Another Bogus Russian War Scare

I have had a couple more pieces published in RT in the last two days. One concerns the probably temporary closure of the Kyiv Post and why it seems to have provoked immense outrage whereas the previous shutting down of Russian-language Ukrainian media outlets did not. The other responds to a letter of resignation sent by Russian liberal journalist Konstantin [von] Eggert [MBE] to the Chatham House think tank in protest the institute’s decision to give an award to a BLM activist. I use this an opportunity to delve into different Russian and Western conceptions of rights and freedoms. You can read these here and here.  

For this post, though, I intend to tackle another topic, which follows on naturally from my last one. In that, I mocked the idea being floated around in some circles that Russia was behind the Belarus-EU migrant crisis and somehow using it as a provocation for further aggressive action, including maybe a military assault on the ‘Suwalki Gap’.

As we now know from Bloomberg, this theory is nonsense: Russia has no intention of invading Poland, it’s planning to invade Ukraine instead. Or so say ‘American officials’, and as we all know you can trust their judgement 100%.

According to Bloomberg:

“The U.S. is raising the alarm with European Union allies that Russia may be weighing a potential invasion of Ukraine as tensions flare between Moscow and the bloc over migrants and energy supplies.

With Washington closely monitoring a buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, U.S. officials have briefed EU counterparts on their concerns over a possible military operation, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

… The assessments are believed to be based on information the U.S. hasn’t yet shared with European governments, which would have to happen before any decision is made on a collective response, the people said. They’re backed up by publicly-available evidence, according to officials familiar with the administration’s thinking. 

Russia has orchestrated the migrant crisis between Belarus and Poland and the Baltic states — Lithuania and Latvia share a border with Belarus — to try to destabilize the region, two U.S. administration officials said. U.S. concerns about Russian intentions are based on accumulated evidence and trends that carry echoes of the run-up to Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, another administration official said. 

Some analysts argue that Putin may believe now is the time to halt Ukraine’s closer embrace with the West before it progresses any further. 

“What seems to have changed is Russia’s assessment of where things are going,” said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “They seem to have concluded that unless they do something, the trend lines are heading to Russia losing Ukraine.”

According to defense-intelligence firm Janes, the recent Russian deployment has been covert, often taking place at night and carried out by elite ground units, in contrast to the fairly open buildup in the spring.

Let’s take a look at all this. We have some statements from three anonymous officials, based on “publicly available information” (none of which I have seen that points to an imminent invasion) and some sort of secret information that the US hasn’t shared with anybody and so can’t be assessed. Now call me a sceptic, but unverifiable information from anonymous sources doesn’t sound like something very solid to me.

Beyond that, if the final lines from Janes are correct, we have a deployment of “elite ground units,” but you can’t invade a foreign country just using “elite” units, let alone a country the size of Ukraine. You’d need a massive build-up of a very considerable volume of rank-and-file line units. So, the actual evidence presented doesn’t fit the scenario portrayed.

As for Mr Charap’s statement that “They seem to have concluded that unless they do something, the trend lines are heading to Russia losing Ukraine,” I have yet to see any indication of this. Quite the contrary. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s recent comment that Russia should do “nothing” about Ukraine and simply wait until the Ukrainians come to their senses, points to an entirely different conclusion. We are “patient,” said Medvedev, who is Deputy Chairman of the Security Council, and so one imagines, well versed in what is in people’s minds at the highest level. His comments hardly suggest that senior officials are thinking that radical action is urgently required.

The fact that American “officials” are briefing the press that war is possible, and that analysts from the RAND Corporation are backing them up, speaks to an awful lack of understanding of things Russian in the United States. The fact that Bloomberg then repeats these claims without serious challenge points also to a disturbing lack of critical thinking on behalf of the American press (no surprise there!), as well as reinforcing what academic studies of the media have long since noted – its worrisome dependence on official sources.

The only part of the Bloomberg article that gives readers a real sense of what’s going on comes in the following lines, which say:

Russia doesn’t intend to start a war with Ukraine now, though Moscow should show it’s ready to use force if necessary, one person close to the Kremlin said. An offensive is unlikely as Russian troops would face public resistance in Kyiv and other cities, but there is a plan to respond to provocations from Ukraine, another official said. 

This strikes me as accurate. There is absolutely no reason for Russia to start a war with Ukraine. It would be enormously costly and bring no obvious benefits. Besides which, war needs careful advance preparation of public opinion. There have been absolutely no indications of the Kremlin doing anything of the sort. That said, as I have noted before, I have little doubt that if Ukraine launched a major attack on the rebel regions of Donbass, and if large numbers of civilians were killed as a result (as would be most likely), Russia would respond. And its response would likely be very tough, much tougher than it was in August 2014 when it very briefly sent a limited number of forces into Donbass to defeat the Ukrainians at Ilovaisk. If there is a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s likely to be large-scale, to settle the issue once and for all.

All this talk of war is therefore rather dangerous. It helps to ramp up tensions on Russia’s borders, and also serves to justify a build-up by NATO forces in the region. That in turn may send the wrong messages to Ukraine and encourage it to act rashly. Fortunately, I don’t think that things will go that far, but I do think that “American officials” and the press are playing with fire. They would be well advised to stop. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that their lack of knowledge and understanding makes that impossible. Sad times indeed.

23 thoughts on “Another Bogus Russian War Scare”

  1. A number of topics have been noted.

    Konstantin von Eggert’s differences with Chathom House remind me of Andrey Illarionov’s situation with CATO.

    As for the Russian troops matter, General Milley and the Ukrainian military came out with comments saying there was nothing so special about the positioning of Russia’s forces near Ukraine. Blinken suggestively contradicted that view along with some others. Has there really been any significant buildup in the last 48 hours?

    Regarding the earlier hoopla about Russian troops near Ukraine’s border:

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2021/07/18/getting-putin-intentions-wrong-again-on-russia-ukraine/

    Kyiv Post has been a version of The Moscow Times. Foreign owned and slanting in a certain direction. the Kyiv Post has been more accommodating towards the Ukrainian nationalist/anti-Russian view than The Moscow Times towards constructively critical pro-Russian perspectives.

    As for censorship, there’s the matter of US based Americans citizens receiving threatening feedback from the FBI and US Treasury Department, concerning interaction with the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF).

    A great advertisement concerning the American exceptionalism, when no other government (to my knowledge) has done likewise. SCF contributors (writers) are in numerous countries, including the UK and Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “What seems to have changed is Russia’s assessment of where things are going,” said Samuel Crap

    Corrected that for you. Don’t thank me. It is cheap, but so is he whole assembly of so called main stream journalists.
    Why should Russia have any interest in this horror show of a country that to fix would take hundreds of Billions and parts of it still be always a thorn in the side with its fascist tendencies?

    https://thescrum.substack.com/p/something-happened-in-geneva has the correct view of this “journaille (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journaille)

    “Always remember: You are not a correspondent, you are an American correspondent—acting, of course, in the interests of the state you serve. Forget this and you will not find work. “

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  3. Tucker Carlson this week had an exchange with Ohio Congressman Mike Turner on Russia-Ukraine. The spin of that discussion in the below Daily Beast piece is indicative of the flawed biases in Anglo-American mass media.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/tucker-carlson-asks-why-would-we-take-ukraines-side-and-not-russias?source=twitter&via=desktop

    As a follow-up to what Turner said –

    Kiev regime controlled Ukraine isn’t in NATO, with the US having no defense obligations for that entity which is governed under the influence of a corrupt kleptocracy and ultra-nationalists, in contradiction to a democracy.

    Harping on the Budapest Memorandum relative to Crimea, while suggesting that the US hasn’t supported a post-Soviet era armed territorial change is pure bunk. Before Crimea’s reunification with Russia, an internationally brokered power sharing agreement involving then Ukrainian President Yanukovych was violated. Shortly thereafter, a regime in Kiev was undemocratically setup, which overtly championed anti-Russian stances. Kosovo serves as a clear example of gross hypocrisy.

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  4. “Russia was behind the Belarus-EU migrant crisis”

    …Second strike, Maestro. Re-fu-gees. Your own punditry and ruling class designated them as re-fu-gees. Not migrants. Saying othervise is racist.

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    1. No-no, you see, doublespeak is double plus good, so: Europe welcomes refugees. Europe doesn’t welcome illegal immigrants. Ergo, if Europe doesn’t welcome alleged “refugees”, then they’re not refugees but illegal immigrants, quod erat demonstrandum.
      The similar logic applies to fair and transparent elections and many other things.

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      1. Haven’t some Western governments come to recognize Tikhonwhateverskaya as Belarusian prez? If so, shouldn’t she be targeted with complaint? BTW, it was noted that a Polish government propped Belarusian group supporting her had blurted out bigoted comments about the refugees/migrants seeking EU entry.

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      2. “The similar logic applies to fair and transparent elections and many other things.”

        […]
        […]
        […]

        BSOD!

        But-but-but-but!..

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  5. ” in August 2014 when it very briefly sent a limited number of forces into Donbass to defeat the Ukrainians at Ilovaisk.”

    I’m curious about this. There are many claims about the presence of Russian troops in both Donbas and Crimea. A BBC journalist with a Ukrainian name created websites of photos to prove this – both contained only unrelated photos such as photos which could be google searched and found with bylines putting them in Sevastopol. (This guy also produced a report on “how to identify Russian fake news”!)
    Nato General Hedges talked often about 10,000 russian troops in Ukraine.

    But other than a dozen little green men in Crimea I have never seen evidence of Russian troops in Ukraine or larger numbers in Crimea. It gets repeated often enough but never with evidence. (Plenty of evidence of weapons).

    Have you seen evidence of large numbers or Russian troops? (not just a few advisers)? And Ilovaisk. The progress of the Ukraine forces in July/August was a classic trap of invading into a bottleneck (Kotel). There were obvious Nazi/Soviet parallels. Those watching the war like me in slow animation with a series of BBC maps saw a broad front only to discover not only better maps but that the BBC started to include “Source Ministry of defence Kiev” on the maps.

    Once the bottle neck trap was recognised there really would have been no need for large numbers of troops – Donbas or Russian. The unorganised Ukrainians would have retreated anyway.
    January 2015 was pretty much the same

    Also the German Parliament Library (inhouse researchers) made a report stating they could find no firm evidence of active Russian presence in Ukraine.

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    1. “Nato General Hedges talked often about 10,000 russian troops in Ukraine.”

      Ex-NATO Geenral Hodges.

      “A BBC journalist with a Ukrainian name created websites of photos to prove this – both contained only unrelated photos such as photos which could be google searched and found with bylines putting them in Sevastopol. (This guy also produced a report on ‘how to identify Russian fake news’!)”

      On the fake news concerning Hodges and the BBC:

      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2021/05/22/bbc-limits-and-related-censorship-on-russia-coverage/

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Evidence of Russian presence at the battle of Ilovaisk includes: destroyed equipment that was never in the Ukrainian inventory; video of a large column of armoured vehicles heading from Donetsk to the Russian border shortly after the battle (probably Russians heading home); and comments by well-placed rebel sources using euphemisms such as “when the north wind blew.”

      Later for the battle of Debaltsevo in Jan/Feb 2015, we have some social media posts by Russian soldiers that have been located as being in the Debaltsevo area, as well as photographs of a type of tank that again wasn’t in the Ukrainian inventory, though it would seem that the numbers of Russian involved at Debaltsevo were rather less than at Ilovaisk.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It is still a bit thin. It is perhaps a handful of tanks which may or may not have engaged and a few social media posts (easy to fake).
    Especially given the huge absence of further data. Western journalists have had access to Donbas. It is easy to find soldiers – just ask where the prostitutes are, and western media and intelligence were desperately trying to prove a Russian presence so presumably were looking with local intelligence and satellite data. (Easy to inform local intelligence where to look even without revealing the sat data).

    And of course Donbas leaders wanted both their own team and the Ukrainian team to believe that the Russians would or had step in.

    In some senses the discussion doesn’t matter, if things had been more desperate the Russians certainly would have stepped in (or at least want everyone to think that).
    But it does take away from the dumb Kotel trap that the Ukrainians fell into twice. Into how badly the Ukrainians were led. And into just how blatant the lies of Nato/western media can get.
    If you start accepting social media evidence of russian troops, pretty soon Bellingcat’s MH17 stories go unchallenged, Hodges 10,000 goes unchallenged, the Skripal case sounds conceivable (because the western media doesn’t lie) and so on.

    When Russia arrived in Syria in Sept 2015 they denied it completely. Evidence of their presence from Satellite pictures was near immediate and they had to admit their presence within a week.

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    1. Here is clear and unambiguous evidence why Russia did no succeed despite enormous efforts in weapons and manpower to defeat he valiant Ukranian army:
      “Fact 4: courage of ukrainians and solidarity of the international community stopped Russian invasion
      Courageous Ukrainian soldiers, National Guard and other defense and law enforcement servicemen stopped the active phase of the Russian military invasion against Ukraine.”
      And who a doubt Russians shot down MH7:
      “Fact 5: Russian aggression has led to dire humanitarian impacts
      Russian aggression against Ukraine has left about 9940 people killed and up to 23455 wounded (UN data). This number includes, in particular, 298 passengers of MH17 flight, including 80 children, killed as a result of terrorist attack on 17 July 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by the Russian servicemen from BUK missile system that had been transferred to the occupied territory of Donbas from the Russian Federation.”
      Clear evidence that the civilians having died in Donbass where killed all by Russian soldiers.
      And overall, the Russians are he really, really bad guys in the world today, irrefutably proven:
      “Russia’s aggressive policy targets not only Ukraine. Russia violated territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia, announced its territorial claims and the willingness to “protect” Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States. Russia supports Eurosceptic and radical movements in Europe. It was registered that Russian special services interfered in the electoral campaign during the US presidential election in 2016, carried out cyber attacks against OSCE, Germany and France.

      Russia`s brutal military campaign in Syria has resulted in increased wave of refugees to Europe. There is much evidence of close relations between Russian special services and terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda.”
      I guess that any evidence the US and the Saudis the actually financiers and backers of both is just more Russian lies.
      Read the complete truth here: https://mfa.gov.ua/en/10-facts-you-should-know-about-russian-military-aggression-against-ukraine

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      1. LOL, Ukrainian ministry of foreign affairs. Why would anyone read anything from the government of that gas-stealing minority-harassing neonazi-infested dirt hole of a country?

        You clowns scored a huge own goal by trying to interfere in our gas deal with Russia. Now the Hungarian government is even more against the Kiev neonazi regime then before.

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      2. I don’t know you – so I presume this is pure sarcasm.
        And a lot more people have died than that.
        The Ukrainians caught themselves in a trap and ran through an exit that must have been horrendous.
        The daily maps showing a broad advance were provided by mfa. That in fact they were pushing though a narrow bottleneck didn’t become clear till too late. Classic Soviet vs nazis tactics.

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  7. Okay, that sidebar regarding BLM. It’s kinda fun to watch the Russian Liberals squirming with horror when their former Westie counterparts changed the narrative. I’m so sick of reading Russian Liberal bloggers and others just totally getting it wrong about American racial issues and BLM.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a BLM tankie. I have my own severe criticisms (from the Left, mind you) of BLM dogma and Critical Race Theory. But when this all started, there was an actual grassroots movement of ordinary African-Americans just sick of being detained and beaten up by cops. I am personally good friends with some very ordinary African-Americans who were excited about the movement initially and wanted to know, “Where can I go to join up?” Okay, then it turned out that, as with any popular movement in the U.S., the BLM “leaders” had been co-opted (or even initially groomed) by the Democratic Party; and that the movement itself was mostly a fake. But not completely, there still were some healthy elements in the rank and file.

    It’s complicated, to be sure.
    But Russian Liberals, not to mention entire establishment Russian press and blogosphere, distorted and turned this whole thing into a carnival. They focused on random “excesses” and made it sound like every BLM or any anti-racist demonstration consisted of armed thugs just forcing their way into white peoples homes and forcing them to kneel, like Superman before Colonel Zod.
    I think the jist of it consists of those Russian Liberals who complained in their blogs, literally (like Xenia Sobchak), “What has happened to my beloved America?” In their racist view, America was formerly their own beloved fatherland, much more so than Russia, but then the U.S. was taken over by these Hottentots – LOL!

    Once again, I take some pleasure in watching them squirm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It’s kinda fun to watch the Russian Liberals squirming with horror when their former Westie counterparts changed the narrative.”

      Cuz (as per vod Eggert&Co) you are Anti-Semite. In the hierarchy of gesheftmachers There Could Be Only One!

      “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a BLM tankie. “

      […]

      Wake me up, when the so-called BLM movement starts arguing for the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism. AFAIK all of them are good, red-blooded Murikins, who love the capitalism. To the death. Not their, obvs.

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    2. I liked these Paul series a lot.

      It’s complicated, to be sure.

      Yes, it is. Not least since grassroot movements tend to be co-opted into the larger foundation grant system. Which then, no doubt, can be used against the movement as a whole. Soros funded = created?

      I appreciated this reminder, not least the Simon Weil Center link:

      Going beyond BLM, Bogomolov compared Western identity politics as a whole to a “New Ethical Reich,” in which “the Nazis have given way to an equally aggressive mix of queer activists, fem-fanatics, and eco-psychopaths.”

      That’s of course the position of the US right. Who is a Nazi depends on your political position?

      Mr. Bogolov might want to hunt down the enablers and surgeon working undercover in suburban Moscow.

      https://german-documentaries.de/en_EN/films/trans-i-got-life.13556

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  8. “If there is a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s likely to be large-scale, to settle the issue once and for all.”

    And this is precisely why it should happen. I’ve said for years that Russia should invade Ukraine, destroy the neo-Nazi battalions, disarm the Ukraine military, topple the Kiev regime, install a pupper regime – then go home entirely. This would leave Ukraine relatively quiet for at least a few years and give its people a chance to rebuild.

    As for the US and NATO, the Russian invasion would be over long before they could react. And every Pentagon and NATO war game in the last six years has shown that any attempt to engage Russia militarily with conventional means has resulted in a Russian victory. So they’re not even going to try it, a couple US ships operating as sitting ducks in the Black Sea notwithstanding.

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    1. The only thing left to explain is why precisely Russia should do any of that? That’s quite some investment without much expected return: especially if the plan is “install a puppet regime then go home completely”. That regime would hold for about two weeks, top. So that means funding that regime but if there is a thing Russua learned about spending money on the countries that surround it is that it doesn’t pay off: they take the money, demand even more money, but deliver barely anything at best, side with the enemies at worst.

      So, Ukraine is pretty much a briefcase without a handle at this point: a drag to carry around, a shame to throw away. Russia seems to be willing to let the West to handle it.

      Liked by 1 person

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