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Since the US attack on Wagner mercenaries in Deir ez-Zor on February 7, which even the Kremlin has now been forced to admit included Russian casualties, come these stunning revelations from The Washington Post:

The intercepted communications show not only that Prigozhin was personally involved in planning the attack but that he had discussed it with senior Syrian officials, including Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam.

In a Jan. 24 exchange, Prigozhin said he had secured permission from an unspecified Russian minister the day before to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative and was awaiting a decision by the Syrian government.

On Jan. 30, Prigozhin “indicated he had a ‘good surprise’ ” for Assad “that would come between 6 and 9 February.” According to one intelligence report, he also was assured by Azzam that he would be paid for his work.

The reports indicated an increased tempo of communications between Prigozhin and Kremlin officials during the same period, including Putin chief of staff Anton Vayno and deputy chief of staff Vladi­mir Ostrovenko, but the content of those talks is not known. The communications continued until Feb. 5 and resumed the day after the attack.

U.S. Special Forces at the base and overhead reconnaissance had seen the attack force mobilizing west of the river at least a week before the attack, according to Mattis and Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. They notified the Russians at that time and warned that the base would defend itself. Asked in a briefing with reporters last week to characterize the conversations, Harrigian said only that they “remained professional.”

On the night of the attack, Mattis said, “the Russians profess that they were not aware when we called about that force that had crossed, and it came closer. They were notified when the firing began,” and the Americans were told “there were no Russians there.”

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Prigozhin owns a Russian company called Evro Polis, which, according to the Russian news site Fontanka, struck a deal in 2016 with the Syrian government to receive a 25 percent share of oil and natural gas produced on territory recaptured from the Islamic State. Most of those fields are on the eastern side of the Euphrates, where SDF fighters, accompanied by U.S. forces, have been advancing on the militants.

The Prigozhin-linked mercenary company Wagner apparently provides the ground forces to help achieve that goal, working under contract with the Syrian government.

There are a few possible interpretations here.

The obvious one is that The Washington Post and/or “US intelligence reports” are simply lying.

Of course, the Kremlin’s hamfisted denials and prevarications make it poorly positioned to counter these allegations even if it cared to.

Anything else just goes to, at best, further demonstrate the growing dementia of Putin and the people around him.

The most straightforward conclusion from WaPo’s report is that “Putin’s chef” Evgeny Prigozhin is running his own “public private” war in Syria. Evidently, the urka Prigozhin’s 1990′s “work experience” in banditry and raiding doesn’t translate into success in high geopolitics, since the Americans have rather more in the way of B-52 bombers than Saint-Petersburg businessmen.

One also wonders how the Americans intercepted his communications. Actually, perhaps it’s not a big puzzle at all, maybe he was stupid enough to use his cell phone to call the Syrian and Russian Presidential Administrations. Wouldn’t surprise me.

Incidentally, Anton Vaino is another of the little known and rather strange non-entities who have been sprouting around Putin in recent years. He is best known for his pseudo-scientific articles about the nooscope, a “a baffling mystical instrument that he claims can forecast and control society and the economy by scanning the universe.” Perhaps his nooscope told him the Americans wouldn’t attack?

There’s also a conspiracy theory, advanced by the anti-Russian agent Andrey Illarionov, that there was an agreement between the Americans and the Russians to demonstratively kill many of the Wagnerites as part of a “big deal” in which the Americans would also refrain from publishing their full sanctions list. This is an incredible assertion, and almost certainly a false one, underestimating American incompetence and overestimating the capacity of US civilian institutions to enter bizarre, intricate conspiracies, which don’t even benefit them in any appreciable manner (why on Earth should the US care if a few dozen unfortunate bastards in Wagner get wiped out?).

I suppose a less insane version of this conspiracy theory is that it was a plot by elements of the Russian government to discredit Prigozhin. After all, mercenary companies are formally illegal in Russia, so perhaps this could have served as a launching point to take down Prigozhin and his empire, which includes the Savushkina troll factory, 13 members of whom were indicted for “meddling” in US elections soon after the attack. Essentially, an agreement between the American and Russian deep states: You stop “meddling” in our elections, proving your commitment by scapegoating a minor pawn like Prigozhin – we’ll even “help” you with that; in return, we call it evens and don’t aggressively go after your offshore loot in the US and elsewhere.

For the record, I don’t think that’s the case either.

That said, it cannot be denied there is something extremely fishy about this affair. Americans noticed the buildup days in advance. They warned the Russians not to advance. The Russians advanced anyway, in a neat column and equipped with nothing heavier than assault rifles. Then the Russian military informed the Americans that there were no Russians in that column, and the Americans proceeded to smash Wagner to smithereens with artillery, Warthogs, and even B-52s.

The man explains that American forces used artillery and helicopter gunships to repel the assault. “They were all shelling the holy fuck out of it and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles… nothing at all, I’m not even talking about shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that… they tore us to pieces, put us through hell,” he says.

The speaker is also critical of the Russian government’s response to the incident, saying, “They beat our asses like we were little pieces of shit… but our fucking government will go in reverse now and nobody will respond or anything and nobody will punish anyone for this.”

“My guys just called me, they are sitting there drinking, many are MIA, it’s a total fuck-up, another humiliation… nobody gives a fuck about us.”

That seems about right.

Look, chances are, if you’re serving in Wagner, you are effectively either helping a private oligarch (and probably his government friends) enrich themselves in the geopolitical equivalent of corporate raiding, or providing cannon fodder to implement high conspiracies, or – at best – you are commanded by fucking retards who will not even pay a price for sending you to an assured and pointless death in some desert.

You are not defending Russians, or even helping advance Russian national interests in any substantive way. The Kremlin proved it wasn’t interested in that back in 2014.

So make of this what you will.

 
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  1. The Guardian first put out an article about how Putin is getting mired in Syria, then another article about how Putin and Assad are winning by murdering Syrians and need to be stopped by military force, the latter article heavily relying on this incident and on the Israelis supposedly having recently destroyed half of all Syrian air defense assets in just two days. (I personally find the latter somewhat unbelievable.)

    According to the warmongering article, the Russians have proved by doing nothing in response to both incidents that they’d do nothing in case of a military attack on Assad loyalist forces.

    So at the very least this incident helped ramping up western war propaganda.

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  2. However one would like to spin it, this incident reflects very badly on Russia and its leadership.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry

    However one would like to spin it, this incident reflects very badly on Russia and its leadership.

     

    Why? Danger of this kind of incident is the reason there were no soldiers on these suicide missions. If it had been official forces involved in such a incident, then this would have been a disaster for all sides - but there were not as the leadership are at least kind of smart or responsible and does not have soldiers in running around in ill-planned random missions.
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  3. Also, apparently Russia has deployed a couple of Su-57 fighter jets in Syria. Some sources already reported (yet unconfirmed) that they already saw action. Unless I’m very wrong, less than four years after the F-22 Raptor. It gave me some whitepill on Russian military R&D capabilities. The F-35 JFS still hasn’t seen any action, though supposedly it’s already combat ready and the US has been engaged in multiple wars since it’s become “combat ready.” So obviously the Americans aren’t in much hurry to develop their multirole fighter jets, unlike the Russians.

    Read More
    • Replies: @TheJester
    You have to understand that the USAF, Navy, and Marines have a long history of playing word games with the word "operational" with respect to the F-35 and other procurements in order to play games with the US Department of Defense procurement system. The procurement system is designed to force the cancellation of systems that cannot make major procurement milestones. This rarely works. Politics, corporate lobbying, and obfuscation on the part of the services with respect to meeting procurement milestones always seem to trump procurement discipline -- especially for the larger, more expensive programs.

    The Marine Corps declared its first squadron of F-35Bs "operational" in 2015. This does not mean the F-35s could deploy weapons in war. It meant they could fly some of the time in ideal flying conditions. From Wikipedia:

    The US Marines declared the aircraft had met initial operational capability on 31 July 2015, despite shortcomings in night operations, communications, software and weapons carriage capabilities. However, J. Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, criticized the operational trials as not valid. In an internal memo, Gilmore concluded "the exercise was so flawed that it 'was not an operational test … in either a formal or informal sense of the term.' Furthermore, the test 'did not—and could not—demonstrate' that the version of the F-35 that was evaluated 'is ready for real-world operational deployments, given the way the event was structured.'"
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II#Operational_history

    The Marine Corps tried the same thing with the V-22 Osprey ... demonstrating operational scenarios much too early in response to naysayers trying to cancel the troubled procurement that was way over budget and schedule. This led to multiple crashes and multiple deaths.
    , @Anatoly Karlin
    War is Boring is pretty skeptical about that and believe its nowhere near combat ready.

    Way I see it-

    Advantages of deploying 2 (actually now 4) Su-57's:

    1. Test them out in real military operations.

    Disadvantages:

    1. Americans (Israelis, Turks) get opportunity to closely observe them.

    2. 40% (!) of all Su-57 prototypes are now in Syria. It will be a PR catastrophe dwarfing both the attacks on Khmeimim and the Wagner debacle if they were to be shot down or fall due to technical malfunctions, especially over rebel territory. (Hopefully they manage to fire a Tochka at the wreckage before Americans/Turks get there).
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  4. anon • Disclaimer says:

    In my mind there are two possible explanations about what happened with the Russian PMCs on the east of the Euphrates:

    a) They transgressed their lines and into American territory, which got them killed. This must have occurred without official Russian participation.

    b) This was done deliberately by the Americans in order to launch a massive psy-op against the Russian government right before the Presidential Election.

    In my mind, the second explanation is the most likely one. Killing a few Russian PMC on the East of the Euphrates was considered a worthy risk by the US-CIA as it would allow massively exaggerated claims such as those we have seen on Western MSM (such as that hundreds of Russians were killed etc etc)

    The case is probably that Russian losses were far smaller than what Western media like to claim and also that a Russian retaliation at some stage is inevitable.

    As for the ludicrous claims of the Israelis that they destroyed half of Syria’s air defenses in an afternoon, well, that is something only an idiot would take seriously.

    As for the claims made by so-called experts in the West (but sometimes also in the pro-Russian camp as well) that Russia won’t do nothing in the case of a massive and direct attack on the SAA, they are simply beyond moronic. The reality is that the Americans, Europeans, Turks, Israelis and Saudis have been absolutely certain since Day 1 of the Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad’s government is still in existence.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dmitry

    Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad’s government is still in existence.
     
    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable - Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them. Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government's that possess them.
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  5. Any possible explanation leads to Russian soldiers having been betrayed by the leadership one way or another. Being a mercenary or regular forces is irrelevant, they were still Russian.
    And many of those soldiers fought in Donbass, t0o.

    If this was really the initiative of that Prigozhin, why was he allowed such initiatives in the first place and isn’t the Russian establishment firmly in control of anything done by Russian citizens on the pro-government side of things?

    Someone was terribly incompetent and whether that incompetence came directly from the high levels of the Russian leadership or some smaller player, the Kremlin bears responsibility for allowing it.

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  6. Mitleser says:

    Martyanov was right. You really are too focused on Western media.

    The obvious one is that The Washington Post and/or “US intelligence reports” are simply lying.

    Of course, the Kremlin’s hamfisted denials and prevarications make it poorly positioned to counter these allegations even if it cared to.

    Just because the latter seems to be true, the former does not have to be not true.

    That is why AK is so blackpilled.

    He believes CIA & Co. more than his own government and accepts the more anti-Russian narrative.

    In a new statement Tuesday, the ministry acknowledged that “several dozen” Russians were killed or wounded in the attack and that the wounded had been “provided assistance to return to Russia . . . where they are undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals.”

    - WaPo

    It has been pointed out that certain Russian citizens in Syria have arrived there of their own free will and for different reasons. The Foreign Ministry does not have the authority to assess the validity and legality of their decisions.

    At the same time, we have the following to say, considering that the issue concerns Russian citizens outside Russia. During a recent armed clash, in which Russian service members did not take part in any capacity and Russian military equipment was not used, Russian citizens and nationals from other CIS countries are reported to have been killed or wounded – there are several dozen of the latter. They have been provided assistance to return to Russia, where, so far as we are aware, they are undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals.

    - Russian MFA

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.

    The only explanation acceptable would be if the Americans sneakily attacked the Russians, but then it should have been forcefully protested. The behavior of the Russian government is astonishing. I don’t like defending such an incompetent government, neither online nor IRL.
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  7. I wonder if Wagner recruitment efforts suffered as a result of this debacle?

    I’d like to remind you that mercenary activity remains illegal in Russia. The Kremlin doesn’t want it legalised because doing so will introduce a measure of accountability into it. The Kremlin needs secret, deniable meat. So my question is: do these men, who are breaking Russian laws to go to a faraway country to shoot some Arabs for $3000 per month, do they even care that they can die in a US airstrike? Honestly, I do not think they do. The kind of person who takes this job is either incredibly desperate or incredibly stupid, so American airstrikes will not deter them.

    On the other hand Wagner’s financial position is going to suffer as they will have to compensate to so many grieving families. Perhaps, this will force them to be more careful with their personel in the future?

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    • Replies: @anonymous coward

    ...as they will have to compensate to so many grieving families...
     
    How many is exactly "so many"? Five? Six?
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  8. @Mitleser
    Martyanov was right. You really are too focused on Western media.

    The obvious one is that The Washington Post and/or “US intelligence reports” are simply lying.

    Of course, the Kremlin’s hamfisted denials and prevarications make it poorly positioned to counter these allegations even if it cared to.
     

    Just because the latter seems to be true, the former does not have to be not true.

    https://twitter.com/MarkAmesExiled/status/967058854918934528
    https://twitter.com/MorningBluberry/status/967064470676787202?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fs9e.github.io%2Fiframe%2Ftwitter.min.html%23967064470676787202

    That is why AK is so blackpilled.

    He believes CIA & Co. more than his own government and accepts the more anti-Russian narrative.


    In a new statement Tuesday, the ministry acknowledged that “several dozen” Russians were killed or wounded in the attack and that the wounded had been “provided assistance to return to Russia . . . where they are undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals.”
     
    - WaPo

    It has been pointed out that certain Russian citizens in Syria have arrived there of their own free will and for different reasons. The Foreign Ministry does not have the authority to assess the validity and legality of their decisions.

    At the same time, we have the following to say, considering that the issue concerns Russian citizens outside Russia. During a recent armed clash, in which Russian service members did not take part in any capacity and Russian military equipment was not used, Russian citizens and nationals from other CIS countries are reported to have been killed or wounded – there are several dozen of the latter. They have been provided assistance to return to Russia, where, so far as we are aware, they are undergoing medical treatment at a number of hospitals.
     

    - Russian MFA

    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.

    The only explanation acceptable would be if the Americans sneakily attacked the Russians, but then it should have been forcefully protested. The behavior of the Russian government is astonishing. I don’t like defending such an incompetent government, neither online nor IRL.

    Read More
    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Mitleser

    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.
     
    That does not seem to be so clear.
    It is still possible that did not know what was going on until it was too late and afterwards needed time to organize what should be said and done.
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  9. El Dato says:

    Then the Russian military informed the Americans that there were no Russians in that column.

    So this is technically correct?

    They are even less Russian than unmarked green men jumping out of APCs.

    No retribution needed.

    Suppose Akademi gets a job in Nigeria (just a made-up example) and suffers losses as a consequence because TotalElfFina thinks they are coming close to a pipeline or something – then the US ain’t involved.

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  10. Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

    The first British Tornado to cross the Syrian boarder to attack ISIS seems to have attacked a base mostly occupied by “British” ISIS fighters where there were many casualties. Syria is a more convenient place to deal with such people than the courts. Any idea of the religious composition of Wagner?

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    If they had been killed in a friendly fire accident by Russian jets, this would not have been an issue. But it was Americans. There is a difference. Or if it was Russians serving the enemy, like Russians serving in ISIS: again, not an issue. But it was clearly Russians (Russian citizens) serving Russia and/or its allies. The attack by British forces on British citizens fighting for ISIS is not a good analogy at all.
    , @Anatoly Karlin
    I don't think Wagner is the sort of outfit that would incubate "leaders" of a revived Russian Spring.

    It attracts people desperate for money; overly idealistic/stupid foreigners from places like Serbia (the sort who take Dugin seriously); people who became addicted to war in the Donbass and need to continue reliving the experience.
    , @Dmitry

    Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

     

    Without denying the latter part of the sentence can exist - some random and mostly harmless contractors, who only wanted a little income, caught out in the open on an ill-planned mission doesn't have much to do with it.

    When the Kremlin wants to do 'mop up' operations, it purges them in a targeted, competent and professional style (i.e. by special forces), focusing against a few leaders - i.e. probably how Motorola, Givi and Mozgovoy were taken out in Donbass. Not involving a bunch of random contractors who have little discernible relevance, into international airstrike incidents.

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  11. @Philip Owen
    Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

    The first British Tornado to cross the Syrian boarder to attack ISIS seems to have attacked a base mostly occupied by "British" ISIS fighters where there were many casualties. Syria is a more convenient place to deal with such people than the courts. Any idea of the religious composition of Wagner?

    If they had been killed in a friendly fire accident by Russian jets, this would not have been an issue. But it was Americans. There is a difference. Or if it was Russians serving the enemy, like Russians serving in ISIS: again, not an issue. But it was clearly Russians (Russian citizens) serving Russia and/or its allies. The attack by British forces on British citizens fighting for ISIS is not a good analogy at all.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mitleser

    If they had been killed in a friendly fire accident by Russian jets, this would not have been an issue. But it was Americans. There is a difference. Or if it was Russians serving the enemy, like Russians serving in ISIS: again, not an issue. But it was clearly Russians (Russian citizens) serving Russia and/or its allies.
     
    The difference is that it would make the Russian Armed Forces look bad too, and not just the government & associates. It would be an even worse issue.
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  12. @Philip Owen
    Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

    The first British Tornado to cross the Syrian boarder to attack ISIS seems to have attacked a base mostly occupied by "British" ISIS fighters where there were many casualties. Syria is a more convenient place to deal with such people than the courts. Any idea of the religious composition of Wagner?

    I don’t think Wagner is the sort of outfit that would incubate “leaders” of a revived Russian Spring.

    It attracts people desperate for money; overly idealistic/stupid foreigners from places like Serbia (the sort who take Dugin seriously); people who became addicted to war in the Donbass and need to continue reliving the experience.

    Read More
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  13. TheJester says:
    @reiner Tor
    Also, apparently Russia has deployed a couple of Su-57 fighter jets in Syria. Some sources already reported (yet unconfirmed) that they already saw action. Unless I’m very wrong, less than four years after the F-22 Raptor. It gave me some whitepill on Russian military R&D capabilities. The F-35 JFS still hasn’t seen any action, though supposedly it’s already combat ready and the US has been engaged in multiple wars since it’s become “combat ready.” So obviously the Americans aren’t in much hurry to develop their multirole fighter jets, unlike the Russians.

    You have to understand that the USAF, Navy, and Marines have a long history of playing word games with the word “operational” with respect to the F-35 and other procurements in order to play games with the US Department of Defense procurement system. The procurement system is designed to force the cancellation of systems that cannot make major procurement milestones. This rarely works. Politics, corporate lobbying, and obfuscation on the part of the services with respect to meeting procurement milestones always seem to trump procurement discipline — especially for the larger, more expensive programs.

    The Marine Corps declared its first squadron of F-35Bs “operational” in 2015. This does not mean the F-35s could deploy weapons in war. It meant they could fly some of the time in ideal flying conditions. From Wikipedia:

    The US Marines declared the aircraft had met initial operational capability on 31 July 2015, despite shortcomings in night operations, communications, software and weapons carriage capabilities. However, J. Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, criticized the operational trials as not valid. In an internal memo, Gilmore concluded “the exercise was so flawed that it ‘was not an operational test … in either a formal or informal sense of the term.’ Furthermore, the test ‘did not—and could not—demonstrate’ that the version of the F-35 that was evaluated ‘is ready for real-world operational deployments, given the way the event was structured.’”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II#Operational_history

    The Marine Corps tried the same thing with the V-22 Osprey … demonstrating operational scenarios much too early in response to naysayers trying to cancel the troubled procurement that was way over budget and schedule. This led to multiple crashes and multiple deaths.

    Read More
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  14. @reiner Tor
    Also, apparently Russia has deployed a couple of Su-57 fighter jets in Syria. Some sources already reported (yet unconfirmed) that they already saw action. Unless I’m very wrong, less than four years after the F-22 Raptor. It gave me some whitepill on Russian military R&D capabilities. The F-35 JFS still hasn’t seen any action, though supposedly it’s already combat ready and the US has been engaged in multiple wars since it’s become “combat ready.” So obviously the Americans aren’t in much hurry to develop their multirole fighter jets, unlike the Russians.

    War is Boring is pretty skeptical about that and believe its nowhere near combat ready.

    Way I see it-

    Advantages of deploying 2 (actually now 4) Su-57′s:

    1. Test them out in real military operations.

    Disadvantages:

    1. Americans (Israelis, Turks) get opportunity to closely observe them.

    2. 40% (!) of all Su-57 prototypes are now in Syria. It will be a PR catastrophe dwarfing both the attacks on Khmeimim and the Wagner debacle if they were to be shot down or fall due to technical malfunctions, especially over rebel territory. (Hopefully they manage to fire a Tochka at the wreckage before Americans/Turks get there).

    Read More
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  15. Dmitry says:
    @reiner Tor
    However one would like to spin it, this incident reflects very badly on Russia and its leadership.

    However one would like to spin it, this incident reflects very badly on Russia and its leadership.

    Why? Danger of this kind of incident is the reason there were no soldiers on these suicide missions. If it had been official forces involved in such a incident, then this would have been a disaster for all sides – but there were not as the leadership are at least kind of smart or responsible and does not have soldiers in running around in ill-planned random missions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    The Americans told the Russians that they will attack them. The Russians told them, sure, go ahead.

    You don’t understand something is seriously wrong here?
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  16. Mitleser says:
    @reiner Tor
    If they had been killed in a friendly fire accident by Russian jets, this would not have been an issue. But it was Americans. There is a difference. Or if it was Russians serving the enemy, like Russians serving in ISIS: again, not an issue. But it was clearly Russians (Russian citizens) serving Russia and/or its allies. The attack by British forces on British citizens fighting for ISIS is not a good analogy at all.

    If they had been killed in a friendly fire accident by Russian jets, this would not have been an issue. But it was Americans. There is a difference. Or if it was Russians serving the enemy, like Russians serving in ISIS: again, not an issue. But it was clearly Russians (Russian citizens) serving Russia and/or its allies.

    The difference is that it would make the Russian Armed Forces look bad too, and not just the government & associates. It would be an even worse issue.

    Read More
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  17. Mitleser says:
    @reiner Tor
    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.

    The only explanation acceptable would be if the Americans sneakily attacked the Russians, but then it should have been forcefully protested. The behavior of the Russian government is astonishing. I don’t like defending such an incompetent government, neither online nor IRL.

    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.

    That does not seem to be so clear.
    It is still possible that did not know what was going on until it was too late and afterwards needed time to organize what should be said and done.

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    • Replies: @reiner Tor

    It is still possible that did not know what was going on until it was too late
     
    You mean until the actual thing happened they were kept in the dark by Wagner’s owners/leaders? Wagner is not a real private company, for God’s sake it’s technically illegal.

    If Wagner managed to deceive the Russian high command of its intentions and the disposition of its forces, that already points to serious issues with Russian intelligence. It’s a technically illegal company which can only operate because the Russian government allows it to. Its leadership could easily be jailed for selling mercenary services to random third parties.

    I’m not holding my breath.
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  18. Randal says:

    Way too negative about the Russia government imo.

    This was surely not a Russian government operation, but rather a lightly armed private business venture, albeit in accordance with Russian overall objectives and using Russian contacts and mercenaries. If it had been a Russian government operation then either the force would have been more heavily armed and able to defend itself, or at the least the Russians would have told the Yanks not to attack it.

    If there’s a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that’s the case it’s problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.

    Further, these were not Russian soldiers that were killed and there was no obvious duty on the part of the Russian government to protect them, still less to avenge them, nor any discredit to the Russian government for their loss.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor

    If there’s a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that’s the case it’s problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.
     
    The only other explanation that I can think of is that the Americans sneakily attacked without warning. This would be basically Karlin’s blackpill scenario, which is unlikely, but it’s also so bad we shouldn’t even think about it.

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.

    If you ask me, that’s pretty bad in strategic terms. The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are. And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives. Meanwhile, Putin - far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting - seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.

    Can Russia afford to be run in such a manner against the still very much stronger US sphere?
    , @peterAUS
    Well...be that as it may, still........doesn't reflect well on Russian effort there or elsewhere.

    Bottom line, the men of own ethnicity, fighting on our side, got killed by the opposition.
    Game, incompetence, doesn't really matter.
    Doesn't look good for morale, or quality recruitment/deployment of similar outfits.

    Any really good "Russian side" professional, after this, will have second thought about the venture in future.

    My guess is that the level of expertise there (merc outfits working on Russian side) will deteriorate.
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  19. Dmitry says:
    @Philip Owen
    Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

    The first British Tornado to cross the Syrian boarder to attack ISIS seems to have attacked a base mostly occupied by "British" ISIS fighters where there were many casualties. Syria is a more convenient place to deal with such people than the courts. Any idea of the religious composition of Wagner?

    Spisarevski has an excellent point. The removal of potential leaders of a continuing conflict in the Donbass continues?

    Without denying the latter part of the sentence can exist – some random and mostly harmless contractors, who only wanted a little income, caught out in the open on an ill-planned mission doesn’t have much to do with it.

    When the Kremlin wants to do ‘mop up’ operations, it purges them in a targeted, competent and professional style (i.e. by special forces), focusing against a few leaders – i.e. probably how Motorola, Givi and Mozgovoy were taken out in Donbass. Not involving a bunch of random contractors who have little discernible relevance, into international airstrike incidents.

    Read More
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  20. Dmitry says:
    @anon
    In my mind there are two possible explanations about what happened with the Russian PMCs on the east of the Euphrates:

    a) They transgressed their lines and into American territory, which got them killed. This must have occurred without official Russian participation.

    b) This was done deliberately by the Americans in order to launch a massive psy-op against the Russian government right before the Presidential Election.

    In my mind, the second explanation is the most likely one. Killing a few Russian PMC on the East of the Euphrates was considered a worthy risk by the US-CIA as it would allow massively exaggerated claims such as those we have seen on Western MSM (such as that hundreds of Russians were killed etc etc)

    The case is probably that Russian losses were far smaller than what Western media like to claim and also that a Russian retaliation at some stage is inevitable.

    As for the ludicrous claims of the Israelis that they destroyed half of Syria's air defenses in an afternoon, well, that is something only an idiot would take seriously.

    As for the claims made by so-called experts in the West (but sometimes also in the pro-Russian camp as well) that Russia won't do nothing in the case of a massive and direct attack on the SAA, they are simply beyond moronic. The reality is that the Americans, Europeans, Turks, Israelis and Saudis have been absolutely certain since Day 1 of the Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad's government is still in existence.

    Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad’s government is still in existence.

    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable – Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them. Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government’s that possess them.

    Read More
    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin, Randal
    • Replies: @reiner Tor

    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable – Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them.
     
    Questionable.

    I can imagine situations where a country’s leadership believed that it would not politically survive the loss of a war, and that the consequences of its political fall would be so bad that it’d warrant taking the risks.

    An easy example would be a limited strike against young Kim, for whom a political fall would mean certain death both for himself and for his family. Maybe he would take his chances with a nuclear war hoping that the Chinese (and maybe the Russians) would come to help him. It could result in his survival. Or, worse, he’d think he was already a dead man walking and just trying to avenge his own death.

    I read a decade ago that some Chinese authors were arguing that by losing its empire 1988-91, Russia lost as much or more than it would have lost in an all-out nuclear exchange. They were arguing that if there was a threat of a breakup of China, then the Chinese leadership should take the risk of nuclear war, because it could hardly be worse.

    For Putin, if he thought that he might lose a lot by losing power, he might decide he had very little to lose anyway.

    But I agree that conventional wars would be used first, like if his Syria contingent was wiped out, he’d maybe try to destroy a US CBG or something, then maybe occupying Ukraine. But what if he kept getting humiliated, like the US also did something in response, to which he’d have to respond, etc.

    Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government’s that possess them.
     
    It was not true during the Cuban Crisis, when tactical nukes were at the disposal of relatively low level commanders.
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  21. WHAT says:

    Putting wagnergate aside(trusting bezos post on anything, Anatoly, really?), I can`t for the life of me figure out the reason for flying T-50s(let`s not delude ourselves, it is still very much in development, and will be only half-a-plane until new engines are in) in Syria.
    What does it actually accomplish? Demonstrating your newest(and quite secret) plane radar signatures to the zhid and eternal anglo? Creating a setup for a horrible PR should something bad happen, like Anatoly pointed out?
    It`s hardly a successful sales pitch like Su-34 deployment was, when there was a whole lot of opportunities to show off strike platform capabilities. What would T-50 even attack, ISIS air superiority fighters?

    I hope Andrey can drop by and explain it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Lemurmaniac
    one model has the new engines
    , @Singh
    Indian budget coming up soon।।
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  22. @WHAT
    Putting wagnergate aside(trusting bezos post on anything, Anatoly, really?), I can`t for the life of me figure out the reason for flying T-50s(let`s not delude ourselves, it is still very much in development, and will be only half-a-plane until new engines are in) in Syria.
    What does it actually accomplish? Demonstrating your newest(and quite secret) plane radar signatures to the zhid and eternal anglo? Creating a setup for a horrible PR should something bad happen, like Anatoly pointed out?
    It`s hardly a successful sales pitch like Su-34 deployment was, when there was a whole lot of opportunities to show off strike platform capabilities. What would T-50 even attack, ISIS air superiority fighters?

    I hope Andrey can drop by and explain it.

    one model has the new engines

    Read More
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  23. It seems the problem with Putin was that his approach was always negative. He came to power in a country that had fallen apart, so he proceeded to identify the main things that had gone wrong and patch them up. But what does the Russian state stand for today? A sort of post-ideological technocratic governance designed to serve a bunch of elites who don’t want to play by the rules of the Washington Consensus, yet are also remarkably unimaginative when it comes to articulating an alternative vision (besides lining their pockets).

    The traditional Russian political formulation of ‘autocracy, orthodoxy, nationality’ still makes sense for contemporary Russia. All three are rather weakly present within the Putinreich. Orthodoxy has made a bit of a comeback. However, if it was doing its job, the ‘cult’ of the Russian culture should be crushing the liberal urbanite in the big cities.

    Then we come to the ‘autocracy’ part. What’s the point of a powerful centralized government if its exceedingly corrupt, poor at management (see lagging MoD projects), and purely reactive on foreign policy? Granted, Putin is quite good at reactions, but these are generally necessary because he’s failed to preempt obvious Western demarches. After NATO shafted Russia by toppling Qaddafi (pbuh), someone with a brain should have seen another ‘Kiev Spring’ coming. I’ve read the Russian embassy in Kiev was run moronically, and was slow to respond to the developing situation. Where were the allegedly omnipotent Russian information warriors? Where were the special services? Where was the well-practiced ‘emergency plan’ for a colour revolution in the Ukraine? A smart government would have had Russian operators present in Kiev dressed as police to assure Yanukovych and his oligarchs Moscow had his back. Sure, Russia nabbed Crimea and through the wrench in the gearbox in the far east regions. However, so close to home, that’s a consolation prize. The same could be said about Syria. If Syria is strategically important to the Kremlin, why wait until Damascus is about to fall in in 2015? Maybe it was a way to escape international isolation after 2014 events in Ukraine, which makes it yet another backfooted move rather than proactive policy. Oh, and don’t forget Belarus flipping off Russia whenever its expedient to the aging mall security guard in charge.

    Lastly, Putin is exceedingly weak on ‘nationality’. The Orthodox Eastern Slav is the backbone of the Russian state. He’s the one who fights and dies for it, designs its weapons, and provides the cohesive force that allows the Russian machine to run. He’s also the one taking hits in Eastern Ukraine while his elites play holographic 5D chess in the Kremlin. But whenever he asserts himself in full ethnic array (instead of merely enthusiastic cannon fodder), he’s beaten down by the ‘based’ anti-racist Putinreich for disturbing the peace. And if there’s one thing that leads to a crack up in a multi-ethnic state, its when the minorities sense the majority no longer possesses the will to secure their way of life. Never forget: the Kremlin was happy to let slide ethnic cleansing of WHITE EUROPEANS from Chechnya by Christendom’s enemies. Not even cucked Western countries allow *physical* removal of whites yet on that scale.

    In short, while the Syria will probably be resolved largely in Russia’s favour at the level of regional strategy, these tactical errors like this Wagner debacle point to deeper systematic faults within the creaking edifice of the post-Soviet state structure and ideology.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JL

    If Syria is strategically important to the Kremlin, why wait until Damascus is about to fall in in 2015? Maybe it was a way to escape international isolation after 2014 events in Ukraine, which makes it yet another backfooted move rather than proactive policy.
     
    I agree with a lot of your analysis, but you have this completely backwards. Russia was planning on its Syria mission as early as 2013, well before Maidan was even a twinkle in the empire's eye. The US aggression in the Ukraine was likely intended to preempt Russia's entry into Syria and at least succeeded in delaying it until 2015.
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  24. @Dmitry

    However one would like to spin it, this incident reflects very badly on Russia and its leadership.

     

    Why? Danger of this kind of incident is the reason there were no soldiers on these suicide missions. If it had been official forces involved in such a incident, then this would have been a disaster for all sides - but there were not as the leadership are at least kind of smart or responsible and does not have soldiers in running around in ill-planned random missions.

    The Americans told the Russians that they will attack them. The Russians told them, sure, go ahead.

    You don’t understand something is seriously wrong here?

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  25. @Mitleser

    He didn’t believe the “several hundreds” number from the US sources, but obviously the original Russian official statement that either nothing happened or nothing which the government knew or should have known was clearly false. It’s now obvious that the Russian government should have known (and probably knew at the time of the first denials) of the whole incident. It also should have prevented it.
     
    That does not seem to be so clear.
    It is still possible that did not know what was going on until it was too late and afterwards needed time to organize what should be said and done.

    It is still possible that did not know what was going on until it was too late

    You mean until the actual thing happened they were kept in the dark by Wagner’s owners/leaders? Wagner is not a real private company, for God’s sake it’s technically illegal.

    If Wagner managed to deceive the Russian high command of its intentions and the disposition of its forces, that already points to serious issues with Russian intelligence. It’s a technically illegal company which can only operate because the Russian government allows it to. Its leadership could easily be jailed for selling mercenary services to random third parties.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    Read More
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  26. @Randal
    Way too negative about the Russia government imo.

    This was surely not a Russian government operation, but rather a lightly armed private business venture, albeit in accordance with Russian overall objectives and using Russian contacts and mercenaries. If it had been a Russian government operation then either the force would have been more heavily armed and able to defend itself, or at the least the Russians would have told the Yanks not to attack it.

    If there's a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that's the case it's problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.

    Further, these were not Russian soldiers that were killed and there was no obvious duty on the part of the Russian government to protect them, still less to avenge them, nor any discredit to the Russian government for their loss.

    If there’s a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that’s the case it’s problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.

    The only other explanation that I can think of is that the Americans sneakily attacked without warning. This would be basically Karlin’s blackpill scenario, which is unlikely, but it’s also so bad we shouldn’t even think about it.

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.

    If you ask me, that’s pretty bad in strategic terms. The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are. And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives. Meanwhile, Putin – far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting – seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.

    Can Russia afford to be run in such a manner against the still very much stronger US sphere?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Randal

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.
     
    It's not a feudal empire and taking such an analogy and trying to draw conclusions from it will lead you astray.

    1 This was evidently not a Russian government operation, or it would have had better protection and/or the Americans would have been warned off.

    2 Clearly it involved people with very strong connections to the top levels of the Russian government.

    3 It seems to have been an operation intended to make money, but also one that is in line with overall Russian government objectives.

    The whole point of allowing such activities to go ahead is that the cost to the government if they go wrong is limited. So it was in this case. The Russians presumably suspected the Americans would resist any open military advance into the territory in question and aren't ready to confront at that level yet. So they let this operation go ahead in the hope that it would succeed under the US radar. If it failed, not much would be lost.

    That seems the most obvious explanation. It's a bit embarrassing, but overall simply not any big deal in the long run. Maybe it was a mistake, but it wasn't a big one.


    The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are.
     
    This was not a Russian government operation.

    And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives.
     
    This simply ignores the colossal difficulty of the situation Russia is in, and has been in since the 1990s. They've done pretty well so far, considering the odds against them.

    Contrary to a lot of the talk, the intervention in Syria is already a huge triumph that has achieved all its main objectives. While that victory has brought with it many new problems, these are the unavoidable problems of success, and the increased influence and regional involvement that success has brought. Had the Russians not intervened, most likely we'd be looking at a jihadist or US puppet government in Damascus by now.

    A lot of the complaints about Putin's supposed inaction seem to be based upon simply unrealistic ideas about what Russia can achieve, or overstated fantasies about supposed US weakness, or simplistic ideas about the situation in and around Syria.


    Meanwhile, Putin – far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting – seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.
     
    It would be nice if Putin were an ethno-nationalist, but that in itself would bring problems for him. However, he is still a broadly conservative, moderately patriotic (by modern standards, certainly) leader. If that's not good enough for Russians, well that's their business not mine. All that concerns me is that he does a reasonable job of standing up to the threatened complete triumph of globalist leftism based in Washington, and he's doing that, so far.

    My opinion of his performance remains the same: he isn't an infallible superhuman genius (duh!), but he's playing a weak hand very well.

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  27. peterAUS says:
    @Randal
    Way too negative about the Russia government imo.

    This was surely not a Russian government operation, but rather a lightly armed private business venture, albeit in accordance with Russian overall objectives and using Russian contacts and mercenaries. If it had been a Russian government operation then either the force would have been more heavily armed and able to defend itself, or at the least the Russians would have told the Yanks not to attack it.

    If there's a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that's the case it's problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.

    Further, these were not Russian soldiers that were killed and there was no obvious duty on the part of the Russian government to protect them, still less to avenge them, nor any discredit to the Russian government for their loss.

    Well…be that as it may, still……..doesn’t reflect well on Russian effort there or elsewhere.

    Bottom line, the men of own ethnicity, fighting on our side, got killed by the opposition.
    Game, incompetence, doesn’t really matter.
    Doesn’t look good for morale, or quality recruitment/deployment of similar outfits.

    Any really good “Russian side” professional, after this, will have second thought about the venture in future.

    My guess is that the level of expertise there (merc outfits working on Russian side) will deteriorate.

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    • Replies: @Randal
    I don't disagree with what you suggest in the general sense, I just don't think it's necessarily a particularly big deal on this particular occasion, in these particular circumstances. Men who go on deniable non-government operations know that abandonment by their government is part of the job.

    Time will tell.
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  28. Chuck says:

    All a show for the dum dums.

    How are the Kurds being supplied given that they are supposedly surrounded by enemies?

    Read More
    • Agree: Tyrion 2
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  29. JL says:
    @Lemurmaniac
    It seems the problem with Putin was that his approach was always negative. He came to power in a country that had fallen apart, so he proceeded to identify the main things that had gone wrong and patch them up. But what does the Russian state stand for today? A sort of post-ideological technocratic governance designed to serve a bunch of elites who don't want to play by the rules of the Washington Consensus, yet are also remarkably unimaginative when it comes to articulating an alternative vision (besides lining their pockets).

    The traditional Russian political formulation of 'autocracy, orthodoxy, nationality' still makes sense for contemporary Russia. All three are rather weakly present within the Putinreich. Orthodoxy has made a bit of a comeback. However, if it was doing its job, the 'cult' of the Russian culture should be crushing the liberal urbanite in the big cities.

    Then we come to the 'autocracy' part. What's the point of a powerful centralized government if its exceedingly corrupt, poor at management (see lagging MoD projects), and purely reactive on foreign policy? Granted, Putin is quite good at reactions, but these are generally necessary because he's failed to preempt obvious Western demarches. After NATO shafted Russia by toppling Qaddafi (pbuh), someone with a brain should have seen another 'Kiev Spring' coming. I've read the Russian embassy in Kiev was run moronically, and was slow to respond to the developing situation. Where were the allegedly omnipotent Russian information warriors? Where were the special services? Where was the well-practiced 'emergency plan' for a colour revolution in the Ukraine? A smart government would have had Russian operators present in Kiev dressed as police to assure Yanukovych and his oligarchs Moscow had his back. Sure, Russia nabbed Crimea and through the wrench in the gearbox in the far east regions. However, so close to home, that's a consolation prize. The same could be said about Syria. If Syria is strategically important to the Kremlin, why wait until Damascus is about to fall in in 2015? Maybe it was a way to escape international isolation after 2014 events in Ukraine, which makes it yet another backfooted move rather than proactive policy. Oh, and don't forget Belarus flipping off Russia whenever its expedient to the aging mall security guard in charge.

    Lastly, Putin is exceedingly weak on 'nationality'. The Orthodox Eastern Slav is the backbone of the Russian state. He's the one who fights and dies for it, designs its weapons, and provides the cohesive force that allows the Russian machine to run. He's also the one taking hits in Eastern Ukraine while his elites play holographic 5D chess in the Kremlin. But whenever he asserts himself in full ethnic array (instead of merely enthusiastic cannon fodder), he's beaten down by the 'based' anti-racist Putinreich for disturbing the peace. And if there's one thing that leads to a crack up in a multi-ethnic state, its when the minorities sense the majority no longer possesses the will to secure their way of life. Never forget: the Kremlin was happy to let slide ethnic cleansing of WHITE EUROPEANS from Chechnya by Christendom's enemies. Not even cucked Western countries allow *physical* removal of whites yet on that scale.

    In short, while the Syria will probably be resolved largely in Russia's favour at the level of regional strategy, these tactical errors like this Wagner debacle point to deeper systematic faults within the creaking edifice of the post-Soviet state structure and ideology.

    If Syria is strategically important to the Kremlin, why wait until Damascus is about to fall in in 2015? Maybe it was a way to escape international isolation after 2014 events in Ukraine, which makes it yet another backfooted move rather than proactive policy.

    I agree with a lot of your analysis, but you have this completely backwards. Russia was planning on its Syria mission as early as 2013, well before Maidan was even a twinkle in the empire’s eye. The US aggression in the Ukraine was likely intended to preempt Russia’s entry into Syria and at least succeeded in delaying it until 2015.

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  30. @Dmitry

    Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad’s government is still in existence.
     
    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable - Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them. Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government's that possess them.

    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable – Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them.

    Questionable.

    I can imagine situations where a country’s leadership believed that it would not politically survive the loss of a war, and that the consequences of its political fall would be so bad that it’d warrant taking the risks.

    An easy example would be a limited strike against young Kim, for whom a political fall would mean certain death both for himself and for his family. Maybe he would take his chances with a nuclear war hoping that the Chinese (and maybe the Russians) would come to help him. It could result in his survival. Or, worse, he’d think he was already a dead man walking and just trying to avenge his own death.

    I read a decade ago that some Chinese authors were arguing that by losing its empire 1988-91, Russia lost as much or more than it would have lost in an all-out nuclear exchange. They were arguing that if there was a threat of a breakup of China, then the Chinese leadership should take the risk of nuclear war, because it could hardly be worse.

    For Putin, if he thought that he might lose a lot by losing power, he might decide he had very little to lose anyway.

    But I agree that conventional wars would be used first, like if his Syria contingent was wiped out, he’d maybe try to destroy a US CBG or something, then maybe occupying Ukraine. But what if he kept getting humiliated, like the US also did something in response, to which he’d have to respond, etc.

    Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government’s that possess them.

    It was not true during the Cuban Crisis, when tactical nukes were at the disposal of relatively low level commanders.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    Another point is that for the past several decades nuclear powers went to great lengths not to provoke each other. When Russian troops were fighting in Afghanistan, the Americans didn’t try to send troops there, and no one was talking about no fly zones there.

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them.

    There are at least two mechanisms for this. One is obvious, because the (conventionally) stronger party believes that it can get away with anything, it will slowly try to do anything.

    The other is no less dangerous: the weaker party might believe that nukes (especially strategic nukes) are so unlikely to be used, that they won’t be used in response to a small tactical nuke strike. For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes? In such a scenario, perhaps, no Russian forces would be left outside Russia, so the US would need to escalate into attacking Russian territory with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Russians would think it’d never happen?
    , @Philip Owen
    George Bush Snr, was strongly of the opinion that losing the dole queue of Central Asia and subsidy hungry Ukrainian agriculture would leave a Russia that was much stronger than the USSR. Colonies cost money.
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  31. @Felix Keverich
    I wonder if Wagner recruitment efforts suffered as a result of this debacle?

    I'd like to remind you that mercenary activity remains illegal in Russia. The Kremlin doesn't want it legalised because doing so will introduce a measure of accountability into it. The Kremlin needs secret, deniable meat. So my question is: do these men, who are breaking Russian laws to go to a faraway country to shoot some Arabs for $3000 per month, do they even care that they can die in a US airstrike? Honestly, I do not think they do. The kind of person who takes this job is either incredibly desperate or incredibly stupid, so American airstrikes will not deter them.

    On the other hand Wagner's financial position is going to suffer as they will have to compensate to so many grieving families. Perhaps, this will force them to be more careful with their personel in the future?

    …as they will have to compensate to so many grieving families…

    How many is exactly “so many”? Five? Six?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
    Somewhere between 5 and 644 if reports in the media are to be believed...This is Russia's own fault for trying to keep this information hidden. It encourages wild speculations.
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  32. @reiner Tor

    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable – Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them.
     
    Questionable.

    I can imagine situations where a country’s leadership believed that it would not politically survive the loss of a war, and that the consequences of its political fall would be so bad that it’d warrant taking the risks.

    An easy example would be a limited strike against young Kim, for whom a political fall would mean certain death both for himself and for his family. Maybe he would take his chances with a nuclear war hoping that the Chinese (and maybe the Russians) would come to help him. It could result in his survival. Or, worse, he’d think he was already a dead man walking and just trying to avenge his own death.

    I read a decade ago that some Chinese authors were arguing that by losing its empire 1988-91, Russia lost as much or more than it would have lost in an all-out nuclear exchange. They were arguing that if there was a threat of a breakup of China, then the Chinese leadership should take the risk of nuclear war, because it could hardly be worse.

    For Putin, if he thought that he might lose a lot by losing power, he might decide he had very little to lose anyway.

    But I agree that conventional wars would be used first, like if his Syria contingent was wiped out, he’d maybe try to destroy a US CBG or something, then maybe occupying Ukraine. But what if he kept getting humiliated, like the US also did something in response, to which he’d have to respond, etc.

    Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government’s that possess them.
     
    It was not true during the Cuban Crisis, when tactical nukes were at the disposal of relatively low level commanders.

    Another point is that for the past several decades nuclear powers went to great lengths not to provoke each other. When Russian troops were fighting in Afghanistan, the Americans didn’t try to send troops there, and no one was talking about no fly zones there.

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them.

    There are at least two mechanisms for this. One is obvious, because the (conventionally) stronger party believes that it can get away with anything, it will slowly try to do anything.

    The other is no less dangerous: the weaker party might believe that nukes (especially strategic nukes) are so unlikely to be used, that they won’t be used in response to a small tactical nuke strike. For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes? In such a scenario, perhaps, no Russian forces would be left outside Russia, so the US would need to escalate into attacking Russian territory with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Russians would think it’d never happen?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Randal
    What Dmitry was responding to was anon's assertion that:

    the Americans, Europeans, Turks, Israelis and Saudis have been absolutely certain since Day 1 of the Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad's government is still in existence.
     
    which was daft.

    You raise all sorts of possible mechanisms by which nuclear war could start, of varying levels of plausibility, but none of them involve the Russians striking back with nuclear weapons in response to conventional attacks on their forces in Syria.

    The risk of unintended escalation to nuclear war is certainly one reason why the US has refrained from using its escalation superiority in theatre to wipe out the Russian forces there, but that's rather a different matter.

    Naval nukes were always regarded as a slightly separate category, and attacks on naval forces with nuclear weapons were often hypothesized without assuming the high likelihood of direct retaliation on land that attacks on land would create. This was in some ways irrational, but it was nevertheless a thing.

    As for the use of tactical nukes on land, this is something the Americans are currently moving towards, not the Russians. Otherwise, the nuclear taboo still seems pretty strong and unlikely to be broken except in dire need. That dire need usually would mean an attack on core national interests of an existential scale. You can hypothesize about leaders launching attacks based upon threats to their own personal power and therefore existence, but in reality few dictators would probably be able to pull that off without getting bumped off by people around them first. Kim Jong Un perhaps (the obvious answer of course is not to launch any stupid "limited strike" attacks on North Korea), but it's frankly fanciful and rather silly to talk about Putin or the Chinese leadership in that context.

    Nuclear weapons are dangerous, obviously, but on the other hand they have almost certainly been the only thing that has prevented us suffering a third world war so far. Long may the nuclear peace continue.
    , @Ron Unz

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them...For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes?
     
    I'd probably disagree with the framework you're assuming...

    A few months back, Andrei Martyanov had a persuasive article arguing that Russia had achieved unexpected superiority in long-range (conventional) stand-off weapons, and these could easily be used to destroy very valuable U.S. assets in retaliation for a U.S. attack on the Syrian expeditionary force. Whether this would include a CBG is unclear, but many people have argued they've become extremely vulnerable to determined enemy action.

    The more important question is how the U.S. would react to such conventional destruction of such high-profile assets, certainly involving the deaths of many, many thousands of American servicemen. In my considered opinion, the unfortunate truth is that the American government is largely run by lunatics and imbeciles, who over the decades have increasingly begun believing their own extremist propaganda, with rational actors finding it more and more difficult to reach high positions.

    Since a highly destructive (retaliatory) attack against U.S. forces is "totally unthinkable," their response might be equally unthinkable, namely nuclear. Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and other world leaders seem perfectly rational by comparison.

    Furthermore, I would argue that the American society and economy right now is *incredibly* fragile against such a military defeat, and might easily collapse in revolution as a consequence. Bear in mind that over the last couple of decades, the bulk of American population has become totally impoverished, kept afloat only by unsustainable personal debt and an artificially high dollar, while developing a (perfectly reasonable if somewhat amorphous) burning hatred toward the ruling elites.

    Given gigantic American fiscal and trade deficits and the importation of nearly all consumer goods, a significant military defeat might easily lead to a dollar collapse, economic collapse, and a revolutionary situation of one sort or another.

    Put another way, despite what I read every morning in my NYT+WSJ, it's not at all clear to me that Kim's regime in North Korea is actually more fragile than our current government in DC/NYC...
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  33. Randal says:
    @reiner Tor

    If there’s a plausible conspiracy theory needed, the obvious candidate would be some kind of rivalry within the Russian elites whereby someone in the operation was told they would have protection (if only by warning the Americans off) but was betrayed. If that’s the case it’s problematic but not particularly significant in strategic terms.
     
    The only other explanation that I can think of is that the Americans sneakily attacked without warning. This would be basically Karlin’s blackpill scenario, which is unlikely, but it’s also so bad we shouldn’t even think about it.

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.

    If you ask me, that’s pretty bad in strategic terms. The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are. And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives. Meanwhile, Putin - far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting - seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.

    Can Russia afford to be run in such a manner against the still very much stronger US sphere?

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.

    It’s not a feudal empire and taking such an analogy and trying to draw conclusions from it will lead you astray.

    1 This was evidently not a Russian government operation, or it would have had better protection and/or the Americans would have been warned off.

    2 Clearly it involved people with very strong connections to the top levels of the Russian government.

    3 It seems to have been an operation intended to make money, but also one that is in line with overall Russian government objectives.

    The whole point of allowing such activities to go ahead is that the cost to the government if they go wrong is limited. So it was in this case. The Russians presumably suspected the Americans would resist any open military advance into the territory in question and aren’t ready to confront at that level yet. So they let this operation go ahead in the hope that it would succeed under the US radar. If it failed, not much would be lost.

    That seems the most obvious explanation. It’s a bit embarrassing, but overall simply not any big deal in the long run. Maybe it was a mistake, but it wasn’t a big one.

    The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are.

    This was not a Russian government operation.

    And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives.

    This simply ignores the colossal difficulty of the situation Russia is in, and has been in since the 1990s. They’ve done pretty well so far, considering the odds against them.

    Contrary to a lot of the talk, the intervention in Syria is already a huge triumph that has achieved all its main objectives. While that victory has brought with it many new problems, these are the unavoidable problems of success, and the increased influence and regional involvement that success has brought. Had the Russians not intervened, most likely we’d be looking at a jihadist or US puppet government in Damascus by now.

    A lot of the complaints about Putin’s supposed inaction seem to be based upon simply unrealistic ideas about what Russia can achieve, or overstated fantasies about supposed US weakness, or simplistic ideas about the situation in and around Syria.

    Meanwhile, Putin – far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting – seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.

    It would be nice if Putin were an ethno-nationalist, but that in itself would bring problems for him. However, he is still a broadly conservative, moderately patriotic (by modern standards, certainly) leader. If that’s not good enough for Russians, well that’s their business not mine. All that concerns me is that he does a reasonable job of standing up to the threatened complete triumph of globalist leftism based in Washington, and he’s doing that, so far.

    My opinion of his performance remains the same: he isn’t an infallible superhuman genius (duh!), but he’s playing a weak hand very well.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    The Americans told them before that they were to attack the lightly equipped force.

    I fail see why they couldn’t have told the Americans that there were Russians in it and cancel the attack. Or not tell the Americans, just immediately call them back. Though it would have been safer to tell them to hold off for an hour until the attackers could be ordered back.

    What is your theory what happened here and how it could happen?

    The Russian officer assuring the Americans that there were no Russians in the group didn’t know that there are “private” military contractors (again, Wagner is a GRU-run thing, otherwise it’d be illegal), or he just didn’t want to save them, or the contractors went ahead anyway despite being warned off by the Russian military? All cases look bad, they all point to serious incompetence on how the GRU runs this Wagner.
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  34. Randal says:
    @peterAUS
    Well...be that as it may, still........doesn't reflect well on Russian effort there or elsewhere.

    Bottom line, the men of own ethnicity, fighting on our side, got killed by the opposition.
    Game, incompetence, doesn't really matter.
    Doesn't look good for morale, or quality recruitment/deployment of similar outfits.

    Any really good "Russian side" professional, after this, will have second thought about the venture in future.

    My guess is that the level of expertise there (merc outfits working on Russian side) will deteriorate.

    I don’t disagree with what you suggest in the general sense, I just don’t think it’s necessarily a particularly big deal on this particular occasion, in these particular circumstances. Men who go on deniable non-government operations know that abandonment by their government is part of the job.

    Time will tell.

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  35. Randal says:
    @reiner Tor
    Another point is that for the past several decades nuclear powers went to great lengths not to provoke each other. When Russian troops were fighting in Afghanistan, the Americans didn’t try to send troops there, and no one was talking about no fly zones there.

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them.

    There are at least two mechanisms for this. One is obvious, because the (conventionally) stronger party believes that it can get away with anything, it will slowly try to do anything.

    The other is no less dangerous: the weaker party might believe that nukes (especially strategic nukes) are so unlikely to be used, that they won’t be used in response to a small tactical nuke strike. For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes? In such a scenario, perhaps, no Russian forces would be left outside Russia, so the US would need to escalate into attacking Russian territory with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Russians would think it’d never happen?

    What Dmitry was responding to was anon’s assertion that:

    the Americans, Europeans, Turks, Israelis and Saudis have been absolutely certain since Day 1 of the Syrian War that the Russians will 100% respond with tactical nuclear weapons against their assets and bases in the region if something like that was ever attempted. THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONLY REASON WHATSOEVER why Assad’s government is still in existence.

    which was daft.

    You raise all sorts of possible mechanisms by which nuclear war could start, of varying levels of plausibility, but none of them involve the Russians striking back with nuclear weapons in response to conventional attacks on their forces in Syria.

    The risk of unintended escalation to nuclear war is certainly one reason why the US has refrained from using its escalation superiority in theatre to wipe out the Russian forces there, but that’s rather a different matter.

    Naval nukes were always regarded as a slightly separate category, and attacks on naval forces with nuclear weapons were often hypothesized without assuming the high likelihood of direct retaliation on land that attacks on land would create. This was in some ways irrational, but it was nevertheless a thing.

    As for the use of tactical nukes on land, this is something the Americans are currently moving towards, not the Russians. Otherwise, the nuclear taboo still seems pretty strong and unlikely to be broken except in dire need. That dire need usually would mean an attack on core national interests of an existential scale. You can hypothesize about leaders launching attacks based upon threats to their own personal power and therefore existence, but in reality few dictators would probably be able to pull that off without getting bumped off by people around them first. Kim Jong Un perhaps (the obvious answer of course is not to launch any stupid “limited strike” attacks on North Korea), but it’s frankly fanciful and rather silly to talk about Putin or the Chinese leadership in that context.

    Nuclear weapons are dangerous, obviously, but on the other hand they have almost certainly been the only thing that has prevented us suffering a third world war so far. Long may the nuclear peace continue.

    Read More
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  36. @anonymous coward

    ...as they will have to compensate to so many grieving families...
     
    How many is exactly "so many"? Five? Six?

    Somewhere between 5 and 644 if reports in the media are to be believed…This is Russia’s own fault for trying to keep this information hidden. It encourages wild speculations.

    Read More
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  37. @reiner Tor

    Nobody (even if you put Zhirik in charged) is going to respond with nuclear weapons over anything except either full scale invasion of your home country (and even then it is debatable – Israel did not respond with nuclear weapons in 1973 War, so long as possibility of conventional means were not yet exhausted), or in response to other state using nuclear weapons on them.
     
    Questionable.

    I can imagine situations where a country’s leadership believed that it would not politically survive the loss of a war, and that the consequences of its political fall would be so bad that it’d warrant taking the risks.

    An easy example would be a limited strike against young Kim, for whom a political fall would mean certain death both for himself and for his family. Maybe he would take his chances with a nuclear war hoping that the Chinese (and maybe the Russians) would come to help him. It could result in his survival. Or, worse, he’d think he was already a dead man walking and just trying to avenge his own death.

    I read a decade ago that some Chinese authors were arguing that by losing its empire 1988-91, Russia lost as much or more than it would have lost in an all-out nuclear exchange. They were arguing that if there was a threat of a breakup of China, then the Chinese leadership should take the risk of nuclear war, because it could hardly be worse.

    For Putin, if he thought that he might lose a lot by losing power, he might decide he had very little to lose anyway.

    But I agree that conventional wars would be used first, like if his Syria contingent was wiped out, he’d maybe try to destroy a US CBG or something, then maybe occupying Ukraine. But what if he kept getting humiliated, like the US also did something in response, to which he’d have to respond, etc.

    Brushing aside the United States in 1945, nuclear weapons have ever after been deployed according to carefully regulated and planned MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy, involving many safeguards that have been developed within the government’s that possess them.
     
    It was not true during the Cuban Crisis, when tactical nukes were at the disposal of relatively low level commanders.

    George Bush Snr, was strongly of the opinion that losing the dole queue of Central Asia and subsidy hungry Ukrainian agriculture would leave a Russia that was much stronger than the USSR. Colonies cost money.

    Read More
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  38. Ron Unz says:
    @reiner Tor
    Another point is that for the past several decades nuclear powers went to great lengths not to provoke each other. When Russian troops were fighting in Afghanistan, the Americans didn’t try to send troops there, and no one was talking about no fly zones there.

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them.

    There are at least two mechanisms for this. One is obvious, because the (conventionally) stronger party believes that it can get away with anything, it will slowly try to do anything.

    The other is no less dangerous: the weaker party might believe that nukes (especially strategic nukes) are so unlikely to be used, that they won’t be used in response to a small tactical nuke strike. For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes? In such a scenario, perhaps, no Russian forces would be left outside Russia, so the US would need to escalate into attacking Russian territory with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Russians would think it’d never happen?

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them…For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes?

    I’d probably disagree with the framework you’re assuming…

    A few months back, Andrei Martyanov had a persuasive article arguing that Russia had achieved unexpected superiority in long-range (conventional) stand-off weapons, and these could easily be used to destroy very valuable U.S. assets in retaliation for a U.S. attack on the Syrian expeditionary force. Whether this would include a CBG is unclear, but many people have argued they’ve become extremely vulnerable to determined enemy action.

    The more important question is how the U.S. would react to such conventional destruction of such high-profile assets, certainly involving the deaths of many, many thousands of American servicemen. In my considered opinion, the unfortunate truth is that the American government is largely run by lunatics and imbeciles, who over the decades have increasingly begun believing their own extremist propaganda, with rational actors finding it more and more difficult to reach high positions.

    Since a highly destructive (retaliatory) attack against U.S. forces is “totally unthinkable,” their response might be equally unthinkable, namely nuclear. Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and other world leaders seem perfectly rational by comparison.

    Furthermore, I would argue that the American society and economy right now is *incredibly* fragile against such a military defeat, and might easily collapse in revolution as a consequence. Bear in mind that over the last couple of decades, the bulk of American population has become totally impoverished, kept afloat only by unsustainable personal debt and an artificially high dollar, while developing a (perfectly reasonable if somewhat amorphous) burning hatred toward the ruling elites.

    Given gigantic American fiscal and trade deficits and the importation of nearly all consumer goods, a significant military defeat might easily lead to a dollar collapse, economic collapse, and a revolutionary situation of one sort or another.

    Put another way, despite what I read every morning in my NYT+WSJ, it’s not at all clear to me that Kim’s regime in North Korea is actually more fragile than our current government in DC/NYC…

    Read More
    • Agree: Alden
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    I also read those articles, but was only half-convinced by them. Or not even half-convinced, because I now forgot to even think about it - otherwise I’d have mentioned it as a third scenario for a nuclear war. Which it essentially is.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have so often railed against idiotic American policy bringing us to the brink of a nuclear war, but I usually thought about the nuclear part being in response to the American attack. But you are correct, a nuclear attack might even be initiated by them as well.

    So:

    3) The party believed to be stronger initiates a limited attack on the weaker party’s forces in one area (like Syria), (correctly) believing that there will be no escalation out of theater. But they are surprised that the prey fights back and manages to cause unacceptable losses to the attacking forces in the theater. Then comes a Pearl Harbor type of moment when the propaganda manages to sell the counter-attack (like the loss of a carrier from which attacking planes were launched) as some kind of a sneaky attack, and then either launches an out of theater escalation (finally provoking a nuclear response) or simply goes literally nuclear to prevent retaliation.
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  39. @Randal

    So back to your explanation. You are proposing (as I also believe) that the Russian government is run like a fragmenting feudal empire where trust between vassals and suzerains is so low that they occasionally let the vassals be massacred by the enemy, either because they just want them killed, or because they cannot control them.
     
    It's not a feudal empire and taking such an analogy and trying to draw conclusions from it will lead you astray.

    1 This was evidently not a Russian government operation, or it would have had better protection and/or the Americans would have been warned off.

    2 Clearly it involved people with very strong connections to the top levels of the Russian government.

    3 It seems to have been an operation intended to make money, but also one that is in line with overall Russian government objectives.

    The whole point of allowing such activities to go ahead is that the cost to the government if they go wrong is limited. So it was in this case. The Russians presumably suspected the Americans would resist any open military advance into the territory in question and aren't ready to confront at that level yet. So they let this operation go ahead in the hope that it would succeed under the US radar. If it failed, not much would be lost.

    That seems the most obvious explanation. It's a bit embarrassing, but overall simply not any big deal in the long run. Maybe it was a mistake, but it wasn't a big one.


    The American empire is run more competently, at least the day to day operations sure are.
     
    This was not a Russian government operation.

    And I have to agree with Lemurmaniac here, the Russian grand strategy consists of responding to western initiatives.
     
    This simply ignores the colossal difficulty of the situation Russia is in, and has been in since the 1990s. They've done pretty well so far, considering the odds against them.

    Contrary to a lot of the talk, the intervention in Syria is already a huge triumph that has achieved all its main objectives. While that victory has brought with it many new problems, these are the unavoidable problems of success, and the increased influence and regional involvement that success has brought. Had the Russians not intervened, most likely we'd be looking at a jihadist or US puppet government in Damascus by now.

    A lot of the complaints about Putin's supposed inaction seem to be based upon simply unrealistic ideas about what Russia can achieve, or overstated fantasies about supposed US weakness, or simplistic ideas about the situation in and around Syria.


    Meanwhile, Putin – far from the white nationalist hero some were projecting – seems to have reduced the freedom of speech of nationalists in Russia.
     
    It would be nice if Putin were an ethno-nationalist, but that in itself would bring problems for him. However, he is still a broadly conservative, moderately patriotic (by modern standards, certainly) leader. If that's not good enough for Russians, well that's their business not mine. All that concerns me is that he does a reasonable job of standing up to the threatened complete triumph of globalist leftism based in Washington, and he's doing that, so far.

    My opinion of his performance remains the same: he isn't an infallible superhuman genius (duh!), but he's playing a weak hand very well.

    The Americans told them before that they were to attack the lightly equipped force.

    I fail see why they couldn’t have told the Americans that there were Russians in it and cancel the attack. Or not tell the Americans, just immediately call them back. Though it would have been safer to tell them to hold off for an hour until the attackers could be ordered back.

    What is your theory what happened here and how it could happen?

    The Russian officer assuring the Americans that there were no Russians in the group didn’t know that there are “private” military contractors (again, Wagner is a GRU-run thing, otherwise it’d be illegal), or he just didn’t want to save them, or the contractors went ahead anyway despite being warned off by the Russian military? All cases look bad, they all point to serious incompetence on how the GRU runs this Wagner.

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  40. @Ron Unz

    The firmer the belief that nukes won’t be used, the more likely they will be used, similarly to how financial crises are more likely when no one is expecting them...For example what makes you think that if the US attacked Russian forces in Syria, and the Russians destroyed a CBG with a tactical nuclear strike, then the US would respond with nukes?
     
    I'd probably disagree with the framework you're assuming...

    A few months back, Andrei Martyanov had a persuasive article arguing that Russia had achieved unexpected superiority in long-range (conventional) stand-off weapons, and these could easily be used to destroy very valuable U.S. assets in retaliation for a U.S. attack on the Syrian expeditionary force. Whether this would include a CBG is unclear, but many people have argued they've become extremely vulnerable to determined enemy action.

    The more important question is how the U.S. would react to such conventional destruction of such high-profile assets, certainly involving the deaths of many, many thousands of American servicemen. In my considered opinion, the unfortunate truth is that the American government is largely run by lunatics and imbeciles, who over the decades have increasingly begun believing their own extremist propaganda, with rational actors finding it more and more difficult to reach high positions.

    Since a highly destructive (retaliatory) attack against U.S. forces is "totally unthinkable," their response might be equally unthinkable, namely nuclear. Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and other world leaders seem perfectly rational by comparison.

    Furthermore, I would argue that the American society and economy right now is *incredibly* fragile against such a military defeat, and might easily collapse in revolution as a consequence. Bear in mind that over the last couple of decades, the bulk of American population has become totally impoverished, kept afloat only by unsustainable personal debt and an artificially high dollar, while developing a (perfectly reasonable if somewhat amorphous) burning hatred toward the ruling elites.

    Given gigantic American fiscal and trade deficits and the importation of nearly all consumer goods, a significant military defeat might easily lead to a dollar collapse, economic collapse, and a revolutionary situation of one sort or another.

    Put another way, despite what I read every morning in my NYT+WSJ, it's not at all clear to me that Kim's regime in North Korea is actually more fragile than our current government in DC/NYC...

    I also read those articles, but was only half-convinced by them. Or not even half-convinced, because I now forgot to even think about it – otherwise I’d have mentioned it as a third scenario for a nuclear war. Which it essentially is.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have so often railed against idiotic American policy bringing us to the brink of a nuclear war, but I usually thought about the nuclear part being in response to the American attack. But you are correct, a nuclear attack might even be initiated by them as well.

    So:

    3) The party believed to be stronger initiates a limited attack on the weaker party’s forces in one area (like Syria), (correctly) believing that there will be no escalation out of theater. But they are surprised that the prey fights back and manages to cause unacceptable losses to the attacking forces in the theater. Then comes a Pearl Harbor type of moment when the propaganda manages to sell the counter-attack (like the loss of a carrier from which attacking planes were launched) as some kind of a sneaky attack, and then either launches an out of theater escalation (finally provoking a nuclear response) or simply goes literally nuclear to prevent retaliation.

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  41. Singh says:
    @WHAT
    Putting wagnergate aside(trusting bezos post on anything, Anatoly, really?), I can`t for the life of me figure out the reason for flying T-50s(let`s not delude ourselves, it is still very much in development, and will be only half-a-plane until new engines are in) in Syria.
    What does it actually accomplish? Demonstrating your newest(and quite secret) plane radar signatures to the zhid and eternal anglo? Creating a setup for a horrible PR should something bad happen, like Anatoly pointed out?
    It`s hardly a successful sales pitch like Su-34 deployment was, when there was a whole lot of opportunities to show off strike platform capabilities. What would T-50 even attack, ISIS air superiority fighters?

    I hope Andrey can drop by and explain it.

    Indian budget coming up soon।।

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  42. FB says:

    Holy smokes…

    What a daft article…followed as if on cue by even more daft commentary…

    Where are actual facts here…?

    Pro-government forces…including some Russian contractors were apparently attacked at the Conico Gas Field…

    Why is this geographic tidbit important…and why is not mentioned in any of this harebrained discussion…?

    Here is the context of what is actually going on in Syria…especially on the east side of the Euphrates that is held by the US…

    We first note how late last year the ‘Kurdish’ SDF managed to make a quick end run around the advancing SAA which had already taken the last ISIS bastion Deir Ezzor…and quickly capture huge swaths of territory on the left bank of the river where all the oil and gas fields are…

    We had reports and even photos at the time [check Moon of Alabama and other independent outlets] of US military meeting with senior Arab tribal leaders that had been in the ISIS camp to that point in time…

    Those watching the daily position reports from the front lines [via South Front] could see something very fishy unfolding…the US-backed SDF just waltzed right into those oil and gas fields without so much as firing a bullet…

    But the situation is even more complex…not all Arab tribes in the area are on the same page…[there were never any Kurds in that area of the Euphrates valley...their territory is to the east near the Turkish frontier...]

    But back to the tribes…the pro-government Al Bakara tribe [one of the major Sunni Arab tribes]…which suffered most of the casualties in that ‘purported’ US bombardment on February 7…was in the thick of this intrigue…

    Some reports were that some Arabs nominally in the SDF camp…after that US ‘diplomatic’ offensive that preceded the cakewalk into the oil and gas fields…were not exactly on board with the Americans and especially not under the Kurdish aegis…

    There was talk at least from the government side that those oil and gas fields were a subject of negotiations with the actual people in that area…ie things were still in flux…the US ‘diplomatic offensive’ to coopt the previously ISIS aligned tribes may not have been a slam dunk as was simply assumed in all quarters…

    This was the context of those lightly armed forces walking in there…were they coming to fight or to horse-trade…?

    Here is one article from Southfront that gives some nuts and bolts…

    There is much fog of war here…about everything that may or may not have happened…and certainly as to what was really going on behind the scenes…

    To take some WaPo BS as a juymping off point…and then to wade hip deep into navel gazing about Putin’s hold on various elements and oligarchs…is just bizarre…

    Get a grip…this is a war zone…with many unpredictable local players about which we know nothing… and a fluid situation that may change from one day to the next…

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