GCHQ boss: Putin being lied to by his underlings; Putin-adjacent talk show host discusses tactical nukes, creation of a “land corridor” to Kaliningrad; RFE/RL visits recaptured Trostinets

(a) So the “senior Western intelligence official” turns out to be Sir Jeremy Fleming KCMG,[*] the head of GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters), the UK’s counterpart of the NSA. Before 1946, it was known as the GC&CS (Government Code and Cypher School) at Bletchley Park, where it earned its place in the history books as the agency responsible for decrypting Enigma, Lorenz, and other German cyphers.

Vladimir Putin’s advisers “are afraid to tell him the truth” about Russia’s rapidly faltering campaign in Ukraine, according to the head of GCHQ.

In his first public comments on the war, Sir Jeremy Fleming said Putin “overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory“, more than five weeks after the invasion began.

Sir Jeremy, the director of the UK’s intelligence, cyber and security agency, used a speech in Australia to reveal that demoralised and undisciplined Russian soldiers were refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment “and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft”.  

Despite the lack of candour from Putin’s aides, Sir Jeremy said that “what’s going on, and the extent of these misjudgments, must be crystal clear to the regime”.

It comes as declassified US intelligence showed a growing divide between Putin and his top commanders after Moscow said it would cease its attempts to capture Kyiv.

US officials said Putin increasingly feels he has been misled by military top brass about the scale of losses on the ground and the use of conscripts to fight the war.

The intelligence said the Russian president “didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts … showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information”.

An official said: “We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military. There is now persistent tension between Putin and the ministry of defence, stemming from Putin’s mistrust in the ministry of defence leadership.”

Putin has already sacked eight generals and ordered a purge of intelligence personnel.

In the Jerusalem Post, some psychologist named John Mac Ghlion “diagnoses” Putin with something he calls “hubris syndrome”, which he apparently took from this article by Lord David Owen, a neurologist turned Labour politician turned “cross-bencher” [=Independent] member of the House of Lords.

Owen, D.; Davidson, J. Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder A Study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the Last 100 Years. Brain 2009, 132 (5), 1396–1406. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awp008

I had a quick look at the paper, which looks a little half-baked: I’m not sure whether we need a new Cluster B personality disorder mixing traits from narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline disorder for what can be adequately explained by the effects of years of living in an epistemic echo chamber populated by “yes-men”. In fact, Owen’s article itself admits this to some degree. (The paper reeks a bit of an attempt to retroactively diagnose Bush fils, Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher, although Woodrow Wilson is likewise diagnosed and Ronald Reagan is found not to be a case.)

A bunch of sycophantic underlings trying to outdo each other in currying favor (or avoid being sent to the Gulag), knowing something to be their leader’s most devout wish even if he himself might not think it realistic in his lifetime, then convincing him that, “yes, you can do it!” and “only you can pull this off”. Hmm… where have we seen this before?

Relatedly, this little video from regional US channel NewsNation

(b) MEMRI, a media monitoring and translation service that is doing the L-rd’s work, highlights this recent interview of Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheev by Vladimir Solovyov, a TV host known to be a Putin mouthpiece. (He’s referred to in the article as Solviev [sic]: Soloviev is just a different romanization of Соловьёв).

Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheev said in a March 20, 2022 episode of “An Evening with Vladimir Solviev” that was aired on Russia-1 TV, that Russia will launch a nuclear strike in European territory if a NATO peacekeeping contingent is formed or deployed. He emphasized: “This would mean nuclear war. Yes!” He threatened that Warsaw would be instantly destroyed in such a scenario, and he suggested that Germany, Estonia, and the Baltic states may also be targeted. 

In addition, Mikheev said that there have been “problems” with the Baltic states on the border with Russia’s Kaliningrad province, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, and that it may be necessary to create a land corridor to connect mainland Russia with Kaliningrad. He said: “Lithuania and Poland are behaving too brazenly. Too brazenly!” He then said that Lithuania and Poland could be “dealt with” much faster than Ukraine. This episode of the show was titled “The Road to a New World Order.” For more about the show’s host, Vladimir Solviev, see MEMRI TV Clip no. 9433.

Sergey Mikheev: “We need to convey a simple message to Europe: You will receive a nuclear strike in European territory if you form some sort of a NATO peacekeeping contingent, if you decide to deploy this contingent somewhere and so forth… This would mean nuclear war. Yes! Nuclear war.”

Vladimir Solviev: “This exact message was conveyed to French journalists…”

Mikheev: [Europe] must understand this. [I say] to the brave Poles: In half a second, there will be nothing left of your Warsaw. And the brave Germans, brave Estonians, brave people of the Balts… By the way, speaking about the Balts, as far as I know, there are big problems at the border in Kaliningrad. Maybe the question of a corridor to Kaliningrad becomes relevant?

“A corridor, a land corridor to Kaliningrad. Why not?”

Solviev: “If this was the case with Transnistria, then also in [Kaliningrad]…”

Mikheev: “It seems to me that the states called Lithuania and Poland are behaving too brazenly. Too brazenly! And they also don’t understand that they can actually be dealt with faster than Ukraine. Because the issue of the corridor is a local military operation, it’s much easier than everything we are doing in Ukraine.”

MEMRI built its career on the observation that Arab media in Arabic will say things that are clearly not meant for Western consumption. Likely, the same is true for Russian media.

The Kaliningrad “oblast” [=district, province] is the Russian exclave around the former East Prussian city of Königsberg. It’s pretty obvious to me that if [G-d forbid] Putin were to conquer Ukraine, it would not stop there.

At the same time, Ukraine must dearly regret having signed its own nukes away to Bill Clinton. [And yes, as much as it pains me to say anything positive about the Clinton cosa nostra family, Bill knew what he was doing — this is not hardware you want floating around on the black market.] This is a dear lesson for Israel, BTW — never give up what you officially don’t have, no matter what guarantees you get, since none can be guaranteed to be honored by “a new Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph”. Or your guarantors may not be able to honor their guarantees lest they end up in a nuclear confrontation…

(c) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty visits the town of Trostinets,[**] recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.


UPDATE 1: The British-Swedish NLAW (next-generation LAW=light antitank weapon) personal antitank missile launcher seems to be one of the stars of this conflict, together with the US-made Javelin smart antitank missile and the Turkish-made Bayraktar drone. The Telegraph has more on the NLAW.

And first major convoy of buses heads to Mariupol to evacuate civilians.

The Ukrainian government is sending 45 buses to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol, after the Russian defence ministry announced a ceasefire. 

17 buses have already left for Mariupol from the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is around 220 kilometres (136 miles) to the northwest.

Another 28 are waiting for authorisation to pass the Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka, near Zaporizhzhia.

The International Committee of the Red Cross will lead the evacuation attempt, which is planned for tomorrow, and a spokesman for the humanitarian organisation said “tens of thousands” of lives depend on its success.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, said: “We will do everything possible to ensure that buses arrive in Mariupol today and pick up people who have not yet been able to get out of the city.”

Previous agreements on centralised evacuations from Mariupol have not been respected, meaning civilians have been left only with the extremely dangerous option of leaving the city in private vehicles.

You’ll need much more than 45 buses, but it’s a start — and if they can do shuttle runs…

And say it ain’t so

UPDATE 2: Caspian Report on the small weapon systems that Ukraine uses against Russia:

And why is the media suddenly discovering Hunter Biden’s laptop — even CNN and the WaPo?

TL;DR: they are doing damage control ahead of a very probable grand jury indictment.

And speaking of “impeachment insurance”, Insty has the latest pearl of wisdom dribbling from the mouth of Kamala Harris:

ONE HEARTBEAT AWAY: Kamala Harris tosses word salad after meeting Jamaican prime minister. “For Jamaica, one of the issues that has been presented as an issue that is economic in the way its impact has been the pandemic … we will assist Jamaica in COVID recovery by assisting in terms of the recovery efforts in Jamaica that have been essential.”

I hope you got all that. There will be a quiz later.

G-ttenyu. And speaking of incoherence, the Singularity of Derp award of the week comes via MEMRI, who took one for the team and translated the mental bird droppings of a “Palestinian Islamic Scholar” who claims that

Palestinian Islamic scholar Mraweh Nassar, the Secretary-General of the Jerusalem Committee of the International Union of Muslims Scholars, said in a March 22, 2022 interview on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Arabic-language Channel 9 (Turkey) that the war in Ukraine was instigated by the Jews in order to establish a Jewish state there to replace Israel. He explained that the Jews have been forsaken by America and the West, who have come to realize that the Zionist project is a failure that will come to an end within two years. He elaborated that the Israelis have thus realigned with Russia and China.

In addition, Nassar said that the Jews have been “convinced that Palestine cannot be the state for the Jews” and now claim that Ukraine is a Jewish state and that the Temple and biblical Jerusalem are, in fact, located there. Nassar also spoke about the “false Holocaust,” saying that there weren’t nearly as many Jews killed by the Germans as people claim. He also claimed that it was Jews who forsook the German Jews in WWII, much like they are forsaking Ukrainian Jews today.

Kamala Harris meets Sergei Lavrov and the together smoke weed dipped in paint thinner.

[*] To the best of my knowledge, he is unrelated to James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming. The postnominals KCMG stand for Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, a knighthood awarded “at the Monarch’s pleasure” for distinguished civilian service. It is the 4th most senior such order still in active use, after the Order of the Garter, its Scottish counterpart the Order of the Thistle, and the Most Honorable Order of the Bath. (The orders of St. Patrick and of the Star of India still technically are extant but have fallen into desuetude after independence of the Irish Republic and India, respectively.)

[**] Not to be confused with Maly [=”little”] Trostinets, a village outside Minsk in Belarus, which during WW II was the scene of mass shootings of over 100,000 Jews — a scale rivaling the much better-known Babi Yar outside Kyiv/Kiev.

Ukraine: Russia’s “deceptive cadence”; Israel suspends mediation efforts due to terror wave at home; “sweep in front of your own doorstep” redux; Putin reportedly feeling misled by his own top brass

So much going on today in the news. Here are a few selections:

(a) In music, a “deceptive cadence” or “false cadence” (German: Trugschluss) is a compositional trick in which the harmony seems to resolve to the tonic, then suddenly goes off somewhere else and continues the piece.

It seems that the “withdrawals” from Kyiv/Kiev were not so much a goodwill measure, as a Kremlin attempt to put lipstick on a pig. According to Understanding War’s daily assessment:

The Russians have not yet abandoned their attacks on Kyiv, claims by Russian Defense Ministry officials notwithstanding. Russian forces continued fighting to hold their forwardmost positions on the eastern and western Kyiv outskirts even as badly damaged units withdrew to Russia from elsewhere on the Kyiv and Chernihiv axes. The Russian high command has likely concluded that it cannot seize Kyiv and may not be able to move artillery closer to the center of the city. It may have decided to stop its previous practices of forcing units that have already taken devastating losses to continue hopeless offensive operations and of feeding individual battalion tactical groups into the battle as they become available rather than concentrating them to achieve decisive effects. Russian officials are likely casting these decisions driven by military realities as overtures demonstrating Russia’s willingness to engage in serious ceasefire or peace negotiations, possibly to conceal the fact that they have accepted the failure of their efforts on the Kyiv axis.

The report goes on to say:

* Russia is directing some reserves to the effort to connect gains southeast of Kharkiv and Izyum with its front line in Luhansk.

* Ukrainian forces continue to defend in likely isolated pockets in Mariupol. The city will likely fall to the Russians within days.

* A Russian offensive operation to take the rest of unoccupied Donetsk Oblast would be a significant undertaking. It remains unclear if Russia can harvest enough combat power from Mariupol after securing the city or divert reinforcements from elsewhere on a large enough scale to complete it.

What is happening to the civilian population during the siege of Mariupol is simply too harrowing to describe.

(b) Why is Ukraine’s air force doing much better than expected, despite flying Soviet-era planes? Motivation is one factor; familiarity with Russian tactics (and hence predictable moves) another; extensive training over the past 8 years (and Western assistance with maintaining their aging aircraft) a third factor. I’ve quoted military aviation blogger Ward Carroll here about how few monthly training hours Russian pilots get, for budgetary reasons (prioritizing bling and graft over basics)…

(c) Israeli PM Naftali Bennett is interrupting his mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine to focus on the new wave of (mostly ISIS-sponsored) terror attacks hitting at home.

On a tangentially related topic, Morocco’s reward for joining the Abraham Accords and officially making peace with Israel (sub rosa diplomatic contacts have existed for decades) was for the US to recognize the country’s claims to the Western Sahara (formerly a Spanish colony). Now MEMRI reports that the left-wing Spanish government has recognized these claims as well, leaving the Spanish far-left furious as the separatist POLISARIO front is being left in the lurch.

(d) Are Putin’s claims about “denazification” of Ukraine real? TL;DR lays out the unsavory background of the “Azov Battalion”, but points out that all the “far-right” parties in Ukraine together couldn’t pull in more than 2.5% support in the last elections (and not a single member of parliament).

I’ve already noted that the so-called “Wagner group” on the Russian side has its own, well, flirtations with National Socialism (I mean, it could just be an accident if an officer has swastika and SS tattoos ;)). Now get this story in the UK Jewish News and on the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Alexei Venediktov, the former editor-in-chief of regime-critical radio station Echo of Moscow (and who happens to be Jewish) was “greeted” in the following manner:

from https://twitter.com/GabrielCSGavin/status/1507039914281607181/

The German text says “JUDENSAU”, or “Jewish sow”, hence the severed pig’s head on the floor. (Implied: “We’ll do the same to you Judensau.”)

I’m about as convinced of Putin’s concern with denazification as I am of William Jefferson Clinton’s marital fidelity.

(e) According to the Telegraph live blog:

Vladimir Putin feels “misled by the Russian military” and has lost faith in his top officials, a western intelligence chief has revealed.

The Russian president is being misinformed about how poorly the military campaign is progressing in Ukraine because his advisors “are too afraid to tell him the truth,” a US official has said.

New declassified intelligence, first reported by CNN, found that Putin “didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts…showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information.”

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military. There is now persistent tension between Putin and the MOD, stemming from Putin’s mistrust in MOD leadership,” the US official said.

The operation has descended into chaos, with Russia suffering the loss of as many as 15,000 troops as well as more than 2,000 military vehicles.

Also, Jazz Shaw lays out the bitter harvest Putin will likely reap from Ukraine.

UPDATE: the “Western intelligence chief” referred to is apparently Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ — Government Communications Headquarters, the deceptively innocuous name for the British NSA.

Developing: ahead of Russia-Ukraine negotiations in Istanbul, Russia claims to scale back operations around Kyiv/Kiev and Chernihiv/Chernikhov

Multiple reports about this:

The Telegraph:

Russia has said that it will “drastically reduce hostilities” around Kyiv and wants to “de-escalate” the conflict in Ukraine.

The comments were an apparent offer to “increase trust” between Russia and Ukraine at the end of the latest round of peace talks in Istanbul.

“Russia has decided to drastically reduce hostilities around the Kyiv and Chernigiv regions,” Russian negotiators said.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator, then said that he also wants to set up a face-to-face meeting between Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

“We are taking these two steps to de-escalate the conflict,” he said.

The Ukrainian delegation has offered Russia a pledge of neutrality and a 15-year consolation [??] period over the sovereignty of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. It also said that it wanted several Western countries, including the UK and the US, to act as guarantors of a peace deal.

The claim that Russia is withdrawing troops from around Kyiv comes after its forces lost territory to fierce Ukrainian counter attacks.


Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said talks Tuesday between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul marked the “most significant progress” since war broke out between the two countries.

Speaking after three hours of talks between delegations from both Moscow and Kyiv, Cavusoglu said the discussions represented “the most significant progress since negotiations began” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Talks would not resume on Wednesday, he added.

General Jack Keane, however, is not optimistic this will be over soon.

In related news:

Oh, and don’t miss this interview with Douglas Murray about assorted Pythonesque lunacies in the West.


ADDENDUM 1: oh dear… (screen cap from this video at the 198s timestamp)

ADDENDUM 2: Five dead in terror shooting in Bnei Brak (a mostly chareidi/”ultra-Orthodox” borough of Tel-Aviv).

ADDENDUM 3: Der Spiegel looks at Russian “fake news” from Germany. A bit of edited DeepL translation below:

A woman speaks into her phone, her voice tearful: she reports about a young Russian who was murdered by Ukrainians. The reason: he had spoken Russian. A cruel murder in the middle of Germany? The problem: the story is false. The police in Euskirchen, where the murder is said to have happened, know nothing about it and quickly deny the story. And yet the story of the alleged murder spreads rapidly on the Internet.

Responsible, among others, is blogger Alina Lipp, who spreads the alleged story to her 100,000 subscribers on Telegram. The story is also quickly found on Russian propaganda sites on the Internet as a report without a source [given].

This happened a good week ago, but the little story stands for something bigger: well recognizable are the two sides of Russian disinformation: state-affiliated Russian news sites and consumers from the conspiracy-theory milieu who spread the news further.[…]

ADDENDUM 4: “oligarch” Roman Abramowitz seen at Istanbul peace talks, BBC reports

Via the Tw*tter feed of Christo Grozev, Russia expert at citizen journalism site Bellingcat [BTW, in Dutch, “belling the cat”/de kat de bel aanbinden, is not just used for ‘attempting an impossible task’, but more commonly for ‘whistle-blowing’]. He also comments:

However, in the replies we find:

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Looks like the “withdrawal” was a “deceptive cadence”: see my latest update.

Negev Summit in Israel; two ISIS terror attacks in two days; fallout of Biden gaffe machine continues

(a) A “historic first” summit is taking place in Israel’s Negev desert, at a hotel near David Ben-Gurion’s final residence in Sde Boker (literally, “Morning Field”). Aside from the Israeli and American foreign ministers, top diplomats from four Arab countries are participating: Egypt, Baḥrain, UAE, and Morocco.

Israeli FM Yair Lapid with UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan
Lapid with Egypt’s FM Sameh Shoukri
Lapid with Baḥrain FM  Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani


The meeting of foreign ministers is taking place less than a week after Bennett traveled to the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for the first-ever trilateral summit with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan — another development that followed the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Arrival of Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita (from https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-702472 credit: Israeli GPO)

Egypt and Morocco are particularly concerned with the Ukraine war, as both countries are heavily dependent on grain imports and fear domestic instability as fighting in one of the world’s breadbaskets will drive up prices.

[…] According to a Saturday report by Channel 13, the region’s diplomats are expected to implore the US to project strength toward Iran, both in the nuclear arena and on its regional expansionist and destabilizing actions.

The report also said, without citing a source, that though Saudi Arabia is not publicly taking part in the conference — Riyadh has clandestine ties with Jerusalem, but not open relations — it is strongly involved behind the scenes, as the subjects under discussion also represent the kingdom’s interests.

(b) In possibly an attempt to disrupt the meeting or take it out of the news cycle, we have seen two lethal ISIS terror attacks in recent days: earlier a knife attack in the Negev’s principal town of Be’er-Sheva, killing four, and last night a shooting attack in the coastal city of Ḥadera (south of Ḥaifa, north of Netanya), killing two.

Mood and attention shifted quickly at the summit, the Times of Israel headlines.

(c) I normally pay little attention to the Oscars, though I’m glad ‘Dune’ bagged several awards — for a book widely considered to be un-filmable, it did a pretty amazing job.

At the ceremony, Mila Kunis, who is of Ukrainian-Jewish background, led the audience in a moment of silence for Ukraine.

(d) Meanwhile, the fallout over Biden’s latest Ukraine gaffes continues. The Daily Telegraph sums up (paywalled; cached copy here). THe US’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken is engaged in full-on damage control (I frankly feel sorry for the guy), while France’s president Emmanuel Macron, the British PM’s Boris Johnson’s office, etc. all stress regime change in Moscow is not a Western objective.

Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said: “This is how a weak and sick person behaves – psychiatrists will be able to explain his behaviour better. American citizens should be ashamed of their president.”

I am sad to say, but the rule of broken clocks applies here. The US Council on Foreign Relations chairman Richard Haass, not somebody I agree much with:

ADDENDUM 1: participant countries in Negev Summit announce permanent regional forum

And according to a WSJ report cited here, Roman Abramovitch and three Ukrainian negotiators at Russia-Ukraine peace talks were allegedly poisoned.

Five developments as Ukrainian forces retake Irpin.

A look at Russian cyberware capabilities.

Biden goes off-script on Ukraine; military expert: Russia no more capable of invading NATO than Mars; has the tank seen its best days?

According to people here who have served in the Russian army (or the former Red Army), shambolic disarray is just “the Russian way”. Yet it is clear that Putin’s goals of reforming and modernizing the Russian armed forced have not… quite been reached.

Discontent among the troops has now reached the level where a tank brigade commander was deliberately run over by one of his own tank drivers.

The Ukraine invasion has created a lot of anxiety among its NATO neighbors that they “would be next” on the menu — and in that case, Article 5 leaves NATO members no choice but to intervene. But would this even be a realistic option? Phillips Payson O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at U. of St. Andrews in Scotland, was interviewed by Der Spiegel (in German) and concludes (my translation)

Russia is in shape to attack NATO no more than it is to attack Mars. NATO is not threatened by Russia. They probably couldn’t even attack Scandinavia. They’ve sent 75% of their best forces into Ukraine. NATO is today more safe than it was a mere four weeks ago.

(Russland könnte die Nato jetzt genauso wenig angreifen wie den Mars. Die Nato ist von Russland nicht bedroht. Sie könnten wahrscheinlich nicht einmal Skandinavien angreifen. Sie haben etwa 75 Prozent ihrer besten Kräfte in die Ukraine geschickt. Die Nato ist heute sicherer als noch vor vier Wochen.)

He sees Russia as only having three options at this point: sue for peace, ferry in lots of troops from elsewhere in Russia, or use NBC weaponry (the latter of which he rates improbable but not impossible).

He also says an army’s battleworthiness drops sharply after casualties have reached 30%, but that for a “not particularly well motivated and prepared” army a smaller attrition rate can evidently have the same effect.

Also: what good are some shiny weapon systems and a lot of troops when your army clearly hasn’t mastered complex combined operations. “What good is a Stradivarius to me if I can’t play violin?”

(b) Meanwhile, the White House has had to furiously back-pedal comments by F. Joe Biden (clearly going off-script) that effectively call for regime change in Moscow. There is a big difference between what you or I (or Biden) may consider a desirable outcome, versus what a senior politician or diplomat can or should declare in public. It’s pretty clear Biden has never read (or internalized) Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and its maxim about leaving your opponent a golden bridge across which to retreat.

More here: media works overtime to clean up Biden’s word salads. Well, they have a lot of experience “tossing the salad” of his 2008-2016 predecessor 😉 In contrast, WSJ’s James Freeman recommends “the President should avoid public speaking

(c) Meanwhile, via Instapundit

It appears Russia is the #4 world producer of nitrogen fertilizer (after China, India, and the US; Canada is #5). Likely, the slack will be picked up (the main resource required is energy: Bosch-Haber nitrogen fixation accounts for about 2% of worldwide energy consumption). But this just makes it more imperative for Western countries to stop standing in the way of energy producers.

(d) Tank specialist “The Chieftain” cautions against drawing hasty conclusions (e.g. “the tank is passé”) from edited tank destruction videos

See also

TO BE UPDATED with developments throughout the day.


And Gen. David Petraeus again:

ADDENDUM 2: The Spectator on Turkey’s ambiguous position: no sanctions on Russia, but arming Ukraine.

The role of middleman – if Erdogan can sustain the balancing act in the face of Putin’s intransigence – is crucial to his own political survival. Russian visitors are a mainstay of Turkey’s tourism industry, which before Covid accounted for 13 per cent of the country’s GDP. Much of the new construction in Moscow over the oil boom years that have coincided with most of Putin’s rule has been built by Turkish contractors. Erdogan strongly encouraged the building of two enormously expensive Russian gas pipelines under the Black Sea that supply 30 per cent of Turkey’s energy. Russia’s Rosatom nuclear energy agency has been contracted to build four reactors at Akkuyu in Mersin Province, the first of which is due to come online next year. There is even a half-sized replica of Red Square’s St Basil’s Cathedral in a resort in Antalya. 

Unlike Putin, Erdogan has to face real, contested elections next year. To win them he has to avoid a cratering economy. The 40 per cent crash in the value of the Russian ruble in the wake of devastating sanctions will hit Turkey hard, across the tourist sectors, the collapse of the Russian construction industry and its ability to buy agricultural produce. The incomes and savings of ordinary Turks have already been eaten away by 38 per cent inflation this year. This will become worse if and when world energy prices spike. Erdogan simply cannot afford, in the most literal sense, to make an enemy of Putin.


While Moscow and Ankara swapped accusations over Tatar rights and Syrian bombings, Turkish businessmen built ties with Ukraine. Most fatefully, a 42-year-old MIT engineering graduate, Selcuk Bayraktar – who happens to be married to Erdogan’s younger daughter – sold dozens of his company’s TB2 drones to the Kyiv government. The propeller-driven drones are relatively cheap (at $1 million, they are 40 times cheaper than an American Reaper), stay in the air for 24 hours and fly low and slow at 70 knots, an operational advantage. Skilful Ukrainian operators have used their Bayraktars to devastating effect against Russian armour. And just days before the Russian invasion, Erdogan signed a free-trade agreement with Ukraine.

Erdogan needs the West just as much as he needs Russia. For decades he has been trying to make Turkey an energy hub between the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and southern Europe. Most recently he has been cultivating the Israelis about a pipeline linking their considerable offshore reserves to southern Turkey. According to Israeli officials, Turkey has become ‘very cooperative’ with Jerusalem on security matters. 

[…] There is another pressing reason for Erdogan to solve the Ukraine crisis: refugees. Tens of thousands of middle-class Russians have poured into Istanbul and Antalya in the weeks following Putin’s invasion, some fleeing from arrests and persecution but most escaping from economic collapse. Turkey is one of the very few countries to which Russians can travel without visas – and one of the few destinations still flying to Moscow. It is not the educated, relatively prosperous new White Russians that have Turkey worried, but the prospect of influxes of refugees from the Middle East. Russia and Ukraine are both major grain exporters to the region and the world. The war threatens to disrupt that vital food supply, triggering soaring prices and a new wave of hunger-driven emigration from Iraq and Syria.

[…] For Putin’s on-again, off-again friends like Xi and Erdogan […] Putin is a known quantity – and their political and economic investment in Russia would be severely disrupted by anything like a chaotic collapse of his regime. With Zelensky already effectively conceding that Ukrainian membership of Nato is off the table, Erdogan will be backing a solution that saves Putin’s face. That will put him on a collision course with his Nato allies and potentially cause problems with his new friends in Israel. But that is a debate for the future. For the time being, Ukraine, as so often in the centuries-long conflict between the Ottoman and Russian empires and the old Great Powers of Europe, finds itself caught in a strategic game of thrones over which it has little say.

ADDENDUM 3: Der Spiegel about Russian oligarchs and the war. TL;DR summary: they used to run the country under Yeltsin, but have little if any influence on actual policy in the Putin era. The article says the term itself is a misnomer, as they are indeed the few (oligos) ultra-rich but no longer have significant arche. [The current power brokers there are siloviki, “strongmen”, former security establishment types who may have been appointed by Putin to run state companies etc. but have no other economic basis.]

Some of the “oligarchs” under sanctions feel wrongly targeted: Mikhail Fridman, for example, says he has Ukrainian[-Jewish] parents, does a lot of business in Ukraine, and was among the very first to publicly condemn the invasion… Not saying he’s a choir boy, mind you, but at least that last assertion is correct…

ADDENDUM 4: French president Emmanuel Macron tells Biden to tone it down, warns against “verbal escalation” which hinders diplomatic efforts to reach a truce. [RELATED: The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland thinks NYT is preparing the battlespace for even more damaging Hunter Biden revelations.]

The US correspondent of the Telegraph thinks Putin will actually be pleased with Biden’s gaffe, as it plays directly into his own claims that the West is out to get him. “Everything is going swimmingly,” as Insty keeps commenting sarcastically.

And Ukrainian president Zelensky is now saying that the war will achieve the opposite of its aims, namely “de-Russification” of Ukraine. “The Russian language will be associated only with you [Putin] – with these explosions and murders, with your crimes.” […] The Ukrainian president continued: “Just think about what that means there, where Russian was always a part of everyday life like the Ukrainian language, in the east of our country, where you are turning peaceful cities into ruins today.”

ADDENDUM 5: Bild (“image”), the largest German tabloid, has been blocked in Russia because it is not just very critical of the Putin regime, but puts Russian subtitles on its German videos covering the war.

Bild, which (like the more highbrow Die Welt/”the world”) belongs to the Axel Springer conglomerate (no relation to science publisher Springer Nature) has a mixed reputation. It is more outspokenly right-wing than Die Welt, and has a well-deserved reputational for sensationalism and gossip-mongering, but since Cold War days it had a reputation of being better informed about the USSR (and the Eastern Bloc more broadly) than the mainstream press.

Sabbath musical delight: Nocturnes for piano by John Field (inventor of the nocturne)

Nocturnes (“night pieces”) for piano are so thoroughly associated with Chopin that one might be forgiven for thinking he invented the genre.[*]

The actual inventor was an Irish-born British composer-pianist named John Field (1782-1837), who spent much of his adult career in Russia.

His work is mostly forgotten now, but in his lifetime he was both popular and influential on other composers. Below are some of his nocturnes — it’s not hard to hear where Chopin got the idea.

Have a nice weekend and shabbat shalom!

[*] Of course, stereotypical nocturnes with their rolling wide arpeggiated left hand ostinatos over pedal points, accompanying lyrical melodies in the right hand, could only work well on a keyboard with considerable sustain capability — such as advances in piano design were providing then.

Ukraine on the counter-offensive? Hunter Biden thrown off the troika? A-list musicians lose lucrative oligarch gigs

So the FICUS has arrived to a NATO meeting in Brussels. It has to be an improvement of sorts compared to Klueless Kackling Kamala (whose laugh has been avidly sampled by the Shin Bet for use during “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists), but as a “wise” man once said, don’t underestimate Biden’s ability to f— things up. [UPDATE: oh dear.]

Meanwhile, there have been reports yesterday (e.g. from Chicagoboyz’s Trent Telenko on Tw*tter, via “masgramondou”) that Ukraine was in fact retaking contested ground, and that Russian troops were demolishing bridges and railway lines behind them.

Now the UK Ministry of Defence is posting this on its official Tw*tter feed:

It’s possible that Russia may pull back some distance for refit and resupply, then engage in a second offensive 2-4 weeks from now. I have a feeling they may enjoy this experience even less.

And Trent Telenko reminds us that the Russians aren’t quite on the run everywhere

(b) In light of the harrowing stories coming out of the siege of Mariupol (cached copy), this seems perhaps like a “first-world problem” par excellence, but I could not help including it, being an avid Deep Purple fan. (Deep Purple were/are huge in Russia, almost bigger than The Beatles.) The Daily Telegraph (cached copy here) has a story about how the lucrative “oligarch gigs” of A-list music stars are drying up.

But the former Take That singer [Robbie Williams] is far from alone. Elton John, Mariah Carey, Deep Purple, Christina Aguilera and the late Whitney Houston are among those to have played at private events for member of Russia’s elite either at home or abroad (not of all of whom, it should be said, are facing sanctioned for links to the Russian state).

Such shows have always been an accepted and lucrative side-hustle from the day job of being a pop star. Top musicians can command million-dollar fees for playing just a handful of songs. Their travel and accommodation are paid for. Entertaining rich Russians on the side provides a tidy revenue stream for relatively little work: a namecheck and a smile from the stage are followed by an actual cheque and, quite probably, an even broader smile. Hosts have bought the perception of closeness to stardom, while the stars have swollen their bank accounts for an easy gig. 

[…] On another occasion, [impresario Bob Van Ronkel] convinced Mariah Carey to perform for 15 minutes at a wedding. He was able to contact her because he was at school in Los Angeles with her manager, Benny Medina. The singer’s fee was thought to be $1 million. (Carey is also said to have pocketed $2.5 million for singing a single song at a 2017 wedding whose guests were also entertained by Elton John and DJ Mark Ronson.) Van Ronkel says he spent six months trying to convince Tom Jones to play at a birthday party for an oligarch’s 80 year-old mother whose favourite song was What’s New Pussycat? He eventually succeeded.

Caption: From the Daily Telegraph article. 2008 AFP picture. L to R: Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, bassist and backing vocalist Roger Glover, guitarist Steve Morse, former Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, drummer Ian Paice, Gazprom chief executive officer Alexei Miller, and keyboardist Don Airey.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, some performers have vowed not to play in Russia again. Elton John is an outspoken critic of Putin’s regime. He has said that he will not play any further shows in the country or “for anyone connected to the regime”. A spokesman for John, who has not played in Russia since 2017, said earlier this month: “Elton stands with the world in his shock at the devastation in the tragic conflict in Ukraine.” 

Deep Purple have spoken out in the strongest possible terms against the invasion. Keyboard player Don Airey reportedly returned an autograph that former Russian prime minister and fan Dmitry Medvedev once gave him over dinner. He did this after seeing the Opera House in Kharkiv in Ukraine, where the band had played, destroyed by Russian bombs. 

(c) In tangentially related news, Donald Trump is now suing Hillary in federal court for “the Russia hoax”.

(d) And I definitely get this image of a Russian troika in Siberia trying to outrun a pack of wolves, and of Biden, Inc. (and “the big guy“) throwing Hunter to the wolves. (This is known as “lightening the sled” in Russian. Drs. P. — the Dutch Tom Lehrer, at least as sarcastic and arguably even funnier if you understand Dutch — had a very popular song about this.) [UPDATE: if you understand Dutch, here it is. The lyrics are even worse than I remembered.]

Mrs. Arbel was onto something when she said that Biden, Inc. isn’t in the pay of one specific country, but of a portfolio of stakeholders. 35 million here, 4 million there, 5 more million somewhere else, and soon you’re talking real money 😉


ADDENDUM 1: a deep-backgrounder from Caspian Report (who seem to be located in Azerbaijan) on India’s effort to walk a tightrope between the Russian bear and the American eagle.

I could not help being reminded of Lord Palmerston saying: “Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” This is often paraphrased as “nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests“.

ADDENDUM 2: there appears to be some confusion as to which agency exactly does overseas espionage for Russia. These are the three main ones:

  • SVR or Sluzhba vneshney razvedki ( linear translation: Service for Foreign Intelligence), the successor to the First Directorate of the KGB, operates (mostly?) outside the former USSR
  • The FSB or Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti (linear translation: Federal Service for Security), the successor to the rest of the KGB. It is tasked with counterintelligence, domestic intelligence, surveillance, border control,… Its so-called Fifth Service (headed by Sergey Beseda) operates inside former USSR states such as Ukraine (hence, we hear so much about “the FSB” nowadays).
  • The GU, still widely known by its former name GRU, Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye [Generalnovo Shtaba](linear translation: General Intelligence Directorate [of the General Staff]) is the main military intelligence agency.

In Cold War days, there was severe interservice rivalry between the KGB and the GRU.

ADDENDUM 3: In just how deep doo-doo is Russian aviation? See also (quoted in the blog), from (mostly) aviation and logistics vlogger Wendover Productions:

ADDENDUM 4: Acting Jewish Agency chairman Yaakov Hagoel [what’s in a name? HaGo’el= the Redeemer; I wonder if he’s related to the HaGoel family of (Thes)Saloniki] interviewed about “Israel’s Plan B to rescue Ukrainian Jews“.

ADDENDUM 5: The Telegraph and several other sources claim Russia is preparing to scale back invasion of Ukraine. In a typical off-the-wall analogy, Putin claims the West is trying to “cancel” Russia and its history the way JK Rowling is being canceled. “They cancelled Joanne [JK] Rowling recently, the children’s author. Her books are published all over the world. Just because she did not satisfy the demands of gender rights.”

And US will make massive shipments of LNG (liquified natural gas) to Europe

Ukraine: “The drone era has arrived”; the price of “bling over basics” for the Russian army

Thus Seth Frantzman in The Spectator. Both the US and Israel, of course, have been using drones for quite a while, but in asymmetric warfare contexts. Several observers point to the recent Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, where drones of Turkish and Israeli manufactore were used to deadly effect.

Below I will include a few YouTube videos. But first, what are the major types of drones?

  • Tactical reconnaissance: this is something for which the Ukrainian army has been repurposing consumer-grade, battery-powered drones, the kind you can shoot YouTube videos with 😉 The US has the Blackwing, effectively a recon version of the Switchblade (see blow)
  • loitering munitions, a.k.a. suicide drones, a.k.a. kamikaze drones: these are drones with an explosive warhead that can loiter around a target area for shorter or longer times, then throw themselves at a target when acquired. These range from unrecoverable miniaturized devices like the Switchblade 300 to recoverable long-endurance LMs like the IAI Harop (a.k.a. Harpy 2) and Harpy NG (“next generation”) developed not far from my house.
  • MALE (medium altitude long endurance) UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) such as the Israeli IAI Heron and the Turkish Bayraktar families (the Ukrainians are using the Bayraktar TB2). These, when used in attack roles, can fire their own munitions and return to their operators for refueling and reloading.

As explained at length in the video below, it’s not that the drones cannot be shot down (they have been — they just are difficult targets for current smart anti-aircraft systems) or that the Russians don’t have any drones (they have deployed some).

(b) The video below goes into Russian vs. Ukrainian military procurement. The Russians favor “bling over basics” as the video drolly puts it: of an ostensibly large defense budget, large chunks get eaten up by the nuclear weapons infrastructure, by prestige and “wonder weapon” systems that have no role to play in the current conflict, by the need to project Russian power abroad, like sending an expeditionary force to Syria. The basics take a back seat: I’ve heard stories about Russian soldiers being supplied with 20+ year old MREs (“meals ready to eat”) — OK, they may have no meaningful expiration date, but you get the idea. Endemic corruption does the rest.

In contrast, the Ukrainian military has one mission only (defending the country), got a drubbing in 2014, learned its lessons from that, and has been focusing on smaller, decentralized, less glamorous and costly, but more effective systems suitable to their environment.

Military aviation expert Ward Carroll has more

I was struck by him saying Russian pilots only get 8 training hours per month: that doesn’t make for great preparedness. (Yes, I know, some pilots were sent into the Battle of Britain with maybe 10 hours on the Spitfires or Hurricanes they flew — but that was a vastly simpler weapon system to master once you had generic flying skills, and at a “do or die” moment rather than an invasion of choice after long preparation.)


ADDENDUM 1: EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, former PM of Latvia (2009-2014), was interviewed (in German) by Der Spiegel. In his view, Ukraine is only the beginning, and Putin will go as far as the West is willing to let him: Moldova, Kazakhstan, the Baltic states,… “All these countries are weaker than Ukraine, which has spent the past eight years bolstering its defenses. If we let Putin win this one, future wars will be easier for him. Hence we have to stop him now.” Dombrovskis, who grew up in the former USSR, sees Putin “drifting ever more in the direction of Stalinism”.

ADDENDUM 2: check out “masgramondou” in the comments, and the Twitter thread by Trent Telenko he is quoting…

And is it a coincidence that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has last been seen in public on March 11, and is said to be “unwell”?

ADDENDUM 3: Stalled Russian troops beg for food.

“Have the Russians moved?”
“No,” says Denis. “They are staying in the same place, neither moving forward or back.”
“How are they?”
“The villagers say that they are begging for food. They’re so hungry, they come to the villagers and ask for something to eat. The villagers say they are not aggressive. Their commanders want them to fight, to be harsh. But they are too busy asking for scraps to eat.”
So that bit of my reporting was on the money. The other day for New Lines I retold a Reuters story from 2011 that a Russian Army officer was sacked after complaining his boys were fed dog food in tins labeled “prime quality beef.”

Mrs. Arbel wondered if the actual contents were made in China, from desiccated prisoners.

And owing to lack of proper winter gear (what is this, Operation Barbarossa?!) they run the engines in their vehicles. Alas, attack drones such as the Bayraktar have IR vision…

Putin’s former superior officer on Putin; Russian army relying on Ukrainian cell phone network; American coulrocracy

(a) This is an interesting interview with former KGB general Oleg Kalugin (who later emigrated to the US and became a lecturer at the Catholic University of America). When he was the deputy head of the KGB in St. Petersburg (then still named Leningrad), one of his subordinates was a recent returnee from East Germany named Lt.-Col. Vladimir Putin. The first five minutes or so are about Kalugin’s own background and espionage career, his realization that the Communist system was unsustainable, his fall from grace, then rehabilitation during the Gorbachev era, and his brief career in post-Soviet politics; scroll to 5’30” in the video to hear what he has to say about his former subordinate.

(b) At six minutes into this podcast (this is the YouTube channel of the Times [of London]) I couldn’t believe my ears: the Russians did not disable the Ukrainian cell phone network because they need it themselves for communication?!?

Sheesh. I no longer wonder why the Ukrainians were able to bog down the Russians despite their relative weakness in numbers. It’s more than fighting spirit, the home defender’s advantage, and Western ultra-modern smart light weapons: it’s that they’re up against a logistical and communications clown show. Also, my biggest single surprise was that Russia did not go all-out to establish air supremacy in the first 1-2 days: more than that, the Ukrainian air force is still flying sorties.

And Russians blighted by frostbite is not a headline I would ever have expected to see… Aside from slapdash preparation and Emperor Mong telling them they could finish this in 2-3 days, I suspect that a lot of the funds meant to equip and modernize the Russian army made their way into the pockets of senior officers and defense officials…

(c) Speaking of clown shows, the neologism “coulrocracy” means “government by clowns”. That appears to be the best description of the current US misadministration.

To give the addle-brained devil his due, however, Hunter Biden’s attitude to business ethics clearly is an excellent fit for the former USSR and for communist China.

To be updated during the day… Speaking of which, today is March 23, and 337 years ago to this day the greatest musician of all time was baptized. In honor of this, below is a performance of Bach’s prelude and fugue in Eb major for organ, BWV 552.


Apropos Hunter Biden and his “10% for the big guy”, who really is the “big guy”? A commenter at The New Neo may have the answer:

Mike K on March 22, 2022 at 6:28 pm said:
Here is another very good Tablet piece.

Lee Smith always has lots of references to back up his revelations.

In Ukraine, I think Obama is “The Big Guy.” Slow Joe got half of Hunter’s graft. Then 10% went to “The Big Guy.”

After all, Biden was vice-president then, not president…

And more apropos frostbite…

ADDENDUM 2: I saw a Quora answer over lunch about why the Russians can’t shoot down Bayraktar drones. Can’t find the link now [UPDATE: found it], but it boiled down to: slow + small radar signature means it is hard to tell apart from big birds. And in such a big country, aerial observation is going to require a lots of planes and/or helicopters, which then themselves become targets. [Matthew Karlsson adds:

The reigning theory as to why they have been so effective at evading Russian SAM batteries and Jet Fighters is that they inadvertently are taking advantage of an unknown weakness in Russian doppler radar design, which might be filtering them out due to their low speed and small size.

Filters like these are necessary in order to not get all kinds of noise that disrupts operations. Otherwise you’d pick up birds, weather, and all sorts of other random noise, so most of these systems have some sort of filter that eliminates small, slow moving targets.

We don’t know for sure, as these kinds of details in radar design are highly classified, but it appears as if the Bayraktar TB2 falls below Russian filters for speed and/or size. It is unclear if this is the case for other nations[‘] radar designs. It is also unclear how easy or difficult it would be to change those settings, or if they are built into the hardware.


From this older article I learned a few things about this weapon system.

  • They are relatively inexpensive ($1million apiece, compared to $20 million for Reapers or SkyGuardians)
  • They are much smaller than, say, the IAI Heron (known here as the “Eitan”) [UPDATE: and mostly built of composites rather than metal] which makes them even harder to spot
  • They can loiter for as long as 24 hours before returning to base or striking

Also, Bayraktars are and have no humans on board, so are expendable to a degree that a jet fighter or attack helicopter would not be…

Plus, of course, if one wanted to saturate an anti-drone defense, one could simply surround each attack drone with a cloud of hundreds of cheap civilian drones… The article cites an example of how “a US ally” spent a $3M Patriot missile to shoot down what turned out to be a $300 civilian drone from a catalog…

ADDENDUM 3: and apropos American coulrocracy: I would not be entirely surprised if at some point Kamala is pressured into resigning, then replaced (without an election) by Shillary… and shortly later, the 25th Amendment is invoked to declare Biden incapacitated. As much as I loathe Shillary, I’d be inclined to say “she can’t possibly be any worse than Biden” — but I used to say the same about Biden vs. 0bama, and we know how that turned out… But will Putin still have enough money left to “donate” to the Clinton Foundation that she’d stay bought? Bach’s Coffee Cantata will no longer start with “Habe ich mit meine Kinder hunderttausend Hudelei” (have I with my children a hundred thousand vexations) but “hunderttausend Hurerei” (a hunderd thousand wh*rish acts)…

ADDENDUM 4: Foreign Policy (via Instapundit) on the Russian field communications fiasco:

“They just weren’t fully prepared for operations of this intensity for this long on so many different multiple lines of attack, and so we do see them having some command-and-control difficulties,” a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide a battlefield update, told reporters on Monday. “We’re seeing them use a lot more unclassified communications because their classified communications capability is … for one reason or another … not as strong as it should be.”


Russian troops amassed at the border were given little to no warning that they were to be sent to war in neighboring Ukraine, leading to widespread confusion among the ranks and compounding Russian forces’ communications challenges. 

“Given 24 hours’ notice, they weren’t able to do things like work out which units they were going to be driving next to and cooperating with and then exchanging encryption keys to their radios so they could use their encrypted communications—the result being they were speaking in clear, trying to use walkie-talkies,” said Jack Watling, a research fellow on land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank. By broadcasting on unencrypted frequencies, everyone from amateur radio enthusiasts to Ukrainian and foreign intelligence agencies have been able to eavesdrop on aspects of Russia’s military communications with ease. 

[…]Ukraine’s Security Service, the government’s main counterintelligence arm, has intercepted dozens of calls among Russian soldiers, their higher units, and relatives. In one captured call, a Russian soldier toldhis mother that his unit had indiscriminately shelled a five-story apartment building and that many troops dreamed of fleeing the battlefield. Other troops admitted on intercepted calls that their units were exaggerating their strength in reports back to the Russian Defense Ministry.

[…] One European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak about recent military intelligence, said the failure of Russia’s encrypted systems has also helped Ukrainian forces drive up the body count among opposing generals. 

[…] Ukraine’s stiffer-than-expected resistance to Russia’s invasion has also taken its toll on Russia’s communications system. Ukraine has banned all mobile numbers carrying Russia’s country code, experts told Foreign Policy, forcing Russian troops to take phones from civilians in extreme cases. But that still doesn’t prevent Ukraine from listening in and pinpointing where Russian troops are.

“If you’re using cell phones, the Ukrainians are listening,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a cybersecurity expert at the Silverado Policy Accelerator. “It’s giving them enormous intelligence capability to understand the plans and locations of units.”

ADDENDUM 5: Tim Pool sees the DNC-Big Tech complex is so panicked over the upcoming midterms that they are amping up the censorship in an attempt at damage control.

Che puttanesca! Or should that read: che Putinesca? …

Russian state media accidentally releases 9,861 KIA toll in Ukraine, then airbrushes; rumors of a possible Kremlin coup – disinformation or real; even CNN sees red wave coming in US midterms; Coulrocracy (=government by clowns)

(a) According to multiple sources [including Instapundit and the Daily Telegraph], the pro-Kremlin paper Komsomolskaya Pravda [yes, formerly the Komsomol/Communist Party Youth sister paper of the Pravda] accidentally released a piece reporting 9,861 Russian soldiers have thus far been killed in action during the “special operation”, then airbrushed the piece to remove the “body count”.

This number is roughly compatible with the US intelligence estimate of 7,000 as of five days ago. At the link it is pointed out that total KIA on the Russian side from 10 years war in Afghanistan were only about 15,000…

(b) Meanwhile (via Instapundit), supply trains from Belarus to the Russian troops are apparently being sabotaged by Belarusian railway workers who don’t approve of the invasion or their own country’s Putin stooge ruler.

(c) Ukrainian intelligence claims there are plans for a Putin overthrow by the Russian elite. Is this real, or disinformation trying to fuel paranoia and discord in the Kremlin? As much as I might wish the former to be true, my money’s on the latter.

(d) Back in the USA, midterm polling has gotten so bad for the (anti)Democrats that even CNN is panicking about a historic GOP wave. I must say, considering current gas prices, for the GOP to register voters at gas stations is a genius PR move.

But it’s only March, and a “black swan” event could happen.

(e) “No enemies to the left!” sadly has an incipient mirror image these days. Daniel Hannan, Euroskeptic former MEP (until Brexit) and now a member of the House of Lords, is asking some pointed questions.

ADDENDUM: Never been a fan of Heidegger, but Kamala Harris seeming to channel him provides for some unintentional comedy:

Coulrocracy, I call this (government by clowns).

ADDENDUM 2: A look at the Turkish-made Bayraktar drones that are giving the Russians such headaches.

Ukraine, vernal equinox edition: David Petraeus sees a “stalemate”; revealing 2018 lecture by Finnish intelligence colonel on Russia

Greetings on the first day of spring, and (for me the two are inseparable) the likely birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach. (The date we know for certain was that of his baptism, March 23, 1685 O.S.)

(a) Remember General David Petraeus (of Iraq “surge” fame, later CIA Director) who got cashiered following a marital indiscretion? Here he is being interviewed about the situation in Ukraine (yes, it’s CNN, yuck): in one word, he says the Ukrainians have fought Russia to a ‘stalemate’.

(b) This lecture from 2018 was very revealing lecture for me. I don’t speak a blessed word of Finnish (other than perhaps the curse “Perkele” — freely “the devil!”) but fortunately there are excellent English subtitles. The speaker, Col. (Ret.) Martti Kari, used to serve in Finnish military intelligence — and Finland, sitting on Russia’s doorstep, and having its own complex history with Russia, has a special interest and view of Russia.

Speedreaders might prefer to click through to YouTube, then click on the “…” [=more options] on the bottom right of the video, then “open transcript”.

Below is a version with synthesized English audio dubbing. It sounds so artificial to my eyes that I actually prefer the Finnish audio, so I can at least hear the inflection as I see the subtitles.

A few nuggets among many I picked up (views paraphrased are his own):

  • Russians fear chaos, like during the Mongol era, like during the Time of Troubles, and during the Yeltsin era. They always have to have an autocratic strong leader at the top, whether it’s a Tsar, a Secretary-General, or Putin.
  • “Russianness consists of three things: autocracy, orthodoxy, and narodnost” [common people-ness? “There is no word for that in Finnish”] [On the “power distance” cross-cultural metric, Finns, like Scandinavians more broadly, are near the bottom of the scale.]
  • Also: the autocrat is infallible [like the Pope]. Whatever errors he makes are always the fault of a Boyar, or whatever name that class goes by in any given era – Nomenklatura, Oligarchs…
  • (forgot to mention that lots of words for taxation and torture techniques in Russian are apparently of Mongol/Tatar origin) and “when Mongol rule collapsed, the Mongols didn’t just go away, they assimilated into the population, especially into the Boyar nobility”
  • A little warfare in the border regions is good for the patriotic spirit” (Tsar Nikolai I, “but it could have been Putin”)
  • ‘There’s always been a tension among the Russian intelligentsia between Zapadniki=westernizers, and Slavophiles’ The latter stress more the Asian features of the Russian soul, the mystical qualities. Think Peter the Great or Catharina II vs. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky
  • Corruption has been endemic in Russia since Mongol times, when it was a way to survive. There are rules of the game: you are only allowed to steal as much as your rank allows, and you’re not allowed to steal from those above you. Some oligarchs [he mentions Khodorkovsky] got into prison because they stole above their station.
  • Understand that Russian has two words for truth. The [formal] “istina” [from a root meaning ‘identical’] for objective truth (A=A, 2+2=4, the Earth revolves around the sun,…) “pravda” [from a root meaning ‘right’, ‘just’] for ‘official’ truth. [Cf.: “pravoslav” = orthodox [in faith]].
  • see also the word “vranyo“, freely “[not-so-]polite fiction”, a falsehood that all pretend to accept as truth.
  • Speaking in 2018, he predicted that Putin would retire in 2024, and said he was grooming two candidate successors: Alexei Dyumin and Yevgeny Zinichev (meanwhile, killed in an accident last year).

Stay tuned for further updates throughout the day.

Piano arrangement of Bach’s organ prelude on De Profundis Clamavi/From deep anguish I cry out [O L-rd], BWV 687

ADDENDUM: in Der Spiegel, there’s an article about how some expat Russian opponents of Putin are now trying to revive the flag and memory of the Novgorod Republic. I vaguely remembered that Novgorod was the only major Russian town never to be conquered by the Mongols, but did not realize the Novgorod Republic was crushed by Tsar Ivan III and then more-or-less airbrushed from Tsarist Russian history, as a ‘cul-de-sac’ deviating from the supposedly ‘natural’ autocracy of Russia.

Ironically, the “Russian” flag they are trying to replace was itself a permutation of the Dutch flag: Peter the Great was an admirer of the Dutch, and particularly of their maritime skill and business acumen.

ADDENDUM 2: Former UK veterans affairs minister Johnny Mercer, an erstwhile artillery officer who did three tours in Afghanistan, visited Kyiv/Kiev, and wrote in the Telegraph about what he saw. He is convinced that the hits on civilian apartment buildings etc. are not “collateral damage” of attempts to hit some military target, but deliberate fire at civilian targets.

I was once a “targeteer”; it was my trade. The cruise missiles coming into Kyiv are not clipping high-rise apartment blocks as they zero in on some Ukrainian secret military facility. They are landing right on target – often right through the front door – bottom centre of the block. 

These are no mistakes. It is deliberate targeting of civilians in their homes with the deliberate intent of breaking their will and accelerating the collapse of the Ukrainian state. We cannot let that happen. 

Otherwise, he is full of admiration for the spirit of the defenders.

Elsewhere in the Telegraph, it is noted that Russian state TV cut off transmission while Putin was limping off the stage. Also, that a claimed 200,000+ people attended a speech in a stadium with room for 81,000, and that many people were bused in without their consent.

The BBC, which had spoken to crowds entering the Luzhniki, said many worked in the public sector and had been “pressured” to attend by employers.

“I’ll be here for a while and then I’ll leave … I think most people here don’t support the war. I don’t,” said a Moscow metro worker who insisted he had been ordered to the stadium. 

An unnamed woman told Sova Vision, a Russian media outlet, that she had no alternative.

“We were put on a bus and brought here,” she said. There were claims that some people went, had their tickets stamped and then left immediately without having to listen.

Students said they had been given the day off lectures if they went. Putin’s supporters waved Russian flags and banners with the “Z” symbol that has been painted on all the Russian vehicles that have invaded Ukraine. The event’s hosts even wore ribbons folded in the Z-shape in their lapels. 

Unlike many commentators, I don’t think Putin is insane in either the legal or the common sense of the word. His “crazy” seems to be play-acted for intimidation. His rash decision to invade now — in an attempt to reach what appears to be a long-standing objective — may have been caused by unrealistic intel. (He will have to throw a few security officials off the sled to the wolves if he wants to have a prayer of holding on to power.) But I cannot shake the sense, somehow, that he is acting with the urgency of a man who knows he is living on borrowed time.

ADDENDUM 3: This looks like an unforced error on the part of Zelensky. Then again, he’s been doing a near-impossible job under tremendous stresses — he’d have to be superhuman not to make some slips.

ADDENDUM 4: count on the self-declared champions of the “Palestinian” cause to display their usual appalling taste in allies.

Meanwhile, of all the bizarre conspiracy theories I’ve heard, this one translated by MEMRI takes the cake.

Moscow-Based Syrian journalist Zain[*] Alabiden Shiban said in a March 13, 2022 show on Al-Ikhbariya TV (Syria) that the U.S. has turned Ukraine into an “experiment ground” where it is developing a virus that could “exterminate the Russian race.” He said that America has “thousands of samples from the Slavic race” and is using biological labs in Ukraine to engineer a disease that attacks only Russians.

Er… what “race” does he think Ukrainians themselves belong to? Even assuming that it were technically possible to develop a race-selective bioweapon, this would be just about the equivalent of Flemish people trying to develop a selective bioweapon against the Dutch or the Walloons…

Maybe he can explain this to Putin, who seems to labor under the misapprehension that Russians and Ukrainians are one race, which of course both “deserve” to be “united” under him as their vozhd or neo-Tsar…

Then again, “vranyo” (see above) may be a Russian word, but the concept is thoroughly at home in the Middle East…

And also via MEMRI, “Saudi Arabia and UAE refuse to side with US against Russia because US won’t side with them against Iran“. Is there literally anything Joe Bidet hasn’t turned into a pig’s breakfast yet?

This is likely wishful thinking on the part of Roger Kimball: Biden’s handlers are preparing to eject Biden and Kamala. Could that be why the subject of Hunter Biden’s laptop is no longer off-limits even in the DNC Palace Guard Media?

[*] I do know what the name “Zain” means in Arabic, but its Hebrew meaning “pr*ck” is thoroughly “what’s in a name” in this case.

Ukraine: is Putin really that displeased? Two contrasting takes; Elon Musk’s Starlink and its role in the drone war

A good week everybody. Just a few quick takes before I run off for work:

(a) De Standaard (in Dutch) reports on Putin’s speech at a giant sports arena in Moscow. A claimed 200,000 showed up, but the paper reports that many were government employees told to attend with their families.

They also report on the hunt for scapegoats and “fifth columnists” in progress (edited DeepL translation):

[…] More and more stories are circulating in Russia that Putin is not at all satisfied with the way the war is going. He had expected the Zelensky government to be eliminated in a few days. That plan failed, and some high-ranking military officials are being presented with the bill for it. They are paying the price because they misinformed Putin, according to Kremlin analyst Andrei Soldatov.

Already last week, the Kremlin-critical news site Meduza reported that Sergei Beseda was being interrogated. Beseda is the commander of the 5th Service, a special branch of the FSB intelligence service. He was reportedly placed under house arrest, although this was later denied again. Then this week the news buzzed – it was confirmed yesterday by the newspaper Kommersant – that Roman Gavrilov, the number two in the National Guard, has been fired. The National Guard was already suffering heavy losses in Ukraine.

It is certainly too early to speak of a purge in the Kremlin, but unrest in the upper echelons seems to be growing. It also became known on Friday that Arkady Dvorkovich has resigned as chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, which is investing heavily in the tech industry in Moscow to develop a Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley. He is also president of the international chess federation Fide.

Dvorkovich was deputy prime minister between 2012 and 2018. He had spoken out against the war this week, to which an MP accused him of treason. Putin’s message, earlier this week, that traitors are also in his own ranks and must be fought, clearly did not fall on deaf ears.

Der Spiegel (in German) reports on more astroturfing

[…] However, the enthusiasm for war displayed with the “Z” is likely to be genuine joy only in rare cases. As in previous years, entire public sector workforces were bused to Lushniki Stadium in the Russian capital to celebrate the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Western correspondents confirmed this on the spot Friday. Pressure from superiors and financial incentives likely prompted most to wave flags. Students who posed in flash mobs told the independent online media “Meduza” in Riga that they had been asked by deans to participate. According to research by “Meduza,” city administrations, veterans’ associations or youth organizations loyal to the Kremlin were often behind the actions.[…]

Now to what degree will the population “swallow” the propaganda? A decent proxy is what sources they get their information from. Again the same Der Spiegel article, citing research by Radio Liberty (formerly Radio Free Europe):

Quite a few Russians are likely to support the war because they are lied to by their own president and the state media and have no access to independent information. What is there to object to a courageous rescue operation by Russian sisters and brothers in eastern Ukraine who are being threatened by far-right Ukrainians? The fact that many interviewees feel pride has to do with the fact that Russian propaganda constantly draws historical parallels between the Soviet army’s victory over Adolf Hitler and the current mission in Ukraine. A longing for old greatness has long been expressed by many people in Russia. Three-quarters of respondents in the poll cited by Radio Liberty said they watch television to learn about the war, 87 percent of them on state television. Only just over five percent of respondents used VPN servers to access independent information media blocked in Russia, according to the report, eleven percent watched videos on YouTube, and seven percent used the previously unrestricted Telegram news service, where independent information can be found.

Fear of persecution and personal consequences also naturally affects the willingness to answer truthfully in a survey. The questioners noted concern and reticence especially among respondents who were skeptical or critical of the war.

(b) Irene Kenyon at Into The Void — who spent much of her youth in the then-Ukrainian SSR — offers a take that’s both contrasting and complementary. I’ve been wondering for a while if a protracted, stalemated conflict would actually serve Putin best on the domestic front — cf. the permanent 3-way conflict in George Orwell’s “1984”. She quotes Commentary’s Noah Rothman as pretty much writing that. But she adds:

I would disagree with the assessment that Putin is somehow pleased with himself or that he really considers the return to the bad old Soviet days a success. My assessment is that he’s desperately trying to pretend this is what he wanted from the start because he cannot appear to be anything other than strong and flawless. 

Putting his foreign intelligence team on house arrest and blaming them for providing bad intelligence about Ukraine (after all, the Russian forces are still unable to topple major cities, including Kyiv and Russia calling in Chechen thugs and Middle-Eastern “volunteers” as reinforcements) is particularly telling about just how bad this invasion has been for Russia. Yes, Putin wanted to transform Russia back into a superpower – a derzhava. However, although he spent years integrating Russia into the global economy and ensuring that the West was dependent on Russia’s energy exports, he still never let go of the old Soviet notions about defense spending, approving a significant state armament program in 2011 to modernize the Russian armed forces, and prompting the resignation of widely respected Finance Minister Alexey Kurdin that year. He wanted a military superpower as well as an economic one.

Putin probably assessed that the West had too much vested interest in Russia to do anything but message its displeasure with insignificant sanctions like it did after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. […]

I doubt Putin expected this, nor did he want this. He did not expect the West to say, “Enough is enough!” He envisioned his superpower Russia holding the economic upper hand over the West, while his military forced former Soviet republics back into the fold. Neither is happening, and Putin has to pretend that the Soviet Union was the strength of Russia—its very spirit and power. Russian military vehicles are even flying Soviet flags as they invade Ukraine.

The isolation? It’s good. 

The lack of basic products from the West? That’s good too.

Suffering economic decline? Bread lines that were so ubiquitous in Soviet Russia? They’ll make Russians stronger.

And while Rothman is correct when he writes—with a certain amount of almost inappropriate glee—that the Russians are getting what they deserve and want with the return of the Soviet Union, I would remind him that thousands of them oppose Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and are willing to be tossed in jail for their protests. I would also remind him that the “nostalgia” for the Soviet Union is largely based in the crony capitalism and corruption that followed its fall, for which Putin bears a significant amount of responsibility.

(c) So what armament is the US transfering instead of playing shuttle with obsolete MiG-29s? The Jerusalem Post has the lowdown.

(d) The Daily Telegraph has a piece (paywalled; cached copy here) on how Elon Musk’s satellite-based internet service is helping Ukraine win the drone war.

TO BE UPDATED with developments today.

ADDENDUM 1: The Daily Telegraph has a long analysis piece on Decoding Putin’s Next Move: (paywalled original; cached copy).

And forget the “official” death toll of about 500 from Russian sources:

The bodies of more than 2,500 Russian soldiers have been transported to Belarus under the cover of darkness to disguise the true number of casualties in Ukraine, doctors have suggested.

Locals in the Homel, a region in southeastern Belarus less than 150 miles north of Kyiv, have told of hospital wards crammed full of “terribly disfigured” soldiers and morgues overflowing with corpses, as Russia quietly transports its wounded and dead across the border.

One doctor at Homel’s regional clinical hospital told Radio Free Europe that, by March 13, more than 2,500 bodies had been shipped by train or plane back to Russia from the region, though The Telegraph has been unable to independently verify the figure.

Another medic in Mazyr, a town home to 100,000 people, added that efforts to transport bodies back to Russia were increasingly taking place under the cover of darkness to minimise unwanted scrutiny. […]

locals in Homel are reporting an influx of bodies in “black sacks”, with Mazyr’s only morgue reportedly overflowing by March 3.

“Passengers at the Mazyr train station were shocked by the number of corpses being loaded on the train,” one man said. “After people started shooting video, the military caught them and ordered them to remove it.”

There have also been reports of a surge of injured Russian soldiers arriving in need of medical attention.

“There are a lot of deaths. Limbs are being cut off and there are a lot of shrapnel wounds,” a human rights worker in Mazyr told The Telegraph last week. “All these are mostly very young guys born in 1998-2002.”

The sheer number of patients has reportedly triggered a shortage of surgeons, with locals being discharged to make space. There are also fears that there may soon be a shortage of everyday medications for the general population.

“There are so many wounded Russians there – it’s just a horror,” one resident told Radio Free Europe. “[They’re] terribly disfigured. It is impossible to listen to their moans throughout the whole hospital.”

But even in Homel, the exact picture is murky as doctors and nurses treating the injured have been ordered not to discuss the situation – underlining just how desperate officials are to stop casualty numbers reaching the Russian public.

“Those who could have said something, they were fired or they have quit,” the human rights worker said last week. “Those who have remained are forbidden to even take their phones to work. There is total control.”

[…] Russia acknowledged on March 2 that nearly 500 soldiers had been killed and 1,597 injured, but has offered no updates since. Meanwhile US intelligence this week put the figure at 7,000 – an estimate deemed “conservative” – while Ukraine claims 14,000 Russians have so far died.

ADDENDUM 2: Zelensky to address Israeli Knesset via Zoom tonight . Will also be livestreamed on HaBima Square in Tel-Aviv. [Update: report on the speech by the Jerusalem Post and by the Times of Israel. ]

ADDENDUM 3: Check out Dave Freer’s take on his public facebook wall.

ADDENDUM 4: Mark Felton on Kyiv/Kiev’s tragic history

ADDENDUM 5: Australian senator Jim Molan (L) thinks China would not be entirely displeased if Russia were bled white in this war.

And on an amusing note, the Belarusian ambassador to Ukraine was given a gift of “thirty pieces of silver” upon his departure.

So how useful would MiG-29s be to Ukraine? Also: the pretzel logic behind the Iran deal; Rasmussen poll predicts rout coming

(a) There are loud voices pro and con transfering Polish-owned MiG-29s to Ukraine. Some argue they would help secure the Ukrainian skies, while others fear that the transfer of an entirely new class of weapon systems (rather than “more of the same”) would cause an escalation that might engulf all of Europe. You don’t have to be Tucker Carlson to see the risk of the latter.

But what has gotten entirely lost in the public debate is: would these weapon systems even make enough of a difference in practice? I’m sure there’s lots of stuff in internal defense reports not meant for the public eye, but one interesting “open source” comment is from the one American who privately (!) owns a MiG-29. Jared Isaacman, a hi-tech billionaire and avid pilot (as well as commercial astronaut) bought his plane from the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, an avid collector of planes. He’s flown the jet numerous times (it appears he and his dogfights USAF pilots for fun and training) and is intimately familiar with it.

Jared Isaacman (from the article)

“On a purely technical level, I don’t know how the good could outweigh the bad of bringing in those MiG-29s,” Isaacman said. “Are people thinking through the implications?”

He said the Russians could eliminate the jets from the battlefield “in a single shot.” 

“What a momentum swing that would be for Russia,” he added. “What a morale boost it would be for them. And it’s been so publicized by now that the Russians could just be waiting for the moment those jets come across the border.”

[…] A company he founded helps train U.S. Air Force and other pilots by role-playing the bad guys. Isaacman became an “aggressor” pilot himself. He’s also performed aerobatics at air shows and holds the world record for fastest round-the-world flight in a small jet, which he set at age 26.

[…] Poland offered to send its entire fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29s — which, unlike American aircraft, Ukrainian pilots know how to fly — but said it would only do so by first transferring them to a U.S. air base in Germany. The plan was quickly rejected by both Washington and Berlin as too likely to provoke Russian escalation.

Isaacman said 30- and 40-year-old Polish MiG-29s would be little match for modern Russia fighters with more advanced sensors and longer-range weapons systems, echoing a similar conclusion reached by the Pentagon last week.

“There are Russian fighters that could see those MiG-29s from three times farther away,” Isaacman said.


“The MiG-29 is the most high-performance aircraft I’ve ever operated,” he said. “It can go very fast. It’s an incredible airplane.”

But in terms of actual combat, he said he thinks ground-based air defense systems like Patriot missile batteries would be more effective in Ukraine. Western governments seem to agree and have begun offering to deploy more.

Modern air combat, he said, is more about electronics than speed and maneuverability, which helps explain why Ukraine has had so much success with its technically advanced Turkish drones despite their clunky handling and slow speed.

Isaacman bought the MiG for himself not long after he sold his private air force company, Draken International, in 2019. He picked up the unusually well-maintained fighter jet from the estate of Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder, who spent millions acquiring and painstakingly refurbishing old warplanes.

(b) I asked Mrs. Arbel the other day just who Joe Biden is in the pay of? Her answer: “Think a portfolio.” Me: “Like the Clinton Foundation?” Her: “Yeah, pretty much.”

However, what I read from “the new neo” about the despicable [sellout to] “Iran Deal 2.0” makes me think more in the direction of “third term of 0bama, just with added incompetence and dementia”. Considering how many people in the Biden regime are retreads from the 0bama misadministration, there may not even be direct involvement of 0bama himself, although they may consult with him as a form of éminence grise.

While it’s seductive to think they are in the pay of Iran, or that Iran has kompromat [Russian spy-speak: “compromising material”] on them, I am familiar enough with the “thinking” of a particular type of faculty lounge denizen or leftie journalist (I just finished reading Melanie Phillips’s autobiography over Shabbat, and nearly got a neck injury from all the times I nodded in recognition ;)) and with the peer pressure in these environments, that I have little trouble accepting they genuinely believe their own dreck. After all, this is the stuff that when they used to prate it among “our kind of people, dear” gets them approval, so it must be true, right? Scratch that — truth doesn’t exist, everything is just narratives competing for power 😉 And their real agenda may well simply be this inverted form of Lincoln’s famous phrase: “rule of the people, by the Brahmandarins, for the Brahmandarins and their clients”…

Some people may think simultaneously throwing sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine and trying to ram through a disastrous Iran deal that would ultimately provide a Russian near-client state with nuclear capability against Israel is some sort of 4D chess game. I’m thinking more in terms of a chess-playing pigeon thinking it’s the second coming of Garry Kasparov.

(c) But how much longer will this kakistocracy be in charge? Not because of Iran, but because of their general “mierdas touch”: everything they touch turns to mierda. The usual #DontGetCocky hashtag applies, but (via Powerline) the latest Rasmussen likely voters poll suggests a rout is shaping up for the midterms:

Rasmussen finds the GOP with an 11-point lead on the generic Congressional ballot, 50% to 39%. That is down slightly from February’s freakish 13-point lead, but is more than enough to translate into major gains. 

The GOP edge is fueled in large part by independents, who say they will vote for the Republican congressional candidate by a 46%-27% margin. 

The demographic breakdowns are interesting. The current survey continues to reflect strong GOP gains with minorities, and, most interesting to me, there is no gender gap. Women and men are equally likely (a statistically insignificant one-point difference) to say they will vote Republican. Perhaps that reflects the prominence of education as an issue, and concerns among mothers about what liberal educators are doing to their children.

More at Rasmussen itself:

The survey of 2,500 U.S. Likely Voters was conducted on March 13-17, 2022 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/-2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

The 11-point edge for Republicans in the latest poll is larger than Democrats enjoyed at any time during the 2018 midterm campaign, due both to greater GOP partisan intensity and a 19-point advantage among independents. While 94% of Republican voters say they would vote for their own party’s congressional candidate, only 82% of Democrats would vote for the Democratic candidate. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 46% would vote Republican and 27% would vote Democrat, while 13% would vote for some other candidate and 14% are undecided.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of whites, 28% of black voters and 48% of other minorities would vote Republican if the election were held today. Sixty-two percent (62%) of black voters, 36% of whites and 35% of other minorities would vote Democrat. [Did I read this correctly? Republicans hold a 13-point lead among “other minorities”?!]

The so-called “gender gap” is nearly non-existent in the latest findings, with men (49%) one point less likely than women voters (50%) to prefer Republican congressional candidates.

Voters under 40 favor Democrats by a margin of 53% to 31%, but 59% of voters 40 and older would vote Republican if the election were held today.

Breaking down the electorate by income brackets, Republicans enjoy their largest advantage – 58% to 28% – among voters earning between $100,000 and $200,000 a year.

The Republican advantage is strongest among retirees, who favor the GOP by a 20-point margin, 57%-37%, over Democrats.

More than half of voters believe cheating affected the 2020 election and an overwhelming majority say the issue of election integrity will be important in the midterm elections.

With gas prices soaring, energy policy is likely to be a major issue in the midterm election campaign, and voters strongly favor a policy of promoting domestic petroleum production.

If (please G-d) and when this rout happens, I need to start a poll on how long it will take for impeachment proceedings to start against Biden and Harris. Heck, the (anti)Democrats opened this Pandora’s Box with their busted-flush first impeachment against Trump (the second was farcical political theater) — I will be playing my nanotech violin when this happens to them…

(d) Powerline links to the the English translation of a recent “Vlad the inhaler” (heh) speech. Is he clinically insane, does he live in a parallel universe, or is he merely an assiduous student of the Goebbelsian “Big Lie” technique? My money is ever less on actually insane and ever more on bratva-[*] style “trying to out-crazy everyone else”, but the true answer could be “all of the above”…

Sabbath musical delight: Adam Neely on upper extension chords (with popular song examples)

Haven’t done a music theory blog in quite a while, but Adam Neely gives a view of upper chord extensions (ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths) that I cannot help wanting to share.

Did Paul McCartney know he was using a Bb11 chord in “The Long and Winding Road”? Like Adam Neely, I doubt he thought of it that way — more likely, he thought of it as a Ab triad over a Bb bass, as I would — but from a functional harmony perspective, one would say it acts as a dominant and describe it from the dominant bass up — as an 11th chord with the third and fifth omitted.

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat shalom!

Der Spiegel: No, the Ukrainian army is not as weak or overmatched as you think

Chess tournaments can lead to ties, and if a single winner is desired, then one needs to resort to some tie-breaking device. In soccer matches, if an extension of the game does not break the tie, penalty kicks are used.

In the FIDE World Cup and some other chess tournaments, a so-called “Armageddon game” is used as a tie-breaker. In an Armageddon game, white gets five minutes, and black four minutes (compared to each 2.5 hours for 40 moves in a regular competition game). Unfair? Well… except that for black, a draw counts as a victory, while white has to win the game outright.

Somebody named Håkon Hapnes Strand on Quora suggested “Armageddon chess” as a metaphor for the Russia-Ukraine war.

I was reminded of this when I saw this long piece in Der Spiegel. A machine translation courtesy of DeepL Pro follows below. (I can hand-translate just fine but, alas, don’t have the time right now.)

Shabbat shalom

Experts speak of David-versus-Goliath scenario – and “the Russians are now David”.

A victory for the Russian forces seemed to be only a matter of time. But the Ukrainians are putting the squeeze on their overpowered opponent – with modern equipment and tactical finesse. But another factor is crucial.

By Oliver Imhof and Fritz Schaap

03/18/2022, 09:56 – from DER SPIEGEL 12/2022

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Snow falls on the E95 highway as a Russian convoy rolls toward the Kiev suburb of Browary on March 10. Close together, about 20 tanks drive along the four-lane highway. No infantry moves alongside the convoy, no one looks for potential ambushes. The sky is gray, the fields are dark as Vladimir Putin’s soldiers reach the village of Skybyn and fire begins.

Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank missile fire takes the Russians by surprise. The vehicles of the 6th Regiment of the 90th Armored Division pile up on the road, they are so close together that one projectile damages several of them at once. Chaos breaks out. More shells and rockets hit. Columns of smoke rise into the sky, the tank leaders who can still turn. Four tanks are destroyed, others manage to escape across the fields.

Videos like this are a testament to the amazing course of the war. And there are many such scenes of Ukrainian ambushes. Taken together, they paint a picture of a warring party that is actually vastly outnumbered, but which uses modern equipment, tactical finesse and courage to inflict damage on its supposedly superior opponent.

Destroyed and captured Russian tanks: more than 1000 vehicles lost

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Destroyed and captured Russian tanks: more than 1000 vehicles lost Photo by Irina Rybakova / PRESS SERVICE OF THE UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES / REUTERS

It is the big surprise in the war against Ukraine: even three weeks after the first attacks, President Volodymyr Selenskyi’s forces are successfully holding out against the Russian army in many places in the country. Few Western observers foresaw the weakness of the Kremlin army. At first, a Putin victory seemed only a matter of time. But a rethink soon set in in Western military circles. A protracted battle of attrition, fatal for Moscow, and even a victory for the attacked are now considered a conceivable scenario. How did the Ukrainians manage these initial successes? And what is their strategy for the coming weeks?

Fierce resistance

One of Kiev’s key strategists is General Valery Salushny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces. He has championed respectful treatment of his own soldiers since before the war and has pushed for renewal and rejuvenation of the force. And he made sure early on to train his people to use drones and anti-tank missiles. His troops can act tactically intelligent, and they benefit from arms supplies from the West. All of this is now helping him fight Putin’s army, which suffers from massive logistical problems and low morale.

“Are the Ukrainians capable of driving out the Russians? No. Are they capable of winning the war? Yes.”

Michael Kofman, military expert

About one-third of Ukraine’s 900,000 reservists have been on combat duty in the east of the country at times through rotations since 2014. The soldiers are more experienced than many of their opponents. “Russia is facing a combination of well-trained Ukrainian military, experienced reservists and untrained civilians who far outnumber them,” says John Spencer, director of Urban Warfare Studies at the New York-based think tank Madison Policy Forum and one of the most renowned experts on urban warfare. Spencer speaks of a David versus Goliath scenario in the Ukraine war. This, he says, has been reversed. “The Russians are now David.”

Ukrainian troops are pursuing a dual strategy. On the one hand, they are retreating to urban areas because cities are easier to defend, and attempts to conquer them are costly to the enemy. On the other hand, they rely on numerous raids in the countryside. Especially in the north, where there is a lot of forested, muddy terrain where it is difficult for vehicles to move off the roads, the Ukrainians attack the enemy: Small, mobile groups there regularly inflict heavy losses on Russian convoys with anti-tank weapons.

Space vs. time

“The Ukrainians are forcing Russian forces into a fight where mass or a larger cohesive force does not provide an advantage,” analyzes Michael Kofman, the head of the Russia Division of the Center for Naval Analyses, a U.S. Navy research facility. The Russians wanted to advance quickly, and the attacked skillfully took advantage of the urban terrain.

Another advantage is that Selenskyi’s troops use systems similar to those of the Russians, at least for smaller weapons. Their mobile units can therefore provide themselves with supplies using weapons and ammunition captured from the enemy. The Ukrainians also realized quite early on that Putin’s officers have problems with their logistics. “So they focus on disrupting them, which compounds Russia’s problems,” says Ed Arnold, a military expert at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).

Coming to the Ukrainians’ rescue is the weather: Russian military leaders apparently did not adequately consider weather and ground conditions in their planning, and were caught off guard by the early start of spring in some parts of the country. “Mud,” Spencer says, “can bring an entire army to a standstill.”

Barricades in Odessa: Playing for time to pressure Putin

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Barricades in Odessa: Playing for time to pressure Putin Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP

Even air supremacy remains elusive for Russian forces. Ukrainian threats and jets continue to inflict losses on Russian forces. They are destroying the modern air defense systems such as Tor-M or Pantsir S-1, which the Russian military uses to protect its convoys.

According to the British Rusi, the Russian forces have lost more than 1000 vehicles so far also because of this. According to Western estimates, the losses among Putin’s troops are dramatic: 7,000 to 9,000 soldiers have fallen in just three weeks. In addition, according to the U.S. government, 14,000 to 21,000 soldiers have been injured. According to British intelligence, most of the Russian army has become bogged down. The number of Ukrainian soldiers killed is estimated by the British at 3,000. Whereby much less is known about Ukrainian losses and troop strengths than about Russian ones. In the information war, the Ukrainians seem to have gained the upper hand.

But more than their tactical approach, the implementation of their operations amazes international observers. “I was surprised at how well they fight,” says Rusi expert Arnold.

Both countries have been working for years to renew their armies. But unlike the Russians, who apparently relied too much on high-tech equipment, the Ukrainians have focused on tactical training of their troops. With the help of Western military experts from the United Kingdom and the United States, for example, soldiers were trained on weapons and trained to defend cities.

Barricade of sandbags in Odessa

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Barricade of sandbags in Odessa Photo: Iryna Nazarchuk / REUTERS

Ukraine’s 2016 military reform program focused on essentials given the poor starting point of the armed forces. Strategists and trainers took care of modernizing the force, redefining issues such as command, control and military planning, and professionalizing medical care and logistics. And they made a point of allowing their units to act on their own initiative. This is precisely what now makes their armed forces strikingly different from the strictly hierarchical Russian military apparatus.

“Heroes can be more important in war than generals.”

John Spencer, military expert

Moreover, the officers of the Ukrainian high command made it unmistakably clear to their Western advisors what was causing them sleepless nights: the threat of a large-scale Russian invasion. For this scenario, they wanted to acquire and train the necessary defensive capabilities in time.

However, for many military strategists, all this is not the main factor behind Ukrainian successes. “It’s their will to fight,” says Iraq veteran Spencer of the Madison Policy Forum. “Training, weapons, technology – none of that matters if the soldiers aren’t willing to fight and take risks.” The Ukrainians’ motivation, he says, is extraordinary. “Because they are fighting for their country, for their families, who could be just an hour away. That changes the dynamics of what a military is capable of doing. The Russians don’t have that.”

A contribution to morale that is hard to overestimate is made by the commander-in-chief of Ukrainian troops, President Selenskyj, he said. “A lot can be attributed to him,” Spencer said. His speeches are an important part of Ukrainian successes, he said. “Heroes can be more important in war than generals.”

Help from the West

That’s because it’s also due in good part to his appearances that 17,000 surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles have been delivered to Ukraine so far, as well as protective equipment, machine guns and sniper rifles, according to Rusi expert Arnold. Soon, modern S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems are also to be added.

“If the West continues to supply weapons systems on this scale, Ukrainian forces will pose a serious threat to Russian troops,” Arnold says. Additionally, Ukrainian forces are supported by hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

Civilians training at the gun: serious threat to Russian troops

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Civilians training at the gun: serious threat to Russian troops Photo by ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS / REUTERS

Still, the military threat remains formidable. Casualties in the south of the country are high, largely likely because Ukrainian forces are currently focused on defending their capital. By successfully counterattacking, they have so far delayed Putin’s army from closing its siege ring around Kiev.

But the Ukrainians probably have to reckon with the fact that they will not be able to prevent an encirclement of the city in the long term. Their goal, therefore, seems to be to buy time – so that they can bring more material to Kiev: more water, more food, more weapons and ammunition needed during a siege.

The defense of Kiev

“The Ukrainians are prepared,” said Spencer, an Iraq veteran, “I don’t think the Russians are prepared for the fight that awaits them.” According to Ukrainian figures, which cannot be verified, there are 30,000 fighters in Kiev. “If that is true, the Russians would need about 150,000 troops to take the city.”

More and more Western observers now believe that the Ukrainians could successfully defend their capital in the event of a Russian advance. In addition, says Justin Bronk, a military expert at Rusi, there are freshly mobilized formations in western Ukraine, volunteers and a large quantity of modern weapons supplied from the West. These troops, Bronk believes, would rush to the city’s aid in a siege and try to break through the besiegers’ supply lines.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, Ukrainian formations also appear to be trying to create a stalemate and buy time. For more than a week, they have been holding up a major Russian advance westward there toward the strategically important port city of Odessa. The goal, apparently, is to create a stalemate. And thus put further pressure on Putin, who desperately needs victories.

“Ukraine’s main game is playing for time,” Kofman says. “Trying to do anything else would waste a lot of military potential.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s Russia expert is comparatively optimistic about the chances of President Selenskyj and his troops. “Are they able to drive Russian forces out of Ukraine? No. Are they in a position to win the war? Yes.”

Riveting interview with former NYT editor Bari Weiss

Typically, I listen to long interviews in the background when doing something else, a bit like how many people ‘read’ audiobooks. This one, however, had me absolutely riveted — in part because of the ‘there for the grace of G-d go I’ moments, in part because the very existence of people like her outside ‘our camp’ gives me hope. [Full disclosure: I’m subscribed to her Substack “Common Sense“.]

People like Bari Weiss may disagree with us about solutions even as we might be in broader agreement about the problems. What matters most, however, is that we speak the same language, and hence we can reason together like adults. A rational discussion with the wokerati, in comparison, is pointless both for people like her and for us.[*]

And yes, I feel more in common with her than with some of the “reactive postmodern” polemicists on my “own” side — even as I may be closer to them in my personal positions on the issues.

Another video well worth watching: Victor Davis Hanson about his new book “The Dying Citizen”. The interviewer steers towards Ukraine (the invasion had started a few days earlier), but starting 42 minutes inside, we get to the subject of his book: the concept of citizenship, why it is dying in much of the West, “somewheres” vs. “anywheres”, and Brahmandarin “T-shirt wearing billionaires” vs. the declining middle class.

[*] On our own side, what I would term “reactive postmodern” or “mirror-image postmodern” polemicists are increasingly cropping up. One cannot fight any enemy successfully over a long time without becoming a little bit like the enemy (i.e., without adopting some tactics that work for the enemy). And we are inevitably seeing this in action.

Unintentional Purim jokes: Putin compares West to Nazi Germany pre-WW II; deep thoughts from Nancy Pelosi

You gotta be shiiting me

In a speech addressing cabinet members regarding Russia’s financial situation, President Vladimir Putin claimed on Wednesday that the sanctions against Moscow aren’t a direct result of the war in Ukraine, but part of a larger plan to cripple and “dismantle” Russia.

Putin claimed that Russia itself is the target of Western economic aggression, rather than just individuals or the military-industrial complex. Putin called the sanctions an “economic war” and “barbaric and aggressive,” trying to paint Russia as the victim of recent global events.

Regarding the reason for Western sanctions, Putin compared the West to Nazi Germany pre-WWII, saying they were banding together against Russia the same way Nazi Germany did in the 1930s.

Similarly to those times, He claimed that Russia’s culture and unique way of life are what is really in danger, and they must face that threat and “protect themselves from the Western fifth column.”

Porca di treifa.

And speaking of the Sages of Chelm[*] in charge in the West, this (via Powerline) is the third in line for the presidential succession, Nancy Pelosi, in action:

Steven Hayward’s theory is that she’s consciously trying to make Klueless Kackling Kamala look good in comparison. I personally am thinking more in the direction of old age meets excessive alcohol abuse. Powerline readers have more theories.

And then you wonder why Putin thought he’d never get a better chance to do his worst, while such befuddled bumbling buffoons were minding the store…

TO BE UPDATED WITH MORE NEWS. On an unrelated (also Purimesque) note: former UK minister admits he ate biscuits meant for the Queen’s corgis.

ADDENDUM 1: The Financial Times reports that Israeli PM Naftali Bennett was the lead mediator in Russia-Ukraine ceasefire talks. Both sides are reportedly open to follow up the ceasefire with peace negotiations in Jerusalem. There is concern, however, that Russia may welcome a ceasefire as an opportunity to regroup and resupply before the 2nd phase of its invasion.

https://amgreatness.com/2022/03/16/10-realities-of-ukraine/And don’t miss Victor Davis Hanson’s ten takeaways on Ukraine.

ADDENDUM 2: if you have an hour to listen to these guys (no need to watch), check out the latest edition of Goodfellows with Niall Ferguson, H. R. McMaster, economist John Cochrane, and moderator Peter Robinson.

ADDENDUM 3: via Sarah Hoyt on Insty, the New Neo does a deep(ish)-dive into the claim that NATO had ‘made assurances’ not to expand eastwards. [Best Captain Renault voice:] I am shocked, shocked! That Putin has been misrepresenting this.[/] My TL;DR summary:

  • James Baker assured Gorbachev in 1990 that, after German reunification, no non-German military force would be deployed in the former East Germany. The topic of NATO expansion proper — of additional states joining NATO — was never discussed.
  • [From what I understand, the former Soviet satellites themselves were pushing to join NATO, not the other way around. And geebus, I have no idea why ;)] Gorbachev did claim in a 2014 interview that this expansion violated the spirit of the agreement, but admitted it did not violate the letter.
  • The new NATO member states, for a long time, were content having just their own respective armed forces on their territory.
  • Only after the March 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea did this latter situation change, and NATO forces were deployed in Central Europe and the Baltics.
  • New Neo quotes a 2014 article by Steven Pifer:

Putin is not stupid, and his aides surely have access to the former Soviet records from the time and understand the history of the commitments made by Western leaders and NATO. But the West’s alleged promise not to enlarge the Alliance will undoubtedly remain a standard element of his anti-NATO spin. That is because it fits so well with the picture that the Russian leader seeks to paint of an aggrieved Russia, taken advantage of by others and increasingly isolated—not due to its own actions, but because of the machinations of a deceitful West.


Daily Telegraph cartoon, inspired by this article https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/03/17/traitors-scum-patriots-putins-stalin-esque-speech-date/

[*] Chelm is the “town of fools” in Yiddish culture (like the Wise Men of Gotham in English lore). To share just one of many stories about it :

The rabbi of Chelm, Shlemiel ben Shmendrik, went to visit the prison. He asked each prisoner what they were in the clink for: all of them said they were innocent.

The good rabbi was outraged that the innocent had to sit in prison with the guilty. “Instead, there should be two prisons: one for the guilty and another for the innocent.”

Happy Purim!

Purim sameach/happy Purim! (if you live in a “walled city” like Jerusalem or Acre, then the festival will be tomorrow on 15 Adar, like was done in ancient Shushan/Soussan in Persia, as we learn from the Book of Esther.)

As reading “die ganze Megilla” (the whole scroll/book of Esther, hence the expression “the whole Megilla” for a long story) in the synagogue can be wearying for young children, and we are specifically enjoined to merry-making on this day, various jocular traditions developed: putting on a Purimspiel (stage play based on Esther); dressing up in silly costumes [did this inspire the Christian custom of Carnival, which falls about 10 days before Purim most years?],… and preaching made-up “Purim Torah” that you will emphatically not find in any actual holy books.

Here is an example of a Purim Torah sermon. I may share tomorrow with you some of my favorite teachings from Tractate Bubbe Meises of the Talmud Interneti.

Have a wonderful holiday and make merry! There is already too much sadness in the world…

Purim Sameach!

Ukraine, Fast of Esther edition: 1956 Hungarian invasion as foreshadowing; Poland wants NATO humanitarian mission, while Germany rules out military NATO-Russia confrontation; Zelensky’s address to US Congress

Tonight starts the Purim holiday: religious Jews observe a daytime fast today.

(a) “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” (Mark Twain). Mark Felton looks here at the 1956 Hungarian uprising and Russia’s crushing of it as a form of “foreshadowing” [as fiction writers call this] of what’s happening now. (Full disclosure: one of our neighbors in Europe came there as a Hungarian refugee, and I’ve been to Budapest for work a number of times.)

There are definitely some interesting parallels. Notably: Hungary shared borders with both the USSR (in fact, specifically with the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic member state) and with Austria, which was not a member of NATO but definitely in the Western bloc.

Hungarians were sick and tired of the Stalinist regime of Matyas Rakosi (leaks of Khrushchev’s secret speech at the XX CPSU congress, where he denounced Stalin’s crimes, may have precipitated Rakosi’s fall) overthrew him and appointed the moderate Imre Nagy as PM. Nagy took non-Communists into his government, announced liberalizing reforms and multiparty election, and announced the intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, appealing to the UN and the West to recognize Hungary’s neutral status (mind you, not as a member of the “Non-Aligned Bloc” of Yugoslavia et al.)

Khrushchev apparently was hesitant to intervene at first. Then, egged on by his Chinese frenemy Mao Zedong, and with Western attention focused on the Suez Canal Crisis (or what in Israel we know as Mivtza Kadesh/Operation Kadesh), he went ahead anyway, and Soviet troops crushed the uprising in bloody street fighting in Budapest. Nagy was lured into arrest under false pretenses, tortured, and shot; after a bloody repression campaign, Janos Kadar was installed as the new head honcho: after a period of repression, he instituted a liberalized form of so-called “Goulash Communism“.

(b) Being faced with expulsion from the Council of Europe, Russia left of its own accord just hours before the vote to expel.

(c) As I reported yesterday, the Polish PM and his Czech and Slovenian (not Slovak) colleagues have traveled to Kiev by train. According to Der Spiegel, Poland demands a NATO humanitarian mission with self-defense protection.

In contrast (or not?) German PM Olaf Scholz rules out direct NATO military intervention, citing consensus with Biden (read: with his handlers), France’s Macron, and other colleagues. In this context, establishing and enforcing a “no-fly zone” would definitely be such a direct intervention. (I personally think discreetly sending more hitech man-portable surface-to-air missiles such as the Stinger would be more cost-effective and less likely to cause escalation.)

(d) So it looks like the (anti)Democratic party has found its message. Just childish and pathetic. They have literally nothing that hasn’t turned to gavno under their Mierdas Touch FICUS and Klueless Kackler, so they have to make it all about Putin and painting their political opponents as his allies. Judging by their actions (and of their woke pet gendarmes) in the past several years , they are in no position at all to question anyone’s patriotism or accuse anyone of treason. Es ist zum Kotzen/it’s to make one vomit.

(e) Speaking of FICUS: G-d help us all.

Post to be updated as more news comes in. Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM 1: According to the Daily Telegraph liveblog, Zelensky is saying that current peace talks with Russia are “more realistic”, but more progress is needed. (It seems that NATO membership is not going to happen anyway, which primarily leaves disputes about Crimea and the ‘independent’ republics.)

ADDENDUM 2: So maybe all those lefties looking for “Putin stooges” on the right ought to have a good long look at the Green [Hell] Movement: Joel Kotkin on how the “net zero” “green energy” agenda empowers Putin (and other fossil fuel exporters). I like clean water and air as well as anyone (you could call me a “conservationist”) and am all for further R&D into cleaner technologies, but I have suspected since I was a child that “environmentalism”s real agenda is anti-capitalist, anti-progress, and ultimately anti-humanist — and that they will accept any ally, no matter how foul and/or benighted, in pursuit of their dystopia. They want to be kings of the dung heap rather than “middle” of a prosperous society. There, I said it.

ADDENDUM 2.5: The Architects of Our Present Disaster. And of course, from last December, Insty’s own The ‘cabal’ that bragged of foisting Joe Biden on us must answer for his failed presidency.

ADDENDUM 3: Zelensky’s address to US Congress

ADDENDUM 4: Is there one person who whispered this misbegotten idea into Putin’s ear? At UnHerd, Marlène Laruelle gives an overview of thinkers (other than Aleksandr Dugin, whom she covered earlier) that influenced Putin’s geopolitical vision, and cannot really point to any one of them, more to a general “Great Russian” matrix.

I do note that Putin is on record as saying that the collapse of the USSR was the single greatest geopolitical catastrophe in the history of his country. And in fact, the “last straw” for the USSR had been that the Ukrainian SSR declared itself independent as “Ukraine” at a session of the UN. (For all the claim that Ukraine was a ‘made-up country’, it and Belarus, as the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic, had been among the founding member states of the UN! When it came to getting Stalin [y”sh] two extra votes in the UN, ‘made-up’ didn’t matter. Putain de politique politicienne…)

Ukraine war, Ides of March edition: metal prices rising faster than oil prices; China denies claim of Russian request for aid; aid requested from China included MREs (¿Qué? Chto? Come again?)

Good morning, and welcome Instapundit readers sent over here by today’s double instalanche. Today is the 15th of March, a.k.a. Ides of March (in ancient Rome, the middle of the month had a special name). Ancient history buffs and those who read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar remember what happened on March 15, 44 BC. I suspect Putin has ordered his bodyguards to be on special alert today 😉

This post, as usual during the Ukraine war, will be a running update throughout the day with new developments.

The overnight update of Der Spiegel (in German) speaks of Russian troop “regrouping”, focusing especially on the East Ukrainian city of Kharkiv/Kharkov (the scene of three major battles on the Eastern Front of WW II). Also, of Russian troops arriving all the way from East Siberia (i.e., the region adjacent to the Pacific) with obsolete equipment in poor condition. The general impression is that military leadership realizes time is running out and that they are trying to create some sort of facts on the ground that can be ‘sold’ as a victory — and, may I add, as a reward commensurate with their army’s butcher’s bill. I suspect Russian losses are less than what Ukrainian sources claim, but a lot higher than Russia’s official figures. Multiple Russian and Ukrainian immigrants here have told me stories of the Russians carrying mobile crematoria so they can cremate their own fatalities (and report them as ‘missing’) rather than ship home the bodies for funerals — I have not been able to confirm this.

Last night, a Russian woman made her way into the main Russian TV news studio while it was live on the air, and managed to show an anti-war pamphlet before the channel quickly cut away to footage from a hospital.

[screen cap in case twitter embed does not work]

I am told that the older generation there still gets most of their news from TV; the younger generation is usually connected via social media (such as the Russian facebook clone VK, a.k.a. VKontakte, and Telegram).

Meanwhile: everybody talks about oil and gas, some (including yours truly) are concerned about grain, but here is a look at jumps in prices of precious and not-so-precious metal commodities. These range from gold, platinum, and palladium (the latter important in catalytic converters, and thus in the traditional automobile industry) via vanadium (an important additive in some steel types) and titanium to nickel (which will affect the electric car industry). [*] [UPDATE: apropos, Tesla raised its prices for electric cars twice in recent days.]

Stay tuned for further updates throughout the day.

ADDENDUM 1: following earlier reports that Russia requested military assistance (particularly drone deliveries) from China, the latter has loudly denied this as “misinformation”. Though it is probably best to remember the rule about how to detect when a ChiCom spokestool is lying (i.e., their lips are moving)…

ADDENDUM 2: Der Spiegel reports that heads of government of Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia are traveling by special train to Kiev/Kyiv for a meeting with Zelensky. According to a Polish government spokesperson, the train has already crossed the Ukrainian border. “The trip has been coordinated with European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen”, i.e., with the de facto unelected Prime Minister of the European Union. [UPDATE: The Polish PM posted to Facebook that they have arrived.]

ADDENDUM 2.5: Also according to Der Spiegel, negotiations took place between Ukraine and Russia yesterday, but without result — they will be continued however. Current negotiation positions:

  • Russia demands recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk “independent republics”, recognition of the Crimea peninsula as Russian territory, and an Ukrainian declaration of neutrality
  • Ukraine demands an end to the war and withdrawal of Russian troops. The territorial demands are “unacceptable”, but neutrality is negotiable “in exchange for a security guarantee for the future”.

An advisor to Zelensky is quoted, speaking of an end to the war “in May, possibly much earlier”.

Also, unrelated (?): a long essay by Seth Mandel on how the ADL is long past its sell-by date and went completely off the rails after it was taken over by former 0bama flack Jonathan Greenblatt.

ADDENDUM 3: Has Putin found his chosen scapegoat for the botched invasion? Mark Galeotti in the Daily Telegraph: (cached copy):

[…] Crucial mistakes were made in the initial fortnight of the Ukraine war. While it is unclear how far these were down to the reports made to Putin, and his own obvious prejudices about Ukraine, to blame the boss is still politically unthinkable.

The corollary is that someone else needs to be blamed. According to multiple reports, Colonel-General Sergei Beseda, the head of the Fifth Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB), and his deputy are now under house arrest.

The ostensible reason is the embezzlement of operational funds meant to be spent building up a “fifth column” in Ukraine. This comes after Putin ordered a strict audit of the funds allocated since 2014 […]

Their investigation may have provided the pretext for Beseda’s arrest – it is common practice for officers of his rank to help themselves to a share of the money they are meant to disburse – but the real reason is more likely to be his role convincing Putin that Ukraine was ripe for invasion […]

Beseda had been very active in Ukraine, which is why he has been under UK sanctions since 2014. He also emerged as one of Putin’s main sources on the political situation in Kyiv – so much so that Dmitri Kozak, the official representative to talks with Ukraine, has been frustrated that the president paid more attention to Beseda’s take than his own first-hand reports.

Beseda seems to have been more keen to tell Putin what he wanted to hear than what he needed to hear. In 2014, when the “Euromaidan” revolution toppled Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, his political skills allowed him to dodge a bullet. Even though he had been the main voice arguing that Yanukovych would hang on, he managed to pin the blame on the SVR, the Foreign Intelligence Service [Ed. — formerly the First Directorate of the KGB]. A number of SVR staff were sacked.

This time, Beseda seems to have been neither as lucky nor as adroit and may be the chosen scapegoat.

ADDENDUM 4: Der Spiegel’s liveblog at 16:22 reports that Russia has slapped “sanctions” on Joe Biden and 12 other senior US government officials.

Also, at 16:17, that a Fox News cameraman named Pierre Zakrzewski (age 55) was killed near Kiew. (Fox News video.) [UPDATE: a 24-year old Ukrainian journalist was also killed at the same time.]

And at 14:09, that more than 40,000 Syrians have registered to come fight for Russia in Ukraine, and that some 22,000 have been accepted.

ADDENDUM 5: This article, about Israel playing “its energy hand” (specifically, the natural gas fields in its Exclusive Economic Zone of the Mediterranean), mentions energy becoming the world’s new currency. Actually, this reminds me of

Malcolm Makenzie […] understood for the first time why the solar was backed, not by gold, but by kilowatt-hours.

Arthur C. Clarke, “Imperial Earth” (Del Rey, 1976), p. 8

ADDENDUM 5.5: ouch

ADDENDUM 6: you gotta be shiiting me:

In a diplomatic cable, the US relayed to its allies in Europe and Asia that China had conveyed a willingness to assist Russia, which has asked for military support. The cable did not state definitively that assistance had been provided. One official also said the US warned in the cable that China would likely deny it was willing to provide assistance.
Among the assistance Russia requested [from China] was pre-packaged, non-perishable military food kits, known in the US as “meal, ready-to-eat,” or MREs, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The request underscores the basic logistical challenges that military analysts and officials say have stymied Russian progress in Ukraine — and raises questions about the fundamental readiness of the Russian military.

You mean, the all-powerful Russian army’s logistics are such a fustercluck that they need to beg for MREs from China?!?


[*] I did cringe when he referred to titanium as a “precious metal”, but what he calls a “precious metal” is not the same as what chemists or chemical physicists call a “noble metal” (i.e., one with an electrochemical standard reduction potential greater than zero).