By Michael Hammerschlag
1. Putin is pulling the plug on the whole foul adventure- coupled with his strangely conciliatory speech in Crimea-“We must calmly.. build up our country with dignity, not fence it off from the outside world,” (not carried on Russian TV or Internet)- he has done the math again, and realized it adds up to zero long term future for him- Russian bans on food + sanctions have started to bite; and the Russian Separatists are dangerous demagogues who would accuse the Kremlin of cowardice, which would fly in the newly ferociously imperialist Russian public- if this scenario is true look for other passionate NovaRoosiya voices in Russia to be suddenly silenced. Without these “inspirational” leaders (only Stelkov) much of the true believer and mercenary brigade would vaporize (though the latter is easier- just don’t pay them). Then the AID convoy is a genuine offering- though done in standard bullying style to terrorize Ukraine.
2. Replacing all the Russians to put a Ukrainian face on the whole occupation- the dominance of Russians was noted by all and a continuing PR disaster re. the supposed “peoples revolt” against the Nazi junta in Kyiv. Also every leader has been off the reservation, telling the truth about the Separatists shooting down MH17, and various other crimes- the Kremlin likes strict obedience to the official BS line- even their presence in Ukraine has made them unreliably honest; it must be something in the water. Novaya Gazeta‘s Dima Muratov saysBorodai called Moscow papers and admitted they shot down an airliner! Now pay me for my opus AGW article (spread over 3 months), Dima! This argues for long-term occupation, though the tactical domination of Ukraine forces doesn’t! So this includes a complete invasion by Russian forces to “stabilize” the situation (amputate another part of Ukraine). Strelkov’s replacement Defense Min., Vlad Kononov, is a local, and his deputy is another Strelkov.
3. Putin has snapped, and under grinding pressure from all sides, isn’t functioning completely rationally- he is playing all sides, despite some partially canceling each other out. OR having multiple options and exits is standard KGB training and the diminutive Master of the Universe hasn’t decided yet, thinks he is very clever, and is still in charge. Sadly, he is.
4. Both leaders were really wounded, the Ukrainians are kicking acc (Slav.), and are really close to winning, leading to Scen. 1, 2, 3, or 3b: Putin starts a nuclear war. The Ukrainians are close to winning, though the costs to the central urban rebel strongholds would be extreme.
I really don’t know- I’d say 50% probability of scenario 1, 30% – scenario 2, 15% – scenario 3, 5% – scenario 4, 1% – 3b.
Nothing could be better news than Strelkov removed or killed- he is the heart of the Separatist effort- couldn’t understand why Ukrainians weren’t targeting the leaders- a legitimate tactic in every war. Even considering the fate of the poor hostages, dropping the Donetsk Regional Admin building or the Luhansk SBU, could be a decisive game-changing blow; ~600 Ukrainian soldiers are dead (1400 civilians), 2300 wounded, several people I knew. I’ve longed for some astute precise commando actions. Strelkov is a stone killer (“Get that body out of the basement- it’s stinking up the place!”– re. the tortured/murdered Horlivka councilman), and should be hunted to the ends of the Earth. The brilliant courageous local artist who did that “Do It!” cartoon also has been disappeared by Separatists in Horlivka.
The mysterious slow-motion white convoy,has reached the Ukrainian border near Luhansk, and in one of the bizzaro-world reasonings, has not crossed because it would be considered an invasion, meanwhile another 23 Russian military vehicles- including APCs- just DID, crossing under the eyes of journalists (after perhaps 700-1000 already have), to add to the 142 that did yesterday! It now has a military wing of APCs, trucks and helicopters, inc a new toy a 9k22 Tunguska AA missile-cannon- very strange PR for a purported relief mission. Forcing them to go through rebel-held territory is revealing to the world the scale of Russia’s continuous incursions.
Several reporters were allowed to inspect random trucks by the relaxed ex-military khaki t-shirt, shorts, +cap wearing drivers- all reported it was only food + supplies, but still only 10-20% full, as I said yesterday: One thing strange: why are these “aid” trucks so light 2000mt/270 (avg of 5#’s of trucks)= 7.4MT a semi- these things can hold 30-40 tons! Whats in em- cheese puffs, marshmallows? Note my 270 truck guesstimate was verified by Oliphant from convoy leaders- numbers had ranged from 200-297; often, operating from a blizzard of conflicting information, my assessments are excruciatingly accurate.
Ukraine is also getting in on the PR war- sending 75 trucks with 800 tons of relief East from various cities Aug 14th; Gov. Kolomoisky claims he will send 10,000 tons. They should make sure some of that gets to the hundreds of thousands of refugees inside Ukraine proper.
The white convoy aid sat in Voronezh at 9pm Wed,according to FT Moscow dep. bureau head @Courtney Moscow (ran into her in Mockba once, only American there who could rival Slavic beauty), various media had them everywhere, and left there at Thursday dawn. Ukraine’s Int. Min. Avakov says no crossing at Kharkiv(paranoid about provocations), so looks like they will go through rebel Izvarino crossing- totally uncontrolled- very risky business- if it is part of massive set-piece invasion. Meanwhile huge Russian military convoys are on the move through Belgorod, Rostov, Krasnodar (crossed into Ukraine through Dibrovka (300 km of border open!) Wed and is on the way to the MH17 city of Snizhne on the crucial Donetsk-Luhansk route. This all could be psychological warfare, but I think Putin could really be invading- he’s got so many plates in the air, some have to smash. Grads) and a 142 vehicle Russian military convoy