Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
FIRST GUARDS TANK ARMY. I attended many meetings with the Russian military. Always – always – we were told that the Russian army was being re-structured into brigade group formations: all-arms formations of 5-6 thousand men. Such formations are suitable for fighting in places like Chechnya and, indeed, the first two were formed about 20 years ago in the south. At the same time there were no serious forces deployed along the tradition western invasion route. The old Soviet divisions – pretty well empty of soldiers at this time – were gradually eliminated. It was clear then – the 1990s and early 2000s – that Moscow was not expecting an attack from the west and neither did it expect to attack west: it was planning for smaller operations, mostly counter-terrorist. The old Soviet structure of divisions-armies-fronts which was applicable to really big wars against first-class enemies was no longer necessary; the smaller, nimbler brigade group structure was more appropriate. But, at the same time they warned that NATO's relentless expansion, ever closer, was a danger (опасность), although they stopped short of calling it, as they did terrorism, a threat(угроза); "dangers" require attention; "threats" a response. NATO of course didn't listen, arrogantly assuming NATO expansion was doing Russia a favour and was an entitlement of the "exceptional nation" and its allies. Well, we have reached another stage on the road. The 1st Guards Tank Armyis being re-created. It will likely have two or three tank divisions, plus some motorised rifle divisions, plus enormous artillery and engineering support, plus helicopters and all else. This is a formation to fight a really big war against a first class enemy; designed to deliver the decisive counter-attack (see Stalingrad, Kursk). It will be stationed in the Western Military District to defend Russia against NATO (yes defend! otherwise why didn't they have it all along?). It will likely be the first to receive receive the new Armata family of AFVs and be staffed with professional soldiers. This is what the light-hearted decision to expand NATO has brought us to. I need hardly say that NATO's piddling little reinforcement is below the noise level of a tank army. (And pointless, too: a brigade more-or-less is meaningless in a real war and the trip-wire already exists. But NATO is working itself up to a real case of the screaming meemies.) I will probably write more on the significant of this, which is clearer to those with a military background, but here's something to go on from Southfront.
SYRIAN CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES. Text here, Putin explains it here. I see it as a last chance for the US & Co to exhibit the ever-elusive "moderate opposition": groups must identify themselves and stop shooting to be safe from Russian and allied attacks. If they don't, they're fair game. And Daesh is excluded from the offer. But, given the incoherence of US policy, someone is sure to contradict it. And maybe Kerry already has. Anyway, the Saker shows (as does Robinson) that Moscow actually understands how to use military force. Washington now just destroys everything in its course to defeat.
WHY DO RUSSIANS LIKE PUTIN? Because they remember life before him, that's why.
LATEST ANTI-RUSSIAN STORY. Would you send a man who nailed his scrotum to Times Square and then cut off an earlobe for psychiatric observation? Maybe, but don't do it in Russia: that's "punishment psychiatry" of an artist. On the other other hand, the Moscow authorities have torn down the smoking kills more people than Obama poster. Pity the authors of that don't call themselves artists.
HOSPITALS. Russia bombs MSF hospitals! Read this carefully: not MSF hospitals and, contrary to Geneva conventions, not marked according to modern standards. Has MSF sold out? Was the US bombing of its (really MSF and really marked) hospital in Kunduz a warning?
UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR REACTORS. The last time Ukraine made a "civilisational choice", it involved an attempt to provide its Soviet-made nuclear reactors with fuel from Westinghouse. That didn't work out and could have been quite dangerous. But, never mind, time to try again.