Friday, July 4, 2014

For the record: Strelkov, Iazov and my position concerning a Russian intervention in Novorussia

Today, as soon as I published the appeal by Strelkov I got comments apparently telling me ("sorry Saker") that Strelkov was not very credible.  Now that I have also posted a report about Iazov's views, I suppose that others will accuse me of "waiting too long" or for, as always, "worshiping Putin".  So, again - I have done so many times already - I will try to explain my personal position on these issues.

First, the fact that I post something here does not, repeat, not mean that I endorse it or agree with it.  All you can conclude from me posting here is that I find what I post of interest, either factual, or as a possible contribution to an intelligent discussion.

Second, my position on Strelkov and other Novorussian sources.  I will be honest with you, I rate the public information record of Strelkov, ANNA news, Golos Sevastopolia and others as completely inadequate, primitive and unreliable.  I am, in fact, immensely frustrated by this.  But I am also aware that not only are these guys not PR pros, they are not even amateurs.  They are trying their very best and their very best is the best I can get for this blog.  Who am I to decide not to post something here only because it is poorly presented or because the source has already made widely exaggerated claims?!  We are not talking about a poorly made report about the latest results from the World Cup in Brazil or tennis from Wimbledon.  We are talking about reports made by people who undeniably put their lives at risk (very much including the folks at ANNA-news and all other real journalists) and who are working in horrendous circumstances.  Furthermore, in a war zone the people on the ground often know less than the folks safely hidden in underground bunkers or outside the conflict area altogether.  Also, and this is always overlooked, folks in a warzone are often very severely sleep deprived.  So many Strelkov really thinks that by his statements he can save the lives of some of his men?  He might even sincerely believe that a Russian intervention is necessary.  The bottom line is this: Stelkov, ANNA-news and the others are giving us what they can, it is their very best effort, and that is all that I have to oppose to the phenomenally sophisticated, multi-billion dollar worldwide propaganda network of the AngloZionist Empire.

Have you seen the footage of the Novorussian soliders taking old WWII tanks (a T-34 and a IS-1) off their plinths, cleaning them and, amazingly, re-starting their engines (which says a lot about the quality of Soviet weapons!)?  One of the NDF soliders said to the camera "sure its old, but it can still shoot straight through a APC".  Well, the same goes for the information war, which I have to fight it with what I have, not with what I wish I had.  This is why I will continue to post views in favor and against a direct Russian intervention, and why I will continue to post ANNA-news or Strelkov reports as long as they are available.  I will not post facts which I know are false, nor will I deliberately lie, of course. But censoring Strelkov on the grounds that his credibility is shaky at best?  Nope, that would be morally wrong.

As for my personal position it is this:

In my heart I felt that a Russian intervention was justifiable and needed as soon as I heard Poroshenko's inauguration speech.  I fact, I had predicted that it would happen within days.  It did not.  Well, even though it did not, my heart still believes that it should have happened right then, and that it for sure should happen right now, that waiting any further is both morally and pragmatically wrong.

In my mind, I am much more cautious.  As soon as I heard Poroshenko's inauguration speech I did conclude that Russia had no other choice but to intervene.  To my surprise, that intervention never materialized, at least overtly.  As a ex-professional military analyst I know that there are some explanations for this which make sense, other which don't.  Explanations such as "Putin is a coward" or "Putin was bought off" are, what I call "Gunfight at the OK Corral" kind of explanations: simple, clear and ideally adapted to a primitive Hollywood western movie type of plot.  In real life, things are much more complex and the reality is that Putin, along with his Security Council, has made a judgment call with which one can agree or not, but which does not have to be simplified and reduced to "Gunfight at the OK corral" type of level.

For example, we know that the Russian intelligence services conducted covert polls in Crimea which assured them that the support for a Russian intervention was even higher than what they had predicted.  Putin himself revealed that.  We can be absolutely sure that such covert polls were also conducted - and still are - in the Donbass.  What we do not know is what these polls show.  So let's make a simple thought experiment, in particular with those of you who are categorically in favor of a Russian intervention.  Would you still support a Russian intervention if you found out that only 60% of the people in Novorussia wanted it?  What about 50%?  Or 45%?  What if it was only 30% or even less?  Keep in mind that, at least so far, the worst hit by the Ukie invasion are small towns while the majority of the population lives in the bigger cities.  Also keep in mind that a good chunk of the locals work in companies belonging to the oligarch Renat Akhmetov who is categorically opposed to an intervention and who declared that he would not pay salaries to those who go on strike or do not work.  Are you still convinced that a majority of Novorussians want an intervention?  And assuming that yes, did you ever ask yourself what else they might want?  What if they also want Russia to pay for their social services (Kiev sure ain't!), what if they want Russia to pay for the complete reconstruction of the region?  Do you believe that Russia ought to pay for what was destroyed by Nazis under US control?

I was recently listening to a very interesting panel of experts discussing Crimea and it is pretty clear that while Russia has the means and the will to make Crimea prosperous again, it is also rather obvious that this will take time and that in the initial stage Crimea is a mess and a heavy burden for the Russian economy (it's mid to long term prospects are fantastic - no worries here).

There is another factor to consider: what will happen to the rump-Ukraine (aka "Banderastan") and even the rest of the EU if Russia intervenes directly.  Let's make one more thought experiment, ok?

Say the Russian intervene - they basically destroy all of the Ukrainian armed forces and national guard within, say 48 hours.  I don't mean just the forces in the Donbass, I mean all of it.  Just like they did in Georgia.  In Georgia the Russians did not have to enter Tbilissi or or Batumi to basically completely disarm Saakashvili.  They could do that in the Ukraine too: encircle and destroy all the forces in the East and use air and missile strikes to destroy whatever is left in the rest of the country from the western border of Novorussia to the Polish border.  Then what?

Well, the Novorussians would be safe, and I would be drinking Champagne with my wife.  But what would happen to the rest of the Ukraine?  It would be disarmed and totally cut-off from the Donbass and Crimea.  It's economy would have collapsed (it will anyways, no matter what the Russians do) and nobody out there will have the money to pay for a reconstruction.  Heck, nobody out there would even have a plan on how to resurrect a dead economy.  Who do you think would fare best and be in power then?  That's right - the extremists.  So just imagine a President Iarosh backed by Prime Minister Kolomoiski ruling their Nazi Banderastan with the help of their death squads.  Can you imagine what the pressure would be on Russia to take further action?  And, in the meantime, you can bet that NATO would go into full-paranoia mode, with possibly US and Polish forces sent to "protect" and "defend" the "Ukrainian people" from the "Russian imperialist bear and Czar Putin".  In the meantime, Russia would have to shoulder the full price-tag for such an immensely expensive operation while also paying for the resurrection of the Donbass economy.  As for the Russian military, not only would it have to deal with the inevitable anti-Russian partisan movement in the part of the Ukraine it would control, it would also have to worry about deterring an always theoretically possible US aggression while at the same time avoiding making things worse and preventing a WWV (if WWIII was Cold War, and WWIV is the current one, then the next one would be WWV, right?).

And what do you think would be happening in the EU if the scenario above plays itself out?  Not only would the EU economy collapse (it might do so even without a war in the Ukraine or sanctions against Russia), but NATO would further squeeze its iron claws so deep into the Body of Europe that it would be secure for decades.  The EU would turn into a US protectorate for the duration for yet another Cold/Warm War which, again, could last for decades and waste a truly phenomenal about of human and financial resources.

Do you really want that?

Oh I can already hear the armchair strategists pounding their fists in indignation at, well, their armchairs, and saying:" but that is not at all what we are saying, we only support a limited intervention".  Oh yeah?  Let's look at these a little more closely.

Usually, the defenders of the limited intervention scenario offer three options, or a combination thereof:

a) a no-fly zone.
b) a rapid in-and-out operation.
c) an intervention limited "only" to the Donbas and not a step further.

All three of these options suffer form the same fatal flaw.  They assume that the other side will play ball and accept the limited nature of that intervention.  Take the no-fly zone.  It is an act of war and the Ukies would be fully justified in retaliating against it, no only in the Donbass, but elsewhere.  So what would you do if you were the Russian President, you declared a no-fly zone over the Donbass, your forces easily shoot out a number of Ukie airplanes out of the sky and if the Ukie President decided to begin lobbing missiles at Sebastopol or Rostov-on-the-Don?  Would you expand the no-fly zone to the Zaparozhskaia Oblast?  What about the ground to ground missiles, would you allow airstrikes to hunt them down like the US tried to do with Saddam's Scuds?

The fact is that these so-called "limited" options have a huge tendency to grow in most unpredictable and, usually, painful manner. 

No offense to anybody, but I have to be blunt here: the so-called "limited operations with no boots on the ground" are a myth created by the US propaganda machine to justify US interventions worldwide.  And, to the extend that they truly can contribute to make a bad situation infinitely worse, they do kinda "work" for the US, but since Russia's goal is not just to make things worse in the Ukraine, but to make them better, these limited operations are most certainly not some kind of obvious panacea or even a good choice.

As for the US, which has been using such "limited" interventions from Vietnam to Libya, when was the last time when such a limited intervention stayed limited or made things better for the country "hosting" it?

Does that mean that I am opposed to a Russian intervention?

No, not at all.  What the above means is that unlike some commentators and bloggers I am aware of the infinitely complex and numerous factors which must be considered before the decision to send in Russian forces is made.  What the above means is that I am aware of at least some, but not all, of the implications of such a situation.  This means that while Russia might have to intervene, the fact that the Kremlin tries has hard as possible to avoid such a move is a sign of wisdom, not of cowardice, stupidity or betrayal.

My gut tells me that the US is so hell-bent on confrontation that Russia will have no other choice than to intervene, possibly by imposing a no-fly zone first.  The sad reality is that while peace takes two, war takes only one, and when I listen to the psychopathic freaks in Kiev I have no hope at all for peace.  There cannot be peace with Nazis any more than with Wahabis: the only way to deal with these freaks its to offer them a simple choice: desist or die.  That is a terrible thing to say, and it goes deeply against my personal inclinations, but that is the terrible personal conclusion to which I have come.

By the way, Russia tried to ignore the Wahabi crazies in Chechnia and they proved Russia wrong.  Russia also tried to ignore Saakashvili and his crazies, and they proved Russia wrong.  Now Russia is trying hard to ignore the Nazis in Banderastan, and I don't see any reason believe that this time around this will work.  But also please notice this, Russia did not really intervene in Chechnia until the Russian public opinion was fully and totally supportive for such an intervention.  Russia did not intervene in South Ossetia until the Russian public opinion was fully in favor of that operation too (although that is harder to prove, considering that Russia did only wait 24 hours before deciding to really go after Saakashvili rather than just protect or evacuate the Russian peacekeepers).  It might well be that Putin and his advisers have already come to the conclusion that an overt intervention is inevitable, but that they are waiting for the public opinion in Russia and even in Novorussia to really back that option.

Again, me?  I am all for it.  Now.  But I am nobody and my opinion is irrelevant.  This is a judgment call to make for those who truly have all the fact and who will shoulder the responsibility for making (or not making) that call.  Not me, not you, not even Mr Strelkov or Mr Glazev: that is a decision which can only be made by the Russian Security Council and, in the end, by Putin.

I really don't envy him.

The Saker

PS: I suppose that some frankly stupid or simply dishonest and hostile commentators or bloggers still will manage to take a sentence out of context and make me say something I never did.  Or they will personally attack me again as if I had a say in what the Kremlin decides.  Frankly, I am tired of dealing with all sorts of strawman arguments and of trying to set the record straight.  Folks, contrary to what you seem to think, I am not a Kremlin spokesman (that would be Mr. Peskov) nor does being aware of the complexities of the real world out there automatically make me a Putin apologist.  For those of you who have simple and obvious solutions I have just this to say: "good for you, now please go to your room and let the adults continue their conversation".