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  • On Russia and Ukraine

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on November 30th, 2014 (All posts by )

    For many years I’ve studied the Russian front during WW2, where the Germans and their allies battled the Russians (and their empire) in some of the largest and deadliest battles on earth. The war went far beyond the battlefield, with the Russians taking over the ancient German capital of Prussia, evicting / killing all the (remaining) citizens, and turning it into today’s Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This is fair desserts; the Germans planned to turn Moscow into a reservoir. That war was about annihilation, a complete extermination and permanent subjugation of their foes.

    In recent years I’ve tried to turn away from this focus, since I didn’t think that this conflict, ancient by modern standards, had much to teach us anymore, and just following along a well-worn narrative was teaching me nothing. And I did move on, reading about more modern conflicts, and today’s volunteer and high-tech military as opposed to the “old world” of conscripts, artillery, heavy armor, utter destruction of cities and the civilians trapped inside them, and political control superseding military objectives.

    The Russian armed forces also seemed to be gliding towards irrelevance, other than their ubiquitous nuclear weapons. Their performance in Chechnya was poor until they basically razed (their own) cities into ruin with heavy artillery fire; to this day I don’t understand why this wasn’t called out as a giant atrocity. In Georgia they were able to beat a tiny, poorly armed adversary, but their motorized divisions seemed to be driving by compass and they did not cover themselves in military glory. Their military transitions from conscript forces with older weapons and tactics also seemed to be foundering in the face of objections from old-line military-industrial complexes.

    When Ukraine slipped out of Russia’s orbit and the vast presidential compound of the ex-president was paraded on TV worldwide, Putin obviously viewed this as a direct threat to his authority. The Russians historically had been at odds with the Ukrainians over natural gas prices and on other topics, but it wasn’t obvious that this was going to move into a warlike situation. Ukraine is rich with agricultural resources but these resources aren’t prized by the Kremlin; they need easily extractable resources like oil, natural gas and various iron ores that they can pull out of the ground and sell for hard cash overseas. John McCain’s recurring joke that Russia isn’t much more than a gas station with nuclear weapons in fact has a lot of merit. Other than around Moscow, parts of St Petersburg, and in “showplace” locations like Sochi and Vladivostok Russia in fact was falling into ruin and shambles.

    But something was happening; the Russian forces that invaded the Crimea (even though they were never formally identified as Russians) appeared to be well organized and well armed. It was not the “Keystone Cops” group that I might have expected. They handled themselves with relative distinction, fulfilling their objectives with limited civilian casualties and using discretion against the Ukrainian military forces they encountered. This was the complete opposite of the blundering incursions into Chechnya.

    At the start of the war against the Ukraine, the rebels made initial gains, and the Ukrainian forces seemed to be disorganized and ineffective. This was in line with expectations since the Ukrainian military had been gutted by a lack of funding and lacked forward looking leadership. However, the Ukrainians bounced back and began using their heavy weapons (air power, artillery) in an effective manner against the comparatively poorly armed rebels. The Ukrainians also made heavy use of irregular forces (local guys with lighter weapons) to move forward and seize ground while the regular army provided fire support; these tactics can be wise on a military basis but often provoke long term consequences since irregular forces often behave like bandits when confronted with opportunities for looting and can cause higher civilian losses.

    The Russians fought back by directly aiding the rebels, whether they admitted to it publicly or not, culminating with (accidentally) shooting down the Malaysian jetliner. The Russians provided heavy artillery and rockets to counter the use of Ukrainian heavy weapons, and are continuing to provide effective support to the rebels. The Ukrainians have taken severe losses at the hands of these Russian tactics, although the Russian rebels too have suffered significant losses. It is hard to know what the truth is in this elusive land, since propaganda and outright lies have long been the coin of trade of the Russians.

    What to make of Russia and the Ukraine? In the short term, it absolutely has been a morale booster for Russia and Putin’s popularity. The seizure of Crimea was popular among average Russians, and it seemed bloodless to boot. The war with the Ukraine, utilizing proxies and trumped up claims of Ukrainian atrocities, is also a hit for Russians who get their news through the captive TV stations that broadcast Putin’s ideological lines.

    From a strategic level, however, this war has got to be viewed as a complete disaster for Russia. Whatever the short term gains of pushing around Ukraine may be, in the long term they have created a hardened enemy that will never forget these humiliations and are now implacably an enemy right on Russia’s border. Instead of Ukraine being a “buffer” state for Russia against NATO, the Ukraine is a “buffer” state for NATO against Russia. Ukraine could potentially have been an ally; they had a large Russian speaking contingent and if handled deftly and prodded with economic / natural gas aid, things could have turned out differently.

    The analogy is like the USA fighting Canada or the USA fighting Mexico from a Russian perspective. Russian military equipment, ordinance, money and lives are being expended and they are turning what could have been an ally into ruins. The Russian military industry is connected with Ukraine and this is a major hard currency earner; it is hard to imagine that these relationships aren’t severed forever. And based on past activities, the areas that are mined, looted and ruined won’t be rebuilt in the near term or perhaps in any term – likely they will remain a blasted no mans land because who is going to invest in a ruined land run by a bandit government that could change hands at any time? Only the insane.

    No one knows what will happen with the Ukraine. Can they shake off decades of corruption and incompetence, reorganize their society and economy, and become a well run and competitive country that is able to defend their borders with Russia? Even if the rebel held lands are lost to the Russians and become a no-mans land, the remaining country is still large and contains many resources if they are well organized and move with unity and purpose. While Russia can obviously rain destruction on their neighbor (or even the USA; let’s not forget their huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons) this is not a card that one can play indefinitely without consequences; Ukraine will re-arm and return the favor with pain of its own, and after all what is the Russian public’s stake in this war?

    On to oil; tied with these events are sanctions against Russia and the precipitous fall in the price of oil. Russia’s economy is built on oil and selling natural gas to Western Europe (and now China) – a falling oil price sends their entire economy into turmoil. The ruble is also tied to the price of oil; due to sanctions and the distress of the Russian economy the ruble has also fallen significantly and is one of the worst performing currencies. Paradoxically this partially buttresses the economy because oil is denominated in the hated US dollar, so although the price of oil has fallen a lot it “buys more” when translated into rubles. With this level of oil price and sanctions, the Russian economy will face severe problems and many indebted Russian companies are going to have trouble refinancing their debt and purchasing foreign goods and expertise which is needed to keep the economy running in many areas with the weak ruble and lack of confidence overall.

    Another item of interest to me is the traditional “Krugman” view of the economy that it is powered by consumers. Oil and energy make up half the economy; so consumers can pick up the other half? Hardly… consumer spending has plummeted in a crisis of confidence linked to the drop in energy revenues and sanctions; the idea that consumer spending is “independent” of the economy as a whole and its competitiveness has been ridiculous forever and it is typically not working in practice.

    So what does all of this mean? Certainly the Russians can heavily damage the Ukraine; but this is all pointless in the longer term. They are trading their wealth, soldiers and energies for essentially nothing of value in return. Their professional army can destroy but they cannot occupy the Ukraine, although their bandits probably can create some sort of brutal strong-arm “government” in the blasted areas they control with whatever population cannot escape (likely the old and alcoholics) similar to what has been deployed in Chechnya and other “frozen” conflict areas.

    The Russian economy is heavily damaged; the fall in oil prices is (mostly) beyond their control but it is happening at a most un-opportune time. Sanctions will punish those few Russian companies that attempt to sell to the West, and state control of the Internet is also hurting one of their most competitive industries (high tech). The ruble is also falling and soon the Russians will be able to buy what is produced locally and this will not be the cornucopia of choice that they have today.

    Much of this plays into the hands of the Chinese, who now can scoop up Russian energy cheaply. They can also invest in Russia and work to utilize their fallow lands and extract their commodities when the Western majors leave. However, the Russians know that their actual long term enemy is to the south, as the Chinese covet all the land, water and resources to feed their billions and their highly effective industry could put all of these resources to good use. The Russians have to know that they can’t win long term against the Chinese if they are stuck in a long term land war with NATO and the Ukraine; their forces are spread much too thin. Every day the Chinese grow stronger and every day the Russians grow weaker; while the Russians focus on punishing their erstwhile allies in the Ukraine (similar language, etc…) a country with which they have no affinity except for a now quaint “pretending” that they are both communist founded countries is growling at their border and coveting the resources that provide their long term ability to survive as an independent dictatorship.

    All of this brings up the next unspoken question – what is Russia without Putin? He is the strongman, and he doesn’t really have an ideology except for Russian power and controlling wealth through the state and his friends who are now billionaires. It is a very unstable type of government; unlike the former Communist Russia if Putin should die or otherwise leave power the institutions that remain behind are weak and captured and will not be able to withstand the vacuum. Putin has re-awakened the hard core military conflicts that I cite at the top of the page; these demons will not easily be put back in the bottle, and NATO now has its existential purpose re-engrained in the hearts of those adjacent to the Russian menace (the Baltics, Poland, etc…).

    China will play an immensely important part in the next stage of the narrative. Unlike Russia, China has the resources and will to subjugate lands and people as you can see in Tibet and adjacent countries and savors the idea of conquering and utilizing the vast lands that rest right above them to the North. The Russians in those areas are often Asian as well and perhaps have more in common with this rising power than the czarist Moscow based whites that run their lives (such as it is) today.

    Sadly enough, a lifetime of studying war in the East is now useful for consideration of what may happen next. I was hoping that this knowledge was of use only for the dustbin.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    59 Responses to “On Russia and Ukraine”

    1. Mike K Says:

      “In Georgia they were able to beat a tiny, poorly armed adversary, but their motorized divisions seemed to be driving by compass and they did not cover themselves in military glory.”

      Ralph Peters had some advice on how the Georgians could have fought the Russians with a fair chance of success at the time. They didn’t, possibly due to some bad advice from us. I had a post on Peters’ advice at the time.

      Freed from aerial observation and the threat of air attack, Georgian forces could move dismounted over the mountains more readily than Russian mechanized forces can move along the roads. Which means that the Georgians would be free to set up ambushes to block further Russian advances and to interdict their lines of communication. We can provide the wherewithal for them to do this.

      We didn’t and the rest we know.

      Putin is the world’s richest man but he may have trouble getting off the tiger he is riding. I’m sure Assad is sympathetic.

    2. grey eagle Says:

      Your work is solidly based on NATO/Ukraine propaganda. Russia has a completely different view. Here is the best statement of the Russian view that I know of. Its from RT.COM – a Russian website writ in English.

      http://rt.com/op-edge/203255-ukraine-maidan-protest-destroyed/

      Here is a view of the Diplomatic side written by David Stockman (Reagan confidant) :

      http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/bill-clintons-epic-double-cross-how-not-an-inch-brought-nato-to-russias-border/

      Henry Kissinger argues that Russia should keep the Crimea, and that NATO should leave Ukraine alone.

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-11-18/kissinger-warns-we-need-new-world-order-ukraine-should-forget-crimea-nato

      All this started with a well planned coup d’etat in Kiev very similar to the CIA sponsored coup d’tat in Iran that evolved into the current situation and the CIA coup d’etat in Vietnam that started the Vietnam war.

      Yesterday Putin tested his ICBM. It flew across 6 time zones inside Russia. It carried 12 missiles designed to penetrate the best missile defenses. Reported in Russia, ignore by US media.

    3. Mike K Says:

      I agree that we should not attempt to interfere about Crimea. NATO is a weak reed and we should ease away from it. The eastern provinces of Ukraine that Russia is annexing are ruins from the old USSR. Ukraine is probably better off without them except as a buffer with Russia.

      Putin is a fascist dictator and the Russians are fairly satisfied as long as the economy works. The population is crashing from low birth rate and alcohol. Like all fascist dictators, he will deal with internal unrest by adventurism. He has been deeply corrupt since he made billions from the Iraq oil-for-food program.

      China is Russia’s problem more than ours. As usual, Tom Clancy had a good scenario in a novel years ago. The Russians don’t have the population to develop Siberia.

      David Stockman is a renegade and an unreliable source.

    4. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>Grey Eagle Says:

      Now that we’ve heard from the Ministry of Propaganda and Disinformatzia for the Russian Empire, we can return to our regular programming.

    5. grey eagle Says:

      Do you disagree with the ‘facts’ presented in this quote of Ray McGovern by Stockman? I lived in the 90s and I remember it as true.

      “It began as a pledge by the first Bush Administration to Gorbachev that in return for German unification and liberation of the “captive nations” there would be “not an inch” of NATO expansion. It ended up its opposite, and for no plausible reason of American security whatsoever. In fact, NATO went on to draft nearly the entire former “Warsaw Pact”, expanding its membership by 12 nations. So doing, it encroached thousands of kilometers from its old Cold War boundaries to the very doorstep of Russia.”

      BTW, I interpret the re-unification agreement as the moment that both China and Russia realized that Communism would never work leaving Africa, South America and US universities as the only places that still believed in Communism.

    6. Bill Brandt Says:

      I was reading about Putin – and his popularity in This Week magazine – I did n’t realize that until 1954 the Crimea was part of Russia – and Khrushchev gave it to the Ukraine.

      Putin is popular at the moment because in Russian eyes he is decisive.

    7. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>I was reading about Putin – and his popularity in This Week magazine

      There’s no way to know how popular Putin is or is not. People who report the wrong kinds of things in the Russian Empire get disappeared. Their are elections are for show. Just like lots of dictatorships.

    8. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>Do you disagree with the ‘facts’

      What you call facts I call unsupported assertions and opinion. There’s a big difference.

      As for NATO expansion, what does it say that all countries wanted to be part of an alliance whose founding purpose was to defend its members from Russian territorial aggression? Do you think of them as your property, forever yours do with as you please?

      >>leaving Africa, South America and US universities as the only places that still believed in Communism.

      That I agree with.

    9. Grurray Says:

      Ukraine has been a junior member of NATO since 1994. Did Putin only suddenly notice this in 2013?

      The US has been withdrawing troops and equipment from NATO for several years. Just months before the Euromaidan began, we brought our final armored brigades home. Why, if the CIA was going to engineer a coup to bring Ukraine into NATO, would we leave its military units so depleted? Apparently Putin is the only one who has figured out that when you want to invade a country you have to mass troops at the border??

      Ukraine wasn’t ever going to join NATO, but with a new government they will join the EU. These are two different entities. Here is the difference:

      The EU is a European council dominated by Germany that devises various schemes to sell German goods to other (poorer) European countries.

      NATO is a council of Europeans that devises various schemes for American money, troops, and equipment to defend Germany so they can sell their goods to other (poorer) European countries.

    10. Mike K Says:

      NATO did not originally intend to expand westward. The aggressive attitude of Putin has changed some minds. For example, we were party to a treaty that we would defend Ukraine if necessary provided they gave up nuclear weapons on their soil.

      When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine had the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal on its territory. When Ukrainian-Russian negotiations on removing these weapons from Ukraine appeared to break down in September 1993, the U.S. government engaged in a trilateral process with Ukraine and Russia. The result was the Trilateral Statement, signed in January 1994, under which Ukraine agreed to transfer the nuclear warheads to Russia for elimination. In return, Ukraine received security assurances from the United States, Russia and Britain; compensation for the economic value of the highly-enriched uranium in the warheads (which could be blended down and converted into fuel for nuclear reactors); and assistance from the United States in dismantling the missiles, missile silos, bombers and nuclear infrastructure on its territory. Steven Pifer recounts the history of this unique negotiation and describes the key lessons learned.

      It is really valuable to read these things.

      The old East Bloc countries have been asking for help since Putin took over. Ukraine has had its troubles with corruption but the Baltic republics are thriving and are very worried about Russia.

    11. Veryretired Says:

      Check NYT review of books for insights into Putin regime.

    12. Jin Says:

      Is obsession with all these things a Jewish thing?

      Personally I don’t give a fig whether South Ossetia is part of Georgia or Russia. Frankly if South Ossetia vanished into thin air I wouldn’t bat as eye.

    13. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Interesting that Putin reached out to Western Europe and asked them to remove their sanctions. He offered to re-allow their food exports back in to Russia. He is also looking to float pieces of Rosneft. His state will now have to rescue all of the debt from companies that can’t refinance in the west. Don’t think China will come to their aid on debt but is happy to buy discounted gas and oil forever. They are probably too smart to “own” something from Russia that Russia will just steal back later. But give them the commodities at cut rate prices, they are fine with that. China can play a forever game with Russia; Russia is weak and disorganized and needs foreign help to do anything. China is the complete opposite and can wait until this all falls into their lap.

      Perhaps the sanctions are biting. The real issue is the massive fall in the price of oil and corresponding decline in the Ruble. Russia has killed business confidence in their own country by provoking the normally asleep EU into actually doing something.

      Funny, maybe the (crazy, not all) commenters on this thread think that Putin is actually a CIA puppet and the CIA is controlling his head and making him take actions to destroy his own currency and throw his economy into ruin. This in turn will kill his populist support because he has no ideology to stand on. And creating sworn, eternal enemies out of the Ukraine which as not necessary in order to acquire land without resources he can strip off (oil, gas, copper) was also a CIA plot – from our perspective he is throwing away military resources to get zero that he can use in return.

      And then the CIA controls OPEC and is telling them not to rein in production to make the world awash with oil so that governments we hate like Iran and Venezuela will collapse. Our tentacles are everywhere apparently.

    14. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> Is obsession with all these things a Jewish thing?

      It’s more of a civilized peoples thing.

      >>Frankly if South Ossetia vanished into thin air I wouldn’t bat as eye.

      You should hope other people don’t feel the same about where you live.

    15. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>Our tentacles are everywhere apparently.

      That’s what happens when you start out with a conclusion and cut and paste the supporting facts to fit, ignoring everything that doesn’t fit, of course.

      ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’
      ~ Sherlock Holmes (A Scandal in Bohemia)

    16. Mrs. Davis Says:

      The total fertility rate of Russia is converging with that of the US. Russia is also the second biggest destination for emigrants. It’s population problem seems to have passed.

    17. Rich Vail Says:

      While the Russian forces that siezed the Crimea were very profesional, that was quite literally their 10 best combat brigades. The rest of their armed forces is a hollow shell that can’t stand up to any sort of extended combat operations. They would literally fall apart in the 1st week of sustained combat. Putin knows this, but he also knows that Obama is a craven moral coward who won’t lift a finger to do anything beyond symbolic support of the Ukraine. I expect that by next Summer, that most of Eastern Ukraine will be in Russian hands…

      …if that happens, Putin will begin to lean heavily on the Baltic states…and may even annex them, this would collapse NATO like the rotten fruit it is. Not one nation in NATO has actually fulfilled it’s treaty obligation to use 7.5% (minimum) of it’s GDP to fund it’s military. None a single one. The British are the only nation who have come close at around 6% (but that has never been sustained). NATO as it currently stands will collapse with one hard push…a push that Putin seems willing to take. If NATO collapses, we’ll see a war in eastern Europe by 2016.

    18. Anonymous Says:

      An alternate scenario perhaps is that Russia/Putin destabilize the western Ukraine via provacateurs, bribes, vote rigging, etc., to bring back the rest of Ukraine into the Russian orbit. Likewise with the Baltic states, all of which have sizable ethnic Russian populations.
      In this manner, Russia gets back its buffer zone.
      China , in the meantime, can support Putin as a way to have the USA worry more about Russia , thus giving China more breathing room in the Pacific. China would be an idiot not to encourage greater
      USA / Russian tensions , while buying Russian oil/ gas on the cheap.

      Putin is very much like Kaiser Whilhelm II of Germany, ca., 1905 . The Kaiser was beside himself that Germany was not being accepted on an equal footing with the UK and France – with all their colonies and other territorial possessions- as an “equal,” and he was going to make sure they did. He was also concerned about being surrounded by his putative enemies; the UK, France and Russia. But Putin is no fool; he does not seek nor desire a war and will pursue subterfuge to achieve his goals of a new Russian Empire.

      Putin has taken the measure of the West, and with Obama at its helm – sort of- Putin can do whatever he wants and there will be NO onerous repurcussions that Putin cannot handle .
      Anyway , NATO is a joke, and Europe needs Russian oil and gas.

      Putin is in the drivers seat.

    19. Jim Says:

      To Michael Hiteshew – I’m sure that the people of South Ossetia know nothing of me and care less. That doesn’t bother me and in fact I have no idea how it would benefit me if they did.

    20. Mrs. Davis Says:

      A good report on the immediate future of sanctions and low oil prices here.

    21. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>Europe needs Russian oil and gas.

      The green energy promises didn’t quite pan out. Turns out most ‘green’ energy is weather dependent. Who knew? Meanwhile, the Germans are dismantling their nuclear power plants, are considering burning lots more coal, and have sold off many of their tanks. So they’re in good shape to face down the Russians.

    22. Trent Telenko Says:

      This is somewhat on topic —

      2014 Victory Day Parade in Nizhny Novgorod
      http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19910

      but the Russians could always throw a really good military parade.

    23. Trent Telenko Says:

      This link is 10-years old.

      Ukraine armoured vehicles military equipment
      http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=27

    24. Trent Telenko Says:

      This is a rehearsal of the 2014 Red Square Victory Day Parade in Alabino training ground (the exact model of the Red Square).

      Victory Day Parade 2014 rehearsals
      http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19909

    25. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Trent – what is your opinion on all of this? You likely have forgotten more about the East front than I’ll ever know ha ha.

    26. Mike K Says:

      “It’s population problem seems to have passed.”

      The Russians have largely turned things around but they are still barely staying even in population and a large share is over 65.

    27. Grurray Says:

      Awhile back the news broke that Russia had an army of paid trolls spreading propaganda on social media and various blog comments. Some have also wondered if Russian intellugence has infiltrated Western journalists as well.

      Unfortunately, as a result one must now exercise caution when reading any favorable or positive reports about Russia.

      There seem to be three levels at work here:

      – the unsophisticated swarm trolling Twitter and online comments

      – the official and obvious avenues of Dezinformatsia such as RT news

      – the soft agents of influence with no traceable overt ties but serve as a front for the hidden agenda.

      Looking at every story Mark Adomanis has ever written for Forbes and the fact that he’s frequently cited as an impartial Western voice by RT commentators, it’s apparent that he’s part of that third group.

    28. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I think you’re referring to this book: Disinformation. It’s fascinating. Eye opening too.

    29. Whitehall Says:

      Talked with a Russian lady over coffee here in Seoul and she was very positive on Putin.

      “Why is everyone always blaming Putin for the troubles in the world.”

      She is exposed to news from outside Russia and spoke English well. What news sources she accessed I don’t know but think that Russians may hold independent opinions in favor of Putin and that it is not all brainwashing.

    30. Jim Says:

      To Whitehall – So Russians are Russian nationalists. Of course Russians support Putin against the West.

    31. Grurray Says:

      Russians support Putin because before he came to power Russia was bankrupt, its economy was severely depressed, and their society was in shambles. After he took over things almost immediately greatly improved and stayed strong for most of the decade. It was all thanks to the rise in oil and gas industries which he nationalized, but he did implement a flat tax that certainly helped. It’s no coincidence that Putin has become outwardly belligerent and aggressive to his neighbors during the uneven economic growth since.

    32. Bill Says:

      It’s no coincidence that Putin has become outwardly belligerent and aggressive to his neighbors during the uneven economic growth since.

      What’s interesting about the US State Dept line on Russia, which this blog weirdly regurgitates, is how thoroughgoing the falsity is. Russia’s incredibly restrained response to Georgia’s attack on its peacekeepers is “aggression.” Russia’s incredibly restrained response to the violent, CIA organized coup in the Ukraine is “aggression.” Russia’s endlessly conciliatory, moderate, calm foreign policy posture is “belligerent.” Conversely, the American’s constant dictatorial demands, threats, and overt claims that international law does not apply to them is just the good guys being the good guys. Our current alliance with the bizarre Jewish oligarchs plus Nazis regime in Kiev just proves how very good we are. The up is downism is quite remarkable. Especially in light of how easy it is to verify that our claims are consistently rubbish and that “Russian propaganda” is largely just the truth.

    33. Jonathan Says:

      Category 1

    34. Grurray Says:

      Ha! Like moths to a flame.

      It looks like the Ruble is again in free fall down another 5% today.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/RUBUSD:CUR

    35. Mike K Says:

      “Our current alliance with the bizarre Jewish oligarchs ”

      Bingo ! These guys show up on Facebook too.

    36. Plutocracy Now! Says:

      Wow. I’ve read some ignorant nonsense, but this is really ignorant nonsense. Is this kind of stuff typical of American views?

    37. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Grurray, I think you missed a category. The paid, professional disinformation staff. Plutocracy Now! is probably in that group. You see them all over the web, especially places YouTube. I guess the results that return from Googling Ukraine & Russia is on their list of sites to comment these last few months.

    38. Mike K Says:

      Pluto, were you in Ferguson last week ?

    39. grey eagle Says:

      Kiev and The Ukraine has a special place in the hearts of many Russians. Russians believe The Ukraine and the Crimea belong to Russia because that is where Russia was born.

      Around the year 860 AD a bunch of Vikings raided down the Dnieper and settled in Kiev. The local folks called them ‘Rus”. After these Rus had taken over the surrounding area, their lands were called Russia although each principality had its own name.

      The Rus are the only invaders who stayed and ruled. The Mongols came in the 1300s bringing the black death. They were assimilated. Napoleon invaded and was driven out in the 1800s and Hitler invaded and was driven out in the 1940s.

      NATO and the European Union have managed to rebuild the Roman Empire, doing what Charlemagne, the Hapsburgs, Napoleon and Hitler could never accomplish. Now Nato/USA wants Russia.

      Russians are crazy to turn down this opportunity to be conquered by NATO/USA.

      These crazy Russians have lots of atomic bombs. Their defense doctrine is to use battle field nukes to prevent invasion and to use long range nukes to destroy their attackers.

      If we continue the invasion of Russia it would be nice to take some precautions. First, the Minuteman missiles are 60 years old and have never been properly flight tested in the last 50 years. We should fire a few – say at New York, Los Angeles, Corpus Christi, Miami, and Hawaii (empty of course) just to make sure they work and to show both the Russians and the American people that we are ready to risk our cities in order to invade Russia and capture Ukraine.

      At the same time we should run the ‘Duck and Cover’ public announcements so that people will know what to do when the sky suddenly light up. Also we need to bring back the public blast shelters and fallout shelters.

      Of course none of this may be done. Putin has just now stated that NATO has stationed aircraft in Lithuania, and Turkey, and several other places next to Russia from which NATO/USA can nuke Russia. He is worried. Will this crazy Russian misunderstand and pre-empt the NATO/USA attack?

    40. Gringo Says:

      Ukraine could potentially have been an ally; they had a large Russian speaking contingent and if handled deftly and prodded with economic / natural gas aid, things could have turned out differently.

      But from Russia’s point of view, Ukraine should be either a subordinate country or part of Russia. An ally is a partner. No can do.

      I am reminded of those hypotheticals about how Hitler could have won WW2. One of the main points is always that many Ukrainians welcomed the German Army as liberators, a reasonable response after the Stalin-induced famine of the 1930s. The Germans should have treated the Ukrainians well as the Germans could have enlisted millions of Ukrainians in their army. The problem with that hypothetical is that Hitler viewed Ukrainians as inferior to the Master Race. Treat Ukrainians as allies? No Can Do. Even with Hitler’s mistreatment of the Ukrainians, resentment of the Russians was so strong that Hitler could get 100k of them to fight under Vlasov.

      I know or knew a fair number of first or second generation people of Ukrainian origin. Memories of the Russians are not fond ones for them.

    41. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Grey Eagle, do you get paid well? You’re not very convincing or persuasive. A better handle might be Double Eagle, but maybe that’s too obvious, eh?

    42. Joe Wooten Says:

      First, the Minuteman missiles are 60 years old and have never been properly flight tested in the last 50 years.

      WRONG!!!!!

      The Air Force test fires Minutemen missiles on a yearly basis from Vanderberg AFB over the Pacific missile range. One to test the rockets and the guidance systems, and two, to give the missile crews experience in firing their weapons. The last such test was on September 23, 2014. A missile is pulled from it’s silo in the central US and shipped with one of the launch crews to Vandenberg. It’s warhead is taken off and shipped off to Pantex for reconditioning and a replacement dummy warhead is installed on it. The missile in then installed in a silo that is a working Minuteman launch complex. The crew then assumes their posts and a live fire drill takes place, simulating all the conditions that would necessitate a real world crisis.

      http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/502723/minuteman-iii-test-missile-launches-from-vandenberg.aspx

      The fired missile is then replaced by a brand new/reconditioned missile in the old silo in the central US.

      You need to do a little research before making statements like that Grey Eagle.

    43. grey eagle Says:

      joe wooten:

      thanks for the research on the Minutemen. I hoped when I wrote that statement that some one here would prove I was wrong and that the Minuteman are still able to destroy Russia and China.

      There are copies of news reports on Youtube that suggest that many silos no longer function because of poor maintenance and that the chain of command was staffed by Obama with drunks and anti-war types.

    44. xal Says:

      Honestly – an article written by someone who does not know the situation.
      Written bullshit))
      My advice – learn the history of Ukraine. What is – Western Ukraine. What is the Eastern Ukraine. What is the Crimea.
      When formed – Ukrainian state. Who lives in the Crimea. How was the “capture” of the Crimea. As a referendum in the Crimea. Why the United States approved the use of the army against the people of Eastern Ukraine.
      I’m sorry … the author – a victim of propaganda.

    45. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> You need to do a little research before making statements like that Grey Eagle.

      Joe, Grey Eagle is here on a propaganda mission. It’s what he does for a living. Any relationship between what he writes and reality is purely accidental. Xal as well.

    46. Anonymous Says:

      Ron Paul supports my assessment of Ukraine.

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-05/ron-paul-warns-reckless-congress-just-declared-war-russia

      Both men and women at NSA are passing around nude pictures taken by satellite of sunbathers in Donetsk, Kiev and Lvov showing who dyes it, who shaves etc. So if Russia had troops in the Ukraine, the NSA would have pictures of them, their equipment, and their tattoos.

    47. Grurray Says:

      It’s likely satellite intelligence has been provided to Congress, but it wouldn’t be released publicly. It certainly wouldn’t be released to Ron Paul, who is no longer a member of Congress. I appreciate his anti-war stance, but he tends to conveniently ignore obvious facts to bolster his worldview.

      From the recent UN human rights report:

      “There are credible reports from different sources, including the OSCE Observer Mission, that hundreds of people in military-style clothing have been observed crossing the two border crossing points of Gukovo and Donetsk in both directions 6 . The Ukrainian Government and some civic groups report the delivery of weapons from the Russian Federation to the eastern regions. On 19 September and 31 October, two further convoys were sent by the Russian Federation to territory under the control of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. As on the previous occasions, the convoys crossed at the Izvaryne border crossing point without the authorisation of Ukraine, and were not inspected”

      Here’s the latest situation map. Russian troops and armor are all over Eastern Ukraine.

    48. Anonymous Says:

      Gurray:
      There is absolutely no national security reason to keep US satellite pictures of Russian tanks and equipment secret. Anyone using google can see satellite images of nude sunbathers in Kiev.

      The ‘situation map’ is produced by the current government in Kiev. The Kiev government will be put on trial for war crimes because they are shelling hospitals, schools and orphanages in the DPR. The US has not released any photos of any of the tanks and equipment shown on this map – but NASA employees trade pix of naked women in the DPR.

      Ethnically speaking, the DPR is 90% Russian with family members in both the DPR and in Russia. Over a million DPR citizens have fled to Russia because Kiev has destroyed their homes with artillery. A great many Russian family members have crossed into the DPR to help their families flee to Russia.

      Some family members with military experience have been acting as ‘advisors’ to the DPR. The US is providing ‘advisors’ to the Kiev government.

      No one in the DPR has been allowed to vote in any of the “free” elections held by Kiev this year.

      In elections in 2013 and earlier the East outvoted the West in every election. The West, centered in Lvov, is Polish. Lvov was once the capital of Poland.

      The center which, contains Kiev, votes 50-50. Putin has suggested giving Lvov back to Poland but the current NATO/Kiev government refused. The current NATO/Kiev government took power in a coup d’état aided by the US Assistant Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Everyday there are protests in the streets of Kiev against the current government.

      Putin has sent 2 relief convoys of food and medical supplies which the Kiev government refused to inspect during 2014. Another is planned.

    49. Grurray Says:

      I can assure you, friend, that of all the places in the world to spy on nude women, Donbas is very, very low on the list. You don’t have to worry about that one at all.

      You do bring up a valid point, however. If the NSA reveals it’s nude surveillance then the SVR will learn it’s methods and unleash it on rivals. Nude sunbathers in Georgia and Chechnya will be at risk. Think of the Baltic Nudists. They would be terribly exposed.

      No, sir, we can not risk a nude surveillance gap.

    50. Cass Says:

      You have taken too much of your information from State-Dept-sourced media, I think. You have it fundamentally wrong. If the western press had covered what was happening in Ukraine last winter, you’d have read what Russia was reacting to and wouldn’t have to wing it.

      Crimea is and always was Russian. It was attached to Ukraine in the most egregious example of pork-barrel politics in the history of the world — Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev (while drunk, Solzenitsyn says, but when was he not?) decided to make a present of Crimea to his “home town” and this was ratified by the Duma with nowhere near a quorum. Crimeans were shocked (“How do you ‘give away’ millions of people over night?”) but they were still USSR citizens and nothing much changed.

      By this same process under three Ukrainian leaders Ukraine became the repository of a disproportionate amount of Soviet military strength and secession negotiations with Ukraine were mostly concerned with Russia maintaining control of its military assets which couldn’t be moved from Ukraine, particularly Crimea, which is of existential importance to Russia because it guards her access to the Atlantic. Without control of Crimea, Russia can be landlocked in winter.

      Russia’s interests were guaranteed by several mechanisms. Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and shipyards, was to become a ‘special status’ city. Crimea became an autonomous region. Russia retained its military bases and the right to station up to 25,000 troops in Crimea. Russia’s territorial control was guaranteed by long-term leases which were renewed in 2010 and extended to 2040.

      Almost the first words out of Yatsenyuk’s mouth after the coup expressed the intention to abrogate this agreement. This is the piece of the puzzle I suspect was not reported in anything you were reading. The first law passed overturned the status of Russia as an official language. (Would you like to fill out a tax return printed in Ukrainian?) A finding of “conspiracy” requires a lot of talking, plus one concrete act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The political tendencies advocating “forced Ukrainization” are the same voices advocating ethnic cleansing of Russians from Ukrainian soil. The Crimeans watched on their TVs torchlight marches under the swastika. The language laws were the one concrete act.

      The secession of Crimea and her accession to Russia violated no international laws. Putin is one of the world’s leading experts on international law. Listen to him when he explains it; so far he’s been right any time I’ve heard or read him on the topic. The right to self-determination is a sacred principle of international law and securing it is one of the four founding goals of the United Nations. Ukraine’s argument turns on a provision in its Constitution that the central government had to give permission for a secession referendum. This argument failed in the case of Kosovo before the International Court of Justice, which found that it was such a constitutional provision that was illegal, subverting international law. It was legal for Crimea to hold a referendum on secession, legal for her to apply for accession to Russia, legal for Russia to accept her application.

      The only possible illegality may have been the “little green men.” The “status of forces” agreement for the 25,000 Russian troops (remember them?) legally stationed in Crimea provided that they could not make a major movement off their bases without Kiev’s consent. It turns on whether 1% of forces, out of uniform and bearing only small arms, constituted a “major movement.” This is not international law; it’s contractual. They sort of “baby sat” the activists as they disarmed the Ukrainian army units on Ukrainian bases and acted as security forces for the polling stations. In another context one might say they were prima facie threatening, but not in Crimea. Threatening to whom? The 97% figure is accurate. A western press conglomerate that included the Washington Post polled up to two days before the election and got 95%. The exit polls got 95%. A poll six months later, after the euphoria wound down, got 85%, which probably reflects an attempt to poll more Tatars. Oh, and your “few” casualties? Zero.

      So Russia had what she must have and could turn her attention to mending fences with Ukraine. Putin’s long-range strategy for hindering American development of a first strike capacity relies heavily on keeping Ukraine, at the least, out of NATO. Then came the spanner in the works. The eight predominately Russian provinces of Ukraine’s south-east were inspired by Crimea’s example of decided to follow suit. They too wanted to break away from Ukraine. They too wanted to join Russia. Consternation reigned in the Kremlin. Putin screamed “NYET!” Stop the referenda. Donetsk and Luhansk went ahead. The Russians told them that they would not accept an application to accede to Russia. Donetsk and Luhansk changed the wording of their referendum to refer to a less specific independence.

      Independence supporters stormed police stations and SBU offices and armed themselves with the riot arms and equipment they found there. Their family, friends and neighbours in the Ukrainian armed forces flocked back to their home towns bringing their tanks and artillery with them. And a pair of adventurers saw an opportunity. Alexander Borodai and Igor Girkin had been working in Ukraine for eventual leader Aksyonov as crisis consultant and security chief, respectively. They went back decades, having been at, if not in, the same wars. Borodai edited an ultra-nationalist magazine Zavtra which Girkin wrote for. Both belong to a political movement which wants Russia to restore its Imperial borders, to become a monarchy under an heir to the last Tsar, and to a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church whose summer camps for kids are really boot camps. Girkin had just been eased out of the FSB (Russian FBI with jurisdiction over USSR’s domestic territory) after failing a psychiatric assessment.

      Borodai and Girkin were positive that their dream had come true and Russia would be seizing the insurgent Donbass in weeks if not days. They thought it should be easy in the churn to seize power positions in the newly declared republics and to be there to greet the Russian invasion, which should carry them to the top of their particular political hill back in Moscow. Girkin, code name Strelkov, was appointed by, of all people, Borodai, to head all armed forces in the new republics in spite of the fact that Colonel Strelkov was an FSB colonel, and had neither military training nor combat experience, none of which he made public. They thought, after all, that Russia would be there before it actually came to shots being fired.

      Ultimately, Russia backed a mutiny of the field commanders which sent the imposter Strelkov packing. Borodai had split with his old friend and hung around briefly in an advisory capacity. That political support for the cream that had risen to the top, plus the loan of some army trucks to transport donated aid, was the full extent of Russian assistance to the resistance. No tanks. If there had been tanks, there would be a picture that doesn’t come up when you google with a “match image” program. No military aid. If there had been, they would have had a decent anti-tank capacity. No troops. If there had been troops, somebody would have captured one. (Well, except for the 10 kids who were picked up in a field that they didn’t know was in Ukraine. If they were intended for some mission, which perhaps they were, they hadn’t been told yet.) No invasion. The Russian public adores the resistance and limits Putin’s ability to shaft them, at least visibly, but every time they trapped hundreds of Ukrainian troops Putin was in the forefront of calls to open a “humanitarian corridor” and let them go. He was afraid that if 500 Ukrainian soldiers were shot like fish in a barrel it would be a couple of generations before Russia met anything in Ukraine but wall-to-wall hate. (The Ukrainians don’t like casualties. They’ve lost over 20,000 men and the official number is 973. They have field crematoria.)

      Thermonuclear war trumps the success of the independence movement in the Donbass. It’s hard to fault Putin on his priorities. But if you think this is Putin’s war, you’re really barking up the wrong tree.

      Like your site, though. I’ll be back.

    51. Cass Says:

      Woops. Fifth paragraph up, line beginning “Independence supporters” — that should be “had been working in Crimea” not in Ukraine. I think this is worth correcting if you can. Readers without a lot of background will not catch it.

      Cassandra

    52. Jonathan Says:

      All of the pro-Russia commenters in this thread have non-US IP addresses.

    53. Mike K Says:

      Well, Jonathan, at least we know people are reading Chicagoboyz in odd places.

      Maybe we could write a post about the 1930 purges and that would really be click bait.

    54. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Russians: All your Eastern European peoples are belong to us!!

    55. Cass Says:

      “All of the pro-Russia commenters in this thread have non-US IP addresses.”

      That’s hardly surprising. The pool of Americans holding out against “faith-based facts” is vanishingly small. It’s against the odds that one would show up on this site.

    56. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      When they’ve moved to the insult phase, that means they’ve lost. :-P

    57. Trent Telenko Says:

      Carl,

      It’s nice to see that you stirred up the “Czar Putin De Santa Anna” crowd.

      “Czar Putin” is setting up Russia to lose Siberia and Central Asia to China the way General Antonio López de Santa Anna set up Mexico to not only lose Texas, but California and the rest of the American South West.

      Without oil, Putin and Russia are nothing.

      And the oil just went away.

    58. Xennady Says:

      I suppose I’ll get lumped in with those crazy-vile (somehow) Russia supporters, but at least I should have a US IP address. Michigan, btw.

      Anyway, I’d really like to know just why the US government should be so very concerned about the Russia-Ukraine border when it seems so completely unconcerned about the US-Mexico border.

      I’ve read that the US has essentially ceded parts of Arizona to drug cartels and illegal immigrants of all stripes and I’ve personally heard anecdotes about how illegals simply spit upon US border patrol officers without fear of retribution- but border disputes in the shards of the former Soviet Empire are what I should really care about right now.

      Sorry, nope. I don’t care much about Russia, Ukraine, or Putin- but I do recall one statement supposedly made by him that I heartily agree with- paraphrasing, that the US is a country that has far exceeded its rational role in the world.

      In this context, what that means to me is that we have a political class that is really really worried about foreigners, everywhere- but is really sick of those cursed isolationist scum-sucking nativists who are worried more about Americans than everyone else.

      Time for a new political class, I think.

    59. Xennady Says:

      “Czar Putin” is setting up Russia to lose Siberia and Central Asia to China the way General Antonio López de Santa Anna set up Mexico to not only lose Texas, but California and the rest of the American South West.

      You may be correct.

      But what concerns me is why I should believe that to be in the national interest of the United States.

      I do not believe it to be, all thing considered, and I see no reason why we should work to make it more likely.