Streetwise Professor

May 4, 2023

Another Impenetrable Moscow Mystery

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 6:02 pm

The big news in the Russo-Ukrainian war transpired not in Bakhmut or anywhere else on the battle lines, but in Moscow where a drone struck a flag flying over the dome of the Kremlin:

Like all things Russia that have occurred over the last year plus (e.g., the Nordstream explosions, the Darya Dugin assassination) no one knows for sure who is responsible, or why. Hence, the theories and accusations fly fast and furious, but with no facts by which to evaluate, only competing theories of motive exist, and people make judgments based on their prejudices and their beliefs (largely shaped by their prejudices) of what motive sounds most plausible.

Yes, the Ukrainians have a motive. But they deny any involvement. You could also argue that realizing the possible reactions in Russia, they would not do this–or at least the government would not. (See below.). But there are hotheaded elements in Ukraine who would not be so restrained, and who might even want to provoke an escalation.

Putin might also have a motive–a false flag operation to blow up the flag on the Kremlin, as it were. In order to justify escalation, as wildly hypocritical as that would be: “We can invade you, bomb your capital (and many other cities), attempt to assassinate your president, but how dare you fling a few drones at us!”

Track record gives this theory credence–there is a reasonable likelihood that Putin orchestrated the apartment bombings in Ryazan in order to justify the Second Chechen War. Further, the catastrophic failures of the past 14 months mean that the regime needs to do something to distract from the disasters and the death, and to feed the narrative of Ukraine as an existential threat to Russia that must be vanquished regardless of the cost.

The hysterical Russian reaction gives further credence to this theory. A plot to assassinate Putin!!!!! FFS, to say that a couple of drones carrying the kind of explosives depicted in the video could pose a threat to Putin buried deep in the bowels of the Kremlin (even assuming that he’s there) is farcical: this was the Mouse of All Bombs, not the Mother thereof. (And he could hide under that huge table! A table saved Hitler, right?) But noted narcoleptic and boogie master Dimi Medvedev is saying that as a result of this assassination attempt Russia has now no choice but to “annihilate” Zelensky:

But if so, this is a sign of true desperation. Admitting that Ukraine is able to penetrate what is supposedly the most formidable air defense of any city in the world with drones would be a confession of military ineptitude that makes the failure to prevent German teenager Matthias Rust from landing a Cessna in Red Square in 1987 look like a military triumph. (The Russian military claimed that the drones had been disabled by electronic measures–sure as hell doesn’t look like it in the video.). Would Putin/the Russians really be willing to look this weak to provide a justification for doing something extreme? Has he ever needed a justification before? FFS, he just made shit up (denazification!!!!) before he invaded last year. He could just make shit up again. And certainly will.

But . . . going further down the Russian rabbit hole, maybe someone in the siloviki did this precisely to discredit rival factions in the military in order to justify a purge.

Really, whenever dealing with Russia I have to stop myself to prevent becoming like this:

Suffice it to say that under any theory one can think of, this does not bode well for Putin. Taken at face value, the event is further demonstration of Russian military incompetence. Switching to riddle-enigma-mystery-dogs-fighting-under-the-carpet mode, the event smacks of desperation and/or internal feuding and chaos. Regardless, it bodes a continuation of a futile, pointless war until Putin goes tits up, one way or another.

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  1. So, your now quoting your own twitter comments? And I don’t like to quote them. Something in that conflict has got the best of you, Prof…

    Alright, news is the US is 4 weeks away from defaulting, once again, going to make more debts once again. The West is increasing military and other not-capital-building-spending once again. That’s what brought the East Block down as it’s said…this time it will bring the US and EU down…

    …the question is what that means…they are already privatizing it like the east block, western oligarchs, corporations incl. the church, aren’t they?

    Thought you are a nationalist like Putin, or do you say Putin is just faking being nationalist and is the biggest oligarch…in the latter case he’s then the example the western oligarchs would like to follow?

    Do you dance with the US trans generals etc? If not they may call you Putin’s spy…

    …you gotta face the status quo of US and Western society and politics…

    Comment by Mikey — May 5, 2023 @ 5:17 am

  2. Just before I forget it: now if you dance with the US trans generals, then never forget: the man should be leading…

    Comment by Mikey — May 5, 2023 @ 8:21 am

  3. I agree with Mikey. Paradoxically, the Professor has vented his vitriol against the ‘neocons’ on more than one occasion, but he has such a bad case of russophobia that his posts on this conflict sound as if they could have been written by Victoria Nuland. Further on the trans theme, have you seen that the US Navy is using a ‘drag queen influencer’ to recruit for the military? Even if you support the idea of using Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia in theory, do you really think it is a good idea to proceed with people like this in charge?

    Comment by Koshmap — May 5, 2023 @ 11:56 am

  4. Imagine being a vatnik who simultaneously believes that the US is waging a proxy war against Russia and that the US military is a bunch of drag queens, so that your beloved leader and his mighty army are being humiliated by a bunch of drag queens. That’s gotta hurt!

    Comment by Ivan — May 5, 2023 @ 12:39 pm

  5. Soon we’ll all ignore this grim war because banking collapses will dominate the news. If US banks are in trouble how much trouble will the EU banks be in?

    Or British, Japanese, and so on?

    D’ye know, I don’t think Western Civilisation is in good nick at the moment.

    Comment by dearieme — May 5, 2023 @ 3:55 pm

  6. Privet, Ivan. I’m an American, and don’t give a rat’s behind what happens in either Russia or Ukraine, but I have nothing but contempt for either anti-Putin Russians or Ukrainian nationalists trying to drag my country into their civil war or, in the latter case, their centuries-old blood feud. If you want to overthrow Putin, do it yourself — don’t ask others to expend their money and resources doing your dirty work for you. And this goes double for those diaspora Russians or Ukrainians cheerleading this proxy war from the safety of some Western country.

    Comment by Koshmap — May 6, 2023 @ 11:47 am

  7. Fair enough, Koshmap.
    But suppose Putin overruns Ukraine, would he stop there?
    Certainly not (as he has repeatedly intimated). Any country with a sizeable Russian minority would be subverted until utterly ungovernable.
    Bear in mind Ukraine’s sovereignty was acknowledged – even “guaranteed” – by Putin’s Russia.
    So victory in Ukraine would make a CCP invasion of Taiwan merely a “special administrative operation”, the CCP having never acknowledged the island’s independence.

    We have to stop these evil men somewhere. Ukraine seems as good a place as anywhere. The lower the value of what you’re defending on the ground, the higher the signal of your commitment to deterrence.

    Comment by philip — May 6, 2023 @ 2:06 pm

  8. Philip: It is difficult to address your argument given the space limitations of the Professor’s blog. Unlike you, I no longer delude or comfort myself with the belief that ‘the West’ represents something called liberal democracy. One by one, the basic foundations of liberal democracy – freedom of speech and the press, equal protection before the law, free and fair elections – have been steadily and inexorably eroding. This process has been proceeding for some time now, but it accelerated in the wake of Brexit, the election of Trump, the response to Covid, and so forth. Things that were unthinkable only 5 years ago are happening with increasing frequency, including people getting arrested, and in some cases charged and convicted, for making fun of politicians (Mackey), defending themselves against armed criminals, ‘misgendering’ someone, or parading around the Capitol. The only purpose of the mainstream media these days is to peddle the regime’s latest ‘party line’ (see the Twitter files, or Jacob Siegel’s article in Tablet on disinformation).

    In this light, to paraphrase HRC, what difference does it make if Putin doesn’t stop after overrunning Ukraine (not that I buy the domino theory anymore)? The only difference I can see is that the Russian party line isn’t as crazy and destructive as its Western counterpart. It isn’t Putin who is trying to ban gas stoves, ICE vehicles, or drive us into poverty by engineering a transition from affordable and reliable fossil fuels to expensive and unreliable electricity based on low-density, intermittent and technologically backwards forms of energy like solar and wind power. While the Russian government is encouraging the buildup of livestock herds, thanks in part to sanctions, Western governments are going after farmers (the Netherlands) and trying to persuade us to give up meat in favor of fake plant-based meat and insects. Sure, you can get arrested in Russia for speaking or protesting against Putin and the Ukraine war, but they don’t allow grown men to kick or otherwise physically assault women for speaking out against biological men who claim to identify as women for using women’s restrooms and locker rooms, competing against female athletes, or getting themselves transferred to women’s prisons.

    I don’t know where the Professor gets his ideas about Russia and Russians. I lived in Russia in the 1990s, and even in those supposedly chaotic times, they managed to keep the lights on and the subway running like clockwork, which is more than I can say about the DC metro system. Since then, living standards have improved dramatically, mainly because they rely to a much greater extent on markets and private enterprise than in the Soviet period. I have a feeling that even if and when we in the West are poor, hungry and cold thanks to the policies of the ‘Great Reset,’ you and the Professor will still foam at the mouth at the mere mention of the Russians. Wake up!

    Comment by Koshmap — May 7, 2023 @ 12:54 pm

  9. Top rant, Koshmap!
    Strangely enough I agree with you.
    Maybe the Western elites are only pretending to be attached to liberal democracy, equality before the law, due process, private property, freedom of speech, etc.
    But most of the rest of us are.
    These values are worth defending.
    They can try and take my gas boiler away from my cold dead hands.

    Comment by philip — May 7, 2023 @ 1:42 pm

  10. To get a pretty good idea about Russia and Russians, it is sufficient to watch some recent footage from Ukraine and do some reading on war crime investigations there. The living standards in Russia have improved so much they can now afford a looting trip to Ukraine to steal a washing machine or a toilet if they are lucky.

    Comment by Ivan — May 7, 2023 @ 2:12 pm

  11. @philip: esp during the corona years we have seen in the West how ‘most of the rest of us’ stays up for basic human rights…

    @Ivan: there were no Ukrainian war crimes? You really believe what you write, the living standards would be so low in russia, the typical russian would now steel a washing machine in Ukraine? You’ve seen a map of Russia and Ukraine ever?

    There is always an info war also, so it’s quite a task to retrieve and evaluate info about what’s going on.

    But if even the few people that comment here are not able to, how the average guy?

    Philip: ever heard about the simple narrative of ‘we are good, they are evil, we’ve got to do something against them’ that the US created over and over to sell their wars in the 20th century to their own people, even if solely based on fiction?

    There is no democracy to defend in Ukraine, there is none in the US, none in Europe, none at all in Ukraine. And it got still worse in Ukraine since the war through the actions of Selensky’s gov.

    Everybody here in Europe can tell you stories about the Ukrainian ‘refugees’ there, with their Merc, BMW, Porsche, shopping Design- and Brandshops where and when the local population can’t, others partying the whole time on low level leaving their waste behind etc.

    The US and Europe are dumping their old weapons on Ukraine and spent Billions on their own military industry, with big slices of it just for e.g. the Pentagon on top of what the manufacturer bill.

    Halliburton & Co. already securing contracts for billions of revenue after war in Ukraine, European countries and companies standing in row; payed for by hundrets of billions of western tax payer money and new state debt.

    The US war policy since Rumsfeld is anyway perpetual war…

    So, some are really fighting there on both sides…some get wounded, some die…for what? To defend the democratic values?

    To me it looks like a precedent to further loot the pockets of the western citizens through inflation and looting of gov money and to transfer it into the pockets of the oligarchs and corporations…and more than one side in this conflict may get something from it, may have similar interests.

    Azow, Wagner…when the fronts of the collapsing nation states are not needed anymore the corporations and oligarchs can contract them directly…

    Comment by Mikey — May 9, 2023 @ 2:54 am

  12. @Mikey

    “the typical russian would now steel a washing machine in Ukraine?”

    Oh no, those must all be atypical Russians, hundreds of thousands of them.

    “You’ve seen a map of Russia and Ukraine ever?”

    Maps don’t create prosperity, societies do. The map of Muscovy is all that remains after the previous bouts of looting: the loot consumed, neighboring country destroyed, still no washing machines.

    “There is no democracy to defend in Ukraine, there is none in the US, none in Europe”

    Yeah, that’s what Putin thought, so now he lives in a bunker. That’s the weird thing about despotic regimes: they can see “the map”, they cannot see “democracy”, despite having their asses kicked by it since at least Thermopylae.

    Comment by Ivan — May 9, 2023 @ 6:20 am

  13. @Ivan: reg. ‘prosperity’ – so where is there prosperity being created currently? And what happened to the ‘old’ one? E.g. Germany: what’s left of the Wirtschaftswunder, how is it going now and how much Democracy is left?

    ‘Thermopylae’: as far as I remember it, the Spartans all died, Persia did not get defeated there. But the ‘hot springs’ there counted as the entry to Hades…but I was always assuming that the Greek-Persian war created the idea, that Europe would be a separate continent and not part of Eurasia. And this might subconsciously be still part of the conflict…

    The EU is planning their next steps to less democracy and less rights and more surveillance (central bank crypto currency, electronic ID etc.), no matter how it will continue in Ukraine…it’s not possible to defend ‘democracy’ there, it’s deteriorating in Brussels, Paris, Berlin etc…

    Comment by Mikey — May 9, 2023 @ 8:56 am

  14. Philip: I’m surprised and relieved by your response. My apologies for misjudging you. I just heard (interview with Alistaire Crooke) that the EU is considering passing a law that would limit the amount of meat EU citizens can eat and the number of items of clothing they can purchase on an annual basis. Anyway, of the many competing narratives about this conflict, the one I buy is that this is shaping up to be yet another debacle for the West. Sanctions didn’t cause the Russian economy to crumble, but backfired instead, and now we’ve run out munitions and equipment to supply Ukraine. By all indications, the Russians have somehow managed to preserve the old Soviet MIC, upgraded it (hypersonic weapons, etc.) and now it is firing on all cylinders. Why didn’t the vaunted Western ‘intelligence services’ anticipate that before we got ourselves into this mess? Incompetent, indeed. We’ll know soon enough, depending on how the Ukrainian spring/summer counter-offensive goes. Maybe the Russian military is incompetent, but unlike the Ukrainians and their Western sponsors, one thing they don’t do is announce their plans in advance.

    Comment by Koshmap — May 9, 2023 @ 12:17 pm

  15. Mikey
    I was pretty disappointed by the supine reaction to the government covid mandates, and even now a majority think they were somewhat justified.
    But that is just because people don’t like to acknowledge they were fooled.
    For actual opinion, see what they do. Uptake of booster vaccines is so low they are going out of date, governments are trying to wriggle out of their purchase agreements.

    Most people don’t think much about democracy and freedom, it’s not a daily issue compared to whether your bus arrives on time or barber gives you a bad haircut. But when push comes to shove, people do value these values.

    Where and how we decide to defend these interests is a complicated matter. Better to do it a desert than in built up areas I suppose, but I’m not a military or diplomatic expert.

    Oh, and phvck Halliburton, Pfizer, Tories, Labour, the EU, the eco-spivs and the rest of the whole rotten crew. But we are where we are.

    Comment by philip — May 9, 2023 @ 1:16 pm

  16. @Mikey

    “no matter how it will continue in Ukraine…it’s not possible to defend ‘democracy’ there, it’s deteriorating in Brussels, Paris, Berlin”

    It is even more important to defend democracy there if one is worried about the deterioration in Brussels, Paris, Berlin. The eastern half of Europe has neither less democratic tradition nor less economic potential than the western half. If it really becomes that bad, Gastarbeiter from Brussels, Paris, Berlin will be welcome from Tallinn to Kyiv to Bucharest. As long as the nomadic hordes still paying tribute to the Moscow Khan are kept in check.

    Comment by Ivan — May 9, 2023 @ 5:58 pm

  17. @Ivan: Polish Software Engineers and other Engineers make already more money in Poland, as would be paid in Austria and Germany (to also German and Austrian engineers). Swiss crafts, renovation of music instruments (e.g. Pianos) let labour intensive work do in Germany again, because Poland became too expensive (with Poland still having lower living costs).

    Have a look at the official rate of people owning their homes, appartments, houses: Switzerland the last in the OECD, Austria and Germany second and third last by far – Eastern European Countries all way at the top…

    The majority of Western European working people have been duped and sold, there is no democracy…have a look at the wealth distribution, the tax system etc…t h a t is the Western System; and it’s getting worse…

    …thank you for welcoming them as Gastarbeiter ‘from Tallin to Kyiv to Bucharest…by the status quo of German , Austrian, EU economic politics a possible scenario…

    …but many Europeans rather befriend the Russians than destroy their own economies and society for the cheap paroles of Western Oligarchs, that ‘the russians are coming’…and that everybody not consenting would be ‘Putin’s spy’…

    …even in Switzerland already last year Tschaikovsky’s name was removed from entry tickets to one of his ballets, in the meantime Russian composers works don’t get on the programs anymore, that is not a notmal or healthy or right state of mind anymore…

    Comment by Mikey — May 10, 2023 @ 5:13 am

  18. @Ivan: reg ‘defending democratic values in…’

    The US and others always sold their wars to their people with the simple story, we would be the good ones and they the evil ones and we must fight them.
    NATO furthermore is only allowed to defend the NATO states in case they are being attacked. Only defence allowed.

    So, what they are saying now is: we are the good ones, they are the evil ones, and we must defend democratic values (as if we had still some) there in Ukraine (not a NATO member state) and then elsewhere (in Taiwan maybe and other places).

    It’s just Western post-democratic states waging wars under false pretense actively abroad and with the wording and narrarive of defence on order to use NATO instead of US military only.

    Isn’t this easy to see?

    Comment by Mikey — May 11, 2023 @ 8:52 am

  19. @Mikey

    It’s even easier to see that. Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine is objectively evil. Systemic Russian war crimes (Putin is already indicted by ICC) are objectively evil. So it’s an obvious fact: “they ARE the evil ones”.

    Helping the victims of unprovoked aggression and war crimes to defend themselves is objectively good, so “we ARE the good ones”.

    The Ukrainians are the ones defending democratic values, not the US. But helping to preserve democracy and prevent the spread of despotism is objectively beneficial for US economy and for US security, so “we are the smart ones”

    And given that the US has strong-armed Ukraine into giving up not just the nukes, but also bombers and missiles (Russia is bombing Ukrainian cities with literally the missiles received from

    Comment by Ivan — May 11, 2023 @ 2:16 pm

  20. oops

    … received from Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum), I would argue helping Ukraine would be common decency, even if it were less clearly the right or beneficial thing to do than it actually is.

    Comment by Ivan — May 11, 2023 @ 2:24 pm

  21. @Mikey

    Also an added benefit is that when the Moscow regime starts crumbling, they will be broadcasting Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake) all day, and the MSM all over the world will be showing it, even in Switzerland!

    Comment by Ivan — May 11, 2023 @ 2:36 pm

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