OSCE in Ukraine: useful tool in the hands of Russia

From OSCE’s web site: The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) was deployed on 21 March 2014, following a request to the OSCE by Ukraine’s government and a consensus decision by all 57 OSCE participating States. The Mission’s mandate was extended by six months from 21 September 2014. The SMM is an unarmed, civilian mission, present on the ground 24/7 in all regions of Ukraine. Its main tasks are to observe and report in an impartial and objective way on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the crisis.

All this looks nice, but the main problem is that Russian observers are part of this mission. It is quite absurd: A country attacking its neighbour has its own observers operating on the enemy side of the frontline, and all this is approved by the OSCE member countries!? Of course, these Russian “observers” report all possible intel to the Russian General Staff. So, in addition to the Russian moles in SBU and the Ukrainian army, military strategists in Moscow and Luhansk/Donetsk have access to a huge amount of information about Ukraines strategies and tactical plans, movements of troops, weapons.

OSCE official Ilkka Kanerva spoke out on an assembly in Vienna in November, 2014: “Let’s be honest – the mission is restricted to report only what it sees pass through the official crossing along the tiniest strip of the border,” said Kanerva, a Finnish lawmaker who heads the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly. He added, “If we are not permitted to do it right, the question is – is it worth doing at all?”.

SMM observers are not allowed to control more than two border crossing points, they are restricted from admission to several districts in DPR/LPR and do not have access to any of the Russian military supplies disguised as “humanitarian convoys”.

As per today, SMM has 23 Russian observers reporting vital Ukrainian intel to Moscow. Some of them have been reported assisting the terrorists and regular Russian forces. On top of that, the main Russian representative of the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) is major-general Alexander Lentsov (read this excellent piece by @DajeyPetros), who de facto is running the Russian military operations in Ukraine – from the government-controlled side of the frontline!

Alexander_Lentsov

OSCE is still not able to acknowledge the fact that Eastern Ukraine is invaded by regular Russian troops, which shows the devastating incompetence of this organization. In the headquarters in Vienna the political play is very tough, and leaves OSCE more or less paralyzed.

One solution is to throw Russia out of OSCE. Another is to let another international body take over the job, and do it properly:

  • Acknowledge that Russian regular forces are running the warfare operations against the Ukrainian troops. This is not a civil war, and the “insurgents” are mainly Russian soldiers (ethnic Russians, Cossacks, South Ossetians, Khadyrovtsy, Buryats etc)
  • Get access to all border crossing points
  • Give a real assessment of the vast amount of Russian heavy weaponry present in Donetsk and Luhansk regions
  • Stop all “humanitarian” convoys from Russia
  • Throw out all Russian military presence from Donbas
  • Reinstate Ukrainian government and democratic institutions in Donbas

 

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Alea iacta est

In my opinion there is a high probability that Putin at some point made a fatal decision for himself: the die is cast and he may be willing to go all the way. He doesn’t want to die, of course, but the string of fatal decisions has become very long, and he is running out of options:

  • A further escalation in Ukraine will lead to a much more active participation of the West and possibly to a direct confrontation
  • A withdrawal from Donbas will lead to a crushing defeat for the few remaining so-called “separatists”, since Putin will have to send back all the Russian soldiers who make up the “pro-Russian forces”: regular Russian forces, Cossacks, Chechen and Ossetian troopers, volunteers from all over Russia. And it will be a crushing defeat at his home ground
  • Many analysts claim that the best option for Putin now is status quo, where he continues to control and supply Donbas. In such a way he can keep Ukraine out of NATO and EU.

I don’t believe in the last option. It is quite easy, though very expensive, to send endless “humanitarian” convoys of weapons, ammunition and fresh soldiers. To maintain a social infrastructure, pay pensions and salaries to teachers, health personnel and bureaucrats is a complete different matter when it comes to expenses and use of resources. Putin does not consider Ukraine a sovereign state, and when he started the warfare one year ago he and his generals were quite sure that they could easily conquer the six “Novorossiya” provinces (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Odessa and Kherson) after the quick and easy victory in Crimea. That operation was not successful, and the only way out now is to expand further in Ukraine.

Putin is ready to launch such an operation. The plan has been described in an earlier blog. This time I will believe the Russian forces will head for Kharkiv from South East, i.e. Horlivka, Stakhanov and Luhansk. The numerous terrorist attacks and prevented attempts in Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk etc show an increased activity from FSB and GRU, and is probably a prelude of what is to come. By attacking Kharkiv from South East, the Russian invasion force, which is stand-by and ready for attack in Belgorod, can blend in so that Kremlin can use its deniability, which has proven effective in the propaganda war against the West and the zombified part of the Russian population. Such an operation will demand huge military and financial resources, and the loss of human lives will be in the tens of thousands. The Ukraine will give tougher resistance than Russian generals expect.

New attack from SE

One can only pray that such a scenario will not take place. Since Minsk 2 more than 200 square km have been taken by the Russian forces, and every day they are shelling Ukrainian positions, even with GRADs and tanks, which is just another clear violation of the Minsk 2 agreement.

The rat is being pushed into the corner, and when the Dutch MH17 commission is publishing their conclusion that the Malaysian plane was shot down by a Russian BUK missile, the rat will attack. Big time. But before that a final effort will be put into conquering Kharkiv and Mariupol.

 

 

Putin’s disastrous role in Syria

Being heavily involved in and with Russia for almost 25 years, most of my attention has been devoted the dramatic events in Ukraine. I am appalled by Russia’s cruel and senseless warfare against a neighbour who only wanted the be released from the sticky grip of Kremlin. So what about Syria then?

I haven’t followed the war in Syria very closely, but I remember clearly the feeling I had when the conflict started and began to escalate. The Arab spring, which reached Syria in January 2011, and later escalated in March, could have been handled in a completely different manner by al-Assad, just by entering into a dialogue with the protesters in Damascus and Deraa. Instead al-Assad, in my opinion, listened to his Russian advisers, who persuaded him to use violence against the protesters. I don’t say that Syrian security officers didn’t give the same advice, I just firmly believe Russians played a significant role.

The main objective for Russia was, and still is, to preserve their naval base in Tartus, where  30,000 Russians are living and working. Without this base Russia will lose most of its influence in the region, which for Putin will be a terrible geopolitical defeat.

In February 2012 Russia and China blocked an Arab League-backed UN resolution which condemned the violence by al-Assad’s regime and called for his resignation. For Russia it was unthinkable to allow a change of regime. Two more Russian-Chinese blockings in UN followed after.

Russia has continued to assist al-Assad’s brutal attacks on his own people (in good tradition with his father Hafez), by sending weapons, ammunition and military “advisers”.

Again, I am far from being a Middle East connoisseur, but in this case we see another example of Putin’s regime leaving behind a trace of mayhem and disaster.

The ace up the sleeve is already on the table

Russia has all the factors to become a successful state of high prosperity and power: all the natural resources one could ask for, a highly educated multi-cultural population and a land mass which spans from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. But it never turns out right, and the country has a perverted ability to destroy all positive perspectives. This time, after a period from 2000 when the oil price rose every year and gave Russia huge incomes, they had to screw it up again. It’s just like destruction are in the genes.

Instead of building a strong, prosperous state, which could become an economic and cultural superpower, the criminal leadership of the country decided to put all the eggs in the military basket in a weird attempt of restoring the so-called greatness of the Soviet era. Now, when the state is running out of money, military budgets are increased with huge sums every year. Health care, education, infrastructure, social welfare and culture are the sectors of the society which have to suffer.

The Russian economy compared to its enemies – USA and EU – is tiny, but  Putin & Co are nevertheless trying to surpass the West in military muscles, which now are being flexed all over Europe.

Even in terms of conventional weapons Russia is far behind its Western counterpart. But Russia had one ace up the sleeve – the arsenal of nuclear weapons. This card was played very early, actually one year ago, when the propaganda maniac Dmitry Kiselyov said on TV that Russia is able to turn USA into “radioactive dust”. Those were not his own words, but was in a manuscript carefully worked out by Vladislav Surkov, which again means official policy approved on the highest level. Later crazy guys like Sergey Markov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky have threatened Poland and the Baltic states with nuclear destruction.

The last time the ace was pulled out from the sleeve was when Putin in the documentary about the Anschluss of Crimea stated that he, in the preparations for the occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula, had considered using nuclear weapons if the resistance from Ukraine forces would have been much stronger.

Now the ace cannot be put back into the sleeve, it’s on the table. We know now that Russia will use these weapons of mass destruction, not in defending the country, but when occupying foreign territories. Only this statement should be enough to throw Russia out of the UN Security Council. Alas, not many Western leaders seem to have perceived this utmost grave threat to the world peace.

Where is Putin, will Sechin be fired?

Today many rumors have popped up in Moscow: where is Vladimir Putin, why hasn’t he appeared in public in many days, is he too ill to go to Astana? Will Igor Sechin – the world’s ugliest man in international business AND politics – be fired as CEO of Rosneft tomorrow (March 12)?

Even if Putin gets a “heart attack” or any similar FSB-style illness, the regime will stay the same. There might be a possibility, though, that the new leaders – in a situation where the old leader is out of the picture – will change the course of the recent political direction:

  • Many generals must by now acknowledge the fact that a full-scale war in Ukraine will soon lead to a conflict with NATO, and that Russia is doomed to lose. The human costs will be catastrophic. And warfare is very expensive, and the money bin is running empty.
  • Silovikis in KGB/FSB and in the Generals’ Chief of Staff are also active businessmen, and today’s situation in Russia is really bad for business. It’s more fun to go to Monaco than Gelendzhik.
  • British politicians threaten to publish the wealth accumulated in the West by Russian businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats. Even if the chekist regime is controlling the main media channels, such news will reach a substantial part of Russian citizens.

As always, we will have to wait and see….

Russia’s main problem: lack of trust

Russia’s main problem is, and always has been, this: lack of trust. Inside the family and the close circle of friends trust exists, of course. But outside, in the society, the level of trust is extremely low:

  • People don’t trust their superiors at work, superiors don’t trust their employees
  • Public institutions are trusted by nobody
  • Houses, cars and valuable possessions always come with expensive alarm systems and heavy locks
  • The Russian people have in general a deep mistrust in their leaders
  • The majority knows that elections are fixed
  • The leaders don’t trust the people they govern – and this is a key factor

This universal lack of trust is the main obstacle for Russia’s possibilities in developing into a civilized society.

Leadership’s distrust in its own people

The leaders of the country have never trusted the people, which explains the massive size of security forces throughout the history. The distrust was particularly strong during the Soviet regime, when Stalin made the entire country into one giant prison. The 196 km border between Norway and Russia is still separated by a double barbed wire with sensors detecting any touch from the inside (nobody wants to break into Russia, only out of it).

The security forces have always been strong in Russia/Soviet, and in 1999 they finally took over the main political positions, and soon KGB/FSB got complete control over the main institutions of the Russian society:

  • Media: KGB/FSB started this process four days after Putin’s inauguration by attacking Gusinsky’s Media-Most empire. The next victim was Berezovsky and his ORT. Soon they gained full control over all main national media channels
  • KGB/FSB soon took control over the State Duma through mock elections orchestrated by Surkov and where the mock party “United Russia” won 223 of 450 seats
  • Financial market: from 2003 all oligarchs had to subordinate to Kremlin, any resistance was squashed (like Khodorkovsky and Yukos). Banks, like many others, jump when told to, but soon there will be no more springs in the trampoline
  • Energy sector: the main cash machine in Russia is the energy sector. Gazprom, being the world’s largest gas company, is not as much a commercial conglomerate as it is a money bin for politicians, bureaucrats and siloviki. The entire sector is now under control of Putin and his allies
  • Judicial system never had any real independence, and the courts are today under strict control from the executive branch, which in Russia is not the government but the Presidential administration
  • Culture: artists and cultural personalities who do not obey are no longer welcome. Russia has always been a country with an unpredictable past, and the present regime is – once again – rewriting its own history so it can fit the regime’s twisted world view

When lack of trust dominates a society it is very difficult to build independent institutions which may give possibilities for growth, prosperity and freedom. For Russia it will take several decades before it can set her foot on that ladder. The KGB/FSB/GRU regime of today will not give up their power without a very hard and very bloody fight.

 

Russia’s next move in Ukraine

The so-called ceasefire is being violated every day, but not much attention is paid to that. While the world’s eyes are on Moscow and the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have regrouped and received substantial supplies from the Motherland. Several trains have arrived in Donbas – even to Debaltseve – from Russia with heavy supplies of weapons and ammunition.

On March 3 the 17th convoy of inhuman aid arrived in Donetsk, Ukrainian border guards were of course not allowed to inspect it.

Konvoi jpeg

The shelling never did stop in Shyrokyne outside Mariupol, and several villages have been captured by Russian forces after the ceasefire was declared.

Russia has even established a military training field outside Donetsk/Luhansk, where fresh soldiers from all over Russia can get training in using heavy weapons. It seems that Moscow now considers the occupied territories as their own. In some parts, like Gorlivka, the Russian special services have started an ethnic cleansing. The socio-economic situation, however, is turning into a disaster – a development which doesn’t bother the cynical warlords very much.

The next step for the occupying power will be to create a big scale provocation which will give an opportunity to launch the next attack. As I have pointed out earlier, the next goal is bypassing and isolating Mariupol in order to prepare for taking the Crimean corridor. Meanwhile GRU and KGB/FSB are carrying out terrorist attacks in Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk and other cities. While some of the heaviest weapons allegedly are pulled back from the front, the economic and information warfare continues full-scale.

The West must start sending lethal weapons and experts right away. Due to the political impotence in Europe and, to a certain extent, in USA, this will most likely not happen.

Boris Nemtsov assassinated by whom?

Boris Nemtsov was one of the few brave voices in the Russian society. Friday night, February 27 at 23:31 Moscow time, he was gunned down by unknown assassins when walking home from a dinner in GUM at the Red Square.

Who killed him? There are endless speculations in the Russian and Western media now, some theories are quite plausible, others are just moronic. Many believe that the zombifying Russian TV is the main culprit, which through its spreading of hatred might have inspired some rogue elements to grab the guns and shoot Nemtsov in the back. Many claim that the killing could not have been done on Putin’s order: not even Putin is so stupid that he kills one of his political opponents right outside the Kremlin wall, on one of the most monitored spots in the Russian Federation.

It is quite naive to believe that Putin and his compatriots are not capable of staging such an assassination. They have done it several times before. This may have been a strong signal for other oppositionists to shut up or get the same treatment. Boris Nemtsov has revealed numerous cases of Kremlin corruption and stealing, and was about to publish material which proves Russian participation in Donbas.

Who pulled the trigger? That question is not the most important, although the crime bears resemblance of a Kadyrov style hit (as opposed to KGB/FSB, which prefer poison and inflecting heart attacks).

Hundreds of CCTV cameras caught the killing on tape. Only one so far is published (as shown in this analysis by ukraineatwar.blogspot.nl), probably by mistake. It shows a Moscow city garbage cleaning vehicle (in the video the reporter is talking about a snow removal vehicle) stopping next to Nemtsov and his girlfriend. The killer seem to be riding on that cleaning vehicle, probably standing on the rails, then kill Nemtsov and run off in a getaway car which was approaching from behind. Judging by the video the assassination seems very well orchestrated, and many people are involved. It is strange that the actual killing is hidden by the vehicle, as if the killer team knew about the CCTV camera.

Right after the assassination Putin declared he will personally be in charge of the investigation. His first task was to clean the crime scene with a water hose.

Crime scene cleaning

It will be interesting to see how much footage from the CCTV cameras will be made public. My guess is not very many. If Kremlin doesn’t want to find the killers, then they will not be found.

The best eyewitness to the killing, Nemtsov’s Ukrainian girlfriend, was detained shortly after and is now being held at an undisclosed location.

Today, Sunday March 1, is a good opportunity for decent Russians to go out and join the mourning rally and show some decency. The deficit of decency has reached a critical level in today’s degenerated Russian society.

Western values: worth defending?

Europe is now starting to feel real threats from two aggressors – ISIS/Al Qaeda terrorists and Russian warfare in Ukraine –  and it is about high time to find out which values are our most valuable ones, and whether they are worth defending.

As a Norwegian I live on the outskirts of the European culture, geographically speaking, but as early as in 1814 we got the one of the most modern and radical constitutions in Europe, heavily influenced by the US Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution and Montesquieu’s ideas about separation of powers. So, thanks to some brave and intelligent men two hundred years ago, Norway became a part of the modern Western civilization. Its foundation was laid down at Eidsvoll May 17, 1814, and during the two centuries which have passed Norway, together with other nations in the Western world, has strived to develop and improve the society we live in. It is far from perfect, but it is still pretty damn good.

Basic Western values

Our basic values in my opinion are:

  • A democratic rule of government: leaders are democratically elected by the people and the separation of powers is complied
  • Human rights: freedom of expression and conscience, equality before the law
  • International law: respect of every countries’ territorial integrity
  • Liberating doubt (B. Russell). The process of politics in the West involves trial and error, open discussion, criticism, and self-correction
  • Equal dignity and value on all humanity, regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexual preference
  • Humour: an element in our culture which is often underestimated

Are these worth defending, and even fighting for? My answer is simple: yes! After decades of peace and prosperity it is now time for all people in the Western world to try to determine for themselves which are their basic values and if they are worth defending. Our values are now under heavy attack from many directions:

  • Extreme islamists have declared war on our values, and are now conducting terror operations on European soil
  • China has declared that school books promoting Western values will be prohibited
  • Many groups, and even countries, inside Europe are working actively against the values I listed above
  • The heaviest attack, though, is now coming from Russia, which is waging a war against its historical neighbour Ukraine, because its citizens have chosen to move away from the Russian sphere of interest and to get closer to the European culture

Of course the Western democratic system is full of flaws and shortcomings. As Churchill put it: “Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”.

So what are we up against from Russia? Let us divide the threat into two parts: software and hardware. As far as “software” (ideology) is concerned my answer is simple: nothing. Russia as per today has no ideological core values. The Russian Orthodox Church? No way. Instead of being a spiritual force in promoting the positive elements of the Bible, the ROC is mainly a mafia-like money machine headed by funny looking men who are arming and sending priests to the frontline in Donbas and throwing holy water on an ICBM of the SS-18 type (nicknamed “Satan”).

Сатана

Putin is longing for the comfort of the old Soviet society, and his “ideologists” Surkov and Dugin are trying to cook together a stew consisting of: 1) Restoration of the greatness of the Russian Empire, 2) Soviet nostalgia, 3) A religious cult of the Patriotic War, 4) the worst elements of the Russian Orthodoxy and 5) a deep and sincere hate of Western (especially American) culture. In this stew extreme left is mixed with extreme right (well, there are no big differences between them anyway), peace-loving is paired with frantic warmongering, solidarity between nationalities goes hand in hand with ethnic hatred and so on.

If there is any core of the ruling class in Russia today it can be described as an aggressive kleptocracy. The KGB/FSB regime have done a huge number of mistakes during the last 12 months, but have decided to continue its tough line, no matter the consequences. So what we must fear is the “hardware” (weapons and soldiers), which is being poured into Ukraine in huge numbers every day. Russia is ready to expand its use of hardware, and the next target (after Mariupol and Kharkiv) may very likely be one of the Baltic states, all of which have chosen the Western model. I consider the Russian propaganda to be “hardware”, since it contains no ideological core, only lies, hatred and manipulation.

Politicians and journalists now have a huge responsibility of informing the European citizens about the threats which are now being posed to the Western culture, and the time has come for people in the West to start reflecting about which values are the dearest to them, and whether they are worth defending. They are. If the West is not able to stand up against this threat they are not.

Prepare for war, Europe

The Minsk agreement 2 lies in shatters. Russian forces have got the order to take Debaltseve at any cost. Shyrokyne near Mariupol has been shelled into little pieces and the Azov Battalion has withdrawn. Heavy shelling of Donetsk airport which was staged by Russian television today. Zolote, Marinka, Horlivka, Chornykhyne were all places where Russian forces violated the ceasefire during the first 24 hours. Yes, RUSSIAN forces, not “pro-Russian separatists” as many journalists prefer to call them. There are not many “separatists” left, and they haven’t had much to say from the very beginning anyway. Zakharchenko and Plotnisky are nothing more than a local alibi, everything they say and do is managed by Kremlin.

Aggression from four fronts

Russian forces are now piling up huge forces on four fronts:

1. Rostov oblast/Western front: every day more and more heavy weapons, ammunition and soldiers are flowing into Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

2. Rostov oblast/Southern front: the Russian army in Novoazovsk decided to strike back on Azov’s offensive. In addition to the troops already stationed there, large convoys are standing on the border, ready to enter Ukrainian soil

3. Crimea: Russian forces are standing on the border to Ukraine, and are ready to invade from South

4. Belgorod oblast: moving of huge forces to the Ukrainian border, which is only 50 km from Kharkiv.

When the final signal is given it is very likely that Russian forces in Pridnyestrovye and Belarus will be activated.

Sergey Naryshkin, who is speaker of the Duma, a KGB hardliner and a close ally to Putin, has sent a letter to the European Parliament where he states that the war in Ukraine is a war “against nazism”. Many, among them Swedish politicians, perceive the letter’s content as a war threat. Naryshkin is not crazy, he is just acting as in preparation for war. Most of the Russian people are already for a war against their “fascist, nazi” neighbor in South East.

There will be several provocations by the Russians forces inside Ukraine, like shelling into Russian territory. This will give the Russian army the excuse it needs to finally invade Ukraine on a big scale, like they planned to do in July (that invasion was spoiled by their own shooting down of the wrong plane. Instead of the Malaysian Airlines MH17, the Russian BUK was supposed to hit SU 2074, which was full of Russian tourists on their way from Moscow to Larnaca).

European leaders, with a few exceptions (Poland, Lithuania and Estonia), have not yet shown that they fully understand the graveness of the situation. It is easier and more comfortable, for now, to “hope” for the best and that Putin will not escalate his aggression. It is about time that they face the facts:

  • Russia’s goal is to take control over Ukraine, no matter what. Russia is even willing to sacrifice its own economy to reach this goal
  • If Europe let Putin invade Ukraine from four fronts and establish the Crimean corridor, the next step by Russia will be further aggression, most likely one or more of the Baltic states

So what shall you do, Europe? Prepare for war, and then hope for the best.