(St. Mary’s Church in Killarney. Image found at this tweet.)
I want to focus on three things tonight that I think are important. Then I’ll do a brief update and then I’m racking out.
First, Russian officials have been ramping up the agitprop against their neighbors. Yesterday, the Russian embassy in Finland, tweeted this out:
❗️ О случаях нарушения прав, дискриминации и разжигания ненависти по отношению к гражданам Российской Федерации и носителям русского языка просим сообщать в консульский отдел посольства по электронной почте [email protected] pic.twitter.com/RTlsHBOxt3
— Russian Embassy in Finland (@RussianEmbFinla) March 16, 2022
Here’s the machine translation:
Dear compatriots! ❗️ Please report cases of violation of rights, discrimination and incitement of hatred against citizens of the Russian Federation and native speakers of the Russian language to the consular department of the embassy by e-mail [email protected]
A day or so before that, a Russian general officer provided a rather eye opening interview to a Russian tabloid: Komsomolskaya Pravda. I’m posting the first tweet, then copying and pasting the remainder into a quote box. The screengrabs of the interview in Russian are at the thread.
A Russian colonel-general has given an interview to the tabloid KP. It's horrific, but gives insights on Russian goals.
Says police, FSB and prosecutors should follow troops into Ukrainian cities. And undertake "necessary" but "unpleasant" filtering to achieve "de-Nazification". pic.twitter.com/vu1ked3kld
— Joanna Szostek ?? (@Joanna_Szostek) March 15, 2022
- As for negotiations he basically admits they are for appearances only. “We can’t not hold talks because we’d be accused of breaking diplomatic norms” he says. “We are holding talks in the hope of peace on our terms. But Ukraine is holding talks to drag out the fighting”.
- He does admit that the “special operation” is not going as Russia hoped or planned. Asked when it will end, he said he originally thought end of March. But now has doubts, because the enemy is like animals, “nationalists with nothing to lose” who will fight to the end.
- Couldn’t really be clearer that Russia’s aim is to purge Ukraine of Ukrainians. If you still think this is all about NATO, you have fallen for a Russian red herring. “De-Nazification” is Russian Orwellian Newspeak for getting rid of Ukrainians who refuse to think they’re Russian.
I think these are important windows into how Russian senior leaders, even if they’re not the ultimate decision makers, understand the war Putin has started by reinvading Ukraine. I also think they’re important to pay attention to as they, along with other agitprop that is being pushed within Russia and out to the world by Russia, is also intended to make everyone else especially jittery. Two nights ago I referenced Tom Nichols argument as to why the US and NATO need to do everything possible to avoid getting directly, militarily involved in the war for Ukraine. He has expanded his argument int0 an essay in The Atlantic. It is important to pay attention to in light of the increased Russian agitprop, threats, and provocations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in trouble. Despite his limited gains on the ground in Ukraine, he is facing strategic defeat in a war that no one (including me) would have expected him to lose. The vaunted Russian army has turned out to be a hollow force whose major skill sets seem to be bullying its own conscripts and killing foreign civilians. The Russian air force has underperformed even the lowest expectations; perhaps Russian pilots should have spent more time getting training and logging flying hours instead of doing fancy maneuvers at foreign air shows. At home, Putin distrusts his own security services and is apparently purging some of his top spies. The Russian people are going into the streets, prompting the regime to arrest thousands. The Russian economy is in a deep freeze and is likely to stay there for years.
Only one military force in the world can save Putin from utter humiliation now: NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO intervention in Russia’s war on Ukraine could halt that country’s barbarous attacks. But it would mean war between Putin’s regime and the West, and this war would be such a gift to Putin that we should expect that he will soon do everything he can to provoke it.
The U.S. and Europe should resist such provocations.
Putin knows that the term NATO can still produce a visceral response in Russia. NATO is a traditional enemy—and one many Russians have blamed for their troubles in the past. NATO jets streaking over Ukrainian skies will silence at least some of the protests, and give Putin’s supporters a bigger cudgel when they widen the fascist beatdown of the last Russians who refuse to accept the war.
Inside the Kremlin, meanwhile, Putin could likewise use NATO’s intervention to move against any possible dissent or hesitation. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the U.S. Congress yesterday morning, Putin was in Moscow raging away on Russian television against those rich Russians residing abroad “who cannot live without foie gras” and who have now become “traitors and bastards” because they are “mentally” against Russia.
Many of those rich Russians living abroad are the children—and mistresses—of Putin’s inner circle. The Kremlin boss was thus firing a warning shot over the heads of his own sycophants as well as the oligarchs whose pursuit of wealth he has enabled: I expect your loyalty, and I know where you and your families live. A war with NATO would make such threats seem patriotic rather than paranoid. The odds of a palace coup against Putin are already low; the odds of such a move while Russia is at war with NATO are even lower.
Much more at the link above. Aside from the fact that it is nice to see him agree with me about the real meaning behind Putin’s televised diatribe yesterday, Nichols’ argument is the only one I find persuasive regarding why the US and NATO need to keep doing what they’re doing and not do more than providing humanitarian aid, military aid, and ratcheting up the sanctions and economic measures. Nichols’ argument here is not, we can’t assume any more risk because Putin will escalate right into nuclear war, though he does touch on it. Rather, his argument is don’t throw Putin a lifeline. Don’t give him a way out. And while I would still like to see the US and NATO assume more risk for humanitarian reasons, Nichols’ argument is a solid one that deserves to be seriously considered. Especially by those of us national security professionals who have argued for the US and NATO to do more.
The second and third items to highlight are after the jump.
The second thing we need to pay attention to is that early today a Chinese state backed news media outlet tweeted this out:
Russian troops have killed at least 10 civilians standing in line for bread in Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian public broadcaster and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/KEXH9V4OJL
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) March 17, 2022
James Palmer, the deputy editor at Foreign Policy, who used to reside in Beijing and has written a book on Mao provided the following analysis. Same as before: first tweet embedded, subsequent ones copied and pasted into a quote box.
guys, the shift on Ukraine has been visible in core Chinese media too – and in propaganda instructions – it's not just a foreign facing thing https://t.co/Nzrntqqj3S
— James Palmer (@BeijingPalmer) March 17, 2022
- now THAT SAID the majority of second-tier content is still pro-Russian and social media is overwhelmingly pro-Russian. I won’t believe there’s a really serious shift – as opposed to just neutrality + anti-Western incentives – until that stuff starts getting shut down.
- Over the last week or so it feels like people have been swinging toward ‘Xi is going to help Putin!’ or ‘China is going to break with Russia on Ukraine’ over fairly small bits of information. Wait until we see action.
- otherwise I think the line for China is a narrow neutrality with a strong anti-Western bias more than a pro-Russian one
- this shift still isn’t toward condemnation of Russia as such, but toward reporting on civilian casualties and the war from a fairly neutral stance.
- it’s also been noticeable that – in official media at least – there hasn’t been a lot of *anti-Ukrainian* content. The villain is always the United States, with Kyiv portrayed as a victim or puppet at worst.
- that means, for instance, very little of the “Avov Battalion/Ukrainians are Nazis” stuff – unless the US can be blamed for it. Here’s the one GT story focusing on it, for instance –
We’ll have to keep watching this and see what develops between the PRC and Russia as the reinvasion drags on. I will say that Xi has very little tolerance for sloppy and chaos. Right now Putin is the poster child for sloppy and chaos. I have long argued that a great deal of how the PRC leadership has conducted themselves since the fall of the Soviet Union is to do everything possible to prevent the same thing from happening in China. Not just because the leadership could lose their grip on power, if not worse, but because the fall of the Soviet Union was chaos personified. And this grates terribly on the neo-Confucian concepts of order that are woven into Chinese socio-political and socio-cultural dynamics. Again, we’ll have to watch and see.
The third and final item to highlight is this survey conducted by the Active Group, a Ukrainian social surveying and public polling firm. They surveyed Russians in Russia between 11 and 14 March regarding their attitudes to Russia potentially expanding its war by invading other European countries. There are two important things to keep in mind when looking at this data: 1) The Russians have been heavily propagandized by Putin, his government, the Russian Orthodox Church, and state controlled or supported news and popular media. 2) Given what is going on in Russia, many respondents may have been afraid to provide answers that were not supportive of anything Putin might do militarily. Even with these caveats, I’m highlighting it because it reflects the agitprop I started tonight’s update with.
86.6% of Russians tolerate and support the potential assault on the territory of the European Union, including: Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and others as evidenced by the results of the sociological survey conducted by “Active Group”.
75.5% of Russians approve the idea of a military invasion in the next country and believe that it should be Poland. According to respondents, this is a logical continuation of the so-called “military special operation of the Russian Federation”.
Moreover, according to the survey, 75% of respondents tolerate to a varied extent the use of nuclear weapons by their government.
While only 13.4% of Russians have a negative attitude to the military invasion in other countries, 46% of respondents are absolutely sure that the Russian government should attack the EU, and 40.6% assume a permissible expansion of hostilities.
The three countries that according to the poll will be targeted by Russia are: Poland (75.5%), the Baltic countries, among which Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia (41%), Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary (39.6%). In the survey, respondents had the opportunity to select several countries.
Only 25.5% of Russians strongly oppose the use of nuclear weapons. Among those surveyed, 40.3% consider a nuclear attack absolutely acceptable, and 34.3% will support such a decision to some extent by the Russian authorities.
Russia’s public opinion may be a marker of the Kremlin’s potential actions for the world community.
“The general impression of the poll is that Russians who have agreed to communicate with interviewers are aggressive not only towards Ukraine, but also towards the EU. Respondents either refuse to communicate after learning the topic of the interview, or declare their readiness to support and approve further Russian incursions into other countries”, – comments by Andriy Eremenko, founder of the research company “Active Group”.
Sociologists of the Ukrainian company “Active Group” decided to further explore to what extent is the Russian society aggressive. To answer it, a telephone (via the Viber messenger) survey was conducted according to the formatted methodology (the sample is representative according to the subject of the federation, sex and age of the respondent). Mandatory language for the Russian environment was used in the drafting of the questions. Thus, instead of “invasion” and “war” in the survey the word “special operation” was used, Ukrainian security forces were called “Nazis” etc. Of course, instead of “in Ukraine” it was said “on Ukraine”.
All the charts and further analysis at the link above. Given that this seems to overlap with another survey recently completed by Russian sociologists, this too is something we need to keep an eye on. If the results from these surveys are anywhere close to accurate, then the idea that Putin will be toppled internally is wish casting.
A group of independent Russian sociologists conducted a poll, in which it was found that 71% of Russians are proud of Russia's war against Ukraine. The results of the social survey are available to the Russian service of Radio Liberty.#RussianWarCrimes pic.twitter.com/kmp53tnQ1B
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 17, 2022
Mariupol is still besieged, cut off, and slowly being starved to death!
From 50 to 100 air bombs are dropped on the city per day. The destruction is enormous, and according to preliminary estimates, about 80% of the city's housing stock is destroyed, of which almost 30% – can not be restored.#StopRussia #StopPutin
— Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (@ua_parliament) March 17, 2022
The only good news out of Mariupol is that the bomb/blast shelter in the Drama House’s basement appears to have held and they have been conducting rescue operations all day to rescue the survivors of yesterdays war crime by bombing.
Italy has agreed to rebuild the Drama House once the war is over.
BERLIN — In a blistering speech to lawmakers in Berlin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday accused politicians of failing to live up to their historical responsibility after the Holocaust — enshrined in the phrase “never again” — to secure peace in Europe.
Zelenskyy, a Jewish president of a nation deeply scarred by millions of deaths in World War II and the Holocaust, lambasted Germany for pursuing a policy of appeasement toward Russia in recent years and for prioritizing economic security over democratic values.
Amid heavy civilian losses from Russian bombardment, Ukraine insists that the EU must stop buying the oil and gas that helps fill President Vladimir Putin’s war chest. Germany, however, is the chief opponent to such a move, arguing that it has no alternative but to keep buying Russian energy.
That German intransigence helped spark Thursday’s bitter address, in which the president pulled no punches in his condemnation.
“After 80 years, something like this happens and I am telling you: Every year politicians repeat the words ‘never again’ and now we see that these words are simply worth nothing. In Europe a people is being destroyed. There is an attempt to destroy everything that is dear to us,” he said.
Speaking via video link from Kyiv, Zelenskyy criticized Germany for years of prioritizing business in Russia above defending Western values. Indeed, after the Russia annexation of Crimea in 2014, while the EU at large pledged to reduced its dependence on Russian gas, Berlin broke ranks and pressed ahead with the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, against fierce opposition from Ukraine and other allies.
“We have always said that Nord Stream 2 is a weapon and a preparation for the big war and we received the response that it’s about the economy, the economy, the economy,” Zelenskyy said. Berlin only put the pipeline on ice last month, just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Some steps were taken too late. The sanctions may not have been enough to stop the war,” Zelenskyy told the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, as Russia continues its lethal campaign of violence in Ukraine which has left thousands dead.
In his speech, Zelenskyy said that there was a new wall in Europe, built from bricks that represent Germany’s failure to properly stand by Ukraine’s side, with the Nord Stream 2 fallout providing the wall’s “cement.”
“The world may not have seen so clearly yet, but you are separated from us by a kind of wall. Not a Berlin Wall, but a wall in the middle of Europe between freedom and a lack thereof. And this wall is getting taller with every bomb that falls on Ukraine. With every decision that is not made for peace,” he said.
Another brick in the wall, Zelenskyy said, was Germany’s reluctance to let Ukraine join NATO.
He implored German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to “tear down this wall,” echoing a speech delivered by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Berlin in 1987. Zelenskyy also channelled Britain’s war-time leader Winston Churchill during a speech to the U.K. parliament last week, and American civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr., during his address Wednesday to the U.S. Congress.
Zelenskyy thanked German companies that “put morality over economic interests” and the people who have embraced the idea of Ukraine’s EU membership, but his tone remained one of profound disappointment and outspoken criticism.
As soon as Zelenskyy finished, the Bundestag moved on to other, routine business. Which appears to have upset a lot of the members of the Bundestag, as well as German news media. Norbert Rottgen, a member of the Bundestag known for being a specialist in foreign policy, responded with this via tweet:
Today was the most undignified moment in the Bundestag that I have ever experienced!
“Undignified”, “embarrassing”, “ashamed of my country”, “we cannot even do fake support properly”. The German press on the German parliament’s reaction to @ZelenskyyUa‘s address is absolutely devastating.
President Zelenskyy is scheduled to address Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Sunday. He should have reloaded and upgraded his firepower by then.
The Russians killed 21 and injured an additional 25 in their bombardment of Merafa in Kharkiv Oblast. They targeted a community center and school.
It might these days be worth remembering that Russia occupied and annexed Crimea and tried to dismember Ukraine by creating a Novorossija statelet in its South in 2014 when Ukraine had neutrality inscribed in its constitution. It wasn’t of much help.
BREAKING: France’s Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian says Russia is only pretending to negotiate with Ukraine
The Czech Republic has announced it can no longer accept Ukrainian refugees. It has taken in 270,000 of them. This is going to be a major problem going forward. One of the things Putin is trying to do in Ukraine is to recreate the dynamic he created with the Syrian refugee crisis. Overwhelm the EU countries welcoming the refugees in order to inflame nativism and nationalism that the extremist hard right neo-fascist parties and movements he funds in the EU states can then leverage to come to power and fragment the EU and NATO.
Now it's official – Kommersant confirmed Gavrilov resigned (his detention is yet to be confirmed).
Putin humiliated the director of the SVR, placed two FSB generals under house arrest and had Zolotov, the National Guard, to fire his deputy — in the three weeks of the war. https://t.co/jG2c1KaBWR
— Andrei Soldatov (@AndreiSoldatov) March 17, 2022
Here’s the rest of Grozev’s thread that Soldatov is tweet quoting. Images and links in Grozev’s thread:
- The reason for the detention is unclear: per one source he was detained by FSB’s military counter-intelligence department over “leaks of military info that led to loss of life”, while two others say it was “wasteful squandering of fuel”, ahem.
- While it’s hard to guess what exactly the purge/reshuffling at the top of the siloviks will result in, one thing is clear: it’s doubtless that Putin recognizes the deep s**t this operation is in. I.e. it’s so bad that he changes horses in midstream – a big no-no during war.
- “Totally untrue, I just spoke with the general”, posts senior United Russia official Alexander Hinshsten. t.me/Hinshtein/1953.
- ..and now Russian media report he’s been fired.
Your daily bayraktar:
Okay, so here is a better quality video of the new Bayraktar strike. pic.twitter.com/gbWnwNX62D
— Arslon Xudosi ?? (@Arslon_Xudosi) March 10, 2022
Finally, I would not expect a positive, let alone a happy, outcome for Brittney Griner. The Russians arrested her back in January, three weeks before it was widely reported on in the US as the reinvasion was beginning. If US embassy officials in Russia have had no access to her since her arrest in January, she could be anywhere and in any condition. Since she’s LGBTQ+, and given Putin, his government’s, and Russian’s attitudes to LGBTQ+ people, I expect her treatment has been especially rough.
NEW on Brittney Griner: US State Dept. official tells me consular officials have not had access to her: "We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is."
— T.J. Quinn ☘️ (@TJQuinnESPN) March 17, 2022