Thursday, May 8, 2014

Putin offers Obama a gambit the latter cannot refuse

I have to admit that today's move by Putin caught me completely off-guard.  My first impression was that by asking the folks in the Donbass to postpone the referendum, Putin was basically tossing aside a valuable bargaining chip.  Even more disturbing was his apparent backing for the upcoming May 25th presidential election.

Let me also say, however, that the notion of Putin "caving in" never even crossed my mind if only because categories such as "caving in" are simply not applicable in the real world of international politics - they are only good for the taking heads on the Idiot Tube and their zombified audience.

But if Putin was not "caving in" - what in the world was he doing?  I submit that what Putin did is give us his reply to yesterday's quiz.  Remember what I wrote?
Let us assume that Russia does not intervene and that, with time and effort, the nationalists regain control of most of the eastern and southern Ukraine. Let is further assume that the referendum wanted by the Russian-speakers is either not held or ignored, while the Presidential election goes ahead and that Poroshenko or Tymoshenko get's "kind of elected" in a farcical election which, however, the USA and its EU protectorate will immediately recognize as "legitimate". 
This is *exactly* the option chosen by Putin today.  To see why, we have to look at this not from Moscow's perspective, but from Kiev's perspective.  From the point of view of the junta this outcome looks something like this:

"So we have managed to get most of the East and South more or less under control.  We have stopped the "terrorist's" referendum and we got our leader Oligarchenko elected President in an election fully backed the US and Europe.  What do we do next?"

This is when things get really interesting for a number of reasons.  For one thing, the economy is completely dead and nobody, really nobody, has any idea as to what to do about it.  Second the degree of hatred between the western Banderastan and the eastern Donbass is at an all-time high and nobody has any idea as to how to make all these people coexist together.  Third, and there are a lot of signs in Kiev and elsewhere that this is already beginning to happen, social unrest triggered by the economic collapse is going to go from bad to worse with each passing week.  Fourth, now that the neo-Nazi thugs do not have a "patriotic" job to do anymore - what kind of "activities" will keep them busy next?

There is a well-known experiment in psychology: you put two rats into a cage and you start giving them electrical shocks (though a grid in the cage floor).  You know what they do?  They immediately attack each other.  Pain makes them do that - they strike out at the only enemy they see.

So just imagine the utter chaos which will take place this summer all over the Ukraine.

Now add to that the fact that the Ukraine will desperately need Russian energy for which it is both unable and unwilling to pay.

To me, this picture does not look only bleak, it look apocalyptic.

Now consider the very same picture from the US and EU's point of view.

First, it is pretty darn obvious that they, the US & EU, "own" the Ukraine (not Russia).  They overthrew Yanukovich, they backed the neo-Nazis, they promised wealth and freedom to the Ukrainians if they sign the agreement with the EU and they put their full political weight behind President Oligarchenko and his government.   Frankly, their best hope was to blame any and all problems on Russia, its "agents" in the Donbass and Moscow's support for the "terrorists".  But now that this pretext is gone - whom shall they blame next?

Maybe each other? 

I can already hear the outraged comments about how all this is just a cynical rationalization for the fact that "Russia has betrayed the Russian-speakers in the southeast".  So let's talk about them.

I don't know about you - but I am personally unimpressed to say the least about the numbers of men who turned up to fight against the junta.  Yes, some did and they are fighting hard but, again, this is not South Ossetia by a long shot.  I did see small groups of determined men fighting back, but I did not see large hordes of infuriated miners organizing a mass demonstration or, even less so, attacking the junta's forces. Did you?

So where the hell is everybody?  Sitting at home and waiting for the outcome?

Furthermore, and several commentators have pointed this out, it is rather dubious that the resistance leaders have the organizational skills to simultaneously fight the junta and organize a referendum.

Add to this a very real possibility that a non-trivial part of the population is rather lukewarm, undecided or otherwise wishy washy about staying in the Ukraine or not - and you have all the ingredients of an embarrassing PR disaster.

My personal (and highly subjective) feeling is that most folks in the Donbass would prefer to live without a neo-Nazi regime and get their pay in Rubles.  But they also want some "Polite Armed Men in Green" to make that happen for them.  And that is something Putin has no reason at all to agree to.

When I though about submitting a quiz to you yesterday I had already firmly decided for myself that non-intervention was a much better option for both Russia and the Donbass.  But when this evening I heard Putin I was totally caught off-guard and disturbed.  It appeared to me that he was giving up important things for nothing and my instinctive knee-jerk reaction was, as always, to suspect the worst.  But now that I had time to really think it over, what Putin is doing makes sense.  Not only is he choosing the "no intervention" option (which I had expected him to do) - he is pro-actively contributing to that outcome (which I did not expect him to do at all).  I had expected Russia to look "firm and stern" and not to yield on anything in order to maximize the uncertainty and anxiety of the US, EU and the freaks in power in Kiev.  Also, I had not expected Putin to give the western propaganda machine such an fantastic opportunity to gloat, declare Russia a "paper tiger" and declare victory for Obama.  But now that I think about that I find that a very sneaky move: let them gloat today - it will just make their inevitable fall tomorrow even much more painful to cope with.

In chess, this is called a "gambit".  You accept the loss of a piece to win a positional advantage.  Except that in chess your opponent has the option to decline the gambit whereas in this case the Empire has to accept it.

I should have known better since Putin had already done exactly that when the USA was about to attack Syria: he "gave up" the entire Syrian chemical weapons arsenal in exchange for a disruption in the AngloZionist Empire's momentum towards an attack on Syria.  At the time his gambit was also greeted by a chorus of "the Russians caved in! they betrayed Assad!" and yet eight months later nobody can deny that Syria is winning the war.

I will tell you honestly that I hate gambits.  In chess and in life.  And when offered a gambit in chess I usually decline it.  To me this is a profoundly counter-intuitive move.

I suspect that Putin must be a much better chess player then I am.

The Saker