Dmitry Orlov, Meet Wolf Gray
Out of all the articles written in the new media about the Trump-Putin meeting which made a sideshow out of the mostly insolvent G20 with its antifas mayhem in the streets, we liked Dmitry Orlov's the best. In part, because Orlov's take summarized about as much that could be reasonably expected to be achieved from the meeting of the 'two most powerful men in the world':
A remarkable meeting took place last week—the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Putin—and I would be remiss not to comment on it. In viewing videos of the meeting (the few snippets shot during the brief seconds when journalists were allowed to stampede into the room, pushing and shoving) it became clear to me that these two people connected quite well, finding in each other an intelligent and sympathetic interlocutor. Many people would find this characterization strange. It is common to see in Putin an inscrutable, cryptically menacing cipher, and in Trump a chaotic, bloviating buffoon. In a sense, they are right, but only on the surface.
That surface, in the case of Putin and in the case of Trump, consists of a carefully synthesized public persona honed over many design iterations and practice runs. For each of them, it has been conditioned by the specifics of Russia and the US, respectively: what the people there respond to well, what they expect and what they are capable of. The specifics of their public personae and what conditioned them are interesting in their own right. But what’s really important is what lies beneath them…
In Russia, the sight of Trump and Putin shaking hands, conversing and laughing elicited a great sigh of relief. That is because there is an understanding among Russians that these two men are members of a sort of global bomb squad: their job is to keep the planet from blowing up, and to do that they have to be able to talk to each other effectively. That so far this has been prevented by various forces in the US is commonly perceived as a symptom of the collective insanity that has gripped the US, and to see the meeting finally take place and the ice broken is seen as a good sign. I am sure that plenty of Americans had the exact same reaction, in spite of many of them having been manipulated into a twin toxic emotional trap of Trump-hatred and Putin-hatred.
As we remarked to Team RogueMoney's Wolf Gray, there are remarkable similarities between Orlov's thoughts on Trump as a master showman and the ultimate Internet troll (aka the pro wrestling 'strong heel' or anti-hero) presiding over an American population in a state of either overstimulated anxiety or opiod/marijuana fog, and his own analyses of the G20 situation. Being a Leningrader born in the city named for the Tsar Peter which was founded as a window to the West, and which was the USSR's second city for the intelligentsia, Orlov tends to see the same situation of American decline from a sociological or medical perspective. The North Carolina mountain man, on the other hand, sees just plain spoken business sense of the kind mid-century Americans could take for granted in the Eisenhower era but which has been lost since a lost war in Southeast Asia and abandoned gold peg began the long slow emasculation of a mighty nation. We highly recommend WG's summary of the Putin-Xi meeting and the talking points presented by the Russians and their rising superpower partners.
The Russian Analyst dislikes repetition, and covering the same U.S.-Russia ground as the legacy media and of the other, better known voices in the alternative/new media landscape have covered. However, when the failing mainstream media's correspondents in Moscow note the overall tone of cautious satisfaction with the G20 negotiations, we won't ignore it. Nor can we dismiss the few Russian experts celebrating the fact that Trump was forced to negotiate with Putin as an equal -- to the rage of former CIA director John Brennan who called Trump's actions 'dishonorable' (as if a creature who armed jihadist terrorists from Libya to Syria for his good friends if not masters in the Saudi Royal family knows anything about honor).
To See Tangible Results of the Trump/Putin Meeting, Look to Southern Syria
What we can do is summarize the Putin/Trump G20 meeting -- and make no mistake, the warm Putin-Xi displays of personal and national friendship in Moscow prior to Hamburg were intended to send Washington a strong message of the two leading Eurasian powers alliance as indivisible -- based on results. Actions, not words are the basis for Moscow's evaluation of Trump and whether the new President has the power to deliver on his promises of improving U.S.-Russia relations. In addition to not wanting to be an echo, this is why the Russian Analyst waited a full week to give our opinion about the G20, to allow enough days for some demonstrable results we could point toward. Thankfully, there are indeed some early positive fruits from the meeting, not just words but demonstrated 'on the ground' in Syria:
The Russian-trained and equipped Syrian Arab Army has been sweeping demoralized 'moderate rebel' factions aside in the deserts east to southeast of Damascus. While this offensive was undoubtedly planned weeks or even months ago by the Russian general staff advising the Syrian high command, the green light for it hours after the G20 meeting likely indicates Moscow's confidence there would be no direct American-Israeli interference on behalf of their 'moderate' proxies.
The smashing success of the SAA in reclaiming ground it long lacked the resources if not the will to dislodge the 'rebels' from is further proof that the Trump Administration has largely abandoned the Obama era project of carving a 'Sunnistan' out of Syria's sovereign territory. Instead, Washington is salvaging what it can out of its multi-year investment in Syria regime change by settling for Plan C -- a rump Syrian Kurdistan -- Plan B having been a rump Allawite state along the coast being left (temporarily) for the Russians naval bases, while the Americans and their Sunni Gulf allies together dominated the rest.
One can get a sense of the teeth gnashing going on in neoconservative circles over the Trump Administration's tacit acceptance of Russia's dominant position in Syria from the two interviews Fox News host Tucker Carlson conducted this week. The first interview was with Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and neocon lunatic who infamously wrote after the 08/08/08 war instigated by then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that, "The Russians, on whom I have wasted far too much of my life, are drink-sodden barbarians who occasionally puke up a genius." The sequel to this interview the following night had a bemused Carlson squaring off with chicken-necked, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) imperialist warmonger Max Boot:
Russian MPs Almost a Stone's Throw from the Israeli Defense Forces? Haaretz Say It Ain't So
The Washington and Tel Aviv face-saving remnant of the Obama/Brennan 'Salafist principality' policy exposed by a notorious declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment (and one Moscow is more than prepared to accept for the sake of maintaining business like relations with the regional military hegemon Israel) involves buffer zones near the Israeli-held Golan Heights. These are to be patrolled by Russian military police, a significant portion of whom are Sunni Muslim Chechens.
Here we can see evidence that Moscow (like W our Intelligence Insider) perceived a serious risk of Israeli escalation if the pretext of the slightest Hezbollah or 'pro-Iranian Shi'a militias' presence remained in the area. In recent weeks, jihadist efforts to fire mortar rounds into empty fields along the Golan in order to signal for Israeli air and artillery support failed to defeat the SAA in the area around Quneitra. By placing its own troops in the area as a tripwire, Russia is hoping to stave off a bloody Israel-Hezbollah war that W the Intelligence Insider and others have predicted could kick off after the final defeat of ISIS in Syraq.
End game in the Euphrates Valley: Washington's Limited Room for Maneuver
If such a war can be prevented, the biggest remaining problem is of course the Kurdish question -- and Washington is clearly digging in for a long term military presence in northeastern Syria, adjoining an Iraqi Kurdistan that is contemplating an independence vote in September. There are also some military moves to be played out in the Euphrates Valley, as the so-called Race to or for the Euphrates comes to a crescendo. There are still some analysts like those of Southfront, who perceive a U.S. aim to capture as much territory as possible around the ISIS besieged city of Deir Ez Zor for the Kurdish SDF fighters. The transfer of American backed Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels from the SAA blocked American enclave at Al-Tanf by helicopter to the Syrian border town of Al-Shaddadi is supposed to be a move in this direction.
In reality, the city of Deir Ez Zor with its large pro-Damascus population is of little interest to the SDF Kurds, who nonetheless may be tempted to grab the oil and gas fields east of the government-controlled pocket. The U.S. backed Sunni Arab fighters are too few in number to make much headway against ISIS around the city. Even if a spectacular Islamic State retreat (read: evacuation under the lidless eyes of American drones) can be arranged, the SAA has a head start, and only about 100 miles of mostly open desert to cross. Damascus also has major reinforcements on its side from the Shi'a fighters of the Iraqi PMU, and the Iraqi Air Force has already demonstrated with the Mosul battle won the will to strike Daesh on Damascus' behalf inside Syrian territory.
If the Pentagon gets too cute in using American troops posing as 'moderate rebel advisers' to grab as much oil and gas for an all but declared Kurdish state inside Syria, the Russians can deploy their own spetsnaz or regular paratroopers to the Iraqi border with Deir Ez Zor province (backed up by Iraqi PMU at the border crossings) in short order. At any rate, those interested in reading how the SAA is likely to approach the final battle to crush Daesh at Deir Ez Zor can read this post at retired Army Colonel Pat Lang's blog.
The Glass Half Empty:
Basic Contradictions Between U.S. and Russian Elite Goals Trump-Putin Cannot Resolve
This article is not intended as yet another Syraq SITREP, though it may have seemed that way to RM regulars. Our intent was to start with the lower hanging fruit of Syria, where the neocon dream of Assad toppled on some chemical false flag pretext or another has already died and been buried, before proceeding to the toughest issues. Namely, Ukraine, not just as a broken country but a metaphor for the full spectrum struggle of Cold War 2, and the conflict's most intractable battlefield.
Here the U.S.-based globalists goal of blocking or at least severely disrupting Russian gas exports to Europe and scuttling the natural turn of German industry to the East was first frustrated, before Russian victory in Syria turned the tide against the post-Western powers. With the greatest prize of Crimea snatched away in a superbly executed operation, Russia avoided total war, while refusing to accept the Maidan coup- poisoned chalice of 'restored Ukrainian sovereignty': aka the mass expulsion of ethnic Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians from Donetsk and Lugansk. There will be no repeat of the U.S./NATO backed ethnic cleansing of the Serbian Krajina by the Croats in the mid-1990s, nor will there be any more free Kosovos or Libyas for NATO.
That all said, Russia's resistance has come at a cost -- even if one believes the toll from a 21st century surrender to the New World Order would be equal to, or in the long run worse than the Nazi genocide of the Russias in World War II and the territorial losses of the 1990s. As Putin said to film director Oliver Stone, one morning in 1992 20 million Russians who had lived in one country woke up outside the Russian Federation in other countries. That is an astounding number, far bigger than the number of Germans who ended up outside the borders of the Weimar Republic after the Treaty of Versailles and only rivaled in per capita terms by the number of ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon partitioned the collapsing Austro-Hungarian empire after WWI.
Granted, revanchism or warfare as a solution to such a problem is unacceptable. Putin's solution to the historic tragedy of peoples -- not just Russians, but also Ukrainians, Caucasians and Central Asians -- displaced by the Soviet collapse was one first proposed by his friend the president for life of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev: a Eurasian economic union, protected by a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) military alliance with China and Iran. All of these unions and alliances would be stronger than the weak Commonwealth of Independent States and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO aka the alliance between Russia, Armenia and the so-called 'Stans) that arose from the ashes of the failed Soviet project. What was the reaction of official Washington to such programs, particularly the undisguised Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)'s ambition to eventually harmonize with if not supersede the European Union (EU), in establishing Charles De Gaulle's dream of peace and prosperity across a Euro-Siberia from Lisbon to Vladivostok? To replace the old Cold War 'East vs. West' dialectic with, as many Russian thinkers proposed, a new Global North?
The reaction was of course, personified by Hillary Clinton. As Putin bitterly recalled, as early as 2012 she accused Moscow of aiming to resurrect the USSR under the guise of the EEU-- as if such a thing were possible even if it were desirable. Ms. Clinton's Bzrezinski-inspired rhetoric also ignored the fact that elites of nations like Armenia and Georgia were unlikely to ever again accept direct rule from Moscow, as unlike the peoples of Belarus or the 'Stans, they had historical existence as independent kingdoms rather than just pieces of larger empires. Ukraine, where Hillary parroted Brzezinski's axiom that Russia could not exist as an empire without its traditional borderland (a false assumption, since the Russian Federation is by itself a multinational realm united around a Slavic/Finno-Ugric ethnic core), remains a battleground, even as the stalemated fighting in Donbass became a sideshow to the Russians' far more visible success in Syria.
The Toughest Test for Improving U.S.-Russia Relations: Ukraine
As President Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw, Poland demonstrated, followed up by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's 'tough' rhetoric demanding Moscow rather than Kiev take the first steps to implement the Minsk Agreements, the new Administration's room to negotiate is far more restricted in Eastern Europe than in the Middle East. In Syria, there is an agreed common enemy for Washington and Moscow in ISIS as well as Al-Qaeda (despite the CIA's best efforts to leave its nominal enemies in the Global War on Terror untouched by the Pentagon). There is also the widespread recognition by all but Washington's most hard line neocons that a military solution to the Assad regime and/or direct clash with potentially nuclear escalation will never be supported by ordinary Americans.
Therefore Trump can basically throw the 'moderate Syrian rebels' under the bus and betray the soon to be former NATO ally Turks, who provided so much of their territory and arms warehouses to support the anti-Assad proxy war. Russia's powerful intervention in Syria succeeded in fracturing the elite consensus in Washington, and Trump's electoral success promising a different approach from Hillary's confrontation with Moscow demonstrated that peace in Syria permitting the refugees flooding into Europe to go home was popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Ukraine these dynamics do not exist, and the country's failing statehood and institutional rot accompanied by a devastated economy can be ignored at the Congressional level. Only a few 'oddballs' denounced as Putin's stooges on Capitol Hill like Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) openly state that Washington could consider recognizing the will of the Crimean people to rejoin Russia. Even fewer have the courage to openly state that the whole Ukraine policy from pre-Maidan 2013 EU-U.S. negotiations with the overthrown Viktor Yanukovych were a mistake. Open meddling by the Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S. election which ultimately failed and backfired on President Petro Poroshenko can only be punished covertly, as Kiev's Congressional friends like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) can insulate it from having to pay a price for offering dirt to Ukrainian-American investigators into alleged #TrumpRussia ties.
The Kremlin of course, recognizes this reality, which is why Moscow is far more cautious about the art of the deal in Ukraine than it is in Syria, where even its neocon adversaries concede it's already won (thanks to Obama's weakness, we're told, in not going to war on the basis of a false flag chemical attack in 2013). Russian TV with Dmitry Kiselyov recognizes these facts as well -- plucky, democracy loving Ukrainians are simply more sympathetic to an American or European audiences than sharia imposing 'moderate' Islamists who make their women wear full Saudi-style black burkahs in Idlib.
Ironically, where the scale of destruction to civilian lives and property is vastly greater in Syria, the ideological obstacles to national reconstruction of a Syrian republic on a federated, decentralized (read: Kurdish local ruling) basis (though one hesitates to cite post WWII Germany and Japan) are less than in Ukraine -- which more resembles a far weaker and internationally propped up version of the post WWI Weimar Republic. A hard core of ultranationalists if not 'Banderites' by the hundreds of thousands from Kharkov to Kiev to Lvov still thirst for revenge and see Ukraine as humiliated by its enemies, the 'zhids and Moskals', not recognizing that the worst humiliations for Ukrainians are inflicted by other Ukrainians (who serve as quislings for the globalists).
EU Sanctions Busting by Siemens and Bypassing Trade Restrictions Via Cutouts
Nonetheless, propping up the regime in Kiev comes at a continued cost, in promoting clever European ways to bypass the Crimea and Donbass related economic sanctions. Siemens AG for example, was recently caught busting EU sanctions against any direct trade with the strategic Black Sea peninsula. Less blatant than overt sanctions busting, subtler methods for bypassing the Washington-demanded EU restrictions involve a growing number of shell corporations registered in the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, notwithstanding his tough talk that no sanctions will be dropped until Moscow restores Ukraine's 'territorial sovereignty and integrity' (meaning the Kremlin committing political suicide and abandoning the new Russian citizens in Crimea and the Donetsk/Lugansk statelets) has expressed irritation with the notion that American taxpayers should shoulder a greater share of the Kiev-subsidizing burden than those of the EU, especially of Germany. Meanwhile, even as Congress demands tightened sanctions on Russia, the German Foreign Ministry has started showing some surprising backbone in refusing to accept an extraterritorial killing of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, designed together with the southern Turkstream route to completely eliminate any necessity of using Ukraine for Russian gas transit to the rest of Europe by 2020.
Endgame in Ukraine: A Problem Only a Combined Eurasia Can Solve
In the next three years ahead of the 2020 presidential election, during this period of geostrategic stalemate over Ukraine's fate, Ukrainians will continue to flee their country for work in Poland, the rest of the EU, and in Russia. The myth of Washington and Brussels creating a glorious Russian speaking 'anti-Russia' right next door to the Russian Federation as a freedom loving alternative to Putin's tyranny will be ground into the Ukraine's famous black earth.
For the next few months, any broad military escalation in the Donbass seems unlikely, as the political dead man walking since 2015 President Poroshenko has no commitment to enduring the heavy casualties necessary to achieve anything more than symbolic gains on the battlefield. The Ukrainian Army's morale and combat effectiveness -- such as it ever was -- has been ground down by over two years of debilitating trench warfare, against an enemy largely made up of locals fighting for their homes with Russian-paid salaries and weapons. The appointment by the Trump White House of envoy Kurt Volker, a former CIA analyst and McCain Institute neocon, as Washington's negotiator heralds more aggressive posturing. But Volker's bark is likely to prove worse than his bite, and change little on the ground. This example of personnel as policy does however, again demonstrate Trump's weak position versus the anti-Russia hawks, to whom he has already conceded with the appointment of Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Notwithstanding reality: the legacy media's #TrumpRussia collusion case is a house of cards, based on Crowdstrike's falsified data forensics and a politicized, Cold War 2.0 demanding intelligence community serving the military industrial complex, this witch hunt continues to hamper the Administration as Obama loyalists and the Deep State intended. Even though we expect Trump to politically survive the best efforts of the deep state to fabricate a case for impeachment, his own party and even some of his high ranking White House appointees like National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster will go on favoring neolibcon Establishment policies, sabotaging his major foreign policy plank of improving U.S.-Russia relations.
Forget Any Large Scale Russian Intervention or Tanks in Kiev:
Only China's New Silk Road and Joint Chinese Ventures With European Firms Can Save Ukraine
Ultimately, any solution to the Ukraine conflict must come from outside of the country's rotten and tottering oligarchic system, but cannot be imposed by Russia either. Bringing the terrible Donbass war from semi-frozen to finished conflict will require a chastened Washington, a new Europe free to openly work with Russia, and a much more assertive China. Before then, it will require Ukrainians who do not wish to live in a depopulating country, where all problems are blamed on a neighboring state containing their kith and kin, to stand up to the Kiev oligarchs and their 'volunteer battalion' thugs. And this will likely prove impossible without at least some guns and manpower from the Ukrainian Army.
Nonetheless, Ukraine has a long way to go before the cult of Nazi collaborator war criminals Bandera and Shushkeyvich, and eternal national victim-hood with all its pathologies, can finally be buried. Our forecast made in last week's article "You Forgot About Poland, Part 2" published after Trump's big speech in Warsaw stands: Ukraine is headed for a soft, not (for many years to come) de facto partition. Poland and its Visegrad partner allies together with Austria will dominate investment west of the Dnieper, with Germany as the major partner. Russia through the Eurasians (think: Kazahk, Armenian and Georgian firms with quiet Russian capital) will invest heavily into the country's historically Russian east and southeastern regions. Before the Russians can overtly bring their money back, the Chinese will have to partner with Europeans to salvage what they must and improve where they can.