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I think the situation is getting messy.

I think Zelensky has a very weak position, given the weakness of the Ukrainian government and its dependency on the US. As an example, Biden as vice president bragged about getting the Ukrainian Attorny General fired. The debate centered on wheter he did it to protect his son, but the point that the US VP could have the Ukrainian AG fired, was as far as I know never disputed. But I don't think Zelensky is a puppet of Biden, if so he wouldn't have gone of script several times regarding the impending invasion narrative.

Given the US medias narrative of "The Russians are coming" and weapons shipments to Ukraine, the withdrawal of US and UK OSCE inspectors from the frontline, and the neo-nazi Azov battalion being hailed on US media (mostly without mentioning that it is the Azov battalion), I think if the governments wants to halt the build up of tensions, it is no longer clear that they can. The Azov battalion probably have both the means and the motive to start the war.

And yes, if Ukrainian forces attacks the rebels, Russia will most likely respond and win the military fight. This will no doubt be descirbed as an unprovoced  Russian attack on Ukraine, paving the way for more sanctions and stopping the Nord Stream 2 (that at least Biden claims he can stop), and possibly ending more gas supplies from Russia to the EU. In turn creating a captured market for US LNG, and long term weakening EU and tying it tighter to the US. In addition a war can create a new wave of refugees to strenghten the far right within the EU.

Was this the intended result? Maybe, but escalations has a tendency to take a life of their own.

And here I was thinking it was merely the ploy from "Wag the dog" with a fake war to amp up arms sales and patriotism. Seems no matter how cynical one gets, there is always more steps.

by fjallstrom on Mon Feb 21st, 2022 at 10:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All this is precisely why I have been backing a strong European response to Putin (historically I am, to put it mildly, not a NATO hawk). Because the whole current crisis exists, and escalates, only because Putin wants it to. And I don't imagine for a single second that the situation is getting out of hand from Putin's point of view; I think he's loving it.

I keep coming back to the idea that it's all about Germany, and the SPD's great project of economic integration of Russia into Europe. In that respect, things have evolved significantly over the weekend : the Chancellor and the President, who were both firm partisans of Scröder's legacy, have now felt obliged to back their Foreign Minister... this is not necessarily what Putin intended.

Interesting times. The Energiewende announced by the coalition depends implicitly on Russian gas... but gas is eminently fungible.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Feb 21st, 2022 at 02:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All this is precisely why I have been backing a strong European response to Putin (historically I am, to put it mildly, not a NATO hawk). Because the whole current crisis exists, and escalates, only because Putin wants it to. And I don't imagine for a single second that the situation is getting out of hand from Putin's point of view; I think he's loving it.

Here is where we see things differently. I am sure Putin will attempt to use this crisis, in particular if he has concluded that sanctions are a given anyway. But fundamentally, I see it as driven by a US media campaign. My grounds for that are:

  • Scott Ritter, and other commentators, who has been arguing during the fall that there is no invasion force gathered on the border, but that the US media campaign counts troops on Russian bases a fair distance from the border.
  • That the Ukrainian government - primarily Zelensky - has several times tried to tamp down the media campaign.
  • That the US refuses to present any evidence for its assertions, indeed getting huffy when a journalist asks what the evidence is. Lets see if I manage to embed a tweet, otherwise follow the link to twitter to see the clip with Ned Price and Matt Lee.

Really, the last one should be sufficient. If one power claims that another is about to wage war, they have the burden of proof. I think US propaganda learned from the Iraq war media campaing to not focus on faked evidence and statements that can be proven as lies, but instead doing a Gish gallop of claims based on secret evidence, leaks from unnamed officials, etc to create the desired story, which lasts even if parts are debunked.

Therefore I don't think a more robust answer to Putin would have helped, I think the US attempt of getting  the EU countries in line is part of whatever it is they are doing.

I keep coming back to the idea that it's all about Germany, and the SPD's great project of economic integration of Russia into Europe. In that respect, things have evolved significantly over the weekend : the Chancellor and the President, who were both firm partisans of Scröder's legacy, have now felt obliged to back their Foreign Minister... this is not necessarily what Putin intended.

Interesting times. The Energiewende announced by the coalition depends implicitly on Russian gas... but gas is eminently fungible.

That could very well be the real focus. But again, since I think it is US driving the crisis (unless they have lost control), I think a rift between Germany and Russia is what the US intended.

And if so it is working:

So far this month, the European Union has received U.S. natural gas volumes five times higher than Russia's pipeline deliveries, according to Polish outlet rp.pl, the first time in history in which American LNG has surpassed Russian gas deliveries.  

That was mid-January.

by fjallstrom on Mon Feb 21st, 2022 at 04:01:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. The US media forced Putin to make unrealistic demands to reorganise European security, and now they have forced him to send troops into the Donbass.

Sorry for the irony, but I don't see Biden's signature on this crisis. My tendency was to see Putin messing with the US midterms by humiliating Biden.

On the other hand, I don't understand the gas market. An explainer diary would be useful, becaus I think you do.

For starters : is it a given that Russian gas stops flowing through Ukraine today? Or is that contingent on whether they cross the ceasefire line?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 08:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we look at the timeline, the US media campaign started early November with 90 000 troops. It got Ukriane on board 3rd of November after the minister of defense was replaced:

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine complained Wednesday that Russia has kept tens of thousands of troops not far from the countries' border after war games, as part of its attempts to exert pressure on its ex-Soviet neighbor.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry's statement marked an about-turn from its denial of any Russian military buildup -- as reported in U.S. media -- just two days earlier.

The ministry said Wednesday that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed not far from the border and in rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine's east. It said specifically that units of the Russian 41st army have remained in Yelnya, about 260 kilometers (about 160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.

"Russia has periodically deployed and built up troops to maintain tensions in the region and exert political pressure on neighboring countries," it said.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's Defense Minister Andriy Taran submitted his resignation and Ukrainian lawmakers quickly approved it Wednesday. Davyd Arakhamia, the head of the parliamentary faction of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party, said Taran had health problems.

The Russian proposal for a security treaty came one and a half months later:

Putin's demands include stopping NATO from expanding east, including closing Ukraine's door to membership, and halting its deployment of weapons in neighboring states.

Ushakov said Putin informed Chinese President Xi Jinping of the U.S. and NATO security guarantee proposal during virtual talks Wednesday.

"The Chinese president stressed that he [...] fully supports our initiative to develop appropriate security guarantees for Russia," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Putin's aide added that the Russian leader agreed to keep Xi informed "about how negotiations develop on this matter with American and NATO partners."

What the actors think they were doing is often not observable until later (when diaries, memos etc becomes accessible for historians, or if they brag about it).

When the US media starts a campaign to claim that the other side is about to attack, that is part of US preparations for war at least increased sanctions. So if there wasn't a build up at the border (which Russia would know), I think viewing the media story as hostile is reasonable.

The increased hostilities along the seize fire line in Donbass this week was more from the Ukrainian side, that much we can know from OSCE. We also know that it was portrayed as Russian aggression from day one.

Were Ukrainian forces about to attack Donbass on a large scale? We don't know.

If as you say Putin decided to humiliate Biden, why the whole "Russia is about to attack Ukraine" campaign from November and onwards from the US?

by fjallstrom on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 10:14:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I'm trying to follow your reasoning here :

Putin was unjustly getting a bad press about his completely imaginary intentions to invade Ukraine.

He reacts by demanding a complete redo of European defense arrangements, which none of the other actors concerned are interested in entertaining.

This vexes him even further.

Meanwhile, lots of people are getting excited because of the US propaganda campaign, and (controlled/uncontrolled) elements of the Ukraine forces along the Donbass front line have fired some shells.

Also, (and I have no sources for this) Putin alleges that there is ethnic cleansing going on (how many thousands of ethnic Russian Ukranians have fled to Russia in recent months? Or are they held in secret prison camps?

After such unbearable provocation, Putin goes on an unhinged rant about how Ukraine has always been a natural part of Russia, and... invades Ukraine.

And this is a victory for Uncle Joe?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 11:46:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, after reflection (and discussion with my wife) I can converge somewhat with you, Fjallstrom :

Perhaps Putin and Biden are objective allies, insofar as they are each other's useful idiots :

Biden is seen to be "standing up to a bully" and to be "proved right" about Putin's malevolent intentions. He could care less about another war in eastern Europe. No skin in the game.

Putin is delighted to stand up to Biden, to excite his population about alleged Russian greatness, and to have a little low-cost military action. He could care less about his country's economy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 05:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is very possible, yes.

And Ukraine is then the big loser, with EU as secondary losers.

The reason I try to focus on what we know and don't know, is that everyone, and in particular organisations, act on what they think they know, and sometimes they are plain wrong. The Russian government could think that the sanctions won't bite because it would punish the EU more, or they could think that sanctions is coming anyway. Both would lead to ignoring threats of sanctions, regardless of if they are true. The US government could think that by claiming that Russia is about to attack they force the Russian hand, but the predicted move could have been something other than what happened.

I keep coming back to Failure of a mission, by Sir Nevile Henderson, British embassador to Nazi Germany. He describes appeasement from the inside. Essentially they thought that the Versailles treaty was a mistake that led to the rise of Nazism (and thus far most historians would agree to some extent), therefore it could be turned around by giving Germany the borders it should have gotten in Versailles. And if it gained those borders peacefully it would strengthen the peace wing within the Nazi party. This was proven wrong when Germany invaded rump Czechoslovakia, so Brittain started preparing for war. Henderson was wrong, but it wasn't unreasonable given what they knew.

On the other side, the German government thought that Brittains acceptance of the annexation of Austria and the Munich treaty was proof that Brittain would never go to war over east Europe and for a long time expected Brittain to stay out or make a separate peace. They were also wrong.

And the USSR government thought they had bought enough time to build up so they could attack and defeat Nazi Germany. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

And of course, I could be wrong. If Russia uses Donbas as a spring board and attacks the rest of Ukraine, then I was wrong. That the US is crying wolf doesn't prove there isn't a wolf. But I sure hope there isn't a war.

by fjallstrom on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 07:08:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
About gas, I don't know more then I picked up over the years. I could try to do a starter and we could add to it.
by fjallstrom on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 10:15:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was intrigued by your remark that gas storage didn't fit with the European energy market, and I don't understand why European buyers of Russian gas prefer to pay spot prices rather than negotiate long-term contracts.

So I'm keen.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 11:53:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one political group invented international, "global," trade in raw, intermediate, and finished goods yesterday or when the USSR devolved into its several sovereign nation-states' governments and treasuries. Neither was the allocation of resources for subsistence, surplus (stored value), nor profit by one  extracted from another's instant want and poverty. Two sides of every trade is the ancient union.

At this juncture in world history, in some regions, 'consumer' segments, households, accustomed to instant gratification, the 500 ticker symbols, the face of any one business executive, or any one politician masks the fallacy of market equilibrium and ineluctable free trade, paradoxically, enforced by intra-government selections of "trading partners" among nations and corporate trusts among domestic industries.

At this juncture, while some people fret over the significance of any one politician's motive for apparently upsetting "international norms" of free trade, sovereign states, and political divisions said to constitute a "rational system of government", let us recall that the opening act of Europe's energy "crisis" began in Washington DC to benefit "US-based" oil and gas producers and international investors. U.S. Senators Introduce Expedited LNG for American Allies Act, 2012
archived Mr Juncker Goes to Washington, EU-U.S. Joint Statement: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports from the U.S.

reference
Liang et al., "The role of natural gas as a primary fuel in the near future, including comparisons of acquisition, transmission and waste handling costs of as with competitive alternatives" (2012)

EIA | Drilling natural gas wells and producing natural gas; wet Natural gas processed for sale and consumption

Council of Foreign Relations | The Shale Gas and Tight Oil Boom (2013)
"Rising oil prices help the U.S. petrochemicals industry as long as natural gas prices remain low. If enough domestic natural gas were exported such that U.S. natural gas prices again moved with oil prices, the U.S. petrochemicals industry would no longer benefit from rising oil prices."

wikiwtf | North Dakota oil boom, 2006-2020
rig count and pipelines, yanno, like Keystone
The Atlantic | A North Dakota Oil Boom Goes Bust (2015)

WorldBank | Rising efficiency gains in U.S. shale oil
"Booming U.S. shale oil production played a significant role in the oil price plunge from mid-2014 to early 2016. Efficiency gains in the sector lowered break-even prices considerably, making U.S. shale oil the de facto marginal cost producer on the international oil market. "

BLS | The 2014 plunge in import petroleum prices: What happened? (2015)
"After peaking at $107.95 a barrel on June 20, 2014, petroleum prices plunged to $44.08 a barrel by January 28, 2015, a drop of 59.2 percent in a little over 7 months"

by Cat on Wed Feb 23rd, 2022 at 01:24:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now would be a good time to lift the embargo on Iranian oil. Just declare a pause on Iranian sanctions, or declare a breakthrough.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2022 at 02:48:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The year 2014 was a critical year with the coup d'etat in Kyiv and crisis in Middle East, the quagmire of allied forces in Syria and rise of more extreme IS ... the outrage.

As I recall US shale oil in those years upset the OPEC markt and in Europe Ukraine was a prime target for future production .. think Burisma. The Gulf States added production to get global price below $60 a barrel to make shale production not profitable.

Today it will be LNG transport for the immediate future. As I had written it will bite the EU state hard, starting with Germany.

Life for everyone would be so much better when nations do not let economic competition lead to war, but use diplomacy to settle differences. Ever since the Soviet Union fell apart, that seems a bridge too far for the sole global military power.

The grievances of Russia were well defined and known. The US didn't much care starting under the Clinton years.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2022 at 05:37:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wall Street stock markets are at an inflection point ... Dow 10% down from highs, NASDAQ even worse, with debt level quite high, due to inflation the FED needs to raise interest rates that will bite government budget for coming years ... a bit of recession will cool the market down, employment and in the EU at least will squeeze household budget for many as income will lag behind rising cost of living.

A look at what history shows about past stock market corrections

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2022 at 06:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Haaretz -- Azov

Founded as a volunteer militia by members of the Patriot of Ukraine neo-Nazi group during the early days of the war in country's east, in 2014, Azov helped recapture Mariupol from the separatists before being incorporated into the national guard as a regiment. Its troops have been accused of war crimes by the United Nations, while its paramilitary arm, the National Corps, has been linked to attacks on local Roma and members of the LGBT community.

But while there has been vigilante violence by far-right groups over the past decade, some of it reported by Colborne for Haaretz, violence against Jews is relatively rare - despite years of Russian media reports claiming the opposite.

Despite the consistently poor showing of Azov's political wing in Ukrainian elections, Russia has consistently played up its existence as evidence that the country is controlled by a fascist junta. Many Ukrainians are loath to discuss the movement, though, calling the allegations against it Kremlin propaganda.
[...]
Ironically, as Russian media was accusing Ukraine of sweeping neo-Nazis under the rug this week, the country's parliament passed a bill on Tuesday establishing financial penalties and prison terms for those convicted of hate crimes against Jews. In order to be enacted, the bill now awaits the signature of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is himself Jewish.



It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 04:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukrainian oligarchs are well balanced to keep both sides satisfied - pro- and anti-Russia

Israel and especially Netanyahu kept both relationships - Poroshenko and Putin - close. Putin played all religions well besides the Russian Orthodox, also the renovation of Synagogues and Grand Mosque in Moscow and a synagogue in Sochi.

Yad Vashem and Holocaust: Putin's Private Party

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2022 at 08:17:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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