Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ukraine SITREP June 24th, 17:10 UTC/Zulu: a watershed moment?

When I heard this morning that Putin had asked the Federation Council to repeal the resolution on the use of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine I was frankly baffled.  Truly, I had not expected such a move.  I had noticed yesterday that the so-called "consultations" (as opposed to "negotiations") between the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, a senior representative for the OSCE Tagliavini, Ukraine's second president Kuchma, Ukrainian Choice movement leader Medvedchuk and the Donetsk People's Republuc's Prime Minister Borodai, South-East movement leader Tsaryov and representatives of the Lugansk People's Republic had resulted in the Novorussian leaders agreeing to a temporary cease-fire, but I did not expect that the situation would change so rapidly.  Let's recall what was going on just a few days ago.

How did we get here?

This is how I concluded the June 20th SITREP (entitled "Slaviansk encircled")
Again, we have a situation in which Poroshenko or, should I say, Poroshenko's puppeteers in Washington, are absolutely determined to achieve either one of the following goals:

1) To extend Banderastan all the way to the Russian border
2) To force Russia to openly intervene militarily in the Donbass

This is a winning strategy because Kiev has the means to achieve at least one of these goals and Putin does not have a third option. The Kremlin's preferred solution - to have Novorossia successfully resist the Ukie aggression - does not seem to be achievable, at least not if the Kremlin does not take dramatic action to change the dynamic on the ground.
In fact, I had predicted that Putin would be forced to send in the Russian military not only to avoid a real genocide of the population of Novorossia, but even a "symbolic disaster" like the fall of Slavniansk because the fall of this now symbolic city would be a political disaster for Putin.

Over the next couple of days (June 21st-23rd) my feeling that an intervention was imminent only grew stronger.  This is what I wrote in a private email to a contact in the Ukraine:
A lot of my time is spent scanning the Russian RuNet (official and social) media to get a sense of what is happening. I can say categorically that I sense that something is changing: I think that even though Putin is not making any loud statements about it, the complete farce of Poroshenko's "ceasefire" and "peace plan" has really pissed off the Kremlin and the near-to-the-Kremlin elites who now have switched from a "wait and see and hope for the best" to a "okay, you wanna fuck, let's fuck" mode. For one thing I get the sense that a decision has been made not to allow a genocide in Novorossia. My sense is that the only decision left to fine tune is how, but my guess is that help across the border (in goods and money) will go through the roof. I also hear that the number of volunteers is going sharply up. The key thing is that I also get the feeling that the Ukies are maxed out and that they are having major supplies issues. So it is "just" a matter of us moving resources in fast enough to allow the "thin" Novorussian resistance to hold until the Ukie side begins to crumble. Poroshenko, who before did have some street-cred as "the one who does not have blood on his hands", is now universally despised. And Gazprom is fed up too. All this is to say that I would not be surprised to see an increase of very polite Russians in Lugansk and Donetsk.
Of course, I was referring to a "thinly covert" kind of intervention, not an overt military one, but the difference between the two is really academic.  Besides, one often leads to the other anyway.  My local contact, by the way, agreed and confirmed something was definitely changing for the better (sorry, I cannot go into specifics).

So the visible sequence over the past week has been the following one:
  1. First, Kiev "offered" a "peace plan" which was an ultimatum.
  2. Then, the junta launched a full-scale Ukie assault on Novorossia.
  3. At this point the situation became truly critical and Slaviansk was encircled.
  4. The public mood in Russia became one of extreme rage and frustration.
  5. Then it became clear that the Resistance had inflicted huge losses on the Ukies especially in the Lugansk region and the Karachun hill.
  6. Putin ordered troops to the border and military exercises involving Airborne forces
  7. Consultations began between an ad-hoc group and Novorissian authorities
  8. Novorossian authorities accepted a temporary the ceasefire
  9. Putin asked the Federation Council to repeat the authorization to use the military to protect the Russian-speakers in the Ukraine
To this visible sequence of events I want to add two very important points:

First, concerning point 5 (Ukie losses): not only did I get plenty of unverifiable reports that the Ukrainian losses were truly huge, but there are confirmed reports of entire Ukie border guard units fleeing to Russia to seek refuge and 400 soldiers of the Ukrainian Airborne Troops collectively resigning.  As for Slaviansk, to the utter amazement of Strelkov who had expected a final assault, the Ukies withdrew.  Strange no?

Second, there is a rather interesting opposition figure in Russia named Sergei Mironov who is the Chairman of the Federation Council and the President of the Just Russia Party (which I would describe as the only real opposition party in the Duma and whose orientation I would call "Left of Putin Social-Democratic").  It so happens that Mironov was on the forefront on the Crimean issue for which Uncle Sam "thanked him" by including him in the list of blacklisted Russian politicians.  Let's just say that on the Ukrainian issue Mironov did some very good work and that he gained a lot of political weight.  Well, two days ago Mironov got so outraged by the situation in Novorossia that he announced on a talkshow on Russian TV that Russia should consider recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics which, as he said, would allow Russia to pour in as much money, weapons or even military forces as needed without having to consult with any third party.  Keep this idea in mind, as it is very important for the rest of this analysis.

True, at the same time, Oleg Tsarev - the de-facto political leader of Novorussia - had set out seven pre-conditions (including full withdrawal and even compensation!) for any negotiations with Kiev, none of which had any chance to be accepted by the Ukie junta, just as Poroshenko's ultimatum aka "peace plan" had zero chance of being accepted in Novorussia.  So the political deadlock was apparently total.

Alexander Borodai
Connecting all the dots I would say that there were a lot of very dark clouds on the eastern horizon and that a thunderstorm was imminent.  Sure, there were these rather bizarre 'consultations' taking place, but I doubt that anybody could have predicted that they would result in the Novorussian side agreeing to a ceasefire.  And yet this is exactly what Alexander Borodai, the Prime-Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic announced.

Now whether Borodai is a high-ranking FSB officer or not, it is quite clear that he could not have taken such a decision without consulting both with Strelkov and the other military commanders and with his contacts in Moscow (wherever they might be).  Clearly, a strategy developed at the top Russian levels is now being implemented.  Let's try to make sense of it.

Possible interpretations

First, I want to deal with the obvious one or, should I say, the obviously mistaken one.  It can be summarized with the not-too-sophisticated slogan "Putin is backstabbing Novorossia" or, alternatively, "the NWO has bought Putin off".  I suppose that "the US nuclear blackmail of Russia has forced Putin to surrender" should also be dealt with here.  For one thing, Smolenskaia street is not Foggy Bottom or an undergrad sorority, were decisions are made and reversed in less than 24 hours and were the latest fad sets the agenda.  Putin did not spent the past 14 years freeing Russian from the AngloZionist control while directly opposing key US foreign policy goals just to be "bought off" and commit political suicide.  As for the nuclear war canard, I have already dealt with it recently (see here and here) and I have no intention of repeating it all.  I will therefore limit my analyses to credible options:
  1. Russia has concluded that the Ukrainians simply do not have the means to take over and ethnically/politically cleanse Novorussia and that covert aid is enough to secure the future survival of Novorussia.
  2. The EU and Russia have successfully bought Poroshenko away from US supervision and are now trying to take control of the situation.
  3. Russia is trying to offer the most symbolic concessions in preparation for an inevitable breakdown of the negotiations and a subsequent Russian intervention.
  4. Russia is buying time, just enough to have the Ukie economy collapse and the resulting social explosion to overwhelm the junta.
  5. Russia is offering a symbolic concession which more or less guarantees that the Europeans will not have to crash their own economy in further US-demanded sanctions.
Of those options which is the best?  In my opinion the most credible one is the one which combines them all: I think that they are all true.

First, let's make one thing clear: the latest Russian move is purely symbolic as was the Russian Federation Council's initial decision to "authorize" Putin to use the Russian military if needed in the Ukraine.  Putin is the commander in chief and he can order any use of the military he wants, and nobody will challenge that, much less so in the  Russian Duma.  Furthermore, covert actions being, by definition, covert - they do not require anybody's approval, even formally.  Second, just one Ukie attack on a Russian border post (even a mistaken one and even a  failed one) are enough of a legal reason to invoke "self-defense" and I remind you that several such attacks have occurred last week.  Third, since Poroshenko has openly declared that Crimea will forever remain Ukrainian and since Iarosh even promised to start a guerrilla in Crimea, Russia can always invoke "preemptive action".  Finally, and this is crucial, Putin can do exactly Mironov advocates: recognize the Novorussian republics (he does not have to have Duma backing for that) and then move in whatever forces he wants. So even formally, the latest Russian move is 100% symbolic.

Second, to understand what just has happened we need to look at it not only from a Russian, Novorussian or Ukie point of view, but also from the point of view of Uncle Sam.  As a reminder, what where the US goals in the Ukraine: (in no particular order)
  1. Sever the ties between Russia and the Ukraine
  2. Put a russophobic NATO puppet regime in power in Kiev
  3. Boot the Russians out of Crimea
  4. Turn Crimea into a unsinkable US/NATO aircraft carrier
  5. Create a Cold War v2 in Europe
  6. Further devastate the EU economies
  7. Secure the EU's status as "US protectorate/colony"
  8. Castrate once and for all EU foreign policies
  9. Politically isolate Russia
  10. Maintain the worldwide dominance of the US dollar
  11. Justify huge military/security budgets
I have color-coded objectives these objectives into the following categories:

Achieved - black 
Still possible - too early to call - blue
Compromised - pink
Failed - red

Current "score card": 1 "achieved", 5 "possible, 2 "compromised" and 3 "failed".

This is already a very mediocre result for a power which fancies itself as a superpower, nevermind an indispensable nation or  world hegemon.  But the point I want to make here is this: seen in the context of these AngloZionist strategic objectives, is the latest Russian move a good or a bad thing?  I would argue that at the very least, it further compromises several already immediately threatens several US goals (1,5,8) and potentially complicates others (6,7,8).  Not bad at all, if you ask me, especially for a purely symbolic move!

It ain't over, not by a long shot

I have to immediately warn everybody that this one is far from over.  For one thing, we should never under-estimate the power of the AngloZionist Empire who, just to make an example, has just slapped a 9 billion dollar fine on France for refusing to cancel the Mistral contract (well, officially, for not abiding by US sanctions on Somalia, Iran and Cuba).  Second, the US has a long and distinguished history of sabotaging peace plans (I think of Bosnia, for example).   Third, a ceasefire is much easier to break than to maintain.  And, finally, there are now literally tens of thousands of crazed neo-Nazi thugs running around free in the Ukraine and there is quite literally nobody out there who could reign them in, nevermind disarm them: one could make a very reasonable argument that Kolomoiski has much more power than Poroshenko.  Sad, scary, but true.

I have to agree with several Russian analysts who have recently warned that we are in this conflict for the long run and that it would be the height of irresponsibility to assume that now it's all over and all is well.  For one thing, the Banderastani part of the Ukraine is guaranteed to explode before the end of the year (Russia will shield Novorussia from this explosion by direct aid and economic ties).  Finally,  the information war will now only heat up even if the purely military aspects *might* become less central.

In personal and practical terms this means for me that even if a ceasefire becomes more or less permanent (and that is far from being even probable, at least as this point), I will continue to maintain, as best I can, this blog in a "crisis" mode with a 24/7 focus on what is taking place in the Ukraine.  I would even argue that if, and that is a big "if", the ceasefire holds, then the really complicated phase will begin with incredibly complex multi-actor negotiations over the future not only of Novorussia but even the future of the rest of the Ukraine.  After all, a ceasefire in the East does not mean that Banderastan has suddenly become viable or that the people in Odessa or Mariupol have suddenly agreed to live under a neo-Nazi regime.  All this ceasefire *might* indicate that that this is *possibly* the end of the very first phase of the Ukrainian crisis and that Novorussia *might* have withstood the junta's attempt at crushing it (please note the triple conditional clauses!).

One more thing: while I have offered possible interpretations, this situation is, by definition, too early too call.  I urge you call to show the highest degree of skepticism towards any "analyses" filled with categorical statements because it is simply undeniable that while we can speculate about what reasons Putin has for his decisions, we don't really know that at all.  As Rumsfeld once said, "as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know".

There are simply too many "unknown unknowns" in the current situation to make any kind of categorical - nevemind final - judgements.

The Saker

PS: I wrote the above two hours in one shot and just before runing out to work.  Please forgive the bad style and typos.