Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
PUTIN SPEECH. Eng. Rus. Mostly domestic as usual but the foreign bits were memorable – in short: we’ve had enough. We will respond as and when we chose and we’ll do whatever we think we have to. And we’ll decide where the "red lines” are. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Putin make a threat before.
GEOPOLITICAL TECTONIC PLATES. They shifted quite a bit lately, haven’t they? In February Kiev starts moving heavy weapons east; next month Zelensky signs a pompous decree to "de-occupy” Crimea. Moscow moves more men and equipment in less time than NATO could dream of doing anywhere on the planet and makes it clear that it will use it. Wiser heads reflect; they back down. Zelensky now wants to talk. (Silly claims of victory from deluded parties in the West, but let them dream). So that’s it for now: Moscow has shown the world that Washington will fight to the last Ukrainian or Pole and that Moscow can and will respond with whatever violence is necessary. (I repeat my argument that Russia could certainly conquer Ukraine but doesn’t want to – speaking of "red lines”, note my last sentence.) Then there’s a coup attempt revealed in Belarus. The colour revolution was a flop so the next stage: assassination, power outages and cyber attacks on Victory Day followed by the usual appeals, interventions, fake governments and the rest. Except the security forces had it all on tape and the suspects are singing. (We can be confident Moscow and Minsk are telling the truth because of the silence in the West). The bounties story collapsed. Which raises the interesting question of why US intelligence would debunk it just as Biden had referred to it in his latest sanctions. (For your amusement a supercut of TV hairstyles – and Biden/Harris – pushing the story). Prague announces the sudden discovery that the Russians were responsible for an accident in 2014 at a weapons storage facility. On cue Bellingcat provides the "evidence” that the only two operatives the GRU apparently has dunnit. But neither the past nor present Czech President had heard of it – and you’d think they would have. (We already wonder who’s in charge in Washington and now must wonder who’s in charge in Prague.) Merkel insists Nordstream will be finished, Atlantic Council panics – time is running out. Is Washington trying to stop people using the Russian vaccine? There are indications of serious pressure being brought on Germany and Brazil at least (Czechia too?) – can’t let those pesky Russians "sow division” or gain a "propaganda coup”, can we? The neocons struck and they struck out. They haven’t given up because they can’t – that’s who they are – but I smell increasing desperation. Time is running out.
MOSCOW RESPONSE. We’ve already seen the reaction to Kiev’s moves – two corps (armies in Russian terminology) and several airborne units (and Russian airborne troops are not light infantry like the West’s) appear on the spot in a couple of weeks together with lots of air defence, division- and corps-level artillery, missile boats from the Caspian, landing craft, warships, submarines and aircraft. They’ve gone back to base now – some of them – but you may be certain that they can be back, thanks to the practice, even more quickly. (Why tell us about dummy weapons? To mess with NATO’s mind?) Moscow is about to declare some countries as "unfriendly” (Five Eyes for sure but who else?) and will cripple the operation of their Embassies by restricting (or blocking) their chance to employ locals (pretty essential to many operations). I don’t think Russian Embassies hire locals. There will be movement restrictions as well – no more chummy meetings with the "democratic opposition”. And as for the Tabaquis – the Czech Embassy has been reduced to almost no one. Moscow has lost its sense of humour.
BEIJING CLEARS ITS THROAT. Beijing is well aware that it’s on the hit list too and that if Moscow goes down it will be next. Not a formal alliance but "China and Russia will support each other in matters of protecting state sovereignty". History note: France and Britain did not have a formal military alliance in 1914, but London was committed anyway.
PAPER PUSSYCAT. Pleased to see the GAO agrees with me: "Nearly 2 decades of conflict has degraded U.S. military readiness.” And the same applies to its allies. They spend the bucks but they don’t get the results. We just saw real warfighting capability in the host of Russian weaponry videoed on its way to the frontier. We can only hope that there are serious people in NATO who can see reality. And, further proof, from Israel, that the West does not have adequate air defence.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. MI6 Chief says Russia is an "objectively declining power".
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer