moon of alabama

Ukraine – RAND Study Sees Risks In Prolonged War
Moon of Alabama, Jan 27 2023

RAND Corp is a government and industry financed large research institute. Founded shortly after the end of the second world war it mostly works for the Pentagon by developing policies and strategies. In Apr 2019 RAND published a report about Extending Russia. The report summary explained its purpose:

As the 2018 National Defense Strategy recognized, the US is currently locked in a great-power competition with Russia. This report seeks to define areas where the US can compete to its own advantage. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from Western and Russian sources, this report examines Russia’s economic, political and military vulnerabilities and anxieties. It then analyzes potential policy options to exploit them ideologically, economically, geopolitically, and militarily (including air and space, maritime, land, and multidomain options).

RAND developed policy options in those four fields. It then evaluated their benefit, cost and risks as well as their likelihood of success.Here is their summary table for economic measures:

The first three measures were implemented when the war in Ukraine was launched. The geopolitical measures included an option of providing lethal aid to Ukraine. This would create the risk that Russia would respond militarily and eventually take more of Ukraine than the two Donbas republics:

Taking more of Ukraine might only increase the burden [for Russia], albeit at the expense of the Ukrainian people. However, such a move might also come at a significant cost to Ukraine and to US prestige and credibility. This could produce disproportionately large Ukrainian casualties, territorial losses, and refugee flows. It might even lead Ukraine into a disadvantageous peace.

While they at times underestimate Russia’s capabilities RAND people are not dumb. They knew of the likely outcome of a war. Other geopolitical measure RAND evaluated included more support for ‘Syrian rebels,’ regime change per color revolution in Belarus, to exploit tensions in the southern Caucasus and to reduce Russian influence in Central Asia. RAND’s summary for geopolitical measures:

The Trump and Biden administrations both implemented the measures that seemed to have high benefits as well as high risks. The use of ideological measures against Russia was seen as having rather low benefits:

There follow more options, mostly in military categories, that the RAND report developed and evaluated. They emphasize industry pork. The Trump administration took some of the measures RAND provided but seemed not too enthusiastic about them. Its regime change attempt in Belarus failed. The Biden administration changed tact. He endorsed Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the color revolution candidate that had failed the elections in Belarus. Biden also allowed for the delivery of more offensive weapons to Ukraine. The regime in Kiev was encouraged to retake the rebellions Donbas republics. The green light for that was given in early 2022 even as the White House knew that Russia would respond militarily. The consequences for Ukraine that RAND had predicted in 2019 ensued. The US aim for the war is, as Sec Def Austin said in Apr 2022, to ‘weaken Russia.’ An NSC spox said:

Secretary Austin’s comments were consistent with what the US goals have been for months: namely to make this invasion a strategic failure for Russia. We want Ukraine to win. One of our goals has been to limit Russia’s ability to do something like this again, as Secretary Austin said. That’s why we are arming the Ukrainians with weapons and equipment to defend themselves from Russian attacks, and it’s why we are using sanctions and export controls that are directly targeted at Russia’s defense industry to undercut Russia’s economic and military power to threaten and attack its neighbors.

That, however, will take a very long time. Letting the conflict extend longer, concludes a newly released RAND report, is itself a danger. The US must avoid a long war:

The authors argue that, in addition to minimizing the risks of major escalation, US interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict. The costs and risks of a long war in Ukraine are significant and outweigh the possible benefits of such a trajectory for the US. Although Washington cannot by itself determine the war’s duration, it can take steps that make an eventual negotiated end to the conflict more likely.

The study argues that Ukraine’s retaking of territory Russia controls should not be relevant for US plans. It has little benefits but high costs. Prolonging the war, while having some benefits for the US, has even more risk and costs attached to it.

Especially important to RAND seems to be that the war in Ukraine diverts the US from starting a war with China:

Beyond the potential for Russian gains and the economic consequences for Ukraine, Europe, and the world, a long war would also have on sequences for US foreign policy. The US ability to focus on its other global priorities, particularly competition with China, will remain constrained as long as the war is absorbing senior policy-makers’ time and US military resources. And although Russia will be more dependent on China regardless of when the war ends, Washington does have a long-term interest in ensuring that Moscow does not become completely subordinated to Beijing. A longer war that increases Russia’s dependence could provide China advantages in its competition with the US.

The US, says RAND, can take measures that make a quick end of the war possible. It can press Ukraine to start negotiations and to accept a bad outcome by threatening to stop financing the war. It can encourage Russia to enter into negotiations by offering substantial sanctions relief. The reports final policy advice concludes:

A dramatic, overnight shift in US policy is politically impossible,oth domestically and with allies, and would be unwise in any case. But developing these instruments now and socializing them with Ukraine and with US allies might help catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve US interests. The alternative is a long war that poses major challenges for the US, Ukraine and the rest of the world.

Start working on this now, says Rand. It is likely not by chance that the previous call for an immediate start of negotiations to end the war came from the US Chief of Staff Mark Milley. That he did so publicly was a sign that he had lost the internal White House debate on that issue. He probably asked for the RAND study to bolster his argument. But the neocons, NSA Sullivan, Secretary Blinken and his deputy Victoria Nuland, who together wage their war against Russia, have Joe Biden’s ears and can control the information he gets. Milley and other realist will have a difficult stand. Steady Russian progress in its campaign will be the best argument for them to win the internal war in Washington DC.

Spain Debunks Russiagate-like NYT Letter Bomb Story
Moon of Alabama, Jan 26 2023

Just three days ago I mocked a NYT story that used ‘Russiagate’-like claims by ‘US officials’ to tie a number of letter bomb incidents in Spain to some ‘Russian terrorist organization’:

According to what US officials claim, some anti-Kremlin fringe group in Russia was used by a Russian intelligence service to somehow send letter bombs from Valladolid, Spain, to some offices in Madrid. But why would Russian intelligence run such a nonsense campaign? Why would it use a problematic fringe group of Russian crazies to do so. Why in Spain? Why not in Poland, Germany or France? What is the evidence? None of those questions get answered. Instead rumors and hot air assumptions are put together to make the claims somewhat less outrageous. This is on the same level as the lies about ‘weapons of mass destruction in Iraq’ the NYT printed 20 years ago. We know that ‘US intelligence’ is bullshit and that US official are liars, especially with regards to anything around Ukraine. We know that because ‘US officials’ said so. That makes the publishing of the above story by the NYT even more egregious.

Three days on the Spanish police arrested the guy most likely responsible for making and sending out those letter bombs:

The man was detained in the northern town of Miranda de Ebro, and police searched his home. The suspect is a retired Spanish citizen with the initials P.G.P. who is tech-savvy and very active on social networks, the ministry said. Armed officers kept people away the low-rise cinder-block building housing the man’s third-floor apartment in a blue-collar neighbourhood. A video provided by the Interior Ministry showed officers and a sniffer dog searching a silver Peugeot car parked outside as forensic specialists took photographs. Police also appeared to gain access to a lock-up garage. Witnesses said the suspect remained inside the house as the searches were conducted. The man used to work for the town hall of the Basque capital Vitoria-Gasteiz before retiring in 2013, a city spokesperson said. Miranda de Ebro is 35 km southeast of Vitoria. Investigators have concluded that all six parcels were sent from the city of Burgos, the ministry said. A source close to the inquiry had told Reuters in early December that all the parcels had been mailed from Valladolid, a two-hour drive from Miranda del Ebro.

All the named cities and towns are in norther Spain and near to each other. So it now seems that some lonely tech savvy pensioner, for whatever reason, has made and sent those bombs. Someone who had worked in a local city administration. There is no reporting from Spain of any relation of the case with Russia or some Russian fringe group. The NYT today reports the arrest but uses it to regurgitate all the ‘Russiagate’-like nonsense claims its previous story provided. This again without any evidence and solely based on what ‘US officials say.’ But the Spanish authorities did not even consider that obvious nonsense. As Reuters provides:

The NYT reported on Sunday that investigators had focused on the Russian Imperial Movement, a group with ties to Spanish far-right organisations that was believed to be linked to Russian intelligence. Spanish officials have declined to comment on the report, while a senior judicial source denied having knowledge of such a line of investigation.

In other words, the whole story was made up by ‘US officials’ to further the creation of the Russian bogeyman:

Lawmakers stirred up anti-Russian sentiment long before the invasion of Ukraine. It can be argued that the Russian “malign influence” story helped to get the public’s buy-in for a new Cold War with Russia by normalizing the idea that Russians not only helped to elect Donald Trump, but were actively trying “to destroy US democracy” and are still doing so. “It became conventional wisdom that Russia wants not just to compete with the US, but to destroy us—to divide our society from within, to cripple our democracy,” said George Beebe, a former chief of the CIA’s Russia analysis and author of The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe (2019). Beebe, who is now director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute (and thus is my colleague) points out: “Russiagate transformed Russia from a foreign policy issue into a matter of domestic politics at a time when the US was becoming increasingly divided. The constraints this scandal imposed on US policy toward Russia have been immense. It prevented Trump from advancing any kind of a détente with Russia. Its lingering effects made it all but impossible for Biden to seek a compromise over Ukrainian membership in NATO, the one thing that might have prevented the war, even if he had wanted to.” Arta Moeini, research director for the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, adds: “As a result, demonization of Russia permitted a new Manichean dynamic, an inflated threat that would be used to rationalize increased securitization domestically, and a fresh push for containment of Moscow internationally.” Today, we can only pray that the anti-Russian narrative enabled by the manipulation of social media does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy ending in a direct fighting war with the nuclear power.

The NYT, as well as British media with their equally stupid Skripal affair claims, can be credited with giving cover for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign. It was unleashed after, in 2014, Russia reintegrated Crimea and foiled British and US plans for stationing their naval forces in the Azov and Black Sea.

The NYT and other media should be held responsible for the deadly consequences their misreporting and lies have caused.

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