The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Beginning of an End of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance

Ian described the proposed EU sanctions on Russia as “not shabby”, but while they are somewhat more serious sanctions than heretofore it’s only somewhat. The most serious ones are the ones on Russia’s financial institutions. Yes it’ll raise costs but will hurt London and Frankfurt including reputationally. It will also have the effect of encouraging Russia’s efforts to build an alternative. And as the FT article points out in the quote you’ve given if pushed they could retaliate and hurt any chances of European recovery quite badly:

The proposal would not initially include a similar prohibition for Russian sovereign bond auctions out of fear the Kremlin could retaliate by ordering an end to Russian purchases of EU government debt, the document states.

Also these measures would have to be agreed by all 28 members which I don’t see happening without a lot of acrimony. For more details if you’re interested see Leaked Russia sanctions memo: the details | Brussels blog :

The arms sanctions are Europe shooting themselves in the foot at the behest of the Americans. They won’t hurt Russia. And indeed could wind up helping Putin’s modernisation drive (see  Russia has little to lose from arms embargo –

Still, the Mistrals represent a rare example of Moscow turning to outside help when it comes to kitting out its military. As such, the effect of a western embargo could be limited.

“[Blocking the sale] would be symbolic more than hurtful,” says Keir Giles, a Russian defence expert at Chatham House, a think-tank in London. “Russia is an arms exporter, not an importer. There has already been all this fuss in Russia about imports from abroad.”

Indeed, since the Ukrainian crisis began to ratchet up international pressure on Moscow several months ago, the Russian defence establishment has become even more entrenched in its ambition to reconstitute parts of its defence industry that withered after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Most of Russia’s $81bn defence budget is spent internally.

Since 2000, Russia has only engaged in 10 military contracts of any size from overseas suppliers: 4 light transport aircraft from the Czech Republic; 2 diesel engines from Germany; 8 drones from Israel; 60 light armoured vehicles from Italy; 3 light helicopters and 4 amphibious landing craft from France to complement the Mistrals; and from Ukraine, 264 engines, 34 transport aircraft and 100 guided missiles.

Moreover as the FT points out (see: EU to weigh far-reaching sanctions on Russia – “Many ex-Warsaw Pact countries still rely on Russian-made military equipment”.  So far not so alarming other than as a statement of intent. What I do find alarming because it’s blatant aggression is the idea of targeting Russia’s energy development. That’s telling the Russians that America and Europe holds them in the same contempt they hold Iran. Not wise. If you try to strangle their economy and simultaneously point a dagger at their heart they’re going to conclude not unreasonably that you intend waging a regime change war in the not to distant future. Such a war is unlikely to end well for anyone and anyone who thinks that Russia will not strive to lay waste their enemies heartlands has never talked to a Russian soldier let alone a Russian officer. They take threats to their home and those who live there very seriously and they believe in playing rough. (See: Leaked Russia sanctions memo: the details | Brussels blog):

For many involved in the debate – particularly the Obama administration – the energy sector is a far more important target given its centrality to the Russian economy. The measures under consideration in the document would restrict European sales of high-end energy technologies, which are similar to measures the US is working on. They would be very carefully targeted, however, and would only be aimed at long-term production so that it “should not disrupt current supply and trade in energy products”.

So these putative sanctions are fourfold:

1: Restricting access to EU capital markets by Russian state-owned financial institutions
If you read the proposals you’ll notice that the brunt will fall on London and Frankfurt. Remember that the four largest state-controlled banks in Russia are: Sberbank, VTB, the Russian Agriculture Bank and VEB. Sberbank and VTB are both listed on the London Stock Exchange. I doubt the LSE will be happy to take a reputational hit.  Furthermore it’s not all clear to me how these sanctions are going to be tailored so that they also would hit companies such as Gazprombank, which is 100% owned by Gazprom – which in turn is state owned 50%.

Which brings me to the question of alternative sources, in 2013 Russia issued €7.5 billion of bonds via Russian state-owned banks on EU markets. I don’t believe that refinancing such a relatively small amount  would be difficult if two markets in particular Singapore and Hong Kong  refuse to curb those firms’ access .

2: Embargo on trade in arms
So what? The arms embargo seems to me to be utterly pointless and will even hurt the defense preparedness of the EU’s eastern members. And for what? For nothing as the FT explains (see Russia has little to lose from arms embargo –

All of which matters little when it comes to US, EU and Nato efforts to dent Moscow’s military or economy as punishment for its activities in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s three biggest defence partners – absorbing 61 per cent of Russian exports between 2009 and 2013 – are India, China and Algeria, according to SIPRI data.

Since 2000, the trio have bought $58bn of Russian arms, the think-tank estimates. The US has bought $16m.

$16m? $16m isn’t even chump change.

3: Restricting trade in dual use goods
I’m not convinced that Russia has no alternative suppliers. I think it entirely likely that China will give  big “fuck you” to America and gleefully plunder all the patents it want to. It’s been their standard modus operandi up to now why should they change?

4: Restricting trade in ‘sensitive technologies’ with respect to the energy development sector
See point 3 above.

Finally the fact that these sanctions are forward looking is a major caveat, because it gives Russia time to diversify away in the direction of China in fact the measures on arms, tech and dual use both because they’re very imprecisely drafted and subject massive caveats could very easily undermine the EU and strengthen first China and then Russia.

I think with this Ukraine situation we’re seeing something very alarming which is a complete utter and absolute inability of Western policy makers to even begin to understand the goals and objectives of such powers as Russia and China. If you recall

Governments, politicians, and media in the “western” world seem incapable of understanding geopolitical games as played by anyone elsewhere. Their analyses of the newly proclaimed accord of Russia and China are a stunning example of this. If you recall what happened on May 16th last they announced:

1: A “friendship treaty” that would last “forever” but was not (yet) a military alliance

2: A gas deal, in which the two countries will jointly construct a gas pipeline to export Russian gas to China. China will lend Russia the money on very good terms with which to build its share of the pipeline the quid pro quo was that Gazprom made some not particularly onerous price concessions to China.

Remember all that? On May 15th the Western establishment media printed ream  after ream after ream of complete absolute and utter shite about how such an accord was impossible. Then it happened and the Western establishment media printed ream  after ream after ream of complete absolute and utter shite about how it wouldn’t make much geopolitical difference. Yes it will, it will make a massive difference because it’s perfectly clear to anybody except apparently the American government and its collaborators in Europe that Russia and China are highly averse to the  United States’ and European suggestions that America and its allies should get directly officially involved in the Ukrainian civil war and ultimately that they become militarily involved. Ukraine is not Syria it’s far far far more important than that and Russia will go to war over it if they have to. If Russia goes to war because the Americans and their assorted catamites in European capitals force a war upon them they do so knowing that they have China’s backing and support both overt and covert when they do so. America is in no position to fight a multi-front war in Ukraine, Northern Europe, and Asia.

If you think about it it’s pretty clear that what China and Russia want is a Renversement des alliances with Russia and  Germany becoming close partners leading ultimately to a Berlin – Moscow – Paris axis. And what China wants is to simultaneously tame the USA and reduce its role in East Asia ideally they’d like to do this while simultaneously strengthening China’s economic links with the US. It also wants the US to help it prevent Japan and Korea becoming nuclear armed powers. Could such a renversement work? Yes but getting there won’t be easy. Let’s take the Russian-German alliance first.

The advantage to Germany of including Russia within the Western European sphere would be:

1:  The consolidation of its customer base in Russia.

2: Securing German access to long-term energy supplies and other raw materials not least of which is wheat.

3: Incorporation of Russian military strength as an instrument of German long-term strategic planning. An alliance between these two fundamentally conservative powers would be to the benefit of both and would have the advantage for Germany of enabling it  to hasten NATO’s demise and the creation of a post-NATO European order in which Germany takes its natural role as a leading state. Impossible? No, not at all impossible, there’ll be one hell of a push back, within Germany and the Poles and the Baltic republics will throw tantrum after tantrum about it but ultimately does anyone in Berlin really give a toss about what the government in Warsaw thinks when there’s such a clear and sparkling opportunity for Germany? The same applies to German consideration of what the three Baltic pygmies want if it comes to the point of screwing the Baltics or screwing their own interests the Baltics – not for the first time in their history are going to be kicked down and then kicked again to keep them down.

The Russo-Chinese “friendship treaty” has concentrated certain minds in Berlin, Frankfurt, AND MUNICH wonderfully. They see a glittering prospect slipping away and alarm at this has strengthened the position of those who say that Germany’s long-term survival depends not on NATO where it’ll never be anything more than a subservient satrapy but on working closely with its natural allies in Moscow.

I’ve outlined above What the Chinese want so the question arises is there a corresponding desire in the US? If you look at the prevailing ideology amongst Washington politicians and think tanks you might be tempted to think that the prospects are nil but that’s less the case when you look at what’s in the interest of the major commercial structures who need access to Asia far more than Asia needs access to them.

Both China and Russia in other words want to encourage Germany and the US to move in directions useful to  them and this “friendship treaty” is one of the tools they’re using to accomplish this. They have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose and given that they have absolutely not lose and everything to gain the question becomes one of how the debate in Berlin and Washington will play out in the medium to longterm. For obvious reasons I’m most interested in Europe’s future and so for me of the two debates it’s the debate in Germany that’s the most important. So I’ll deal with the emerging debate in the US first just to get it out of the way.

Jacob Heilbrunn  had an article in the LA TImes you can read it in full here The German-American breakup – LA Times I’m going to quote just a part of it:

What’s more, leading German politicians are calling for reassessing negotiations with Washington over a transatlantic free-trade agreement that could be vital to the economic futures of both Europe and the United States. And Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced that Berlin would terminate a no-spy agreement it has enjoyed with the U.S. and Britain since 1945 and begin monitoring them in Germany. As Stephan Mayer, a spokesman for Merkel’s party, put it, “We must focus more strongly on our so-called allies.”

So-called? Such statements, unthinkable only a few years ago, accurately reflect a broader antipathy toward America among the German public, which largely sees Snowden as a hero, particularly for his revelations about the extent of American surveillance in Germany.

Ever since the Bush administration launched the Iraq war in 2003 — which then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder vehemently opposed — many Germans have come to view America as a militaristic rogue state, more dangerous even than Russia or Iran. Indeed, a recentInfratest Dimap poll indicates that a mere 27% of Germans regard the U.S. as trustworthy, and a majority view it as an aggressive power. Indeed, a recent
Infratest Dimap poll indicates that a mere 27% of Germans regard the U.S. as trustworthy, and a majority view it as an aggressive power

Emphasis mine. Heilbrun concludes by saying:

“If Obama is unable to rein in spying of Germany, he may discover that he is helping to convert it from an ally into an adversary. For Obama to say Auf Wiedersehen to a longtime ally would deliver a blow to American national security that no amount of secret information could possibly justify.”

I think that Heilbrun is being both optimistic and pessimistic. Pessimistic in that his cri de coeur isn’t going to be listened to in Washington and pessimistic in that from what I can make out in conversations with German friends and colleagues the process of German relations moving from being allied to America to being an American adversary is well underway. Including – particularly, in those sections of the German establishment who have heretofore been America’s most loyal allies. The article is worth reading in its entirety (see Druckversion – Germany’s Choice: Will It Be America or Russia? – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International ) but it’s more than a little telling that Der Spiegel is printing things like this:

During an interview in his heavily secured office, Ambassador Emerson* says he comes from the financial industry, an industry in which a rule applies that is also valid in politics: “Satisfaction is expectations minus results.” Emerson’s apparent implication is that Obama was already fighting a losing battle when he came into office — the Germans’ expectations were simply too high.

Emerson doesn’t deny that a few things have gone wrong in recent years. But at the end of the day, he adds, the decision to maintain close ties between Germany and the West should be obvious. Which country has a free press? The United States or Russia? Which president takes a stand and is willing to discuss the limits of intelligence activity with the entire country? Obama or Putin? “We share the same values,” Emerson says, and that must be emphasized again and again.

The Last Straw?

This may be true in theory, but in practice Europe and America are drifting farther and farther apart. This is even evident to people like Friedrich Merz, whose job description includes keeping the divide as narrow as possible. Merz is the chairman of the Atlantic Bridge, a group that has promoted friendship between Germany and the United States for more than 50 years. At the moment, Merz is busy promoting the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. “The agreement would be a sign that Western democracies are sticking together,” he says.

But even a conservative advocate of the market economy like Merz is often baffled by what is happening in the United States. Merz welcomes all forms of political debate, but when he sees how deep the ideological divides are in the United States, he is pleased over Europe’s well-tempered form of democracy. Responding to the new spying allegations last Friday, he said: “If this turns out to be true, it’s time for this to stop.”

America Has Become Unattractive

To put it differently, it has become uncool to view America as a cool place. Only a few years ago, for example, the post of head of the German-US Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Bundestag was a highly coveted one, filled by such respectable politicians as former Hamburg Mayor Hans-Ulrich Klose. Today it is less desirable. After the most recent parliamentary election, Philipp Missfelder, the head of the youth organization of Germany’s conservative sister parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), decided to resign from his post Coordinator of Trans-Atlantic Cooperation and assume the position of CDU treasurer in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia instead. For Missfelder, managing party finances took a priority over a once attractive trans-Atlantic post.

(* incredible though it might seem Emerson the Ambassador to Germany can’t speak a word of German.  The Americans’ casual contempt for their allies in appointing somebody without any German as Ambassador to a major strategic diplomatic post has not passed unnoticed in German political circles – mfi).

When somebody like Friedrich Merz says “it’s time for it to stop” not you will note that “it’s time for us to have a frank discussion” just a flat out ““it’s time for it to stop” then you know that not only are American-German relations in crisis but that even if they manage a temporary reconciliation the structural dynamic between the two countries is irreparably altered. What’s important is that the problem is structural. The individual missteps borne of American complacency and arrogance aren’t important although they’re interesting in and of themselves what’s important is that the breach is structural and thus irreparable.

The basic structural problem is that America is no longer a viable hegemon. It’s been visibly in geopolitical decline for quite some time now and American politicians and policy makers are utterly incapable of coping with this fact. Most of them can’t even accept it let alone handle it competently by minimising American losses. So they keep on flailing about trying do the impossible which is to restore the status quo ante and repair the irreparable. American hegemony or “leadership” to use the term American politicians and policy makers prefer is over.

But the American inability to cope with this simple fact is what makes America so very dangerous because it leads Americans to believe that they can engage in the sort behaviour appropriate to a hegemony at the height of its power without even the possibility of adverse consequences to  themselves. This is why there are so many calls by America to “act” and to “lead” the American policy elite is labouring under the impression that America is still “indispensable” to use Albright’s expression. Very reluctantly the German political elite – and Chancellor Merkel’s party and their allies are coming to realize that the greatest threat to their survival is no longer from the East but from the West.

They’re coming reluctantly but ineluctably to realize that American actions are going to be increasingly at variance with underlying realities, with European well-being,  with European prosperity, and even with European survival and are likely to be increasingly erratic. The United States has committed the one unforgivable crime it has become “unreliable”. And so the Germans  are looking for an alternative and the logical and natural alternative is a European concert of nations that includes Russia. It will be slow and hesitant for the first few years but it’s the way Germany is moving. There are all sorts of issues to be decided such as if German geopolitical survival means they can no longer trust Washington how are they going to trust Moscow? How sweet does the deal they offer Russia have to be? It has to be sweet enough that the Russians will find it in their interests to abide not only by its letter but by its spirit.

The debate has moved on from how to repair relations with Washington that was yesterday’s problem today’s problem is how to cosy up to Russia. That is what’s being discussed in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich in intra-elite German policy discussions and those discussions are taking place because of the irreparable breach of trust with the United States that the American government and policy elite initiated.


To Summarize the Israeli/Gaza War


Life is a Toy, Not a Game


  1. markfromireland

    Thank you Ian I’m flattered. I have a link in the original ‘Friedrich Merz’ which goes to the German wikipedia entry for him. The English language wiki for him is here: Friedrich Merz – Wikipedia


  2. EmilianoZ

    Some passages related to Russia really wanting a rapprochement with Germany and China with the US seem lifted from Immanuel Wallerstein almost word for word:

    But it’s pretty small compared to the whole article. It’s not an important act of plagiarism. But I think credit should be given to Wallerstein.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Updated the link. Thank you for letting me post this Mark, it’s excellent.

  4. markfromireland

    @ EmilianoZ July 28, 2014 Been a while since I read any of his articles – so thanks for the link if not the imputation of mala fides. I see his latest commentary is also highly germane I. Wallerstein, No. 381 July 15, 2014 “Germany and the United States: Unprecedented Breach” as is this:

    I. Wallerstein, No. 371, Feb. 15, 2014 “The Geopolitics of Ukraine’s Schism”

    Let me therefore propose that Ukraine is merely a convenient excuse or proxy for a larger geopolitical division that has nothing whatsoever to do with its internal schism. What haunts the Nulands of this world is not a putative “absorption” of Ukraine by Russia – an eventuality with which she could live. What haunts her and those who share her views is a geopolitical alliance of Germany/France and Russia. The nightmare of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis has receded a little bit since its acme in 2003, when U.S. efforts to have the U.N. Security Council endorse the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 were defeated by France and Germany.

    The nightmare has receded a bit but lurks there just beneath the surface, and for good reason. Such an alliance makes geopolitical sense for Germany/France and Russia. And in geopolitics, what makes sense is a constraint that insisting on ideological differences can affect very little. Geopolitical choices may be tweaked by the individuals in power, but the pressure of long-term national interests remains strong.

    Why does a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis make sense? There are good reasons. One is the U.S. turn towards a Pacific-centrism replacing its long history of Atlantic-centrism. Russia’s nightmare, and Germany’s as well, is not a U.S.-China war but a U.S.-China alliance (one that would include Japan and Korea as well). Germany’s only way of diminishing this threat to its own prosperity and power is an alliance with Russia. And her policy towards Ukraine shows precisely the priority she gives to resolving European issues by including rather than excluding Russia.

    As for France, Hollande has been trying to woo the United States by acting as though France were part of the “new Europe.” But Gaullism has been since 1945 the basic geopolitical stance of France. Such supposedly non-Gaullist presidents like Mitterrand and Sarkozy in fact pursued Gaullist policies. And Hollande will soon find he has little choice but to be a Gaullist. Gaullism is not “leftism” but rather the sense that it is the United States that threatens a continuing geopolitical role for France, and France has to defend its interests by an opening to Russia in order to counterbalance the power of the United States.


  5. Thepanzer

    Excellent article. The US is cutting its own throat. The European Union is shackled to a corpse and Poland, Ukraine, and any other band wagoners missed the party by a full generation.

  6. Jonathan

    Great post, Mark.

    “We share the same values,” Emerson says, and that must be emphasized again and again.

    This is the language of hasbara. No, really! From the Project Israel Global Language Dictionary, “The 25 Rules for Effective Communication”, p.15:

    17. K.I.S.S. and tell and tell again and again. A key rule of successful communications is “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Successful communications is not about being able to recite every fact from the long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is about pointing out a few core principles of shared values—such as democracy and freedom—and repeating them over and over again.
    Have I written often enough yet that you need to start with empathy for both sides, remind your audience that Israel wants peace and then repeat the messages of democracy, freedom, and peace over and over again? For those not already pro-Israel, but who belong to the category of persuadables, we need to repeat the message, on average, ten times to be effective. Go back to the message triangle and practice bridging to your message on Israel.

  7. markfromireland

    @ Jonathan July 28, 2014

    Thank you.

    Oh yes indeed it’s very much hasbarist language – and methodology and utter lack of principle too.


  8. markfromireland

    @ Thepanzer July 28, 2014

    Thank you. I agree that they’re committing slow suicide but I expect the process to be long and very drawn out. I also think that countries such as Poland and the Baltic Republics are going to start having severely elevated stress levels in the not too distant future. I hope for their population’s sake that their government’s row back on the Russophobia and start take to evasive action while they can but wouldn’t be optimistic. Don’t know what’s going to happen in the Ukraine it remains to be seen whether the rump government in Kiev can survive. I suspect they may not. I’m sure most people here have seen this or something like it already but just in case:

    Kiev Should Stop Playing Politics With Gas Debt:

    The issue of natural gas has divided European opinion on the civil war in Ukraine. Brussels’ plan to force EU members into “energy solidarity” with the disintegrating state of Ukraine and to use illegal reversed gas flows is losing support. “The EU has no intention of repaying Ukraine’s debts for Russian gas,” said Dominique Ristori, the director general of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, adding that all debt problems should be settled through the International Monetary Fund.

    The reference to the IMF is worthy of note. According to the Fund’s official statements, it will offer assistance to Kiev only if President Petro Poroshenko’s “Drang nach Osten” in the Donbass region is successful. Therefore, the end result of the civil war may affect Ukraine’s ability and willingness to pay its debts. The IMF has also given strict guidelines for Ukraine’s international reserves and has set cash-shortage limits for debt-ridden joint-stock gas company Naftogaz Ukraine.

    (The IMF demanded an increase of up to 40 percent in residential gas rates by May 2015. The rates will go up 20 percent every year until Naftogaz Ukraine’s gas debt has been paid.)


  9. Celsius 233

    One of the most informational blogs on the net. The least amount of B.S. compared to most of what’s out *there*. Thanks guys…

  10. I hope for their population’s sake that their government’s row back on the Russophobia and start take to evasive action while they can but wouldn’t be optimistic.

    That’s going to be hard to do. The Poles and other Eastern Europeans I know tend to look at Russia with deep-seated revulsion, though admittedly some of them are expats who left during Communism.

  11. Ian Welsh

    Yeah. It’s interesting–the East Europeans have a real issue with the Russians (unsurprisingly.)

    However a lot of the people who were in the USSR proper have good memories. The original Ukrainian independence referendum produced massive Russian support in Crimea, for example, it was just swamped by Western Ukraine. While the Eastern Ukrainians are much more evenly split, there is some real support for Russia there, and nostalgia for Russia.

    I’d be curious about the -Stans. On the one hand, they tend to be Muslim and were treated badly. OTOH, the Stans have been /so/ badly run that they must make even the USSR look good in comparison.

    Mind you, some of it is retrospective: one of my girlfriends was ex-Hungarian, and she said that for many years they really did look up to and admire the Russians. She was shocked, as a teenager, to travel to Russia and find that they had worse living standards and were (her words) “more backwards” than the Hungarians.

    At this point, in much of Western Europe, however, hatred of Russia has faded a lot Ordinary Germans are far more sympathetic to Russia in the Ukraine crisis than their elites.

  12. Formerly T-Bear

    Agreed that the post from earlier comments is a likely path of the projected future and have no doubt that something similar would be attempted. However, there is a larger probability that a total systemic collapse of the economy and the political institutions that support that economy will occur prior to such as the eventualities mentioned above. It will be a close run thing though.

    Referring to Philip Mirowski “Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste” identification of the ‘Neoliberal Thought Collective’ as the directing imperative, the direction of current affairs shows an increasing incapacity to administer less and less. The rulers and their elites have lost the run of themselves and the establishment is crumbling to its foundations. Those tools and methods of functional administration are being dulled and dismantled and the capacity to self-correct has been destroyed, governance does not respond to critique (or anything, for that matter, outside itself). This is what happens when one party has all the answers and leave no one else with any; the feet of clay of all autarchy. With any luck, collapse will occur before great irremediable damage is done. In any case, an investment into the nature of power and its applications is necessary if a detour into truly dark ages, a thing devoutly to be avoided, becomes the future. Whatever, one cannot replace something with nothing and expect it to work. The current administrations of both EU and US are incapable of supervising a single ring circus, what will happen when they are required to ringmaster a simple complexity of a three ringed arena. I’ll leave that to your fertile imaginations.

  13. OldSkeptic

    Looking at the latest info…it is too late. Yes Mark you are right and IF Germany had started this 10 years ago..then the world might have become a different place ..

    But my reading now is that we are going to war..there is no longer any wriggle room left for the west..they have to go to war with Russia. Every day the ‘drumbeats to war grow larger’

    And I think Putin knows this now. If this report is true

    If he accepts this then there is only a single conclusion he he can make..nuclear first strike before the US does. I would in his position ….but then again I would have in 1983, I have always underestimated Russian people’s humanity.

    The best the German economic elites can do now is a rear guard action..for but a month or two and will fail, the ‘war party’ is too strong.

    Bit like Iraq I think the decisi0n has already been made…while all that ‘shadow boxing’ was being made I was talking to Australian soldiers already shipping out…and across the border 2 months before ‘war’ was officially proclaimed.

    I think this is like Iraq..the decisions have already been made and war will will happen real soon…poetic to be August 2014 don’t you think…

  14. Celsius 233

    @ OldSkeptic
    July 29, 2014
    Russia knows war, up front and personal (Stalingrad for one), unlike Americans, who have never (since the civil war) known war on their own soil, their homes. This, IMO, is why Americans are so jingoistic; it’s always *over there*.
    Putin (my read) is one shrewd player and knows what he’ll do, and it’s not nuclear (except in retaliation). He’s already started the process; alignment with China and the BRICS.
    America is spent (ideologically) and morally bankrupt, losing support by the day, so all Putin has to do is use that to his own purpose.
    America’s economic sanctions are not unlike those imposed on Japan during WWII, which is essentially a declaration of war; but Putin is smarter than that. This, IMO, needs to play out; war, if it comes, will be a proxy battle which I think Russia can handle. It’s their territory and people and logistically, much to their advantage.
    We’ll see, this is a serious game of chess…
    That’s my take at this juncture, cheers.

  15. Russia knows war, up front and personal (Stalingrad for one), unlike Americans, who have never (since the civil war) known war on their own soil, their homes. This, IMO, is why Americans are so jingoistic; it’s always *over there*.

    By this logic, one could assert Americans know economic Depression — except they don’t because the generation that did has greatly thinned and has almost died out. Any subsequent generations increasingly have no clue about the economic Depression aside from what they read in textbooks.

    So no, Russia doesn’t know war. Russians did know war, but Russians don’t know it now except as historical artifact.

  16. Formerly T-Bear

    From The Guardian:

    Entitled: Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach
    Russia said to be on point of leaving 1987 treaty, after Obama administration said it violated the accord with tests of R-500

    Anyone recall that sidewalk profit and their: THE END IS NIGH ?? It’s now!

  17. Celsius 233

    Formerly T-Bear
    July 29, 2014
    Well, the insanity is quite ramped up at this point, but you think we’re going for the *big one*?
    Wow, coming from you worries me not a little.
    I guess it’s (or would be) a moot point who fires the first shot…

  18. Formerly T-Bear

    When the Archduke was shot, what ensued was supposed to be ended by that December when ‘the boys’ would return home. How did that expectation turn out?

    How is this going to be any different? the Washington, Wall St., London, Tel Aviv axis of evil have lost the run of themselves. And NO, your opinion is without substance in those circles. I expect the survivors will have the best vantage of deciding who actually initiated conflict, all else is propaganda.

    *chagrin* profit => prophet */chagrin* not much to tell the difference anymore

  19. Celsius 233

    @ T-Bear
    Well, opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.
    So, I didn’t expect mine to carry any particular weight; just offering my POV.
    We’ll see, no?

  20. Celsius 233

    Also, I was aware of the accusations of Russia violating the nuclear treaty. But logic dictates that the U.S. already has these weapons and Russia will counter. And why shouldn’t they?
    That question alone may well be the fulcrum, we’ll see.
    I’ve no doubt we’re on borrowed time in the world as it is today; but you’ll have to forgive my last vestiges of optimism, its my nature.
    As stated prior, we’ll see and none too soon…

  21. Formerly T-Bear

    @ Celsius 233 permalink 63621

    It’s regrettable you’ve taken what I wrote personally, maybe a little more care in reading would have avoided your feelings being bruised, that is what the ‘… in those circles’ was for – attempting to imply that no-one outside those powers will have any say in their activities no matter how well thought out or moral those opinions may be.

    When the treaty was written, the advanced state of today’s weapons was unknown. It is likely the Soviets were negotiating certain ranges of ballistic missiles as to give reasonable assurances in good faith of their intent. It would be a hard stretch for that to include what has been developed as the cruise missile that may have those range capabilities. Also, do not neglect to remember Bush 43 abrogated another nuclear treaty unilaterally when it convenienced Washington’s agenda, giving precedence.

  22. Celsius 233

    Formerly T-Bear
    July 29, 2014

    But I didn’t take it personally. No bruising at all. I accepted fully that my opinion was of no value to those of power. Good heavens, this is Ian’s blog, not the international tribunal of things important. I’m sorry you saw it that way.
    And yes, I understand when the treaty was written; things change, which was my point.
    I’m not looking for a fight, just discussion.
    My problem is with America and those who support her policies; they are vastly over aggressive and dangerous. My take is that Russia doesn’t want confrontation but rather equality in diplomacy and foreign relations. And, rightfully so, they should accept nothing less.

  23. someofparts

    The point Celsius made about Americans being unaccustomed to war on our own soil reminds me of a point Nick Blanford made about Hezbollah. He noted that Hezbollah understands and exploits that same understanding about Israel. Compared to the loss of life other nations endure during conflicts, Americans and Israelis have very little tolerance for any loss of life to citizens, be they civilians or soldiers. Blanford says Hezbollah takes full advantage of this. Looking at this conversation, I wonder if the day will come when some adversary comes to the same realization about Americans and sets about to exploit it.

    Also, great post MFI. Thanks for persuading him to post it here Ian.

  24. markfromireland

    @ Ian, It’s the difference between having been a citizen of a great power and one with massive accomplishments to its name and being the citizen of one of that power’s satellites. Patriotism to say nothing of chauvinism is a powerful force in Russia take all of that and add the savage way in which Russia and Russians were treated following the Soviet Union’s fall and I think it’s very understandable. By contrast the citizens of the satellite countries see that fall as a liberation I happen to think they’re right about that but liberations can be short-lived and can result in merely swapping one set of masters for another.

    The ‘stans are a different case. The impression I get is that there’s nostalgia for the security or perhaps I mean the certainties of Soviet times and a longing for ‘normality’ but that it’s far outweighed by patriotism. Quite a strong impression, but I’m not a ‘stan specialist and could very well be wrong.


  25. welcome to the blog,MRI. your presence is a good deal more welcome than some others which we will not care to mention….

  26. Q. Shtik

    Okaaay, another of my snarky comments bites the dust.

    Let me try some straight-forward questions: Was MRI a typo? Was MRI meant to be mfi? If so, why do you say “welcome” as if he hasn’t been around for awhile when, in fact, he is here every day, and with more than one comment?

  27. it looks like you have a fan, Ian. even though it’s not you posting…

    on the other hand, this is a very fine piece of work:

    “The ‘stans are a different case. The impression I get is that there’s nostalgia for the security or perhaps I mean the certainties of Soviet times and a longing for ‘normality’ but that it’s far outweighed by patriotism. Quite a strong impression, but I’m not a ‘stan specialist and could very well be wrong.”

    there is somewhat of a backlash in the ‘stands, which will take some time to play out. this is different from the Ukraine which is playing it out rather quickly….

  28. markfromireland

    @ OldSkeptic July 29, 2014

    Well to deal with the least important point first. The process started in 2003 eleven years ago. An establishment consensus or an elite consensus if you prefer takes about a generation to change. I’m alarmed, very alarmed, but not yet persuaded that war is inevitable although I do agree with you that it’s increasingly apparent that the Americans believe that:

    1: They can force Russia to submit without one
    2: Should war be ‘necessary’ (take place) that it would be both containable and winnable.

    I do not believe that a war between the Western powers and Russia will be containable. Nor do I believe it would be winnable in any meaningful sense of that word. Some sort of central  government would probably survive in Russia. Some sort of government would probably emerge in the US but for a variety of reasons I do not believe it would be a centralised government. A set of feuding – and I choose the word advisedly, fiefdoms is the more likely outcome in the US.  I’m not persuaded that central government would survive in Europe in general or in Australasia come to that.

    The link and highly selective quote from the Financial Time is from this story: Yukos shareholders face battle to claim $50bn –

    Yukos shareholders face battle to claim $50bn

    By Neil Buckley in London and Kathrin Hille in Moscow

    Beleaguered shareholders of Yukos could scarcely have imagined when they launched arbitration in 2005 they would one day be awarded $50bn in damages – nor that the ruling would be released into the febrile atmosphere that exists between Russia and the west today.

    [snip – background material]

    Deteriorating relations with the west may also make it even less likely that Moscow will pay out damages worth about 2.5 per cent of economic output.

    Just six months ago, say legal experts, Russia still seemed interested in being part of international “clubs” like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the group of mainly rich countries. As the Ukraine crisis worsens, protecting its international reputation no longer seems a priority.

    “If one were to be quite cynical, I think the reputational consequences for Russia [of not paying] will be very limited indeed, because they have already been through a lot of things,” said Loukas Mistelis, director of the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London. “I think they would be prepared to take quite a bit of risk.”

    Though Russia cannot appeal against the award, Moscow said it would pursue all legal avenues for trying to get it “set aside”. It can try to argue in a Dutch national court that – contrary to the tribunal’s findings – it was not bound by the Energy Charter Treaty, the agreement regulating cross-border energy business which Russia signed but never ratified, and withdrew from in 2009.

    Even if the ruling stands, shareholders face a tortuous battle trying to enforce it. If Moscow refuses to pay, they must pursue Russian sovereign commercial assets in the 150 countries that are party to the so-called 1958 New York Convention on enforcing arbitration awards.

    [Snip – Sedelmayer’s case]

    Emmanuel Gaillard of Shearman & Sterling, which represented the Yukos claimants, said he was confident of eventually “piercing the veil” around assets of Russian state companies such as Rosneft, the oil company, and the natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.

    He added that the principle that state-controlled businesses could be a kind of proxy for the state was already inherent in sanctions over Ukraine against companies such as Rosneft – which has been targeted by the US.

    But if Russian state businesses find themselves hit both by western sanctions and attempts to seize assets by Yukos shareholders, relations between the Kremlin and the west could sour further.

    One person close to Mr Putin said the Yukos ruling was insignificant in light of the bigger geopolitical stand-off over Ukraine. “There is a war coming in Europe,” he said. “Do you really think this matters?”

    Now the quotation from the ‘person close to Mr Putin’ is certainly alarming but ‘person close to Mr Putin’ is an awfully broad description and Putin has lots of people ‘close to him’ who nevertheless do not wield any influence over Russian policy. A strong guess is that the person being quoted is either a journalist or somebody in a second tier advisory body – a think tank employee in other words not a ministry employee and certainly not core ministry employee. I could be wrong about that but people in positions of power and influence in the Russian ministries of:

    1: Defense and within Defense these three central directorates: Main Directorate for Operations, the Main Organisational-Mobilization Directorate and the Main Intelligence Directorate (better known in the West as the GRU).

    2: Foreign Affairs

    3: Interior

    Don’t go shooting off their mouths to Financial Times journalists. People who rise to positions of power and influence in the security ministries regard westerners in general as enemies of Russia and western journalists as thinly concealed spies. In the light of that I would want a lot more evidence than a throw away line in one newspaper. In particular I would want evidence of massively increased activity at the Main Directorate for Operations, and the Main Directorate for Organisational-Mobilization. Where is that evidence? There isn’t any that I’m aware of.

    What is there evidence of?

    I think that what we’re seeing is a deadly dangerous mixture of arrogance and complacency in America in particular but also in America’s allies. I think that Dmitri Trenin’s analysis is worth quoting here Europe’s Nightmare Coming True: America vs. Russia…Again | The National Interest:

    The Kremlin understands, of course, that the most serious potential threats to Russian national security come from within the country. In his recent remarks to the national security council, President Putin ranged the Kremlin’s priorities in the following order: improving interethnic relations in the vast and very diverse country; strengthening the constitutional order and political stability in Russia; fostering economic and social development, with special attention to the exposed, vulnerable or depressed regions of the Russian Federation. Any serious problem in any of these areas, Putin is convinced, can be used by the United States to undermine Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
    This list calls for more government control of the domestic situation, a new economic policy to reindustrialize Russia and reduce its dependence on the West in critical areas, careful reallocation of resources to deal with weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and winning more allies for the government in different groups of society. It also calls for a more nationally conscious elite and patriotic upbringing of the younger generation of Russians. To a degree, the Western pressure aids the Kremlin’s efforts.

    In terms of military security, the principal threats to Russia, in Putin’s view, come from NATO military infrastructure coming closer to Russia (almost a done deal now); from the U.S. ballistic-missile defenses, which are seen as clearly directed at devaluing Russia’s nuclear deterrent; and from strategic nonnuclear systems that can attack Russian targets with high precision. This calls for redoubling Russia’s own military modernization effort, with an emphasis both on the nuclear forces which should remain a credible deterrent, and on the conventional forces which can be employed in various scenarios on the perimeter of Russian borders and abroad. The United States and NATO are back as likely adversaries.

    The competition, skewed and asymmetrical as it may be, is likely to be hard and long. The sanctions will not make Putin back off. He also knows that if he were to step back, pressure on him will only increase. The Russian elite may have to undergo a major transformation, and a personnel turnover, as a result of growing isolation from the West, but the Russian people at large are more likely to grow more patriotic under outside pressure—especially if Putin leans harder on official corruption and bureaucratic arbitrariness. If the Kremlin, however, turns the country into a besieged fortress and introduces mass repression, it will definitely lose.

    It is too early to speculate how the contest might end. The stakes are very high. Any serious concession by Putin will lead to him losing power in Russia, which will probably send the country into a major turmoil, and any serious concession by the United States—in terms of accommodating Russia—will mean a palpable reduction of U.S. global influence, with consequences to follow in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. Ironically, the challenge to the world’s currently predominant power does not come from the present runner-up, but from a former contender, long thought to be virtually defunct. China could not have hoped for such a helping hand.

    The article by Dimitri K. Simes (How Obama Is Driving Russia and China Together | The National Interest) to which Trenin links is too long to quote here but I think Simes is substantially correct in saying that what the Obama government has done is to push Russia into the embrace of  the most obvious candidate to challenge American hegemony.  And that this will accelerate a Eurasian consolidation a Beijing-Moscow axis to match the Berlin-Moscow one. Putin isn’t going to back down because he and his circle – in my view correctly, believe that what the Americans are after is regime change. Trenin again A Battle For Russia:

    The chances for accommodation between Russia and the United States now seem more remote than ever since February 22. Secretary John Kerry and Minister Sergey Lavrov may talk the talk, but they will not walk the walk. Europe will not be able, or willing, to play a mediating role. The Kremlin sees the U.S. goal as being not so much stopping the Russian support for the Donbass rebels, or even getting Moscow to withdraw from Crimea, but as the toppling of the Putin regime by means of economic pain and popular discontent wrought by the sanctions. Even if no pro-Western leader replaces a Putin in the Kremlin as a result, the narrative goes, Russia will succumb to another period of turmoil, making it to focus on itself, rather than creating problems for Washington.

    That said, expecting Putin to back off, or for his close friends to persuade him to change tack, or else for the "oligarchs" to pressure the Kremlin into beating a retreat betrays a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation. It is no longer the struggle for Ukraine, but a battle for Russia. If Vladimir Putin manages to keep the Russian people on his side, he will win it. If not, another geopolitical catastrophe might follow.

    So there’s the push there’s the evidence for your case. There is indeed a drive for war and it’s coming from the Americans, the Poles, andthe Balts. (Especially the Poles Ievgen Vorobiov and his fellow-travellers in the PISM are all too typical. Here’s a brief flavour of Vorobiov Guest post: if EU leaders think this war will pass them by, they are wrong – beyondbrics – Blogs –

    To many of us watching the war in Ukraine, one pattern appears ever more distinct: if things can get worse, they will. This is a natural and horrible consequence of Russia’s attempts to raise the stakes for Ukraine and the West. Both should therefore brace themselves for worse. Gas supplies may be cut off not because Ukraine has not paid but as a result of attacks on the pipelines. That would make Austria think of ways to speed up South Stream all it wants this winter. Italy’s exports to Russia would be harmed by malfunctioning road and maritime infrastructure. Instead of dealing with talented Ukrainian students coming to study at its universities, Germany would have to increase its consular staff to deny entry to hundreds of migrants fleeing Ukraine. The EU’s fear of short-term losses will result in both financial losses and ballooning security risks.

    Ukraine understands that fighting off Russia’s proxies will be a protracted matter. The government has already increased spending on the army and other security services and resumed a partial military draft. Russia’s tactics have so far relied on achieving a blitzkrieg in eastern Ukraine, similar to that in Crimea, but those tactics have failed. Although at a significant human cost, the Ukrainian army is proceeding with a slow but steady liberation of the Donbas cities from the militants. What Ukraine needs now is support for its military and for its capacity to control its borders.

    The goal of sanctions against Russia is often framed in a wrong way. Deep sectoral sanctions are needed not to discourage Russia from waging war in eastern Ukraine but to cripple its capacity to sustain that effort in the long run. That requires a focus on the banking and energy sectors. The Russian leadership is emboldened to play the big game precisely because it does not believe the costs of waging war in Ukraine, imposed by the US and the EU, will be lasting or irreversible. The sanctions introduced by the US on July 16 may be the first sign of such consequences but the qualms being shown by the EU will have reassured the Russians.

    Ukraine will fight off Russia’s proxies with or without the EU’s help. But if EU governments think that this war will pass them by, they are wrong. It is time to think of ways of limiting Russia’s capacity to wage this war in the long term rather than trying to deter the Kremlin from doing what it is intent on doing anyway. )

    What’s the case against? What’s the opposition? The opposition is mostly Germany’s capitalist class and much of her citizenry. Sanctions and war might hurt Russia but they’ll also hurt Germany let’s look at sanctions here’s Wolfgang Münchau The west risks collateral damage by punishing Russia –

    The sanctions to be decided this week are known in EU jargon as “tier three”; the red-alert stage. As reported by Peter Spiegel, the Financial Times Brussels bureau chief, the European Commission wants a ban on purchases by EU citizens and companies of equity and debt issued by state-controlled Russian banks that has a maturity of more than 90 days. The ban would also include investment services. No EU bank would be allowed to help Russians banks raise funds on a regulated market. The rule would extend to development finance institutions. Last week, the EU and the US used their majority vote on the board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to stop the bank’s investments in Russia, which accounts for almost 20 per cent of its invested assets.

    With the US sanctions, this is an impressive list. Even the tier one and tier two measures introduced after the annexation of Crimea appear to have had an impact. German industrial production started to fall soon after those sanctions took effect, by a combined 2 per cent in April and May. It has also gone down elsewhere in the eurozone.

    The Committee on eastern European Economic Relations, a German business lobby with political power similar to that of the National Rifle Association in the US, says existing sanctions threaten 25,000 German jobs. An estimated 350,000 German jobs directly depend on German-Russian trade; many would be at risk if sanctions were stepped up. Total German trade with Russia was close to €80bn in 2013.

    In particular, there are 6,200 Russian companies benefiting from German capital.

    (My emphasis. Münchau quotes this article Relative pain in Ukraine | Money matters? Perspectives on Monetary Policy which is well worth reading in full).

    Merkel and her government are under severe pressure from their primary client group and their millitary and their citizenry. I’ll quote a German friend of mine a successful businessman from a "mittelstand" background, a strong supporter of the CDU who donates generously both in time and money,  he’s also a German reserve officer as he expressed it to me recently "It isn’t the Americans or those Polish fanatics who’ll have to fight off the Russians it’s us".  He’s right too. So the conflict is more than just between the Atlanticists and the Asianists . Don’t underestimate the depth of opposition in the German armed forces , Merkel has so far been very cautious when it comes to concrete action against Russia and unlike Cameron, Hollande, Obama, and Renzi she isn’t lacking in convictions or in moral and political strength nor unlike that calamitously deficient quartet is she lacking in the ability to exercise domestic political power. It’ll be a desperately close run thing but we’re still in July it’s not yet August.


  29. markfromireland

    @ stirling July 29, 2014 Thank you. From a variety of sources I believed what you said to be the case – always nice to get confirmation. It raises a very interesting topic does it not? Which is strength of Central Asian backlash and how that will combine with Chinese interest and interests, to use the word in both senses, in Central Asia. In the short to intermediate term the Russian-Chinese deal is immensely important but over time I think it more than likely that economic ties with Central Asia will be far more important to China than its economic ties with Siberia. If you go through the BP Global Statistical Review of World Energy 2014  you’ll find that massively increased transactions between China and Central Asia. For example Turkmenistan not Russia is China’s largest foreign supplier of natural gas and Galkynysh is on schedule to triple Chinese imports from Turkmenistan. They’ve done a deal with the Kazakh’s to be included in Kashagan’s production and smaller deals with Uzbekistan to include oil, gas and uranium. I think it’s arguable that the SCO is far more likely to be of use to the ‘stans than the Russian dominated alternatives. The Economist tells us that "During Mr Xi’s trip, Chinese state media reported that trade volumes with Central Asia topped $46 billion last year, up 100-fold since the countries’ independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago" (China in Central Asia: Rising China, sinking Russia | The Economist) and points out that Russia’s "relative economic clout in the region is slipping" far too big a topic for a comment but for those interested this Al-Jazeera article provides a lot useful information The struggle for Central Asia: Russia vs China. A chance to get their own back coupled with greatly increased prosperity, from the ‘stans point of view what’s not to like?


  30. markfromireland

    @someofparts July 29, 2014

    Thank you – I think Blandford’s right and it’s a very important point. Both America and it’s European fellow-travellers believe there’s no downside to what they’re doing. I think they’re about to discover that that turns out not to be the case.


  31. Q. Shtik

    Stirling said: “this is different from [the Ukraine] which is playing it out rather quickly….”

    Seriously Stir, why do you persist in saying “the” Ukraine? I have informed this blog several times in a polite manner (and provided authoritative support) that the grammatically correct term is simply “Ukraine.” Perhaps you missed my several comments on this subject?

  32. atcooper

    ‘a German business lobby with political power similar to that of the National Rifle Association’ – something about that line amidst all the rest really made me smile.

    I’ve had an image of an American shooting at an incoming missile with his rifle for years now. Maybe I really oughta take a crack at putting it down.

  33. Everythings Jake

    @ Q. Shtik

    One of the persons who comments here is recovering from a rather serious stroke, and yet your contribution to the conversation is both offensive and pales in comparison. What kind of self-involved, utterly unaware prig comes to a rare site like this, a miraculous oasis of sober, clear-eyed compassionate analysis, and fusses relentlessly about the imperfections of syntax in the Comments section? Here’s a purposeful use of punctuation for you: bleat, scoot and leave.

  34. VietnamVet

    MFI thanks again for the valuable knowledge in your follow-on posts. Most of the solid information I get comes from Europe. Seriously, there was an elite coup in the USA in 2000 and the ruling class seized control of the Federal government. The USA is in a war with Russia; they just are not shooting at each other yet. The purpose is to reintegrate Russia into the global neo-liberal economy as a resource vassal. Russians being Russian will resist the takeover attempt and a nuclear holocaust is not unlikely.

    Being old and dyslectic, I hate trolls who come up with my mistakes trying to distract from what I am trying to communicate to others. However, how one designates Ukraine gives a feeling for the depth of the hatred of the people thrown together in 1920 by the communists into a political unit. Ukraine means borderland in Russian. “The Ukraine” is “the borderland” from a Russian perspective. “Ukraine” is the new country formed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The West was part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. The East ruled by the Czars. Each has their own form of Orthodox Christianity. As the Civil War attests they never learned to live with each other. It is the Balkans after all; on July 29th 100 years ago the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia starting WWI. The Western Plutocrats seized on this discord, just like in the Middle East, to create chaos and make more money. Their real bonus will be if they get back in control of Russia and are alive to enjoy the winnings of their incredibly dangerous gamble.

  35. Celsius 233

    @ Everythings Jake
    July 30, 2014
    @ Q. Shtik
    Q. Shtik, like Cold, is an attention whore. They will endure any reply no matter how negative or insulting, because even that is attention.
    IME, ignoring, completely, will disappear them. Great closing line. 😉

  36. guest

    @Celsius 233
    Lots of us who’ve never had strokes make just as many typos as Stirling does.
    And for any native English speaker over the age of 50, names like “Ukraine” just sound strange without a “the” in front, no matter what the language police have been telling us for the last 20 some years.

  37. Patricia

    Much appreciate this blog. Thanks too, MFI. Unadorned clarity is rare these days.

    I even find the grouchy attitudes charming, esp since it harmonizes with my own. lol

  38. Celsius 233

    @ guest
    July 30, 2014
    @Celsius 233
    I guess I’m not sure your point, but I’m well past 50 and always try to learn protocol, as learning is a life long process.
    There is no excuse for the aforementioned interlopers. They have proved their persistent ignorance time and again. They are perfect examples of those who refuse not only to understand but also to couch everything in their narrow, very self centered, terms.
    They lack imagination beyond their self deluded importance and faux intelligence; wasted intelligence I might add.
    Sterling needs no defense, having worked his way a good deal down a path to recovery. It wasn’t his intellect that took a hit but his motor skills. His obvious progress is nothing short of epic. You should check out his blog;

  39. Formerly T-Bear

    Celsius 233 30 July 2014

    Thanks for stating this and the comments preceding, comity is all to often absent in modern communication; those six letters are seldom accommodated in 140 characters it seems, the world is poorer for its absence.

    As with assholdencold (a good marketing name for personal beer coolers possibly) the recent appearance of Q.Shtic and their shtick, providing verbally cartoonish stick figures when most commentators here are matured into fine verbal artists, the one so indicated once operated at a level as a verbal Johannes Vermeer. Schtic’s ignorance places anything they produce in the same catagory as coldassholden – something to be elided whenever it appears, whatever the value of its content to be automatically discarded. The quality of opinion in this forum is that of excellence, regardless whether it’s agreeable or not. The Irish have a term of dismissal that fits this need – Feckoff.

  40. madisolation

    In his column today, Pepe Escobar concluded:

    “And in another parallel line, Moscow rumor has it that the Kremlin finds this protracted post-Yukos battle just an afterthought compared to the economic war about to convulse Europe and eventually pit Europe against Russia; exactly what the Empire of Chaos is praying – and working – for….”

    “Seriously Stir, why do you persist in saying “the” Ukraine? I have informed this blog several times in a polite manner (and provided authoritative support) that the grammatically correct term is simply ‘Ukraine.’ ”

    Not according to The Saker. He wrote the “The Ukraine” is the proper way to refer to the area, much like “The Netherlands:”

    “It’s like saying “The Netherlands” because the definite article indicates that we are dealing not just with some name, but with a noun, in this case “borderland”. “Krai” means edge, border, and U-kraina or O-kraina means “near the edge”, “by the border” or, to use a US expression, “on the frontier”. Before the 1917 Revolution there used to be several “Okrainas” including, for example, the “Siberian Okraina” or “Siberian frontier”. The order to drop the “the” was given by Ukrainian nationalist, the US State Department and the corporate media after 1991…”

  41. Celsius 233

    @ Formerly T-Bear
    July 30, 2014
    Thanks so much for your support on this, oh so important, point. Normally the quality of the verbal intercourse here is not to be found elsewhere.
    The dysfunction of the aforementioned individuals is apparent to everybody but their own selves. Which furthers the evidence of their pathologies.
    Cheers and the very best to you, Formally T-Bear.

  42. Formerly T-Bear

    For what it may be worth, it will be time well passed to read this:

    This supports what MarkFI has and gives some background to how things have arrived at the current state of affairs. No discussion can be complete without reference to this history and the inferences it makes. It superbly illuminates the intellectual bankruptcy of those pretending to lead, the void created by intentional ignorance and the damage of thwarted education about as well as anything existing.

  43. Not according to The Saker. He wrote the “The Ukraine” is the proper way to refer to the area, much like “The Netherlands:”

    Ha! Of course The Saker would say it’s the Ukraine, because to do so is in the historical spirit of conferring Ukraine to Russia as one of its provinces. The Saker is a devious and conniving bastard and is laughing his ass off convincing the lot of you (which isn’t too difficult apparently so long as the criticism is properly directed according to your humble opinions) you should call it “the Ukraine.” By virtue of The Saker’s logic, I suppose you’ll start referring to Palestine as “The Palestine” since it’s the same difference meaning following your reassoning in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Israel believes Palestine belongs to them. In fact, it’s not even the same difference when you consider Ukraine is a world-recognized sovereign country unlike Palestine so for Russians like The Saker to refer to it as a Russian posession is highly insulting and covetous. Not surprising, considering.

    What is the difference between Ukraine and the Ukraine?

    Ukraine is a country. The Ukraine is the way the Russians referred to that part of the country during Soviet times … Now that it is a country, a nation, and a recognized state, it is just Ukraine. And it is incorrect to refer to the Ukraine, even though a lot of people do it.

    ~Former Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor (2006-2009)

    AndrewLeach Then in the case of Ukraine (don’t know about the others) you are politically incorrect. The Ukrainian government specifically requested after independence that it be known as ‘Ukraine’ in English, which is what all responsible opinion (such as the BBC) call it. Ukraine is a territory which has been contested for centuries between such protagonists as Russia, Poland, Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and others. Previous governments of Russia (not just the Soviet – but take a look at Catherine the Great) had appended ‘the’ as a way of inferring it was part of Russia.

    It is not our identity and linguistic self-determination which are in question, but Ukraine’s; and disdain for Ukraine’s preference is a deliberate discourtesy.

  44. If I recollect, Europe was in flames and ruins for the first half of the 20th century after two debilitating world wars where each respective country was at each others throats. Since then America has risen to prominence and its prodigious global presence has been significant in preventing Europe from going up in flames yet again. You better hope this mfi blog post is pure disputable opinion (I think it is — a flawed, wishful, vindictive and inaccurate theory), because if it has any merit (I think it has little to none), and America takes a back seat voluntarily or involuntarily, you’ll be eating your wishful hats and pining for the good ‘ol days (by comparison to what will come) of the first half of the 20th century when it was just tens of millions dead and not billions.

    Europe’s recent signing on to this latest, stricter round of sanctions is in stark contradiction to mfi’s theory. Europe would be idiotic to allow Putin to use energy supplies as a weapon and get away with it. If they let him do it now, he will do it again and again — each time the stakes getting higher and higher. That’s what blackmailers do — once they know they can blackmail you, as Putin’s trying to do with energy supplies to Europe, they’ll hold you over a barrel for eternity. I don’ think Europe’s that stupid.

  45. mike

    What does it take to ban two people like this from the site? Ritzholz and Smith both have rules for commenting that wouldn’t put up with this.

    (Ian – I prefer to avoid moderating, but more of Q. Schtik’s comments have been deleted in the last few days than allowed to stay. People like Q. and Coldfield (MorroccoBama) don’t leave just because you make them unwelcome. IP banning doesn’t work these days. I could ban by name, they’d just change it (Coldfield is on his 3rd or 4th pseud.) Take the old, and standard troll advice — don’t feed, and don’t even read them.

  46. Aloha, Ian and MFI…! Excellent analysis again, MFI, but, I do wonder why you didn’t mention the BRICs moves at all…? Last I heard they’d already established a $50 bn fund with another $50 bn slated…! Sounds like they’ve got their duckies in a row…! 😉

    P.S. How are your grandkids doing, MFI…?

  47. OldSkeptic

    Several major escalations just happened:

    (1) UK (and a few others) announcing even ‘more’ sanctions coming…a day after the current ones were announced. This is clear statement of intention that gas sanctions are coming and only Germany is partially holding out.

    (2) 180 US ‘trainer’s arrive in Ukraine.

    (3) The most worrying, if it is all true of course:

    “29.07.2014 in afternoon Ukraine time 4 SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missiles were fired by Ukraine Armed Forces. At least two were clearly aimed at Saur Moglia with the idea of the Ukes trapped in The Cauldron having a sudden escape route opened for them. Moments before launch Russian Federation units surged toward the border at The Cauldron area and to the north of The Cauldron.

    None of the 4 Tochka missiles reached their targets. I repeat, none of the 4 Tochka missiles reached their targets and none impacted with the ground anywhere that can be found in anything close to one piece. As you know this missile can carry a tactical nuke, chem/bio, cluster munition or HE in the weight of just under 500 kilos.

    When the 4 missiles failed to reach their targets the Armed Forces of RF immediately halted their surge and held position. They are in the same positions 30.07.2014.

    There has been a noticeable slow down of fighting activity since the launches and Strelkov has pointedly said again that Novorossiya is open to negotiations.

    The 4 Tochka missiles were shot down over Novorossiya territory occupied by Ukraine Armed Forces before the missiles reached their programmed height. They were shot down from inside RF according to normally reliable sources. No visual evidence has been provided of RF shooting down the Tochka systems nor of the system used to shoot down the Tochka missiles. “

    If (3) is true…and CNN (from the USG) reported the launches also …then what was in them missiles, explosives or gas? See

    The risk of setting off a nuclear war just went up heck of a lot, if Russia misidentified (as it did in 1995) ballistic missiles being launched right on their border…well…

    If Russia did shoot them down and started troop movements then they are on the highest alert level possible (almost certainly their nuclear forces too) and the ‘wriggle room’ now for a mistake is precisely zero.

    The chance of war between Russia and NATO has now moved from a ‘possibility’ to a real ‘probability’.

    The strategic calculations that I would make is that it is now better for Russia to move into Eastern Ukraine now…before the the next round of sanctions which will hit their gas industries and when the NATO troops arrive in Sept (delayed from July).

    In other words Russia has nothing lose now and plenty to gain strategically. It gains strategic depth, it totally destroys the Ukrainian armed force, it can (even if it limits itself to just holding the East) move quickly to seal off the borders and prevent any NATO forces coming in (as well as move forward its air defence systems).

    The obvious total sanctions inc gas will hurt, but will cripple the EU…people there will freeze this winter and create a political situation (especially if backed up by some good diplomacy) for a separate German/Russian political settlement.

    But total sanctions (inc gas) are going to happen anyway, probably by the end of the year. Those NATO forces coming in Sept will never leave.
    US military support for Kiev will ramp up and equipment will start arriving fairly soon now. Inevitably NATO troops will end up fighting the Federalists fairly shortly (another ‘false flag’ will make sure of that).
    The infrastructure of East Ukraine will steadily be destroyed (NATO is very good at that) and, of course, the numbers of refugees will increase rapidly.

    So I’d do it now, best time strategically. Russia faces a stark choice between pain and some gains, or pain and no gains. It has to fight over eastern Ukraine (vs the Ukrainian forces) or it will have to fight over the Crimea (vs Ukrainian plus NATO forces) …but it will have to fight sometime this year.

    As for the recent near Germany/Russia agreement, a ‘false flag’ was used to derail it. Any further agreements? Well I’m sure more ‘false flags’ will happen to derail them too.

  48. Celsius 233

    This is a very interesting article and more than well worth a read. This from an American with 30 years in Russia. She has met and talked with Putin.

    This from Jo6pac over at the Agonist;

  49. Русский не имеет декларативный

  50. this is something that you will want to read, though you will have to decide what, if anything, you want to do the it.

  51. thepanzer


    I totally agree on the increased escalations but think it would still be a giant mistake for Russia to invade Ukraine. Time is on Russia’s side and the best course of action is to continue the same strategies from the last few months.

    Winter is coming and with it will come increased gas prices and further austerity driven cuts driven by the west and rubber-stamped by Kiev. By that time it will be well past the honeymoon period for the coup, all the sloganeering will be old hat, and the people will be looking for results. What they’ll find is they’re still ruled by a corrupt oligarch, that gas prices are higher, that the economy is worse, and that their sons are being conscripted to go fight their own countrymen. The socioeconomic pressure will be immense. The new kiev government is already falling apart and winter hasn’t even arrived yet.

    I think this latest round of ever escalating sanctions is a sign of desperation from the west, not of victory. They’re seeing the wheels come off the wagon in Kiev and the tame neo-liberals may not be able to hold off Right Sector and the other thugs out of increased power in the government.

    For Russia to invade would be a validation of the west’s propaganda campaign, force Russia to pay for troops on campaign for an extended period, and give pretext for whatever ill-conceived NATO play would come next.

    Likewise time is on Russia’s side in dealing with the US. NATO can march right to the border, but so long as Russia can keep from being internally partitioned and eaten by neo-liberal vultures the west is ebbing is very, very quickly. With each passing year the US becomes more shrill, high-handed, orwellian, and uses an all stick no carrots approach to dealing with its allies and the rest of the world. The US push for constant wars, regime change, destabilization, and ensuing chaos in the wake of it’s actions have completely destroyed its morale authority and international credibility. It’s last two pillars are the petro-dollar and it’s military. The former is slowly coming unglued due to abusing reserve currency status, corruption, and using the dollar increasingly as an international weapon…giving incentive for nations to de-dollarize sooner rather than later. The later hasn’t been tested against a near peer in generations and the world has already seen it’s only good at blowing things up, not actually winning.

    In fifty years time Ukraine will still be there as will Russia, with its long memory of this period when western Ukraine tried to knife it in the back. The US empire likely won’t be. The best thing Russia can do is continue the current course, ensure internal stability, and weather the storm while the west loses its mind and then its empire.

  52. Spinoza

    TALK TO ME LIKE I’M STUPID WARNING: Naive comment/questions follow.

    One of the more confusing aspects of this to me is the sheer stupidity of the foreign policy establishment in the United States. They MUST know what they are doing. They MUST realize they are playing with fire. They MUST know that their precious cost-benefit analysis, which they are so fond of invoking when it comes to helping the working people of this nation, does NOT add up. That gaining Ukraine and insulting the Russians at the cost of losing everything they have gained in Asia is utter foolishness.

    My question is this: is it possible that this is another example of laziness and careerism? What I mean is that all of these people in power we’re raised under or trained by those who saw Russia as the most important opponent and rival to American power. That for these people the Cold War never ended and they, especially the more senior officer corps, will now be vindicated for their paranoia. They will finally get their longed for war with Russia. Something they have lusted after for decades.

    How does laziness and careerism relate to the previous? Simple. To get ahead you office politick your way to the top. Why think creatively when you can just argue that the Russians are Satan’s minions? Plenty of your geriatric bosses agree. These people are not real civil servants. They use State jobs to pivot off into the private sector aristocracy. It’s not glory they are after but “success”. And success is measured in how many 0’s you got in your bank account.

  53. Spinoza

    Also, I’m a big fan of your writing Mr. MFI.

  54. Celsius 233

    @ Spinoza
    July 31, 2014
    TALK TO ME LIKE I’M STUPID WARNING: Naive comment/questions follow.
    It’s our nature…

  55. Spinoza

    No, they don’t have know what is going on, they don’t have know that it’s not going to be all right, they don’t see Russian as an option, but they are going to try anyway. think of it as blind ambition, and want could be called the void of experience that means they don’t want to know. here are reasons that don’t have a name , don’t expect called by them. they burn in the backdrop, do not have a reason to be anything that you or I would call rational. They just burn their, not seeking another name.

  56. Celsius 233:

    Normally the quality of the verbal intercourse here is not to be found elsewhere. The dysfunction of the aforementioned individuals is apparent to everybody but their own selves.

    This is such a great post, with great followups from the author, that I was not particularly annoyed with the two trolls who are peppering it up like overripe jalapenos (and I’m reluctant to cast MB as a troll, but his latest incarnation is really distasteful.) But you have a point, Celsius, about what I “bolded,” above, and it is good to marginalize them before Ian’s place metasticizes into what so many other threads have become.

    Sorry to ironically weigh in on that which should be ignored, but I have nothing to say in response to the actual topic of this thread, as I am just soaking it up like a sponge. Thanks to mfi, and the rest of you, for the real-time education.

    Interesting times we live in. The Chinese curse worked, I suppose.

  57. Celsius 233

    July 31, 2014
    Celsius 233:

    Thank you sir. I know two trolls cannot damage Ian’s place because of the majority of the participants are engaging and mostly staying on point. I used to post on tens of sites; I’m down to three with an occasional fourth because mostly the rest are a waste of electrons.

  58. OldSkeptic

    Thepanzer and Spinoz you are making the common mistake of assuming that the western leaders are rational and make sensible risk/reward calculations. They’re not and they don’t.

    To give just a very simple example, when the Dutch were going all gung ho about putting armed ‘police’ at the crash site, the PM (maybe FM) actually stated that they might grab one of the Federalist leaders too….. I rest my case.

    So they are being driven by emotional desires/fears (and in the EU/UK case fealty to the ‘boss’) and exist within an ‘echo chamber’ of their own (and the US State Dept’s) creation, where lying ‘statements’ are made to media, which dutifully prints them, which is then used as a justification for action and/or more lying statements (‘see the media said that’).

    So there is no objective information within their systems, even if they were ‘rational’ their decision making it will still be fatally flawed (GIGO). Plus it is self reinforcing.

    I pretty much get their calculations now. There are two strands to this. They ( US & EU & UK) honestly believe that if they keep ratcheting things up, then Putin will be overthrown by the western friendly oligarchs there. The second strand to this (and a sort of part of that first strand) is that the US wants Russia and the EU to economically cripple each other and the patsies in the EU are falling all over themselves to do it. So, from the US’s point of view (and that is the only one that counts) whatever happens will be a win-win for them.

    Plus, they honestly believe that if there is some sort of NATO/Russia military fight then NATO will win hands down very quickly and it will be easily contained.

    Putin goes in a coup and Russia is ‘open for business’ again, like under Yeltsin, the US grabs the lions share of that (particularly energy) , thus ensuring US economic primacy. Or EU/Russia economically die, ensuring US economic primacy. Win-win for them either way. In the US’s wildest dreams both would be ideal. Collapsed EU/Russia, Putin gets the flick, US buys up Russia energy resources for a song, EU buys oil and gas from the US now.

    If there is some military action then Russia will be hammered real fast and that will aid their political collapse.

    So their overall thinking is based on multiple (and self reinforcing) levels of fantasy that is breathtaking in its stupidity and shallowness. Note this is similar in scope to how the elites were thinking pre WW1.

    As each escalation they make fails, then they escalate even more and create (make up) new justifications for the escalation. Worse their ‘strategy’ is heavily dependent on provoking Russia to act militarily in the Ukraine, which will be their ‘justification’ to act.
    At some point, coming soon I predict, they will go too far (eg getting the Ukrainians to lob ballistic missiles toward Moscow perhaps) and things will get very bloody very quickly …and maybe very radioactive.

    Some examples:
    First the announcement that even more sanctions on Russia are coming, a couple of days after the current ones are introduced. They are not even waiting to see what impact the current ones will have. Therefore the logical conclusion is that this is full out economic warfare, intended to ‘regime change’/collapse Russia (collapsing the EU, especially Germany is a bonus). The only reason for the slowness is to prepare EU citizens for conflict and the internal politicking within their various elites, the German business lobby and the City of London being out manoeuvred/neutralised for example.

    Second, very scary Cameron recent statement.
    Read and parse this interview from the UK’s PM. From the UK Telegraph. This is a ‘near’ war speech.

    “Britain is not going to start World War Three over Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, David Cameron has said. ”
    Firstly and scarily, this is the first time a western leader has mentioned war, so war is now on the table.
    Implication: Note also the word ‘Start’….. Not ’cause’ or ‘have’ but ‘start’.
    Implication: But if they could manoeuvre Russia into ‘starting’ it (or it crosses a ‘red line’ set by the west’) then that would be ok, they wouldn’t be ‘starting’ war then, Russia would be.

    “The Prime Minister compared Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine to Germany’s before both break out of the First and Second world wars. “.
    Back to Russia = Nazi Germany, does this twice, see below.

    “But Mr Cameron said the West had to draw a line…”.
    Note the implied ultimatum.

    “He answered by alluding to the lessons Britain learned about dealing with Germany’s aggression before the two World Wars. “
    Another Russia=Nazi Germany, that’s twice in the same speech

    This part is very revealing, blaming the Russian people now…an important rhetorical escalation. To date it has all been Putin’s fault. Now he is expanding that to all of Russia:
    “He added: “Yet that is what we are seeing. There is no doubt in my mind that it is Russian money, it is Russian people, it is Russian weapons that are being sent in to that country to help the separatists fight their battle against the Ukrainian government. “

    Twice he mentions this part, which could be taken as an implied threat or is revealing what they have been thinking about.
    “Mr Cameron said then that Britain was “not about to launch a European war, we are not about to send the fleet to the Black Sea”. “. Note: ‘Launch’ and ‘Start’.

    And this very scary last bit:
    ” “We need to turn up that pressure until Russia decides to behave like any civilised country and allow Ukraine to choose its own future.
    “It will be a tightening of the ratchet unless Mr Putin changes his approach and there is still time for him to do that.” “

    “Time for him to do it”? What happens when he ‘runs out of time’?

  59. Celsius 233

    @ OldSkeptic
    August 1, 2014
    Frankly, I expect war. War is far easier than finding the road to not war. It seems the U.S. and its minions (Britain, France, and Germany) prefer a destabilized world because that condition helps the U.S. and its allies maintain a hegemon.
    The absurd statements coming from western leaders regarding Putin’s character are further proof of miscalculation; Putin is under no such delusions…

  60. Formerly T-Bear

    By October.

    It will take that long before the economic collapse starts becoming evident. The numbers don’t add up now.

  61. Celsius 233

    Good guess. I’ve been following AE lately and the picture Raul paints is a direct foil to the economic propaganda coming out of Washington. What he says makes far more sense because he backs it up with massive amounts of solid evidence not anecdotal crap.

    The blatant lies from Obama demonizing Putin/Russia are so transparent (MH-17) as to be clownish, but the sycophants eat it up. Very scary, but also fascinating if one can just step back a bit.

  62. Formerly T-Bear

    I suspect the zionist atrocities against Gaza Palestinians is a test to see where the limits are before public opinion becomes prohibitive to war (as if public opinion were a static norm) or becomes hostile enough to remove their political elite that follow such policy.

    A small tactical nuke needs be dropped on that holocaust museum in israel with a note to consider their actions. Any lip in return, another smallish tactical devise on the next meeting of the knesset and leave israel with a sparkling new glassy parking lot, again with the request they reconsider their ways.

    For the balance of the time allotted, I shall never knowingly buy anything from israel or a zionist, nor shall I ever lift a finger to stay any harm that may befall their kind or kin. They have shown through their rabbinate and their political policy that they are as unclean as the swine they abominate. May the face of the earth be rid of their shadow forever.

  63. Formerly T-Bear


    The message from the Palestinians in prison Gaza that is not being heard is:

    They would rather death than remaining israel’s political slaves, once heard from another political revolution that is no longer recalled.

  64. Celsius 233

    Indeed, I can move my lips as you write. Israel is an abomination and I have already boycotted anything whatsoever to do with that country.
    All the rhetoric in the world can never veil the war crimes wantonly committed by the Israeli government. And then there is the U.S.
    Their continued support, in lieu of the overwhelming evidence of atrocities, is an atrocity piled upon atrocity. The Hague should be the busiest court in the world…

  65. Celsius 233

    Re: Your addendum; no, their message isn’t being heard or understood. A fighting death is preferred to a slow death of hopelessness as a bound prisoner.

  66. OldSkeptic

    Russian response to all this:

    “Russia’s Defence Ministry plans to call up military reservists across the country for two months of training exercises on new weapons, news agency Interfax reported on Friday.

    Moscow has previously used such exercises to boost troop numbers on its border with Ukraine. There are concerns in the West that Russian forces could intervene in the conflict between the Kiev’s government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    The exercises were planned last November, the defense ministry said, and will last from August until October.”

    So the Russians have essentially fully mobilised all their reserves. Someone is expecting something to happen soon. Maybe that Putin statement was real after all.

    One thing that is seldom mentioned is that the Ukraine is in the middle of full mobilisation build up, calling up ever more conscripts. Estimates vary but they could have 500,000 (or more) men under arms within a few months. Poorly led, trained and equipped (and probably not paid) they may be, but that is a heck of a lot of people. Quantity has a quality all of its own after all.

    That, even in the wildest of scenarios, is far more than needed to crush the Federalists in the east. Therefore, going by their stated aims, means an attack on the Crimea.

    Now with the Govt collapse the right wing elements appear to have more power now and the US ‘influence ‘ seems almost complete there (judging by the number of Sate Dept, CIA, etc people hogging Govt building in Kiev). So it would reasonable to conclude that the US is totally in agreement (or the creator of) this build up. If so then it it pushing/supporting turning this already significant war into something far, far larger.

    This is part of the continual ‘escalation’, one way or another Russia and the Ukraine is getting into a shooting match if the US gets its way. Gives the US what it wants, the rationale to ‘do an Iran’ on Russia.

    Again the US’s calculations are based on serial fantasies. Do they expect that Russia and the Ukraine get into a long grinding war that wrecks Russia and maybe achieves that regime change they so desperately want? That it will be contained to just there?

    In reality I’d expect Russia to go through the Ukrainian forces like a dose of salts. Thus NATO will panic and send in its troops (and especially its beloved aircraft) to bolster the regime up. I’d give it about a week before NATO aircraft are flying over the Ukraine bombing Russian troops (RTP or something), well until they are swept out of the air that is. With NATO troops rushing into Kiev to ‘protect democracy and freedom from aggression’….

    How can Russia check this? Keeping the Federalists in play is one option, which means a heck of a lot more support from Russia than they have been given to date. Move their own troops into the east is another, then move to a defensive stance. Better to fight there than on Crimea’s border.

    Personally I think Putin (and his Govt) has been out manoeuvred. I think the Russians underestimated how much and far the US is going to push this, thinking that after some time things would settle down. It’s not going to happen.

    It is often hard to get a feeling for what the US ‘deep state’ really wants (given how fragmented it is) , but it seems that there is a fairly universal consensus (albeit with some limited intelligence/military push back) that Russia has to be, at least, crippled and now is the time to do it. I am not seeing the level of internal push back that existed pre Iraq or over Iran or Syria. Where are the leaks that show MH17 being shot down by the Ukrainians for example? Even people with real connections (like Hersh and Parry are getting very little except some hints).

    How ever it plays out, one thing is clear, Russian gas sales to the EU are going to end (and all other trade inc oil). That is clearly the number #1 US short term objective. If Tactic A doesn’t work for the US, then they will switch to Tactic B…and so on.

    Germany, whatever its leanings has no say in this at this time. The Putin/Merkal agreement was sensible, fair and reasonable. But Merkal has zero control over Kiev, only the US does and they would never let that happen. So whatever Germany wants or comes up with is irrelevant, because of the ‘facts on the ground’.

    Germany also has zero say in NATO at the moment, with the Cameron/Breedlove/Rasmussen ‘axis’ being at the forefront.

    So my reading is that the US is committed to this ‘strategy’, currently using the UK to ‘front run’ its plans (hence the ‘war’ speech) and help whip the NATO members into line and sideline Germany (and whip its own wavering military into line too according to various reports). And of course prepare the citizens for war and/or the economic collapse when the gas/oil stops.

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