The Russian Gas Carousel: Who Wants Off, and Who Wants On

Uncle Volodya says, "The real trouble with modern war is that it allows no one the chance to kill the right people. "

Uncle Volodya says, “The real trouble with modern war is that it allows no one the chance to kill the right people. “

Speculation was rife that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would sign a major gas deal during Mr. Putin’s visit to China, but it didn’t happen. Although agreement is still said to be close and is probably contingent on price – the two have been wrangling over price for nearly 10 years – the signatures are typically a formality after all the details have been worked out in furious negotiation beforehand between ministers and industry executives. This suggests there was a fairly serious misunderstanding somewhere, and it may have originated in European bluster of late (because it’s warm now, and the idea of freezing in the winter is a distant echo) about “weaning itself off” of Russian gas.  Europe likes to portray Russia as an unreliable partner who might shut off the gas again, “like they did back in 2009”, and Putin as a dictator who revels in his power to “use energy as a weapon”.

Are those serious concerns? No, they’re not. Currently much of Europe’s gas goes through Ukraine’s pipeline network. In 2009, the currently-operational Nord Stream pipeline was in its initial stages, and all Europe’s gas went through Ukraine. That country began siphoning Russian gas during transit, for its own use, and the quarrel escalated until Russia shut off the gas, provoking a great outcry that Russia was using energy as a weapon. The alternative – for Russia – was to complain, but acknowledge helplessness to stop Ukraine from getting free gas owing to its monopoly. And of course, the easier it became for Ukraine to steal gas, the more it would steal. Yulia Tymoshenko was in the front rank of accusers when Naftogaz was doing this; mind you, she had just left the board of rival United Energy Systems and been appointed to a key post in Yushchenko’s government, and was consequently in a position to punish her archenemy. Yulia Tymoshenko rarely passes up such an  opportunity, and anyone who has any sort of association with her would do well to remember it. She is also a known liar and opportunist, so her accusation against Naftogaz is offered more as an amusement than an indictment, although there seems little doubt the Ukrainian state was indeed tucking in and helping itself.

Nord Stream is now operational, and when South Stream is completed the two alternative pipelines will be capable of carrying all Europe’s gas without any of it going through Ukraine. You would think Europe would be chuffed to pieces at this, since their energy supply would be secure and since Russia has never shut off the gas to paying customers. You would be wrong; since the trouble began in Ukraine last winter with the simpleminded Maidan demonstrations which rapidly – thanks to American and European coup-enabling and pot-stirring – escalated into violence, Europe has alternated between yelling that it wants off the Russian gas tit, and insisting that South Stream must not be built.

Why would Europe take such a seemingly-counterproductive attitude? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. But we can start from the position that Europe likes its gas going through Ukraine just fine, even if Ukraine is an unreliable partner who seldom pays its bills and whose intransigence imperils the gas supplies to a continent. And that, in turn, is because the vulnerability provides a counterweight to Russia. So long as Ukraine is the middleman in Russia’s dealings with Europe, Ukraine is important and necessary. Ukraine’s future hangs in the balance, and NATO would like very much to have it. Not because it loves Ukrainians or even because it believes Ukraine could be a prosperous asset one day. No, NATO wants Ukraine to prevent Russia from gaining control of it and building the Eurasian Union. And Russia will not ever fight a destructive war in Ukraine so long as Ukraine’s pipelines carry Russia’s profitable gas to Europe. That allows NATO to fight an economic war for control of Ukraine without getting directly involved militarily. If none of Russia’s gas went through Ukraine, Russia would still want control of Ukraine at least insofar as partnership in the Eurasian Union went – not to mention keeping NATO off its doorstep – but Europe would have lost leverage over Russia because Ukraine’s pipelines would no longer be important. As Frank Umbach – of London’s Kings College European Centre for Energy and Resource Security – put it bitterly, “”If we agree to South Stream, Europe will sell the rope with which Russia will hang Ukraine, and it will also agree to increase its energy dependency on Russia”. Europe could always just refuse to buy any gas from Russia, but then it would face the problem of alternate supply. More on that later.

For now, Bloomberg is jubilant that the deal with China was not completed. Had it been signed, Russia would have had a powerful option with which to confront Europe’s maneuvering – you don’t want our gas? Well, sorry you feel that way. I guess we’ll just sell it to China. The amount China would take would not completely offset the loss of Europe as a customer, although one day it may, and of course Russia would like to retain Europe as a customer. But it could be less tolerant of Europe’s histrionics and the USA’s background kibitzing, and more assertive. Still, though; could Europe really do it? Could they do without Russia’s gas supplies?

No, they couldn’t.

And the reference I just quoted suggests Europe’s business leaders know (a) the political posturing over Russia’s alleged intervention in southeastern Ukraine is just smoke, and that political Europe knows full well Russia is not involved – the current caterwauling and escalating sanctions are just a front which allows Europe and its managing partner the USA to pursue economic warfare – while (b) South Stream makes sense, and the stubborn effort to keep gas running through Ukraine is an attempt to buy time while the west gropes for a weakness it can use to seize Ukraine for itself. To be clear, Europe is doing all it can to imperil the supply of Russian gas to itself so that it can complain that its supply is in peril, and use that assumption to push for alternative supplies. Perceiving that reality, Austria has just quietly concluded a deal with Gazprom which puts South Stream’s European terminus at Austria’s Baumgarten gas hub. When Brussels got shirty about individual European states doing deals without its approval, Gazprom and Austria simply went around them. Germany is also growing increasingly restless with this charade.

But what about U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)? The American industry regularly touts it as a game-changer, and four U.S. ambassadors have written to Obama begging him to fast-track LNG facilities so the USA can start using energy as a weapon applying good old American persuasion to that rascal Putin. The trouble is, they can’t supply it at Russia’s prices.  Who here knows anything about economics? Is it better for a country’s budget if it has to pay less for energy, or more? I guess you could argue that diversification of supply is important, too, particularly if your supplier is unreliable. However, Russia is a reliable supplier – when it’s not being stolen from – and is working hard to build a pipeline alternative that will make Europe’s energy supplies more secure. That’s right: the pipeline Brussels is pulling out all the stops trying to….well… stop.

Perhaps it would be helpful at this point to determine just how much gas we’re talking here, so we can see what U.S. touts are aspiring to. And it’s not easy, because you’re liable to see a wide variety of figures, all claiming to be accurate. The best we can do is go with a reliable source. How about an industry source? Here’s what Gas in Focus says: the EU imports 1,370 TWh from Russia, comfortably the largest supplier, followed by Norway at 1,168. Nobody else is even half Russia’s total.

I’ve always blamed Europe for making me learn the metric system; well, Europe and Pierre Trudeau, when he was Prime Minister of Canada. My education  in standard measures was already well advanced – to me, height was measured in feet and inches, weight was in pounds, liquid measures were in pints and quarts and gallons, and the growling Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros the cool guys drove boasted their muscle in cubic inch displacement. Pierre Trudeau told us that if we did it, the USA would quickly follow our example. That just shows what a visionary he was: when was the last time the USA followed Canada’s lead in anything? Anyway, Europe is still up to its customary weirdness, as if measuring natural gas in Billion Cubic Meters was too much to ask.  The measurements above are in TeraWatt Hours, if you can imagine anything so cumbersome and senseless. Now we have to convert it to a familiar figure; according to this reference, 1 Billion Cubic Meters is equal to about 11 TeraWatt Hours. Now we’re into the home stretch as far as my mathematical abilities are concerned, and 1370 over 11 gives us 124.5 Billion Cubic Meters. Norway’s figure comes out to 106 BCm.

Well, now, I see a problem already. If you’re a regular reader, you probably see it, too. Norway’s energy boom is on its way to more of an energy pop. According to Reuters, Norway’s energy boom is “tailing off years ahead of expectations“. That mostly refers to oil, but the news is no more optimistic for gas, I’m afraid, which is forecast to decline steeply after 2020. That’s still a ways away, but let me ask you this; would you feel comfortable relying on your uncle to pay for your college tuition if his doctors said he was likely to die before you finished your first semester? Norway is putting all its hopes on major new discoveries, while it has drilled nearly everything it owns until it looks like Jarlsberg cheese; mind your feet on the doorstep of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, lest you fall into a drill hole.

Just to add to the misery, one of the references I cited earlier says North Sea oil and gas are all but finished, and Britain’s dependence on imports for its energy is only going to increase. Britain currently does not buy any energy from Russia to the best of my knowledge, but it’s going to need more and more unless its population becomes less and less – which would be its own hard-luck story, and it has to come from somewhere. Britain is proud, and so it buys expensive LNG; but that is getting to be an increasingly untenable proposition, as the proles begin to mutter rebelliously. Oh, bother! Britain gets 37% of its gas by pipeline…from Norway. Cue the “wah, wah, whaaa” sound that has become universally associated with disaster and failure.

Anyway, back to America and its bountiful supplies of shale gas. Well, let’s see. Using the current scenario – in which the USA has only one LNG terminal operational, at Sabine Pass, near Houston, Texas – it’s almost 5000 miles to the UK.  Your LNG tanker will not want to go much above 9 knots in speed or it will get into an unprofitable situation pretty quickly, and we’re already trying to shave the margin to the bone so we can become the permanent supplier to those nice European folks. So at 9 knots, it would take….tap, tap, tap, click, rattle…pa-ching!!! about 18 days to make the trip. An LNG carrier’s typical load is about 135,000 Cm, which is about 1% of what Russia supplies to Europe annually by pipeline. So if the USA is to save Europe, one LNG tanker-load would last less than a day at a consumption of 339 MCm per day, which is 124 BCm/365.  So you’re going to want a couple of tankers offloading each day just to keep up, and it takes each one 18 days to get there. Look, my math is awful, compounded by the fact that I hate doing it, and that’s already about as much math as I do in a month, so someone who likes math can pick at my conclusions, but right off the top of my head I’m gonna say no.

And that’s assuming America’s shale reserves are as massive and bountiful as they would have you believe. Are they? Not according to the Energy Policy Forum, which reports – and I quote – “The recent natural gas market glut was largely effected through overproduction of natural gas in order to meet financial analyst’s production targets and to provide cash flow to support operators’ imprudent leverage positions…Wall Street promoted the shale gas drilling frenzy, which resulted in prices lower than the cost of production and thereby profited [enormously] from mergers & acquisitions and other transactional fees…U.S. shale gas and shale oil reserves have been overestimated by a minimum of 100% and by as much as 400-500% by operators according to actual well production data filed in various states…Shale oil wells are following the same steep decline rates and poor recovery efficiency observed in shale gas wells.”

* And at this point in the post, several stooges near-simultaneously shouted that Russia and China did sign the gas deal after all – after 10 years of negotiation, contract value $400 Billion, Gazprom’s largest ever. The reporting source estimates a price of $350.00 per 1000 Cm, but that would be for delivery of gas supplies only. Several industry sources speculated China wanted to be involved with the pipeline, and if so they would presumably be bearing some of the expense. Were that the case, the price might be slightly less – I’m sure it will be the subject of intense investigation, if for no other reason because it was not disclosed and was said to be a “commercial secret”. The west will not like that, and will want to trumpet that Russia made a bad deal and got taken to the cleaners by the wily Chinese (no pun intended). But everyone in the photo looks extremely happy – please note that Mr. Putin remains relatively unobtrusive in the background rather than seizing all the credit and taking off his shirt.

Going back for just a moment to that Gas in Focus reference, click the tab marked “Focus”.  Select the report entitled “Russia: A Key Natural Gas Supplier”.

“The fact is that the EU consumes 17.6% of the world’s natural gas but holds only 2.2% of proven reserves, and will have to deal with the increase in demand for natural gas from the emerging countries and from China…Today, 25% of the natural gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia, before Norway, Algeria and Qatar. So the European Union cannot do without this crucial partner… A number of issues could make the relationship between Europe and Russia evolve : the solvency and attractiveness of the Russian internal market, management of gas field development, the stability and steady growth of Gazprom, which is 51% owned by the Russian State and manages 87% of Russia’s natural gas production, the retention of the long-term contracts that represent the large majority of commercial exchanges between Europe and Russia, and control of access routes to the European market, for example through the construction of new pipelines.”

I trust that’s clear enough.



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980 Responses to The Russian Gas Carousel: Who Wants Off, and Who Wants On

  1. Al says:

    May I posit a simple explanation to the question we have asked numerous times here?

    The question: Why did the West not simply wait a year until the Presidential elections which would have left Kiev & the Ukraine to drop like a ripe plum into its lap though widespread dissatisfaction with Yanukovich and his cronies?

    A possible answer: What if the West thought that Yanukovich would plump for the Eurasian Union (that was signed between Russia, Kazakhstan & Byleorussia yesterday) instead and jumped the gun, or simply lubricated the Orangist/neo-nazis who were terrified of this possibility too?

    • marknesop says:

      I more or less completely agree – it is very likely that the west was so sure of Yanukovych, that he was so throughly broken and cowed that they did not need to watch him closely, and in fact they missed the early signs that he was beginning to go eye-rolly like a horse that smells smoke in the stable. I maintained from the outset that he would never sign the agreement, and my reason for saying that was his resistance to freeing Tymoshenko, which the west arrogantly insisted upon. In the end it was not entirely for that reason that he kicked over the apple-cart – he became convinced that the eastern industrial base would be ruined by it, and he was right to think so – but it formed part of his decision and I still think it was the correct one.

      I am not opposed to Ukraine being part of the EU in a trade agreement, and agree that it would pressure Ukraine to make some critical reforms, without which it is unlikely to ever be anything more than a poor and visibly corrupt country. But insistence that it cannot be part of both the Eurasian and European Unions was a bullshit excuse that masked NATO’s intention to encroach upon Russia’s doorstep and crowd it further. If they thought about it, they would realize it is asking for trouble, because they would never be able to trust any NATO base in Ukraine not to be thoroughly infiltrated. Just as military bases in the Baltic Republics, and anywhere that Russian is a common second language, probably are. Ethnic Russians would not stand out.

      If you add in the possibility, already mentioned by someone further up, that the western-backed coup-masters could not be fully confident of winning the December elections if Yanukovych was still part of the equation, then I’m sold.

      • Southerncross says:

        Under the Feb agreement Yanuk had ten months to turn the economy around. The opposition had ten months to destroy themselves with their incessant infighting. The months of violence in Kiev would have done much to rouse eastern voters from their accustomed apathy, so there was the possibility that the entire Kharkov-Odessa crescent would deliver a Donetsk-level turnout for the Regionnaires. Meanwhile the east would not have been idle – if Maidan militants tried to overturn a Yanuk/Regionnaire victory by force, they might have been confronted by similar numbers of anti-Maidan militants.

        The Orange sector just isn’t as popular as it claims to be, even with NED resources behind it. Their project had just about run out of steam – it was either seize the opportunity offered by the Maidan riots or risk sinking into irrelevancy.

        • marknesop says:

          All true, blue. The extant point, of course, is that if the west were winning, the term “propaganda war” would not ever have been even introduced. It is only because the forces of evil are winning that it has ever become a dirty war.

    • Fern says:

      Al, I think your analysis is correct. The US gets most ansty about what can be termed ‘moments of transition’ – when change for whatever reason is afoot – and its strategic goal is to get ahead of the curve to try and control both how change plays out and the parties coming to power. This is very clear in Egypt and the Middle East generally with the Arab Spring. The scheduled 2015 presidential elections in Ukraine were such a ‘moment of transition’ and I’ve no doubt what’s happened over the last 6 months or so was originally planned for those elections if the wrong side looked like winning but it had to be brought forward because of Yanukovich’s unexpected decision to defer signing of the EU Association Agreement.

      The US/EU/NATO aim is not simply to bring Orange v2 to power. What would be the point of that since, like Orange v1, it could be reversed at the next election? Instead, the goal is to ensure irreversible changes take place in Ukraine which cannot be unpicked by any future incoming government. Bog standard elections could not be trusted to deliver this which is why there had to be a coup.

      When the Maidan first blew up, I lost a week or so of my life digging around on the European Parliament’s website and came across various correspondence and reports from Ukrainian officials to their EU counterparts involved in negotiating the Association Agreement and the Ukrainian side said pretty consistently for over 2 years that while they were committed to an EU future, the finances were intensely problematic – what the EU was asking was just too expensive. So while I’ve called Yanukovich’s decision to defer signing ‘unexpected’, I’m sure it must have crossed EU minds that this could happen, so what game was being played here?

    • Al says:

      What a pathetic black and white portrayal by Dud Speigl. So Russia has finally learnt western style propaganda techniques and can deploy them effectively. It is called competition.

      Dud Speigl laments the loss of total western propaganda superiority and almost totally ignores that it is equally as much the strategic failure of the west to explain their rationale in intervening in the Ukraine despite two decades worth of agreement that it is a tiger left sleeping.

      It mirrors the recent Guardian editoral complaining about kremlinbots spamming their comment forum with reasonable and cogent comments, of course the only possibility being that it is directed and controlled from the Kremlin which in itself parrots the US line of the 50 cent army employed by the PLA to spam american news sites.

      In the Guardian’s case the explanation could turn out to be very simple. The Guardian boasts that it is the most widely read news website in the globe. Add this to its virulent russophobic and bigoted reporting and and then ask if it is such a surprise that that it attracts such skeptical comments. Increased penetration = increased visibility = increased reaction. But no, the mega paranoid Guardian needs a conspiracy. Comment certainly isn’t free so I would suggest that it is taken to court for false advertising (deliberate falsehood).

      It’s funny that when everything goes wrong, the first reaction is that it has nothing to do with oneself, but it must be the other. 5 degrees of grief as has been pointed out multiple times on this blog.

      It reflects the cultural and institutional arrogance of declining great powers that still demand consensus in thinking (black vs. white) , which I may add is rather odd if one is supposedly the center of free speech and democracy, and the total corruption of whatever is left of the soul. When you have the editors of Dud Speigl effectively calling its own readers idiots because they have become much more skeptical since all the lies dating from the 1990 Gulf War to now, then you know these so called journalists have failed in their basic premise and themselves become essentially willing tools in the West’s endless wars. Yes, they criticize and point out the inconsistencies but on the whole they err on the side of caution and go along with it all. It’s their way or no way. So much for debate, democracy and delving in to the detail.

      And all this coming from supposedly left wing media who have moved to the center and center right along with the equivalent political parties. Sad, but true. Next they will be supporting censorship and cutting of media channels that don’t broadcast acceptable views, like Kiev and the Balts.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha, ha!!! Noam Chomsky’s Principle is really getting a workout – when we do it, it is noble; when they do it, it is propaganda. Every state TV – including Deutsche Welle – is a megaphone for that state to project the international image it wants the world to see and internalize. When entities like Ruptly were given the assignment to close the gap with western TV, they were simply assigned to counter what was essentially a western free-fire zone for government propaganda, and it is laughable to imply that these outlets are assigned the mandate to lie for the state when the western state has been caught lying so many times, unchallenged. The west insisted that impartial and unimpeachable sources verified that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 – bullshit: the only commissioned impartial international report specifically blamed Mikheil Saakashvili for launching the attack that started the war, although they said we was “provoked” in order to give him some cover. Tough titty – where was his statesmanlike self-discipline? Don’t you see the Ukrainian Army dragging its coattails up and down the Russian border right now, provoking Putin in every possible way – including the deliberate murder of Ukrainian civilians – to launch an invasion, with the full backing and cover of the west? I don’t see him doing it, so obviously provocation is not an excuse to act. The report also cited Russia for pursuing fleeing Georgian forces into Georgia proper, and terrifying its great jelly of a leader that the Russian state meant to driver straight on to Tbilisi, which it could easily have done: behaviour the west regularly and routinely excuses as “the fog of war” whenever western forces or western-backed mercenaries do it. More recently, Barack Obama informed the world that he Crimea referendum was rubbish, and that it might have been viewed differently by the international community had they conducted a proper referendum the way Kosovo did before they announced themselves an independent nation. Bullshit, 100% pure. There was no Kosovo referendum, at all, it simply declared itself independent upon its own authority. But at least half the dullards who watched Obama say that will believe him, and that was the objective. Examples are abundant.

        Entities like Ruptly and RT were established and groomed to counter western propaganda, and the squeals of complaint are a measure of how effectively they are addressing that task. If everything the western media said was even 50% accurate, the complainers would have a legitimate beef. As it is, they haven’t a leg to stand on. Thje west has simply grown accustomed to having an uninterrupted channel to the brains of its audience through which to pipe the daily cocktail of soothing distraction and policy-based falsehoods. It does not like having competition for that input. This is all of a piece with the dovetailing complaints about “paid Russian propagandists” interfering with comment fora.

  2. Dan8538 says:

    I have just recently discovered this blog and I must say I am truly impressed and happy to see that there are people left in the west who understand that not everything that comes out of the mouth of the west is pure truth which was given to them straight from God. As someone who lived in Moscow for half my life I am not blind to the imperfections of russian society and leadership but they are not barbarians or idiots. The constant assault on the russian president from all of the standard western media has caused me to simply stop reading it. I am glad that I found an alternative that is better then i could have ever imagined.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Welcome to the community, Dan. I felt the same way, when I found this site 4 years ago or so. Be critical and logical. Only stupid people believe in unconfirmed TV reports.

  3. ThatJ says:

    I found this blog when googling Catherine Fitzpatrick La Russophobe, since I thought there are strong similarities between the latter’s and Catherine Fitzpatrick‘s writing style, besides, of course, their time-consuming anti-Russian obsession.

    Mark and others share this suspicion and have commented on it, which is why the blog appears among the top results when you search for the mentioned words.

  4. Dan8538 says:

    I was not familiar with La Russphobe before but i did visit the site recently and it honestly scared me. The thoughts expressed there are way too extreme. I am fluent in russian so i would read different russian blogs but I prefer to read in english so i started with RT and it wasnt so bad but the comments section there is just ridiculous. Eventually i made my way here from Da russophile. Happy to be here and eagerly anticipating the next post.

    • marknesop says:

      Welcome, Dan; we’re glad to have you. I hope we all recognize here that Russia is not perfect or utopian, but its problems are the same as those of any developed nation and they are being addressed with considerably more focus and effectiveness than the west, generally speaking, is addressing similar or identical problems with markedly less result. At the same time, Russia’s determination to hold the line against the dizzying moral decline of the west speaks very well of its traditional values, I think. There is an abundance of examples of aberrant behaviour in the west resulting in beatings and murders, so the shouting about tolerance is not really having much of an effect against violence toward those who are different, while there is a great deal more permissiveness in Russia than western propaganda would have you believe. There is wrong on both sides, of course, and there always is, but one side is arguing for hedonism and instant gratification without responsibility while the other is arguing for family values and tolerance without approbation or celebration.

      It is a measure of the west’s frustration that it takes the low road of abuse and sanctions without foundation, and endless, drumbeat demonization. If I were Russia, I would receive these gladly as a barometer of cheated rage on the west’s part, because the west only pats you on the head after it has crushed your resistance and made you its creature.

      • ucgsblog says:

        Regarding sanctions: “if you were sanctioned by the West, congratulations, you are a successful and influential businessman or politician” – common Russian joke. I have quite a few:

        “Within a few months, the Crimeans set a World record in ice hockey. Last year they could not even make the World Championships; this year they were celebrating the gold medal, quite an achievement!”

        “Let our biathlonists shoot our hockey players; that way our hockey players will be punished, and no one will get hurt!”

        “After telling the Russian biathlonists that they’ll be shooting hockey players, the biathlonists promptly won the gold medal”

        “After the previous two events occurred, the hockey players won the gold medal at the World Championships by sweeping the tournament”

        • marknesop says:

          I have to say that as a Canadian, I was infuriated that Russia won the World Hockey Championship, but if it had to be anyone else I’m glad it was them.

          What do the Vancouver Canucks and the Titanic have in common? Both look great until they hit the ice!

  5. marknesop says:

    Courtesy of the commentary at Moon of Alabama, Russia returns to the Middle East with a vengeance, signing up Syria for a free-trade zone with the Customs Union. Assad would likely do anything for Russia now, since it saved Syria from casual annihilation by the west. Russia is expected to largely subsidize Syrian reconstruction, which will mean jobs for Russian and Syrian companies and a closer alliance between the two, and obviate the need for Syria to allow Qatari or Saudi pipelines to cross Syria because the state needs the money. It needs hardly to be said that the Russian base at Tartus will be extended, and Russia agrees to share satellite data with Syria.

    Russia seems to me to be acting suspiciously like a global player.

    • Al says:

      Listening to the BBC world service last night, there was a report about the Shia rebellion in Saudi Arabia, a few having taken up guns and the Saudis authorities using it as an excuse to label the shias as ‘terrorists’.

      I rather fancy that the Gulf’s largest buyers of american weapons could be heading for their own arab onion at some point in the future. The Wahabbis don’t have time for anyone else and if things escalate they probably wouldn’t think twice about committing good old slaughter. I wonder if there is any covert support for embattled shias from outside.

      What would the USG do in such an scenario? Close their eyes no doubt. Bahrain, home of the US 5th fleet has gone fully old skool Sharia and there’s barely a squeak about it in policy circles, just as their is barely a squeak about its brutal crackdown against protestors this last year, suppressed with the help of the saudi army. All with american and western weapons and materiel of course.

      On a side note, has anyone seen Qatar’s new dress coded for people coming for,the 2022 World Cup? I suspect the close it gets to the event, if it ever actually happens, the more worried the authorities will have about westerners and their ‘habits’ infecting the locals.

      There are certainly shifts afoot in the tectonic plates of the Middle East and Russia is back in time to provide some balance.

      On a Syrian note, the western propaganda departments are bigging up the use of ‘barrel bombs’* by the Syrian air force despite having been used for quite a while. Why this sudden emphasis. Considering the Russian naval military squadron has left the Med with a much smaller presence left behind, I suspect there is a temptation for one final push against Damascus as the final chemical weapons are shipped out. Is this something the Obama administration would be tempted to do to try and placate the screaming republican harridians? The rhetoric on Syria has been increasing the last couple of months and an american citizen has apparently become a suicide bomber over there.

      “Strange things are afoot at the CircleK”

      From the pro-rebel partisan Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) based in the UK.

      • marknesop says:

        Said pro-rebel partisan Syrian Observatory for Human Rights being a single individual in the UK who claims to be in touch with a “network of activists” in Syria, all of whom also are rebels or pro-rebel.

        • Warren says:

          The SOHR is a one man show, run from Coventry. A Syrian asylum seeker/exile with connections to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. He spews absolutely propaganda and lies, which the Western media regurgitates and disseminates with glee. Western journalists never challenge SOHR, or mention its blatant pro-insurgency bias.

        • Jen says:

          Brown Moses aka Eliot Higgins is another UK-based individual who is a celebrity with CNN International and The Guardian for his “analysis” of information about the Syrian war (from mostly rebel or pro-rebel sources) that leads him to conclude that the Syria government has been using CWs against its own people:

          He gets help and advice from Dan Kaszeta who is “… a lifelong expert in chemical/biological/radiological defence and warfare issues …” (from his comments BTL).

          • Southerncross says:

            Haha! Eliot Piggins is a real piece of work: a jobless twit from the Midlands who plays video games and posts on the internet while his wife goes out to work(he won’t get a job himself because he’d lose his benefits), Piggins is a true warrior of the information age.

            He acts as a moderator on the website – once a comedy forum for the dregs of Gen X, now run by and for self-absorbed tossers who find humour upsetting. Piggins’ methodology consists of reading web content, getting someone else to translate it (he won’t learn Arabic himself because that would cut into his video game time), and ‘crowd-sourcing’ his analysis by talking to posters on SomethingAwful’s military board. Meanwhile Piggins runs the site’s Syria discussion thread as his own personal fiefdom and echo chamber, basking in the fawning admiration of morons who think ‘content aggregation’ is equivalent to journalism, and banning anybody who disagrees with his take on things or just complains about Piggins using the thread for his own corpulent self-promotion.

            You could easily ignore a guy a like this, if he confined his activities to his shitty blog and a dying internet forum owned by an indolent drug-addict. But he’s pushing the London-Washington line, so we have this lazy fuck-up being treated by the BBC as an information source fit to mentioned in the same breath as SEYMOUR HERSH!

            Think about that for a moment:

            Seymour Hersh: “This ‘Syrian gas attack’ story is a fraud! I have sources here – staffers on the National Security Council, analysts at the CIA and DIA, high-ranking officers attached to the Joint Chiefs – and they all tell me the government had worked out within a day that the Syrian army couldn’t have carried out the attack!”

            Eliot Piggins: “My source User:AnimeCatGirlRapist69 on says the rockets could totally have come from this army base right here! Sorry, can’t stay to answer questions, my WOW guild is having a raid and then I’ve got a DOTA 2(*) tourney planned.”

            *DOTA 2. Some of you are parents, so here’s some free and valuable advice: If you learn that any child of yours has started playing DOTA 2, immediately pull them out of school and take them on a six-month camping and hunting trip to the Alaskan wilderness. People play that thing for 24+ hours at a stretch. It is a life-destroying obsession.

          • marknesop says:

            Many sources refer to him as an “expert”, which I have come to learn often means in terms of western media, “will support the party line”.

  6. Fern says:

    Ukraine has – allegedly – made a payment to Gazprom for part of its gas debt. The figure that was talked about earlier this week was a payment of $2 billion – instead, the current governing authorities in Kiev claim they’ve sent $786 million. Gazprom have said they’ll wait and see what hits their bank account on Monday before breaking out the champagne. On a positive note – it looks as though the EU – or some influential countries therein – are starting to lose patience with Kiev’s can’t pay, won’t pay schtick. The energy commissioner is saying that Kiev does have money and must pay for what it consumes.

  7. Fern says:

    On cue, it has been announced Obama will be discussing how the US can ‘help’ Europe reduce its gas dependency on Russia by increasing its dependency on US shale gas during his visit to Europe in June.

    “The US has pledged to help the EU cut down its gas imports from Russia and diversify its energy supply during President Barack Obama’s visit to Europe next week, National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said.
    The topics up for discussion during Obama’s visit – which is scheduled to take place June 2-6 – include US natural gas exports and the prospect of increasing US sales to the EU, according to the advisor.
    “Over the last several weeks, we have already taken some steps to, through our licensing, increase the export of natural gas to Europe and we see that as part of the European energy picture and European energy diversification,” Rhodes told reporters on Friday.
    He added that the US will be discussing ways that the EU could diversify its gas imports, stating that tensions in Ukraine have highlighted the EU’s energy dependency.
    “The Ukraine crisis has brought into sharp relief Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, so we are going to work closely with our European allies on the importance of both short- and long-term efforts to diversify their energy sources, to modernize their infrastructure and to limit Russia’s ability to use energy as a tool of political leverage,” Rhodes said.

    It’s an ill wind eh?

    • marknesop says:

      This is not to make a profit, of course: it is entirely for altruistic reasons, because you are our allies and friends, and we want to help you. Heh, heh.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    NTV dishes the dirt on the the Chocolate King:
    Петр Порошенко По трупам к власти и деньгам Часть 1 2014 2015 Украина
    [Pyotr Poroshenko: Power and Money to by Means of Corpses. Part 1: the Ukraine, 2014-2015 ]
    Вся правда о Петре Порошенко Лицемер и сынок вора рвется к власти Это президент Украины? Смотреть и делать выводы
    [The whole truth about Pyotr Poroshenko: a hypocrite and son of a thief claws himself to power. How come he is president of the Ukraine? Watch and draw your own conclusions.]

    NTV, so it’s all Putin lies of course.

    • yalensis says:

      One of the worst accusations against Poroshenko appears around the middle of above piece, in which his chocolates are accused of containing polonium and other cancer-inducing agents. And even knowing that the candy was contaminated, Poroshenko insisted they had to be sold to schoolchildren due to some franchise he had with the schools. Hence, Poroshenko is literally poisoning the children of Ukraine with his damaged product.

      • Southerncross says:

        Mystery solved – it wasn’t in the tea, it was in the complimentary chocolate.

        • yalensis says:


          That explains why British bobbies found a brownish foam smeared around Mr. Litvinenko’s mouth, his face contorted in the agony of rictus of an obviously painful and unpleasant death.

          Inspector Lestrade was not able to identify what exactly was this gooey brown foam, and was too squeamish even to get close.
          But Sherlock Holmes, with no hesitation, bent over the dead man and sniffed at his mouth. “Can’t you see, Lestrade?” Holmes chided him. “It’s chocolate! Ordinary chocolate…”
          Lestrade hesitated. “Are you trying to say…?”
          “Yes, I am. This man was a CHOCOHOLIC. And the bon-bons obviously contained large amounts of polonium. It’s quite elementary.”
          “Oh yes!” agreed Dr. Watson, eager to show off his knowledge. “Especially since polonium is itself an element.”
          “I suppose you could say,” Holmes resumed, after quickly glaring at Watson, “that this is literally a case of Death by Chocolate.”

    • Jen says:

      And here are some unpalatable things that UNITED STATES DIPLOMATS have said about the Chocolate Chump:

      Descriptions like “a net-minus”, “a deeply unpopular politician” and “Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations” don’t sound all that positive.

      Surely the Washington Post isn’t turning into a mouthpiece for Lord Sauron?

  9. Al says:

    The poor Beeb, thank god they have got Oxana to bring them the news!

    Ukraine crisis: Traffic of war in a border town

    “…Cossack militiamen from the neighbouring Russian region of Rostov and fighters from the North Caucasus wander its streets, Oxana (not her real name) said by telephone.

    Armoured troop carriers pass through the streets, four, five, six at a time, according to the woman, who is in her mid-thirties.

    A friend in a block of flats closer to the centre, she says, witnessed helicopters hovering over the town centre at about 04:00 a few days earlier.

    After they left, a “huge” quantity of military hardware lay on the square, including what appeared to be heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft cannon, destination unknown….

    …I have only Oxana’s word for the current situation in this town of 78,000 but some of her account matches recent reports by bloggers.

    I have only Oxana’s word for the current situation in this town of 78,000 but some of her account matches recent reports by bloggers.

    A video posted on YouTube on 5 May shows a convoy of Cossacks being greeted in Antratsyt…”

    Some fact mixed with fiction no doubt. The viedo shows three troop transports amongst a collection of cars and minibuses. Of course ‘Oxana’ is the only one in the village with her head screwed on amongst the paranoid masses who have yet to accept ukranian neo-nazi groups to their bosoms.

    • Southerncross says:

      Three words for “Oxanna”:

      Suitcase – Airport – Canada

    • yalensis says:

      This Oksana is actually a good stringer, better than most of the BBC correspondents. She appears to report accurately:

      She reports that vast majority of the town are pro-Russian, and there was a huge turn-out for the independence referendum on 11 May.
      She reports accurately that she herself is in the minority there, with her pro-Ukrainian views. BBC is lucky to have someone there who doesn’t B.S. them and just tell them what they want to hear.

      • patient observer says:

        She does not understand the corporate visions nor is she a team player. She has likely received verbal followed by written reprimands for her ongoing inadequacies. The next step in the disciplinary process will be a leave of absence to allow time to reconsider her career choice. If progress in not made severance of employment will be inevitable. HR will be asked to better screen future potential hires.

        • Southerncross says:

          They should have called the officer’s daughter instead,

        • Jen says:

          HR will be told to send future hires to a Ukrainian army unit that will teach them how to report on the war as part of their three-month probationary period of employment. Maybe as part of their training they’ll have to watch educational videos of Tintin Harding’s reporting during his embedment with Syrian “rebels” or the Ukrainian military.

    • marknesop says:

      What’s an “anti-aircraft cannon”? And from how far away did this friend see the pile of military hardware at 04:00? It’s pretty dark then. I wonder how many people can recognize a heavy machine gun (which is a typically mounted weapon .50 calibre and up, although some long-range sniper rifles are shoulder-controlled and are chambered for .50 cal, although they are usually single shot) from 70 yards or so away? Thank God for nosy neighbours, what?

      There is no moral reason Russia should not be supplying the rebels with weapons and ammunition, considering they are under attack by the state’s military with its vehicles, armor and military weaponry and international regulatory bodies are disinclined to do anything about it although what the Ukrainian forces are doing is clearly illegal.

      This reference tells us that the Law of Armed Conflict applies only to Armed Conflict, which traditionally is military against military, and these laws regulate what those forces must do to safeguard the lives and property of non-combatants during their efforts to kill one another. The Law of Armed Conflict does not apply here. When military forces are used in a supporting role to back up law enforcement in what is essentially a law enforcement operation, their obligations are limited to (1) maintaining law and order, (2) preventing and detecting crime, and (3) assistance in emergencies of all kinds. In these objectives they are regulated by Human Rights Law.

      According to this reference, “For years, it was held that the difference between international human rights law and international humanitarian law was that the former applied in times of peace and the latter in situations of armed conflict. Modern international law, however, recognizes that this distinction is inaccurate. Indeed, it is widely recognized nowadays by the international community that since human rights obligations derive from the recognition of inherent rights of all human beings and that these rights could be affected both in times of peace and in times of war, international human rights law continues to apply in situations of armed conflict. Moreover, nothing inhuman rights treaties indicates that they would not be applicable in times of armed conflict.”

      All right. So the Law of Armed Conflict continues to regulate Armed Conflict, but Human Rights Law applies nonetheless in all cases in which a country uses its military to put down civilian rebellion.

      “Moreover, certain violations of international human rights and humanitarian law constitute crimes under international criminal law, so other bodies of
      law, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, could, therefore, also be applicable. International criminal law and criminal justice on war crimes implement international humanitarian law, but they also clarify and develop its rules.”
      My, that sounds promising; I know we should stick with this reference until we’re finished with it, and forgive me for jumping ahead, but I just can’t resist hopping over to the Rome Statute.

      Oh, dear. The law on genocide specifies, at Article 6:

      For the purpose of this Statute, “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

      (a) Killing members of the group;

      (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

      (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

      (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

      (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

      You see, that’s interesting, because the Kiev coup government already identified a core ethnic group – Russian speakers, referred to throughout the Ukrainian conflict as “Moskali” – as undesirables, and during public marches by the collective which came to be the National Guard by a government order, this Moskali group was identified by the marchers and spectators as one which should be “put to the knife”. By coincidence, it was this selfsame Moskali group which rebelled on account of repressive legislation imposed by that government and it is this selfsame Moskali group which is currently under attack by the military of the regime. Has the regime’s military killed members of the group, and does it continue to do so? Why, yes; it has and does. Has the regime’s military caused bodily and/re mental harm to members of the group, and does it continue to do so? Why, yes; it has and it does. Has the regime’s military deliberately inflicted on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and does it continue to do so? Why, yes; it has and it does.

      Going back for a moment to the previous reference, we learn that the right to life of persons rendered hors de combat, or out of action – which most definitely applies to wounded – is protected under international law. I’m pretty sure that firing on vehicles clearly marked as being used for ambulances, and then killing all the wounded by shooting them in the head and removing the identifiers which marked the vehicles as ambulances, is stepping far enough outside that law that it in and of itself constitutes a war crime of the grossest nature, and I devoutly hope that proof of that action is obtainable because that one incident is enough to hang the coup government.

  10. kirill says:

    Regime transport planes are landing at the Donetsk airport. This proves to me that the rebels have basically no MANPADs. Not even a few. The last helicopter that was shot down while near the ground and no details were given as to how. So it must have been with gunfire.

    Russia needs to get is fucking act together. It has no obligations not to have MANPADs fall into rebel hands. I am quite sure NATO is doing everything it can to prop up the Kiev regime short of actually sending in the troops.

    • “Russia needs to get is fucking act together”

      Sorry, but it won’t happen. I gave up my hope a weeks ago. Russia will not do anything, period. The rebels are on their own.
      This is why I gave up emotionally supporting the rebels. It is too distressing to root for someone who will lose.

      • My understanding of the situation is that Russia has de facto accepted Poroshenko as the president of Ukraine and Russia will try to work with him, Russia has also given Poroshenko regime a free hand to wipe out the rebels. This will be seen as a betrayal in Novorossiya, but they made a mistake trusting the Kremlin. And Kremlin never really promised them any support either. Kremlin wanted Crimea and that’s it.

      • marknesop says:

        Always back the winners, Karl. It’s not too late for you to get yourself a little NATO flag.

        • I’m not backing Nato and I still _hope_ the rebels will win. I just don’t believe it anymore and I think it is better not to stress too much about the situation. The rebels will lose and we should get used to that idea.

          • marknesop says:

            Well, then, stop stressing about it. If they lose, they lose. So far, they haven’t, and it is a lot better for your blood pressure to assume that will continue, in the absence of any conflicting evidence such as big regime gains.

    • patient observer says:

      I share your frustration however it may simply be that Russia needs to let the situation continue to develop despite the ongoing suffering and dying. The last thing Russia needs is an protracted bloodletting aka Syria which piecemeal arming would facilitate. Also as has been said many times, a Russian intervention in the very near future will look like an invasion, in a few months it will look like a liberation.

      Russia may have its own undeclared red line such as use of Grad rockets against civilian areas. Such an action would provide them both the moral and legal high ground to intervene in a limited but highly effective way as was done in S. Ossetia. Among other things, this means that Russia would not seek regime change in Kiev, nor take territory. Once the Nazi scum has been bleached, they would withdraw their forces and a new nation is born. Eventual merger with Russia would be likely but not for several years. That is my hope.

      • marknesop says:

        They should also keep in mind that it is the people who are killing them, and the backers of those people, who keep shouting for Russia to withdraw ever further away and to keep out of it, and to strut and posture in international fora and announce with satisfaction that “Russia is isolated”. Why is it Russia’s obligation to fight the whole world for Ukrainians? There is a moral obligation, for sure, but there is a mountain-sized moral obligation for the Ukrainian state to cease this practice at once and pay reparations, while it is the absolute obligation of the west to stop supporting this behaviour, condemn it loudly and unreservedly and take steps to force its cessation immediately. But instead everyone keeps saying “Russia should intervene, Russia should intervene”. It is precisely that which the west hopes it will do and continues to bait it to do. But rather than scream for the west to stop backing its pet murderers, everyone screams for Russia to satisfy the west’s agenda.

  11. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, back on the Kiev Maidan, it is being reported that people are tossing good-old-fashioned Molotov cocktails again.
    Right Sektor is trying to clear people out, as per orders of Poro/Klichko. They brought in some bulldozers and such-like.
    But people don’t want to leave, and are fighting back, with their usual burning tires and molotovs.

    Scroll down to comments, for some of my favorite pics and funny captions:
    “Russian Occupier soldier forces Ukrainian boy to feed his cat with expensive sausage.”

    Kerry to Yats: “Stay strong, Arseny! Your horrible and agonizing death will become a symbol of Freedom and Democracy to all.”

    (Motivational poster: Man looking very thinkatory):
    “Realization. We’ve been fucked.”

  12. kirill says:

    Nice post by potximax at militaryphotos:

    Poroshenko: 9,857,308 votes (2014)

    Yanukovich: 12,481,266 votes (2010)

    And now Poroshenko is the “legit” president. What a joke.

    Even if you sum all the votes from the first four presidential candidates (all supposed to be strong pro-united-ukraine), in this very special “patriotic” election, the total they can sum is only 13.6 million votes. Compare with the Yanukovich support.,_2014,_2010

    Ukraine is socially and ethnically divided. If current govt. don’ t take care urgently about it the country will be finally broken.

    • kirill says:

      I should add that I think the numbers for Poroshenko are fake. They seem to scale with the BS claim of an over 50% turnout:

      In 2010 we had 67% turnout which implied 36,7 million registered voters. Supposedly on May 25th we had 18,019,456 voting. So 18.02/0.528=34.13 million registered voters. Now we have confirmation that the 52.8% figure is total BS. Without Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk and many other places the number of registered voters is only 2.6 million less than in 2014. As of 2013, the population of Donetsk is 4,356,392 and Luhansk is 2,246,884. The population of Crimea is 2.4 million as of 2007. So we have about 9 million people not participating. This is around 5-6 million registered voters.

      If the official turnout numbers are so brazenly manipulated, then so are the rest of the numbers. The number of people voting on May 25 must have been 12 million or less. Poroshenko’s level of support is probably accurate and he got something like 6.5 million votes.

  13. yalensis says:

    And on the war front:
    Today (Saturday), insurgents continued to stubbornly attack Donetsk airport.
    Ukes say they beat back 2 attacks, which is probably correct.
    Insurgents admit they lost several men inside the airport, and when they tried to go back in to collect their bodies in an ambulance, junta killed 6 more men who were trying to take the bodies.

    As a result, the bodies are still inside the airport, and both sides will have to let Red Cross go in to get them.

  14. yalensis says:

    Donetsk to form women’s battalion:
    Natalia Belotserkovskaya, leader of the “Russian Blok”, a Donbass political party banned in Ukraine, proposes to enlist women in a special battalion, that will go out confront and block junta forces in Donetsk. They will not be armed, though, they will just have to trust that Uke soldiers don’t shoot at them..
    Natalia has enrolled herself, and is in the process of enrolling more volunteers:

  15. kirill says:


    11:55 GMT:

    Moscow has expressed outrage over calls by German OSCE special envoy, Wolfgang Ischinger, to “intensify the anti-terrorist operation” in southeastern Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “We are surprised by the latest statement on Ukraine by the German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who is quite respected in Russia…” the Ministry stated. “The calls to ‘intensify the anti-terrorist operation’ in the South East are simply outrageous. We often hear such messages, but mainly from Kiev and Washington,” the ministry added.

    1) Why would foreigners call for the an intensification of the so-called anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine? What threat do these so-called terrorists pose to these foreigners?

    2) Did the meaning of the word diplomacy change? Diplomats are supposed to play the role of moderation and not cheerleading.

    3) As I have stated before, the OSCE is a Trojan horse outfit for NATO. The above BS from Ischinger proves it. For example, if the OSCE feels the need to step up the shelling of civilians in eastern Ukraine then it would have no qualms of assisting the Kiev regime in doing so.

    • Al says:

      Wolfgang Ischinger is a fuly paid up member of the NWO.

      From his wiki:

      “…From 1973 to 1975, Ischinger served on the staff of the Secretary General of the United Nations in New York. He joined the German Foreign Service in 1975, and has served in Washington, D.C., Paris, and in a number of senior functions in the German Foreign Office. From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Ischinger was Director of the Policy Planning Staff; from 1995 to 1998, as Director General for Political Affairs (Political Director), Mr. Ischinger participated in a number of international negotiating processes, including the Bosnia Peace Talks at Dayton, OH, the negotiations concerning the NATO-Russia Founding Act, as well as the negotiations on EU and NATO enlargement and on the Kosovo crisis. As Staatssekretär (Deputy Foreign Minister), Ischinger represented Germany at numerous international and European conferences, including the 1999 G8 and EU summit meetings in Cologne/Germany and the 2000 Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the United Nations, New York.

      In 2007, Ischinger was the European Union Representative in the Troika negotiations on the future of Kosovo which led to the declaration of independence of Kosovo and to the recognition of Kosovo by most EU member countries, by the United States, and a number of other countries, in February, 2008. It has been told that Ischinger entered the talks “with only one goal and idea: for Kosovo to become independent in the end, with the Serbian authority’s willing consent”…”

      He will run until someone in Berlin tugs on his leash. Not to be taken too seriously.

      I am bemused by Berlin’s quiet, behind the scenes role, or lack of it until fairly recently. US actions are threatening the fundamental stability of the EU and all we hear is that there is lack of evidence against the US for spying on everyone. US interest in Europe are diametrically opposed to German compromise and dialogue wherever possible. How on earth can such a dichotomy continue without a major public bust up? I guess one may well have happened in private and papered over for political and face reasons. Something has got to break. When and where is anybody’s guess.

    • marknesop says:

      So much for their supposed impartiality in elections.

      • Al says:

        Ever since they turned themselves in to the self-professed guardians of election in Europe in 1996 (Bosnia of course where the fuzzywuzzies are clearly incapable of tying their own shoelaces, note that they still refer to the propaganda figure of 200,000 deaths there) they have consistently rubber stamped elections of parties in favor and and openly criticized parties not in favor. It’s specific mission is to support the democratization of states. It’s not democracy if the wrong person or party wins the elections of course:

        It is not just that something is rotten in Denmark, but anywhere the OSCE sets foot. So it has 57 members. It is considered a prestigious club one should seek to be a member of with Saturday nights at a member’s house where car keys are left in a large glass bowl.

  16. Al says:

    I wrote here * that it could be possible that the West jumped the Presidential election gun because they thought Yanukovich might join the Eurasian Union instead. I read his book Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power a long time ago. V. interesting


    I’ve just finished listening to the lecture given by Anatol Leiven of King’s College War Studies on May 16th which was previously posted here from the Moon of Alabama blog:

    FEEM (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei) Lecture by Anatol Lieven, King’s College London: “The Ukraine Debacle”, May 16 2014

    I strongly urge everyone to take the time out and listen to it.

    I could have saved myself a long post by finding a transcript of it instead where he agrees the Eurasian Union is what made the West jump.

    I do have some minor criticisms of his analysis but mostly agree and find it refreshing to hear an adult analysis coming from the UK.

    But first to recall (more or less accurately) a few of his vignettes.

    1: In 1992 a french ambassador declared to him that there is no place for sphere’s of influence at the end of the 20th century. Lieven comments that one should consider France’s ‘help’ in Algeria. He also in the questions later comments that the EU seems to be quite happy to leave former colonial nations holding the bag, so for Pakistan the EU follows and asks for advice from the UK, and for north Africa, France.

    2: A UK diplomat told him (also in the early 1990s I think) that he doesn’t understand Russia’s continued obsession with Sevastopol as a military port. Lieven comments that maybe he should have said it in spanish (vis Gibraltar).

    3: At a roundtable discussion he was participating in, the Polish ambassador told the german ambassador that Russia had 250,000 combat ready troops in Kaliningrad who could take over Poland in one day. Lieven interjected to point out that it was in fact a fraction of this number and the Russian army was essentially decrepit. After the discussion he took his colleagues to task and asked they why they had remained silent on the Polish ambassadors comments. The replies were “we were taking in to account polish sensibilities”. Lieven countered “what would Russian listeners take from this broadcast but unremitting hostility to Russia?”

    He also laid in to the anglo-saxon media for its terrible reporting and pointed out many of the hypocrisies it practiced.

    One other interesting vignette is that Lieven said his grandfather (great, I think) used to own most of the Donbass before he sold it to a welsh industrialist and that he didn’t want to keep such a god forsaken place. Lieven is not asking for it back. Oh, the lolz!

    On the question and answers session following his lecture, he is on more ropey territory. He makes much hay that the east of the Ukraine could descend into war lordism aka Bosnia, Chechnya where banditry will flourish a la Transniestria etc. This is more a reflection of his experience of reporting the first war in Chechnya, but as we have seen with recent events vis the arrival of the Vostok battalion in Donetsk, Russia certainly does not want this to happen and Vostok is there to instill iron discipline and thus keep the locals on side rather than alienating them by behaving like bad boyz.

    He was also wrong about Russia not accepting the results of the Presidential election if it were held. Yes, it didn’t make sense to hold elections before there was an agreed constitutional change and people weren’t fighting, but (with hindsight possibly) the point that it is in Russia’s interests to have someone they can actually talk to in Kiev and thus avoid talking to Svoboda & Right Sektor. Recognizing the Presidential elections means that they also have someone to blame if it all goes terribly wrong.

    One thing that did stand out is that he remarked how if the US decides to treat China as it has been treating Russia, then we can expect war at some point. He commented on the USG’s containment effort but very little on the USG’s policy of containing Russia.

    Lieven’s pretty good but he still has the journalist heartbeat within him which I think in his case is more of a weakness than a strength, especially as an expert at Kings.

    Here’s and interview with him on back in march were he covers some of the same points:

    Lieven on the Crimea:

    One of the funniest things he said was that he used to think that Russia/Ukraine were the worst for conspiracy theories, but that was before he spent time in India and Pakistan, the latter of which is streets ahead of any other nation.

    It’s a shame that he hasn’t taken advantage of social media fully (regular podcasts, youtube clips, transcripts etc.) and made a space for him as a regular expert and commentator as he really does have something very good to contribute in to debates where there is a sore lack of adult, intelligent pragmatism. I guess the reason we don’t see him on tv is because that is what the powers that be do not want people to hear reasonable analyses.

    I believe my post is an accurate reflection of the Lieven lecture, but listen for yourselves.

    • kirill says:

      Lieven is another example of the reality of western “freedom”. You cannot have any academic or pundit who is fully opposed to the western narrative. This applies to Chomsky as well. In Russia you can have full bore western bootlicks, but no such thing exists in the west. In the case of the first Lieven video you posted, he dismisses the Donbass referenda as not being serious since no (western, one presumes) observers were present. This is pure rubbish. Given the ethnic composition and the whole base of previous opinion polls and voting preferences it was clear what the outcome would be. I lost interest in watching after this. I don’t hold it against him, but I would rather not spend so much time listening to career-adapted analysis.

      • Al says:

        I wouldn’t be anywhere near as harsh as you but I completely follow where you are coming from. I’ve seen similar 23*0 during the wars in the former SFRY. My excitement is precisely because this is one of the few more reasonable lights shining through the morass of anglo-saxon black propaganda. Again, and I think I’ve made this point before, it is just as important to look for what is missing from the picture as much as what the content is of what is presented.

        Did you notice that though brief, the questions from his Italian audience were notably skeptical of the anglo-saxon narrative? Again this is something we don’t really hear about because it is not in the dominant english, but a lot of the euromed countries are a lot more careful and skeptic than the rabid anglo-saxon media. We simply don’t hear about it. If no-one points out out, who will notice? Certainly not the anglo-saxon press who believe that the sun shines out of their every orifice.

        As I wrote I think in my original post, it is clear that Lieven puts too much current analysis based on past experience/history. Russia certainly has learned its lessons as we have seen in both Georgia and Crimea. The West still hasn’t and is flailing around. Another blind spot, ah point B of Lieven is his assuption that the EU is like a headless chicken and the bureaucrats are lost with the Ukraine crisis. I think this is fundamentally flawed and wrong. Specifically, and I may be repeating myself here, people like Herman ‘I love haikus’ can Rompuy are willing tools in the West’s arsenals in promoting western european ideals as far and as wide as possible. The argument that the EU countries let the Commission get ahead of itself in technical negotiations with the Ukraine over the accession agreement is laughable. They knew exactly what the f384 they were doing and were simply being used as a proxy by certain western foreign ministries to pull the wool over the eyes of the Russians who saw right through it.

        It is a total lie that it is in part the european bureaucrats fault for the current crisis. They were, and still are, willing tools in box. I despise bureaucrats the most as leaders and parties sometimes get pushed for their crimes, but the bureaucracy that underpinned those crimes get of very lightly indeed, vis the transportation of jews to the concentration camp etc. where they see full wagons going, empty wagons returning, over and over again. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that wherever they were going, there would be limits that would be surpassed which means there could only be one conclusion. But no, the grey people simply rubber stamped the papers, organized the trains and logistics and made it all happen. The only consequence was the PR de-natzification after World War II. Millions of german and other nazi war criminals living in to old age on big fat pensions and dying peacefully in their beds. It’s the banality of evil.

        • Al says:

          Slightly expanding on Russia’s lessons learned, clear, simple obtainable objectives and avoid mission creep. Successfully implemented in both Georgia and the Ukraine.

          Another point on which I fundamentally disagree with Lieven is that the Eurasian Union is meaningless without the Ukraine. It is far to early to write it off by any means. Regardless of what happens in the Ukraine save for a much bigger war, it will retain its status as a cross-roads between Russia and the EU, now even more so than before. The EU cannot absorb it, Russia will no longer subsidize it. The pendulum will rest once more in the center. Further to that Russia being a natural land and sea bridge between Europe and Asia, the North Western passage for ships to travel ice free rather than the much longer southern route, and the much faster trans-Russia railway route for asian goods, not to mention energy and other links, if anything will further enhance Russia’s position as an indispensable trade link in a globalized world where efficiency and time are central to capitalist economics for the foreseeable future except for maybe the mass adoption of disruptive technologies like 3D additive printing.

          I think Lieven’s views are too shackled by the past to accept the full reality that the future is all change and there is a lot more to play for.

    • Al says:

      From the blogging heads interview above (views mostly contained in the FEEM lecture) I took as interesting is that the UK, US and Australia recognize passports from the Turkish bit of northern Cyprus. I know they weren’t kicked out of NATO, but I missed the passport issue.

      The interviewee, David Klion is an Al Jezeera contributor who did a piece comparing some of the events to invasion of Cyprus (he is of greek origin) which is also a point think Lieven ascribes to but is wrong is not only wrong in a fundamental aspect, but a contradictory argument. A) it is wrong simply because the Cold War is over and there can be no enforced acceptance or otherwise. Each nation can decide whether they have a problem with Crimea being an integral part of the Ukraine, i.e. the world has changed and you can forget all the old rules; b) I’ve completely forgotten what I was going to write. Bugger.

    • marknesop says:

      Anatole Lieven is also the younger brother of academic researcher Domenic Lieven, author of “Russia vs. Napoleon”, which did more than any other single body of work to explode the myth that “General Winter” did for Napoleon and that all the Russians ever did was keep retreating until Napoleon could go no further.

      • Jen says:

        I remember Alexander Mercouris has mentioned Dominic Lieven before either here or at Da Russophile. He’s an academic at the London School of Economics if I recall correctly.

    • Warren says:

      Which illegal profession is Lieven referring to in the first video? 12:50

      And how does Lieven know this? Does Lieven have first hand experience and knowledge of this “fact”?

      What an arrogant and rude twat Lieven is!

  17. kirill says:


    16:06 GMT:

    Ukraine introduced an embargo on military goods deliveries to Russia in March and Moscow cannot even receive the goods that have been already paid for, said the deputy head of Russia’s Defense Ministry, Yury Borisov.

    “In March, Ukraine issued regulations that prohibit the supply of arms, military equipment and [separate] components for Russian defense enterprises. Those goods have already accumulated at the customs service. In most cases the goods, which we cannot get, have already been prepaid 100 percent or 80 percent,” he said in an interview with Russian News Service Radio.


    Well, then, Russia has no more reason to offer any subsidy or assistance to Ukraine.

    Russia needs to make the EU pay for starting the civil war in Ukraine. A time table should be announced for the phasing out of gas transport via Ukraine. I say 1 year is good enough. NATO while whine and scream but it will have to deal with it. It is intolerable for Russia to have to send gas and the maggots in Kiev keep playing their games about payment. There is a clear LINKAGE here. Transit to the EU is held hostage by the Kiev maggots. Russia needs to repeat this linkage 24/7. Russia diplomacy is a failure since it cannot even steer the discussion about its own gas supply problems in the right direction. How can it even be considered sane to expect Russia to ship gas through Ukraine when Ukraine pays nothing for it?

    I do not understand why the EU is not paying for Russian gas at Russia’s border. It is the EU’s responsibility to make sure Ukraine delivers the gas. And it should be the EU that pays the transit fee and not Russia. Russia keeps on bending over backward to please the west. Why? What is it getting in return? Sneering contempt and characterization as a weakling?

    • “How can it even be considered sane to expect Russia to ship gas through Ukraine when Ukraine pays nothing for it?”

      Because Russia gets a big portion of its budget money from gas sales to Europe. Russia knows this, Ukraine knows this and the West knows this. This is why Ukraine can continue to steal Russian gas without Russia being able to do anything.
      It is not really a “sane” situation from Russia’s point of view, but Russia is now paying for failing to diversify its economy and being so dependent on gas (and oil) exports.
      If Russia shuts off Ukraine there is no way Russia can transport all that contracted gas to Europe. Not until South Stream is built (if it is built at all).

      “I do not understand why the EU is not paying for Russian gas at Russia’s border.”

      Because it is beneficial for the EU to let Ukraine steal Russian gas.
      1. It will give Ukraine a weapon against Russia. Without this weapon Ukraine would be completely under Russia’s thumb. This is the ONLY major advantage that Ukraine has over Russia and the West intends to keep this advantage for Ukraine (this is why the South Stream is so much objected by Washington and Brussels).
      2. It will hurt Russia’s economy. The West wants to prevent Russia’s rise and the best way to do that is to undermine it’s economy.
      3. It will not hurt EU at all. Russia is going to send the amount of gas it is obliged to anyway (because Russia wants to keep the EU as its customer) and Russia will let Ukraine get away with theft to keep the gas flowing to Europe.

      ” It is the EU’s responsibility to make sure Ukraine delivers the gas. ”
      There is no such responsibility. It is Russia’s responsibility not to remain so dependent on gas exports to EU. Russia can blame only itself for this situation because
      1. Russia never diversified its economy enough and remained dependent on gas exports.
      2. Russia’s foreign policy failed to prevent the banderites from rising to power in Ukraine. The West currently has an upper hand in Russia’s own backyard which is an unforgivable foreign policy blunder by the Kremlin.

      • cartman says:

        When South Stream comes online, Russia could shut deliveries to the Ukraine and not lose its paying customers. That is the reason for the coup being moved up by over a year. By 2015 South Steam should be finished.

      • patient observer says:

        The EU needs gas far more than Russia needs gas revenue. For the EU no gas equals massive economic damage, job losses and a very unhappy population. For Russia, some budget adjustments, perhaps some borrowing. Russia is holding a much better hand but I too am perplexed why they don’t use there superior position to hammer the EU. Perhaps Russia is thinking about longer term prospects where their forbearance will help forge better relations as the EU edges away from the Anglo empire.

      • patient observer says:

        Per Karl “1. Russia never diversified its economy enough and remained dependent on gas exports”.

        The above point is debatable but what is not: The US never diversified its economy enough and remained dependent on massive deficit spending and use of a bloated military to force dominance of the dollar to prop up its collapsing economy”

    • Fern says:

      kirill, on the point of why the EU is to paying for gas at Russia’s borders, I think the short answer is that contracts between Gazprom and the various European energy companies stipulate the point of delivery as the European Union. Ukrainian shenanigans over gas transit only became problematic with the Orangeistas (version 1) and Putin hoped he’d nailed those issues with the 2009 contract negotiated with the Braided One. The Russians have said repeatedly in response to Kiev’s announcement that it is taking this contract to the Stockholm Arbitration Court that they cannot understand the basis of the claim since Ukraine paid its bills in accordance with the contract for several years and why did it do so if it disputed the contractual terms?

      There now seems to be a EU/US split on Ukraine’s stance with the EU becoming impatient with Kiev’s intransigence while the US eggs Kiev on – Gazprom’s CEO commented on this the other day. It would probably make sense for the contracts with European countries to be renegotiated so the point of delivery becomes the Russia/Ukraine border which would mean each European country would need to contract separately with Ukraine to ensure the safety and continuity of its supply. Perhaps Russia should suggest this course of action if South Stream is materially delayed or even cancelled. Let the EU negotiate its energy security with Kiev.

      As for the embargoed military goods, Russia is already taking steps to bring production in-house with resettlement packages available for key Ukrainian workers. These goods will have been produced and paid for under contract so Russia will, no doubt, be seeking legal redress for breach of contract. Again, Kiev has taken action which will ultimately be most damaging to itself – the output of these factories currently has no market other than the Russian one so while they’ve scored a short-term ‘victory’ – keeping Russia’s money and the goods it paid for – the medium to long-term result is the closure of these factories, drop in GDP, further erosion of the tax base and a very unhappy oligarch or two. Plus the IMF loan is predicated on the basis that Ukraine will retain its Russian markets. Once it becomes clear they’re lost, the proverbials hit the fan. What a mess.

  18. Warren says:

    Published on 30 May 2014
    Why does the West stay indifferent to the mass killing in eastern Ukraine? Who are the people of the East? Has the revolution spent itself? And why is Nuland taking a victory lap when it comes to Ukraine? CrossTalking with Graham Phillips, David Speedie and John Robles.

    • Fern says:

      Graham Philipps made an excellent point in the second half of the show where he said the West continually thinks and talks about Ukraine as though there’s a reset button that can be pressed when some event such as the presidential election takes place and everything reverts back to how it was in, say, June of last year. Western elites are great fans of ‘moving on’ and ‘moving forward’. Philipps says they just don’t get that Ukraine as a unitary country has gone, it will not and cannot return.

  19. Al says:

    Land Destroyer blog, May 28:

    Ukraine & Syria: Elections of Mass Destruction
    Elections Pushed Ahead in Ukraine, Obstructed in Syria, So Mass Murder Can Continue – the West’s Weaponization of Democracy

    “…In Reuters’ article, “Tens of thousands of Syrians abroad vote in early poll,” it reported:

    Expatriates and those who have fled the war were casting their ballots at dozens of Syrian embassies abroad ahead of next week’s vote inside the country that opponents have dismissed as a farce as the fighting rages in its fourth year.

    Several countries that oppose Assad, including France, have blocked the voting but Syrian government media said people were still able to participate in many countries.

    Reuters would continue with anecdotal, unsubstantiated reports to undermine the legitimacy of the elections before reporting:

    The European Union has said holding an election “in the midst of conflict, only in regime-controlled areas and with millions of Syrians displaced from their homes would be a parody of democracy, have no credibility whatsoever, and undermine efforts to reach a political solution”….”

  20. patient observer says:

    Per the Saker, an unknown quantity of Igla S MANPADS and towed ZU-23 anti-aircraft artillery units were “found” by the good guys. Per Wikipedia, this missile is state-of-the-art with much superior performance, resistance to counter measures and better sensors than all other MANPADS. Not sure what “found” means but between the Igla S keeping the Uke Luftwaffe at bay and the ZU’s and RPGs taking care of light armor, the counter-counter-terrorist operation seems to be gaining the upper hand. Especially significant is that there is still no overt Russia aid or involvement. If the South and East Ukraine can free themselves that bodes well for their future as a viable state in terms of political stability and a supportive population with their eye wide open regarding the true values of the West. This is the kind of neighbor Russia needs.

    In a related development an Su-25 was shot down today per the Saker.

    • Southerncross says:

      Were the Russians holding back on the off-chance that Poroshenko might be willing to negotiate?

      • patient observer says:

        That’s a good point. A nuance is that Russia is sending a message to Poro that they can turn up the heat anytime to force a highly unfavorable situation. Lets see if Poro can read the message and bolt from his handlers figuratively.

  21. Dan8538 says:

    its fascinating how this situation is progressing. If not for the civilian casualties which are simply inexcusable this is a fascinating chess match playing out between USA, China, Russia and the EU. Of course i don’t know what game the USA is playing since i don’t think they have made one good move so far.

  22. Al says:

    Der Spiegel’s Online’s sickening paean to Sikorski, the ‘rising star’:

    Sickening. As I wrote before, former lefties who are fully signed up to the NWO.

    Meanwhile the US jihadist who blew himself up in Syria had help from a cat, who no doubt masterminded the operation:

    • marknesop says:

      Anyone would recognize him immediately as a devious negotiator with a mind like a steel trap – he demanded the elimination of import duties for Polish products!!! What other foreign minister could have devised such a labyrinthine foreign-policy puzzle as that, I ask you. Clearly an intellect which demands a broader arena in which to expand and blossom, for the benefit of all humanity.

      Seriously, I’m sure Sikorski is a smart guy. And I enjoy the pieces his man-crush interests like Der Spiegel put out, because as I have mentioned before, Sikorski wrote Poland’s legal decision recognizing Kosovo as an independent state. He said unilateral declarations of independence were outside international law, so every time Barack Obama says Russia committed a gross violation of international law by annexing Crimea, he is saying Sikorski doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. In fact, the more they extoll Sikorski’s brilliance the harder it will be to tar unilateral declarations of independence with the brush of illegal insurrection, and that could be useful later. I’m sure that despite Obama’s chittering, he has had his legal experts take apart Crimea’s and Russia’s actions to see if there really are any violations, and he knows there are not, otherwise somebody would have launched legal action by now.

      Despite the frequent articles trying to help break Sikorski out of his box and get him into international politics – where he probably would do as well as anyone else, look at what a dunderhead Fogh-Rasmussen was – the plum appears to be already gone, and he was not even mentioned as a candidate for Leddy Ashton’s job. It would be literally impossible for anyone to do a worse job than she did; Rush Limbaugh would have improved on her performance. Perhaps there’s some high-profile European post coming up for grabs that I don’t know about, and I honestly do not follow internal EU politics that closely.

  23. Pingback: The Unbearable Unseemliness of Partnership | The Kremlin Stooge

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