As I noted above, it seems likely that the West doesn’t trust Ukraine with the latest jamming tech, so they have no real response. Drones are very useful against relatively basic land armies – it remains to be seen if they are much use against a sophisticated defence.

              The US equivalent are weapons like the drones are guided bombs like the GBU-12 and the GBU-39 which are probably even cheaper than the basic Russian drones (excluding of course the cost of the F-35 delivering them). In a combat situation, the US has always assumed air superiority, hence the cheap and cheerful version would be hundreds of networked GBU-39’s wiping out multiple targets at one go.

              European attempts to do the same have ended up as laughably expensive due to low production runs. I recall one source that suggested that French guided bombs cost 10x the US equivalent. But they’ve little choice but to spend that money if they are to keep their air force entirely domestic.

              1. Raymond Sim

                I think to speak of America fighting ‘peers’ in this context is unrealistic. We lack credible defenses we could deploy with ground forces that could cope with this stuff, a real air force, and Iskander-type missiles at the same time. Our guys would get knocked down, blown up, and dug in.

                Imagine a 101st heliborne assault out of Romania encountering even a couple dozen of these things en route.

            2. Glen

              Mostly because the MIC is focused on draining the public purse for maximum profit, and stock buybacks. It’s all about CEO wealth, and defense of country is a secondary (or more tertiary) consideration.

              Besides, I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that the West has figured out how to deploy something much deadlier than cheap drones, AND has figured out how to get the people to pay for them:


              As for blowing up infrastructure, the West is going to SELL it’s remaining, falling apart, public infrastructure to it’s oligarchs/billionaires so we all get the privilege of dealing with a PG&E burning down our town.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The emphasis on loitering drones seems to be an erroneous assumption. They do appear to be part of these drone swarms.

          Alexander Mercouris has explicitly corrected himself (yesterday) based on viewer input, and said the drones aimed at static electrical grid targets are mainly non-loitering drones. Even the CFR in trying to depict the drones as a failure (despite all the electrical grid destruction!) admits in passing that Russia is using non-loitering drones too.


          I have not heard them given a name. Mercouris, who makes a point of regularly reminding readers that he is not a technical person, has described the most effective drones in the current mix in the attack on the electrical grid as “mini cruise missiles”. One of the reasons why is they can’t be readily detected due to not leaving the normally-watched comms trail by not being guided by the mother ship.

          This is from a simple layperson description of a cruise missile:

          Traveling at hundreds of miles an hour, cruise missiles use the global positioning system, inertial guidance, optical scenery correlation, and terrain comparing radar to find their targets.


          I believe Russia does not use our GPS system for its military. I understand that is one reason its signal jamming is so effective. It can jam GPS because it does not use it.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Russia uses Glonass (Global’naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema). For what it’s worth, in 2014 there was a thesis by a Norwegian researcher proposing that Norwegian navy and Coast Guard should also use Glonass locators on-board, since it’s more resistant to jamming than GPS – even if it’s not as accurate (at least not the open channels).

            I did see one claim that the original Iranian design of the drone was anti-radiation (radar) weapon, whereas the version used by Russians has a Glonass guidance module.

          2. ThirtyOne

            From the Wiki:
            Various colloquial terms have been used for these drones due to their ubiquity, such as “mopeds” or “lawnmowers”, alluding to the signature loud sound of their engine in flight, and “doritos”, in reference to their delta-winged silhouette.[17][18]

            The weapon is regarded as militarily useless by a senior researcher of the Center for Security Studies who rather would call it a weapon of terror against civilians.[19]


            My favorite name is Infernal Moped.

          3. PlutoniumKun

            I’m not sure if there really is a practical distinction between ‘loitering’ drones and the sort of cheap cruise missile use of these drones. Originally, loitering drones were intended to hang around over the battlefield waiting for someone to switch on a radar below, then they’d dive down on it. In an aerodynamic sense, the small Iranian drones can do both, as the design characteristics (high wing lift and efficient small gasoline engine) give both range and a long flight time. The Israeli original used a rotary engine which is lighter and more fuel efficient, but probably for cost reasons everyone else uses a conventional gasoline engine.

            I’ve seen it suggested that the Iranian drones can fly low in a ground hugging mode – I’m not sure if this is the case, but I assume it could be done easily enough if you have good terrain mapping although this would significantly reduce range and it would interfere with any ground control. If they could do this they could wreck electric infrastructure simply by trailing copper wool beyond the aircraft – in WWII the British did this with balloons floated out over France when the winds were blowing from the west. But I’m not sure it would really be worth the trouble to do this.

            They probably do use Glonass, but I’ve seen it suggested that sometimes GPS is used by other militaries partially because the sensors are so cheap and widely available, but also because it complicates attempts to jam it – you end up jamming your own sensors too.

            Ultimately, the effectiveness of these weapons comes down to the sensors, not the aircraft body. If you are aiming for big fixed targets like a power station, cheap and simple is best. Most weapons like this these days are modular, you’ve no idea what its capabilities are until it hits you.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              You are talking past the key point that Mercouris, from his viewer corrections, has made at least 2x.

              Some of these drones are NOT loitering drones because they do not communicate with the home base. The lack of comms eliminates one of the big means for detecting and intercepting them. Mercouris compared them to mini-cruise missiles, which use GPS and optical terrain matching to stay on course for hitting their target.

              This is not a matter of not using a particular function. It’s not having it in the drone at all.

              1. ThirtyOne

                From the comments of LiveJournal imp_navigator

                Google translation from Russian

                some technical details from an Iranian who left a comment under the Ukrainian video .

                The context of the video to make it clear what I’m talking about:

                The body of the Geranium is made of special carbon fiber, inside there are many Chinese chips and FPGAs. It uses rocket boosters when starting from a ground launch platform, which is also equipped with ground-based electronic control units, which are used. to prepare the flight mission and perform prelaunch training. Geranium warhead weight 50 kg for Geranium-2 and 15 kg with a cumulative funnel for Geranium-1

                Information from an Iranian (OPTIONAL):

                Shahed-136 for targeting have three versions:

                one with IR seeker,
                another with a millimeter wave radar
                and one without it (guiding only by gps / glonass / baidu / galileo).

                All Geraniums are equipped with SINS, are resistant to electronic warfare and use High precision gps receiver technologies

                Shahets / Geraniums can be controlled via radio from Shahed-129, Fotros, Ababbil-5 and Kaman-12, and in the future from Shahed-149 and Kaman-22. The Iranians say that the Shaheds were made noisy without a silencer to reduce the heat signature (the silencer increases the number of heated parts of the airframe).

                The engine and circuit boards of the Shaheds are made in Iran, with the exception of those that are cheaper to buy in China (SINS parts). The engine costs up to $1000 of local production. The cost of Shaheds for Iran is estimated from $20,000 (Geran-1) to $30,000 (Geran-2) .

              2. PlutoniumKun

                I think this is a matter of definition – this is one of the annoyances of discussing this topic, people don’t always use the same terminology – its the same problem with hypersonic.

                The original use of the term loitering drone (so far as I’m aware) was specifically for drones that were not under direct ground control. They would be preprogrammed to attack – in the case of the original Harpy, this would be triggered by a ground based radar starting up or locking onto a target. This is distinct from ground operated drones which might be loitering over an area observing what is going on, or being actively guided to a target. The term ‘loitering munition’ predates the use of drones – some early European anti-radiation missiles had this capacity as do a number of air dropped guided munitions. Basically, anything that could hang around (on a parachute or whatever) waiting for a suitable target is usually considered a loitering munition, whether or not its a drone.

                When Mercouris is comparing them to cruise missiles, I guess what he means is that they have pre-programmed courses and targets, they just happen to be propellor driven and a lot cheaper than conventional cruise missiles. For that matter, most modern cruise missiles can either be pre-programmed, actively managed from the ground, or can have some independent target identification capability. So the distinction is a bit arbitrary, it all depends on which electronics you stuff into the vehicle body.

              3. Lambert Strether

                > This is not a matter of not using a particular function. It’s not having it in the drone at all.

                “The cheapest, fastest, and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren’t there.” –Jon Benteley, Programming Pearls

            2. MichaelSF

              “The Israeli original used a rotary engine which is lighter and more fuel efficient, but probably for cost reasons everyone else uses a conventional gasoline engine.”

              PK, I think you are in part mistaken. Generally, a rotary (Wankel) engine scores on weight, size, low vibration and power output, but they are, to the best of my knowledge, not nearly as fuel efficient as a piston engine. The rotary combustion chamber is not very efficient compared to what can be found in a modern 2T or 4T piston engine design.

              So if you want an engine that will fit in a low-frontal area fuselage and give very good power while not vibrating the craft to pieces, a rotary can be a good thing. But if you want an extended range you’ll very likely get more flight time/pound of fuel from the piston engines.


              1. PlutoniumKun

                You are correct that Wankel engines are less fuel efficient in cars, but this is because they can’t handle frequent changes in power output efficiently. A Wankel engine operating steadily at its optimum rev is roughly equal in efficiency to a standard piston engine. So in a cruising aircraft it can match the efficiency of a conventional engine. Its other advantages – light weight and simplicity and lower vibration, then comes into play.

        3. Lambert Strether

          > a loitering drones effectiveness

          Again, we need a taxonomy. My impression is that the drones that took out the Ukrainian infrastructure had no need for “guidance,” since power plants don’t move. So “fire and forget” is the way to go.

          My impression also is that you have loitering drones for battlefield situations, where the tank you are aiming at can scoot.

          1. Raymond Sim

            The warhead weighs, apparently, roughly 80 lbs. For comparison a 155 mm shell weighs about 100 lbs., about 75% of which is steel. Not being fired out of a howitzer means the drone warhead doesn’t need so much metal. On the other hand steel fragments are great for wrecking stuff.

            If at least some of the drones have cameras and can phone home when they’re approaching the target, and all can receive targeting updates in flight, that would allow for the sort of battle damage assessment and aim correction an artillery forward observer provides. That strikes me as being very desirable.

      3. Raymond Sim

        I also owe an apology to Dave in Austin. He was correct in identifying that these were simple prop engine drones.

        If ‘Dave’ happens to actually be me, no apologies required. Your workload boggles my mind, and enthusiasts who pore over the details of this kind of stuff for fun typically nonetheless labor under grave misconceptions on one or more important points.

        I wouldn’t call the design of the vehicles I’ve seen on videos unsophisticated. The components would seem to be mostly low-tech, but the design sure is making the most of them. I do suspect the general form is one disparate teams of sophisticated engineers would likely converge on. In particular, speaking subject to correction by anyone who actually knows this stuff, I imagine that the airframe makes for comparatively simple problem-solving by the guidance computer.

    3. Kouros

      So what is the big deal with the idea that are Iranian drones? Gilbert Doctorow was arguing that that would be a breach of UN sanctions against Iran, but he is late in the uptake there. Those sanctions were lifted before trump exited the stage and yes, Pompeo did a lot of performative and actual tricks in order to move for a vote to extend those sanctions, to no avail.

      What is left to be sanctioned in Russia and Iran (not involving UN sanctions here)? More individuals?

      1. Lambert Strether

        I think all the excitement about Iran’s involvement is because the Blob would like to get three wars going, instead of only two (Ukraine and Taiwan not being enough).

        The key points are what drones are in Ukraine now, on which side, and how do they affect the correlation of forces? (Very much to Russia’s advantage, it would seem, with no clear answers from the Ukraine side.)

  10. The Doctor

    I have to disagree with the premise that the Western press is under reporting the systematic Russian attack on Ukrainian infrastructure with its horrible impact on the civilian population. I see this every day from multiple sources including The NY Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC and others. They quote multiple sources with 30% destruction a recurring estimate. Articles also focus on the likelihood of a mass humanitarian crisis from this attack on the civilian population. Articles also focus on the terror aspect of the Russian drones, civilians hearing them from above and wondering where they will strike and the destruction that follows.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, these stories are now well below the fold, even in the more belligerent UK papers (the BBC and the FT, the latter is the UK’s most important “talking to the elites” organ).

      In particular, the BBC made the grid attacks its lead story the first day, as part of a live blog, had it in the lead story the next and perhaps even the third day (the BBC had been my go to to see if the attacks were continuing in the wee AM my time). I can no longer quickly find on the BBC if the strikes are continuing with any ease. The news stories muff over that.

      And the 30% grid destruction is >week old news. So that actually confirms lack of updating.

      The last electrical grid news story that I saw as widely touted was Zelensky first asking for usage cutbacks, then as IIRC extending the hours of warned needed reductions the next day. After that initial set of developments, I don’t see the press much/at all acknowledging that the attacks are continuing every day, are serious, and the grid is therefore being further and significantly degraded.

    2. hk

      There is a systematic inconsistency in the manner of reporting, at least, which by the way seems to accompany everything about Russia these days. The same report would attempt to simultaneously depict Russians as devilishly powerful/clever/otherwise omnipotent but at the same time woefully incompetent (but evil both ways). So the same report, on this topic, would describe how devastating Russian attacks are, but also emphasize how weak and incapable the Russians are as “most” of their missiles are being stopped. If the MSM wants to sell a narrative, they should at least settle on what that narrative is.

  11. Alex Cox

    It’s great that the commentariat think that, despite Biden’s repeated “boots on the ground” comments, Shoigu’s telephone calls, and continual MSM claims that Russia is about to drop a dirty bomb or go nuclear, with the mid-terms looming and a likely disaster for the Dems unless they pull off a violent patriotic stunt, there is no need to worry.

    So why, having lived my whole life in the shadow of a nuclear war, do I feel so worried?

    1. nippersdad

      Five years of “the Russians are coming!” and talk of nukes brings back old memories of duck and cover. The (neo)McCarthyites still have no shame.

  12. Lex

    There are almost no good sources of information. There are a handful of good sources for analysis of what information we have, and Yves continues to be one of those analytical sources.

    Shoigu’s calls were mostly quite long, indicating that more was discussed than dirty bombs. Russia has been doing this all along; announcing provocations they catch wind of so while I think the threat is real I also think this was a public preemptive defense. If it happens now, it’s a lot harder to pin the blame on Russia. And likely this was a warning about proxies and control over those proxies.

    On the ground things seem to be relatively static with incremental advances west of Donetsk city. Minor offensives by Ukraine in the south appear to just get chewed up, and each one reduces the ability to conduct a major offensive. Back and forth near the LPR border but relatively static.

    I doubt the Kremlin cares at all about the midterms. The CCP meeting, yes, a pointless midterm not at all. The chatter suggests the Russian offensive will be to the south but when that happens is anyone’s guess. Guesses are all anyone has. The only thing I could see the 101st maybe attempting is a combined offensive with Romania at Transnistria. The armor dump must be awfully tempting. But even that is a massive escalation risk, so I’m with Johnson and others that it’s normal rotations and an info war op against the domestic audience who’s likely to believe that the 101st could defeat Russia all by itself.

  13. Stephen

    A helpful summary.

    There are already pictures showing the autumn mud so I think you are right that any traditional “offensive” would likely get bogged down now. Based on comments above, and the existence of absentee / postal votes, I wonder how much window is left to influence the mid terms via some “victory”. Given short electorate attention spans there is also a trade off between missing the boat by being too late versus many people having forgotten by the time they actually do vote. There must be a “sweet spot” for timing that some administration PR guy is pushing for.

    Agree too with Rev Kev’s comments above that reality is coming. Would add that the broader western populations will not lose from a Russian victory and a meaningful peace settlement. They will lose from continued war and the bloc mentality. We need to trade with Russia. But the political decision making class clearly will suffer from an acknowledged Russian victory and they know it. So they will keep doubling down and refusing to accept or show reality to their populations. How this will end is then hard to call.

    I agree totally with Viktor Orban’s point that meaningful America and Russia negotiations are the only way this gets resolved. Europe would have zero say if that happened. But we know that negotiation will not happen under this administration and that the Russians would not trust any American agreement anyway, given previous experiences. Feels that Russia will end up doing what it wants to do on the battlefield: dictate a form of peace or truce to Ukraine and we then end up in some form of stand off. That then cements Europe’s role as subordinate to the US because it would need ongoing protection. The MIC then gets to sell weapons and American generals get to build bases, create more commands and build careers. It then becomes a multi decade Korea / Cold War type deployment which Europe even pays for if it has any money left.

    The most cynical part of me says that the Biden administration is actually playing this well, in terms of their own preferences. They get a war with Russia but Americans do not do the dying, Europe’s dependency on the empire becomes total and there is lots of ongoing opportunity for graft. If you cannot rule the world then at least dominate the parts you can. It’s not nice and it is for sure not for the benefit of the American people but it is one possible interpretation.

    Maybe we in Europe (which includes the UK of course) will instead fight for our independence and sovereignty. Not holding my breath though.

    1. nippersdad

      I think that would last until December. The US is not capable of supplying Europe with LNG, and it looks like Qatar is the point man on telling Europe to suck it up and make a deal with Russia. Biden got out over his skis when he expected nearly an entire continent to freeze to death for US fossil fuel company profits, and it will not be up to the various European governments to make a deal; they do not have enough police to enforce compliance on the population, and if they tried they would lose all legitimacy.

      Far from Biden having played this well, I foresee the US and Canada becoming an island.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Nigeria too has announced that they will not be sending Europe any LNG. The African nations are not fans on what is happening with Europe.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I am endlessly amused by the Western strategy of “the former colonies will come to the rescue.”

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      Per my remarks above in reply to RevKev, I’m not confident that the current situation (permanent cold war with Russia, slavery for EU) is a stable condition.

      The energy situation for EU is intolerable. That condition will not continue, and no amount of propaganda and fear-mongering is going to sustain it.

      The Rest of the World is now entirely apprised of the political and economic weaknesses of the West. The NeoCon bluff has been called. This winter, the hands get laid down on the table, and the game’s over.

      And grifting becomes less profitable when you’re squeezing blood from a turnip. For a while, the EU will be a turnip, and the U.S. isn’t all that far behind. UK is already a turnip.

      Note that the word “turnip” in this context has a constructive, affectionate cast; it’s just a momentary affliction one must endure on the long road toward redemption.

      Doom-N-gloom is what we serve the NeoCons. Make ’em suffer, they’ve earned it well.

      We, on the other hand, dine on the nutritious fare of Good Ideas, Right Actions, and Superior Numbers.

    3. David

      I’m not sure that the Russians actually want to deal with the US. I don’t think they want anything from them that’s not going to happen anyway, and I don’t think the US can deliver concessions from the Europeans that the Russians couldn’t get otherwise. Conversely, I don’t see what the US can offer the Russians that they need, that’s not going to happen anyway. In such circumstances, it’s hard to see what negotiations would be about. If I were the Russians, I would be much happier negotiating with the weak and divided Europeans.

      You have to consider the overall situation assuming that the war finishes as people expect. Europe will be politically divided, economically weak and largely disarmed, and still dependent on Russian gas. NATO will be a busted flush. The US will not be a credible military actor on the Continent, and would take years to become one, even if the Europeans and Russians wanted that. We’ll have almost the reverse of Ismay’s dictum: the Russians in, the Americans out and the Germans down. And as I’ve written here, I think that we are about to see an end to the 75-year old perception of European elites that their interests are the same as those of the US, and are best served by a close alliance.

      In other words, the world may be changing faster than most people realise.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I agree. Only thing US can offer is a shorter war, but it can not give the Novorossia to Russia, only Ukraine can do that.

        Also, reading your column of the transatlantic link, I wonder if you’re familiar with NSC 68 and the Political Economy of the Early Cold War (Cambridge University Press)? It makes the argument that the start of Cold War I had a lot to do with saving US domestic economy after the war.

        1. David

          Thanks. Interesting and I must take a look at it. It doesn’t accord with my reading of NSC 68, but then what are historians’ controversies for?

          1. John Steinbach

            Here are some excerpts from Directive 68 from a paper I wrote in 2002:

            “… Without superior aggregate military strength, in being and readily mobilizable, a policy of “containment”–which is in effect a policy of calculated and gradual coercion–is no more than a policy of bluff.”..

            .“Our overall policy at the present time may be described as one designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.”… “A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people. They will be asked to give up some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms.”…

            “The execution of such a (military) buildup, however, requires that the United States have an affirmative program beyond the solely defensive one of countering the threat posed by the Soviet Union.” ..

            .“In the event we use atomic weapons either in retaliation for their prior use by the USSR or because there is no alternative method by which we can attain our objectives, it is imperative that the strategic and tactical targets against which they are used be appropriate and the manner in which they are used be consistent with those objectives.”….

            “The United States now has an atomic capability, including both numbers and deliverability, estimated to be adequate, if effectively utilized, to deliver a serious blow against the war-making capacity of the USSR.”

            Written in 1950 by Paul Nitse, NSC-68 laid the foundation of modern U.S. ‘flexible response’, ‘counter-force’ and ‘escalation dominance’ nuclear war-fighting startegy.

            1. hk

              I could be in error about this, but what i remember is that while NATO thinkers came up with myriad plans for gradual escalation of nuclear conflict, under the assumption that Soviets were working from the same premise, namely that their opponent could be checkmated if trapped between full scale nuclear war and “losing,” Soviets always had only one nuclear war plan–full scale nuclear war. I keep wondering if the current generation of US “strategists” are thinking the same: limited “nuclear” incudent that could be used to trap the Russians somehow. But, if the Russians are taking the war seriously, which we have no reason to doubt, the most likely target if they do use nuclear weapon, will be Washington DC (and dozens of targets in NATO countries) rather than anywhere in Ukraine.

              1. The Rev Kev

                It should be mentioned that in every war game run for Europe which has involved just one tactical nuke used, it always end up in a full nuclear exchange. And once you launch one, there are no backsies.

                So here is one possible scenario. The 101st are loaded aboard aircraft to drop them over Odessa to establish a beachhead for more NATO troops so that they can establish a “security zone.” The Russians give the US an order to have them turn back or else. The US refuses. The Russians then use missiles and aircraft to shoot down the majority of those aircraft.

                So, does the US use a tactical nuke? Remembering even though the Ukraine may have “invited” them in, it is still an active war zone. And the Russians have no illusions what the US wants to do. NATO no longer has the gear and ammo to go into the Ukraine itself having given much of it to the Ukraine. So what does the US do?

                1. David

                  Such war games are designed to practice procedures, so they include everything you might conceivably want to do. They are not prophecy.

                  You can’t just parachute in. Or you can, but you would have only what you can carry with you. Have a look at the current organisation chart of this Wikipedia entry and you’ll see what I mean. In practice, the Division would have to be airlifted to an airfield near Odessa. On arrival, it would be dependent on massive aerial supply and/or local sustainment.

                  From the Russian perspective, it’s actually not altogether a bad idea. They know the US can’t and won’t attack them, and the Division will rapidly become hostages for the Ukrainians. Meanwhile the Russians simply have to cut the city off by rail and road, and tell the US they won’t attack them. Quite quickly all sorts of problems will appear and the US will wind up looking very silly.

                  The only thing that makes sense is a very small and token deployment – a company or perhaps a battalion, which would be easy to insert and keep supplied.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    Unless of course somebody let off a “dirty bomb” in Nikolaev which would seriously complicate trying to get a Russian force from the Kherson to the Odessa region as it is on the transport route. And for several days now I have been reading how the Ukrainians have been evacuating people from that city for some mysterious reason. Several years ago the US crossed from Iraq to take al-Tanf in Syria and they are still there. This base not only sit aside a major transport hub but the US trains terrorists and saboteurs to go into Syria proper, using a refugee camp as camouflage for their presence. So there is a precedent here.

                  2. hk

                    After the Pristina incident, a US Army type that I know told me exactly that: while the rush to seize the airport was bold, Russians had no way to even supply the paratroopers so they just became dependent on NATO goodwill. If the 101st tries to rush Odessa like the old Russian paratroopers, Russians may get the chance to return the favor.

      2. Stephen

        I think what you say is a reasonable scenario too.

        There are plenty of things Russia might want from negotiations with the US though. The removal of allegedly purely defensive missiles from Poland is one likely demand. But your bigger point makes sense. In the absence of a total defeat, the US will not agree to such asks and certainly not act on them even if it did. So the reality is that the eventual outcome will not be a negotiated one.

        The non cynical part of me is more in the camp that this will lead to the break up of NATO and a major realignment of much of Europe. Once it wakes up. The question as per my final sentence is how long that will take.

        I do think that things stay the way they are until they don’t! The eventual collapse of the British Empire was quite sudden too when it came. My mother used to have to celebrate Empire Day when she was a child. By the time she came of age, the empire was pretty much over as a cause that elites sought to defend. It all happened in less than a generation. The US empire may end just as suddenly. And this war is possibly the occasion of it.

        1. nippersdad

          “There are plenty of things Russia might want from negotiations with the US though. ”

          That draft treaty* is still out there gathering dust. Your point about NATO breaking up will be on the table at the end of this, and the only way to save it may be to ratify that treaty. It is going to be very difficult to not pull back all of those bases in Eastern Europe with no one noticing. Though, as with Minsk, the Russians may well be beyond that by now. They may accept nothing less than the dissolution of NATO, and given the argument that it is no longer an defensive organization that may well hold the kind of weight that it has not in the past.

          * https://mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/rso/nato/1790818/?lang=en

      3. John k

        If, as seems likely, Ukraine sues for peace at any terms, I can’t see the us as a party, Russia doesn’t think we’re agreement capable, and the us would rather sulk and forget it as it pivots to China. Nor will Britain. The question is what the eu does and when they decide to do it. Easier without Britain.
        The war isn’t likely to end before the end of winter, by which the eu will have a taste of life without Russian gas, granted a warm winter would soften the blow. Regardless, this year the eu received nearly full flow for half the year, next would be much worse. Simply not sustainable, and the further north the worse it will be. Coal and wood will be burned to stay warm. Demos seem likely, particularly as putin offered the remaining ns2 line, plus more thru turkey.
        Seems likely to me eu will be willing to end sanctions for gas as soon as Russia and Ukraine reach an agreement. However, Russia might also want a security agreement, at least nato evacuating some eastern bases etc. If so, things will drag out.

    4. NotTimothyGeithner

      I don’t think Biden or anyone in DC has any grand plans. Part of the problem besides being thugs is US foreign policy elites believe they are inherently good. “America is Back”. The trouble is Biden believes this nonsense. Once, the bad man was gone all would be well because Americans are back in charge.

      The closest to a plan was Biden wanted Kiev to deal with the separatists so he could hold a NATO expansion with a former foe kind of routine. Remember he has Clintonista doofuses like Neera around who probably believe NATO expansion, one of Bill’s “accomplishments”, was integral to his 49% finish in 1996, not Perot, Bob Dole, and Gingrich taking a dump on national tv every other day.

      With the childish belief in “America is Back”, they simply can’t conceive what their bumbling thuggery would lead to.

  14. Skip Intro

    The two big sabotage attacks, the Nord Streams and Kerch bridge, were complete surprises.

    I don’t think we can call them surprises, maybe only the timing. Both were long-time fantasies of the neocon clown car, we just forgot them because they were diluted by the endless stream of clueless bluster from those same sources.

    1. Maxwell Johnston

      Attacking the Kerch bridge was a no-brainer, and I’m amazed it took UKR so long to whack it (not very successfully, as it turned out). But the attack on Nordstream was off the charts, much like the theft of RU’s central bank reserves. Now everyone knows that undersea infrastructure is fair game, and that no nation can safely hold its foreign currency reserves in the west. These are game-changing events, and their long-term consequences will long outlast the current hostilities in UKR.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, and I should have been explicit, but attacking with a truck bomb was a surprise. Missiles were the expected form of attack. Russia would have been making more careful inspections if so. One of the YouTubers (I can’t recall which one) claimed trucks were screened on one side of the bridge, not the other, and the truck used the non-checked side (I believe Crimea, which would also be the easier side for Ukraine to use).

      1. Skip Intro

        Indeed, it was an unexpected method that it seems had little real chance of success despite significant operational hurdles they successfully cleared. I still wonder if the tanker train next to the bomb was a lucky accident, or a masterpiece of planning. But I also wonder what the plotters best-case scenario was and how far the final result was from that. Was it mostly about PR? Or a provocative Escalation? It is really daunting to guess these things.

        Take Nordstream: Do we believe that one string survived due to incompetent sabotage, or because the saboteurs wanted to keep one hostage alive, as it were. Since there is no knowledge of how this happened, apparently, there is no reason the chances of it happening again should be reduced. Just the opposite, I think.

  15. Judith

    Patrick Lawrence, in a piece not easily summarized. Here is his conclusion:

    To turn the gaze forward, the most discouraging aspect of the Nord Stream incident is a tie between two grim realities. On the one hand, it seems clear now the U.S. is emboldened to do anything it likes to the Europeans to preserve its power over them, and on the other it seems just as clear the Europeans will take it in the way of the Stockholm syndrome.

    But this is not the end of the story. I cannot even speculate whether or when Europe will produce a new generation of bolder leaders with thoughts of their own. This is the age of Liz Truss and Olaf Scholz, after all. But looking further out, I do not see that the U.S. can bring history’s wheel to a screeching halt even if it looks as if it just did: Macron was for once right when he asserted that Russia’s destiny was with Europe and Europe’s in an interdependent relationship with it. This is history’s longue durée, plain and simple. I’ve never heard of any nation stopping it for more than a short while.


    1. Carolinian

      Thanks for the link.

      Macron is little more than a squeaky weather vane mounted grandly atop the European barn.

      LOL. And

      Let us not forget what was going on in the streets. If you do not understand les événements of 1968 in Paris and elsewhere as in part a protest against the American-imposed world order, you do not understand 1968.

      Godard’s “the children of Marx and CocaCola.”

      When I went to Europe long ago the atmosphere seemed distinctly unfriendly although the Irish clearly loved Americans. Any hint of American influence in France or elsewhere was disappointing. Who wants the rest of the world to be like us?

      Sounds like Hollywood won. Hurray for Hollywood /s

  16. David in Santa Cruz

    Yes, “The Narrative” is simply a sanitized framing for “Propaganda.”

    The Western “framing” of the current civil war in “Ukraine” is ahistorical, as much due to ignorance as by design. The division of “Ukraine” and “Poland” by the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian Empires between the Congress of Vienna and the collapse of the USSR has caused 200 years of horrific suffering and deeply-held grievance throughout the region that is incomprehensible to Western audiences.

    If you have a strong constitution, read about the events of June-July 1941 in Lwòw (Lviv) where the retreating NKVD’s murder of thousands of ethnic Polish and German “Enemies of the State” was quickly followed by a Banderite pogrom in which Ukrainian civilians armed with sticks and clubs murdered thousands of Jewish men and women in the streets — the U.S. Holocaust Memorial has a fragment of a “home movie” shot by an SS-man of this savage barbarism conducted against the backdrop of a modern European city. It will shock you. The Nazis and the Red Army then conducted another decade of mass-murder and forced resettlement/ethnic cleansing that even make Pol Pot’s killing fields pale into insignificance in comparison.

    It is a tragedy that the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex has annointed no one except grievance-holding refugees from these Central European Killing Fields, like Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Albright (Korbelovà) and their descendents Kagan, Nuland, and Blinken, to be the “expert” arbiters of American policy toward the region. Their only interest appears to be in controlling the “narrative“ in order to facilitate the settling of old scores rather than sorting post-Soviet borders.

    This does not end well.

    1. David in Santa Cruz

      Of course, the suffering of mitteleuropa is completely comprehensible to indigenous North Americans.

      My apologies to any who were offended by this characterization of a “Western” audience.

  17. michael99

    Odessa is vitally important to Ukraine as a major sea port but for the US/NATO who already control the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkiye, how important is it?

  18. hazelbrew


    the variety of reporting really is quite something to behold. Especially the headline for each.

    after the reporting of the new missile strikes at the weekend, I thought I would take a look at how it has been reported in multiple different online sites. No links below, just a note of the source
    search was for “russia missile strike” from oct 22nd to today. only tried it on the alphabet version not other searches.
    and I am a Brit, so goog is serving for my history and location.

    As far as I can tell 33, 36 or maybe 40 cruise missiles were sent, including another 16 drones. and 18 cruise missiles intercepted, and 10 drones. It looks like 33 was the initial number then updated to 36? and I found a number of 40 from a Ukrainian source. No coverage sunday morning from the english language chinese sites yet.

    BBC first – Ukraine war: Massive Russian strikes target energy grid – Zelensky
    “new massive strike” and Zelensky with “added that most of the Russian missiles were shot down”
    “Mr Zelensky said that 36 rockets had been launched on Saturday, and most of them had been downed.”
    – so “most” of 36 is 18? interesting use of the word most.

    Washington Post – ‘Total darkness and cold are coming’: Massive strikes hit Ukraine electrical grid
    “Ukraine’s air command said 33 missiles were fired in all”
    “Volodymyr Zelensky put the number of missiles fired at 36, calling the attack “massive.””
    this site references the 18 shot down, and 10 drones.

    Politicoeu – Russia intensifies airstrikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure
    “hundreds of thousands of people without power,” and “managed to shoot down 18 cruise missiles” and “Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged foreign capitals to boost Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, tweeting: “There should not be a minute of delay in capitals deciding on air defense systems for Ukraine.””
    – so this downplays the number of 1.5 million without power. and makes no mention of the 33,36 or 40 sent. only the 18 destroyed. and asks for air defense systems

    CBS News – Russia unleashes barrage of missiles in Ukraine in “massive” attack
    “The air force said it downed 18 out of 33 cruise missiles launched from air and sea”
    – no direct quote from Zelensky. no reference to 1.5 million without power.

    VOA News – ‘Wide-Scale’ Russian Attacks Target Ukraine’s Energy Grid
    mentions Zelensky, 1.5 million without power and the 18 out of 33 shot down.

    CNN – Ukrainian military says 18 Russian cruise missiles destroyed amid attacks on energy infrastructure
    Leads with the number shot down. Actually the first I find mentioning the type of missile: “In addition, the Russians attacked from ships in the Black Sea with Kalibr cruise missiles. ”
    No real reference to the scale of damage or the number of people without power.

    Pravda.com.ua – Russia’s missile strike: Ukraine’s air defence shot down 18 missiles
    Leads with the type of missiles used, and the success shooting them down. Not the number sent: “Russia deployed Kh-101 and Kalibr missiles to attack Ukraine on the morning of Saturday, 22 October. Ukraine’s air defence shot down 18 of the Russian missiles.”

    Guardian – Ukraine faces power outages after ‘massive’ Russian strikes target energy facilities
    Leads with the energy plans and million without electricity. Buries the numbers fired and shot down well into the story.

    Kyiv Independent – 18 Russian cruise missiles shot down in Ukraine in one morning, 12 may have reached target
    – not entirely surprising the angle here.

    Arab News – Russia strikes Kyiv for first time in weeks as battle rages in east
    Leads with missiles striking Kyiv. Weird story compared to all the others. References Pope Francis. and is the very first article offered to me with a quote from Putin. “Russian forces had been hitting Ukrainian weapons systems and “cracking them like nuts””

    if I search for “russia missile strikes”

    then I find what i missed
    UKRinform.net – Russian troops launched 40 missile strikes on Ukraine on Oct 22 – General Staff
    “Russian forces launched 40 cruise missiles and 16 Shahed-136 attack drones on targets in Ukraine on October 22, with Ukrainian defenders shooting down 20 missiles and 11 Shahed-136s.” – this apparently from the general staff facebook page. now there are 40 missiles and 20 shot down.

    and that is enough. Lost the will to keep on wading through it.

    I was left quite confused and overwhelmed at the different styles of lead and reporting for essentially the same story. and all I was trying to see was the numbers, and the energy impact.

    all types of different emphasis either on the energy grid damage, or the comments from Zelenksy, or Russia as aggressor, or the number shot down. e.g. CNN – positive that 18 shot down. Nothing on the number that got through.
    there is a dishonesty to the way numbers are used. 18 down out of 36 is not “most” for “most people”

    Hope someone finds that useful. It really does take a lot of time and energy filtering through all this.

  19. Richard Whitney

    Brian Berletic is less than objective. The analysis of the 101st Airborne monkey-business is just one example documented here.
    He recently went overboard saying that the removal of Hu at the CCP Party Congress was benign, agreeing with the CCP excuse that Hu was ill. Nevermind that there has been precedence, that an ill party member doesn’t appear, his chair is left empty; nevermind that it was Xi’s bodyguard who escorted him out, not his own bodyguard; nevermind that the Politburo member’s reaction was not of concern for Hu’s wellbeing; nevermind that Li, the guy groomed by Hu, looked wide-eyed stunned; nevermind that Li’s future has been eliminated; nevermind that XI was sending a signal to the Youth League Gang and the Shanghai Gang in this ouster. Berletic prefers the CCP cover story.
    Berletic bends the light.

    1. hunkerdown

      CCP is a propaganda term meant to invoke anti-USSR Cold War propaganda. CPC is the correct abbreviation.

      The West and its supporters have forfeited their moral authority permanently anyway.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I did not cite Berletic on the 101st save to dispute his aggressive claims, so don’t straw man me. His highest and best use is deconstructing DoD press conferences and comparing what they claim to Western think tank and military journal papers and studies. He can be simplistic and dogmatic and so I refer to him only very selectively and did not endorse his reading in this post.

      However, it is very clear that Hu was not “removed”. No one out of favor is ever seated right next to the party chair/top dog. If you look at the vid, he was clearly unwell.

      So who has an axe to grind? Looks like the pot calling the kettle black.

    1. David in Santa Cruz

      Biden wags the dog! “Our boys are in harm’s way. We must support our President!”

      Sending the 101st Airborne in to occupy Odessa — at the “invitation” of the Zelinskyy regime— does not even risk a direct point-of-contact confrontation with the armed forces of the Russian Federation. “Make us leave!”

      As a (very) few realized after Bucha, false-flag ops are a “Ukrainian” specialty. A dirty bomb detonated in an evacuated city in the direct path of the expected Russian advance could easily be sold to the ignorant American masses as the use of a tactical nuke by the super-villain PUTIN!!!

      Remind me, why can’t “Ukraine” be neutral like Finland was?

  20. Expat2Uruguay

    I hope people can forgive me for stating the obvious, but I feel like I’m on the other side of the world listening to a hidden mic on the deck of the Titanic.

    Everybody talking about how this whole thing can maybe be saved, and maybe maybe they can do it, or maybe it goes down. The tension is incredible, but it’s also surreal. Here in Uruguay it’s late spring, the birds are singing, the young people are kissing.

    It’s not too late to move to the southern hemisphere, you know

  21. Evelyn Sinclair

    Regarding ‘Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb and blame it on Moscow. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in the Ukraine war in calls with NATO nations on Sunday….’

    Two days earlier I noted this, with some alarm, as my pattern recognition kicked in for Ukrainian provocations. I assume the calls referred to this “warning.”

    “Ukraine Warns of Flood Risk from Hydroelectric Dam Rigged by Russia to Explode”
    Headline Oct 21, 2022

    “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of mining a massive hydroelectric dam upstream from Kherson with explosives, and is calling for international monitors to ensure the security of the site. Ukraine has warned a breach of the dam could lead to catastrophic flooding downstream, impacting hundreds of thousands of people. It could also disrupt critical cooling systems at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which relies on water from a reservoir created by the hydroelectric dam. ”


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