Streetwise Professor

May 11, 2014

Remembrance of War is the Health of the Russian State

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:07 am

Russia’s “Victory Day” celebration is exceptional in virtually every way. Sixty-nine years after its end, no other nation commemorates WWII like Russia. Indeed, whereas the events in Russia involve the entire nation, if there were official ceremonies in the US and the UK and Continental Europe recognizing VE Day, they were unnoticeable.

Of course Russia’s gargantuan losses in the conflict had an emotional impact far beyond that experienced in any other allied nation. But that does not explain the form, content, or tone of the Russian commemoration. It is not focused first and foremost on remembering the dead. Instead, it is focused first and foremost on venerating the Russian state. On using the Russian (and non-Russian Soviet) deaths to stake a moral and political claim for the state.

To modify the anti-war aphorism, remembrance of war is the health of the Russian state. The Great Patriotic War is used to legitimize the Russian state,  to immunize it from criticism, and to attack those who oppose the state. Note as two examples the attack on opposition channel TV Rain for even questioning whether the sacrifice of the Siege of Leningrad was worthwhile, and the just signed law criminalizing “distorting” the USSR’s role in WWII.

And it has been so from 3 July, 1941. On that day, 11 days after the launch of Barbarossa, a shaken Stalin emerged from hiding and declared a Great Patriotic War. Stalin in particular needed to protect himself against charges of criminal incompetence that cost millions of lives. The narrative of a wise and brave Soviet state uniting with the people to vanquish the Nazi hordes proved amazingly powerful. It united the people emotionally with the state. It was-and is-a reliable way to silence criticism of the state.

It is also grotesquely cynical, exploiting the deaths and suffering of millions to serve the interests of the state and the autocrats that rule over it. In Stalin’s case in particular, it is particularly cynical and grotesque, because he was directly responsible for millions of those deaths and maimings through his operational incompetence and callous indifference to death and suffering. This makes it all the more revealing-and tragic-to see many pictures of Stalin carried reverently at Friday’s Victory Day celebrations.

This is not to gainsay that the Soviet war effort was necessary to defeat Hitler. But so was the Anglo-American effort. No, the British and the Americans did not bleed anywhere near as much as the Soviets. But this is more of a reproach than a compliment to Stalin and the Soviet state. As the movie Patton said,  “I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.”

Not only is WWII remembrance deployed for domestic political purposes. Russian suffering is presented as a moral claim on the world to justify first Soviet, and now Russian, expansionism and imperialism. Just witness how the defense of Sevastapol and the Crimea in WWII is being used to legitimize Putin’s recent Anschluss.

This claim is defective for two reasons, at least.

First, it ignores completely Soviet complicity in and responsibility for the war. Stalin provided massive material support for Hitler that made possible Germany’s victories in the west in 1940: indeed, trains loaded with fuel and grain destined for Nazi Germany continue to roll west out of the USSR even as the Wehrmacht was rolling east on 22 June, 1941. The Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact was also a necessary precondition for the war.

Second, Soviet behavior after the war gives the lie to the Soviet and Russian claim that the Red Army liberated anything. Yes, they defeated the Germans, but replaced Nazi tyranny in conquered lands with Soviet. To say that the Soviets were not as bad as the Germans is to succeed by the very lowest of possible standards, and very cold (war) comfort to those who endured the Soviet yoke for nigh onto 50 years.

The supposedly liberated, especially in the Baltics and Poland, do not buy into the Soviet-Russian narrative, and this drives modern Russians to paroxysms of hysteria. Recall the thuggish Russian reaction-both official and popular-to the Estonian decision to move a memorial to the Red Army in Talinn. The Estonians saw the monument as a daily reminder of their imprisonment at Soviet/Russian hands. The Russians saw the Estonian reaction as an act of extreme ingratitude.

The twisted Russian syllogism is this. The Glorious Red Army defeated fascism. If you criticize what the Red Army did in eastern Europe, or the Soviet rule of eastern Europe enforced by the Red Army, you are a fascist. To say that the Russians are blind to how they are perceived in the lands they conquered is to miss the point: they see things in a totally different way, and cannot even comprehend that anyone would see it differently, except if they are Nazis at heart.

This is not a new phenomenon, with Russians generally or Putin in particular. I wrote about Putin’s 2007 Victory Day speech, and what I said then rings true today:

As outrageous as these remarks are, his paean to the “unity” of the former USSR is even more offensive:

Victory Day not only unites the people of Russia but also unites our neighbors in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. We are deeply grateful to the generation of people whose difficult fate it was to face this war. They have passed on to us their traditions of fraternity and solidarity and their truly hard-won experience of unity and mutual aid. We will preserve this sacred memory and historical legacy. Those who attempt today to belittle this invaluable experience and defile the monuments to the heroes of this war are insulting their own people and spreading enmity and new distrust between countries and peoples.

Hate to break this to you Vlad, but your “neighbors” didn’t exactly view the USSR as a fraternal organization, hence their haste to depart it at the first opportunity. They viewed the Soviet system of “mutual aid” in the same way the web caught fly perceives a spider. The Estonians (the clear referent in Putin’s paragraph just quoted) are not “defiling” a monument to heroes of WWII, insulting themselves, or spreading enmity. To them, the monument to which Putin refers is a painful reminder of their subjugation by a regime that showed utter disdain for human life and dignity, and which imposed “comradeship” at the barrel of a gun.

If Putin had any interest in allaying distrust between countries and peoples, he would acknowledge the gaping physical and psychic wounds inflicted by the regime he so clearly misses, and express understanding at how monuments to that regime just might be painful reminders of those wounds. Instead, by refusing to concede the USSR’s awful legacy, it is Putin who exacerbates historical distrust. The Estonian move seems a reasonable compromise; the monument will stand and the dead will be buried in a place where those who wish to mourn and honor the fallen may do so, but where the statue does not serve as a daily reminder of Estonia’s subjugation and the USSR’s crime. A crime, by the way, that grew out of a conspiracy between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany to divide eastern Europe between them. Yes, no state suffered more than USSR from the depredations of the Nazis–but no state did more to make those depredations possible.

But that’s just the problem, methinks–Putin (and the ultranationalist Nashiniks who are his most vocal constituency) want that daily reminder. And they really want to return to those days when the uppity Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Georgians, and myriad others knew their place.

The sobering fact is that although he was a true believer in the Cult of the Great Patriotic War then (and before), Putin is using it even more today to strengthen his authority and to silence dissent internally, and to justify aggressive expansion externally. (Note that the St. George colors flaunted by the separatists in Ukraine are the same as those used to commemorate WWII.) There is a direct connection between the prominence of the Cult and Putin’s authoritarian actions at home and imperialism abroad. It is his way of yoking the Russian people to the ambitions of the state–and Putin.

The fact that this year’s Victory Day celebration was as elaborate and passionately intense and overtly politicized (by Putin’s Crimea appearance) as any since the fall of the USSR means that it is a harbinger of greater oppression at home and greater aggression abroad.  Never forget that when Russians make a point of remembering the war, that bad things follow.

May 10, 2014

The President of the Nation With the Double Eagle Flag Flips the West a Double Bird

Filed under: History,Music,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:51 am

Putin flipped a double bird at the world, traveling to Sevastapol to deliver a truculent speech at a Victory Day celebration in the Crimean port city.

A major theme of Putin’s short (4 minute) speech was a demand for respect of Russia.

Obsession with respect and disrespect is characteristic of mafioso, gangbangers, and other psychopaths. Given the rapturous reception to Putin’s rhetoric and actions in Russia, one can only conclude that this is a national trait.

In news from Ukraine, Victory Day wasn’t as bad as I feared. There was fighting in Mariupol that left 21 dead (20 of them apparently separatists killed when the police station that they had seized was retaken by Ukrainian forces). But for the most part, the country was peaceful though restive.

And speaking of psychopaths, the separatists in the Donbas are proceeding with their referendum, allegedly without Russian support. But thinking through the decision tree, this is really a no lose situation for Putin. He (via the GRU) started this effort. If separatist sentiment appeared broad and deep (similar to what appeared to be the case in Crimea) he could support the referendum, insist it proceed, and claim that he was “respecting the right of self-determination” and demand the world do the same. If separation had little support, Putin could do what he has done: request that it be stopped. No doubt, however, he is encouraging the effort privately, because he can now claim publicly that the separatists’ insistence on proceeding demonstrates he does not control them.  What’s more, the apparent climbdown feeds western apathy and encourages western delusions that he can be negotiated with.

And I am sure you are shocked, but there is zero evidence that Russia has withdrawn troops from the border. Nato and the US deny they have observed any movement. But you don’t have to take their word for it. Recall that when Russian troops were moving to the border, there were numerous videos posted on YouTube and numerous photos posted on Twitter and elsewhere showing convoys of Russian armor moving west, on trains, and on the roads. There have been no similar postings of troops moving in the opposite direction either before or since Putin’s claim that the troops had returned to their bases.

This isn’t over. The subversion continues. The election is two weeks out, and expect the efforts to undermine it to pick up.

Edward Snowden: Russian Agent, Chinese Agent, or Russo-Sino Agent?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Snowden — The Professor @ 7:30 am

I will take credit for being one of the first to point out the fact that Snowden’s whistleblower narrative was a total crock because after the initial flurry his leaks had little to do with NSA surveillance of individuals, but instead revealed information that was highly damaging to US national security and foreign policy. The only question in my mind was when he was when he became a Russian asset. I still don’t know, but as I also pointed out a while ago, the fact that collected disproportionately such national security-related information made it very plausible that he was tasked to collect this information, and given the identity of the ultimate beneficiary-Russia-it was also plausible that he was Russia’s witting or unwitting tool from the get go.

I didn’t know the 1.7 millionth of it. Edward Jay Epstein’s long article in today’s WSJ lays out the damaging details:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2014, that “The vast majority of the documents that Snowden . . . exfiltrated from our highest levels of security had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities.”

. . . .

Mr. Snowden’s critics regard the whistleblowing narrative as at best incomplete, at worst fodder for the naïve. They do not believe that it explains the unprecedented size and complexity of the penetration of NSA files and records. For one thing, many of his critics have intelligence clearance. They have been privy to the results of an NSA investigation that established the chronology of the copying of 1.7 million documents that were stolen from the Signals Intelligence Center in Hawaii. The documents were taken from at least 24 supersecret compartments that stored them on computers, each of which required a password that a perpetrator had to steal or borrow, or forge an encryption key to bypass.

Once Mr. Snowden breached security at the Hawaii facility, in mid-April of 2013, he planted robotic programs called “spiders” to “scrape” specifically targeted documents. According to Gen. Dempsey, “The vast majority of those [stolen documents] were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures.”

. . . .

Mr. Snowden took the Booz Allen Hamilton job in March of 2013, but it was only at the tail end of his operation—in May—that he copied the document (possibly the only one) that specifically authorized the NSA’s controversial domestic surveillance program. This was a Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act court order, instructing Verizon to provide metadata on U.S. phone calls for 90 days, that Mr. Snowden gave to the Guardian newspaper in London on June 3, 2013. (He also leaked a secret presentation in slides about the NSA’s Prism Internet surveillance. This program, operated with the FBI, targeted only foreigners, though it could be extended, with the approval of the attorney general, to suspects in the U.S. in contact with foreign targets.)

Contrary to Mr. Snowden’s account, the document he stole about the NSA’s domestic surveillance couldn’t have been part of any whistleblowing plan when he transferred to Booz Allen Hamilton in March of 2013. Why? Among other reasons, because the order he took was only issued by the FISA court on April 26, 2013.

Here’s my favorite line:

A former member of President Obama’s cabinet [who has to be Panetta: no other candidate makes sense] went even further, suggesting to me off the record in March this year that there are only three possible explanations for the Snowden heist: 1) It was a Russian espionage operation; 2) It was a Chinese espionage operation, or 3) It was a joint Sino-Russian operation.

Snowden’s whole privacy/civil liberties narrative was just the piece of bacon wrapped around a poison pill. But even that narrative had subversive and corrosive effects, particularly in its effect on US foreign policy and the perceptions of the US abroad. Most notably in Germany, where they succeeded in driving a very deep wedge into an already fractured relationship.

And Snowden wants to negotiate a return. His best leverage is that he can reveal the details of what he took, who he worked with, and what he did subsequent to absconding so that the US can attempt to assess better the damage, and contain it.

But this is exactly why Russia will never let him set foot out of the country.  No, the entire negotiation charade is just another attempt to get Snowden sympathy and put the US in an unfavorable light: “look at how the US government continues to persecute this brave whistleblower.”

Fortunately, the world is tiring of Snowden. His newer allegations don’t have the same impact. But the damage is already done. And the real damage is not from what he’s told the world, but what he’s told the Russians (and perhaps the Chinese) in the deepest secrecy.

SWP’s Law of Airlines

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Professor @ 7:05 am

All airlines suck. Corollary: the one that sucks worst is the last one you were on.

I travel a lot. So I am familiar with the various forms of abuse that airlines dish out. The best thing that can be said of this experience is that it does give one an understanding of how to manage the pain.

Case in point. Flying to Charlotte direct from Houston on United yesterday afternoon. Well, supposed to be flying from IAH to CLT. Actual flying, not so much. Boarded the plane on time. Sat down. “Sorry, folks. We have to de-board. There’s a maintenance issue they didn’t tell us about.” Two hours of sitting around later, United cancels the flight. It rebooks me on the “next available flight.” Get this, this flight is an 0600 flight to Charlotte–via Chicago. Seriously? That only adds about 6 hours onto the trip.

This is the fourth cancellation on United I’ve experienced in the past 8 months. Two of those international.

But like I said I do have some experience in handling this, so I looked and saw that US Air had a direct 0830 flight. So I booked that. Then I called United and, um, persuaded them to cancel my outbound leg and refund half the fare. This took 3 phone calls until I found the accommodating agent. Before that it was “United policy is that we book you on the next flight. You can cancel the entire trip for a refund.”

Persistence pays.

So as of yesterday, United sucked worst. But they’ve been supplanted. Woke up this morning to an email that the US Air flight was delayed 2 hours for “crew rest.” A couple of weeks ago I had a 3 hour delay on US Air: another maintenance issue.

Maybe as a public service I should announce my travel plans so you all can avoid being on the flights that theoretically are supposed to take me where I want to go.

United will have its chance to reclaim the crown on Wednesday. After that Lufthansa.

I hate them all.*

* Actually, my one experience on Brussels Airways wasn’t bad. Beginner’s luck, maybe.

May 7, 2014

A Cautionary Tale About Western ADD

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:59 pm

Events in Syria today should give pause to those sighing in relief at Putin’s apparent climbdown in Ukraine.

The Syrian government took effective control of Homs, as rebel forces evacuated the city.

This is yet more evidence that Assad is on his way to winning the brutal civil war, making Putin and the Iranians very glad indeed.

What, you haven’t heard about Syria lately? Well that’s exactly the point.

Syria dominated the news in the late-summer of 2013. Then Obama cut a face saving deal over Syrian chemical weapons. The immediate crisis having passed, Obama put Syria in his rear view mirror, and the US and European publics put it out of mind too, as they were more than anxious to do.

But not Assad, Putin, and Khatami. The attentions of the world turning elsewhere, they continued a relentless assault against the rebels, and are now on the verge of victory.

But aren’t you glad that almost none of the tens of thousands slaughtered died from chemical weapons?

There is a very real risk the same will transpire in Ukraine. The immediate crisis apparently averted, the west will eagerly avert its gaze. But Putin, an intelligence operative at heart, will continue his covert campaign to subvert Ukraine. His termites will continue to eat away at the country from within.

Syria demonstrates the decisive effect of differences in the will to prevail. Assad and Putin and the Iranians were dead-set on prevailing. With an emphasis on the dead. Putin is dead-set on prevailing in Ukraine. Hell, he’s been smarting and scheming since the Orange Revolution a decade ago. You think he’s just going to take his ball and go home now?

No. He will draw back. Reconsider. Calculate. And return. He will exploit the inattention of the west. It’s more than inattention, actually. It’s a positive desire to be shed of such messy problems that intrude on the end of history.

What started today is a pause. And it will not refresh.

Don’t Trust. Verify.

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 5:13 pm

Putin surprised the world by calling for the insurrectionists in eastern Ukraine to delay their referendum on secession. The insurrectionists appear to have been the most gobsmacked of all.

The Russian president also gave rather equivocal support to the May 25 election in Ukraine. I say equivocal because he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

Further, Putin claimed that Russian troops had been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine (more on this below).

This has set off another round of the long popular parlor game of trying to figure out what is going on behind those beady little eyes of his.

Putin dropped his political bomb (better than the real thing, I guess) in an appearance with Swiss president Didier Burkhalter, who negotiated with Putin on behalf of the OSCE. Putin look decidedly uneasy, leading to even more questions about the reason for his apparent climbdown (and I do emphasize that one can only be confident that he is appearing to back off).

Some possibilities. One is that the situation in Donbass is not turning out as he had anticipated, and that the referendum would not be the Crimea-like, Soviet-style (or Anschluss-style) landslide that he needs. Putin needed total control of Crimea to produce the result he trumpets. The Russian Human Rights Council momentarily posted an analysis that suggests that the real results were far less overwhelming than officially touted. An election whose results could not be jiggered due to omnipresent Russian control would be a major embarrassment. So Putin had to delay to prepare the ground further.

Another is that Putin doesn’t really want to absorb eastern Ukraine. He needs to support another dysfunctional, corrupt province of Sovokistan like he needs a hole in the head. As long as the Ukrainian government warrant does not run there, he can exercise effective control through local oligarchs and suborned local officials. As long as he keeps things there on medium boil, and keeps the Ukrainian government from reasserting control, he can achieve his objectives for now, bide his time, and prepare his next move west towards Odessa (supported by a move east mounted from Transnistria).

Another is that the Swiss president carried a threat sufficiently credible and sufficiently damaging to make Vladimir blanch. (He’s about as white as you can get, so it’s hard to tell.)  The imagination runs wild. Burkhalter may have been the messenger communicating threats from the US to do something that would really cramp Putin’s style. Maybe Burkhalter said “the Americans know about your money in Swiss accounts and the money of your friends in Swiss accounts, and have said that if Switzerland does not cooperate and freeze these funds if they ask, they will make life unbearable for Switzerland. They already have me by the short ones over tax evasion. Swiss banks face billions in fines. My hands are tied.” (I sure as hell hope that’s what it is. That’s what I’ve been calling for since August, 2008.)

This is good news, but it ain’t over. Putin appears to be pulling back now, but you know his ultimate goals have not changed. And in the scheme of things, the referendum is not a big deal. Especially since I really don’t think Putin wants to take financial responsibility for another sh*thole, given that he already rules over a sh*thole that spans 11 time zones.

Watch what he really does. Does support (arms, men, etc.) continue to flow into eastern Ukraine? Are there further outbreaks in Odessa? Does the infiltration from Russia, Transnistria, and Crimea continue?

If so, Putin will have decided that not war-not peace will serve his objectives of rotting Ukraine from within. Making the place ungovernable and subject to his wirepulling from afar, acting through oligarchs in his thrall, and local officials sympathetic to him, and bribed to do his bidding if their sympathies are not sufficient spur. Meanwhile, the attention  of the west will lapse, the pressure for sanctions will ease, his agents will continue to work on Merkel through Siemens and Adidas and BASF. Once the west is compromised and lulled into a false sense of security, he can make another coup de main.

Meaning that it is imperative to keep the pressure on.

The main humorous element of his appearance was his statement about the Russian military presence on the border:

“We’re always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds,” Mr Putin said.

Nag. Nag. Nag. Fine. If you think that having 40,000 troops on your border is such a big deal, I’ll move them back. Sheesh. What is it with you people?

Not to mention that this statement is total bologna. NATO denies that it has observed any withdrawal. And it’s not like Vlad can snap his fingers and the troops magically disappear overnight back to their bases, which are scattered throughout western Russia, some nearly 1000 miles away. Such movements take time. The in-move was widely witnessed, with many videos being posted online. No similar out-move has been documented.

This ridiculous statement is sufficient to cast doubt on everything else Vlad says. Watch what he does. Go Reagan one better. Don’t Trust. Verify.

Don’t think this is over. Don’t think Putin will not strike again, and will do so precisely when the west’s interest wanes because the immediate crisis appears to have passed. Putin is singleminded in his purpose. The west has ADD. That is Putin’s biggest advantage.

 

May 4, 2014

FUD Wars: Fear the Uncertainty

Filed under: Economics,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:07 pm

A US Treasury Department official has confirmed what I had conjectured:  the administration is pursuing a fear, uncertainty, and doubt sanctions strategy:

“One of the purposes of sanctions is to create uncertainty and to create the expectation in the marketplace that worse could be coming,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department under secretary who oversees sanctions. “That uncertainty has led the market to punish the Russian economy.”

It must be noted that Putin is also pursuing a FUD strategy, but with armor and combat aircraft. The continued presence of large Russian formations hard on the border with Ukraine, which pose a constant threat of invasion, is definitely sowing FUD in Ukraine (and in some western capitals). Today Putin cranked up the implied threats by staging large numbers of combat and support aircraft to Crimea.

Putin clearly hopes that the mere threat of invasion will so intimidate the Ukrainian government that it will either capitulate, or collapse, thereby leaving Putin free to pick up the pieces. In either outcome, Putin would achieve his objectives without a shot being fired by his main force units.

Cohen’s statement identifies the crucial assumption underlying these FUD strategies: they are intended to “create the expectation . . . that worse would be coming.” But can those expectations be sustained?

What happens if the threats are never carried through? In the case of financial sanctions, what conclusions will Putin draw if his continued aggressive actions do not actually cause Obama or the west generally to do something worse?

Especially for someone like Putin, who is predisposed to consider the west generally and Obama in particular to be weak and soft, he will conclude that the threats are a bluff. The deterrent effect of the threats will disappear.

Ukrainian officials could make similar judgments about Putin if he doesn’t invade. They could conclude that he is deterred by the direct and indirect costs of invasion.

Strategies that rely on manipulating expectations through threats are fraught with dangers. The potential for miscalculation and misinterpretation is high. Not carrying through raises doubts about the credibility of the threats, which could lead the target of the threat to become complacent and act in a way the threatener cannot accept. This risk is particularly great for Putin, given his overweening self-confidence and his disdain for the US, the west, and Obama. The risk is compounded by Obama’s history of drawing then erasing red lines.

In other words, FUD wars seem to be a cheap way of waging conflict, and they can be. But expectations are tricky things, and the infinite regress of expectations about expectations, and expectations about expectations about expectations can lead to complexity and miscalculation. Which means that FUD wars can very easily lead to real wars. Which means that you should fear the uncertainty, and doubt that FUD is a prudent strategy.

May 3, 2014

Define “Disruption”

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:50 pm

Yesterday in the Rose Garden, Merkel and Obama said that the dreaded Third Stage sanctions on Russia if that country disrupts the Ukrainian election on the 25th. (Merkel phrased it “unable to hold the election.”)

But nobody that I’ve seen has asked the crucial question: what constitutes “disruption”, and disruption by Russia specifically? Is the election “disrupted” if it does not take place in some regions, such as Donetsk? Or would Obama and Merkel require the election to be canceled to  deem that it has been disrupted? What if the election is disrupted by local forces but under covert Russian direction? What evidence would Merkel and Obama require to assign responsibility to Russia? Would Merkel accept NSA intercepts as evidence?

 

This election disruption standard came out of thin air, and for all the world appears to be a team can-kicking exercise. Now Obama and Merkel have an excuse to do nothing for three weeks. Then when three weeks comes, and the elections turn into a chaotic fiasco, they’ll be able to find some other excuse. It was Ukrainian incompetence that caused the problem. There’s no reliable evidence that Russia deliberately disrupted the election. Something. Anything.

Regardless, Putin now has a guaranteed three weeks to continue to wreak havoc using spetsnaz and local irregulars (i.e., thugs). Ukraine may counterattack in one place, or a couple. But even if they succeed (and there is no reason to believe on past performance that they will), Ukraine is a big place and you can bet that a new Russian uprising will break out somewhere else.

Will he invade? I think not. Not because he couldn’t go through Ukraine like a hot knife through butter (or sh*t through a goose, as Patton used to say), but because holding the place would be hard, and outright invasion could even force Merkel and Obama into doing something half-way serious (kicking and screaming all the way). But because he can achieve his objectives by fomenting a civil war.

If it does come to civil war, it will be vicious, especially in the center of the country, in places like Kiev and Odessa, that contain large Ukrainian and Russian populations. (Civil wars are always most brutal in such borderlands. Like Sarajevo. Or in western Missouri in the Civil War.)

Merkel and Obama have basically signaled an unwillingness to act, and have given Putin a defined time window to act with no fear of punitive sanctions. And when that period ends, it will be extended, most likely. German industry (led by Hitler’s favorite firm, Siemens) are putting unrelenting pressure on Merkel. What’s more, the country is rife with “Russia understanders” like Hans Werner Sinn, who penned this egregious oped in the WSJ. Sinn and his ilk are like termites that have eaten away German resolve from within.

Which means I cannot see Germany acting, under any circumstances. Since Obama has already said that he prefers unity in inaction to acting alone (or with a coalition of the willing), Germany-by which I mean Siemens, BASF, Adidas, etc., and “understanders” like Sinn and Helmut Schmidt and the just plain corrupt like Gerhard Schroeder-therefore has a veto over American action.

The floor is yours, Vlad. All yours.

May 1, 2014

Zero Hedge Reveals Its True Colors. Again.

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:50 pm

Every sentient being not in the tank for Russia recognizes that the Television Channel Formerly Known as Russia Today (i.e.,  RT) is spewing Kremlin agitprop 24/7. Heck, even the borderline sentient, like our Secretary of State, recognize this.

There is another widely followed outlet, this one online, that is vying with RT for the dubious honor of flacking most shamelessly for Putin: Zero Hedge. There are numerous posts daily that flog the Russian view, but few are more egregious than this one. The part comparing Crimea to the Falklands was rather amusing. As was the statement about Chevron being part of the Rockefeller empire. Yeah. Back in 1910. When it was Standard Oil of California. There was a lot of venting about the Rothschilds, and Jews generally. And WTF about the Yellowstone caldera?

You might say: “but that post is from another source.” But as I pointed out two-and-a-half years ago, this is a classic Soviet influence operation technique.

In that post I also noted the close affinity between RT and Zero Hedge. Some things don’t change.

To say I am not surprised is an understatement. Recall that Zero Hedge is run by Daniel Ivandjiiski, the son of an obvious Soviet bloc (Bulgarian, specifically) intelligence operative.

I’ve thought for years that ZH is a Kremlin influence operation. It is doing nothing now to disabuse me of that notion. To the contrary. It is cementing it.

 

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