Streetwise Professor

April 12, 2014

Putin Loops the West’s OODA Loop

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 6:35 pm

Russia has commenced its invasion of eastern Ukraine. No, tanks have not rolled over the border, and Sukhois are not dropping bombs on Kharkov or Donetsk. But the invasion has begun, with the seizure of government buildings in several eastern cities by armed men. Men dressed in combat garb carrying advanced automatic weapons (including AK-100s with grenade launchers).

No, these troops have not declared that they are Russian soldiers. But that just adds to the outrageousness. What’s more, this is exactly the Crimea MO. Exactly. Recall that the Russians swore up and down that those who took over Crimea weren’t theirs. Until Putin let the cat out of the bag and bragged how the Crimean operation had demonstrated the tremendous progress that had been made in reforming the Russian military.

Post-Crimea, Occam’s Razor tells you that Little Green Men popping up anywhere in the Near Abroad are taking orders from Putin. This is an invasion.

And why shouldn’t he take another slice of Ukraine? The US and EU have said that they might maybe could ramp up sanctions a little bit if Putin’s tanks roll into Kyiv. But they let him take a slice-Crimea-with virtually no consequence. So why shouldn’t he take another slice? And once he digests this one, another? And another?

It is beyond obvious that the US and EU are desperate to avoid facing hard realities. They don’t want to confront Putin. The bleat about diplomacy and off-ramps and de-escalation, which Putin translates into “surrender.” And rightly so. So he will advance inexorably.

The Ukrainian government is paralyzed. It realizes that if it exercises force against the intruders that Putin will use that as a pretext to unleash the forces massed on the border. It knows that it is unlikely that the US/Nato will provide any meaningful assistance in that event. So it goes fetal.

These are the wages of fecklessness. Yet again.

We are governed by-I will not say led by-craven midgets. Obama played golf today. He spent last week making scurrilous charges of racism against his real enemies: the Republicans. That’s when he wasn’t hyping Obamacare while defenestrating the cabinet secretary charged with its implementation. Biden will be traveling to Ukraine Tuesday. Not this Tuesday, silly:  next Tuesday, the 22d.  Joe is probably still working on his taxes, and has plenty of fundraisers to attend to in the interim. So first things first. It’s the weekend, so Europe is, um, unavailable.

Clausewitz called “the offensive” the first principle of warfare. By this, he meant that the combatant with the initiative has a decisive advantage. He can choose the time and place to attack, and do so in a way that exploits his advantages and his enemy’s disadvantages.

Putin has the initiative. In part this is due to the fact that his adversary-Nato-is a coalition, and decision making in coalitions is inherently slow, and its councils divided. (I recall a story of Napoleon rejoicing to learn that another country had joined a coalition against him.)

But the United States in particular has the ability to act unilaterally, and drag Nato along with it. The US could unilaterally impose crippling costs on Russia, by effectively cutting off its access to the world banking system. Yes, this would cause the Germans and the Brits to squeal. But so be it. Leadership must sometimes be exercised with the flat of the sword laid to the backs of necks.

Putin has the initiative because Obama has conceded it to him.

The western OODA loop-observe, orient, decide, act-is pitifully slow. It is slow because of an intense desire to avoid conflict and to deny the reality of Putin’s behavior. It is slow because of a conscious choice of the US to abdicate leadership, and to defer to countries like Germany that have a deeply compromised relationship with Russia.

This means that Putin can easily keep the initiative because the US has deliberately chosen to cede the initiative to him. He can get inside our OODA loop over and over again. He can present us with faits accompli.

Until Obama-and no one else-bestirs himself to confront Putin, the Russians will continue to take slice after slice of Ukraine. Perhaps some parts will be incorporated into Russia, and other parts set up as formally independent Russian satrapies. But the formalities are irrelevant. Unless Putin is confronted, before long all of Ukraine will be subordinate to Russia.

And once that is accomplished, why should you think that Putin’s thirst to restore the USSR will be slaked? And it is not just about Putin and Russia. Once the idea that irredentism and revanchism will not be confronted takes hold, it will not be limited to the FSU. Obama is sowing the wind. His successors-and you and me-will reap the whirlwind.


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April 10, 2014

Germany & Russia: Psychology, Ideology, Economics–and Romanticism

Filed under: History,Politics,Russia,Snowden — The Professor @ 7:11 pm

In a sign of the impending apocalypse, Der Spiegel has run several articles that evaluate critically Germany’s all too accepting and “understanding” approach to Russia, including during the Ukraine and Crimea crises. The articles argue that there is a volatile brew of psychology (neuroses, actually), philosophy, and ideology, which when combined with the economic interests of German industry, makes Germany ambivalent at worst about Russia.

World War II of course plays a central role in this. One of the articles notes that the Germans are acutely conscious of the horrific things they did in the East, and that despite that, the Russians do not really hold that over the Germans. This impels the Germans to make amends, and makes them somewhat grateful to the Russians. In contrast American moralism about German actions during the war rankles the Germans deeply: this helps explain why the Germans revel in shrieking about American transgressions, notably Viet Nam and more lately, Snowden. If the Americans are morally tainted, Germans can feel less guilty about their past. (Similar considerations apply with force to German attitudes towards Israel.)

One point that the articles all make is the deep anti-western streak in German thought and attitudes. The similar anti-westernism in Russia, which is central to Putin’s new ideology, therefore resonates deeply in Germany and makes Germans think that Russians are kindred spirits.  These attitudes are particularly pronounced in the former GDR.

More specifically, there is a strong element of anti-Anglo Saxon-ism in both German and Russian thought.

This anti-westernism is rooted in Romanticism. Five years ago, I wrote a post drawing the parallels between the Romantic elements in German and Russian culture and thought.  Here’s a taste:

Following on Pauli, Viereck hypothesizes that German Romanticism was the product of the division of Germany between the Latinized West and the Barbarian East.  That Germany was on the divide between two civilizations with wildly different mental and moral universes.  Romanticism was a revolt of the East against the West.

Russia, too, has a very uneasy, conflicted relationship with the Latinized West.  Indeed, although the dividing line did not run directly through Russia, as it did Germany (thanks to Hermann/Arminius), post-Peter I’s introduction of Western ideas into Muscovy, the same conflict has rent Russia, with many of the same consequences, political and psychological.  The Slavophiles and latterly, the Eurasianists (new and old), are in essence Russia’s indigenous Romantics.  (It is well known that German Romanticism was quite influential in Russia.  I think that this is primarily a matter that the doctrine found very fertile soil waiting for it there.)

In brief, Russia’s conflicted relationship with the West, and the psychological complexes associated therewith, bear uncanny similarities to Germany’s.  Both Germany and Russia lie on civilizational fault lines, and Russia and the non-Romanized parts of Germany were not all that dissimilar in terms of economy and social organization.  It should not be too surprising that each reacted similarly to the onslaught of modernity and the hegemony of the Latinized West, though each of course exhibits its own distinct characteristics.

Similarly, my post On Russophobia I noted the deep anti-liberal strains in Russian thought: similar strains exist in Germany.

If you combine economic interest, latent (and not so latent) guilt, and deep anti-western (and specifically anti-American) sentiments rooted in Romanticism, Germany is entirely unreliable in opposing Putin.

And don’t doubt that Putin hasn’t figured that out, and is planning accordingly. And also don’t doubt that he is playing this for all it is worth. Exhibit A: Snowden.

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April 4, 2014

Not Willing to Sacrifice the Bonus of a Single Frankfurt Banker

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:52 pm

Few things I’ve read recently are more depressing than this WSJ article about European, and specifically German, enabling of Putin’s and Russia’s aggression:

Opposition to economic sanctions as a way to penalize Russia runs from 36% in Germany to 23% in Great Britain, to 15% in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, according to a YouGov poll taken across Europe from March 21 to 27.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said he found Mr. Putin’s actions “absolutely understandable” and urged Germans to reflect on history before condemning the Kremlin.

“More important than appealing to international law is the historical development of Crimea,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Historians are divided over whether there is even such a thing as a Ukrainian nation.”

Gerhard Schröder, who as chancellor until 2005 developed a close friendship with Mr. Putin, has expressed his understanding for Russia’s “fear of encirclement” by the West.

Mr. Schröder’s pro-Russian leanings are well known in Germany. The ex-chancellor, now chairman of a gas-pipeline venture majority-owned by Russian state energy giant Gazprom, once deemed Mr. Putin a “flawless democrat.”

While not condoning the Crimea annexation, Mr. Schröder has made light of Russia’s violation of international law, saying that Germany and NATO also broke international law when they bombed Serbia without U.N. authorization—a precedent that Mr. Putin also cites.

Ms. Merkel has used tough rhetoric against Mr. Putin and warned the crisis could inflict “massive damage” on Russia. Much of the German press panned Mr. Schröder, Mr. Schmidt, and other “Putin-understanders” and “Russia-understanders” for excusing 19th-century-style military aggression.

But the sympathetic tone strikes a chord with the German public and some elites. Siemens  AG   chief executive Joe Kaeser cited the two former chancellors’ remarks in justifying his controversial visit to Mr. Putin last week.

Among Germans polled on March 31 and April 1, 49% said the country’s foreign policy should represent a “middle position between the West and Russia,” whereas 46% said Germany should stick to a firm alliance with the West, according to polling company infratest dimap. In another poll taken in mid-March, half of Germans said the EU should simply accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“People who say ‘Russia-understander’ never understand what they are talking about—it’s either black or white for them,” said former German Ambassador to Russia Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz. “Many people call me that, and I don’t mind at all.”

Germany appears dead set on making the French look grateful.

This whinging about Russia being “surrounded by enemies” and having “defenseless borders”  and being threatened by Nato expansion is so much bologna. Nato has neither offensive capability or intent. Russia has more strategic depth than any nation in the world. Just ask Charles XII, Napoleon or Hitler. As they all found out to their bitter chagrin, you can cross Russia’s borders, only to get lost in the trackless wastes that lie beyond.

And if Putin is so worried about Nato moving closer to Russia’s borders, why is he making moves in Ukraine that would move Russia’s borders closer to Nato?

Russian “fears” about a Nato invasion threat are not based in reality: they are either paranoid delusions, or contrived, or both.

Germans whine about not wanting another Cold War. Sorry, Fritz: this isn’t your choice. Putin has a vote too. Or to paraphrase Trotsky: you might not be interested in another Cold War, but another Cold War is interested in you. Courtesy of Vladimir Vladimirovich.

In large part due to the heavy burden of its horrific past, Germany wants a vacation from history and civilizational conflict. But Putin is on a civilizational mission, and if he is not stopped now, he will continue to push until some confrontation occurs in the future.

But to achieve this, Germany is not willing to sacrifice the bonus of one Frankfurt banker, let alone the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. And indeed, it appears that mercenary considerations are paramount. German business leaders, notably from Siemens (one of the world’s technology leaders-as well as a leader in bribery and corruption), are bleating about the economic costs of even mild economic measures against Russia.

Looking over the past several years, it becomes clear that such commercial considerations are paramount in Berlin. Germany abjures any leadership role when it comes to Russia, rationalizing this choice by harking to its bad experience with Führers. But when it comes to German money in Greece or Spain, Germany was quite willing to throw its weight around and push policies that advance German economic interests. That is, it’s not about historical burdens making Germans shirk from leadership. It’s about German commercial interests causing it to conduct a passive foreign policy sometimes, and a very heavy-handed one at others.

In other words: le perfide Allemagne. The common denominator in German policy towards Europe and Russia is what benefits German industry and German banks. Germany’s foreign policy is ultimately corporatist, and the country is quite willing to sell the rope that hangs some poor Eastern Europeans.

Germany has never hesitated to preen about its moral superiority, and to attack the US in particular for doing the dirty work that has kept Germany free and prosperous for going on 70 years. The pretense is beyond annoying.

Germany is enabling Putin, and for the most crass commercial reasons. Its policy is due neither deference nor respect.

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March 30, 2014

Kerry & Lavrov Negotiate Ukraine’s Surrender in Paris: Were All the Rooms in Munich Booked?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:06 am

Following up on Putin’s phone call to Obama, Kerry is making a detour to Paris to negotiate with Lavrov over the fate of Ukraine.

Lavrov has laid out Russia’s terms, and intimates that Obama and Kerry have accepted the principles underlying these terms.

First, Russia demands that Ukraine adopt a new constitution that establishes a federal structure that gives each region considerable autonomy.  Translate this to mean that these regions would be able to pull a Crimea.  Or, more accurately, that Russia would be able to pull a Crimea, slicing off pieces of Ukraine and splicing them onto Russia.

Crucially, Lavrov said: “I can say that ‘federation’ is no longer a taboo word in our negotiations.”  Meaning that if he is telling the truth (always a big if) Obama has conceded that Ukraine’s constitutional order is up for negotiation, on Moscow’s terms.

Second, Russia demands that Ukraine’s new constitution incorporate guarantees that Ukraine will not join Nato or any other alliance.

In brief: the Secretary of State of the United States is traveling to Paris to negotiate the constitution of a sovereign country, without the presence of that country.  The end state of this negotiation would be to turn Ukraine into a Russian satrapy, to be gobbled up piecemeal, and with no ability to conduct an independent foreign policy.

Lavrov’s teaser is that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine.  But if you read his words closely, you will understand that he means Russia has no intention of invading if its terms are accepted. Otherwise, Ukraine is a fascist, Nazi threat to Russia and to Russian “compatriots.”  And we know what Putin believes such a threat justifies.

The 1930s analogies keep coming, fast and furious. Here the analogy is Munich, where France and Germany negotiated Czechoslovakia’s fate with Hitler, without the Czechs being present.  The Czechs called the agreement the Munich Diktat. Will the Ukrainians call this the Paris Diktat?

There are other similarities.  The pretext of the Germans in 1938 was and Russia in 2014 is the necessity of protecting co-ethnics allegedly threatened by independent nations not invited to the negotiations.  Munich resulted in the handover of the major industrial region of Czechoslovakia to Germany: the likely outcome of an agreement on Putin’s terms would be to handover Ukraine’s main industrial region to Russia. The Munich negotiations took place under the threat of a German invasion of Czechoslovakia if Hitler’s terms were not accepted, and German troops were massed on the border to carry out that threat.  The Paris negotiations are taking place under the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine if Putin’s terms are not accepted, and Russian troops are massed on the border with the capability to carry out that threat.

Once upon a time “No More Munichs!” was a catchphrase in US foreign policy. No longer, apparently. Obama and Kerry seem to be saying “Why Not Munich?”

Even if no agreement comes of these talks, or talks that follows, it is deeply shameful that the United States would even engage in such a negotiation on such terms with such a nation.  Deeply shameful.

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March 29, 2014

Putin is From Mars, Obama is From Venus, and Germany is From Denial

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:25 pm

Yes, I know the meme is cliché. But clichés become cliché because they capture some basic truths.

Have any doubts? Just compare Putin’s speech on Crimea to Obama’s speech in Brussels.  Compare what Lavrov says to what Kerry says.  Compare the different versions of the various phone conversations between Obama and Putin released by the Kremlin and the White House, most especially the readouts of yesterday’s conversation: the immediate question is “are these people talking about the same phone call?”

Obama is all about diplomacy, community, talk, de-escalation, agreement on mutually beneficial terms.  Putin is all about grievance, righting historical wrongs, battling dark forces (i.e., Ukrainian fascists and Nazis and Western interlopers), winner take all.

The reason their conversations seem disjointed is that they are.  They start from totally different premises, totally different world views.  They are talking past one another.

Oh.  And Putin is doing more than talking.  He is acting.

And this means that  Obama’s Vensuian lets-talk-about-it-and-get-to-win-win approach is utterly without foundation.  For it presumes that your would-be interlocutor and partner-to-be is operating from the same assumptions, premises, and world view as you are.

When that’s not true, the jaw-jaw Venusian approach will be about as constructive as any conversation between two parties speaking mutually incomprehensible languages.

And what’s more, the advantage in this type of contest between Mars and Venus is decidedly on the Martian side in the realm of international relations, where third party enforcement is absent. Especially when the Martian side can deploy little green men on its doorstep against a far weaker neighbor.

Before writing this, I Googled “Putin is from Mars Obama is from Venus,” to see if anyone had used this meme recently. I didn’t find that on the first several pages of search results, but I did find several pieces saying that the US (and hence Obama) is Mars, and Europe is Venus.

Yes, the US-and even Obama-are positively Martian compared to the Euros. And that’s precisely a major problem. Because it means that the Euros are absolutely dead-set against doing anything to confront Russia. And Obama is completely willing to defer to them.

And the worst offender is the nation that was once the most militantly Martian on earth: Germany.  Rather than recognize the similarities of Putin’s Russia to the bad  Germany of old, and understand the need to oppose and deter such conduct, Germany is hell bent on imitating its appeasing opponents of decades past.

Two depressing articles tell you all you need to know.

German businesses whine about sanctions, and complain about the West (!) escalating tensions with Russia. Germany swears it’s not soft on Russia.

My knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology is inadequate to figure out what Europe (and especially Germany) are if Obama is Venus to Putin’s Mars.  I guess I have to back further.  To Egypt.  Because Germany is from Denial.

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March 27, 2014

Obama Speaks. Putin Smiles.

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:21 pm

Obama has given two major sets of remarks about Ukraine, one set on teleprompter, the other off.  Like Tolstoy’s unhappy families, each was appalling in its own way.  It is hard to say which is worse.

The off-teleprompter remarks were delivered at a press conference.  The statement that garnered the most attention, and rightly so, was Obama’s assertion that Russia was a mere regional power that is not a threat to the US, and invaded Crimea out of weakness.

Where to begin?

Part of the problem is the man’s preternatural pettiness.  He denigrated Russia in  part because he will not, cannot, concede that Romney might have been closer to the truth than he was when the Republican candidate named Russia as our number one national security threat, and Obama responded with a snarky “the 80s called and want their foreign policy back.”  A bigger man would have given Romney his due.  But that would be a different man than Obama.

But the bigger problem is the substance.  First, I would be the first to acknowledge that Russia’s military is decrepit and its ability to project power beyond the Eurasian landmass is limited.  But the Eurasian landmass is pretty damned big, and Russia’s region includes many areas of vital interest to the United States.

Second, Russia has many other sources of power that transcend those of a mere regional power (like Brazil, say).  Most obviously: It has nukes.  It has a UNSC veto.  It has extremely effective asymmetric capabilities, notably cyberwarfare (conducted in large part through private and criminal elements that work for Russian intelligence out of a combination of patriotic and mercenary motives) and intelligence.  (Snowden, anyone?)

Moreover, Putin’s anschluss, and the threatened moves beyond Crimea (not just Ukraine, but reasonably feared in any country with substantial Russian speaking minorities, which includes countries formally allied with the US) upset the entire international order.  Not just the post-World War II and post-Cold War settlements, but the principles of international order stretching back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.   Turning a blind eye to revanchism and irredentism threatens to unleash similar forces on every continent.  The chaos and disorder that would result would present a profound challenge to stability, and the interests of the United States.

Obama appears to believe that it is beneath a stronger power to confront weaker ones.  But what is the point of strength and power, if they cannot be deployed against peer adversaries because that would be too costly, and they cannot be deployed against weaker ones because that’s unsporting?

Indeed, if Obama’s diagnosis is correct, and Russia is a weak power (put aside whether the weakness is the motivation for Putin’s aggressiveness, as Obama claims), given the stakes there is a compelling case to deploy American power (mainly economic, financial, and political, rather than military) to squash the weak upstart.  Because that would contribute to tranquility throughout Eurasia, and pour encourager les autres.

The formal speech in Belgium was a disaster in different ways.  Obama gave a treacly tribute to the bravery of Maidan, and then basically said: “sorry, people, you’re on your own!  Good luck!  We wish you the best!”  He laid out a rather compelling case that Putin’s challenge to the international system threatened dire consequences far beyond Ukraine, but despite this he threatened no measures beyond the oft-repeated gradualism of escalating financial consequences: how many historical examples are required to demonstrate that such gradualism, so appealing in the faculty lounge and think tank, is actually an encouragement to hard men like Putin?

Disgustingly, Obama conceded many of Putin’s arguments, most notably that Russia has special rights in Ukraine due to the longstanding historical relationship between the countries.  This is to make modern Ukrainians subordinate to Russia because their forebears provided a patina of civilization to Muscovite thugs, and then suffered centuries of subjugation at the hands of these thugs which at times lapsed into genocide.  Yes, the Holodomor was truly the epitome of a special relationship, no?

If anything, the historical relations between Ukraine and Russia provide a compelling case to defend Ukraine against further Muscovite predations, rather than an excuse to consign the country to Putin’s tender mercies.

The speech put more emphasis on what the US won’t do, than what it will.  Obama repeated three times that the US will not engage in any military response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.  I’m sure Putin got that message, and smiled.

Obama emphasized a desire for continued diplomacy, and de-escalation.  Both of which Russia has already rejected, repeatedly.  (Look at the picture of Lavrov meeting with the Ukrainian FM.  I am sure The Tarantula would have preferred an appendectomy without anesthesia to that meeting.) This is political onanism of the most embarrassing sort.

But there’s more! Not only did Obama conspicuously put Ukraine outside the American security perimeter, he also slammed the door on Georgia, saying that it was not on a path to membership in Nato.  Given that Georgia is one of Putin’s biggest bêtes noire, you may rest assured that Putin is going to take this as an invitation.

In sum, the speech signaled a supine attitude that will embolden Putin.  Obama appears robust only in comparison to the Europeans, who would have to stiffen considerably in order to become mere boneless wonders (to quote Churchill’s devastating critique of Stanley Baldwin).

Some have claimed that Obama’s speech was tough, both on the Russians and the Europeans.  The markets deemed otherwise.  Gazprom was up.  Sberbank was up.  Rosneft was up.  Micex was up.  The Ruble was up.

And no wonder. Last week’s encouraging expansion of sanctions have been followed by . . . nothing.  Except empty threats to do more: that’s all Obama’s speech contained.  It is clear that there is no appetite in western capitals for aggressive action against Russia, even though it would be possible to crush the Russian economy.

Need convincing? German firms are making pilgrimages to Moscow.  German politicians are loud in their criticism of sanctions, and bend over backwards to rationalize Putin’s conduct.

Just why did we defend these people for 60 plus years, anyways?  They are obsessed with Snowden and the thought that the NSA might be perusing their Amazon purchases.  Never mind that a thugocracy is on the march.  It’s so much easier for the Germans to criticize the US than Russia.  The US doesn’t fight back.

Speaking of NSA, one of the companies that paid homage to Putin in his court was Siemens, a notoriously corrupt firm. Former CIA director James Woolsey said we spy on European companies precisely because of their corruption.  Perhaps some kompromat or prosecutions are in order.

Obama appears to be deferring to German wishes.  Specifically, I smell Merkel’s influence over the Georgia remarks.  Why did Obama have to mention Georgia at all, let alone to throw it very publicly under the bus?  Then recall that Merkel has been adamant over excluding Georgia from integration into Nato on any time frame.

Russian troops are massing on Ukraine’s borders.  Russia’s most capable formations, its paratroops (VDV) and Guards armored/mechanized units are assembled there.  But don’t worry! Russian defense minister Shoygu assures that these troops are only there for maneuvers.  And the drunk who is our SecDef believes him:

At the Pentagon, there remains confidence in the assurances provided to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu that the Russian troops amassing on the border with Ukraine were there only for exercises.

“[Shoygu] told me that they had no intention of crossing the border into Ukraine,” Hagel said at the Pentagon this week.

Can we really be this stupid?  (Don’t answer that.  The question was totally, totally rhetorical.)

Just why, pray tell, need the Russians conduct maneuvers with 50K of their best troops on a sensitive border? And given that Putin repeatedly lied about his intentions in Crimea, why should we believe Shoygu-especially since there are serious doubts that Shoygu is in Putin’s decision making clique?

In sum, in his various remarks, Obama has revealed that he has many, many cheeks, and is willing to turn them all.  To Putin, anyways: not to Romney or other Republicans. Putin will take this as an invitation, and take all that he can.  If he isn’t stopped now-and rolled back, actually-he will continue to press.  The necessity of confrontation will not be eliminated, just deferred.


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March 24, 2014

Kill Me Now

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:58 pm

Quoted without comment, because (a) the stupidity and fecklessness is so obvious that no explication is necessary, and (b) this is so maddening and depressing I can’t bring myself to say anything:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he hoped the Crimea crisis would not harm cooperation with Russia on international efforts to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government agreed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal as part of a U.S.-Russian agreement negotiated after a chemical attack last August that killed hundreds of people around Damascus.

“All I can say is I hope the same motivations that drove Russia to be a partner in this effort will still exist,” Kerry told reporters in The Hague, where he was due to attend a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.

“This is bigger than either of our countries. This is a global challenge,” Kerry said.

Okay.  One comment.

With such credulous idiots in charge, we are so screwed.  So screwed.

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March 17, 2014

What’s Next for Putin? The Comfy Chair?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:33 am

The US’s “sanctions” against 7 Russian officials are a pathetic travesty.  The only thing more pathetic is that the Euros omitted the two most important names (Surkov and Rogozin) from their list.

These completely ineffectual measures, which impose no real costs on the real decision makers, or on Russia, will only embolden Putin, rather than deter him.

The administration says that these are the most comprehensive measures imposed on Russia since the end of the Cold War (which is duh-obvious since none have been imposed since the end of the Cold War), and intimates that this is part of a strategy of gradual escalation.

First: yeah, gradual escalation worked out so well for LBJ and McNamara.  Hard men, like Ho Chi Minh and Putin, see “gradual escalation” as a confession of weakness.

Second: what’s the next step in l’escalier? The Comfy Chair?

This is beyond feckless.  Victoria Nuland said “F*ck the EU” because of its pusillanimity in Ukraine.  By her logic, “F*ck the US” is completely appropriate.

To give you an indication of how devastating these “sanctions” were, Russian stocks rallied around 5 percent on the news.

Several of the “targets” took to Twitter to express their disdain.  For instance, Rogozin the Ridiculous said something I agreed with for the first time ever.

Relatedly, Russia has laid down its conditions for Ukraine.  These essentially involve Russia dictating Ukraine’s constitutional order.  Specifically, Russia demands a return to the February 21 agreement, and an imposition of a federal structure on Ukraine, in which regions would have substantial autonomy.  Autonomy which would, no doubt, allow these regions to follow Crimea’s example and vote to join Russia.

If I were Ukraine, I would say: You first.  You call yourself the Russian Federation.  If a true federal structure is so great, Russia should give its various republics and autonomous regions true autonomy, including the right to vote themselves out of the RF.  Sauce for the goose and all that.

Unfortunately, based on the administration’s utter fecklessness and pusillanimity so far, I would imagine that Obama and Kerry will give (or already have given) Ukraine the same advice that Bobby Knight related to Connie Chung years ago.

Surkov certain sees things in a similar light.

Obama is notoriously the most thin-skinned president in recent memory.  Yet Russians mock him repeatedly, without eliciting any reaction, except for maybe “thank you sir, may I have another?”

Usually appeasers eventually wake up when it becomes apparent that their appeasement has only encouraged the object of the policy to take more, more, more.  Carter woke up.  Even Chamberlain eventually woke up.

Obama and the Euros?  Still lost in their dreams, while Putin inflicts a nightmare on the borders of NATO and the EU.



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March 10, 2014

See Classic Provokatsia, Disinformatsia, and Agitprop at Work

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:38 pm

Russia is decrying the “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine.

Classic recipe. Sow chaos and lawlessness by inserting provocateurs into a fraught situation.  Loudly decry the dangers associated with such chaos, and lie about its sources.  Emphasize the chaos in an agitprop campaign to justify intervention.

Another rhyme with 1936-1939, by the way.

One has to have some grudging respect here, in the same way one has grudging respect for Satan in Paradise Lost.

I have no respect, however, for those erstwhile “leaders” in the west who fall for such well-worn and transparent ploys.

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Snowden Pegs the Cheesy-Meter, and Is Not Asked the Questions that Matter

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Snowden — The Professor @ 2:16 pm

Like something out of 1984 (irony!), the disembodied head of Ed Snowden delivered remarks to SXSW in Austin.

Ed had nothing new to say.  Same old blah blah blah.  The only thing remarkable is that the appearance of the image of his talking head in front of the image of the Constitution did peg the cheesy-meter.  Jumping the shark doesn’t come close to conveying how lame this was.

Until someone asks Snowden “if as you claim your interest has been solely in exposing privacy violations against US citizens, why did you steal hundreds of thousands of documents relating to military and foreign intelligence matters, and why have the bulk of your leaks been related to such matters?” he deserves to be treated with extreme skepticism and scorned. But of course, the geek idiots at SXSW failed to do so.  Making them accessories after the fact in the Snowden operation.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the privacy campaign is an elaborate cover scheme meant to divert attention from an operation targeted at undermining legitimate US foreign and military intelligence functions.  It is also targeted at undermining US alliances, most notably with Germany, which has been (courtesy of Laura Poitras’s collaboration with Der Spiegel) the subject of a disproportionate number of the stories. The Germans are particularly vulnerable to such tactics, desiring so desperately to escape the burdens of their past by believing the Americans are as bad or worse.  (And by the way, German pusillanimity in the face of Putin’s aggression provides justification, as if any was needed, for surveilling German politicians.)

And look how important dividing the US from Germany is right now, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis.

There are no coincidences, comrades.

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