Streetwise Professor

August 14, 2014

10-4, хороший товарищ

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 6:59 pm

Russia is known for remaking American TV shows, notably Married, With Children. Now it is doing a very bad remake of the 1978 Sam Peckinpah movie, Convoy. This time as a reality show.

An alleged “humanitarian” convoy of 270-odd white semis has been bouncing around southwestern Russia, bound for Luhansk and Donetsk. Cargo? Unknown, for certain. Route? Unknown, for certain: so far it has been serpentine, and interrupted by numerous stops. Ukraine demanded that it travel through Karkiv, via border posts it controls, but the convoy has apparently now split with one part headed for a border post controlled by Russians. The drivers and other personnel? Unknown; they claim to be “volunteers”, but some suspect they are Russian paratroopers.

The Russians confidently announced that this has all been done in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross, but the ICRC just says that it has been in discussions with Ukraine and Russia about it, and that it is ignorant of crucial details. Ukraine demands that the trucks be unloaded at the border, the cargo loaded into Red Cross vehicles driven by Red Cross. Russia refuses. It demands its way on the highway.

No one has a clue as to what Putin’s game is here. There is only one thing for certain: it is not what it purports to be, a legitimate relief effort. If it were, Putin would have let the Red Cross handle it from the get go, and limited Russian participation to the provision of supplies and perhaps vehicles and fuel. But although Russia has claimed Red Cross approval, it is pretty clear that it has grossly exaggerated this. Sadly, in classic useful idiot fashion, the ICRC has not called bullshit on Putin, limiting its response to mewling tweets like:

We have made initial contact with the #Russia-led aid convoy, Rostov region, #Ukraine. Many practical details are still to be clarified.

Respect for the #RedCross emblem is essential for us to assist and protect those worst affected by the armed conflict in eastern #Ukraine.

Amid the media storm, we stress that aid delivery into east #Ukraine should not be politicized. Our priority remains helping people in need.

So what is the game? So many possibilities. A propaganda exercise, and one that would actually be enhanced if Ukraine stopped the entry of the convoy into the Donbas: however, given the way Putin is viewed throughout the world, the only people that the propaganda would fool would be Russians and Putin’s fellow travelers on the fringe left and fringe right in the US and Europe. Along the same lines, but more sinisterly, a setup for a false flag operation in which the convoy would be attacked by Russian or rebel forces, masquerading as Ukrainians, to provide a pretext for an invasion. A way of smuggling weapons, ammunition, and reinforcements to the beleaguered rebels. All of the above.

To add to the chaos, three reporters observed a column of Russian APVs moving into Ukraine.

The whole episode reminds me of a Three Card Monte game. A lot of jabber, a lot of motion, a lot of misdirection, all intended to hide the real object. Which raises the question: where is the Black Queen?

All of this is very ominous. Adding to the sense of peril is Putin’s benign speech in Yalta, Crimea today. It is being interpreted as an attempt at conciliation, a step back. That interpretation works to Putin’s benefit, by getting those in Europe and the US, who are desperately hoping to avoid a confrontation and who are looking for any sign of hope, to drop their guard. At which time he will pounce. (A classic judo ploy, btw.)

Convoy was atypical of Peckinpah’s oeuvre. He specialized in graphic violence, heavily spattered with technicolor blood. Many of his characters were psychopathic antiheroes. Sadly, I think that only Peckinpah could do justice with what is likely to unfold in the Donbas, and the psychopath who will be responsible for it.

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9 Comments »

  1. My theory is that is a false flag operation but of a differenet kind.

    I think that most likely the cargo is exclusively humanitarian. The point is, while the convoy and the Russian servicemen are inside of the Donbass towns delivering it to the locals, Ukrainian military would have to stop shelling insurgents’ positions.

    Because if they do, a few Russians would be hurt or killed almost certainly. Which is (remember Georgia 2008?) a perfect pretext for an open invasion. And if the Ukraininas stop, this will give the insurgents much needed releif to rest and regroup.

    It is a win-win. As soon as these people are allowed within the Ukrainian borders. And no hidden weapons needed.

    Comment by LL — August 14, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

  2. BTW, “good buddy” should be rendered as “приятель” or “дружище”, not “хороший товарищ” 🙂

    Comment by LL — August 14, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

  3. I have a useful rule of thumb that any organisation, company, or prominent individual who issues information or comments regarding anything other than absolutely trivial matters should not be taken seriously. If people don’t want to spend the time thinking things through before writing it down in properly constructed, coherent sentences then they are probably better keeping quiet.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 15, 2014 @ 2:56 am

  4. I keep thinking that Russians want to whisk certain people out of those regions.

    Comment by mario — August 15, 2014 @ 7:28 am

  5. Sorry, my comment is gibberish because I left out a crucial word. I meant to say:

    I have a useful rule of thumb that any organisation, company, or prominent individual who issues information or comments via Twitter regarding anything other than absolutely trivial matters should not be taken seriously. If people don’t want to spend the time thinking things through before writing it down in properly constructed, coherent sentences then they are probably better keeping quiet.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 15, 2014 @ 8:58 am

  6. More flash traffic: Ukraine claims to have destroyed Russian armored units in Ukrainian territory. It’s amazing that everyone’s being so honest about is the only thing.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11037397/Ukraine-artillery-destroys-part-of-Russian-armoured-column-says-Poroshenko.html

    Comment by Blackshoe — August 15, 2014 @ 10:37 am

  7. @Tim-Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering. I sorta figured you meant Twitter but I wasn’t sure.

    The ICRC has totally embarrassed itself. It has demonstrated that pattern that is all to characteristic of NGOs. Hectoring nations that are, for the most part, law-abiding and respectful of international norms, and cringing before thugs (like Putin), thereby enabling their thuggery.

    Twitter does help identify the insipid. EG, US State Department spokespeople like Marie Harf and Jen Psaki. God help us.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 15, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

  8. @mario-No doubt. But they could have sent in supplies, unloaded them, and then loaded their human cargoes instead of deadheading. It’s like the Russians don’t even care enough to fake a decent relief effort.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 15, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

  9. They have played chicken enough times to be certain of the result by now. Given that the strongest sanctions against Russia have been imposed by Putin, no wonder they don’t care.

    Comment by Ivan — August 15, 2014 @ 11:33 pm

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