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Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Full House

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An unmanned SpaceX Dragon freighter successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday, bring with it 7,700 pounds of cargo, including two new solar arrays for the station.

So far, so standard.

But what intrigued me is that it means there are now six spacecraft docked at the ISS, filling up all the ports.

Here’s a diagram of the situation.

So the spacecraft are:

  • Progress 81 and 82 are Russian Soyuz spacecraft converted to carry cargo to the ISS (and take rubbish away)
  • Soyuz MS-22 is a Russian crewed spacecraft that can carry three passengers. Although they’ve been hugely upgraded they’re still the same basic spacecraft that first flew in the late 1960’s, which is okay because they’re solid, safe and reliable.
  • Crew-5 Dragon is a SpaceX spacecraft that can carry up to seven passengers, but usually carries just four.
  • CRS-26 Cargo Dragon is the same basic spacecraft but, like the Progress vessels, carries cargo and trash. It was developed before Crew-Dragon, which is a smart way to develop such a vehicle.
  • Cygnus-18 is another cargo ship, this one developed by Northrop-Grumman.

In a couple of years the ISS will lose one of these ports for some time when an outfit called Axiom will launch a module that will attach to the ISS for testing before it casts off to become (hopefully) the first private space station. It’s a good way to leverage off the ISS and reduce the risk of trying to go independent right from the start. There are several private space station efforts underway to do much the same thing, which is good because current plans are to de-orbit the ISS in 2030, when it will be 32 years old.

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Written by Tom Hunter

December 2, 2022 at 3:36 pm

Immaculate self-conception

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No, not Trump.

Russia.

With the end of the US elections nearly in sight – counting of mail-in ballots in some areas to be completed by Christmas because that’s how First World democracies roll – it’s time to focus attention back to other things.

Like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’ve found some interesting stuff on both Putin and the war itself but those are for other days and other posts.

This one’s more about the psychology of an entire nation as Kazakh expat Azamat Junisbai has some very interesting observations seeking to explain wide support in Russia for the war against Ukraine.

Russian society famously underwent extreme upheavals in the 20th century. Revolutions, World Wars, emergence and collapse of the USSR – the dizzying magnitude of change and disruption is hard to exaggerate. Yet, amidst all the turmoil, one part of the Russian worldview persisted.

The remarkably stable and enduring phenomenon transcending different historical periods and regime types is the self-conception of Russia as a great power that brings good to those around it and Russian people as bearers of superior culture and morality. Deeply internalized, the idea of its own benevolence has long permeated and shaped Russian society. In this narrative, unlike the old European powers guilty of ruthless colonial conquest, Russia is a selfless bringer of culture, prosperity, and order.

The view of Russia as a big brother bestowing its blessings on the lesser people around it is ubiquitous among Russians of all political persuasions. In this narrative, Russia’s neighbours are perpetually indebted to it. The relationship is always unequal.

The word “gift” features prominently. The gifts include Russian language, literature, music, and art. But also science and, even, modernity itself. Naturally, in this worldview, Russians are superior and those on the receiving end of Russia’s largesse are expected to be grateful.

Russia’s view of Central Asians is unabashedly and unapologetically racist, of the “we taught you how to piss standing up” variety. Russia’s long-standing view of Ukrainians is more complex but equally pernicious and condescending.

But read the whole thing.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 14, 2022 at 11:01 am

Posted in Russia, Ukraine

Tagged with

Nordstream and its PMCS (Update)

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(Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services)

I don’t usually shift a post just because it’s updated but this seems worth doing because there have been some new and very interesting information updates.

First up is this diagram from a booklet called, CAPP Guidelines for the Prevention and Safe Handling of Hydrates, Canadian Assn. of Petroleum Producers (1994):

Then there’s this map of the pipelines and the points where the explosions occurred.

Plus this news from Reuters on September 6, Gazprom: off-line Nord Stream compressor station now deemed hazardous. That’s part of the system needed to keep the pressure up. If pressure drops on one side of a methane hydrate plug it’s going to move, possibly quite fast – until it hits a bend. The author also points out that a “pig” that is regularly run through such pipelines (pushed along by the gas) to clean it up would not have gone in this case for months while the pipelines sat idle.

Also, this piece of history involving Russian gas pipelines: the Ufa train disaster in the USSR, which I had never heard of and which apparently most people have not because it happened on June 4, 1989 – the same day that the Chinese Army hit the protesters at Tiananmen Square, so that’s where the world’s media focused its attention. Video here.

==========================================

This post is a follow-up to Lucia’s post, Who Blew Up Nordstream?, and it’s based on a post at the Lawdog blog which argues that it simply may have been a combination of factors that attend all such undersea pipelines.

Since I’m very much a fan of the cockup-not-conspiracy mode of thinking in cases like this, I’m rather inclined to his explanations which he offers…. hesitantly:

crosses self
“Hail Mary, full of grace …”
Ok, the Nord pipeline incidents.
Sigh. I shouldn’t do this, but …

He goes on to describe his world of growing up in oilfields and continuing to have an interest in them as an author. He points out that explosive things tend to happen with all sorts of fossil fuels all the time, and that sabotage is not the thing that usually comes to mind:

“But, LawDog,” I hear you say, “It was multiple explosions!”

Yes, 17 hours apart. No military is going to arrange for two pipes in the same general area to be destroyed 17 hours apart. Not without some Spec Ops guy having a fit of apoplexy. One pipe goes up in a busy shipping lane, in a busy sea, and everyone takes notice. Then you wait 17 hours to do the second — with 17 hours for people to show up and catch you running dirty? Nah, not buying it.

Instead he points some nasty aspects of pipelines carrying gas and running under the sea:

“But what issues could happen in an undersea pipeline that could cause ruptures?”

Oh, my sweet summer child. Many, many, many. You might go far as to ask, “What issues won’t cause a rupture in an undersea pipeline?” — It’d be easier to list. However, in this case involving a natural gas pipeline under the pressure of 300 to 360 feet (8 atmospheres to 10 atm.) of water, I’d like you to turn your eyes towards a fun little quirk of nature called “methane hydrates”.

Under the right combination of pressure, temperature, and with the presence of water in natural gas/methane, solid hydrates will form in a pipeline and it’s a constant battle to stop them forming. That battle becomes tougher when the gas is not flowing,

Near as I can tell — and do correct me if I’m wrong — Russia charged Nord 2 with 300 million cubic metres of natural gas in July of 2021 … and it never moved. It just sat there. Under 300 to 360 feet of salt water. To quote an email from a petroleum engineer: “Holy Jesus, that [deleted] pipline is one hairy snowball from end-to-end!”

Nord 1 got shut down after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the gas hasn’t moved since. Just … hanging around. At the bottom of a sea. Yeah, it’s Russia. Those pipes are sodding well FULL of hydrates.

At which point you can get a methane hydrate so big that it blocks the entire pipe. Getting rid of such a thing is tricky and involves slow (very slow) depressurisation from both ends of the pipe. Or you can do it another way:

Funny enough, this actually happened in Siberia in 2000-ish. Pipeline got a nice-sized hydrate plug, and the muckity-mucks at Gazprom got annoyed at how long it was taking to deal with it. Lot’s of yelling, and the Ops guy sent Some Random Schmuck down to the site of the plug with a butane torch, and orders to warm up the pipe to speed up the melting at the plug/pipe interface. Simple, right? There’s no way a butane torch has enough oompf to overcome the thermal mass of a pipeline and burn a hole through the line.

It didn’t. The heat from the torch caused a small pocket of the hydrate to sublimate into gas, the overpressure involved ruptured the pipe and opened a jet of natural gas right into the flame of the torch. Random Schmuck did not, we think (not sure they found anything of him) survive this experience, nor did several miles of very expensive pipeline.

He theorises that the Russians wanted to keep the line ready to pump gas just in case Europe got desperate and/or the war in Ukraine ended or both:

So, Somebody In Charge started running checks — and came up with hydrate slurry in both pipelines. After the running in circles, hyperventilating, and shrieking of curse-words stopped, somebody started trying to remediate both lines. Of course they didn’t tell folks down stream — no Russian want to look weak, and besides, there’s been a nasty uptick in failed Russian oligarchs getting accidentally defenestrated — they just unilaterally tried to Fix Things.

As he says, he doesn’t discount the idea of sabotage – and that’s certainly the opinion of the Germans and the British – because “That area is too full of idiots”, but this is a very realistic possibility.

Of course when it comes to escalation of the war it may not matter. Gavrilo Princip and his mates were fucking idiots too, but there just happened to be bigger issues already at play.

Speaking of fucking idiots and alternative explanations….

Written by Tom Hunter

October 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

A TALE OF TWO THUGS – VLAD AND ADOLF

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So Vlad has annexed a large part of the Ukraine on the back of a decidedly shonky referendum condemned by the world as neither free nor fair with the yes vote reaching 99.2% in the Donetsk People Republic rivaling that of North Korean elections … spare a thought for those 0.08% brave souls voting no and now facing a decidedly precarious future.

Students of history will note the striking similarity to the plebiscite ordered by Hitler as part of Anschluss (the annexation of Austria in 1938) which saw 99.7% of Austrians voting in favour of union with Nazi Gremany. Like in the Ukraine the vote in Austria was neither free nor fair. Take for example the little municipality of Innervillgraten (population 829 in in 1939). In Chancellor Schuschnigg’s cancelled plebiscite on whether in seek union with German vs maintaining Austria’s independence 95% of voters chose the latter option. Just one month later the vote was 73.3% in favour of Anschluss … a mind boggling turnaround.

Putin will now claim that any attempt by the Ukrainian military to continue their advance into the disputed territory will constitute an attack on the ‘родина’ (motherland) and that he is justified is using all means at his disposal (including nukes) to defend Russian territory. Dangerous times indeed.

Hitler and Putin are birds of a feather … same sort of DNA … ultra nationalist vs Nazi. Spot the difference if you can.

And all against the backdrop of when Kiwi troops were fighting the German in the battles for Greece and Crete Putins predecessor was delivering strategic war materials to Nazi German in accordance with the provisions of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact.

Written by The Veteran

October 1, 2022 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Russia

Tagged with ,

Who blew up Nord Stream?

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Was it the Russians or the Americans? Or maybe the Ukrainians? Which ever side you land on seems to be an almost ideological position, making it difficult to really explore the question. However, Mark Stein is not afraid of doing so, with his guest, James Melville:

People say, well this couldn’t be the Americans because Denmark and Germany are their NATO allies. Well, when they bugged out of Kabul, they didn’t let the British or anybody else know that they were abandoning Bagram Airbase. Those guys just woke up in the morning and found that all the Yanks had left! So, so, if they were doing something like this, it’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t let the Danes and the Germans in on it?

Mark Stein

Full 1 hour Mark Stein Show of which the above clip is just one small part.

Sky News Australia host, Chris Kenny is likewise not afraid of tacking the questions, with his guest, Global Directions think tank Managing Director Keith Suter:

Through the pipeline, Russia has a source to almost unlimited earnings from Europe by selling gas, if it chooses to; but also, it’s main point of leverage over Europe over energy, so why would it blow up it’s own key, strategic, link?

Chris Kenny

Recently, however, Jordan Peterson did suggest that Russia would be likely to turn off the gas at some point, so maybe there is an argument to be made that Russia did it. Though, turning off the gas versus damaging the pipe so that it would take time to repair before it could be used again seems to be an extreme way of reducing gas supply to Europe.

NZ Disinformation Project key researcher, Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa considers anyone not falling into line in the correct manner (as determined by who, in particular?) to be promoting Russian propaganda:

Everyone’s an expert or a propagandist; or maybe people are just trying to figure out what the hell is going on and maybe, just maybe, are trying to find a way out that doesn’t involve plunging the whole world into a war that destroys everything and everyone in it’s path.

Meanwhile, just streamed live discussion run by Tim Poole, who is the intersection between my generation Gen X, and my Gen-Z sons. They will watch Tim, when he interviews people they watch, while as he also interviews people I watch. In the video below, they start the discussion on NATO threatening retaliation from the 5 minute mark:

I’m assuming they are not talking about Nord Stream, but they might be, because Germany relies on it. But it’s a weird thing, because; I’m trying to figure out what they are trying to say. Ok, are they blaming Russia for it, directly: no; but several member states are. If they are, it’s very weird that they are like: Our adversary’s infrastructure was like blown up and we’ll retaliate if someone blows up our infrastructure; it’s like; it sounds like you blew it up, and now you’re worried they’re going to blow up yours.

Tim Poole

Written by Lucia Maria

September 30, 2022 at 1:35 pm

Another one bites the concrete

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De dunt, dunt, dunt,…. de da da dunt….

If you’ve never seen it, the movie, The Hunt For Red October is excellent, one of the few adaptations of a best selling book that is as good as the original material (accepting the usual limitations and short cuts of Hollywood).

Towards the end of the movie, with all the action done, there’s a funny scene where the Soviet Ambassador – having been part of the original bullshit story about Red October being a threat to the USA in order to get the Yanks to help sink it – has to admit to the US Secretary of Defence another terrible truth, to which the Secretary has only one answer:

And so we come to another edition of my original post..The Mystery of The Dead Russian Oligarchs.

Ex-Putin Ally Plunges to His Death ‘From a Great Height’ at Moscow Aviation Institute:

An aviation expert has become the latest Russian official to fall to his death in mysterious circumstances.

Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former head of Moscow’s Aviation Institute (MAI), died in a mysterious fall inside the institute’s headquarters in the Russian capital on Tuesday.

The organization’s press office released a statement describing the 73-year-old’s death as “the result of an accident,” adding that his untimely demise was a “a colossal loss for the MAI and the scientific and pedagogical community.”

Russian news outlet Izvestia, citing an unnamed source, reported that Gerashchenko “fell from a great height” and careened down several flights of stairs. He was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene.

AYFKM?

Seriously. Can’t we go back to Polonium-210 poisoning? It’s so much more elegant in terms of “You know who did this – and you can’t prove it”

Ok, this is not jumping out of a window but still….

Funnily enough the Soviet Ambassador in that clip is named Andrei.

Hey, I think the lyrics can be easily re-worked.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 22, 2022 at 7:07 pm

IS HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?

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Student’s of history will know that the Russian mobilisation on 30 July 1914 was the catalyst for WW1. 2 days later Germany responded with its own mobilisation and declaration of war on Russia, On 2 August Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. The next day Great Britain declared war on Germany with Sir Edward Grey (British Foreign Secretary) reportedly saying ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime’.

Is it too dramatic to suggest that with Putin’s declaration of partial mobilisation we are seeing history repeating itself. I think not. Putin has backed himself into a corner and has been forced to come out swinging … that along with his less than subtle references to the use of nuclear weapons is raising the temperature to boiling point. The problem for Putin and the West is that a diplomatic solution (if that were ever possible) is clearly now off the table. Putin has to win otherwise his presidency is at risk and he knows that. I guess he is counting on the continued domestic turmoil in the US in the lead up to the mid-term elections to give him space to act but he shouldn’t necessarily count on that.

We certainly live in dangerous times.

I’m sure Andrei and those Russian trolls working out of 57 Messines Road will have an entirely different view of developments … it’s the West’s fault and Russia’s special military operation is going entirely to plan … LOL.

No, this doesn’t foretell my return to NM as a regular blogger but I did say I retained the right to occasionally post on matters of great importance and this, by any measure, meets that criteria. One slip- up and nuclear war is in the offing.

Written by The Veteran

September 22, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Russia

Tagged with ,

It’s Just a Feint Wound

with 10 comments

In Ukraine back in April, after it became obvious that the initial Russian plan of a quick decapitation of the Ukraine government and military had failed, the Russians decided to withdraw from the NorthEast and Northern parts of the country, giving up on taking the capital of Kyiv and sending their forces into the SouthEast and Southwest to hold the gains made there and enlarge them.

Russophiles immediately proclaimed that this was a “feint” designed to overwhelm the Ukranians in the Donbas. I doubted that, having already pointed out a month earlier that:

The failure to quickly achieve its objectives may see it resort to more … traditional Russian tactics where they’ll stand off from targets and hit them with artillery and rockets, keep firing until there’s no longer even rubble to bounce, and then occupy the place.

Shelled Ukrainian fields

Which is exactly what started to happen in the Donbas. Swamping areas with artillery fire, moving in troops, and then moving cautiously beyond the captured areas, taking care to stay within range of resupply. But that kind of movement takes time, and was never going to create the conditions for a fast, significant advance. What you saw was a lot of stuff that looked like the Western Front in WWI, or more pointedly what was seen on the Eastern Front in 1944-45.

But you’d have to ask how much actual military damage was being done to the Ukrainians as opposed to their fields.

The primary focus of Russian artillery is what can be seen from the front lines. It looks like the proliferation of MANPADS is preventing Russian drones from operating beyond the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA). Without drones and with what appears to me minimal electronic warfare capability, Russian artillery can’t hit targets deep behind the lines. Instead, the Russians are swamping areas with artillery fire and moving cautiously beyond them, taking care to stay within range of resupply. This kind of movement takes time, and it will never create the conditions for a significant advance.

Given the documented failure of Russian Army logistics (March 24) there was never going to be a repeat of the mad dash to Kyiv or anywhere else. Then there were the problems with the men of the Russian Army themselves:

The Russian army has always been brutal and clumsy, with senior officers treating troops as cannon fodder and not caring about their lives, which is not unique to the current iteration of the Russian Army.

But that can be overcome to a degree if you have a decent mid-level officer corps and a NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) level to lead men in close quarter combat. However, that’s not what has happened in the last decade of trying to transform the Russian Army. Read this Twitter thread about the experiences of ordinary officers like Dr. Andrei Ivanov and Lieutenant Kirill Olenyev for another insight into why their Army has adopted WWI tactics:

Lieutenant Kirill Olenyev, a logistics officer, found himself in a similar situation. He was posted to a unit in Yoshkar-Ola but found himself being used for menial labour, prompting his decision to quit a year later. Olenyev’s pay was low, he had no free time, and his duties were limited to shoveling earth, cleaning his unit’s area and mowing the grass – things for which, he noted, he did not need to spend five years studying at a military university.

Without officers like that you’re left with troops that are poorly led, take no initiative and simply follow orders, which then requires more senior officers to get involved – which is why so many generals have been killed in this war.

Moreover ordinary soldiers weren’t told anything about why they were fighting Ukrainians except that they were Nazis and the local civilians would welcome them with garlands of flowers for having saved them: a story that was never going to hold up when they got into combat and saw who they were fighting and killing! Soldiers who were brothers of the soil basically – and no flowers from the civilians.

But the modern age has also added corruption to the Russian Army’s problems:

  • Units full of ghost soldiers where officers would declare they had 500 men, when they only had 350 and pocketing the pay difference.
  • Troops who never trained properly because corrupt officers and contractors were selling the fuel and equipment allocated for exercises on the black market.
  • Helmets made in 1945, because corrupt contractors simply did not make the new ones that were paid or even delivering dirt-cheap fibre glass ones.
  • Russian body armour using cheap steel plates instead of kevlar.
  • Forty year old rations inside packages stamped “manufactured in 2020”.
  • Contracts being pushed beyond the legal limit in order to retain soldiers.
  • Most of their reserve tanks long since stripped of anything valuable.

All of this has added up to very low morale and soldiers that do the bare minimum in order to stay safe before bugging out rather than fight. As you can imagine, if they survive their contract, they’re not re-enlisting for another.

But occupying artillery soaked land can work even with this model. Ground was being slowly gained in Southern Ukraine and in a war of attrition it’s the big boy that wins – eventually – or so the thinking went in many places other than just Russia:

Vladimir Putin bets he can throw in more men and more shells than Ukraine and its Western suppliers can match. He is quite willing to “win” by laying waste to eastern Ukraine even if it means losing three Russian soldiers for every Ukrainian.  When war becomes such gridlocked carnage, each side looks to new game-changing diplomacy, strategies, allies, or weapons to break the deadlock.

For Putin, such escalation means more flesh, steel, and explosives. His country is 28 times bigger than Ukraine, and over three times more populous, with an economy 15 times larger. As for Putin’s financial reserves, the Western oil boycott means increasingly little to him when 40 percent of the planet’s population in India and China are eager to secure near-limitless Russian energy. 

Strangulation then from April to August, and there’s only one way to break that; an offensive. The real question was whether a Ukrainian Army – derived from the old Red Army and equipped with much the same weapons – would be able to pull that off any better?

Turns out that they could and a big part of it was the key phrase, “game-changing weapons“. As that article by Strieff above points out, the West began sending modern artillery (the US M-777), self-propelled artillery (all 155mm stuff) that was farther reaching and more accurate than the Russian weapons, plus the US M-270 Multiple Rocket Launch System and the M-142 HIMARS artillery rocket system. They also started training the Ukrainian troops to use them and loaded them with ammunition, including the GPS-guided M-982 Excalibur round. Excalibur can hit targets as much as 40 miles away with about 2 meters accuracy.

As even this Russian expert was noting in early August, such weapons would make a difference. Ruslan Pukhov is the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies and closely affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Defence – emphasis on artillery:

The SMO once again confirmed the thesis that you can launch hundreds, thousands of unguided projectiles, which are cheap, but all this power is levelled by two guided missiles that accurately hit the target. Two missiles, with all their high cost, will solve more problems than thousands of unguided ones.

Moreover, we have a lot of 122-mm howitzers, which generally fire for only 13 km. Modern Western artillery is more long-range – first of all, we are talking about 155-mm howitzers with a barrel length of 39 caliber, and especially 52 caliber – the latter have a range of up to 40-41 km. The problem of the USSR and Russia lagging behind in the range of artillery fire has been obvious since the eighties, sadly.

In essence, in an offensive they have the same tactical problems as the Russian side – the attacking forces are usually few in number, they come under fire from artillery (which usually cannot be suppressed) and quickly roll back or are unable to hold the newly occupied positions, armoured vehicles are struck massively. Let’s see if the Ukrainians turn out to be something more in this regard.

Through August there were many reports that this new artillery and the HIMARS systems were starting to take out Russian ammunition dumps and artillery positions far behind the frontlines, effectively pushing their artillery back to where they couldn’t cover the troops as well. They were also used for attacks on key road and rail bridges. There were also attacks by Ukrainian partisans and or Special Ops units far behind the lines – especially two seperate attacks on the Saki airbase in Crimea, which destroyed a few planes and forced the others to move to bases even further in the rear, making their support even more fragile.

It all added up to what is called “shaping the battlefield”; preparing the ground for an attack. The final cherry on top was that the Ukrainians seemed to have pulled off their own feint – a real one this time – with President Zelenski openly talking about an offensive in the South against the so-called Kherson Front, causing the Russians to move troops there in preparation, including pulling them from the Kharkiv Front in the North. Most Western observers figured that the latter was a backwater.

Turns out that it wasn’t and as a result, when the Ukrainians hit it on September 6 with fresh, well-trained, well-equipped formations, the advance was everything the Russians had not been able to achieve. At one stage they moved 50 kilometres in two days. Given the amount of propaganda that any war involves – and with the prevalence of Social Media this war pushes it hard – I did not want to comment until the dust had cleared. But by the 10th there was no doubt about the advances, with photos appearing showing Ukrainian troops in cities far behind Russian lines, including the vital road and rail link of Kupyansk, which had been discussed as a goal but likely not a doable one.

Russia abandoned it on Sep 10. With that news and then reports coming from the Pro-Russian Telegram Channel Rybar of the towns of Oskil and then Lyman, well to the South of Kupyansk, falling, it was clear that the Russian front was not just retreating but collapsing, abandoning large amounts of equipment – some of it state-of-the-art.

There seemed to be no massed artillery fire in defence, nor support from the Russian Air Force. Given the “shaping” operations described above that should not have come as a surprise.

The final denouements started with official statements from the Kremlin about a “re-grouping” and an “organised withdrawal” from the next big town of Izyum to defend the Donbas. This did not fool people like the Russian ultranationalist Igor Girkin, who openly attacked the Russian military, followed by military bloggers and talk show guests. Finally the Kremlin made it official:

The Kremlin acknowledged its defeat in Kharkiv Oblast, the first time Moscow has openly recognized a defeat since the start of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Kremlin officials and state media propagandists are extensively discussing the reasons for the Russian defeat in Kharkiv Oblast, a marked change from their previous pattern of reporting on exaggerated or fabricated Russian successes with limited detail. The Kremlin never admitted that Russia was defeated around Kyiv or, later, at Snake Island, framing the retreat from Kyiv as a decision to prioritize the “liberation” of Donbas and the withdrawal from Snake Island as a “gesture of goodwill.”

Kremlin sources are now working to clear Putin of any responsibility for the defeat, instead blaming the loss of almost all of occupied Kharkiv Oblast on underinformed military advisors within Putin’s circle.

After two weeks Ukraine has recovered some 3000 square kilometres that it took the Russians four months to obtain. In the face of setbacks Russophiles have often proclaimed, “Look at the maps”, showing how much of Ukraine they occupy.

Yeah! I’m looking- from March 9 to Sep 13.

This war is not over by a long shot, but it’s even less of a foregone conclusion now than ever. The Ukranians have not been able to maintain this tempo since Sep 13/14, as expected when logistics supply lines are stretched and sheer battle exhaustion and machine wear and tear hit, though they may be able to continue to advance slowly.

Were everyone honest with themselves, I think the Ukrainians are probably just as surprised by the outcome of the Kharkiv offensive as the Russians. The difference is that the Ukrainians will come out of this with high morale and increased confidence in their equipment, tactics, chain of command, and themselves. The Russian units that were mauled over the past week and a half will take months to recover, perhaps never.

The next big questions: what can the Russian military do in response, and what can Putin do?

Written by Tom Hunter

September 18, 2022 at 7:00 am

Jumping Out a Window

with 9 comments

I thought that there was a song from the 1980’s with this title, but I’d forgotten that it was actually a Kiwi band.

This is the original that screened on TVNZ. The band weren’t that keen on TVNZ’s literal interpretation of their song, although I think it holds up pretty well. Their own re-made video merely features their awesome dancing skills!

The thought was prompted by this news,

Head of Russian oil giant Lukoil dies after falling from hospital window:

Oil and gas company Lukoil issued a statement early Thursday confirming the death of Ravil Maganov, 67, “after a severe illness” but did not specify the cause.

The cause was hitting concrete at a high velocity.

At this rate ordinary Russians will be happy to rise to the status of Kulak, since obviously being a billionaire in Russia is too risky even for that amount of money and the lifestyle it brings, as I pointed out a few months ago in The Mystery of The Dead Russian Oligarchs:

It seems that since January of this year six such people have committed suicide. This seems rather a high rate of death for people who seemingly have everything. I admit I didn’t notice any of this until this story broke a few days ago:

On April 18, former vice-president of Gazprombank Vladislav Avaev was found dead in his multi-million apartment on Universitetsky Prospekt in Moscow, together with his wife and daughter.

Murder-Suicide, and the murder of his own family no less. Unusual. Even amazing.

But it gets more amazing. Another two of those six oligarchs, Sergey Protosenya and Vasily Melnikov, also committed suicide after murdering their families.

As far as anyone knows Maganov’s family are okay. Given that he’s dead they’re probably safe, ammirite?

Written by Tom Hunter

September 15, 2022 at 5:16 pm

Communist gets to live under Real Communism

with 8 comments

I’d posted this when I realised that almost nobody had talked about the attempted coup that almost put an end to Gorbachev’s reforms – and perhaps him – and which was attempted in August 1991. It was overshadowed by what happened next, but was important in many ways, aside from contributing to the collapse of the USSR that happened just a few months later.

The communist in this case being the last leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, who died a few days ago at the age of 91.

I actually liked the guy for his basic decency and smarts, although that decency did not stop him sending in KGB agents to Eastern block countries to do their usual job of killing “agitators”, until he realised it would also take tanks and troops, as in East Germany in ’53, Hungary in ’56, and Czechoslovakia in ’68, and decided he couldn’t follow in the footsteps of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev. So yes, I’ll give him credit for not doing the worst he could have – but that’s pretty weak sauce even if it does testify to some basic human decency.

That decency was also attested to here by John Hinderaker at Powerline, based on dealing with him at a US event in 2000:

I wound up spending a portion of the day with Gorbachev, and found him to be a genuinely nice guy… When he was finished he got a round of applause and returned to his seat. He sat down, leaned over to me, and asked, “Did I talk too long?”

In the end, he was not willing to order the violence that would have been needed to keep the Soviet regime in power. All I can say about the incidental time I spent with Gorbachev was that, in my opinion, the human face was real.

The Powerline guys have another example of that same humanity, and even warmth, showing through in transcripts of the conversations between Reagan and Gorbachev during the famous negotiations in Reykjavik in 1986. Ironically enough they’re the Soviet transcripts, translated and declassified in the 1990s, which apparently are much more complete than the US State Department stuff. As Steven Hayward says, it’s hard to imagine similar conversations between Eisenhower and Khrushchev, Nixon and Brezhnev, or Carter and Brezhnev.

They’re all gone now.

Still, here’s what the kindler and gentler Soviet tyranny actually looked like under Gorbachev. That’s a New York Times article, but from one A.M. Rosenthal in 1988, a different era when they still had liberal journalists willing to challenge leftist totalitarianism:

For all his time in power, Mikhail Gorbachev denied that the Soviet Union held political prisoners. But in the city of Perm, in a tiny hotel room with a large TV set, we watched Mr. Gorbachev as he told the United Nations that ”no longer are people kept in prison for their religious and political views.”

We knew that was not quite so. But it was a fine moment of history – Mr. Gorbachev acknowledging publicly the reality of the Gulag, and so of the existence of Perm 35.

We knew that before Mr. Gorbachev visited New York all the prisoners were freed from Perm 35 and other prisons who had been incarcerated solely under the infamous Article 70 of the Criminal Code. That sets the price for almost any kind of expression distasteful to the Soviet Government: 10 years of prison, plus five years of exile, usually in Siberia.

Gorbachev will be praised for his courage, but it those men and women in Perm 35 also courageous. He also tried using the old Soviet playbook when Chernobyl exploded, lying and covering it up for days until Western exposure left him no choice but to go public. Funnily enough Gorbachev himself would pinpoint that disaster as the real beginning of the end:

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl this month 20 years ago, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

Yes, he agreed to nuclear weapon reductions – but only after being placed in a box by Reagan’s much derided “Star Wars” program. And of course the MSM gloried for a few years in contrasting the “young” (he was in his mid-50’s), “telegenic” figure to the “aged”, “senile” Reagan (the same people currently in full denial about Biden’s dementia). As I wrote for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Das Volk Siegt”:

There’s a push-pull aspect to this; without a Reagan a Gorbachev might never have become General Secretary, with his arguments to the Politburo that they had to change in order to survive against an increasingly powerful USA.

An unstated argument was that after decades of doddering old fools the Politburo also needed someone who could take on Reagan with a charm offensive.

The last certainly worked for a while. The Western MSM went gaga over this new Soviet leader: young, energetic, articulate, smart – and his glamorous wife Raisa, who was pulled into the media glare as a direct contrast to the Soviet past where leader’s wives were hidden Babushkas. All this was contrasted endlessly by the MSM with Reagan’s age and “stupidity”. The scoffing comparisons were long and loud.

Comparisons that included sneering about Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech. Many of Reagan’s advisors – especially the wallahs in the State Department, the “experts” – fought tooth and nail against including that phrase, fearing it would just “heighten tensions”, and for no good reason since it was such obvious nonsense. But Reagan himself insisted it be included. Once spoken, outside critics were harsher still, with more scoffing: typical political theatre they sniffed.

The same was said of Reagan’s objective re the USSR when that was finally revealed years after he had said it to an advisor in 1981:

“I’d like to tell you of my theory of the Cold War. Some people think that I am simplistic, but there is a fundamental difference between being simplistic and having simple answers to complex questions. So here’s my strategy on the Cold War:

We win, they lose.

More simplistic, dangerous nonsense sneered the critics once more. As a result it is not surprising that Gorbachev’s death would have produced these sorts of headlines: they’re still at it.

No. The Cold War ended because of the collapse of the USSR, which was definitely not by any design, let alone that of Gorbachev. He was a Communist who believed in the system to such an extent that he thought a bit of “opening” would save it. He was a Marxist who could not see all the lies on which the system was built and that opening up would reveal those lies and begin the process of destruction, Chernobyl being front and centre as an example of the whole, rotten system, and with the coup against Gorbachev earlier in 1991 as the fitting capstone to the USSR:

It was a Keystone coup. Right after the organizing meeting of the plotters’ Emergency Committee, Zubok explains, “some members went home and succumbed to various illnesses. Boldin was already suffering from high blood pressure; he went to a hospital. Pavlov . . . tried to control his emotions and stress with a disastrous mixture of sedatives and alcohol. At daybreak, his bodyguard summoned medical help, as Pavlov was incapable of functioning.” Pavlov later took some more medicine to control his nerves and “had a second breakdown that incapacitated him for days.”

So incompetent were they that they did not bother to turn off Yeltsin’s phone or prevent him from organizing opposition. One of Yeltsin’s supporters was able to fly to Paris, denounce the coup, and prepare, if necessary, to set up a government in exile. Opposition news sources, who knew what was happening better than the coup leaders themselves, continued their broadcasts to the West. “The situation was unbelievable,” one KGB general recalled. KGB analysts were learning about a crisis “in the capital of our Motherland from American sources.” When Margaret Thatcher accepted advice to telephone Yeltsin, she recalled, “to my astonishment I was put through.”

There are also takes like this:

His fate was not dissimilar to that of his contemporary Margaret Thatcher – widely reviled at home, but highly respected internationally, each of them for saving their country from going down the gurgler.

Gorbachev has been long reviled in his homeland precisely because so many Russians think that he did let their nation go down the gurgler. They don’t think he saved it at all but destroyed it. It’s why he got just 1% in the 1996 Russian Presidential race. But there certainly was and is that international acclaim, and it exists to this day, with those sick-making headlines above about how he “ended the Cold War peacefully”.

He ended the Cold War about the same way Robert E Lee ended the American Civil War, and this was his legacy.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 9, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in History, Ideologues, Russia

Tagged with , ,