south front for apr 17

Oceania Takes On Eurasia And Eastasia
South Front, Apr 17 2021

The emerging US strategy appears to be centered on imposing a regime of isolation on Russia and China with the aim of ultimately effecting regime change in both countries through a combination of political, economic, and military measures. The military component consists of building up naval, aerial, and space capabilities for blockade and strike directed at these two countries and any countries aligned with them. The ongoing shift of US military capabilities away from protracted land warfare toward naval and aerial long-range strike using hypersonic weapons and swarming munitions, evidenced by the US Marine Corps’ shedding of its tanks and heavy artillery and the US Army opting for long-range missile arsenals and even anti-ship capabilities, indicates a preference for “non-contact” warfare in the future, with client states being assigned the role of “bleeding” in future conflicts. The fact that even the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior military advisory body to the civilian leadership, a US Army four-star general himself, argues that in the future the US Army will need to have its funding reduced in order to facilitate the US Navy’s improbably ambitious expansion plans, is very telling in and of itself.

NATO’s obsession with so-called “Anti-Access/Area Denial” or A2/AD “bubbles” supposedly being built by Russia and China in order to protect their territory from NATO’s aggression in locations such as Kaliningrad Region, Crimea, Hainan Island, and other locations, is indicative of the offensive nature of NATO’s operational planning which is plainly inconvenienced by the notion of putative targets being able to shoot back. The development of drone swarms and hypersonic munitions, together with the desperate emphasis on deploying as many of the clearly flawed F-35 stealth fighters as possible, is all part of the technological arms race intended to give offense an advantage over defense. But technology is only one part of the puzzle. The other is that deep-strike technologies require access to politically open airspace which may not always be available. Moreover, US deep-strike capabilities may also rely on bases located in client states that would become targets of counterstrikes. That the possibility, indeed the strong likelihood of such retaliation exists was suggested by Russia’s warning to NATO in advance of the post-Douma false-flag operation cruise missile strikes against Syria that, should Russian forces or facilities be targeted, the Russian military would not limit itself to downing the munitions. Instead it would also go after the launch platforms (meaning aircraft and warships) as well as bases from which they were operating. In that context, it would have meant NATO air and naval bases in Greece, Italy, and as far away as Spain, which homeports four US Navy destroyers at Naval Station Rota. One way or the other, the message was received by NATO and no Russian forces or facilities were targeted. But the precedent was established, and we can assume it will be followed in any future confrontations. Which means that US’ ability to launch strikes against Russia or China, their forces and bases both on and outside its national territory and airspace, will also be limited by client states’ unwillingness to suffer retaliatory strikes.

This creates a major diplomatic challenge for the US, which is relegating its “allies” to the role of punching bags forcing to accept retaliatory blows following its own strikes. The sheer size of Russia and China combined means that the challenge varies from region to region. Here the situation is relatively the easiest for the US, given the proximity of Alaska where a major military build-up is taking place, including anti-ballistic missile defenses, forward-basing of strategic bombers, and plans for major F-35 permanent deployment in addition to the air-defense F-22s already stationed there. However, these bases have pretty limited reach, even with aerial refueling for the F-35s, which means that to reach targets closer to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk US forces would have to rely, one way or another, on bases in Norway, Iceland, and even Greenland. The likelihood of the relevant political authorities giving assent to the use of these bases in support of strikes against Russian forces or assets in the Arctic reasons appears to be low. Given these countries’ economic interests in the Arctic and the effectiveness of the Arctic Council at managing the problems of the region, it does not appear likely that Norway, Denmark, or Iceland, would go so far as to risk being a target of Russian military retaliation, and the inevitable end to that international organization which would follow. While Sweden and Finland are also making noises about joining NATO, which would enter huge swaths of airspace to “access” by US aircraft and missiles on their way to Russia, the prospect of becoming a target of retaliation has so far kept them from joining that organization outright. One, however, should not discount the possibility of existence of various secret agreements and arrangements that are being kept from these countries’ populations.

Here the US has two countries that are actually willing, at the governmental level if not popular one, to absorb Russian retaliatory strikes. These are Poland and Romania which have already agreed to host components of US National Missile Defense system, and which are all but guaranteed to give the US whatever “access” it needs in case of an operation against Kaliningrad or Crimea, respectively. The restraining factor here is the fact both of these countries happen to be members of the European Union and will remain such for the foreseeable future in spite of earlier US efforts to split the union by peeling off first Great Britain, and then Eastern Europe. While not members of the Eurozone, they are nevertheless part of the common market and open border zones, and serve as the preferred destination for “outsourcing” by Western European firms seeking to avoid Eurozone’s high labor costs (which creates its own set of problems). The pressure on North Stream 2 and indeed on all EU-Russia economic and political ties is motivated by the desire to eliminate the political resistance to the free use of EU’s airspace for offensive military operations against Russia and its targets. So far it has had little success, and has even elevated North Stream 2 issue to the level of question whether Germany is in any way a sovereign country. United States is also exerting indirect pressure on Germany by actively courting France as its “preferred” continental interlocutor at the expense of Germany. However, the economic benefits of EU-Russia collaboration have proved greater than anything the US could provide to offset them, and Biden’s own version of “America First” policies is unlikely to be more attractive than Trump’s.

To make matters worse, Poland’s and Romania’s proximity to Russia have meant a certain unwillingness to place major US military bases there, meaning that even when it comes to operations by bombers based in the US, some of their support functions would be performed by military units based in Germany, Italy, and Great Britain, rendering them vulnerable to retaliatory strikes as well. Here, if anything, the situation is even worse for the US than in Europe’s case because there does not appear to be a single country that is an equivalent to Poland and Romania in the sense of having political leadership willing to make their country a hostage to Washington’s military planning. The relevant countries where US currently has bases include Japan and South Korea, neither of which views their relationship with China as a zero-sum game. Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, do not show signs of giving the US a blank check in any situation other than a major threat to their own vital interests by China. The political resistance would mean pushing US support infrastructure to as far as Guam, which is too far and too poorly developed to sustain large-scale carrier battle group operations in eastern Pacific or South China Sea. Even Australia, which has a strong Sinophobic lobby and which moreover self-identifies as part of the “Anglosphere”, is on the fence regarding the desirability of granting unfettered access to Australia’s bases and airspace for the purpose of operations against China.

The difficulties that the US are experiencing at providing the political preconditions for the implementation of their ambitious aero-naval-space blockade and strike capabilities demonstrate the importance of traditional diplomacy to national security. Russia’s outreach to the EU, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as China’s oft-maligned “Tiger diplomacy” have created a situation in which US military power is functionally displaced by political considerations. It does not even appear that the US leadership is fully aware of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of its military power, otherwise it would not be sending badly overworked aircraft carriers on “double-pump” deployments or keep decades-old strategic bombers on what looks like a repeat of permanent patrols, though this time without nuclear bombs onboard. This is, however, what a multipolar world looks like and will look like going forward. Biden administration’s agreement to extend the New START with Russia for five years without preconditions, over the objections of such hard-liners as Victoria Nuland, suggests there is some reluctant recognition that the world is shifting toward a more equitable distribution of power and wealth.

US Instructors Spotted On Donbass Frontlines: Report
South Front, Apr 17 2021

The press officer of the People’s Militia of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) Ivan Filiponenko claimed that instructors from the US had taken part in the training of Ukrainian artillerymen in Eastern Ukraine. The claim was made during the daily briefing on Apr 17. According to Filiponenko, the training of Ukrainian forces took place near ​​the village of Pokrovske. Filiponenko said:

The trainings of the UAF’s 40th separate artillery brigade were attended by US instructors stationed at the Yavoriv training range.

The press officer noted that foreign specialists were carried to the spot by white vehicles with the special marks of the Ukrainian representative office in the Joint Center for Control and Coordination. This was made in order to ensure secrecy. The US forces are reportedly deployed at the Yavoriv training range in Lviv region, Western Ukraine, as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group (JMTG-U). Filponenko also claimed that a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter arrived at the northern LPR front line, admitting that it could deliver foreign instructors who arrived to train the UAF in sabotage and reconnaissance operations and mining works. On Apr 17, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal claimed that Ukraine had asked the US to increase the military presence of its troops on its territory, first of all, this concerned US military instructors. According to US Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine Christina Kvin, there are 160 American troops in Ukraine on a permanent basis, but if necessary, their number can be increased. Currently, the foreign instructors in Ukraine are mainly Americans and Canadian military personnel. They are deployed in Ukraine since 2015. On Apr 15, WarGonzo reported that 150 Turkish service members had arrived in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov. Locals reportedly said that they were probably Turkish special forces. Meanwhile, Turkish military is known to train Ukrainian forces to use newly-acquired Bayraktar TB2 combat drones. It seems that the Ukrainian soldiers are not good students. On Apr 17, one Bayraktar TB2 combat drone reportedly lost signal over Ukrainian southern regions.

The US drone was also spotted on Apr 17, surveying DLPR borders.

After Chimerica And EuRussia
J Hawk, South Front, Apr 17 2021

In light of current events, it is remarkable that the term “Chimerica” was coined by Nial Ferguson and Moritz Schularick a mere 15 years ago. Reflecting on the growing interdependence era between the US and PRC, they argued the two countries in practice represented a single, symbiotic economy featuring a closed cycle of manufacturing, consumption, spending and debt. Chimerica, alas, hit a rough patch at about the same time as another similar project which never developed any catchy nicknames but which we can provisionally refer to as “EuRussia” which was similarly predicated on a closed cycle of resource extraction, manufacturing, finance, and consumption. The 2008 financial crisis undermined the self-confidence of US and European elites and also their legitimacy in the eyes of their own electorates which were poorly shielded against its effects. It is quite telling that while Western leaders and media genuinely love to paint a picture of autocratic, oppressive China and kleptocratic, corrupt Russia, in the end neither of these non-Western powers suffered from the 2008 financial crisis as badly as their Western counterparts whose financial systems proved to be rife with insider trading, regulatory capture, backroom deals, and other forms of corruption which ultimately meant the perpetrators of the crisis were shielded from the consequences of their actions. The spectacle of US and European “too big to fail” banks having to be propped up by constant infusions of cash under the guise of “quantitative easing” and enjoying unprecedented monetary stimulus by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, economy-warping measures sustained for well over a decade now solely in order to protect the big financial institutions from bankruptcy. The dry rot of Western institutions the crisis revealed also shook Western powers’ confidence in their ability to continue the center-periphery relationship they established with Russia and China. The former would provide abundant raw materials to Europe, the latter would serve as America’s giant assembly warehouse, with neither threatening the West’s comfortable self-image as rulers of the world. Neither Russia nor China appeared to be particularly unhappy with that state of affairs, either, since the relationship did facilitate their economic development and relieved the two countries of the burden of military modernization.

China’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier undergoing sea trials in Liaoning Province in May.

Before the Fall

China’s leadership including General Secretary Hu Jintao were content with that state of affairs and focused their attention on economic development and growth while at the same time assigning a far lower priority to military modernization. As of 2012, the year of Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia”, the People’s Liberation Army was not a serious competitor, in terms of quality to the US military. The degree to which armaments were de-emphasized during the “Chimera” period plainly visible when one examines China’s naval shipbuilding programs of the past two decades. The initial batches of China’s most important domestically designed guided missile destroyer class, the Type 052, ran between two and six ships, creating a veritable “fleet of samples” with the main goal being the establishment of trained cadres, the expansion of shipbuilding infrastructure, and of course the While today’s People’s Liberation Army Navy overshadows the US Navy in terms of sheer number of warships if not tonnage, the vast majority of that build-up took place under the leadership of Hu’s successor Xi Jinping. China’s development of stealth fighters was similarly a product of the breakdown of Chimerica.

Matters were not all that different in Russia. The Medvedev presidency which ended in 2012 represented the high water mark of Russia’s liberal economic elite which was less concerned with the country’s great power status than with making money for itself, though incidentally also modernizing the Russian economy. The state of affairs was neatly summarized by Obama’s ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul who, when asked about Russia’s liberal elites, pointed out that these elites’ foreign bank accounts, foreign real estate, children at foreign universities, actually made it the West’s elites, a veritable Fifth Column that could be relied upon to do the West’s bidding in Russia’s politics. The condition of Russia’s military during the EuRussia era was not much to write home about either, though Georgia’s aggression against South Abkhazia and Ossetia in 2008 which on the one hand ended with a Russian military victory but on the other revealed the profound inadequacies of Russia’s military of that era, was an early wake-up call that prompted urgent defense reforms which bore fruit just in time for Ukraine’s Maidan. The so-called Serdyukov reforms named after a defense minister of that time resulted in the disbandment of Ground Forces divisions and their replacement by far smaller brigades intended mainly for low-intensity warfare rather than pitched battles against peer opponents. To understand the thinking of Russia’s leaders during the EuRussia era, one should only remember this was the time when Russia placed orders for Mistral-class helicopter carriers in France, explored the possibilities of license-producing Italy’s Iveco trucks and Freccia wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, and even contracted with Rheinmetall to equip a military training facility near Moscow. These projects would ultimately fall victim to the breakdown in relations following the reunification of Crimea and the outbreak of civil war in Ukraine.

EU’s Josep Borrell.

A Short Victorious Hybrid War

Given the dramatic transformations that took place in China and Russia since that time, Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” in retrospect proved to be a declaration of hybrid war against the two Eurasian powers and was certainly received as such, prompting a major rearrangement of political objectives and economic priorities, accompanied by a suitable re-evaluation of defense needs. The aim was relatively straightforward: to reassert control by United States and the European Union over their wayward “peripheries” which were now expecting to be treated like great powers on an equal footing with the Western ones, an expectation that unfortunately was not going to be satisfied, certainly not without a fight. The relatively high level of interdependence between US and China on the one hand, and Russia and the EU on the other, combined with the US dominance of the global financial markets, meant that the leaders of these countries expected Russia and China would be forced to abandon their great power ambitions and prepare for a far less “symbiotic” relationship with their Western “partners”. This time it would be a relationship of outright exploitation which the dire state of US and EU economies demanded.

The desperation of Europe’s leaders, even supposedly Russia-friendly ones like Angela Merkel, was evidenced by their commitment to absolutely insane actions, such as the promotion of Ukrainian and Belorussian nationalism, and of various subversive forces within Russia itself. The fake Navalny poisoning followed by Josep Borrell’s disastrous lecture tour of Russia seems to have been the proverbial last straw. Whatever vestiges of hope that the EU would come to its senses vanished with Borrell’s departure from Moscow. When it comes to China, the steadily escalating trade war waged by Obama, Trump, and now Biden administrations also escalated into support of Hong-Kong militants and the invention of the “Uighur genocide,” a charge far surpassing any fake accusations leveled at Russia during the same period of time. Europe’s sanctions on China over said “genocide” seem to have had the same effect on its politics that Borrell’s visit had on Russia’s. Prior to those events, the leaders of both countries appear to have maintained a belief that perhaps the EU would exercise a certain level of strategic autonomy and craft its own foreign policy. China’s comprehensive investment agreement with the European Union which entailed considerable concessions on China’s part, was motivated by that apparently mistaken belief. The dispatch of European naval warships to the South China Sea did not help matters either.

Putin and Xi in Shanghai, May 20 2014.

Toward Eurasia and Amerope

If Biden felt compelled to suddenly referred to Russia as a “great power” in a televised address and plead for a de-escalation, it is only because it has dawned on the leadership of Western powers that non-Western powers have agency too. Neither America nor Europe are indispensable. If Chimerica and EuRussia complete their unraveling that vacuum will be filled by new power combinations. China and Russia can fill each other’s voids left by the collapse of cooperation with US and EU. Europe and the US can pursue closer integration as well. Michael McFaul was infamously reduced to trolling his Russian audience by raising the specter of Russia becoming a “tributary state” to China. Apart from considerably misreading the nature of the relationship, it should be noted that the West’s own designs on Russia, voiced at an Atlantic Council virtual conference in March 2021, amount to dismemberment of the country through promotion of not only Aleksey Navalny but various separatist movements across the country, under the guise of “promoting democracy” in Russia. Whereas US and EU have an official opinion on literally everything that happens in the domestic politics of non-Western powers and are not above inventing atrocities and even genocides to justify acts of military and non-military aggression, the Russia-China relationship is characterized by mutual recognition of juridical equality of the two partner states. China certainly is not financing the Communist Party of the Russian Federation or promoting a Bolshevik coup. Russia likewise is not trying to impose its own model of governance onto China.

America’s fear of Eurasia is accompanied by EU’s fear of becoming Amerope in which the Europeans will full the heavy hand of American dominance and actually be reduced to the status of tributary states. UK’s experience in the aftermath of Brexit is indicative of what awaits European countries in that relationship. Germany’s defense of Nord Stream 2, European countries’ embrace of Sputnik V vaccine, are motivated by the dual fear of actually having an unbound Russia on its eastern flank and their sovereignty lost to United States desperately fighting to avert their own decline. The future course of global politics still chiefly depends on choices made in Washington, it remains to be seen whether the resistance their policies have provoked will actually lead to genuine and lasting moderation and recognition of equal status of other major international actors.

Russian Navy To Guard Iranian Oil Supplies To Syria Under Strategic Agreement – Report
South Front, Apr 17 2021

Russia, Iran and Syria have established a joint operation room that would work to guarantee the security and stability of oil and wheat supplies to Syrian ports through the Mediterranean Sea, Sputnik reported on Apr 17. According to the agency, a series of intensive meetings between Russian, Iranian and Syrian officials was held recently with the aim of breaking the siege imposed by the US and EU on Syria. Sputnik quoted sources familiar with the matter as saying:

The room’s work is to provide multi-sided coordination to secure the arrival of oil supplies, in the first place, to Syrian ports.

Syria has been facing an unprecedented economic crisis as a result the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU. The country’s natural resources in the northeastern region are also under control of US proxies. Furthermore, ships heading to Syrian ports face sanctions as well as the threat of direct attacks on some occasions. In the framework of the joint operations room, Russian Navy vessels will protect Iranian tankers heading to Syria until the end of this year. Iranian tankers will gather in the Mediterranean and sail to Syria in one convoy escorted by the Russian Navy. Recently, this protocol was successfully used to guard four tankers heading to Syria. According to Sputnik’s sources, other ships loaded with supplied, including food and chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry, will arrive in Syrian ports. Several wheat shipments from Russia will also be sent to Syria until next June. the sources said:

The recent tripartite coordination, which resulted in understandings that could be described as strategy, would secure most of the Syrian market’s needs for basic commodities and materials.

The operations room demonstrates honest commitment of Russia and Iran to Syria and the Syrian people. Meanwhile, the US and the EU continue to place political conditions to easy their collective sanctions on the country.

Declassified: CIA Plotted Assassination Of Cuba’s Raul Castro
South Front, Apr 17 2021

According to the declassified documents, the CIA attempted to assassinate Raul Castro, the younger brother of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in 1960. The top secret documents were published on the website of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. The report claims that CIA recruited the pilot, Jose Raul Martinez, in Cuba. On Jul 21 1960, he joined the crew of a Cubana Airlines charter plane to pick up Raul Castro and other high-ranking Cuban officials from Prague. According to the CIA plan, Martinez was supposed to “arrange a fatal accident” during the flight from Prague to Havana. The documents stated that the pilot should be paid over $10k. In his turn, Martinez demanded that, in case of his death, the US authorities assure his two sons to receive higher education. Martinez was given the task to arrange the crash, while being en route to Prague. The following ways, which can pass as accidental, were proposed:

  1. Engine burnout on take-off to delay or harass trip.
  2. Vague possibility water ditching approx. 3 hours out from Cuba.

Engine failure in flight was ruled out due to imminent danger of fire and lack of opportunity to save any passengers or crew. When the pilot was already in the Czech Republic, CIA HQ in Langley canceled the operation, but there was no more way to reach Martinez. Finally, the flight was carried out with no accident. When Martinez returned, he reported that “he had no opportunity to arrange an accident such as discussed.” According to the archive documents, the attempted assassination of Raul Castro took place a few weeks before the attempt to eliminate Fidel Castro within the Bay of Pigs operation. CIA planned to pay the mafia $150k for Castro’s assassination with poisoned pills created by the agency’s Technical Services Division. The documents were declassified amid the formal end of Castro era in Cuba. On Apr 16, Raul Castro announced his decision to step down as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

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