Putin can’t enter the Ukraine crisis and leave with nothing.
By Ekaterina Zolotova at Geopolitical Futures on January 19, 2022. Original here.
Negotiations last week between the United States and Russia say a lot without saying much at all. Talks first took place on Jan. 9 ahead of more official discussions in Geneva the next day. A few days later, Russia and NATO spoke in Brussels about Ukraine and, related, the non-expansion of NATO to the east.
There was never much hope for the negotiations, the top agenda for which was Russia’s proposals for security guarantees, especially vis-a-vis NATO. The three parties ended their talks agreeing only that disagreements remain. After the meetings, the media naturally began to talk about escalation and preparations for an invasion of Ukraine. But this “escalation” looks like a tactic rather than a true position, an attempt by Russia to pressure its adversaries to participate in additional meetings and thus ensure the safety of its precious buffer zones.
Even during the negotiations, Russia began to up its psychological pressure on the U.S. and NATO. For example, it initiated military exercises in the western regions of Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk and Smolensk – all of them close to the Ukrainian border. (Roughly 3,000 troops participated.) The purpose of the drills was clear: to demonstrate its capabilities and a desire to protect its interests. Psychological operations such as these are particularly important to Moscow, which believes it needs to stand its ground without resorting to war or incurring additional sanctions.
The purpose of Moscow’s demands is also pretty clear. It wanted a guarantee from NATO and Washington that they would not use neighboring countries to prepare for or carry out an armed attack on Russia. It wanted Washington to halt the eastward expansion of NATO, refusing the admission of all former Soviet satellite states. And it wanted assurances that the U.S. would not create military bases in those states, and that NATO would cease military activities in Ukraine as well as other parts of Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Without these guarantees, Russia will inevitably feel vulnerable in its western borderlands. Indeed, one of its most important geopolitical imperatives is to maintain a buffer zone between its heartland and external threats from Europe.
Of course, the Kremlin never expected the U.S. to capitulate to its demands last week. But it had hoped that the West would at least soften some of its stances on these issues. And since the negotiations didn’t go anywhere, we can all expect Russia to act a little more aggressively, if only rhetorically, in the near term. After all, the borderlands remain unsecured: There is a frozen conflict in Donbass, the Caucasus region is constantly challenged by Turkey, and Central Asia is still unstable. In a recent interview with CNN, for example, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov made several statements that Russia’s relations with NATO are approaching a redline thanks to the alliance’s military support for Ukraine. He went on to say that NATO is a tool of confrontation, that Russia is seeing a gradual NATO invasion of Ukraine, and that proposed U.S. sanctions against Russian leaders could lead to the termination of bilateral relations. Moreover, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a direct participant in negotiations, said in an interview with RTVI that he cannot rule out the possibility of deploying military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if negotiations with the West fail. Again, this may all be rhetorical, but it nonetheless puts the U.S. on the defensive – and publicly at that.
Aside from heightened rhetoric, Russia has openly stepped up military movements. Over the past week, several dozen videos on TikTok and Instagram have shown the transfer of military personnel and equipment from Siberia and the Far East to Russia’s western regions. Soon thereafter, the Tank Army of the Western Military District began exercises in five regions, in which more than 800 servicemen and more than 300 weapons were involved. Elsewhere, Russian troops began to arrive in southern and western Belarus for exercises. With these moves, Russia intends to send the message that its forces are ready.
Despite this performative maneuvering, and despite reports of possible strikes, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest neither Russia nor the United States is interested in a serious military confrontation.
First, if Russia wanted a confrontation, it would have done it quietly. Well-advertised military movements, particularly ones involving soldiers from the polar opposite end of the country, surrender any element of surprise Russia could have hoped to have. And though the numbers of troops and tanks in western Russia seem large, they are not nearly enough to wage a winnable war in the vast lands of Ukraine. (Notably, the repositioning of Russian materiel has been underway for nearly a year; it didn’t just start last week.)
Second, deploying weapons or troops to Cuba and Venezuela is no easy task. It would be difficult in the best of times, but these are not the best of times. Bilateral cooperation between them and Russia, for example, is far weaker than it has been in recent years. And in any case, operating in such a remote region requires active movement and reliable logistics to ensure the safety of military installations. The projects will require serious capital investment, which Russia’s unstable economy is not ready for.
Last, the Kremlin can achieve its imperative of securing a buffer zone without resorting to war. For Moscow, a peaceful stabilization in Donbass is a suboptimal but entirely acceptable outcome. Any truce thereto would paint Russian President Vladimir Putin as a peace negotiator who put an end to the frozen conflict, likely raising his approval ratings and world standing. In short, Putin can’t enter a crisis and leave with nothing. The U.S. has even less reason to intervene in a conflict far from its borders with no exit strategy.
Russia wants to appear ready to wage war without losing any leverage at the negotiating table. For its part, the U.S. suspects Russia is probably bluffing. It understands Russia’s limits, and it’s seen this movie before. Russia will continue to conduct operations to try to achieve control over the buffer zone, and the U.S. will be unhappy with those actions, but both sides understand that to ease tensions, they will have to have a dialogue not with the EU, NATO or Ukraine but with each other.
By George Friedman at Geopolitical Futures on January 14, 2022. Original here.
Russia has been in the process of reclaiming its buffer zones – the areas in its periphery such as the Caucasus, the Baltics, Central Asia and Eastern Europe that give Moscow strategic depth from potential enemies – for some time. But the problem of strategic depth runs both ways. At the end of World War II, the Russians occupied the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the eastern half of Germany. None of them had been occupied by the Soviet Union before the war. The conquest of this area was the result of defeating Germany and dividing Europe with the West based essentially on the areas each held at the end of the war.
With this, Russia expanded its strategic depth dramatically. The distance it would take from the Fulda Gap to Moscow was so great that a NATO offensive designed to break Russia was impossible. As important, it reduced the strategic depth of the Anglo-Americans to just a few hundred miles. Forward deployed Soviet forces were, for example, 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Hamburg, a major German port. It was accepted that Western Europe could be defended only by massive reinforcement and resupply from the United States. With the western ports under attack or captured, the ability to support forces trying to hold the west would collapse.
The Anglo-Americans, and later NATO, faced a massive Soviet force occupying Eastern Europe and the eastern part of Germany without strategic depth and with fewer troops. The West had air and naval forces, well-trained troops and, most important, nuclear weapons. The U.S. had a massive bomber force that could deliver a nuclear strike to the Soviet Union, but the Soviets had no equivalent ability to strike the United States until much later in the Cold War. Thus, the Soviets’ strategic force and American nuclear bombers canceled each other out.
Even so, Soviet control of Eastern Europe provided a degree of defense Moscow never had previously. It was a profound problem for the U.S. and NATO. Washington had never intended a nuclear exchange for Europe, and it had what was likely a sufficient air-land capability to break the first wave of a Soviet attack and threaten the next. But for leaders in Western Europe, Eastern Europe was a geographic nightmare that facilitated a Soviet attack on a line from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea.
For this reason, the collapse of the Soviet Union relaxed the West. Until 1991, NATO had been a formidable force. After Eastern Europe broke from the Russians, the West had gained strategic depth. This meant that the ready-alert status of NATO and the U.S. nuclear arsenal was no longer relevant. The added distance of a Soviet attack, ignoring the shambles of the former Soviet Union, made conventional attack impossible. Of all the reasons offered for NATO’s operational decline, this is the most persuasive: that the strategic reality of the Continent had simply changed, and that the threat from the Soviet Union was no longer there. This was later consummated by the integration of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania into Western institutions.
This, in turn, created the problem Russia faces today. From Moscow’s point of view, the expansion of NATO eastward might eventually ensnare countries like Belarus and Ukraine, and even Georgia in the Caucasus. The Maidan revolution of 2014 only worried Moscow more. If NATO integrated Ukraine, it is reasonable to believe that Moscow would be indefensible. For Russia, hoping for the extended restraint of the United States is not a good bet.
At the same time, if Russia were to control both Belarus and Ukraine, an assault on Eastern Europe, coupled with subversion operations, could recreate in Russia’s favor the geography of the Cold War. NATO is a shadow of what it once was. The U.S. no longer guards the Fulda Gap. If Ukraine is taken, then conventional and even advanced technology might not be able to limit a Russian advance to the east.
In that sense, one of the West’s greatest problems is that the former Soviet satellites, especially those in Eastern Europe, lack the strength to deter a Russian advance. Size is not the issue. Russia’s population is about 145 million. The population of the countries above is about 84 million. Given that they would be in defensive positions, and if properly armed and organized, they do not have to be a negligible force. The problem is twofold. First, most have taken NATO membership too seriously, not considering that NATO is hollowed out. They see themselves as too weak to defend themselves and expect an American miracle. The miracle could come, but not without a united, armed and motivated Intermarium, a term I have used for the alliance of the states between the Black and the Baltic seas. Ultimately, this group of countries was unable to envision the force it could bring to bear, and therefore psychologically was incapable of united action, but always waited for another country to protect it.
The true weakness is not only that these countries don’t trust themselves but also that they don’t trust each other. Centuries of war have made them tired, even bitter enemies. I believe the Intermarium, armed and committed, would deter Russia even without massive American assistance. I advocated this a decade ago. Now, it is too late to implement except as an emergency force.
Thus we can understand the present situation in Ukraine. The Eastern European borderland lacks the ability to, as Charles de Gaulle said, at least tear an arm off. Russia cannot live with a U.S.-occupied Ukraine. The U.S. cannot live with Russia that far into Eastern Europe. Russia is not ready for a war, and the U.S. might be ready but doesn’t want it. The Russians will fight for Ukraine if terms are not reached. The Americans may fight but only through air power for the eastern borderland as it will be much cheaper now than later. The Eastern Europeans will fight, too little, too late and too disorganized. The British will be there, but I have no idea what each NATO country will do.
It is clear that there will be no war now. It is equally clear that this is the festering world of Europe. The borderlands will be perpetually contentious, and the balance of forces will shift over time, as they always do. Which way they will shift is, of course, less clear. But the old distrust between the U.S. and Russia remains, and that makes any lasting settlement impossible, because any settlement requires a degree of trust. The formation of the Intermarium alliance, which might include Belarus and Ukraine but which would exclude NATO and Russia, would work but won’t be tried. Everyone is waiting for the great powers, never believing that they might have other things to do with their time.
If these idiotic accusations were not enough, Blinken accused Putin of intending to restore the Soviet Union. It is impossible to understand how a person this stupid was confirmed by the US Senate as Secretary of State. The last thing the Kremlin wants is all the problems of all of these countries. All the Kremlin wants is that they be independent countries, not US puppet states armed against Russia.
My take on the situation is that from foolish statements such as the above by Blinken and Stoltenberg and other ill-considered remarks from the White House and media, the Kremlin has concluded prior to Monday’s meeting (January 10) that Washington will not take seriously Russia’s security concerns. I think the Russians have come to the conclusion that the West will not take them seriously until the Kremlin demonstrates forceful action. The Russians are just giving diplomacy one last chance before they destroy the military installations that the US has built in Ukraine.
I came across this report from pravda.ru dated about a month ago (November 26) that Russian nuclear submarines were urgently sent to sea in a state of combat readiness. This does not mean that the Kremlin is preparing a nuclear strike. It is meant to forestall any stupid Washington response to Russian removal of perceived threats, just as the Israelis do routinely in their attacks on Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese territory.
As I have reported on occasion, the Russians have had their fill of Washington and are not going to take any more.
The Russians have concluded that only decisive action on their part has any chance of sobering up Washington from its hubris and restoring a sense of responsibility in Washington at least equal to the sense of responsibility that kept a lid on Cold War tensions. If Washington is unable to recover a sense of responsibility, the possibility of Armageddon will again hang over our heads.
My concern is that there is no one in the Biden regime or the decimated officer ranks of the US military that has five cents worth of intelligence. The people with their hands on US foreign policy are Russophobes with delusions of American omnipotence. Moreover, they believe their own propaganda, which prevents them from understanding the Russian view. I don’t know if the Kremlin is capable of imagining a government as lunatic as the American one. If the Kremlin does not understand they they are dealing with lunatics, the situation could quickly get out of hand.
Societal Collapse (also known as Civilizational Collapse) is the fall of a complex human society characterized by the loss of cultural identity and of socioeconomic complexity, the downfall of government, and the rise of violence. Possible causes of a societal collapse include natural catastrophe, war, pestilence, famine, population decline, and mass migration. A collapsed society may revert to a more primitive state, be absorbed into a stronger society, or completely disappear.
Virtually all civilizations have suffered such a fate, regardless of their size or complexity, but some of them later revived and transformed, such as China, India, and Egypt. However, others never recovered, such as the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, the Mayan civilization, and the Easter Island civilization. Societal collapse is generally quick but rarely abrupt. However, some cases involve not a collapse but only a gradual fading away, such as the British Empire since 1918.
in “Societal collapse”. Wikipedia. Page was last edited on 25 December 2021, at 19:00 (UTC). See here.
By Dmitry Orlov on Club Orlov on December 21, 2021 at 08:35. See here.
I have been studying the forthcoming collapse of the USA for 25 years and publishing books and articles on this subject for the last 15, with good results: CCCP 2.0 is developing quite nicely. The 30-year reprieve which the US was granted thanks to the collapse of the USSR has now expired, every effort at imperial expansion since then (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the "suicide belt" of Eastern Europe) has been a total failure. Meanwhile a reborn Russia, backed by much of the rest of Eurasia, is now turning the tables and ordering the US around in perfectly undiplomatic terms. And now this: Barbara Water of UC San Diego recently appeared on CNN to explain that the US is now in a zone of high risk for political violence and civil war.
And what this means is that the US has finally achieved Total Collapse Preparedness. Let us look into the details of this.
Barbara has studied political instability for 30 years, most recently as part of a CIA task force (which has granted her access to datasets such as the “Polity” dataset, which the rest of us only sometimes get to hear about). Her appraisal is not based on some impressionistic sense of animal spirits but on specific metrics refined by applying them to politically unstable countries around the world. And according to her, the US is now at a high risk of civil war, political instability and political violence. It is now, she says borrowing a phrase from Fareed Zakaria, an “illiberal democracy.” Another term she uses is “anocracy,” which can be defined as a form of government that is part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features. “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,” states Barbara in no uncertain terms.
In my work I have divided collapse into five distinct stages or phases, which can fully or partially overlap, occur out of synch or even get ahead of the others based on local circumstances. They are: financial, commercial, political, social and cultural. This taxonomy offers a good way to make sense of the whole huge mess and to gauge progress.
In the case of the US, financial collapse is developing nicely; nobody knows which particular straw of government debt will break the camel’s back, but we can be sure that this moment will come. We also know what will happen after that: loss of access to imported products and resources, economic shutdown and political dissolution.
Commercial collapse is also coming right along. The trend was to replace a diversity of local commerce with one or a few big box stores (in the end, usually just a Walmart) which suck all the wealth out of the local community and ship it to East Asia, after which point the Walmart shuts down, leaving a vacant shell and an empty parking lot. What is left (for those who still have some money left) is online commerce, but then it turns out that a lot of the items are on backorder or simply not available.
Social and cultural collapse, in the context of the US, are a special case. Most of the socializing has been subsumed by social media (mediated, that is, by privately owned companies). These social media companies profit by selling data on their users, and once those data become worthless (because the users are broke) the artificially constituted society dissolves. Similarly, culture has been reduced to a set of commercial cultural services, and once the commerce is gone, so is the culture. The final result is a population of mental inadequates who are stuck among strangers and can’t properly communicate or make common cause with anyone but are heavily armed (with lots of mostly Russian—made ammunition—in spite of trade sanctions!).
And now political collapse is pulling up alongside. According to Barbara, one of the telltale signs of looming political instability is the rise of ethnic entrepreneurship. In the US, examples include BLM, Antifa, Qanon and the Proud Boys. LGBTQ+, though not exactly ethnic, qualifies as a politically divisive force; on the other side of the expanding political no man’s land, mined and strafed by bullets, they are referred to as Sodomites, and that, in case you are sketchy on your Bible, is not a term of endearment. Various other “dens of iniquity,” be they West Coast Devil-worshipers or East Coast elite pedophile rings, are in the same category, and seem likely to get their own dose of fire and brimstone.
As we head into 2022, the US stands poised to achieve Total Collapse Preparedness. The financial markets are rigged to perfection and ready to blow; commerce has entered logistical failure mode; society has been reduced to a set of social media silos; culture is an ephemeral commercial product; and now the political realm is ready to embrace the principle of one bullet—one vote.
It is no surprise, then, that the Russians, fully backed by the Chinese, are making their list of non-negotiable demands and checking it twice: get your nukes back on your own territory; stop sailing or flying anywhere close to Russia; get your weapons and your troops out of the East European “suicide belt”; and make sure there’s someone sitting by the phone 24/7 in case we have more instructions. The Russians are probably looking at that same CIA dataset Barbara has been studying and seeing the same thing: US collapse is finally here. This is not a drill! Hence the rush to get the paperwork signed before the shooting starts. They really want to get all of the security arrangements squared away before celebrating the New Year and then go and enjoy their winter vacation in peace and tranquility.
Despite Joe Biden’s promise of unity during his 2020 US presidential campaign, his administration has failed to unify the people. On the contrary, his divisive rhetoric means Americans are more polarized than ever.
An RT Op-ed by Memoree Joelle at RT on January 4, 2022 at 19:32 • See here. Memoree Joelle is a writer and constitutional conservative living in Los Angeles.
I would argue that America has already fallen into what might be termed a ‘cold civil war’, following the 2020 election. “We the People” just do not see eye-to-eye on several significant issues, and it doesn’t help that many of those were thrown at us all at once, beginning with Covid-19. Since the first lockdown that pummeled our economy, Americans have been at fierce odds with each other over almost everything – especially if it’s Covid related.
We vehemently disagree over vaccines, vaccine cards, mandates, and masks. And President Biden isn’t exactly trying to douse the flames with his divisive language. In February of last year, he demanded Covid vaccine compliance for all federal workers. Then in September, he shocked America with his comment that his “patience is wearing thin” with the millions of Americans who didn’t want the shots. This was a bizarre statement coming from a US president, especially since Americans, including those who chose not to be vaccinated, are the people he works for.
Then in late December, echoing his “dark winter”remarks from the 2020 debates, he addressed the American people in two separate categories – the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. “We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated – for themselves, their families and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” he said.
Attempting to coerce a population by using fear and intimidation is not behavior typical of an American president. Those who voted for him may not see it; and those who did not vote for him undoubtedly feel even more disenfranchised.
Yet while the Biden administration remains laser-focused on all things Covid, the leading cause of death in the US for those between the ages of 18-45 is fentanyl overdose. The drug is flowing into the country as a result of the crisis at our southern border, which has been disastrous for both America and Mexico, and highly profitable for drug cartels and human traffickers. This is a grim fact we can’t ignore, and sets the backdrop for the insecurity and chaos hurting our communities.
At the same time, our country is being battered with back-to-back crises, including record-high crime in our major cities, and the never-ending pandemic Biden can’t ‘shut down’ after all, with Americans simultaneously being forced into poverty. Hit with hyperinflation not seen since the era of Jimmy Carter, America’s middle and lower classes are struggling. Gas prices are soaring, food is more expensive, and now we have a housing market where only the wealthy can afford to buy single-family homes. With a ‘have and have not’ economy, it’s only to be expected that citizens will grow restless.
Still, all of this, while enough to make an already frustrated population become increasingly agitated, fearful, and angry, is only the surface of what deeply divides us. Just under that surface are two camps of political ideology that have always been at war, but now the heat has been dialed up to 11. Half the country, let’s not forget, voted for Donald Trump. Many of those believe he won. To add fuel to that fire, we had the unfortunate January 6 event at the Capitol that the left still insists was an “insurrection,” and the other side feels was a mass protest gone wrong.
We are divided over Critical Race Theory and the incessant pushing of race war by an often deceptive, shameless media. Many Americans no longer trust the media anyway, and therefore have no reliable source of information. How could we possibly understand each other under these conditions? Unity seems like a distant 2019 dream.
But our right vs. left feud is not simply about politics and a failing economy, or who did or didn’t get a vaccine. It’s not about race or gender, either. If that was all, we’d actually be okay. But we have a greater hurdle in front of us. At the root of our civil discord are our opposing beliefs about our fundamental rights and bodily autonomy, how we should raise and teach our children, and the place of God and religion in our institutions and in our culture. There are those of us who want to keep the same country that was founded on Judeo-Christian values, and those who want a secular America.
A second civil war is not likely. But physical battle isn’t always worse than having a country so ideologically opposed that we can’t stand to live together. We aren’t one nation, but two, forced by circumstance to share land and resources. Those are certainly not the ingredients that make a nation great. We need some fabric to hold us together, so that we can at least unite over a shared history, and hope for a future. Americans simply don’t have that right now.
What Americans have instead is class warfare being agitated by a few elites at the top, including some traitorous American politicians and billionaires. These people relish in taking advantage of our strife, and they know very well about all of the conflicts I mentioned above. They encourage the conflict, because they know it weakens us.
What all elites and globalists have always wanted is global economic domination by way of global communism. The New World Order isn’t being hidden anymore. It’s being spoken about quite openly. The United States is absolutely the one country that can stand in their way. And that is exactly why we DO have hope as a country. It will take some time and a lot of hard work – but there’s a way back home.
America’s founding fathers gifted us with the Constitution. All we have to do to save our country and our freedom is defend it. Regardless of political party, race, creed, religion, or class, We the People are ALL protected by our Constitution. It is the one thing we share that, if conserved as is, will keep us free. That’s because that document tells us and the world that we do not get our rights from the government, but from God. It keeps big government off our necks – and when the government is off our necks, we won’t be at each other’s throats.
I’m reminded of the 1990s sci-fi movie ‘Independence Day’ with Will Smith, where all of humanity is forced to come together from around the globe to fight off an invasion of enslaving aliens. In the film, everyone must learn to communicate in order to defend their very right to exist. They united to fight back against their own annihilation. We should do the same, while we can.
Even if we vehemently disagree on politics, masks, vaccines, immigration protocols, guns, the environment, and more, we need to fight for our right to exist as a nation. If we continue to allow the ruling class the unprecedented authority they have recently acquired under the cloak of Covid, they will use any excuse to control every aspect of our lives, and our freedom will be eroded in the same way one goes broke – gradually, then all at once.
That’s the real war being waged right now, and it’s long past time we all wake up and see it, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or neither. We can go back to arguing about politics and masks after we regain power for the people. But right now, we have to fight those who would love to see us self-destruct. So let’s begin 2022 with these wise words and share them widely.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This is what Americans must do to preserve our independence. Civil war will have to wait.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
In this video, your host Jeff Ostroff reconstructs a precise timeline of events in the hours leading up to the Miami Condo collapse and examines the evidence to offer you our root cause and failure analysis to determine how the Champlain Towers South Condo building collapsed on Jun 24, 2021.