Author Archives: niqnaq

military summary

Military Summary And Analysis
Military Summary, Mar 22 2023

Ukraine’s drone and helicopter use to date, and Russia’s response thereto.

south front

Losing Positions On Donbass Front Lines, Kiev Strikes Crimea
South Front, Mar 21 2023

Since the Ukrainian military is yet to achieve any strategic success on the Donbass front lines, Kiev forces continue indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the DPR and LPR, Crimea as well as in the Russian border regions. On the evening of Mar 20, Russian air defense forces shot down several Ukrainian UAVs which simultaneously targeted the town of Dzhankoy in the north of Crimea. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced the “destruction” of Russian Kalibr-NK cruise missiles during their transportation by the rail. However, no evidence has been provided so far. While any damage to any military facility is yet to be confirmed, the wreckage of the intercepted UAVs damaged one civilian house and the local shop. One civilian was wounded. Crimea was targeted with the Chinese Mugin-5 commercial drones, but they were upgraded with US-made propeller blades. The UAVs were filled with shrapnel and their targets were civilian facilities. Kiev attempted to harm as many civilians as possible. Regular shelling of the border regions of Russia does not stop. Peaceful villages of the Bryansk and Kursk regions came under Ukrainian mortar fire again. Daily strikes continued in the city of Donetsk, where several houses were destroyed. Fortunately, civilian casualties were avoided over the past day.

Meanwhile, on the front lines, Russian forces are coming closer to the encirclement of the Ukrainian grouping in Avdiivka, from where Ukrainian forces are shelling the residential quarters in Donetsk. North of the town, Russian units broke through Ukrainian defenses and gained a stronghold in the eastern part of the village of Stepovoe. The strategically important railway used for military supplies of the Ukrainian garrison was cut off. On the north-eastern outskirts of Avdiivka, Russian forces entered Kamenka and launched the mop up operation on the streets. Russian advance was also reported to the south of Avdiivka. They broke through Ukrainian defenses north of Opytne and approached the southern districts of the town. In the north-west of Bakhmut, the Wagner units are still storming Ukrainian positions in Orekhovo-Vasilevka despite heavy mortar and artillery fire. Fierce battles for control of the Konstantinovka-Bakhmut highway continue on the outskirts of Krasnoe. In the southern Sobachevka district in Bakhmut, Wagner fighters advanced and straightened the front line along Mariupol Street. At the same time, in the Budenovka district, Russian forces approached the outskirts of the stadium, forcing the Ukrainian units to retreat. In the north of Bakhmut, the plant nursery and the Fantasia construction site came under Russian control.

In other regions, the front lines did not change. Ukrainian forces attempted several counter-attacks in the Zaporozhie and Krasny Liman regions, but failed to achieve any success.

Landmine Blast Wounds Two Israeli Soldiers On Front With Lebanon
South Front, Mar 21 2023

On Mar 21, two Israeli soldiers were wounded when a landmine exploded for unknown reasons near the separation line with Lebanon. In a statement, the IOF said that the landmine exploded during “routine engineering activity,” adding that there was no fear of the incident being an attack. An investigation to find out what set off the mine and why it was not detected by the soldiers had been launched. The two wounded soldiers were taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. One of them was listed in moderate but stable condition, while the other was slightly hurt. Ali Shoeib, a reporter for Al-Manar, published videos of the aftermath of the incident on Twitter. One of the videos shows a wounded Israeli soldier being carried on a stretcher to a Merkava IV main battle tank:

A second video shows a another wounded soldier being walked to a military jeep:

The reporter and a number of Lebanese activists said that one of the wounded Israeli soldiers lost his leg in the landmine blast. They alleged that IOF troops kept looking for the missing leg more than 24 hours after the incident. The incident came following a rare clash between Lebanese and Israeli soldiers along the separation line. On Mar 5, Lebanon troops pushed back an IDF patrol that violated the line at the village of Aita al-Shaab in south Lebanon by a meter. The separation line between Israel and Lebanon is infested with landmines, most of which were planted by Israeli troops a long time ago. The IDF is currently constructing a wall along the line, mainly to limit Hezbollah’s freedom of movement. Work on the line is expected to end within two years.

Russian Retaliation Strikes Hit Odessa Region
South Front, Mar 21 2023

On the evening of Mar 21, sirens sounded in the Ukrainian Odessa and Kharkiv regions. Residents of Odessa reported at least one missile strike on a city infrastructure facility. Clouds of smoke are seen rising on the city outskirts. The explosion was confirmed by the footage from the spot. The speaker of the Odessa military administration, Sergei Bratchuk, called for “praying for Ukrainian air defense forces.” However, his prayer did not help. One of the targets hit by Russian forces was likely the Shkolny airfield located on the outskirts of Odessa. On March 20, Ukrainian UAVs launched from this airfield targeted the Crimean peninsula:

Explosions also reportedly thundered in several other districts of Odessa. Large fire broke out near the village of Tairovo:

According to unconfirmed reports, the bridge in Zatoka in the Odessa region was also hit again by Russian forces. Russian precision strikes may continue in the coming hours. More details are likely to be revealed.

View From Russian Orlan-10 UAV On Ukrainian Attempts To Strike It With MANPADs
South Front, Mar 21 2023

Another archive video showed a Russian Orlan-10 UAV surviving a Ukrainian strike with an anti-aircraft missile over the special military operation zone in Ukraine. Earlier, numerous similar videos confirmed impotence of Ukrainian forces to struck the Russian UAV, including with the foreign weapons. In the video, the missile, reportedly a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD), passes next to the drone. However, it fails to inflict any damage. The drone continue its reconnaissance mission after the attack. The Orlan-10, which was developed by Russia’s Special Technology Center, has a flight duration of 16 hours and a range of 140 km. The drone can be equipped with several types of sensors to carry out a set of different missions including reconnaissance, 3D-mapping, electronic warfare and communication relay. Orlan-10 drones have been supporting the Russian special military operation in Ukraine since it started. More than 1k are known to be in service with the Russian military. Ukraine received thousands of MANPADs, including more than 1.6k American-made FIM-92 Stinger missiles, from the US and other NATO members in the months leading to the Russian special military operation, and after the start of the operation. Kiev forces also received several vehicle-mounted short-range air defense systems, including British-made Stormer HVM, French-made Crotale and American-made Stormer HVM. Despite all the support provided by the NATO, Ukraine is still struggling to rebuild its air defense capabilities. Russia says that it has destroyed more than 400 air defense systems of Kiev forces since the start of the special military operation in February.

Political West Doubles Down On ‘Russia Kidnapping Children’ Propaganda Narrative
Drago Bosnic, South Front, Mar 21 2023

With any credible evidence of alleged Russian mass kidnappings of children from former Ukraine sorely lacking, in order to justify this propaganda narrative, as well as give at least some ostensible “credence” to the recent ICC indictment against President Putin, the mainstream propaganda machine is mobilizing all of its forces. Supposed “horror stories” of the “ordeal” these kids and their parents “have to go through” are aiming to cause an emotional reaction and present Russia and its leadership as “monstrous” as they could possibly be. One such “horror story” was published by The Guardian on March 19, just two days after the Hague-based “court” issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights. According to The Guardian, Yevgen Mezhevyi, a 40-year-old Ukrainian citizen now living in Riga (Latvia), claims his children were “abducted and forcibly transferred” to Russia last year. Mezhevyi’s children were apparently taken while he was serving prison time in the DNR due to his three-year service in the Kiev regime forces (2016-2019), including in the notorious Yavoriv military base in the west of the country, infamous for the training of various openly neo-Nazi units. According to his own admission, Yevgen Mezhevyi knew that the Russian military would be apprehending all former and current members of such Nazi-inspired cohorts, so he tried to hide his past and even threw away his uniforms in an attempt to leave no trace of his time in the Kiev regime forces. He claims that after Russian forces entered the city, Mezhevyi, his son Matvii (13) and daughters Sviatoslava (9) and Oleksandra (7) were “taken” by Russian soldiers and evacuated to Vinogradnoye, a village to the south-east of Mariupol. There, humanitarian volunteers offered assistance to Mezhevyi and his family, so they “stayed there for a while.” Yevgen didn’t specify for how long. But then, he lamented:

One day, after we were taken to a checkpoint and searched, a Russian official saw something in my document.

Mezhevyi was obviously referring to the fact that the official found evidence of his time in the Neo-Nazi junta forces. Mezhevyi was sent to a prison near the town of Olenovka, approximately 20 km southwest of Donetsk, where he remained for 45 days. Despite the fact that he could have easily been sentenced to long-term prison time for this, Mezhevyi was released after 45 days. In the meantime, his children were evacuated to Russia, as the Kiev regime forces, in which he served for three years, never stopped shelling the Donbass republics and other areas. Mezhevyi claims to have tried to get a job, but gave up after his son Matvii called him, allegedly saying that “the camp” he and his sisters were in “was closing in five days” and that “we have to either go to a foster family or an orphanage.” Using the word “camp” for the facilities Mezhevyi’s children were housed in is quite intentional, as the obvious goal is to present Russia in the worst light possible. Apparently, the alternative was to leave the children completely alone in the DNR, where they would’ve been targeted by the Neo-Nazi junta forces, in the case of which Moscow would also be “guilty” for not evacuating them. It seems you can’t win if you’re Russian. Mezhevyi claims:

I understood there was no time to look for a job. I needed to take the risk, travel to Russia and get them out of there, as soon as possible. Thank God, there are volunteers who helped me get to Moscow. It was very hard to cross into Russia from the occupied territories and I was interrogated, again and again, even though I had already spent 45 days in their prison and I just wanted to get my children. But no one cared about that. Eventually, I crossed into Russia and got on a train to Moscow.

It’s quite interesting how the apparent “Mordor of our time” let Mr Mezhevyi cross the border and undertake the “risky journey” where the “Evil Empire” even lets “volunteers” help people find their children, “kidnapped” for whatever reason. After he arrived in Moscow, Mezhevyi was contacted by Alexey Gazaryan, an official working at a children’s ombudsman office, managed by Maria Lvova-Belova, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant, along with President Putin. Apparently, Gazaryan told Mezhevyi that “he didn’t mind him taking his children back, but that he needed to get a permit” from DNR social services. The head of DNR social services, Elena Maiboroda, called Gazaryan and agreed, so on Jun 20, around 11 pm, Mezhevyi arrived at “the camp” on the outskirts of Moscow. He claims he was “interrogated” by at least five people, including Gazaryan, a psychologist, a nurse and the head of “the camp,” who “made him” fill out dozens of papers. Mezhevyi “managed” to cross into Latvia with his children with the help of “volunteers.” The Guardian claims he “still struggles” to understand how, among the documents that the Russians “forced” his son to sign, there was also a certificate asking the child to transfer the custody of himself and his sister back to their father. The wording is obviously a pitiful attempt to portray Russian officials as supposed “monsters” for following their own legal procedures, which, in fact, are less strict than in most Western countries. The article claims that Mezhevyi’s family has been reunited, “but only after he undertook a risky journey over the border to rescue them.” This implies that they had to be “rescued,” given his “ordeal,” including the “incredibly risky” task of “forced” signing of documents. It seems only in Russia “genocide” is conducted by getting the children safely evacuated from an active warzone to a summer camp and then helping the father, an enemy combatant, to pick them up and go wherever he pleases.

London To Arm Ukrainian Forces With Depleted Uranium Shells
South Front, Mar 21 2023

The UK will transfer depleted uranium ammunition to Ukrainian militants. London’s intention to supply the Kiev regime with dangerous radioactive weapons was announced by Deputy Defense Minister Annabelle Goldie on Mar 20 (above). Depleted uranium has a high mass density, due to which such ammunition provides a high armor-piercing effect and causes significant destruction to any obstacles. For the countries which have accumulated depleted uranium reserves, this is a cheaper material to produce such ammunition than for example, from tungsten. The use of depleted uranium in armor-piercing shells was first started by Nazi Germany, which was experiencing a shortage of tungsten. In the 1970s, the US began developing such shells intended to fight the new Soviet tanks. US troops used depleted uranium shells during Operation Desert Storm, during the bombing of Yugoslavia and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today, the armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium are used with the US-made Abrams tanks, as well as German Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 tanks.

Although the use of these missiles is not prohibited, their danger to health has been proven. The countries which are actively using them, including NATO, the US and UK, assure that the material is harmless, although a number of experts claim that it infects the environment and lead to outbreaks of cancer. When a projectile hits, its part turns into plasma, which is the greatest danger due to the uranium dust. For example, experts concluded that due to the depleted uranium shells used during the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 by the NATO military, 60 more future generations of Serbs will feel negative consequences for their health. There, hundreds of children are diagnosed with oncological diseases every year, out of 400 who fall ill every year, 60 people cannot be saved. Such a number of oncological diseases had never been observed in Serbia before the NATO bombing. Iraqi children also began to suffer from hitherto unknown and rare diseases that are associated specifically with the American bombing.

The Kiev regime has been fighting its own people in the Donbas for nine years, killing children and civilians every day. Today, it is ready to bombard these regions with depleted uranium, polluting the territory for several decades. At the same time, Zelensky constantly shouts that Ukraine is fighting for “the liberation of its land from Russian aggressors.” That’s a lie! The only goal of this war unleashed by the West is the destruction of Russian statehood, and the complete destruction of Donbass, the lives and health of millions of people, is not a high price for the Anglo-Saxon globalist elite. Supply of depleted uranium ammunition is another clear evidence of their true goals.

colonel cassad

A brief history of the collapse of Credit Suisse
Colonel Cassad, Mar 22 2023 14:12

Everything has a beginning and an end. Yesterday, the history of the bank founded in 1856 ended. Credit Suisse Bank was created to finance the development of the Swiss and European railway system, as well as to lend to companies that were engaged in electrification in Switzerland. In the second half of the 20th century, the bank was developing rapidly and launching new business lines: private banking, investment banking, asset management and insurance. The bank participated in the construction of the tunnel under the English Channel, the merger of Chrysler and Daimler-Benz and the purchase of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. In the 1900s, the bank switched to the retail banking business in response to the growth of the middle class and competition from other Swiss banks UBS and Julius Baer. CS expanded its activities outside Switzerland and became one of the first international banks.

In the 1990s there was the first collaboration between Credit Suisse and the investment bank First Boston and largely because of this cooperation, the bank’s problems began. The united company Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) was engaged in investment banking, capital markets and financial services. CSFB has participated in many major deals and projects, such as the IPOs of Google, AOL and Time Warner. The CSFB project was successful, but faced a number of problems in the early 2000s. It turned out that behind the success of CSFB lay the manipulation of prices of shares of internet companies (dot-com crash), violation of antitrust laws and inefficient risk management. But before the CSFB had time to move away from the crisis at the beginning of the 2000s, a new crisis began to test its strength. The investment unit lost a lot of money due to the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The bank lost billions of dollars due to poor investments in subprime mortgage securities and was forced to attract new capital from private investors from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The bank was also accused of tax evasion by clients in the US and Germany. The fine was about $3b. After the crisis, the bank carried out a number of reforms to improve efficiency, security and profitability. CS reduced its investment portfolio, strengthened risk control, increased capitalization requirements and focused on its main area, private banking. They also updated the logo and slogan, which made it clear who the main customer base was: “The bank for entrepreneurs.”

The final stage of the collapse of Credit Suisse began in 2021. In March, the bank announced the loss of $10b in investment funds provided to another financial company, Greensill Capital. Greensill declared bankruptcy in Mar 2021. Then in the same month, the bank suffered heavy losses due to the scandal with the American hedge fund Archegos Capital Management, which did not fulfill its obligations to creditors and collapsed. Credit Suisse was one of Archegos’ main creditors and lost about $5b due to its default. These events undermined the bank’s credibility and led to a fall in its shares and bonds. CS also spied on its own top managers, falsified the reports of the Chinese company Luckin Coffee and often got into legal disputes with customers and regulators. One of the symptoms of big problems was the frequent change of leadership, including due to surveillance. The banking crisis in the US is the last nail in the lid of the Credit Suisse coffin. Customers have withdrawn their deposits, their shares have lost more than 70% of their value, and no one wants to buy the bank’s bonds. Finally, after intense negotiations over the weekend, UBS agreed to buy Credit Suisse as part of a share exchange deal worth about $3.25b, which is less than the market value of the bank. Now UBS plans to reduce the investment division of Credit Suisse and integrate its assets and customer base into its own structure. (Source: economikal)

Attack of naval drones on Sevastopol
Colonel Cassad, Mar 22 2023 10:32

In Sevastopol, an attack by three surface drones was repulsed at night. All three drones were hit with small arms and destroyed. The ships were not injured. As a result of one of the explosions the glass in several windows in the House of Moscow (on Nakhimov Square) was blown out. Along the way, a few radio stations were hacked, through which they tried to spread Ukrop propaganda and disperse panic.

Creating an information background
Colonel Cassad, Mar 21 2023 21:45

Relatively relevant picture:

List of US actions aimed at discrediting and blurring Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia:

  1. Information campaign that Xi Jinping won’t come.
  2. Threats against China if Xi arrives.
  3. Demands that China condemn Russia.
  4. Requirements for China not to supply weapons to Russia. Only the West has the right to supply weapons to Ukraine.
  5. Statements that any Russian-Chinese agreements will not matter.
  6. Hasty organization of the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Ukraine on the day of Xi’s visit.
  7. The death of Chinese workers in the CAR, for which they tried to blame Russia.
  8. Announcement of hasty supplies of new weapons to Ukraine, including depleted uranium shells.
  9. Declassified intelligence documents aimed at accusing China of the origin of the coronavirus.
  10. They began to equip a new military base in the Philippines.

That’s about the background they tried to sculpt for Xi Jinping’s visit. It didn’t turn out very well. It all looked like tactical grinding against the background of tectonic processes. A member of the Chinese delegation to Moscow said that Russia and China represent the Forces of Good.

Final dialogue:

Xi: Now there are changes that have not happened for 100 years. When we are together, we propel these changes.
Putin: I agree.
Xi: Take care of yourself, dear friend!
Putin: Happy Road!

The collapse of attempts at economic and political isolation of Russia
Colonel Cassad, Mar 21 2023 19:43

In general, according to the signed documents and the joint statement: The interaction between the two countries is seriously deepening, although this is not a classic military-political bloc. Military cooperation was also discussed, but expected to remain behind the scenes. China and the Russian Federation completely reject the outgoing world order and its main methodological doctrines. No-one will return to 2021. The level of economic, infrastructure and logistics interaction will be such that it, after the completion of diversification of trade flows and export restructuring, guarantees Russia for the next decade the absence of a serious threat of economic isolation. China will not force Russia on Ukraine. Moreover, Russia will support the Chinese course in the Pacific in relation to Taiwan, AUKUS, etc. The Chinese peace plan does not fully suit the West. China will not bend before American pressure. A visit to Moscow is a signal that China counts on Russia in a long-term confrontation with the US. A multipolar world in the vision of Russia and China is a world of equal centers of power, not a world of unilateral dictatorship. It is obvious that the US will accept the challenge and the war against Russia and China will continue to intensify. This is a battle for the world order of the future. In general, the visit is very favorable for the Russian Federation. It actually buried myths about the economic and political isolation of Russia. Hence the hysteria in the West: everyone understands that “Akela has missed” (a reference to the events of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book – RB).

caitlin johnstone

John Bolton’s Prominence In The Media Proves Our Entire Society Is Diseased
Caitlin Johnstone, Mar 21 2023

In order to narrative-manage the public conversation about the Iraq War on the 20th anniversary of the invasion, those who helped unleash that horror upon our world have briefly paused their relentless torrent of “Ukraine proves the hawks were always right” takes to churn out a deluge of “Actually the Iraq War wasn’t based on lies and turned out pretty great after all” takes. CFR chief Richard Haas, who worked in the US State Dept under Colin Powell when Bush launched his criminal invasion, got a piece published in Project Syndicate falsely claiming that the US government and his former boss did not lie about weapons of mass destruction, and that “governments can and do get things wrong without lying.” Former Bush speechwriter David “Axis of Evil” Frum cooked up a lie-filled spin piece with The Atlantic claiming that “What the US did in Iraq was not an act of unprovoked aggression” and suggesting that perhaps Iraqis are better off as a result of the invasion, or at least no worse off than they would otherwise have been. Neocon war propagandist Eli Lake, who has been described by journalist Ken Silverstein as “an open and ardent promoter of the Iraq War and the various myths trotted out to justify it,” has an essay published in Commentary with the extraordinary claim that the war “wasn’t the disaster everyone now says it was” and that “Iraq is better off today than it was 20 years ago.” But by far the most appalling piece of revisionist war crime apologia that’s come out during the 20th anniversary of the invasion has been an article published in National Review by the genocide walrus himself, John Bolton.

Bolton sets himself apart from his fellow Iraq war architects by arguing that the actual invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein “was close to flawless,” and that the only thing the US did wrong was fail to kill more people and topple the government of Iran. Bolton criticizes “the Bush administration’s failure to take advantage of its substantial presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek regime change in between, in Iran.” Bolton writes:

We had a clear opportunity to empower Iran’s opposition to depose the ayatollahs. Unfortunately, however, as was the case after expelling Saddam from Kuwait in 1991, the US stopped too soon.

Bolton claims that the notoriously cruel sanctions that were inflicted upon Iraq between 1991 and 2003 were too lenient, saying there should have been “crushing sanctions” that were “enforced cold-bloodedly.” As Reason’s Eric Boehm notes in his own critique of Bolton’s essay, perhaps the most galling part is where Bolton dismisses any responsibility the US might have for the consequences and fallout from the Iraq invasion, attempting to compartmentalize the “flawless” initial invasion away from all the destabilization and human suffering which followed by saying “they did not inevitably, inexorably, deterministically, and unalterably flow from the decision to invade and overthrow.” Bolton writes:

Whatever Bush’s batting average in post-Saddam decisions (not perfect, but respectable, in my view), it is separable, conceptually and functionally, from the invasion decision. The subsequent history, for good or ill, cannot detract from the logic, fundamental necessity, and success of overthrowing Saddam.

This is self-evidently absurd. A Bush administration warmonger arguing that you can’t logically connect the invasion to its aftereffects is like an arsonist saying you can’t logically connect his lighting a fire in the living room to the incineration of the entire house. He’s just trying to wave off any accountability for that war and his role in it. Boehm writes:

One might suspect that Bolton imagines a world where actions should not have consequences because he’s been living in exactly that type of world for the past two decades. Somehow, he’s retained his Washington status as a foreign policy expert, media commentator, and presidential advisor despite having been so horrifically wrong about Iraq.

And that to me is what’s the most jaw-dropping about all this. Not that John Bolton still in the year 2023 thinks the invasion of Iraq was a great idea and should have gone much further, but that the kind of psychopath who would say such a thing is still a prominent news media pundit who is platformed by the most influential outlets in the world for his “expertise.” It’s actually a completely damning indictment of all western media if you think about it, and really of our entire civilization. The fact that an actual, literal psychopath whose entire goal in life is to try to get as many people killed by violence as he possibly can at every opportunity is routinely given columns and interviews in The Washington Post, and is regularly brought on CNN as an expert analyst, proves our entire society is diseased. To be clear, when I say that John Bolton is a psychopath, I am not using hyperbole to make a point. I am simply voicing the only logical conclusion that one can come to when reading reports about things like how he threatened the children of the OPCW chief whose successful diplomatic efforts in early 2002 were making the case for invasion hard to build, or how he spent weeks verbally abusing a terrified woman in her hotel room, pounding on her door and screaming obscenities at her.

And that’s just Bolton’s personality. The actual policies he has worked to push through, sometimes successfully, are far more horrifying. This is the freak who has argued rabidly for the bombing of Iran, for bombing North Korea, for attacking Cuba over nonexistent WMD, for assassinating Gaddafi, and many other acts of war. Who helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, who openly admitted to participating in coups against foreign governments, and who tried to push Trump into starting a war with Iran during his terrifying stint as his National Security Advisor. This man is a monster who belongs in a cage, but instead he’s one of the most influential voices in the most powerful country on earth. This is because we are ruled by a giant globe-spanning empire that is held together by the exact sort of murderous ideology that John Bolton promotes. Bolton is not elevated at maximum amplification in spite of his psychopathic bloodlust, but exactly because of it. That’s the sort of civilization we live in, and that’s the sort of media environment that westerners are forming their worldviews inside of. We are ruled by murderous tyrants, and we are propagandized into accepting their murderousness by mass media which elevate bloodthirsty psychos like John Bolton as part of that propaganda. That’s the world we live in. That’s what we’re up against here.

And that’s why they’ve been working so hard to rewrite the history on Iraq. They need us to accept Iraq as either a greater good that came at a heavy price or a terrible mistake that will never be repeated, so that they can lead us into more horrific wars in the future. We are being paced. Until now, “Iraq” has been a devastating one-word rebuttal to both the horror and failure of US interventionism. The essays these imperial spinmeisters have been churning out are the early parlay in a long-game effort to take away that word’s historical meaning and power. Don’t let them shift it even an inch.


Georgia’s PM warns of WW3, as political tensions grip country
Andrea Peters, WSWS, Mar 22 2023

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili

Political tensions continue to roil the country of Georgia, where the government was recently forced to withdraw a law that would have required organizations and media outlets receiving 20% or more of their financing from abroad to declare themselves “foreign agents.” The bill provoked mass protests in the nation’s capital city, Tbilisi, where demonstrators carrying Ukrainian and EU flags demanded the legislation be withdrawn. They denounced the administration of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili for being pro-Russian and aping the government of Vladimir Putin, which has imposed similar laws. On Tuesday, Garibashvili warned that the war in nearby Ukraine is on the verge of becoming a global conflagration and raised questions about his government’s ability to “maintain peace, stability.” Garibashvili said:

Today the world is facing the threat of WW3. This estimate is not exaggerated, it is not speculation. We are witnessing further confrontation, tension and escalation every day.

His “main concern,” he added, is to “save the country.” Georgia, a tiny nation with a population of just 10.8 million located in the south Caucasus, has long been the object of imperialist meddling, with the US and the EU today seeing it as critical to destabilizing Russia. Moscow, which waged brutal wars in the 1990s and 2000s to reassert federal control over the Russian region of Chechnya just to Georgia’s north, is well aware of the dangers posed to it by the ongoing efforts of Washington and Brussels to bring Tbilisi firmly under their domination. The current Georgian government, while maintaining close ties with NATO and seeking EU membership, refused to completely sever relations with Russia after the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. It also has not signed onto the full raft of international sanctions imposed on its giant neighbor to the north and east. Georgia continues to allow Russians visa-free entry into the country. The government in Tbilisi recently floated the possibility of resuming direct flights to major Russian cities. The proposition provoked sharp condemnations from Washington, which has managed to almost entirely seal off Russia’s western border.

While there is widespread hostility to the deeply antidemocratic character of the “foreign agents” law that Garibashvili’s government sought to impose, the demonstrations that took place in Georgia in early March were not simply a spontaneous expression of popular outrage, but a politically orchestrated challenge led by the pro-US, right-wing United National Movement (UNM) to Tbilisi’s somewhat more moderated approach to Russia. The UNM has called for another antigovernment demonstration on April 9. The choice of date is carefully timed, as it is the 34-year anniversary of the Soviet government’s use of force to crush pro-independence demonstrations in Georgia. Twenty-one people died and dozens more were injured on that date. The more decisively pro-Western wing within the Georgian ruling elite is clearly trying to use the commemoration of the event, which is now observed as a national holiday, to stoke anti-Russian sentiment. Yesterday, speaking at a press conference held with his Armenian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of trying to alienate Russia from its neighbors and foment another “color revolution” in Georgia with the aid of “nongovernmental organizations.”

In 2003, the so-called “Rose Revolution” saw the ouster of a Russian-allied government in Georgia in favor of one led by Mikheil Saakashvili, who can only be described as an American stooge. He was himself later driven from power due to corruption, brutality, and the imposition of policies that led to the impoverishment of the population. While Lavrov’s denunciations of Western meddling are not driven by the slightest concern for the rights of ordinary people in Georgia, the US has indeed been funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to various “civil society organizations” in the small Black Sea nation. USAID, just one of dozens of governmental and nongovernment agencies that orchestrate American policy overseas, proudly declares on its website:

USAID began operating in Georgia in 1992. For 27 years, the American people have provided over $1.8b in assistance to Georgia through USAID. Building on this successful partnership, the US Government dedicates approximately $40m annually to 50 wide-reaching programs that support Georgia’s democratic, free-market, Western orientation.

Obviously, USAID has not been handing over boatloads of money to various “partners” in Georgia for nearly thirty years out of selfless magnanimity. In the aftermath of the withdrawal of the “foreign agents” law by the Georgian government on Mar 10, the EU and the US have simultaneously sought to increase pressure on Tbilisi and shore up relations with it. For its part, the Georgian government is clearly flailing about trying to, on the one hand, appease Western powers and, on the other, avoid being crushed by the US-NATO war drive against Russia.

On Mar 17, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly held a press conference with his Georgian counterpart in which he insisted that relations between the two countries were vital to security, firm and steadfast. In an obvious reference to Russian influence in Georgia, Britain, he claimed, seeks to strengthen Georgian democracy against “those who seek to undermine it.” Just a few days later, Georgia held meetings with representatives from Brussels about the south Caucasian country’s ongoing bid to become a member of the EU, which it formally initiated last year. The EU recently issued a series of conditions that Georgia must meet in order to gain admittance. All of them, on the alleged basis of “ending corruption,” “promoting democracy,” and “deoligarchizing,” involve imposing one or another right-wing economic reform, bringing Georgia’s political and legal system more firmly under the control of Brussels, or pushing out Russian-allied oligarchs in Georgia in favor of European-allied ones. Parallel to these negotiations are ongoing discussions regarding military and security ties between the EU and Georgia, which sits along a portion of the Black Sea’s eastern coast.

Washington, which cheered the antigovernment demonstrations in Georgia in early March, is playing the “human rights” card in its effort to exert pressure on the Garibashvili administration. On Mar 20, the US Dept of State released a report identifying “serious problems” with Georgia’s judiciary and approach towards freedom of the press. Prime Minister Garibashvili dismissed the allegations as “speculations and conclusions and reports based on false, fabricated information provided by politically engaged, biased individuals.” In recent weeks, other politicians from the ruling Georgian Dream party have raised the prospect of the overthrow of the sitting government. On Mar 17, the mayor of Tbilisi and a leading figure in the organization, Kakha Kaladze, accused the former United National Movement Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and UNM Chair Levan Khabeishvili of seeking to stage “a confrontation, a revolution, a coup.” The People’s Power party, which is made up of former members of the Georgian Dream party, also released a statement last week describing the protests in early March as being “in the interests of other countries” and intended to drag Georgia “onto the path of war.”

US treasury secretary Yellen pledges more money for the ultra-wealthy if needed
Nick Beams, WSWS, Mar 21 2023

Yellen speaks during a press conference at a G20 meeting in Venice.

US treasury secretary Janet Yellen has given an assurance to wealthy individuals and investors that the government will step in to ensure their holdings of uninsured deposits, sometimes running into tens of millions of dollars, are guaranteed. Her remarks, in a speech to the American Bankers Association yesterday, were the most explicit to date that the bailout of uninsured depositors with the failed Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were not a one off but would be extended if that were considered necessary. Yellen said:

The steps we took were not focused on aiding specific banks or classes of banks. Our intervention was to protect the broader US banking system. And similar actions could be warranted if smaller institutions suffer deposit runs that pose the risk of contagion.

The remarks were welcomed on Wall Street as bank stocks rose, with analysts commenting they had reassured investors. Yellen said the situation was stabilising, the US banking system remained sound and told the bankers at the meeting:

You should rest assured that we will remain vigilant.

She passed over in silence the question of why “vigilant” authorities completely failed to see the SVB crisis coming or, before that, the Ponzi scheme operation, largely carried out in plain sight, of Sam Bankman-Fried’s failed crypto firm FTX, the demise of which led to the failure of the crypto-connected Silvergate bank just two weeks ago. Turning to the broader implications of the SVB failure and the growing concerns that nothing has been resolved since the global financial crisis of 2008, Yellen said the current turmoil was very different. She said:

Back then many financial institutions came under stress due to their holdings of subprime assets. We do not see that situation in the banking system today.

But that is precisely what makes this crisis far more serious in its implications than that of 2008. It has arisen from the holdings by banks of vast quantities of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, supposedly the safest assets in the world, and is a product of the response of the government and the Federal Reserve to the meltdown of 15 years ago. Quantitative easing, under which around $9 trillion was pumped into the financial system by the Fed, resulted in the build-up on the balance sheets of banks of large amounts of supposedly “safe” securities. But the Fed’s interest rate hikes, initiated in the past year in an effort to crush the wages upsurge of the working class, have now produced a sharp fall in the market value of these assets to below their book value, leading to the realisation of significant losses when they have to be sold to meet the cash demand of depositors. However, according to Yellen:

Our financial system is significantly stronger than it was 15 years ago. This is in large part due to post-crisis reforms that provided stronger capital standards, among other important improvements.

This only raises the question, if that is really the case, then why did the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insist their actions in bailing out wealthy depositors at SVB and Signature were necessary to prevent a “systemic crisis,” that is, one which hits the entire system, including the stronger major banks? At first sight it may appear that there are two opposed explanations. Either the invocation of a “systemic crisis” was merely a cover for bailing out the wealthy, even though the banking system was strong or, there was the prospect of a genuine crisis which means that all the supposed “reforms” of the past 15 years have come to nothing. Actually, both processes are involved. The authorities do face a “systemic crisis” but providing a stop-gap solution means handing over still more money to the ultra-wealthy.

Such is the fragility of the financial system that the operations of the “free market” through which failed investments are purged cannot continue to function, because any problem threatens to set off a collapse requiring the intervention of the state and its agencies using their capacity to create money. The logic of this process is that money will continue to be poured in until it produces a crisis of state and central bank financing. The conditions which led to the failure of SVB, the fall in the value of the Treasury bonds it held, are developing in other interest-rate sensitive areas of the economy. Yesterday, the chief executive of JPMorgan Asset Management, Georg Gatch, warned that commercial real estate could be the next shoe to drop as a result of interest rate hikes by the Fed. He said in comments reported by the Financial Times:

The failure of SVB and the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse highlight the stress of rising interest rates. Investors are wondering what is the next impact? Commercial real estate is an area of concern. We have higher interest rates for property developers, how does that impact the real estate markets and lenders in that space.

The FT also reported on a note issued by Goldman Sachs which said the real estate sector was dealing with a “challenging” environment. It said:

The recent stress in the banking sector has fuelled growing concern about spillover effects on the commercial real estate industry. With over half of the $5.6t of outstanding commercial loans sitting on bank balance sheets, bank lending remains the primary source of funding for this sector. This is particularly the case for small banks which capture the lion’s share of lending.

Meanwhile there are deepening concerns about the flow-on effects of the takeover of Credit Suisse in which the Swiss government reduced the value of higher risk AT1 bonds overnight to zero. It overturned the previous practice in which such bonds were placed higher than shares when it came to salvaging what remained of a failed entity. The $250b market in such bonds, which are widely used, is in turmoil as investors ponder what rules, if any, now apply. Legal challenges may be mounted. Natasha Harrison of the law firm Pallas, which is preparing possible legal action, told the WSJ:

What investors look at when they are investing is certainty of process and the rule of law. That has just been swiped away in one fell swoop by Switzerland.

In a research note, analysts at JPMorgan said the Swiss decision could lead to “contagion for wholesale funding costs across the sector” with the interest rates being demanded on AT1 bonds possibly running into double digits. Summing up the interaction between the deepening crisis and actions of financial authorities, another article in the WSJ noted:

Officials the world over justify such ad-hoc interventions by citing the need to stabilise, reassure or calm markets. But they often do the opposite. The SVB and Signature actions set in motion the jitters that brought down Credit Suisse, and now the emergency Credit Suisse fix is roiling the bond market.

This observation could be extended. The emergency actions taken by the Fed in 2008 and again in Mar 2020 to prop up the banks, speculators, the stock market and the financial system have now created the conditions for an even deeper crisis, which, like that of 2008, will bring ever deeper attacks on workers and their families as the ruling elites, bailed out by the state, seek to make them pay for it.

Top US official visits New Zealand to strengthen ties against China
Tom Peters, WSWS, Mar 22 2023

Kurt Campbell, national security coordinator in the Biden administration.

Last weekend Kurt Campbell, national security coordinator in the Biden administration, visited New Zealand in a delegation that included US State and Defence Dept officials and Coast Guard representatives. It was the first stop in a Pacific tour that has continued this week with visits to the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Campbell met with New Zealand Defence Minister Andrew Little as part of the push to integrate the country more fully into the far-advanced US preparations for war against China. Driven by the worsening global economic crisis, US imperialism is rushing headlong into a war to redivide the world at the expense of both Russia and China. Senior US general Mike Minihan recently stated that he believes war with China is likely within two years. The NZ visit followed a meeting in San Diego between Biden and the Australian and UK prime ministers Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak, which confirmed that Australia will be supplied with nuclear-powered attack submarines as part of the anti-China AUKUS military pact. This has been accompanied by a militarist propaganda campaign from the Albanese government and the Australian media, with major newspapers calling for the reintroduction of conscription and even for Australia to acquire nuclear weapons.

The US is clearly concerned that New Zealand, a partner in the US-led Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, has sought to distance itself from the more belligerent anti-China rhetoric. The previous National Party government and the current Labour-Greens government have expanded the economic relationship with China, the largest market for New Zealand exports, while also strengthening military ties with the US. Wellington has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and is providing funding and training to Ukrainian forces for the US-NATO proxy war against Russia. Campbell told journalists in Wellington that the US was responding to “an urgent set of security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, and like-minded countries are rallying independently to those challenges.” He called for increased cooperation with New Zealand, saying without going into any detail:

We will be announcing soon that we want to launch a bilateral engagement between the United States and New Zealand on technology.

Campbell said there was “deep discussion” with New Zealand about increasing US engagement in the Pacific region and that NZ could be involved in AUKUS. Again he did not elaborate on what this would look like. Clearly concerned to avoid antagonising China, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins played down the significance of the talks. Asked what sort of involvement New Zealand could have in AUKUS, he told the media yesterday:

I don’t want to speculate on that while we’re continuing to have conversations. New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation was a pretty big stumbling block to us being involved in AUKUS as it’s currently framed.

The legislation, introduced by the 1980s Labour government, prohibits the entry of nuclear-powered vessels into New Zealand waters. In fact, the nuclear-free policy was significantly undermined in 2016 when the then-National Party government invited a US navy warship to visit New Zealand for the first time in decades. The decision was supported by Labour and the Greens. The US military has a policy of not revealing whether its ships or aircraft are nuclear-armed. Moreover, as a member of the Five Eyes, New Zealand’s Waihopai spy base is integrated into US-led operations against China. Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that NZ’s Government Communications Security Bureau spies on China and other Asia-Pacific countries, feeding the intelligence to the US National Security Agency. New Zealand’s role in this military-intelligence network means that it would be involved from the outset in any war between the US-Australia and China.

Hipkins’ reluctance to fully embrace AUKUS, for now, points to nervousness in ruling circles about the implications of the US confrontation with China. Wellington’s fraught balancing act is highlighted by the fact that, after Campbell’s visit, NZ foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta departed on a visit to Beijing, where she met her counterpart, Qin Gang, to discuss stronger trade ties. The visit coincided with President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to propose peace talks to end the conflict in Ukraine, something Washington vehemently opposes. The accelerating charge towards war has revealed divisions in New Zealand’s ruling elite. Sections of the media, including the nominally liberal Daily Blog and pro-US commentators such as Anne-Marie Brady, are pushing for a much firmer anti-China stance.

On the other hand, a worried New Zealand Herald editorial on March 18 said former Australian prime minister Paul Keating had made “valid points” in his criticism of AUKUS. Speaking on behalf of a minority faction of the Australian bourgeoisie, Keating raised concerns about the cost to Australian capitalism of joining a full-blown war against China. The Herald noted the “lack of public say” over the details of AUKUS and questioned “whether it is strategically smart or good value,” adding that “defence is gobbling up billions that could be spent on climate change.” It said the deal “increases the chances of Australia being a substantial player in any US conflict with China. Were Australia to be a major target, New Zealand would be affected.” Concerns were also raised by former Green MP Gareth Hughes, who wrote in Stuff that nuclear war was now “terrifyingly possible in the next few years” and that New Zealand would be “required by treaty obligations to act” if Australia is attacked. Hughes said New Zealand should take an “independent” stance, “focused on reducing tensions, finding solutions and building trust. War is never inevitable.” As a model, he pointed to the role played by Helen Clark’s Labour government during the brutal US war against Iraq. According to Hughes:

Twenty years ago New Zealand displayed its independent foreign policy by refusing to be railroaded into Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing,’ despite opposition from the National Party at the time.

This is a falsification of history. In fact, the Labour Party government sent dozens of army engineers to Iraq in 2003, after having already participated in the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, with the support of the pseudo-left Alliance. US embassy cables later released by WikiLeaks confirmed that the Clark government joined the Iraq war for commercial reasons, including to protect NZ dairy giant Fonterra’s contract to supply Iraq. Hughes’ praise for the Clark government speaks to the fact that there is no anti-war faction in the political establishment. New Zealand is a minor imperialist power, and since WW2 its ruling class has maintained a close alliance with the US and Australia in order to defend its own interests in the Pacific region and more broadly. The Green Party, as part of the present Labour-led government, has supported major increases in military spending, including new aircraft and navy vessels, aimed at boosting New Zealand’s interoperability with the US and other allies in preparation for war.

Along with the entire parliament and media establishment, the Greens support the escalating war against Russia, which is conceived of in Washington as a step towards war with China. There is widespread opposition to war, as there was 20 years ago, when tens of millions of people joined protests throughout the world against the invasion of Iraq. But the failure of that movement to stop the invasion proves that war cannot be opposed through appeals to any faction of the capitalist class and its political parties, including Labour and its allies. A genuine anti-war movement can only be built on the basis of socialist and internationalist principles. The working class must be united across borders in a movement to abolish the source of war: the capitalist system and its division of the world into rival nation-states. We urge readers in New Zealand to attend the meeting on Apr 4, hosted by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at Victoria University of Wellington, “The War in Ukraine and How to Stop It,” to discuss these burning questions.

military summary

Military Summary And Analysis
Military Summary, Mar 21 2023

This video describes the military situation in Ukraine on Mar 21

south front

Russian Forces Pincer Ukrainian Garrison In Avdiivka
South Front, Mar 20 2023

The Russian military is developing its advance in the north of the town of Avdiivka located on the north-western outskirts of Donetsk. On Mar 17, Russian military sources reported Russian control of the village of Krasnogorovka located 3 km north of Avdiivka. Since then, Russian forces preserved the military initiative and continued their advance westwards in order to encircle Avdiivka from the north and cut the strategically important railway used for transfer of military supplie to the Ukrainian grouping in the town.

On Mar 20, the Russian Army broke through the Ukrainian defenses at the railway. According to preliminary reports, the village of Stepovoe (also known as Petrovsky) located 200 m west of the road came under Russian control. Russian fighters of the 1st regiment of the 114th Brigade of the 1st Army Corps of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation gained a stronghold in the village. The mop up operation is likely ongoing in the area. The Russian control of the village is yet to be officially confirmed. Anyway, the AFU lost control of the last railway leading to Avdiivka. The ability of the Ukrainian grouping to transfer military personnel and ammunition to the city is severely disrupted. Russian advance on the northern outskirts also complicated the interaction between the Ukrainian units deployed in the village of Berdychi and the main garrison in Avdiivka. Only one road leading to the town from the west remains under Ukrainian control. The situation for the AFU in Avdiivka is becoming threatening for the Ukrainian military.

The report of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on March 19 indicated that Russian troops advanced beyond Stepovoe. The Ukrainian military claimed that Russian forces ‘launched offensive operations in the area of the village of Berdychi.’ In its turn, the AFU is urgently strengthening the military positions near Berdychi. Reinforcements, including heavy military equipment, were transfered to the area.

On the north-eastern outskirts of Avdiivka, the battle for the village of Kamenka is ongoing. According to preliminary reports, the village has already come under Russian control. However, this reports are yet to be confirmed. A Russian military reporter showed the area of Vodyanoe on Mar 15:

At the same time, the Russian military launched offensive operations to the south of Avdiivka. The Russian assault units advanced from their military positions in Opytnoe and broke through Ukrainian defences on the outskirts of Avdiivka. According to preliminary reports, fighting broke out in the 9th quarter of the town. The reports are yet to be confirmed. The AFU continue attempts to counter-attack near Opytnoe and Vodyanoe, but so far to no avail. Russian simultaneous operations in the north and the south of Avdiivka shackles Ukrainian units deployed in the area, preventing them from transferring additional forces to the north to regain control of the railway line.

Moscow Confirms Readiness For Negotiations, While Washington And Brussels Declare More Military Supplies
South Front, Mar 20 2023

Mar 20 marked significant political developments which once again revealed the true goals of the states involved in the Ukrainian war. While Moscow confirmed its readiness to launch the negotiation process, Washington and Brussels declared new military supplies to the Kiev regime. The US will provide Ukraine with the new 34th package of military assistance. The new military package will contain ammunition for HIMARS MLRS and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, artillery shells, HARM anti-radar missiles, anti-tank ammunition, motor boats and other military equipment. Blinken claimed:

Today, pursuant to a delegation of authority from President Biden, I am authorizing our 34th drawdown of US arms and equipment for Ukraine valued at $350m.

Earlier, the Biden administration rejected any possible cease-fire if Putin or Xi Jinping make such calls during the visit of the Chinese leader to Moscow. EU’s Josep Borrel said on Twitter:

Following my proposal, the EU member states have made a historic decision to supply one million artillery shells to Ukraine. over the next 12 months.

€1b was allocated for the immediate shipment of shells, another €1b will be spent on joint purchases of shells by EU countries to replenish their stocks. A commission will also be created to “increase production capacity.” While NATO is preparing the Ukrainian military for a large-scale offensive, escalating the military conflict and getting more and more involved in the fighting, Washington and Brussels will not allow Russian or Chinese diplomacy to stop the bloodshed on the Ukrainian battlefields. On the other hand, the Chinese leader’s ongoing visit to Russia is a clear sign of the upcoming strategic rapprochement of the two countries in response to provocations from the West, which may even influence the course of the war in Ukraine as well.

On Mar 20, the three-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia began. Moscow and Beijing are confident that this visit will give a new impetus to the development of bilateral relations. The first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping took place in the representative office in the first building of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin noted that they intend to discuss all the necessary issues, including the situation in Ukraine. The Russian authorities have studied China’s ideas for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Putin added that Russia is open to the negotiation process. On the anniversary of the special operation in Ukraine, China presented its position on the peaceful settlement of the crisiswhich included 12 points. Putin claimed that Moscow respects Beijing’s ideas. Putin said:

We have carefully read your proposals on the settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine. Of course, we will have the opportunity to discuss these issues. We know that you proceed from the principles of justice and respect for the fundamental provisions of international law and indivisible security for all countries.

On the eve of the Chinese leader’s visit, the Russian president published an article in People’s Daily where he also explained Russian positions on the possibility of the negotiation process:

Russia is open to the political and diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine crisis. It was not Russia who broke off the peace talks back in Apr 2022. The future of the peace process depends solely on the will to engage in a meaningful discussion taking into account current geopolitical realities. Unfortunately, the ultimatum nature of requirements placed on Russia shows that their authors are detached from these realities and lack interest in finding a solution to the situation.

Zelensky, assessing China’s proposals, said that there was no “plan” in the listed paragraphs. He called the settlement plan unrealizable if it does not contain a condition for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine. The Kiev regime also legally prohibited any negotiations with the Russian side. It is important to recall that on Mar 18 Zelensky imposed sanctions against Assad after his visit to Moscow. According to the political course of the Kiev regime, he should also sanction Xi Jinping. However, Zelensky likely lacks the courage for such a step, and he prefers to follow the traditional double standards that he has learned from his Western partners.

moon of alabama

Ukraine SitRep – Avdiivka
Moon of Alabama, Mar 21 2023

Bakhmut is encircled. All roads in and out of it are under Russian artillery fire. Over the last three days fighting has largely stopped there. No one seems to know why the operation was halted. There are unconfirmed claims that Ukraine is preparing a counter-attack to free Bakhmut from its encirclement. That attack is supposed to go off as soon as the muddy ground has dried up a bit. Meanwhile other encirclement has taken place in Avdiivka:

Avdiivka is a city of regional significance in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. The city is located in the center of the oblast, just north of the city of Donetsk. The large Avdiivka Coke Plant is located in Avdiivka. The city had a pre-war population of 31,392; in Aug 2022, its population was estimated at 2,500. Avdiivka was within the claimed boundaries of the separatist DPR, before Russia declared its annexation of the entire region in Sep 2022. During the war in Donbas, Avdiivka became a frontline city and saw a battle in 2017. During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, heavy fighting led to Avdiivka being largely destroyed and most of its population having fled.

Mar 8 2023Source: LiveUAmap

Avdiivka is strongly fortified. Its coke plant is a strong-point. The Ukrainian army used the city to lob artillery into Donetsk city. But attempts to seize it were largely unsuccessful. Two week ago the situation suddenly changed. The Russian airforce started to bomb Avdiivka with heavy glide bombs. At the same time an operations was launched to envelope the city from two directions.

Mar 21 2023Source: LiveUAmap

An east to west move north of Avdiivka cut the rail access to the city. Russian forces crossed the railroad and moved further west. Fighting is currently ongoing in Berdychi. South of Berdychi is Orlovka, a road crossing point that is for now the only real supply route left for Avdiivka. In the southwest of Avdiivka the Russian forces moved northward. They are currently trying to capture Siverne. The first progress there was stopped when on Mar 12 the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade was placed in the area.

Source: Military Land

Armed reconnaissance has also taken place into the southwest area of Avdiivka city which is made up of high rises. The distance between the Russian positions in the southwest and in the northwest of Avdiivka is 8 km. That is sufficiently narrow for Russian artillery to interdict road traffic that goes through the area in between. The landscape around Avdiivka is mostly featureless. There are a few slag hills that rise about 50 m above their surrounding flatland. But they can be easily covered by artillery and are thus not really helpful for either side.

Source: Ukraine Topographic Map

This is now the second Ukrainian held area on the Donetsk front that is in operational encirclement. In both areas the Russian follow Sun Tzu’s advice to not completely close off an encirclement but to leave a route out. This prevents fanatical defenses by encircled troops or it may even lead the enemy to push more forces into a hopeless position. If the Ukrainian military had plans to relieve Bakhmut with a counter-attack it now has to think of the additional problem that the encirclement of Avdiivka brings. Should it start there? Should it split the forces it had accumulated and planned to use for the counter-attack in Bakhmut and start a parallel one in Avdiivka? Should it give up on one or both cities? Those are difficult decisions. I find it likely that the Russian attacks on Bakhmut were halted after the Avdiivka development succeeded to give the Ukraine military enough time to make an error. Time is on Russia’s side while the Ukrainian military needs to show action and success to keep its ‘western’ support going.

US announces more weapons for Ukraine, Mar 20 2023

The US DoD announced on Monday that it will send Ukraine another $350m worth of military aid. The further supplies come as Ukraine reportedly gears up for a spring offensive, despite suffering heavy losses in Donbass. The package is the 34th tranche of military aid doled out to Ukraine by the US since Aug 2021. It includes ammunition for Kiev’s US-provided HIMARS rocket artillery systems, 155mm artillery rounds, high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), riverine patrol boats, and other anti-tank and mortar systems. Amid reports of dwindling stockpiles at home, the Pentagon no longer discloses how much of each ammunition type its arms packages include. These figures have been omitted from every such statement since the beginning of January, but a comparison of the supplemental fact sheets released with each package suggests that the US has sent Ukraine at least 500k 155mm shells since the beginning of March. These NATO-standard shells are in desperate demand, with Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov claiming earlier this month that his forces need 594k per month to fire their Western-provided guns at full capacity. Aside from those provided by the US, Reznikov has asked the EU to provide 250k shells per month. At a meeting on Monday, however, 18 EU countries committed to providing just a million of these shells within a year, a figure that falls well short of Kiev’s demands. Media reports have warned for months that the effort to arm Ukraine has depleted military inventories in the US and Europe. With Kiev reportedly ignoring Western advice and refusing to surrender the encircled city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), US and EU officials are now concerned that its forces may lack the ammunition for a springtime offensive against Russia, the NYT reported last week. The US has given Ukraine more than $32.5b in military aid since last February, out of more than $110b allocated by the Biden administration for military and economic assistance to Kiev. Russia has repeatedly warned that such military outlays will not change the outcome of the conflict but make Western nations de facto participants in the hostilities.

Swiss bank rescue threatens Western bond market – Bloomberg, Mar 21 2023

The merger between Switzerland’s two largest lenders, the embattled Credit Suisse and UBS, could have a negative impact on the entire Western bond market, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing analysts. UBS agreed on Sunday to acquire its rival, which was on the brink of insolvency due to the loss of investor and customer confidence, for 3b Swiss francs ($3.24b) in stock. The deal, brokered by the Swiss authorities, came with a 9b franc government guarantee for potential losses from Credit Suisse assets and 100b francs in liquidity assistance from Switzerland’s central bank. However, as part of the deal, Swiss financial market regulator FINMA ordered Credit Suisse to write down to zero some 16b Swiss francs ($17.24b) of its Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds, with the aim of bolstering the bank’s capital and resolving its liquidity problems. AT1 bonds are a riskier form of bank debt, which were created in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, and represent a type of junior debt that allows banks to transfer risks to investors instead of taxpayers in cases of financial difficulties. Investors find them attractive as they pay higher interest due to the fact that they carry more risk than regular bonds. While bondholders will be left with nothing, Credit Suisse shareholders will receive $3.23b under the UBS deal, despite the fact that bonds traditionally stand above equities in the banking hierarchy. The situation has angered bondholders, Bloomberg reports, as they now fear the authorities in other countries may follow the Swiss government’s lead. Jerome Legras, the head of research at Axiom Alternative Investments, an investor in Credit Suisse’s AT1 debt, has said:

It’s stunning and hard to understand how they can reverse the hierarchy between AT1 holders and shareholders. Wiping out AT1 holders while paying substantial amounts to shareholders goes against all the resolution principles and rules that were agreed internationally after 2008.

Patrik Kauffmann, a fixed-income portfolio manager at Aquila Asset Management, who also holds the bonds, told Bloomberg:

This just makes no sense. Shareholders should get zero. It’s crystal clear that AT1s are senior to stocks.

Some analysts, however, argue that the write-off of the bonds is a logical step, as this is part of the reason they were created, as a way to impose losses on creditors instead of taxpayers in case of bank failures. Overall, experts predict that either the AT1 market will soon be closed for new issuance, or the bonds will surge in price because of the extra risk displayed by the Credit Suisse rescue merger.

sputnik news

How Biden’s Room for Maneuver in Ukraine is Dwindling and Rift With Kiev Growing
Ekaterina Blinova, Sputnik News, Mar 20 2023

US President Joe Biden’s window of opportunities in Ukraine is in danger of narrowing, warn some Western observers, while others hint that an apparent rift between Washington and Kiev is widening. There are three factors that may potentially constrain the Biden administration’s ability for maneuver in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, according to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a US DC-based think tank.

First, the situation on the battlefield is unfolding in Russia’s favor, with Russian forces making progress towards encircling Bakhmut, also known as Artemovsk, a city in the Donetsk region. According to the think tank, Zelensky’s all-out defense of the city could cripple Kiev’s ability to mount an effective counteroffensive elsewhere. Furthermore, the Kiev regime is suffering from a shortage of ammunition and experienced troops, something the West cannot provide anytime soon. The West’s stockpiles of artillery shells and missiles are dwindling, while NATO cannot throw its troops to reinforce the Ukrainian military, as that could escalate the conflict into a full-fledged nuclear confrontation, according to the think tank. Earlier this month, US Sec Def Austin warned:

I certainly don’t want to discount the tremendous work that the Ukrainians’ soldiers and leaders have put into defending Bakhmut, but I think it’s more of a symbolic value than it is a strategic and operational value.

However, speaking to Sputnik in Jan 2023, US military veteran and security analyst Mark Sleboda explained that Artemovsk is a key to Donetsk and the linchpin of the entire second line of defense of the Kiev regime. According to Sleboda, taking Artemovsk will open the door to further advances by the Russian military in other directions due to its geographical location. Given this, one would agree that Artemovsk is of a strategic and operational value, which makes Kiev’s defeat there especially sensitive.

Second, American popular opinion on the Russo-Ukrainian has been growing more polarized, according to the DC think tank, which cites its own recent poll among Republicans and Democrats. A staggering 47% of GOP voters believe that the US is doing “too much” to help Ukraine, while only 27% think that it’s about right. For comparison’s sake, 62% of Democrats think Washington’s support for the Kiev regime is “about right.” The think tank presumes that the polarization will grow even further as reports from the battlefield “chip away” at American optimism and the 2024 presidential campaign heats up. On top of this, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who together are backed by more than three-quarters of GOP voters, have recently called for “peace” in Ukraine and cessation of hostilities, stressing that the conflict is by no means viable for the US national interest. MAGA lawmakers in the House are also pushing for a peace settlement, which isn’t a trifling matter, given that the GOP currently controls the lower chamber. Previously, the US mainstream press acknowledged that public support for Biden’s proxy war in Ukraine is “softening” across all political stripes.

Third, as the Biden administration is hesitating to broker peace between Kiev and Moscow, China has stepped forward with a comprehensive peace plan. Even though Washington has already denounced Beijing’s initiative, there is a possibility that the People’s Republic of China may find leverage to convince Kiev to join Moscow at the negotiating table, the think tank presumes. Russia has repeatedly signaled that it is ready for talks and lambasted the West for derailing the Mar 2022 peace negotiations in Istanbul and subsequent preliminary agreements between the Ukrainian and Russian representatives. The think tank noted:

Beijing’s bid to play mediator could have appealed for Kiev if the Ukrainians perceive Washington as both unwilling to bring victory on the battlefield and unable to bring Russia around to an acceptable settlement.

Remarkably, the DC think tank somehow failed to mention that Beijing managed to broker a historic reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The two rivals signed an agreement to restore full diplomatic relations, elevating Beijing’s status as a sophisticated mediator. These three factors indicate that the window of opportunity for Washington’s diplomacy is “in danger of narrowing,” the report warned. Meanwhile, an earlier report by Politico unveiled growing cracks in US-Ukrainian unity, citing US officials, American lawmakers, and experts.

First, there are growing differences behind the scenes between the Biden administration and the Kiev regime on the conflict’s aims and the timing of its ending. As per Republican lawmakers, the White House doesn’t have a clear policy objective and a clear goal when it comes to Ukraine. So far, it has been perceived as a “war of attrition” envisaging bleeding Russia white and coercing it into submission. This has not worked, and the Biden administration has not presented any “policy for victory” so far, as per Rep Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Second, the media outlet cites a new point of tension, which is the Nord Stream sabotage. The US press is continuing to push ahead with the theory that it was a pro-Ukrainian group who blew up the pipeline, something that many international observers and experts have shredded as nonsense. The US media points out that intelligence analysts do not believe that Zelensky and his were involved in the sabotage, but emphasizes that the Biden administration has already signaled to the Kiev regime that “certain acts of violence outside of Ukraine’s borders will not be tolerated.” Earlier, Sputnik’s interlocutors suggested that the NYT’s yarn about the “pro-Ukrainian group’s” sabotage attack indicates that the White House is ready either to distance itself from the Kiev regime or to throw it under the bus altogether.

Third, the Biden administration believes that the Ukrainian military should not spend so much manpower and ammo in Artemovsk, while Kiev is openly “ignoring” Washington’s recommendation, as per the US media.

Fourth, there is growing frustration among US officials about Kiev’s ingratitude: the US media outlet explains that Washington has, by far, sent the most weapons and equipment to the front, with the Ukrainian leadership constantly requesting more and more aid and Zelensky, not showing appropriate appreciation for the White House’s efforts.

Fifth, it’s not clear how the conflict will end: despite Biden signaling steadfast support, Kiev should understand that this aid won’t be indefinite, the media outlet emphasized. It cites former US officials as criticizing Zelensky over his spat with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Kurt Volker, a special presidential envoy for Ukraine during the Trump administration, said:

Zelensky also stepped in it a bit with McCarthy, coming across as needing to ‘educate’ him, rather than work with him.

US officials also seem concerned about Kiev’s insistence that not only the Donbass, Zaporozhye, and Kherson regions should be “returned” to Ukraine before any peace talks with Moscow, but also Crimea, according to the media outlet. It noted that both Blinken and the Pentagon have warned the Kiev regime against trying to seize the peninsula. What’s more, the WaPo reported in mid-February that top Biden officials including Deputy NSA Jon Finer, Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman, and Under Sec Def Colin Kahl, made it clear to Zelensky that in the coming months he should “retake as much territory as possible before sitting down with Putin at the negotiating table.” According to American observers, the goal of taking “as much territory as possible” sounds like Washington’s concession that Kiev may not be capable of reclaiming all of the territory it had “lost.” In a word, even though the Biden administration is publicly stating that it is ready to do whatever it takes to support Kiev, “whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be,” especially given that the 2024 presidential election is looming, the media admits.

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