Projection Some: Russia's Sea Change

    In 2014, with Russia's shipyard lease in Crimea to expire in 2017 and the deal to extend it another 30 years on the rocks with Yanukovich's ouster, Putin brazenly occupied the peninsula militarily, invoking historical precedents and the image of "Greater Russia". But despite Donbas Ukrainians dreams of uniting with Russia, Putin's heart didn't seem to be into the conflict so much as reinvigorating Crimea, and the only significant action since was a brief push towards Mariupol in the presumed attempt to give Russia an easy land route to Crimea. But aside from laughable attempts to get Russian tourists to keep Crimea afloat economically with horrendous lines at the ferry, the Russians started rebuilding their Sevastopol fleet, where most of their global naval power is housed, within weeks of occupation (scroll down for better pics of the whole fleet).

    But perhaps Putin had a change of heart or wisdom about maintaining the bridge or land route to Crimea, as Russia's new $1.4 billion base is meant to open in 2020, not in Sevastopol, but in Novorossiysk heading down the Black Sea's east coast towards Sochi - firmly in undisputed Russia.

    This Black Sea investment might not have seemed the greatest idea what with Russia's relationship with Turkey on the rocks, but suddenly amidst significant surprise, Russia's Turkish relations vastly improved (with Turkey & Russia now arrying out naval maneuvers together in lieu of the short-term gas embargo). Erdogan also took advantage of the "beginning of a beautiful relationship" to crack down on Islamic dissenters at home and take off the gloves as to Kurdish rebels in Syria. [Some think Erdogan is just playing East off West, but it's hard to see what he wants from the West at this point, aside from a foil and scapegoat]. Putin's obvious benefit? Anything in the Black Sea comes out the Bhosporus Straits, i.e. through good ol' ancient Byzantium, aka Istanbul.

    But for an anti-Islamist such as Putin, the Syrian participation didn't make that much sense. While he would naturally oppose ISIS and prefer a more secular, old-style tyrant, he didn't seem to have much of a dog in that hunt. Except for that nice Russian naval base on the Mediterranean in Tartus [Foreign Affairs]  and nearby troops housed in Latakia. And so his announcement last year that their mission was largely done made sense - as long as he retained docking & shipping rights. And indeed, Assad's fate rests firmly in Putin's hands and 1 Security Council vote away from regime change.

    This wasn't a recent decision, as this Jan 2013 foray indicated:  With a buildup of 16 Russian warships carrying thousands of marines on the Syrian coast “to deter the West from deploying ground forces in Syria” "... Assad nixes dialogue with "Western puppets".  

    Did the chemical attacks signify a serious shift in Assad's approach to the rebels - already on their heels since Aleppo - or was it an easy way for Putin to let Trump distance himself and take the heat off our domestic situation and the Russian-collusion feeding frenzy? All it took was a few Tomahawk missiles to destroy a largely abandoned airfield at 3am, and Trump's suddenly a war hero, a "statesman" and an anti-Russian security hawk.

    But Putin's ambitions to master the sea lanes don't end there. More and more he's been sending boats as messengers - including nuclear subs - to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, into Norwegian waters, a flotilla through the English Channel, an encounter in Australia, another off a naval base in Connecticut, et al. Putin's no Peter the Great - he's too smart for another huge push for territory or more failed land wars in Asia. But boats and subs just cost a bit of oil or uranium, both in high Russian supply.

    The Libyan deal is peculiar, as Putin's set up troops in western Egypt, near the Libyan border, to ally himself with the breakaway Libyan general Haftar controlling much of East Libya (the largely independent Cyrenaica of old) signing an oil deal with the eastern region just briefly before Haftar retook oil port facilities from the UN - suggesting more intrigues to come in Benghazi. Curiously enough, this Financial Times article seems to have undercurrents that Putin could also be presenting himself to the EU as the reasonable, practical man to deal with ISIS spinoffs in places like LIbya.

    That would be an incredible PR success, considering acts like Russia's purported involvement in trying to assassinate Montenegro's PM might have been a twofer - halt Montenegro's membership in NATO and give Russia's fleet access to the Adriatic. That chapter's been closed, but certainly more to come.

    Putin's intent on playing an actor on a bigger stage, and has been for some time. In some ways it's admirable - with Russia's waning energy fortunes showing a darkened future, he's augmented shrunken fortunes at home by projecting greater strength abroad. Too bad that this is largely of a Potemkin variety - it's hard to monetize intrigue in quite the same way as real natural resources and products of old. When your main business becomes a protection, laundering & extortion racket, how much future is there to that, however extensive the network?


    As to

    All it took was a few Tomahawk missiles to destroy a largely abandoned airfield at 3am, and Trump is suddenly a war hero, a "statesman, " and an anti-Russian security hawk.

    My understanding is that those Tomahawk missiles are precise enough to take out a license plate.  Odd that they informed the Russians, (who just just MIGHT have informed Assad) about the missiles, and that the airstrip was flight-ready the next morning.

    methinks that Putin is playing three-dimensional chess and the feeble-minded president is playing chinese checkers.

    oh!  And way too many liberals and moderates of all stripes are cheering for all the marbles.


    edited for dumbness

    Trump plays 1 game, it's called "business as usual", i.e. art of the crooked deal. Jared wasn't in Iraq just to see what troops look like, and Trump didn't decide on this attack overnight based on some newly found humanitarian principles. Just a few weeks ago the Russians were trashing Aleppo and he had nothing to say. Think he gives a shit about whether chemical or conventional weapons, or even knows the difference? Back in the campaign he was all ready to use nukes unilaterally. Wag the Frog - 4 Frogmen of the Pepe Lips.


    Where did you find the image?

    Just Googling. You can find it top row with "dailystormer pepe le frog trump" but my original search didn't have Daily Stormer.

    Your meme is picking up speed, see

    Lawrence O'Donnell: Did Putin Mastermind Syria bombing, Trump/Putin Charade?

    Warning:clicking on the link, means visiting the other Great Orange Satan: Daily Kos, I ended up seeing it there on a side menu when Peracles posted the DeVos/Blackwater story on another thread. Yikes it was scary dejas vus being there agin.  laugh

    You've been Trick Rolled.

    I forgive you. Just like don't direct me to any former Billmon fans or the like.

    odd that 59 were launched but only 23 impacts are accounted for ... what happened to the missing 36?

    I seriously doubt they would have allowed them to impact without detonating ... would give Russians a complete technical and engineering breakdown of our cruise missile technology.

    Having work on many ordinance ranges (USAF, NAVY and Army) I've had my fair share of classified unexploded ordinance that had to be dealt with in one form or another ... nothing was ever left lying around ... it had significant Intel value no matter how mangled it was.

    Wingnuts used to talk about spy planes skipping off to space, so maybe 36 tomahawks are heading to Mars.

    It is interesting thinking of scenarios and the implications. Speaking just of the unaccounted missiles, if they had missed and exploded in the wrong place on land we would probably know about it by now but way likely before too long. My guess is that most malfunctioned and fell into the ocean or else were exploded in air by a fail safe system on board that could identify a fatal problem and self-destruct before hitting the wrong target.    Maybe gonna need a brand new generation of cruise missiles. 

    Serious? A lot of tomahawks gone missing, and how do you lose them at sea when shooting offshore towards land?


    Maybe I missed it, but where is it reported that so many of the missiles did not strike? Am serious, because all I find is the Russian propaganda arm media saying that:

    and I just ran across this article at Asia Times that explains how Russia has a lot riding on proving that their S-400 defense system being used in Syria, which they just sold to India and China, works well:

    Looks to me that maybe what is going on is a propaganda war between the Pentagon and Russian military about who has the better toys. And that we don't really have the truth about what failed and what didn't fail, from all sides.

    By the way, just ran across this April 5 piece, which contradicts earlier Russian spin:

    Evidence Contradicts Russia’s Account of the Syria Chemical Attack

    By JEFFREY MARCUS @ The New York Times

    ... how do you lose them at sea when shooting offshore towards land?

    Serious? You do know what is between a ship at sea and the shore don't you? More sea. In this case I believe it was hundreds of miles of sea but I haven't verified my memory on that.

    McKew makes good points in these two graphs, even if hyperbolic:

    We must now confront a similar truth—and the consequences—in Syria. There is effectively no Syrian army anymore. There are Russian commanders and Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces. Russia has far greater technological capabilities, and also has the expertise in precision munitions. So fill in the blanks. Syria is a Russian war.

    Why would Assad or Putin take such a risk with this chemical attack, or any of the others? The Kremlin and its generals understand the usefulness of fear, and of massive demographic engineering and the weaponization of migration, and of the destabilization of the region to achieve specific gains. Remember: Chaos is often a Kremlin strategy.

    bad link

    FWIW (maybe nothing), Boris Johnson cancelled his meeting Monday with Russian Foreign Minister, says Rex is in charge (Politico)

    Johnson said he had discussed his plan to cancel the meeting “in detail” with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who would “visit Moscow as planned and, following the G7 meeting, will be able to deliver that clear and coordinated message to the Russians.”

    Beautiful, Boris is T. Rex's poodle now - didn't tak long. I thought Brexit was about freedom, journalist dude - yet another lie?

    Relationship & dating experts on the internet these days are wont to advise that if you laugh at a man's jokes, he is yours:


    oh and didya happen to remember he's a former international oil exec? cheeky

    I can't wait for the post-trip conspiracy theories! Especially with virtually no media aboard.

    Post-trip's always the come-down, fed with a bit of paranoia. Expecting to fly? More like "strange I should change I dunno why don't you ask her." How to get a man and keep him - will look at all these books different now, in a Hannibal Lector/Buffalo Bill kind of way.

    Behooves any conspiracists to keep in mind, Team Trump still can't shoot straight:

    Neither of these 2 are inner-circle, so I'm not surprised. (might not make a difference anyway - Trump regularly contradicts his lieutenants). Anyway, if you consider the Syria attack as just a Potemkin showpiece, none of it matters - Trump got his war on....

    Lavrov splains for you wassup in Putin's return in 2012, as told to Susan B. Glasser four years ago @, in an audience he granted. Nothing much seems to have changed, they continue with this program:

    Minister No

    Sergei Lavrov and the blunt logic of Russian power.

    By Susan B. Glasser, April 29, 2013, Foreign Policy Feature

    In the mid-19th century, Russia was not doing well. It had just been humiliated in the Crimean War, and the other European great powers were busy intriguing about the tsarist empire’s frontiers now that the Turks had stopped Russian expansion to the Black Sea. It was in response to these setbacks that Alexander Gorchakov, the prince who served as Russia’s foreign minister, issued his famous diplomatic circular. “Russia is not sulking,” he proclaimed. “She is composing herself.”

    By the late 1990s, that must have sounded like a perfect retort to a Russian nationalist whose country was on the ropes. Yevgeny Primakov, a crusty old product of the Soviet diplomatic corps elevated to foreign minister by an increasingly beleaguered President Boris Yeltsin, dusted off the tsarist history books and resurrected Gorchakov as a model for a new Russian diplomacy. He cited him in speeches, wrote a long article extolling Gorchakov’s clever realpolitik maneuvers, and even installed his bust in the creaky grandeur of the Foreign Ministry, a Stalinist Gothic skyscraper filled with thousands of underemployed and barely paid bureaucrats still reeling from the Soviet Union’s abrupt collapse a few years earlier and the Russian state’s quick descent into financial crisis, international debt, and even, on its southern frontier, civil war. So what if we had a few setbacks, Primakov seemed to be saying; Russia can still be a great power. And to prove it: Here’s our very own Bismarck.

    It wasn’t entirely a surprise then, when not quite an hour into my recent audience with the current Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, the 19th-century prince again made an appearance. I had asked the famously combative Lavrov what had changed in Russia’s foreign policy since Vladimir Putin had returned to power in the Kremlin last year. I had in mind the angry recriminations between the United States and Russia once again making front-page headlines, the tit-for-tat new laws banning human rights-violating Russian officials from America — and American citizens from adopting Russian babies. Or perhaps the tense negotiations over the bloody civil war in Syria, as the United States accused Russia of propping up Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime. Or the angry words exchanged near daily on subjects as diverse as missile defense, gay rights, and the arrest of the Putin-protesting punk band Pussy Riot.

    But Lavrov, a diplomat since the Brezhnev era who has spent a lifetime haggling, blustering, scheming, and speechifying on behalf of the battered Russian state (“his religion,” one top U.S. official told me), chose to go in a different direction, right back in history to Alexander Gorchakov. He cited the princely foreign minister as an example of the blunt style in Russian politics, as a reason for why Russia has absolutely no intention of following America’s lead in the Arab world — or, by extension, anywhere else. Gorchakov, Lavrov proudly noted, had managed “the restoration of the Russian influence in Europe after the defeat in the Crimean War, and he did it … without moving a gun. He did it exclusively through diplomacy.”

    When Lavrov did get around to the question at hand, of foreign policy in Putin’s Russia, he offered a sharp lecture on how the Kremlin’s boss had managed to make Russia great again after the indignities of the 1990s — and, more to the point, how a great Russia can once again afford to have an “assertive” foreign policy:

    As for the changes in the Russian foreign policy, yes, we have more domestic strength, if you wish. We have become stronger economically; we have been successfully resolving the social problems, raising the level of living — the standards of living — of the population. Yes, a lot is to be done. But the change is very much noticed. And we feel the change. And Russia feels more assertive — not aggressive, but assertive. And we have been getting out of the situation where we found ourselves in the early ’90s when the Soviet Union disappeared and the Russian Federation became what it is — you know, with no borders, with no budget, no money, and with huge problems starting with lack of food and so on and so forth. It is a very different country now. And of course we can now pay more attention to looking after our legitimate interests in the areas where we were absent for quite some time after the demise of the Soviet Union.

    The areas he mentioned? Africa, Latin America, Asia. In other words, pretty much the entire rest of the world. The message was clear if chilling to those who remember what the assertive foreign policy of the Soviet era looked like: Russia is not sulking, and she is just about done composing herself.

    LAVROV, AT AGE 63, is already the longest-serving of Russia’s post-Cold War foreign ministers. Hard-drinking, hard-charging, a relentless and smart negotiator who has by turns infuriated and impressed his many diplomatic interlocutors over the years, he has come, more than anyone perhaps aside from Putin himself, to personify Russia’s return to the world stage.

    Whatever you think of Lavrov personally — “he’s a complete asshole,” one former official from George W. Bush’s administration told me bluntly — it’s his relentless willingness to take on the United States globally, to challenge, whenever and wherever possible, America’s view of itself as the indispensable power, that has earned him admirers among his often more tactful counterparts. “He’s certainly got to be among the most effective foreign ministers in the world today,” the foreign minister of another major emerging power told me not long ago [...]



    Tillerson and Putin Find Little More Than Disagreement in Meeting

    By DAVID E. SANGER @ The New York Times, 1 hr. ago

    Includes a clip of the A.P. video of Tillerson's statement to the press after the meeting, i.e. "low level of trust" between the two countries

    Excerpt, note my bold about China and Tillerson stating that interference in the U.S. election is a fact:

    [....] Further punctuating the Syria dispute, Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemning the chemical weapons attack.

    It was the eighth time in the six-year-old Syria conflict that Russia, one of the five permanent Security Council members, had used its veto power to shield the Syrian government. But in a possible sign of Russia’s isolation on the chemical weapons issue, China, the permanent member that usually votes with Russia on Syria resolutions, abstained.

    Asked about President Trump’s description of Mr. Assad as an “animal,” Mr. Tillerson said that characterization “is one that Assad has brought upon himself.”

    Mr. Tillerson said Russian interference in the presidential election was a settled fact. In response, Mr. Lavrov gave what amounted to a long lecture on what he described as an extensive list of American efforts to achieve “regime change” around the world, from Serbia to Iraq to Libya. He described them all as failures — an implicit warning against any efforts to achieve the same end in Syria.

    For hours after Mr. Tillerson’s arrival in Moscow, it was unclear whether Mr. Putin would even meet with him because of the tense state of relations, which has have worsened just in the past few weeks.

    Their meeting lasted almost two hours and ended just before 8 p.m. local time [.....]

    Could it be that Trump is responsible for that China abstenion?!!!

    And after Tillerson said that about interference in the election, are they gonna trot out Kellyanne to say it was an alternative fact?

    They'll have Spicer announce that at least Russia never gassed its own people - a similar claim United's CEO noted about its customers. These are indeed times for low expectations and lower behavior.

    Definitely a race to the bottom!

    Putin Hoists Trump on His Own Fake News Petard By @ April 12, 2017

    Got me thinking: why the hell did we expect anything different? Geez the news on Trump himself today is depressing, really showing himself to be an idiot. Where's Mike Bloomberg to defend the notion that not all billionaires are idioits or psychopaths and are capable of governing rationally? All he had was a little minor anal retentive disorder.

    more: Vladimir Putin Doesn’t Know Which Syria Conspiracy Theory to Believe

    by Robert Mackey @ The Intercept (!!! yez, Greenwald's place!), April 12

    Shades of Slim Shady: will the real fake news please stand up, please stand up?

    lol @ "the real fake news"

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