Yesterday afternoon the Russia Analyst was driving to work when he noticed billowing smoke from a burning building off the interstate. On the radio, Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" was playing. It seemed a fitting soundtrack for a curiously grim August day. Everything was familiar, yet strangely off. By now all RogueMoney readers have heard about the passing of the Guerrilla's friend and fellow New Yorker, Michael Rosecliff. Although we didn't know Mike well, we had bantered with him as the Russia Analyst online and listened to his radio appearances, with the exception of his brief but memorable appearance on the Hagmann and Hagmann Report.
When pondering human frailty, our contributions to the RM community and 'Russia analyzing' seemed suddenly very small, passing thing, like scorched grass going through one's fingers after being plucked from a field. A good farmer knows his soil and holds his almanac, but doesn't know what the sky is going to be bring next week. This seems to be a good metaphor for late 2015.
We all KNOW, at least those of us in the RogueMoney 'brain trust', where things are headed in the big picture. We all feel 'the quickening' and realize big powers like China do not dump $100 billion in U.S. Treasuries on a whim. Not even when toxic chemical plants including those used to refine silver are blowing up amidst rumors of rods from the gods and twice, or three times invoking Ian Fleming's cliché about enemy action. What we cannot know is exactly how bad the damage is going to be when the long-predicted hurricanes or supercell systems roll through this September and October.
Last week the Russia Analyst was down with the worst flu-like symptoms he'd felt since catching a Moscow influenza the day MH17 was shot down. Neither my wife nor I experienced typical respiratory flu symptoms, only the body aches and general lack of energy such that driving to the doctor on a sunny mid-August day became difficult. Why does it seem to this writer that God sends illnesses as little wake up calls to pray more, perhaps, accompanied by the events that compound our own insecurities and sense of incomplete preparations? The bags are waiting to be packed, the one year Russian business visa in my passport is ready, the plane tickets purchased for a brief breakaway from the dreariness of Midwestern not yet winter doldrums. But there is no job awaiting yet another expat in the Third Rome, should the дерьмо hit the fan very soon.
The mountains are calling (Die berge rufen)...
Prior to seeing the in-laws for the first time since we left a Moscow sliding into proxy war last summer, we do plan a stop someplace sunny and cheerful, where the beer is good and the 'mountains are calling'. Yet we will nonetheless fight the urge to be checking our phone even on vacation for glimpses of the accelerating meltdown. As we texted to the Guerrilla last Friday just before he went on with Dave (definitely not Hodges) of the X22 Report, someone decided to kick off the September Shemitah selloff before going away to the Hamptons or cherishing the early fall colors before more snow falls in the Canadian Rockies...or on the dacha.
Moscow in early autumn, as viewed by a drone...
Growing Weary of the Bloody Stalemate from Donbass to Damascus
In all fairness we've noticed a similar sense of weariness in the Russia watching community and among the Russians themselves. Moscow is not conceding an inch of Damascus or Donbass to Washington's proxies, but there is no progress in ending the fighting in either bloody theater of confrontation either. The geopolitical and proxy wars between the Washington-led Empire of Chaos and the Eurasian axis appear to be locked in a deadly stalemate, like World War One's Western Front in 1915-16. People in Donetsk suburbs and Gorlovka keep dying under Kiev's shells, but the Ukrainian offensive allegedly planned for Kiev's independence day holiday on August 24 has proven to be a dud so far.
Perhaps German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande persuaded Washington's puppet President Petro Poroshenko not to go forward with his attack. But we doubt it, considering that there's really only one, occupying power in Kiev whose opinion matters. And that's the one supplying the IV drip of IMF cash animating the zombie that is this morally and financially bankrupt, endless war waging regime.
[embed]https://twitter.com/SputnikInt/status/635572308795617280[/embed] Another theory about the offensive that didn't open on August 24 is that the Ukrainians, always short on battlefield logistics but supposedly sustained by knitting babushkas and teenage volunteers' lunch moneys, may have run short on shells or fuel for their tanks. Col. Cassad and other pro-Russian sources have hinted that the Novorossiya Armed Forces (NAF) counterbattery fire has exacted a heavy toll on UAF artillerymen and infantry over the last two weeks, with an average of a few killed and two dozen men med-evaced through occupied Donbass field hospitals per day (see this blog post in Yandex translate). As Vineyard of the Saker blog contributor 'Scott' translates from pro-NAF social media postings:
Military losses of the parties in fact are secret, but judging by the information leaks to the press by the junta, they reach up to 100-120 people a week killed and wounded. Obviously, losses and on the part of the Armed Forces of Novorossia. Here it can be noted that the level of military censorship on both sides has grown significantly. Although, as shown by the battle for Debaltseve, in the battle party Armed Forces of Ukraine lost control of the information and much of what might fall outside the framework of public attention was leaked.
[embed]https://twitter.com/Ian56789/status/635406876994334720[/embed] The U.S. Army would probably have trouble sustaining a casualty rate like that along line brigades and companies, and we imagine such casualties from the most intense artillery and GRAD duels of the last fortnight have wreaked havoc on Kiev's sad sack, majority-conscript units. Last summer, such losses probably could have been made good within weeks or at worst a few months. But today, Ft. Russ reports even previously cocky Ukrainian young men no longer want to fight in what they see as a meaningless, meatgrinder war that Kiev either cannot or will not win.
Many of the most fanatical Ukrainian 'patriots' do their best to avoid any real fighting, proclaiming themselves (like the Azov battalion) to be 'light infantry' or Interior Ministry troops. With the exception of a brief Azov cameo at Ilovaisk (we suspect Swedish 'ex' Nazi superman Mikael Skillt made up most of his 'kills' there, as he obviously didn't stick around for the NAF encirclement) they leave the bleeding and dying at Donetsk Airport and Debaltsevo to some Right Sector and the conscripts. The most recent round of mobilizations barely met half of their projected targets. Ukrainian young men are hiding out from the draft by attending university or lower level technical and vocational colleges in Poland or Romania in record numbers.
On the other side, whatever the NAF may lack in terms of quantity compared to the Kiev forces they are making up for in morale if not quality. As we've discussed in previous posts here at RM, none other than the U.S. Army's top commander in Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges has admitted that Ivan owns the electronic battlefield in eastern Ukraine, with lethal consequences for the Ukrainians. This means that the NAF or I should say 'combined Russian-separatist forces' to use the Pentagon's jargon can triangulate the firing positions of their Ukrainian adversaries far before the jammed Ukrainians can hope to spot or estimate the firing points of the NAF gunners and mortarmen. Given these facts it's not surprising in relatively static warfare along the front from the Sea of Azov north to the northern outskirts of Lugansk, the Ukrainians are killing some NAF soldiers, but still losing far more of their own. That pattern of 2 or even 5 Ukrainians dying in combat for every one of the NAF is likely to continue even as Novorossiya and Russian volunteer losses from a Kiev offensive will prove substantial.
Lies and Damned Lies: The CIA and their Sleazeball SBU Protégés Manage to Plant a Story in Russian Media
Another possibility include that the rumors about large parts of the UAF not wanting to fight and only being forced to advance into lethal NAF artillery, anti-tank missile and GRAD rocket fire with Right Sector and foreign mercenary guns to their backs are true. The NAF boasted this week that its partisans have killed ten Polish mercenaries behind Ukrainian lines, but produces no visual evidence of such a successful raid, even if few people can tell the difference between dead Poles or Ukrainians wearing the same uniforms. Vice News, the Anglo-American globalists' hipster propaganda site, produced a loving, at times laughably 'human interest' portrait of the Europeans fighting for the SS flag waving Azov Battalion.
[embed]https://twitter.com/MikaelSkillt/status/632887249374478336[/embed] Former Air Force pilot Nolan W. Peterson, now shilling for U.S. $ and arms to Kiev -- Swedish 'ex' Nazi 'white power warrior' endorsed
We suspect someone at the Pentagon or in the State Department wanted to correct the impression people may've formed since 'out of my face' guy's Zerohedge-logged appearance on camera in January that Azov's foreign fighters represented fanatically pro-NATO Swedish politician Carl Bildt or a Blackwater/Greystone rejects foreign legion. Ever since the longest serving member of Congress John Conyers (D-MI) pushed through a bill to cut off official American aid to the Azov Nazis, they have been the beneficiary of a major PR blitz, which includes a former Bush Administration official named Kristofer Harrison and two U.S. vets portraying them as some sort of elite group of freedom fighters rather than the thugs and Nazi love-lifes that they are. One wonders who is paying for this garbage, and what neocon or NATO front group Atlantic Council slush funds have been tapped for the terribly urgent task of making SS rune flag wavers look less Nazi-fied and more like the badass legends they are in their own minds.
Afghanistan U.S. Army veteran Adrian Bonenberger, who can't see the irony in his own tweet -- or the total U.S. failure to produce any intel to back up its assertions blaming Russia for shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17
The Ukrainian SBU's disinformation artists, fresh off Newsweek and the UK Times of London presstitutes breathlessly repeating their ridiculous lies about a Donbass dirty bomb, are now planting stories in obscure Russian publications about thousands of dead Russian soldiers and death benefits paid to their families to keep quiet. If back in the 1980s Evil Empire days the KGB planted stories in obscure Third World publications about the CIA creating AIDS in a lab somewhere to kill blacks, it seems the Langley boys are more than capable of paying to plant their own disinformatziya in Russian media. Crap intended to discredit anything appearing in the Russian press like this 'too good to be true' 'satellite picture' of a Ukrainian Su-27 shooting down MH17.
Ukro-taqiya, or how the Ukrainian embassies and security service SBU goons make stuff up, as told by exiled journalist Anatoly Sharii
Nonetheless, for every finger the SBU are pointing at the Russians there are four fingers pointing back at them and the mainstream media, refusing to report on the anonymous mass graves, the huge and expanding cemeteries, or previous Ukrainian nationalist complaints that Kiev has been disposing of its servicemen's remains (and perhaps, as Ft. Russ and Jim Willie allege, did a brisk business harvesting their organs). It seems the Associated Press, Reuters, BBC and Bloomberg can all maintain the big lie that Kiev has lost 'only' about 2,500 KIA or at least play dumb and keep their mouths shut about Kiev's likely 16,000+ body count indefinitely, despite the work of myself and others to expose the grisly truth.
A defector from the Ukrainian armed forces (UAF), one of over 8,000 that the Kiev regime recently admitted joined the Novorossiya forces (NAF)
At the end of the day, no matter how good the Langley boys are at getting idiot or venal Russian liberals to dance to their tune, we don't see their propaganda having much effect on Russians. The Russian ruble and economy are headed for very hard times indeed, but show us and the Russians a part of the industrialized world that isn't. Unlike in Soviet times Russians aren't cut off from the news in the rest of the world or having to view it through the ruling Party's ideological lens. In Moscow they have high speed (faster and cheaper than here) Internet, complete with U.S. government propaganda websites like RFE/RL or the Voice of America uncensored.
Furthermore, despite an undeniably pro-government slant to the TV coverage, Russians like many other Europeans also receive news that U.S. media can hardly be bothered to cover. For example, our dear mother in law just last week was asking the wife whether Germany really was being flooded with migrants from the Middle East and Africa -- surprise, surprise, Russian TV is giving far more coverage to The Camp of the Saints style-catastrophe unfolding in the EU than are globalist, open borders friendly Anglo-American media.
Whether Americans are going to buy into the coming 'those dastardly Russians and Chinese killed the dollar and hacked your bank account, forcing us to bail you in and freeze your funds' propaganda blitz is an interesting question. Check back with us about that in the spring.
Putin to the MAKS -- Russian Leader Hosts High Ranking Delegations from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE at Moscow Air Show
Before our upcoming September hiatus from posting here at RogueMoney, we do have a few thoughts to share with this community on how the Russian bear is digging in for the long economic winter ahead.
As we noticed when we couldn't sleep before dawn Tuesday, the number of Mideast potentates visiting Moscow this week was quite large, and significantly represented numerous 'staunch' U.S. allies in the region -- Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis were all sending high ranking princes if not heads of state to Moscow. At the same time, the Kremlin's allies on the opposite side of the Syrian conflict in the form of the Assad regime and the Iranians were also conspicuously present in the Russian capital. Putin's meeting at the MAKS 2015 air show with the crown prince of Abu Dhabu, Mohammed Al Nahyan, and the King of Jordan Abdullah II received top billing on RT and in the Russian press. U.S. and British media, not surprisingly, ignored these major diplomatic moves on the part of what have traditionally been the most pro-American Arab states, taking advantage of a news cycle dominated by the markets meltdown, psycho TV anchor shooters, and the latest Trump pro wrestling antics.
Thankfully, we noticed Cambridge University alum Yury Barmin's August 24-25 tweets about the high level caravan of sheikhs, princes and diplomats meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the MAKS2015 Air Show, where Moscow puts its latest military hardware on display for export customers. We forwarded these tweets with a couple paragraphs of slapdash late night Russia analyses to fellow members of the RogueMoney brain trust, as well as TeamRM's friend Jim Willie. The Golden Jackass wrote back a line -- that the high-level Moscow meetings could be about renmibi for crude and the oil price in addition to the overt agenda of Syria and peacemaking between the Saudis and Iranians. To put these important meetings in more context, we noticed Monday night that Iran's state-funded Press TV and numerous pro-Shi'a Twitter feeds were full of reports and videos concerning Houthi and allied Yemeni tribesmen killing Saudi soldiers, and shouting the trifecta of 'Allahu akbar/death to America/death to Israel' while destroying armored vehicles inside Saudi Arabia's southern border.
Yemen is Shaping Up to be a Costly Quagmire for the Saudis and their Persian Gulf Arab State Allies
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYerF_51wOw[/embed] The Houthis, of course, are slightly Shi'a--like Sunnis, not 'twelver' Shi'a like the rulers of Iran. And there is supposedly an arms embargo in place to prevent the Iranians from shipping deadly cargoes into Saudi and Gulf Allied-invaded Yemen via air or sea. Judging by the video of Saudi or UAE Apaches being shot down using MANPADs and Abrams and Bradleys burning from anti-tank missiles, it seems the hardy Houthi fighters looted plenty of Soviet surplus and U.S.-supplied weaponry from Yemeni government arsenals. It also appears that even the older generation of Soviet 1980s vintage ATGMs are capable of killing Saudi Arabia's made in the USA, first-generation Abrams and older M-60 tanks. The Soviet 'Fagot' ATGMs in Houthi/Yemeni tribal hands can certainly kill Saudi Bradleys and lighter armored vehicles, as well destroy block posts and guard towers. Once again, as we noticed this past weekend, one of Jim Willie's forecasts has come true. The Saudis truly are facing a nightmarish quagmire in Yemen and against the restive tribes inside their southern borders as well.
Can the Russians, Iranians and Saudis All Strike a Deal to Bury the PetroDollar?
Given these ominous developments, and the Iranians capacity to supply further armaments if necessary via cigarette boats or other smuggling means to bleed Riyadh's forces, it's little surprise the Saudis are getting desperate. Their proxy war to oust Assad and lock arms with the Qataris on new oil and gas pipelines through the Levant to Turkey and Europe has failed in Syria. Proxy war it turns out can also be fought in both directions, and Saudi soldiers can die on Saudi soil as easily as Syrian soldiers fighting for Assad can be killed near Damascus. The 'tribes are rising up' as Dave from the X22 report likes to say, threatening attacks on infrastructure and military bases from the south while the Saudis are facing their Frankenstein creation ISIS from the north.
The falling price of oil that supposedly was a joint Saudi-American plot to break the Russians has smashed the North American shale oil and gas industry, but has also forced the Kingdom to borrow billions for the first time since the post-2009 crude collapse. The Russians are hanging on by aggressively pursuing a program of import substitution aided by a devalued ruble, rather than burning through dollar and euro reserves to prop their currency up. Iran is poised to bring a huge amount of new crude capacity online thanks to Western investment and Tehran's nuclear peace deal with Washington at the very moment that demand from China for oil is falling fast.
Clearly it's in the interests of the Russians, Saudis and Iranians to come to some sort of understanding about the oil price -- if at all possible. But can these old until recent sworn enemies become 'frenemies' fast enough to coordinate some sort of floor beneath the crude carnage?
In his column for To the Death Media, fellow RMer Ken "the Shotgun" Shortgen Jr. is asking similar questions:
With the global economy spiraling towards recession, and nations everywhere devaluing their currencies to protect their remaining lifelines for exports, the countries that rely upon supplying producing nations with commodities such as oil and natural gas are at the precipice of a crisis. And a solution to this may just be a divestiture from the dollar, and the key to unshackling themselves from a future of massive inflation, and from remaining under the thumb of a U.S. foreign policy that less than five years ago, led to an Arab Spring, and chaotic civil unrest.
Are they also finally ready, with the launch of Russia and China's alternative to SWIFT payment systems and Shanghai's gold settlement, to make Eurasian currencies rather than the dollar the denominations through which the world's most important commodity is priced? And is China's move to devalue the yuan a prelude to the renmibi pushing the overvalued dollar aside as the world's petro-reserve currency?
The geopolitical chess players are in position. The board is set. If the meetings this week in Moscow are anything to evaluate where we're at by, the dollar is right on schedule to be completely undermined -- but not disappear -- by the end of 2015. As Gandalf said in the Return of the King, it's the deep breath before the plunge.