Friday, May 27

Middle East sandstorms getting progressively worse

© Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters - Workers on May 12 look after trees planted in the “green belt” area around Iraq's holy city of Karbala, trying to prevent worsening desertification and sandstorms.

There are a number of problems in addition to 'climate change' making the sandstorms progressively worse and which the following Washington Post report outlines.  The situation in Iraq is particularly alarming. 

As for planting trees -- the report discusses some of the initiatives, but then you run into the problem of watering the trees well enough to develop deep roots to withstand the high winds from the sandstorms. 

And I'm afraid the Dust Bowl plantings, if used as a model for the Middle East, ignore the very different climate in that region of the USA, and the fact that uprooting of native grasses on the plains to make room for crop plantings was the biggest culprit.  

Another tip stemming from the lessons of the Dust Bowl-- Scientists got the farmers to stop planting crops in straight rows; they needed to leave a little soil overhang for moisture to accumulate.  

Middle East sandstorms, worsened by climate change, send thousands to hospitals - The Washington Post - May 26



Sand and dust storms, known as haboobs, have always been a feature of life in the Middle East, a region known for its deserts. The storms ramp up in the late spring and summer as seasonal winds blowing from the northwest, known as the “shamal,” kick up dust from the Tigris-Euphrates basin and transport it to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.

But experts say the storms this year are particularly intense, as climate change and desertification increase their frequency. In Iraq, at least nine significant storms have hit the country since April. More are likely to materialize in the summer and, without major policy changes, could continue to get worse in years to come.

“We have had many more dust storms this spring than in the past,” said Salam Abdulrahman, a lecturer at the University of Human Development in Iraq, said in an email. “Every dust storm has lasted from one day to 2-3 days. Previous dust storms were shorter.”

Benjamin Cook, an environmental scientist at Columbia University’s Climate School, said three elements are needed for a sandstorm to take off: wind, a source of dust where there is little to no vegetation, and very dry conditions.

The recent storms in Iraq have stemmed in part from a lack of rain, water-flow issues and human activity.

2020-21 was the second-driest rainfall season in 40 years, resulting in crop failure. Conditions remain poor. In most of the country, groundwater storage, used for crop irrigation and drinking water, is near its lowest levels compared with long-term records, according to NASA data.

The limited water stunts vegetation growth, which loosens the surface for dust storms, said Abdulrahman. He said some locals in Iraq now refer to the dust storm activity as “soilfall” or “earthfall,” because the winds kick up layers of soil.

Wetlands in southern Iraq and Iran, where many people make a living off the land, are drying up.

Ismael al Ameri, a research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, said the near-disappearance of Al Sawa, a salt lake about 150 miles south of Baghdad, will leave a new source of mud, silt and salt for sandstorms. The construction of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has added to the problem, he said, and more broadly, military operations in Iraq since 2003 have also damaged topsoil layers.

In Iran and Iraq, the storms are also connected to farming practices in the region and the mismanagement of shared rivers, said Banafsheh Keynoush, a nonresident scholar with the Middle East Institute’s Iran program.

The conditions driving dust storms have been exacerbated by human-caused climate change. The Middle East is heating up about twice as quickly as the rest of the world, which has warmed by about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the preindustrial era.

The hotter temperatures, paired with increasing water-supply issues, prime the desert region for more dust storms.

“These climate extremes are widely reported as clear indicators of climate change,” said al Ameri, who has previously written on the subject. “This is combined with an increase in storm recurrence activity, not only in spring and summer, but in autumn and winter too.”

An Iraqi environmental ministry official said the country’s dusty days have increased from 243 to 272 days a year over two decades, according to data from the General Authority for Meteorology. He said Iraq could face nearly 300 days of dust storms per year by 2050, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

They also come at a cost to health.


The Saudi Food and Drug Authority on Tuesday called on people to wear masks and refrain from eating food exposed to the open air to protect themselves from harmful particles carried by the storms.


Planting trees and other vegetation represents one solution. During the Dust Bowl in the United States in the 1930s, the federal government planted millions of trees to stop soil from continuing to blow across the Great Plains. These “shelterbelts” or “green belts” reduce soil erosion and preserved moisture in the soil.

Saudi Arabia plans to plant 10 billion trees in the next decades to reduce its carbon footprint and land degradation. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a “Middle East Green Initiative” last year, hailed by the United Nations, to work with other Arab countries to plant 40 billion more in the region.

Iran, a regional rival, has spent 450 million euros ($483 million) over the past three years to mitigate sandstorm hot spots in the country by planting trees, stabilizing soil, constructing windbreaks and other measures, according to the Tehran Times.

raq has been experimenting with the strategy for more than a decade, planting eucalyptus and olive trees and date palms as part of a plan to shield the central city of Karbala, one of Iraq’s Shiite holy cities. But construction delays, funding shortages and neglect contributed to the project’s failure, Agence France-Presse reported. Some blame financial mismanagement.

The cabinet on May 10 directed the Finance Ministry to disburse some $2 million to implement a project to stabilize sand dunes, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

Governments in the region have invested in early-warning and monitoring systems for sandstorms, Keynoush said.

But regional governments should take stronger collective action to address the problem, she said. “We need to be a step ahead of sandstorms rather than sandstorms being a step ahead of us.”



Wednesday, May 25

Who knew BBC was a Russia news site?

No shame. The Western mainstream media have no shame when reporting on Russia matters -- but tagging the BBC Russian-language site a Russian news source is going too far even for them. Bernhard has fun taking this one apart:  

 MoA - Ukraine Propaganda - BBC Tries To Sell Telegram Rumors That Make No Sense (

Pundita's Global Sitrep

All the roads are rocky right now but as long as they end up in Dublin 1 2 3 4 5  

Sunday, May 22

Can Russia save Ukraine's farmers from an awful fate?

Black Soil

I didn't notice these reports from March 2019; at the time I was still focused on the Syrian War: 

Zelensky Administration Prepares to Sale Ukrainian Land to Transnational Corporations - SouthFront 

And so I didn't notice the news in April 2020: Farmland in Ukraine – Zelensky enacts law on sale from July 2021 — UNIAN, which the site presents as good news for Ukrainians ("
The law will enable the realization of citizens' constitutional rights to dispose of their property freely." That omits all the fine print, which is awful news for Ukranian farmers.  

I'm now noticing as of a few hours ago, when I came across an article written anonymously for a Russian Telegram channel site called The Right People. I am republishing the entire article including two photos but minus the several helpful charts and maps, which are large and clear enough to be read easily.

Black Gold: It's not what you think ... – Telegraph

The Right People ( Telegram Channel) May 21, 2022

As I am sure you have heard, trouble and famine are coming, the war has caused Russia and Ukraine, two of the world's largest food exporters, to stop or partially stop their export flow, why are these two lands so fertile?

The secret of the plantations, of their success, lies largely in their soil. The most fertile soils for cultivation are generally known as Mollisols, which occupy 7% of the ice-free surface of the Earth.

These soils are characterised by a thick black top layer or A horizon, the "chernic horizon", which must be at least 25 cm thick and is rich in decomposed plant material and therefore contains a lot of humus and carbon. In Ukraine, the thickness of the chernic horizon can reach several metres. This soil is known in Ukraine and Russia under the name of Chernozems "black ground".

As I said these lands fed the Russian Empire, the disruption of production caused the brutal famine commonly known as the holomodor.

The productivity of this land is so great and the land itself is in such demand that the sale of agricultural land has been illegal in Ukraine since 1992 until the ban was lifted in 2020, but the land, transported by truck, could be sold and bought illegally. 

According to the NGO "Green Front", the black market for illegally acquired chernozem in Ukraine reached approximately 900 million dollars a year in 2011. [1]

[Because of] This fact, the change of the land law in 2020 by Zelensky's executive [decree] was highly controversial [in Ukraine] and some point to one of the reasons why his popularity began to decline, as all this land was now open to exploitation by large landowners and foreign companies.

Russia, too, is a major food producer, and not surprisingly, Russia's most productive lands are those adjacent to Ukraine, although thanks to climate change these are increasing. These lands are inside the "black soil" belt that extends almost until Siberia as we saw.  [Map]

Ukraine has more than 41.5 million hectares (or 102.5 million acres) of agricultural land that cover 70% of the country. In 2020, Ukraine’s agriculture sector generated approximately 9.3% of GDP. Crop farming, which accounts for 73% of agricultural output, dominates Ukrainian agriculture, according to the International Trade Administration.

The country’s main crops are sunflowers, corn, soybeans, wheat and barley. Globally, Ukraine ranks:

1st in global sunflower production (For 2021/22 Ukraine sunflower seed production is estimated at a record 17.5 MMT)

6th in global corn production. (For 2021/22 Ukraine corn production is estimated at a record 42 MMT)

6th in global barley production

7th in global rapeseed production

9th in global soybean production

9th in global wheat production

This year Ukraine was forecast to account for 12% of global wheat exports, 16% for corn, 18% for barley and 19% for rapeseed. The share of agriculture in export revenues for Ukraine increased from 26% in 2012 to 45% in 2020 amounting to $22.2 billion.

As far as meat is concerned, Ukraine is not particularly strong in any one type of meat, although Russia is a major pork producer and the sanctions may affect the rest of the world.

In summary we can expect:

Crop Trade Effects

• Major disruptions in the World Wheat Market

• Significant disruptions in the World Corn Market

• Smaller direct disruptions in the World Soybean Market

Livestock Trade Effects

• Much smaller effects than the crop effects

• Most significant in poultry for both Ukraine and Russia

• More significant for Russia in the pork industry

• Smaller significance in the Beef and Dairy sectors

Strategic importance

[Three Maps -- Locations of Ukraine Corn, Soybean and Wheat production]

As we can see, most of the country's agricultural production is concentrated in central Ukraine, although the south also stands out, especially in cereals, where Russia is already the world's largest exporter. 

The human population will continue to grow, especially in places where the land is not the most productive, such as sub-Saharan Africa. As we are seeing, this gives great power to the food exporters, so it is to be expected that this Russian strength will grow greatly [with the Ukraine invasion], although the extent depends on how much land is captured or under indirect Russian control.

Western Ukraine is not very productive either industrially or agriculturally. So unless the EU is able to bring factories there after the war (I assume these areas will not be under any kind of Russian influence) expect them to be even poorer areas than they are today as they will lose the industrial base of the East and maybe the central agricultural one.

As always, I have tried to keep the text short but informative. I hope you like it and don't forget to subscribe to my telegram channel:


1)  Pundita note: The quote seems to be taken almost verbatim from this article on black soil:  Chernozem - Wikipedia, which questions whether the Green Front NGO is a reliable source.  All I've found so far about the NGO is that they have a Facebook page, most of which is in what I assume is Ukranian language:

While the 2019 ABC report I linked to puts a positive spin on the proposed new law, the SouthFront one closes with this grim observation: 
The developments of the Zelensky administration are a brilliant demonstration of that how populist ‘pro-people’ rhetoric can be used to promote interests of foreign powers and corporations."


Can the Russians stop what will surely happen next to Ukraine's farmers?  The Russians already have their hands full in Ukraine and have more than enough of their own black soil -- that last a point the ABC report didn't mention.

But I think it's certain that if this story gets enough coverage, Zelensky's government will not have one friend among the world's anti-globalists and those who don't want to see what has already happened to many African farmers repeat in Ukraine. SouthFront made a pass at describing some of it in the report I linked to, but that is not the half of what is by now an old and predictable chain of events once international agriculture companies buy off governments.  


Friday, May 20

The West"s "cosmic cretenism" LOL

"... on the one hand, insane sanctions are imposed against us, on the other hand, they demand to supply food. It doesn't work that way, we're not idiots."
The Americans are thinking of banning Russia from paying our debt obligations in dollars. Not a bad decision for us.

First, everyone understands that this is a political default, not a financial one. Russia is able to repay any of its obligations in any currency, if not to create artificial problems for it. Therefore, it will not affect the real financial reputation of our country. It should also be remembered that such actions of the United States, creating technical interference with the fulfillment of obligations, should be considered by the court either as force majeure or as culpable behavior of the creditor.

Secondly, our money in this case will not receive the American holders of debt securities themselves. And through the fault of his own country. Biden's strong move, building confidence in his financial system amid inflation and the energy crisis.

Thirdly, it is possible to fulfill these obligations in rubles, and this will also be their proper fulfillment in such conditions.

Or you cannot pay at all. And use the unspent money for those purposes that American marasmatics will not like very much. As the saying goes, he laughs best who laughs last...

The UN Secretary-General, the various sullivans and blinkins, who suddenly appeared, like a devil from a snuffbox, the "grain seven" (clearly not magnificent), some other particularly wretched Europeans spoke like the unforgettable Kisa Sparrows: Je ne mange pas six jours! [I don't eat six days!] 

That was to be expected. Here's why.

1. Countries importing our wheat and other food products will have a very hard time without supplies from Russia. And in European and other fields without our fertilizers, only a juicy weed will grow. Well... Mournfully. It's their own fault.

Now it looks like the West is backtracking. Once again, it was confirmed that a penny is the price of all these hellish sanctions when it comes to vital things. About the supply of energy resources, in order to heat the house. About food to feed people. About the millions of citizens who need one thing from politicians: the opportunity to live normally, calmly and safely. Sanctions prevent this. And NATO enlargement is getting in the way. And a mess with settlements on debts, payments and so on. And most of all it interferes with your own cosmic cretinism.

So, it's time to listen not to the trumpet voice of advisers from overseas, but to common sense. It's more useful in every way.

2. I spoke about this today with the president of one of the African countries – Namibia. By the way, our African friends understand this. And they understand that rich countries impose sanctions to make the poor poorer. And to force sanctioned patients to behave correctly under the threat of food riots. Americans and Europeans will not remain without food, although they are extremely expensive. Moreover, it is ordinary Europeans who will pay these three prices, and not those in power. Our country is ready to fulfill its obligations in full. But he also expects assistance from trading partners, including on international platforms. And then it turns out illogically: on the one hand, insane sanctions are imposed against us, on the other hand, they demand to supply food. It doesn't work that way, we're not idiots.
I would like to stress once again that there are no exports to the detriment of our market. Food for the citizens of Russia is a sacred matter.

3. No one has harvested crops on TV or the Internet yet. This requires fields and agricultural machinery, fertilizers and hands accustomed to sowing and harvesting bread, and not signing stupid decisions. Russia knows how to do this, we have every opportunity to ensure that other countries have food and that food crises do not happen. Just don't stop us from working.


H/T Ukraine update & Wheat for Rubles has collective west in panic mode - YouTube -The Duran May 20

Russia to cut off gas supplies to Finland starting tomorrow

Finland says Russia is cutting off natural gas supplies ( - CBS News May 20

Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland after the Nordic country refused President Vladimir Putin's demand to pay in rubles, the Finnish state-owned energy company said Friday. The cutoff, coming the same week that Finland applied for NATO membership, is the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine. [...]

From   • Chart: Which European Countries Depend on Russian Gas? | Statista:

Some smaller European countries rely exclusively on Russian gas, namely North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova. Dependence also was above 90 percent of gas supply in Finland and Latvia and at 89 percent in Serbia, as per the latest available data. [...]

So, what is Finland going to do?  Maybe try the same thing Poland is doing -- have Germany buy the gas for them, which I will assume is at a steep markup when shipped through to Poland.

See also:

German Utility Will Still Buy Russian Gas Under Euros-to-Rubles Scheme ( - May 11.  The question is how long the scheme will hold; from the report it's guaranteed until the end of this month; after that is unclear.  


Thursday, May 19

To the point

From Intel Slava Z today
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced important facts: The employees involved in work with dangerous pathogens in Ukraine were US citizens and had diplomatic immunity. Ukrainian biological laboratories were engaged in activities to enhance the pathogenic properties of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera and other deadly diseases using synthetic biology methods.

For the long-winded version see Sputnik's May 11 report  Dem Party Leaders, Pfizer, Moderna Involved in US Biological Activities in Ukraine: Russian MoD - 11.05.2022, Sputnik International (, which I think broke the news of the scandal. With each captured Ukranian base it seems the Russians are getting their hands on more incriminating evidence of atrocities by the Ukranian government against their own people at the behest of NATO and specifically American bosses.  

[shaking her head] What the hell happened to Americans?  How did we go from doing bad on occasion to protect our interests to routinely committing outright evil? 


Sunday, May 15

US Tops Market shooter posted symbol used by Ukranian Nazi Azov Battalion

That news about the shooter will not go over well in Washington and London.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn from British media that the shooter was working for the Russians.
Intel Slava Z - May 14, 18:25 (includes photos of shooter's postings, including the Black Sun symbol).  
A mass shooting took place in the City of Buffalo, in New York at a grocery store. 10 are dead, 3 are injured. The shooter is a self-proclaimed White Supremacist as stated in his manifesto. The shooter livestreamed his attack. On the first page he used the Symbol of the "Black Sun". The "Black Sun" symbol, is a hate symbol. This same symbol is used by the Nazi group The Azov Battalion in Ukraine. The shooter, goes over in detail what weapons he used and his gear, along with why he did the attack, and how he was going to carry it out. The attack is currently being investigated by law enforcement agencies as a terror attack and hate crime. The shooter is currently in custody.


In commenting about the massacre, President Biden said, Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”

He should have added, "But be assured we are doing everything in our power to support hate-fueled domestic terrorism in Ukraine. American Nazis bad, Ukranian Nazis good."


Friday, May 13

Sputnik News censorship bypass

In order to bypass censorship, Sputnik has created a Telegram channel in English. If you're looking for updates on anything important pertaining to the situation in Russia, Ukraine and CIS countries, you can follow their channel:
NEWS: Ukraine, Russia, Donbass
An alternative view on the news agenda. Verified facts only.

Feedback - @feedbacknewslive_bot

Wednesday, May 11

Why progress is so slow for Russian troops in the Donbass

Jacob Dreizen explains how the war is being fought there (starts at 13:00 minute mark), after discussing the Russian rout of Ukranian troops on Snake Island -- and describing American tactical help to the Ukranian troops.    

Jacob doesn't have his own YouTube channel. The Duran has been so impressed with his reporting on the Russian operation in Ukraine that they have graciously hosted his recent reports on their channel.


Andrei Martyanov to Pentagon: "Watch and learn how real war is fought"

Another Andrei bon mot from the same video report: "When you lie you have to lie professionally."  

Debunking (Some) Fakes. - YouTube:(May 9th, Zmeinnyi Island [Snake Island] fiasco, Pentagon, Fakes, Nuclear subs in Black Sea)

He has fun explaining in his caustic fashion basic military stuff (well, basic for anyone who knows what he's talking about) such as why, contrary to claims, the Ukrainians couldn't attack a nuclear submarine, Russian or otherwise, in the Black Sea.  

A note: he says what sounds like 'belling cat' a couple times. He's referring to a blog that became infamous during the Syrian War. Andrei along with many others who are very critical of the site considers Bellingcat a mouthpiece for Britain's MI6 spy agency; in any case it might as well be, is my two cents.         

Don't let Andrei's thick Russian accent mislead you. He is an American citizen with many old friends in the U.S. military and intelligence communities. He is not anti-American, but since the Russian operation in Ukraine he began explaining many facts about the war that have not made it into the mainstream press or got so mangled by reporters and 'analysts' they were useless.  

I think all of his observations are priceless. although the accent can take a little getting used to and his tendency to digress on occasion can be annoying for those who want him to get straight to the point. Those are quibbles given the educational value of his talks.   

In one discussion after another, he has pounded on his point that Americans today don't really know what real war is, and he extends the observation to many American military officials and their bosses in the U.S. Department of State, Congress, and White House. He has done this not to denigrate the United States, but to warn that Americans developed a skewed idea of war from a generation of fighting opponents that could only put up a token defense.

Speaking of his American friends, he has praise in the above discussion for one of Larry Johnson's writings, published May 9. What Larry has to say is very upsetting, but grown-ups in NATO countries need to watch the videos he includes in his article:

Is Ukraine Abandoning its Military Units? (

But who is Andrei?  From the Clarity Press bio:

ANDREI MARTYANOV is an expert on Russian military and naval issues. He was born in Baku, USSR in 1963. He graduated from the Kirov Naval Red Banner Academy and served as an officer on the ships and staff position of Soviet Coast Guard through 1990. He took part in the events in the Caucasus which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In mid-1990s he moved to the United States where he currently works as Laboratory Director in a commercial aerospace group. He is a frequent blogger on the US Naval Institute Blog.

From Pepe Escobar's sketch of him for the Asia Times published about a year ago:

Disintegration: Indicators of the Coming American Collapse by Andrei Martyanov. Clarity Press (Atlanta), 246 pages. US$28.95

Andrei Martyanov is in a class by himself. ... arguably the foremost military analyst in the Russian sphere – living and working in the United States, writing in English for a global audience and always excelling in his Reminiscence of the Future blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Martyanov’s previous two books.  In Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning, published nearly three years ago, he conclusively proved, among other things, that the missile gap between the US and Russia was a “technological abyss,” and that the Russian-made, air-launched, nuclear-capable Kinzhal missile was “a complete game-changer geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically.”

See also Bernhard's review of Andrei's 2019 book:

MoA - Book Review: The (Real) Revolution In Military Affairs (


Friday, May 6

Ukrainians will eventually learn the truth. Will Americans?

From Intel Slava Z, May 6
Local residents report that in Seversk and Serebryanka, which are still under the control of Ukrainian formations, an armored personnel carrier with a Z badge on board drives and fires at residential buildings. It is accompanied by a group of journalists who are filming another fake “how the Russians are hitting the residential areas” of Seversk and Serebryanka.

As soon as these settlements come under our control, these staged videos will be aired on Ukrainian and Western TV channels and resources.


Monday, May 2

Nato wins in the metaverse, Russia wins in the real world

Scott Ritter summarizes the way things really are for Kiev in this RT article: 

Ukraine is winning the battle on Twitter, but in the real world Kiev is losing the fight for the Donbass — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union by Scott Ritter - May 1 

Claims that Ukraine is set for victory on the ground are Kiev and Washington’s wishful thinking at best

Western media coverage of the Ukraine conflict has been so hysterically one-sided, and divorced from reality, that it's probably only a matter of time before Iraq's erstwhile 'Comical Ali' ["Baghdad Bob"] is brought out of retirement to insist that there are no Russians advancing towards the Ukrainian army's front lines. Meanwhile, the actual fighting continues to result in a string of defeats for Kiev's battered forces, who have already lost control of two major cities, despite unprecedented support from the US and its allies.  
As American officials work with the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to craft a perception of Kiev's victory against the Russian military, Moscow is preparing to counter with a harsh dose of reality.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on the heels of a dramatic visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev where, together with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he met with Zelensky, testified before Congress that the goal of the Ukrainians in fighting their two-month-old conflict with Russia “would be to push the Russians out of the territory that they’re trying to occupy in eastern Ukraine.”

Blinken added that the administration of US President Joe Biden was providing “full support” to Kiev to achieve this goal. The Secretary of State added that Zelensky’s objective was to degrade the Russian military so that it would not be able to attack Ukraine in the “next month, next year or in five years,” echoing similar sentiments expressed by Lloyd Austin, who had declared that the goal of the US was to “see Russia weakened” so that it cannot “do the kinds of things that it has done [in Ukraine].”

The shared optimism of Blinken, Austin, and Zelensky comes from the joint embrace of a narrative of the Russian military operation against Ukraine which holds that the Russians are in the process of suffering a strategic defeat in Ukraine. But in a sign that this narrative may represent little more than wishful thinking on the part of these three leaders, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, had a more nuanced take, noting that if Russia were to get away with what he termed its “aggression” against Ukraine “cost-free,” then “the global international security order” that has been in place since the end of the Second World War would be put at risk.

Far from projecting a sense of optimism as to the outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Milley’s statements reflected a sense of urgency that comes with the recognition that the war in Ukraine has reached a critical juncture.

The gap between perception and reality when it comes to assessing the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a direct result of the confusing nature of the conflict itself, where a well-oiled propaganda campaign waged by Ukraine and its Western partners, both government and media alike, contrasts with a Russian public relations effort which is reticent to delve deeply into Russian strategic goals and objectives, let alone the day-to-day details of the fighting on the ground. The result is an information war where two competing narratives wage an unequal conflict, and perception is ultimately trumped by reality.

Some harsh truths

As the military operation in Ukraine enters its third month, some harsh truths have emerged which are altering how both the Russian armed forces and modern warfare will be assessed going forward. Few analysts — including this author — expected serious resistance to last more than a month. Indeed, General Milley had briefed Congress during closed-door briefings in early February that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine could result in the fall of Kiev within 72 hours.

There were several reasons for such an assessment. First and foremost was the extensive preparation that had been conducted by Russia in advance of the military incursion. The movement of hundreds of thousands of troops along with their equipment and the logistical means to sustain both men and material in combat is not a trivial exercise, and Russia had been engaged in military drills which stretched out over the course of several months, perfecting such logistics. The Russian military is led by officers who excel in staff work and preparation, and to assume that they had planned for every possibility that could be encountered on the battlefield is not an outlandish proposition.

Doctrinally, the Russian military was configured for the kind of warfare it had prepared for, where its overwhelming advantages in mass and firepower were optimized to produce the very battlefield results anticipated by most observers — the destruction of enemy defenses in depth with massed fire, followed by an aggressive armored assault that penetrated deep into the enemy rear areas, sowing confusion and disruption leading to the rapid loss of combat effectiveness on the part of those being attacked.

A Russian-Ukrainian war was always going to be primarily a ground war; neither the Ukrainian Air Force nor its Navy was expected to put up a sustained, viable resistance to their Russian counterparts. While the Ukrainian Army had been trained and equipped as a virtual NATO proxy force since 2015, the reality was that it had undergone a rapid expansion from 2014, when it could field some 6,000 combat-ready troops, to its pre-military operation composition of some 150,000 soldiers organized into 24 brigades. The expectation that Ukraine would be able to perfect anything more than basic battalion-sized combined arms operations (i.e., the coordinated employment of maneuver forces with artillery and air support) was wishful thinking.

While Ukraine had placed a great deal of effort in transitioning from an all-conscript military in 2014 to one where some 60% of its combat personnel were professional contract soldiers led by seasoned non-commissioned officers, one cannot create such a force in so short of time. Small unit leadership of the sort that represents the glue that holds a military force together under the strain and duress of sustained combat simply had not had enough time to take hold and mature in the Ukrainian army, leading many to assess that it would fold when placed under the stress of Russian doctrinal warfare.

The following analysis is sourced from publicly-available reporting by journalists embedded with the Russian military and the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic, as well as Russian Ministry of Defense briefings and statements made by the Ukrainian side.

Within the first week of the Russian operation getting underway, it was clear to most that many of the assumptions that had been made were flawed and/or misplaced. First and foremost, Moscow had opted not to employ its forces according to standard doctrine, opting instead to take a light approach, which appeared to be born from a concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties and harm to civilian infrastructure that itself was derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

The reported purging of 150 officers from the 5th Department of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), responsible for operations in the so-called 'near abroad(which includes Ukraine), along with the arrest of Sergei Beseda, the former head of the department, suggests that Russia had suffered a failure of intelligence the likes of which has not been seen since the Israeli failure to predict the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973.

While the Russian government has remained characteristically tight-lipped about any possible shortcomings regarding the work of the 5th Department prior to the start of the military operation, the statements by Russian leadership suggesting that the Ukrainian military might remain in its barracks and that civilian leadership would not interfere with Russia military operations suggest that these assumptions were made using intelligence provided by the 5th Department. That such assumptions, if indeed they were made, proved to be so fundamentally off target, when combined with the preparedness of the Ukrainian military to engage the initial columns of Russian forces, suggests that the work of the 5th Department had been disrupted by Ukrainian security services, who took control of Russian human networks and fed false reports back to the Russian leadership.

The fact is that columns of Russian troops, advancing boldly into Ukraine without the kind of attention to route security and flank protection that would normally accompany offensive operations, found themselves cut off and annihilated by well-prepared Ukrainian ambushes. Moreover, instead of folding under pressure, the Ukrainian Army — both regular and those from the territorial forces — stood their ground and fought, using hand-held anti-tank weapons— US-made Javelins and British-made NLAWs— to great effect. It was, to use an American colloquialism, a Turkey shoot, and the Ukrainian government made effective use of combat footage obtained from such encounters to great effect in shaping global public opinion about the effectiveness of Ukraine’s defenses.

However, the limitations of the Ukrainian armed forces did not allow it to turn its impressive tactical victories into positive operational and strategic outcomes. Despite costly initial setbacks, the Russian Army pressed home its attack, achieving impressive gains in the south, where Russian forces operating out of Crimea secured the strategic city of Kherson and advanced on the equally important city of Mariupol. There, they joined with Russian and allied forces from the Donetsk Republic to surround the Ukrainian forces defending Mariupol, eventually trapping the survivors, numbering several thousand strong, in the reinforced concrete underworld of the Azovstal steel factory. Further north, Russian forces, together with the forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, advanced westward to drive Ukrainian forces from their prepared defenses to gain control of the totality of the territory encompassing the Donbass region.

The “Battle for Kiev

While securing the territorial integrity of the Donbass region was one of the primary objectives of the Russian special military operation, to accomplish this Russia carried out extensive supporting operations, which included a diversionary advance toward Kiev designed to fix Ukrainian forces in place and divert reinforcements away from the eastern front, as well as an amphibious feint off the coast of Odessa for the same purpose. For a diversionary attack and/or feint to be operationally viable, it must be believable, which means the forces carrying out the mission must be aggressive in the execution of the diversion, even under unfavorable conditions.

The Russian advance on Kiev was done by a force of some 40,000 men operating on two axes, one heading south, the other pushing southwest from the direction of Chernihiv. The ground advances were preceded by several air assaults targeting airfields in the vicinity of Kiev. Whether or not Russian intelligence had indicated that Kiev was ripe for a coup de main, or the Russian paratroopers and special forces conducting the assaults were too aggressive in selling the attack, or a combination of both, the reality was that Kiev was well defended by a mix of regular army and territorial forces who were not inclined to give up the Ukrainian capital without a fight. For over a month, the Russian forces advanced on Kiev, launching probing attacks that penetrated the northern suburbs and threatened to surround the city from both the east and west.

The fact of the matter remains, however, that a force of 40,000 men, no matter how aggressively employed, cannot take, and hold, a city of some three million inhabitants defended by a mix of 60,000 regular, reserve, and territorial soldiers. But this was never their task. “These actions [i.e., the advance on Kiev],” Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, the first deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff, announced during a briefing on March 26, “are carried out with the aim of causing such damage to military infrastructure, equipment, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the results of which allow us not only to tie down their forces and prevent them from strengthening their grouping in the Donbass, but also will not allow them to do this until the Russian army completely liberates the territories of the [Donetsk People’s Republic] and [Lugansk People’s Republic].”

In an indication of both the intensity of the combat involved in the Kiev feint, and the importance of the assigned mission, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the honorific title of ‘Guard’ to the 64th Detached Motor Rifle Brigade for its “astute and bold actions” during the Kiev fighting. “The unit’s staff became a role model in fulfilling its military duty, valor, dedication and professionalism,” Putin noted in the accompanying citation (the Ukrainian government has accused the 64th Brigade of committing war crimes in the town of Bucha, north of Kiev, a charge the Russian government vehemently denies.)

The so-called “Battle for Kiev” is a clear-cut example of the difference between perception and reality. The Ukrainian position is that its forces decisively defeated the Russian military on the approaches to Kiev, forcing not only a retreat, but also a complete re-design of the strategic objectives of the special military operation. This point of view has been echoed unquestioningly by a compliant Western media, and embraced by political and military leaders in Europe, Canada, and the US.

One of the major outcomes of this Ukrainian “victory” was the ability of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to leverage this perception into a fundamental shift of thinking on the part of his supporters in the West, resulting in an increase in both the amount of money allocated to supplying Ukraine with weapons, as well as the quality of the weapons themselves, as the West shifted away from an emphasis on light anti-tank weapons to more conventional armor and artillery.

Left unspoken was the need for this dramatic change in weapons priority, especially given the fact that Ukraine had, according to its own narrative, decisively defeated Russia using these very same light anti-tank weapons. The reality, however, was that the Russian Phase One operations had inflicted near-fatal damage to the Ukrainian military, killing and wounding tens of thousands of soldiers while destroying the vast bulk of Ukraine’s heavy weaponry — the artillery, tanks, and armored fighting vehicles critical to waging modern combined arms warfare. The reason Ukraine requested more tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery from its Western suppliers is that it had depleted its available stocks.

But equipment was the least of Ukraine’s worries. A military is only as good as its ability to logistically sustain its forces while in combat, and one of the primary objectives of the Russian Phase One campaign was to destroy Ukraine’s fuel and ammunition storage facilities and degrade Ukrainian command and control. The result is that while Ukraine held onto Kiev, it did so at an enormous cost in overall combat effectiveness. And while Russia was able to withdraw from the Kiev front and undergo a period of rest, rearmament, and reorientation (a normal action for military units that had been engaged in virtually non-stop combat operations for a month), the Ukrainian military remained under pressure from incessant Russian aerial attack and bombardment from precision-guided cruise missiles and Russian artillery.

Perception, when subjected to the harsh light of reality, is exposed as little more than wishful thinking. This is very much the case regarding the so-called “Battle for Kiev,” where the Ukrainian military was left holding territory which no longer served any useful purpose for the Russians. Russia was able to redeploy its forces to better support its prime objective, the seizure of Donbass, leaving the Ukrainian forces in Kiev frozen in place.

Mariupol and the battle for Donbass

The battle for Mariupol is another example where perception management clashed with ground-truth reality. The narrative surrounding the present fate of Mariupol is very much a tale of two cities. From the Ukrainian perspective, the city continues to be held by a heroic cadre of fighters who are tying down tens of thousands of Russian forces who otherwise could be redeployed elsewhere, supporting the Russian main effort against Donbass. So long as these defenders hold out, the Ukrainians contend, the vital land bridge connecting Crimea and the Russian Federation will be at risk. Likewise, their continued resistance serves a major propaganda purpose, denying Russia the ability to declare victory prior to the Victory Day celebration of May 9.

Russia, however, has already declared victory in Mariupol. While conceding that a few thousand defenders remain dug into the Cold War-era bunkers underneath the Azovstal steel factory, Russia says that these forces serve no meaningful military value. Indeed, rather than sacrifice Russian troops to dig the Ukrainian forces from their underground lairs, President Putin directed the military to seal off the Azov facility and wait the defenders out.

There is no doubt that the presence of Ukrainians in the Azovstal factory represents a propaganda victory for Ukraine. But the reality is that the city of Mariupol has fallen to Russia; while the Ukrainian defenders, possibly accompanied by thousands of civilians, waste away as their food supplies diminish, the rest of Mariupol is beginning the task of rebuilding a shattered city where an estimated 90% of the buildings have been damaged or destroyed in brutal street-to-street fighting. The Russian land bridge is intact, and the Russian offensive against Donbass is proceeding without delay.

The statements in Kiev by Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin are a byproduct of the perception of Ukrainian victory shaped by the twin Ukrainian “victories” in Kiev and Mariupol. The reality, however, is that Kiev was a masterful Russian deception that shaped the overall strategic situation in Ukraine in favor of Russia, and the Mariupol battle is likewise finished in terms of any strategic impact on the overall campaign. What is left is the harsh truth of simple “military math” which, when projected onto a map, provides the kind of unyielding fact-based evidence that Ukraine is losing its war with Russia.

The fact of the matter is that the military aid being provided to Ukraine by the West will not have any discernable impact on a battlefield where Russia is asserting its dominance more and more each day. Not only is there not enough equipment being provided. Hundreds of armored vehicles cannot replace the more than 2,580 that have been lost by Ukraine to date, nor can dozens of artillery pieces offset the more that 1,410 artillery tubes and rocket launchers destroyed by the Russian military.

When two military forces of equal size and capability face off against one another, they seek to acquire an operational advantage through the attrition of their opponent’s capabilities which, in combination with effective maneuvering of their own forces, puts the opponent in an untenable situation. The transition from a battle of equals to decisive military victory is often rapid, representing as it does the culmination of acquired supremacy in the form of firepower and maneuver which is brought together in synchronistic fashion, creating a series of tactical and operational dilemmas for which the opponent has no viable solution.

This is the current situation with the Ukrainian military facing off against the Russians in Donbass today. The Ukrainians, lacking any meaningful artillery support of their own, are at the mercy of the Russian artillery and rocket launchers that pound their positions day in and day out, without respite. The Russian troops have taken a very deliberate approach to engaging with their Ukrainian opponents. Gone are the rapid advances by unprotected columns and convoys; now, the Russians isolate the Ukrainian defenders, pound them with artillery, and then carefully close in and destroy what remains with infantry supported by tanks and armored fighting vehicles. The casualty ratio in this fighting is unforgiving for Ukraine, with hundreds of soldiers lost each day in terms of killed, wounded and surrendered, while Russian casualties are measured in scores.

Not only can Russia maneuver virtually at will along the front as it closes with and destroys the Ukrainian defenders, but Russian troops also operate with absolute freedom in depth, meaning that they can pull back to refit, rearm, and rest without fear of Ukrainian artillery fire or counterattacking forces. The Ukrainians, meanwhile, remain pinned down, unable to move without fear of being detected and destroyed by Russian air power, and as such doomed to be isolated and destroyed by Russian troops in due course.

There is virtually no hope of reinforcement or relief for the Ukrainian forces operating on the front lines; Russia has interdicted the rail lines that had served as the conduit for resupply, and the likelihood of any Ukrainian forces which have received heavy weapons provided by the West reaching the frontlines in any discernable strength is virtually zero. The Battle for Donbass is reaching its culminating point, where the Ukrainian military rapidly transitions from a force capable of providing the semblance of resistance to one that has lost all meaningful combat capability.

This is the state of play entering the third month of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. While the termination of any conflict is always a political question, one thing is for certain — if the operation extends into a fourth month, the battlefield will look vastly different from the one that the world currently sees. The battle for Donbass and eastern Ukraine is all but over. That is the hard reality, and no amount of wishful thinking or perception management by either Zelensky or his American partners can change that.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of 'SCORPION KING: America's Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.' He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, served in General Schwarzkopf's staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991 to 1998 served as a chief weapons inspector with the UN in Iraq. Mr Ritter currently writes on issues pertaining to international security, military affairs, Russia, and the Middle East, as well as arms control and nonproliferation. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter


See also: The truth about Bucha is out there, but perhaps too inconvenient to be discovered — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union

"Report: Draft opinion suggests high court could overturn Roe"

"The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services ..." 

 Draft opinion suggests high court could overturn Roe | AP News by MARK SHERMAN and ZEKE MILLER - 15 minutes ago 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday.

A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year’s elections. But it’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process.

Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court’s secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

The document was labeled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it states, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the court had no comment and The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which dates from February.

Politico said only that it received “a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings in the Mississippi case along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document.”

The draft opinion strongly suggests that when the justices met in private shortly after arguments in the case on Dec. 1, at least five voted to overrule Roe and Casey, and Alito was assigned the task of writing the court’s majority opinion.

Votes and opinions in a case aren’t final until a decision is announced or, in a change wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, posted on the court’s website.

The report comes amid a legislative push to restrict abortion in several Republican-led states — Oklahoma being the most recent — even before the court issues its decision. Critics of those measures have said low-income women will disproportionately bear the burden of the new restrictions.



Ukraine army on brink of destruction

 MoA - Ukraine's Army Is In Very Bad Shape - More Fighting Will Only Destroy It ( -May 2

Detailed analysis.

The Duran interviews Andrei Martyanov!

Special Military Operation (Live) w/Andrei Martyanov & Gonzalo Lira - YouTube

Fasten your seatbelt.  


Sunday, May 1

Russia squares the books and then some

Intel Slav Z today:
"Volodin stated that up to $500 billion worth of Western assets were blocked on the territory of the Russian Federation, which counterbalances the $300 billion of Russian reserves blocked in the West.
"In the event of the confiscation of the property of Russian oligarchs in the West, Russia will begin to confiscate the property of Western businesses in Russia."

 Volodin, from this report today Russia should respond symmetrically to asset freezes by 'unfriendly countries' - Duma chairman | Reuters is the Chairman of Russia's Duma, lower house of parliament. 

Looks like the hardliners won out. Putin had wanted to play Mr Magnanimous and not engage in retaliation against Western financial moves, but I guess when 300 billion dollars talks, nobody walks.


What to do when Fortune, Empress of the World, is giving you a hard time?

         Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi 

O Fortune, like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.
Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is in vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.
Fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everybody weep with me! *

I can think of no better lyrics to convey the mayhem of the present time in Europe and the United States than the Reprise to Carmina Burana, as interpreted by Carl Orff's masterpiece.

So, what to do when you see madness and weeping all round?  Pretend, of course, that you're perfectly capable of wresting meaning from nothingness. Dance and play a tambourine along with Fate as if She's a really nice person. Open your mouth and sing from the bottom of your heart to Whatever must surely rule over an empty whirling wheel.

The go-for-broke version of Orff's Reprise is conducted by Seiji Ozawa with the Berlin Philharmonic, Shin-Yu Kai Chorus, and Boys Choir of the Staats-und Domchor Berlin; Kathleen BattleSir Thomas Allen, and Frank Lopardo soloists. 1990 Philips DVD video. 

* "These lyrics are copyrighted and are published at Classical Net
with the permission of Schott Music International."