Reports from an Unidentified Russian Operative

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

A MASSIVE CAVEAT upfront here, as with the first letter attributed to an FSB insider: this could be a psyop, it may be complete balderdash, and this time I have no further attempts to validate the source of the content to follow below.

However these three follow-up letters came through the same manner the first did — a Russian human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin published them to his website. I’m sharing here a translated version by a Ukrainian-born race car driver, Igor Sushko. You’ll note I’ve left Sushko’s interstitial interjections as they appeared in the Twitter threads in which he posted the translations.

Why am I not posting the originals from Osechkin’s site? Because I can’t be certain the site’s traffic is being monitored, or that the site hasn’t been tampered with, including malware and ransomware.

That said, I haven’t yet run across strong opposition to Sushko’s threads or translations. If you’ve seen any objections, please share them in comments.

There have been four letters to date; the first was published late on March 4 and shared on March 5. The second and third are dated March 5 but not translated and shared until March 9 and 10 respectively. The fourth was dated March 9 with its translation shared on March 10.

They’re worth reading as alternatives to U.S. perspective. What about these letters rings true, what doesn’t? Does the perspective here, filtered by a Ukrainian-born translator into English, have any potential affect on democratic nations which support Ukraine?

And what if all of this is an elaborate psyop? What should we take away from it?

~ ~ ~

Letter 2
Tweet thread beginning 10:35 PM March 9, 2022

1 🧵My translation of the 2nd letter in the series from an active FSB analyst to Vladimir Osechkin, Russian human rights activist exiled in France. Written 1 day later on March 5th. Buckle up for a long thread and definitely please share far & wide. The text is over 1000 words.
2 I will add clarification comments inside parenthesis where necessary. So, let’s roll: “Here’s the picture with regards to Putin & FSB.
3 On the one hand, he is supported and respected, but if you slightly dig deeper, it’s a collective feeling for the image, thanks to which FSB has the power that it really has. To serve (in the FSB), there is one unforgettable rule.
4 To most, this rule even appears rather natural and is taken for granted – To criticize Putin’s image is to betray your own interests.
5 In reality, Putin was never a spy. It’s actually an open secret. But here (FSB) our doubts concerning the authority’s competence is equivalent to treason.
6 Who makes the decisions? I can tell from our own work that there is no single decision-making post – intrigues and “people who are trusted by the top” lobby the teams, decisions, etc. In light of this, sometimes facts and even events are “created.”
7 I personally do not have contact with Putin, but if I were to assess him as a target for recruitment as an asset and develop a situational profile, then we have the following as fact:
8 1) Narcissistic disorders, possibly due to childhood complexes, as methods of overcoming them.
9 2) Rejection of family life – no information about his parents, secrecy around his children and his own personal life. This requires psychological compensatory mechanisms in search of close relationships. Such psychotype is prone to “cross dominance” in relationships.
10 3) He tries to surround himself with the type of people whom he respected/feared in his childhood psychotype, over whom he now has power.
11 4) Strongest psychological resistance of personal responsibility for difficult decisions. It is a result of the 1) above, but in turn, this also leads to a mechanism for denying his own guilt/responsibility even to himself.
12 From this, considering 3) above, we can say the following with near absolute certainty: Putin is psychologically incapable of refusing with justification, an offer from his closest circle.
13 But this also leads to the conclusion that he does not guarantee anything to anyone by saying “yes”, because to guarantee is to take responsibility.
14 With high probability I assert that in case of an offer from his closest circle, he will agree with every offer, delegating the control/responsibility to the person making the offer.
15 Psychologically, he will not have any contradictions in “agreeing” to mutually exclusive proposals – “you yourself are to blame if you failed.”
16 Next. The current situation is such that no one anywhere has reliable information on complex issues. The reports that go through me are then corrected by the leadership to be politically correct – more positivity, less negativity.
17 These already rosy reports are then again massaged to be even more rosy – and false. So, everything is very good here – I know this for sure.
18 At the top level of the authorities, several realities exist in parallel and they are all real in their own way. Power, just like money, is an illusion. It exists exclusively due to belief in it. It is an axiom of a theory of control. There is no Russia as a whole picture either.
19 It sure is something that Putin could find himself completely closed off in a “universe” belonging to someone in his close circle – there’s a reason he is afraid to even allow his ministers near him. This is something we are kept in the dark about and I do not have the details.
20 But what I know for sure: Volodin (Chairman of the State Duma of Russia) flew to Cuba prior to the war, and on the day of the invasion he wrote that it’s critical he fly to Nicaragua. No mention of war.
21 The lion’s share of people close to the main Towers sincerely believed that there would be no war. And they understood that such a war would be a trap. This is worth noting.
22 Did Shoigu (Minister of Defense) think that the war will turn out this way? No. He is not a real military man. He fully believed in the picture of the army that he painted Putin.
23 I am personally aware of such facts concerning this fu#&er, who is at the highest level of our military, they’d be too rich to turn into an anecdote (a Russian joke).
24 When for example Generals are demanded to provide rapid reports on victories, and they (chain-of-command) continue to pass on the order (for the report) downstream while screaming & cursing, until finally some Sergeant agrees to make the report in exchange for military leave,
25 after which he takes a video depicting American work in Afghanistan, erases the sound, and hands it off up the chain-of-command.
26 And the recipient up the chain, and so on, until it reaches the tables of the Command, who completely believe the report, and they hand it off to Shoigu (Minister of Defense of Russia), who then hands it off to Putin.
27 There are serious discussions about how Putin is lately absorbed by finding “mystical meanings.” From numerology to the shamans somewhere up north. Can’t say anything concrete – it doesn’t fit into any analysis.
28 But that the Czar is not the Czar is a fact. (Putin is not in charge anymore) He wants to be the Czar, but this is a trap of illusions and a field of object manipulations. Prerequisites are established for this from all perspectives.
29 About the internet – yes, we can shut down the internet. Technically. Can also sew closed your own mouth, in order to stop drinking. Technically, yes. Attempts to shut down (the internet) will be made. The worst is that various departments will compete for greater efficiency.
30 All kidding aside, my superiors sometimes say this in all seriousness: “North Korea lives in this regime (without internet) – and it’s fine.”
31 Anyway, war psychosis is scary – we can screw up a lot of things in this mental state. How this will end is unknown. Look at the big picture: We react in real-time. The law was passed criminalizing those who post “fake info against the military.”
32 Kadyrov reasonably responded that his structures belong to the RosGvardia (National Guard), meaning his members can’t be charged with this law. Another law can be passed (to exclude others).
33 And then one that excludes judges (from this law), then a law for those in the special forces, and then for the tax officials. This is not proper systematic work, but some kind of parody of case law in the United States. No exclusions should be made.
34 Which is why I believe in your actions (Vladimir Osechkin, human rights activist). No, I don’t believe that prison tortures will be reduced as a result of your actions. But the percentage of those who perfectly understand what is going on is rather high.
35 Within our ranks (FSB) as well as within the military. I need points of support so as not to feel like a doomed renegade. If this layer is also lost, that’s it, the lid of the country’s coffin will be hammered shut.
36 Soon everything will change. I am afraid to even think how and when exactly – we’ve entered the impossible state of “as it used to be” but do not fit into the state of “how we’d like it to be.”
37 We are now at a classic fault point in the country – as in (Evgeny) Messner’s “Mutinous War,” which was reworked into “Gerasimov’s Doctrine.”
38 Need any points of support (fulcrum) to maintain sanity even just minimally. And those who’ve already gone off the rails – they don’t care anymore.

~ ~ ~

Letter 3

Tweet thread beginning 3:45 AM March 10, 2022

1 🧵My translation of the 3rd letter in the series from an active FSB analyst to Vladimir Osechkin, Russian human rights activist exiled in France. Dated March 5th. Buckle up for a long thread and definitely please share far & wide. The text is over 1400 words.
2 I will add clarification comments inside parenthesis where necessary. So, let’s roll:
3 “I will start with the big picture. There are people with particular talents in the field of analytics (inside the FSB), who are retained here in the bureau not just for the value they bring, but to ensure that they remain under “control” (of the Russian government).
4 For example, and I am one of them, such people may never return to an ordinary life, the system does not allow for such a shift. “There” (outside the FSB) we are considered dangerous. This is my department’s policy.
5 I am here, and now I definitely understand why we won’t have any more Mercedes or BMWs (in the country), but will have a ton of Ladas. In order (for Russia) to have Mercedes, we must behave according to protocol which is optimized and controlled.
6 Without political decisions and knee-jerk demands of the authorities (that affect an agency like the FSB). This isn’t about “catching up and overtaking,” but about methodical and painstaking work, with a strategy rather than a wishlist. But in Russia this never happens.
7 We have plenty of resources within the FSB to switch to a method of systemic analysis, but nobody fuc$ing wants it. We can meticulously calculate variations, build models, and identify problems.
8 But on a whim, some bastard who is usually not even from our structure – I’m talking about senior officials, politicians and their hangers-on) can suddenly declare that “here (in the department) the mood is too defeatist,
9 and you are casting a shadow on the leadership of some state structure with which we want to avoid conflict.” There is professionalism and there is loyalty.
10 Loyalty is demanded – and is highly valued at critical times to elevate the leadership (within FSB) or to satisfy the “requirements from the very top.”
11 While we work on some pedophile & human trafficking cases, I say from first-hand experience, no one interferes. And we get results. And once we deliver results, then we are assigned to more political cases.
12 Analysts should not have emotions. There are forecast models, there are statistics, there is sociology. “Believe or don’t believe” should not exist (in his line of work). But it exists.
13 And those who are ready to nod and say “We will find a solution and solve the problem” are the ones climbing the ladder. Problems from such an approach are only piling up.
14 Now on to your question – the situation is out of control. Any model has a time horizon in planning with parameters for performance within functional boundaries. Now there is none of this: most input parameters are junk based on political decisions.
15 – reliable data on the military prospects of the operation. There are whole sets of data from various departments and services, and they contradict each other, which means there’s nothing.
16 -a well-developed model of economic management under the current restricted conditions (sanctions)
17 – reliable information with regards to loyalty of the elites in the financial and political sectors.
18 – reliable data on the impending extreme measures to be implemented in Russia.
19 (I POSTED THIS PARTIAL TRANSLATION AS I AM EXHAUSTED AND WANTED TO ENSURE I COMMITTED MYSELF TO POSTING THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE – I WILL KEEP TRANSLATING AND I WILL POST MORE SOON)
20 What we do have:
21 – a constant stream of new data on “emergent” economic problems that “cannot exist”:
22 partial failures in the supply chains of raw materials can stop complex processes, including the production of strategic products (military), the (non) functioning of single-industry towns and industrial agglomerations;
23 – the expected explosive growth of banditry and crime, due to the superposition of several factors including: economic problems, a decrease in the mental stability of the population from stress + war psychosis + compounded nervous state from isolation measures
24 – situational planning of the political sort without assessing the long-term [and even short- and medium-term] prospects for their introduction;
25 – segregation/compartmentalization of workflow and services and departments due to the loss of a unified management system;
26 – the growth of foreign policy threats, including military – there is no guarantee that Japan will not attack the Kuril islands or that Georgia will not attack Ossetia-Abkhazia, Syria and Libya is preparing for attacks against our units);
27 – the complete dysfunction of the former economic model as there is no more stabilization fund, the exchange rate is not stable, and the old system of employment is now impossible in principle.
28 There can’t be any forecasts with such inputs. We have now jumped from anti-crisis management to crisis management. And to be honest, we just entered catastrophic mode.
29 A catastrophe as a condition is characterized by “it will not be as it was, and how it will be, we will not know until it happens.”
30 Paradoxically, the country’s survival under such conditions for some time is only possible because of the autonomy of certain parts of the government. To be blunt, a police chief of a small town knows what he needs rather than adhering to the “universal commands from the center.”
31 Here and now, this and only this can extend the survival of structures and systems, but if we take a horizon of a year or more, then this is the death of the (centralized) government as whole.
32 As I predicted, Nabiullina (Head of the Russian Central Bank) will now be dragged, people around her will be prosecuted.
33 This will pulverize the banking sector into the trash – what will happen with the exchange rate and policy of the Central Bank – I am not an economist by education, don’t even want to think about it without systematic study.
34 The worst option – they will put in place the one who offers to turn on the printing press to “hold the situation.”
35 For the same reason [I am not an economist] I will not assess the prospects of the commodity market, but it has gone off the rails: everything is being bought out, which means the demand is causing crazy swings.
36 As a result, normal logistics are impossible as warehousing and transportation are calculated from the model of optimal average values, when there is the most uniform load to its full potential.
37 And when you need to produce, transport, store, and sell 2-months supply of goods in just 3 days, and then go idle for 2 months – that’s fu#Ked. At the same time, not the best is happening with loans – rates are rising, and access to money is only getting more difficult.
38 Burnout. Personally, I’m already burned out – indifference is seeping in, the desire to bust my ass is gone. It’s impossible to work toward a result with such inputs.
39 You want me to give you “plans for victory” and put on a smart face “according to the law of wartime” – OK, you won. Now that’s what I do. And burnout will be absolute, rampant.
40 Now the internal mobilization of the power resources (riot police, etc.) will begin, and when it is done without a time horizon, it is a catastrophe.
41 All departments are in elevated mode, everyone is looking for enemies and saboteurs, everyone is saving the country from the inside. Those who do not burn out – that’s who we should be afraid of. It will be classic lawlessness and fascism.
42 Many of our people (FSB) also believe that “now it is necessary to be tough with enemies,” and anyone around can become an enemy. This psychosis is happening against the backdrop of the professional deformation of one’s personality. This is a moral shift. Irreversible.
43 The Scariest. If at the top they decide to issue a command of “military expediency” – hell will be here immediately. Military expediency is lawlessness. The right of force. A person is psychologically wired to seek justifications for all his actions.
44 The law is only a tool that sets the boundaries. Because “for the sake of your country” you can shoot out the legs of a suspicious person, and you can kill a person who refuses to submit to a soldier.
45 Military expediency unleashes total freedom for internal justifications. In fact, it is the same revolution when force overthrows the establishment.
46 I have no universal forecasts except for the old one: By May-June we won’t have what to fight with (weapons), whom to fight with (soldiers) and how to support all this. But the turning point (of the war) will be in the coming days. I suspect for the worse.
47 And even if we choose to activate strategic aviation – it will only make it worse for us. Frankly, the United States is allowing us to get sucked into this conflict further. They understand that we are now trapped.
48 Markers we are still monitoring:
49 The West preparing programs that conditionally fall under the category of “oil in exchange for food.” For us. This will mean that the trap has been slammed shut;
50 Sudden changes in personnel in the government bloc, which we will not be notified about in advance to ensure additional control. This will speak of panic governing – a system of abrupt and consequential personnel decisions solely based on emotions;
51 Total nationalization. Personally, unlike many of my colleagues, I prioritize this marker above all others, as after this we will economically turn into Venezuela even without war and sanctions, this will be de-facto pillaging.
52 Military ultimatums from other countries. But we can also make our own ultimatums for now.
53 Desertion by the highest-level military-political representatives of Russia to other countries. We are tracking this nominally, but we do not have a “clean” special service (FSB) after all. It’d take long to explain nor is it very pleasant.
54 Improvement of the economic situation in Russia within the next 3-5 years is impossible in all available scenarios.
55 Although, of course, there could be exceptions: highly developed aliens 👽 who choose to specifically support us, we will learn to cast spells🧙‍♂️; something else from this opera (a Russian expression meaning something from a similar story).
56 And currently unknown is how Asia and the Arab world will react when hunger strikes these regions in the summer – grains will not be exported this year (from Russia).
57 It’s difficult to succinctly summarize such topics, but I hope that at least partially I’ve answered the question. You simply must hamper the torture processes within the prisons – there is no one beside you who can possibly do it.
58 Uncontrolled violence will be such that the bloody arrival of Bolsheviks to power will seem like a light warm-up. I don’t think we will be able to avoid the terrible, but it is worth at least to soften up the hell that is coming.
59 (END OF TRANSLATION)
60 Full translation accessible in article form: http://igorsushko(.)com

~ ~ ~

Letter 4

Tweet thread beginning 3:51 PM March 10, 2022

1 🧵 My translation of the 4th letter in the series from an active FSB analyst to Vladimir Osechkin. Written March 9th. As consequential as the 1st translated letter. Buckle up for a long thread and definitely please share far & wide. The text is over 1200 words.
2 Vladimir, good afternoon!

This is probably the first time that I’ve been able to write to you in the daytime during a weekday – everything is upside down now.

3 Under different circumstance, this information would look like utter nonsense, but right now, I am afraid, this won’t be the end of it.
4 First, we (FSB) are seriously evaluating a version that the current events of war with Ukraine is a war between the US and China, in which the Americans simply set us up and are using us. Now I’ll try to explain succinctly & clearly.
5 (This is the new ‘nonsensical’ working theory that the FSB analysts are being tasked to work on)

A global clash between the USA and China was unavoidable.

6 After the war started in Ukraine [at least here in this correspondence I don’t have to use the term “operation”] the cost of resources has risen globally, especially energy.
7 The main casualty of these events is China and our side (Russia) provided China certain guarantees, which I can personally confirm – that everything will end quickly (invasion of Ukraine). Which is why China has been tolerating the situation. But this was before.
8 The American situation is such that owners of the industry and oil drilling are in essence the same corporations, and that helps with the internal balance:
9 They make money on drilling when oil is expensive, and when it’s cheap – from industrial development. This is a bit blunt, but it provides the necessary insight into their approach. Shales (oil fracking), unlike the classic method (of oil extraction), is easy to stop and start.
10 Now the US will make an agreement with Venezuela and Iran. They can buy out Venezuelan light crude with a crazy discount. And the opening of the Iranian oil (market) will obviously be perceived with hostility by Saudi Arabia and UEA.
11 The Yemeni conflict is also relevant here, and a row of other factors which I will ignore for the sake of simplicity. But it all leads to the fact that the US had already made preparations for these negotiations in advance.
12 The US has basically set a trap for us, almost analogous to the trap set for Iraq in Kuwait, when Saddam Hussein was being convinced that for a “small conflict (incursion)” there will be no response. He entered Kuwait and “Dessert Storm” began. The beginning of the end of Iraq.
13 We were receiving similar signs that the US will not get involved, which has been confirmed from a military perspective.
14 China can absolutely give us a harsh ultimatum to end the war to stabilize the price of oil. If this happens, I don’t want to make predictions – it’d be on the horizon of catastrophic events.
15 Russia’s image is so negative in the eyes of so many countries because of the war, that the US can easily pressure the Europeans to impose sanctions against China in case China decides to maneuver around the current sanctions against Russia (to help Russia).
16 China’s high dependence on exports coupled with its dependence on commodity prices would result in a fatal blow if the cost of commodities goes up because their domestic market will disappear (Chinese population can’t afford the increased price of goods).
17 Not only that, Xi Jing Ping was considering a takeover of Taiwan in autumn – he needs his own small victory to be re-elected for his 3rd term – there’s a colossal internal fight between the elites.
18 Now after the events in Ukraine, the window of opportunity (to take Taiwan) has been closed. This gives the US an opportunity to blackmail Xi and also negotiate with his rivals on favorable terms.
19 In this instance, it is us (Russia) that set this trap for China through our actions (in Ukraine). We won’t be able to admit this out loud, even an assessment of scenarios from current conditions is “not entirely appropriate.”
20 Hence the desire that the secret becomes open: Yes, this is only a working version, but it exists in our structures (in the FSB).
21 Second – the evolution of the current situation.

Now about our other plans, which go beyond any bounds of insanity. Sanctions against Russia have reached a level with no precedent in history. The only thing that Putin is right about – this is essentially equivalent to war.

22 The current approach with sanctions leaves Russia without any chances. Now the matter may not be limited to threatening Europe – the chance of hostilities, albeit of localized nature, can be considered to be historically high.
23 Ukraine is a monstrously large front, there are smaller fronts. For example, if we were talking about Moldova, the military operations would really be limited to several hours. With the Baltics – several days, but there’d be artillery hits first.
24 (WILL CONTINUE TRANSLATING AND WILL PUBLISH IN A BIT. INTERMISSION FOR NOW)
25 Actual threats of conventional rocket strikes against Europe [not bluffs] in the event of further sanctions can no longer be dismissed.
26 Supporters of such an approach, who exist among those with influence on the decision, muse that in a sordid case we will simply be crushed by waiting until an internal implosion and collapse from inside (in Russia).
27 In addition to the rockets, we have the capability to conduct a massive cyberwar – the internet can be shut down (by Russia inside Russia). Such a possibility exists and it’d be difficult (for the West) to respond symmetrically (since Russia won’t have internet anyway).
28 And the external war should reduce the internal tension and redirect the aggression outward. However “should” – doesn’t mean it’ll be so.
29 There’s also a more realistic [but I can’t say good] plans of a massive disinformation campaign that we are prepared for the war and sanctions for years to come: This should pressure the Ukrainians psychologically – “It won’t end quickly, better to surrender” and also the West.
30 I suppose that various government powers (in Russia) could start pushing their own plans (on how to proceed). That will simply lead to even more chaos (in Russia).
31 I won’t talk about the economy – it’s like discussing the nuances of pacifism while being nuclear-bombed.

The terror has strengthened – there are no internal instruments to hold the (economic) situation inside the country.

32 But terror is a complicated and expensive thing – it should become temporary. It’s like holding your breath because the air is poisoned: If you can escape the area, then the action is justified. But if you hold your breath for “an hour” – you saved yourself from poison but…
33 Systemic decisions with a positive outcome do not exist. There is no Ukrainian political power that we could delegate the authority just for the optics.
34 If we present Yanukovich (former President of Ukraine that was Putin’s asset, who dismantled the Ukrainian military pre-2014), it will only expose how bad things really are here. No single strategically important city has been taken in Ukraine.
35 Kherson and Kharkov were considered the most pro-Russian. Pro-Ukrainian protests are not dying down in Kherson despite the presence of our soldiers. In Khrakov things are much worse.
36 Just summarizing the gist without getting into the details.

There is another piece of information that is critical.

The “Plan for Victory” in the FSB is being painted as such:

37 Zelensky will be pressured into signing a fluff peace agreement recognizing Crimea as Russian, and Luhansk- and Donetsk-oblasts will become LDNR. LDNR will be the focus of our negotiators in terms of nuance, etc. But it’s just a distraction.
38 The key clause would be about demilitarization, which would essentially ban Ukrainian intelligence services, and most importantly dismantle their counter-intelligence.
39 And here our people (FSB) already see the prognosis: Over a number of years, it would be possible for us (FSB) with some minimal help from the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence), to carry out a total cleansing of the socio-political field in Ukraine.
40 And after all this, we could install any government in Kiev. With high probability this plan will become dominant for the Kremlin with strategic correction, although the scenario is insane and aggression on other fronts is not being cancelled.
41 In theory, the plan does have potential, but how it will be in practice is unknown. There will be no military victory, only something like this
42 Lots of nuances, but most important – our side will be able to breach such agreements after they’re signed anytime, when there’s strength to turn the tide.
43 Then it won’t be the military but the “black crows” who will be executing the “second phase,” arresting those accused of breaking the agreement from the Ukrainian side.
44 This scenario is not as crazy as the others, but it is completely contingent on the idea that Kiev can actually be pressured in the negotiations.
45 We are now working the Western contacts at the highest levels – looking for countries who will support our position and to put pressure on Zelensky.
46 It could be another bluff, it could be an analogue of Wenck’s army in our current reality. Overall, as I’ve been saying, the level of chaos here is quite high.
47 In economic terms, we are falling and everything is very predictable: the abyss is fervently winking at us. 😉
48 We are limited in our ability to verify all data, but consider it important to disclose this information for the purpose of informing of the existing threats to global security. Нет войне! (No to War!)
49 (END OF TRANSLATION)
50 Full translation in article form here: http://igorsushko(.)com

~ ~ ~

I lean toward thinking this is mostly true, though even if true it’s presented by someone whose work is tightly defined, who is used to working toward an expected outcome if Letter 1 is an accurate assessment of the FSB’s condition. They live in one of the parallel realities they describe in Letter 2, section/tweet 18.

A narrow reality might explain perceptions about the oil market although it doesn’t explain why they don’t acknowledge their personal risk because they live in a Hotel California situation and there can’t be many occupants in that space.

All four letters taken together, I suspect the only way out for Putin is to pin the blame on someone or some department and make a massive example of them. If he uses FSB he will encourage those who can destroy him. If he goes after the military, there are retired military who may not take this well.

It’s a recipe for a lot of radioactive tea, nerve gassed shorts, and inconveniently placed windows.

It would be best for everyone if one of Putin’s leadership cohort chose to fall on their sword to get him out of this mess, but if Putin is perceived as weak in the same way this purported letter writer does, they’re not going to leave Putin at the helm.

This alleged FSB insider still suffers from delusional thinking inside their parallel reality, too — no reformulation of Russian intelligence will give them control over Ukraine’s democracy. A purged and rejuvenated Russian intelligence,  however, might eventually seat a leadership in Russia which looks more like Ukraine’s.

But I don’t recommend anyone hold their breath.

Two things which really must be discussed whether these letters are true, partly true, or not true at all:

— food aid and not just for oil, given the likelihood of massive crop failures ahead which will affect large portions of the world;

— the trap, because there is one though it doesn’t yet appear fully set.

Go ahead, bring it in comments once you’ve finished digesting this.

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105 replies
    • Wajim says:

      Yes, I would agree, and yet the US has been in that context for some time, imo. Yet we can’t recognize it just as the Russians can’t. Until the novelists and their cousins the historians look back hard, say, after 40-60 years (at least) and if their exists a concerned and interested readership. Oh, the folly of thinking we know. By the way, thanks for the excellent work you and Wheels do (and yes, even bmaz, maybe, I guess, if I have to, okay :)

  1. Mike says:

    None of the letters explain how an army of ~190k ended up doing exercises on the borders of Ukraine. You mobilise so much and no one in the Duma raised a question!
    There is something fundamental WTF missing here! You gather 190k army together for an exercise, declare a ‘special military operation’ that becomes an invasion that is now leading to primeval sieges of some ancient Russian speaking cities.
    As interesting as these letters are, they do not explain the failures in the build-up. All that kit heading west and no questions asked by anyone. This was planned for a long time and no one knew?
    I hope the author can take us back to the initial orders to gather this army together and explain at what point the penny dropped. If this happened what else is lurking in the system? How stable is the control of nuclear weapons? The authors perspective on MH17 and the polonium poisonings in the UK would be weclome. The authors perspective on Londongrad and the cheap purchase of the Conservatives, Johnson and Brexit would also be interesting.

    • Rayne says:

      IMO the first letter explained the military build-up: hyper-narrow tasking with a obligatory happy ending. FSB is asked if 190K personnel at the border could cause Ukraine to capitulate. Sure. It could have but the tasking may not have asked what Zelenskyy was made of, if the Ukrainian people outside of Donetsk/Luhansk were willing to fight, if US/EU/NATO would pull together, so on, because including those factors wouldn’t set up the victorious happily ever after.

      The build-up also appeared compartmented: there were police who believed they were on some sort of counterterror exercise, conscripts who believed they were on a training exercise, so on. What concerns me is the gullibility with which they simply followed orders, giving up their cell phones for op sec, sitting in the cold with inadequate supplies. What else could you tell these people? How do you manage them in the event they do lose their current leader?

  2. Tom R. says:

    Cui bono?

    Quite apart from who wrote these letters, and whether they are telling the truth, a pointed question arises, Why write them?
    — If this were a psyop against the West, it wouldn’t be a very good one. Better ops than this are launched on a daily basis.
    — If this were an attempt by the epistolist to protect his own hide, or protect the FSB as an institution, or protect the Motherland, or save the world, it wouldn’t accomplish much of that.
    — Or …?????

    FWIW I don’t think the epistolist is lying much. Indeed, it is refreshing when he admits he doesn’t know certain things.

    It’s cute that he believes the whole thing is a complex conspiracy set up by the US government. Probably half the people in Russia believe that. (-: This stands in contrast to the US, where only about 40% of the people believe everything is a complex conspiracy set up by the US government. :-) Even so, you would expect a professional analyst to think more clearly.

    As has been discussed in this forum, even when people are lying, you can learn a fair bit by looking at what they choose to lie about. It is highly suggestive that the epistolist chose to look at things from the FSB point of view, as opposed to the SVR or GRU point of view, or any broader point of view. However, this mode of analysis must be wielded with skill and humility. The Red October book does not prove that Tom Clancy was a CIA officer or a submariner. Instead, the book was based on open-source information. FSB analysts would have that information, but so would a lot of other people.

    Along the same lines, it’s true that being overcommitted in Ukraine creates risks in Libya, Syria, Georgia, Chechnya, etc. as he says, but you don’t need to be a super-intelligent intelligence analyst to figure that out.

    The epistolist speculates about possible off-ramps, which is certainly a worthy line of inquiry, but he doesn’t get farther than anybody else. He realizes that the “compromise” he discusses would never be accepted by Ukraine.

    It’s notable that he does not provide much in the way of facts and figures. He certainly doesn’t divulge any sources or methods. It’s hard to know what to make of that. Maybe it means he’s a loyal FSB officer, or maybe he just never had such information.

    Mentioning “oil for food” is a real attention-grabber, not the sort of thing you normally associate with nuclear-weapon states, but it’s not particularly original. The WSJ blithered about that 4 days ago.

    We agree this is a bad situation. It has 1939 written all over it. The abyss is winking at us. The epistolist identified a number of nightmare scenarios. That’s fine as far as it goes and indeed necessary, but it’s not sufficient. We need to identify a survivable scenario and then figure out how to bring it about.

    • Rayne says:

      The epistolist speculates about possible off-ramps

      What are the off-ramps with a narcissist? We haven’t even managed one with our own malignant narcissist who continues to foment rebellion in the wings.

    • Chirrut Imwe says:

      Regarding the complex US conspiracy, I took it that the writer was explaining how Russian intelligence was (is) developing that narrative – along the lines of a CYA as things have not gone as planned. Not necessarily that s/he believes the narrative themselves.

      Ultimately, I’m not sure what to think of all this as far as non-fiction goes – from a fiction standpoint, it is a good read (at a minimum). Taking it all with a grain of salt – I know that I would like to believe that there is a silver lining to all this horror (potential consequences for Putin and his enablers). When something seems too good to be true…

      • Chirrut Imwe says:

        I thought my post went poof, but I guess I just accidently truncated my username to ‘Chi’…

        [Fixed the previous comment, no problem. /~Rayne]

    • Yeskld says:

      To me this looks like an FSB officer setting himself up to look good in the aftermath. In IC circles often being able to say I told you so, can lead to respect.

      My second guess is that this is a Ukrainian psyop aimed at Russia.

        • taluslope says:

          Been my thought from the beginning

          Your third guess should be that it is a US psyop aimed at Russia. Or perhaps US psyop aimed at (?) US/NATO? Maybe some nation actor has intelligence resources inside FSB and chooses this way to release _some_ reliable information that can’t be released officially to protect sources. Sh*t I’m clueless.

      • Aussie Sheila says:

        Yes. My thoughts too. Sufficiently plausible with insight from sharing/knowing how the system is structured, with the aim of sowing the very doubts expressed within the text.

  3. Douglas Erhard says:

    Backup for “Putin was never a spy”

    https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/stanton-vladimir-putin-was-never-a-spy

    “What we consider secret agents, the Russians call razvedchik, an approximation of the word “scout” — working behind enemy lines, providing early warnings. This highly revered intelligence collection was the responsibility of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (FCD), today’s Foreign Intelligence Service…..

    Putin was assigned to the Leningrad office of the Second Chief Directorate, which was responsible for internal security. Former KGB officer Oleg Kalugin claimed that all the Leningrad office did was “harass dissidents and ordinary citizens.”

    In 1995, this directorate would become the FSB: Russia’s security service.

    In 1985, Putin was transferred to Dresden, East Germany. Technically, Putin had landed in the FCD, but more precisely, he stepped into a KGB backwater. East Germany may have been a foreign state, but it was a satellite of the USSR — with 380,000 Red Army soldiers stationed there for those who did not see the memo. Putin is described as appearing to be content, able to provide a better quality of life for his family. He settled down like a housing estate squire in a genuinely communist land, bleaker and more oppressive than his beloved USSR. Putting the counter-subversion skills he acquired in Leningrad to practical use, he became liaison officer to the Stasi. In sharing best practices, we will never know who learned more from whom.”

    • Spencer Dawkins says:

      This seems important to remember – being a liaison officer to the Stasi must be the least intellectually demanding “intelligence” role on the planet.

      What would you learn about the intelligence business in that role, that would prepare you to use your own intelligence service effectively in 2022?

        • taluslope says:

          Could it be he learned counter intelligence? As is propaganda warfare that has worked so effectively against the US in 2016 and beyond.

      • Peterr says:

        Being a liason officer to the Stasi was not so much an intelligence role as a political role. Moscow’s message was very clear – “You take orders from us” – and Putin was part of the crew enforcing that message. The stories of Putin’s work to burn documents as the Berlin wall was falling only emphasize the notion that “if you had held firm and listened to us, this would not have happened.”

        The intelligence services of the USSR then and Russia today are first and foremost political.

        • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

          The Soviet Union failed and its satellites crumbled because the Red Army was no longer capable of successfully crushing reform movements like they did in Hungary in ’56 and Czechoslovakia in ’68.

          Did the system fail because of the arms race; the incompetency of Five Year Plans; or both?

          I’ve read about DDR residents that got vacation passes to Hungary and then snuck into Austria through a hole in a fence, that was once electrified and full of traps to snare would-be defectors but by 1989 didn’t work at all.

          Once the Soviets failed to crush Solidarity at Gdansk, it was only a matter of time before the USSR collapsed. Did Gorbachev hasten that doom with his reforms? Yes, BUT he wasn’t bat shit crazy and realized what was going on in the USSR. He knew enough intelligence to realize the Cold War was madness and ending it would help the Soviet people.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    I have thoughts about this and little time to express them. I’ll focus one thing. How would a foreign intelligence agency assess this stuff? The first step would be looking for any independently verifiable evidence of insider knowledge. For example:

    But what I know for sure: Volodin (Chairman of the State Duma of Russia) flew to Cuba prior to the war, and on the day of the invasion he wrote that it’s critical he fly to Nicaragua. No mention of war.

    I’m sure that the US IC knows whether or not that’s true. If that’s public knowledge in Russia, I would be very skeptical of this guy. If it’s closely held, things get interesting. The spy game is always a little bit like that scene from The Princess Bride where Vizzini is trying to figure out which cup is poisoned.

      • Zirc says:

        Your skepticism is noted and appreciated. But what does putting these letters out do for Russian intelligence? How are they gaming this out?

        Zirc

      • Rayne says:

        Skepticism well merited. On the flip side I’ll point out Russians could have known a week ahead that Volodin was visiting both Cuba and Nicaragua, and they knew from Lavrov’s statement in late January that the Deputy PM was calling on Nicaragua and Venezuela mid-February. Funny how there was a full-court diplomatic press on Russia-friendly countries around the Gulf of Mexico a week before the invasion.

        But why did the letter writer use the word “war” used to describe what began on the day Volodin arrived in Managua when Russians were being told this was a “peacekeeping mission” or their loved ones were at the border for an exercise. Did FSB know this is what it would be before the first troops crossed the Ukraine border, and was then still a state secret?

        US IC already knew that was the case because they’d been able to listen in on Chechen’s unsecured communications which revealed Kadyrov’s team had been tasked with decapitating Ukraine’s government; IC simply didn’t disclose this was a key source of intelligence.

        ADDER: postscript, really — Vizzini analogy is perfect. Iocaine = Po-210 tea.

  5. Douglas Erhard says:

    As to Letter 2: Add “rapist,” “dumb as a post,” and “highly manipulatable” and the writer could easily be describing Trump.

  6. Zirc says:

    Psyops or not, these letters scare me. Either way, the writer seems to be caught up in his own, Russian, paradigm and judges everything and everyone on the basis of that paradigm, which means essentially who is manipulating whom. Does this disaster invite Japan to invade the Kuril islands? Theoretically yes. Will the Japanese invade the Kuril islands? The possibility is microscopically low. And the idea that we could “easily” get our allies to put sanctions on China is absurd. Has the US “trapped” Russia and to some extent China? He gives us too much credit. Biden has done well to achieve the consensus he has gotten with our allies, and he may have planned for a Russian invasion of Ukraine based on intelligence, but by and large the US has been reactive. We haven’t enticed anyone into anything. We placed no bait. We set no trap. Putin got into this fix by himself.

    But the assessment of this fix and the psychoanalysis of Putin himself has the ring of truth, which is to say it accords with what I think I’m seeing from afar. People talk about off ramps, but I see no off ramps that would be acceptable to both Putin and Ukraine, let alone the rest of the world. That lack of off ramps leaves open the possibility for escalation. That possibility makes me wonder how much sway China does hold on Russia/Putin. Putin and some of his followers may be insane enough to go nuclear. China has no interest in that. But any influence China does have would presuppose Putin isn’t that insane.

    Rayne writes, “if Putin is perceived as weak in the same way this purported letter writer does, they’re not going to leave Putin at the helm.” This “solution” would be best, but is it wishful thinking? Also, in seeking to end the war, how much could a successor(s) give up to satisfy a domestic Russian audience? Could they withdraw from the Donetsk and Luhansk or even Crimea? That would be humiliating. Would Ukraine accept Russian occupation of those areas? What about reparations? I don’t see it. Even if Putin isn’t in charge, what would a negotiated end to this war look like?

    Zirc

    • Rayne says:

      We set no trap. Putin got into this fix by himself.

      Yes, Putin got into this fix by himself. He believed his own hype. Goodbye Hubris, welcome Nemesis.

      But yes, there’s a trap, a manifold trap; whether the US set it alone or if this was a collaborative effort is debatable since we don’t know how much diplomacy occurred to set this up. The sanctions are the trap if all the participants stick together and hang tough. The key is the bit about “food for oil.” If the war continues into planting season while the last harvest is still stuck in silos and containers, while foreign workers are stuck in Russia promised worthless rubles, there’s going to be pressure to end the war. Some recalcitrant countries will be forced to go along because they will face mounting instability if food insecurity increases. The challenge is whether Ukraine can hold out a month or two, and if the other largest producers of grain will step in to provide aid as shortages occur.

      As for the solution/wishful thinking: of course it’s wishful thinking that Russia is no longer under the thumb of a megalomaniacal narcissist. But the persons who are most likely to do something are much like him. They’re also toxic. And they’re also likely to think they’re better off with the monster they know than the unknown which would put them at a gross disadvantage. The question is whether one of them is able to think their way out of this; I don’t give it good odds because they likewise fell to hubris, OR they were willing to shed a lot of Russian and Ukrainian blood to make a point about Putin as leader.

    • Charles Wolf says:

      “We set no trap. Putin got into this fix by himself.”

      Yea, maybe so but – There should be some way to exploit the narrative that Biden took Putin to the cleaners, even if it is BS.

    • Peterr says:

      I think the discussion of the Kuril Islands suggests the legitimacy of this source.

      I agree that it is highly unlikely that Japan would invade, but I also believe that Russia would assume that Japan would do so while Russia in involved in Ukraine.

      • taluslope says:

        I’d wondered when a discussion of Russia’s weak military position would come up once it was revealed that the emperor’s military had no clothes. Russia suddenly seems like it has a substantial backside to defend if it has to worry about Japan and the Kuril Islands (of which … ah, just no).

  7. Badger Robert says:

    The letters look Ukrainian to me.
    The intended audience would be Russians not in Russia, and then FSB inside Russia who are assigned to follow western media.

    • boba says:

      Ah you appear to be on to something there. We assume we know the intended audience but in reality we don’t have a clue.
      A bit of a tangent – when the roster of units participating in this incursion becomes known then the real fun will start. Those generals, colonels, and other field officers like their summer vacations and if one was in the chain of command of a unit, those days are over. Unless flying to Cuba?

  8. Badger Robert says:

    The idea that Ukraine would agree to demilitarize must have some purpose as to continuing negotiations. But the amount of military and economic aid that would flow into Ukraine as soon as there is an armistice will be staggering.
    Which brings us back to SunTzu: if the enemy requests an armistice, they are plotting. And the Ukrainians would have their own plans.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Demilitarization would seem to be at odds with a heavy influx of western arms. It would most likely lead to a resumption of the war.

      • Badger Robert says:

        Which implies that there might be a difference between the mythology of an armistice, as spun in the letters, and the actual armistice, How far will the insiders proceed as they lie to Putin about his ability to control events in Ukraine?
        The insiders may portray Ukraine as weak, gullible, beaten and surrendering, knowing that is not the case.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Militarily, I think the issue is fairly simple; if the Russians leave Ukraine they aren’t going back. At the point the Ukrainian army, which is still in pretty good shape, rolls into the breakaway Republics and takes them over again, uniting Ukraine and telling the Russians, “You want another piece of me? Just try crossing the border! This is an internal matter and we don’t need your input.”

      On the other hand, let’s assume the purported letter writer’s assumption is true; the Russian military pulls out and is replaced by some kind of secret police who try to pacify the Ukrainians… the Russian military still isn’t going back to Ukraine, which means the Russian secret police aren’t going to last long.

      In short, the purported letter-writer is fantasizing when s/he imagines some kind of negotiated solution which helps the Russians. (I almost wrote Soviets.) Also note that the Russians haven’t kept their promises to allow humanitarian corridors, which must make the Ukrainians very unwilling to trust any Russian promise.

      The big problem for the Russians is that they’re spread out all over the place, simultaneously attacking something like a dozen major objectives, and quite vulnerable to defeat in detail, not to mention that the Russian logistics really suck. I expect the Russians to last exactly as long as it takes the Ukrainians to get 5-10,000 soldiers in place and start rolling up Russians one divided division at a time.

      Any thinking about what’s going to happen next or what a purported letter from an FSB agent/analyst means must consider the strategic situation on the ground and unless the Russians can find enough gas, or another 100,000 soldiers, or adapt better combined arms tactics, or something to turn the balance of power they won’t have much hope in the long term.

  9. dude says:

    I guess If I were an analyst as this guy claims, and I worked in a ‘classified’ Russian setting at whatever level, I wouldn’t be writing letters sharing my analysis with the now evident knowledge it’d be read in the clear, especially during an ongoing conflict. Merlin, gold-dust–
    but for internet consumption. I do think it is interesting commentary though. I too hadn’t thought of the “food for oil” angle. But if that were to be true, and if this was a ‘plan’, then the entire Biden Administration should be out there aiding farmers and preaching to them about it. I reckon a lot of farmers have no interest whatever in Biden and are loyal to Republicans–so as a strategy for global domination or as a response to the Russian invasion, ‘food for oil’ it doesn’t look viable, climate change or no.

    But I have been wondering why the Administration isn’t using the bully pulpit more to address the average American directly about the gravity of the situation. I think it is fair to say we are started down the road to a hot world war, not some rook-takes-knight Cold War action occurring in isolation. If the plan is to wait until Russia crosses the line in Poland or Moldova before dramatically putting NATO on high alert, and only then trying to suggest we have a serious American problem, then it will be too late. America is already divided, but the rift will grow wider, faster, louder if our leadership doesn’t speak more directly.

    • Zirc says:

      “But I have been wondering why the Administration isn’t using the bully pulpit more to address the average American directly about the gravity of the situation.”

      It’s a democratic administration. When’s the last time democrats were good at messaging?

      Zirc

      • Eureka says:

        dude (as to that line) and Zirc: Don’t you think Putin’s nuke-wagging is enough to signal to most Americans the gravity of the situation? Polls indicating higher anti-Putin sentiment (as regards this war) via support for Ukraine across party lines than we get for most domestic issues suggest that this is the case.

        Why would we want to demoralize, stress, and depress our own population more than necessary, while signalling — effectively — escalative / weak talk to international players? I think here, Zirc, your shot at dems over messaging is way off.

        Especially after COVID and years of RU-GOP active measures against our populace, ‘rally-round-emergency’ messaging falls flat or differently — triggering, even — with too many. The people who can’t handle higher gas prices or remain fox-led to seeing that as Biden’s / _our_ fault probably wouldn’t move unless an actual declared war kicked the nonsense out of their nativism.

        I could see benefit in repeated calm factual messaging, which is ongoing and could always be enhanced.

        • dude says:

          Actually, I do not think raising the risk of nuclear war is clear in the minds of most Americans. Boomers maybe, but I am not even sure about most of them. I just don’t think the connection between US foreign policy and the coming discomfort to the average American has yet rung a bell. Gas prices at the pump is not the totality of the issue any more than duck-and-cover. I am more inclined to agree with Zirc that Dems (but the government as a whole regardless of affiliation) has not presented what we are doing and why very well.

          Masha Gessen said something in a 5 yr old video about the Crimea and Syria invasions which sticks with me. Economic sanctions against Russia are not wrong– we should vigorously apply them to Russia or any state actor if they insist on doing this kind of violence. It really needs no more justification; however, it is foolish to think this are going to stop Putin. Current messaging implies that is exactly what it will do. And Masha repeated this message in interviews about current invasion. Fiona Hill has also said we are thinking too small if we assume this is just a revival of Cold War give-and-take. I will be interested if Marie Yovanovich’s takes the same tack in her new book. But if America and the West are going to pitch-in for the long term, it isn’t enough to say “Putin’s crazy and reckless” and just drop it at that. The Administration needs to provide the narrative, the backstory, the history.
          And that takes more than a press briefing from a cabinet official or a press secretary reacting to to the previous 24 hrs.

          • Rayne says:

            I think you’re blaming Democrats — that’s one heckuva broad brush — for a messaging problem which may not be theirs nor even the Biden administration’s.

            I’ve seen more in my twitter feeds from media about that Fucker Carlson and his relationship with Russia during the last several days than content about the administration’s efforts for Ukraine. Whose fault is that?

            As an example: today’s NYT is the first edition with front page above the fold article which focuses on Biden administration’s policy work and diplomatic efforts over the course of the last several weeks in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It still managed to mention Anthony Blinken only once while citing Trump/Trump admin four fucking times; it quoted former Obama admin staffer Ben Rhodes more than it quoted Biden admin staffers. It cites a single Democratic senator once. How the fuck is this the Democrats’ messaging fail?

            The media in this country has now been built to deal with Trumpy reality TV politics and access journalism. It doesn’t look like the media which used to handle the rise of fascism and world wars. But sure, it’s Democrats’ messaging fail. ~eye roll~

            • dude says:

              Well, since Biden is a Democrat and the President is the guy who is conducts foreign policy on behalf of the nation, then yes–right now it is a Democratic problem unless the Dems can get some joint, ungrudging support from the other party. (Yeah, fat chance.) I am not in least opposed to the actions taken against Putin so far. Just think they need fuller explanation. Context. Sanctions on Russia have been in effect for about 15 years already–they were phased-in, they were less targeted, they were about different invasions, and most Americans haven’t noticed…which is to say we haven’t felt any serious sacrifice connected to the previous sanctions. The ones that have noticed seem to think they were ineffectual. This time is supposed to be different for a variety of reasons. I do not see the average American, the people in my neighborhood, understanding that a long term commitment is necessary for this to work, and the pain at home may have go on long after what happens in the next weeks or months in Ukraine, win or lose. Or what happens with Covid or not.

              I don’t know that a speech “hammer” from Biden is the answer, but I think he is pretty good at straight talk when its needed. I think it’s needed. Surely there are others in the Administration who can communicate well. Maybe the VP could do it.

              • Rayne says:

                Dude. They’ve been communicating. It’s even in their Twitter feeds which apparently you do not follow. That inconvenient First Amendment prevents the Democrats from commandeering bandwidth to force it down your fucking throat.

                Start beating on the people who aren’t doing their fucking jobs: the corporate media.

              • Rayne says:

                I can’t wrap my head around the degree of stupid it takes to continue to harp on an NFZ when no one really wants World War III.

                The bullshit situation which existed over and about Iraq is in no way like Ukraine and they just don’t get it. ~head desk~

          • Eureka says:

            What would you like them to say, and without fucking up diplomacy, the chess dance, boxing us _and others_ in? (Which is what I was getting at in my comment re telegraphing escalation / weakness (etc.). See also Marcy’s twitter this evening for another excellent example of how we’re doing quite well with that dance, with the selective declasses.)

            Everything they say to “us” is a message to various “thems”.

            I think it’s foolish to assume that the sanctions messaging (as in your e.g. about sanctions as be-all) is what our admin. experts (or the general public, frankly) exclusively believe. It’s not necessarily appropriate for the admin to say what others can say: even the directed the public sphere is a layered chorus. Sideline experts (speakers/ speaking) like Gessen, Hill, Vindman et al. play important roles in telling us what to expect. I wonder if you’re looking for a direct speech hammer from the Biden admin which is not appropriate for them to give. It’s a fluid situation whether we all (here) believe a more than variably-, locally-hot WWIII (as I call it) is coming.

            What do you want them to say, and what — and whose — ends would that serve?

            • Zirc says:

              Eureka, I hope you’re right. I know what polls are like now, but time passes. And it just seems to me that keeping your head down and working an issue to the country’s advantage isn’t enough, or hasn’t been in the past. I LIKE what Biden is doing on this and many other issues. I don’t know precisely what the message is, but someone who is good at this needs to be hitting the airwaves and repeating how good a job the administration is doing regarding this invasion. They need to stress the danger of establishing a no-fly zone, and point out the incredible success Biden has had in putting a coalition of countries together that has pretty much crippled Russia economically. It’s difficult because unlike the GQP, we don’t have an echo chamber to pound the message home. Still, your upbraiding of me is noted and, again, I hope you’re right.

              Zirc

              • Eureka says:

                To be clear this second comment you’re replying to was to dude (and ironically in this discussion of messaging, I don’t know that he would agree that there should be no NFZ, given some of the other things he’s mentioned. But who knows).

                You’re right, Zirc, that head-down doing good for the country hasn’t seemed enough lately and that is the shame of our times. [You have no idea during COVID how many times I’ve said, ‘How the heck would these people have functioned during the true sacrifices needed for WWII?’] I do see them getting out those messaging points (thanks for affirmatively listing some), but like you I am not in the GOPers media silo and I didn’t need convincing in the first place. And even then there are the MSM/ social media conventions Rayne notes @ 6:08 PM above.

                Hopefully in crisis we will transition to a new way.

    • Charles Wolf says:

      “If the plan is to wait until Russia crosses the line in Poland or Moldova…”
      That’s two very different “lines”.
      Poland is a NATO member, Moldova is not.

  10. Tom R. says:

    Here is a bit of self-referential scenario analysis:
    Scenario 1: The epistolist is an FSB analyst.
    Scenario 2: He’s not.

    Analysis 1: He’s not a very good analyst.
    Analysis 2: The same.

    Conclusion: It’s not worth losing sleep over the provenance of these letters, because it doesn’t really matter.

    In more detail: We all know what good analysis looks like. It includes collecting (the evidence) and connecting (the dots). Comparing this guy to Marcy Wheeler is like comparing Barney Fife to Hercule Poirot.
    — The “evidence” he offers is easily checked against open sources.
    — He mentions “scenarios” but he doesn’t do any scenario analysis worthy of the name. Systematic scenario planning has been used in business for 40+ years, and was used in the military even before that. There are fat books on the subject. There are even youtube videos on how to do it. There are a dozen people who participate in this forum who could do a better job.

    • Rayne says:

      Why the binaries for either Scenarios or Analyses?

      How many roles are there in FSB which don’t come in contact with Putin? That’s about the only specificity they’ve given us about their role.

      What if this isn’t an analysis at all but an explainer? Or an apologia? Or an info dump laced with disinformation?

      And yes, there’s oodles of info about scenario planning but if this person actually is/was an FSB employee and they offered up actual scenarios they’d be providing the road map to their doorstep. (Christ, I don’t even discuss the scenario planning I did when I was working as a consultant because someone out there *waves at site’s readers* can figure out who I am.) But they also write in Letter 3 that the systems may be avoided by demand because they’re “too defeatist.” They tell us the FSB were forced to use junk because of politics and not science.

      (It feels like I’m describing what virologists/epidemiologists/public health people have been struggling with since January 2020.)

      I still don’t know what this is. But it may be something outside the simplistic A/B switches through which you see this.

  11. What Constitution? says:

    So if these are the rumblings and musings of ennobled Russian “insiders”, and they are this despondent about options to realign Putin’s thinking, I’m thinking we should be deciding which movie scene best fits. I’ve been leaning predominantly not to any Tom Clancy bit, but rather to the “Radiek removal” opening of Air Force One. Maybe coupled with the “massive demagnetizer” scene from Oceans Eleven. But there doesn’t seem to be a large contingent of Putin Groupies anxious to take his place and continue his jihad should he definitively be removed, and I wouldn’t think that depositing him in The Hague while things are sorted out in Ukraine would result in an immediate further escalation in that theater, more likely a return to sides to take a breath and assess the situation with new Russian Leadership still trying to make an ATM work or get to their yachts.

    Meanwhile, out in Ukraine, are additional airplanes really needed to disarm the Russian military? It’s been over two weeks, and only in the last couple of days have I seen any references to Hellfire missiles dropped from helicopters (or drones) in massive numbers capable of identifying, targeting and destroying every metal object Russia has taken there (after all, even as far back as Failsafe in the early Sixties our satellites have been able to read license plates from space). Being non-military-tech trained, it seems to me that unless each and every such missile requires its own designated Operator at Langley in front of a screen to pilot, that could work out well for Ukraine. And if individual operators are required, I rather presume that’s a function that a bunch of able and willing Ukrainian tekkies with configured laptops could try to replicate with good success. If we have to go the more mundane route of “laser painting” targets with a hand-held device (like the fate of the yellow truck in “Clear and Present Danger”), there might well be plenty of able and willing Ukrainian heroes ready to do that for the laser-guided munitions dropped from any number of existing Ukrainian platforms.

    Emphasizing (and who could miss it) that I don’t know what’s real and what’s possible, but certainly the “maybe he’ll change his mind” strategy is wearing a bit thinner by the moment. This morning I see Russians have fired on trains evacuating Ukrainian civilians from the country, we’re kind of beyond the “maybe they’ll be nicer” point, aren’t we? Since I don’t envision Tucker Carlson going on camera to say “enough is enough” any time soon (though I’d be happy to deport him so he could cut a new deal to broadcast from the Kremlin), maybe other options for bringing Vladimir Putin to justice while removing Vladimir Putin from singularly micromanaging the collapse of western civilization is not entirely crazy.

    • taluslope says:

      That would apparently be Tucker CarlZon to whom you were referring (although I hate it when people do that so please excuse me).

    • What Constitution? says:

      So today I learned about Switchblade drones, which would seem to be what I meant to say when I mentioned Hellfire drones (so War on Terror, those, I guess). These US-made Switchblades look like what I was trying to describe: little, tank-finding terrain-hugging independently targetable junkyard makers (inexpensive, too). And they’re now on their way to Ukraine. Thoughtful Russian soldiers might want to be starting to at least get out of the vehicle they’re in.

  12. BobCon says:

    I can’t begin to untangle this, but one thing that struck me is the way this is framed as Russia being a pawn in a larger US-China struggle. I think that gives a sense of where the vision of this writer is focused, whether in good faith or not I can’t say.

    In terms of Asia, one little thing that struck me was this:

    “the growth of foreign policy threats, including military – there is no guarantee that Japan will not attack the Kuril islands or that Georgia will not attack Ossetia-Abkhazia, Syria and Libya is preparing for attacks against our units);”

    The Kuril Islands reference is weird — although you could see threats in Georgia, Syria and Libya, there is essentially no chance Japan would move militarily against the Kurils. I don’t know if the reference to a militarized Japan is actually aimed at a Chinese audience.

    • Rayne says:

      The US-China dynamic is interesting; I can’t recall now who cracked wise and said Russia will become China’s Belarus when the dust settles.

      As for the Kuril Islands: Japan’s PM Kushida has been hammering on Russia about the Kurils being part of Japan since he became PM last October. His predecessor Shinzo Abe rather avoided the topic while he was in office. What’s peculiarly timely is the mention appears in Letter 3 published March 10 but dated March 5; Kushida had reiterated the claim on the Kurils on March 7 and Japan’s FM Hayashi makes a similar statement on March 8.

      • Zirc says:

        Even before this invasion, I have thought Putin to be a good tactician but a crap strategist. While he wins a lot of battles, everything he’s doing points to Russia ending up as China’s little brother.

        Zirc

        • Rayne says:

          Putin is the guy with a hammer: every problem looks like a nail. He got himself elected blowing up buildings, he’s kept his grasp on power blowing up buildings in Chechya, Syria. Managed to do a little sneaky work in Crimea by blowing up stuff in/over Donbas region.

          And now he thinks blowing up stuff in Ukraine will likewise do the job, cementing his legacy. Mission accomplished.

    • Riktol says:

      Respectfully believe Rayne is wrong about the Kurils. My understanding is that Japanese politicians complaining about the Kuril Islands is like Argentinian politicians complaining about the Falklands, or Spanish politicians complaining about Gibraltar. There’s a constituency which responds to this kind of talk, but that doesn’t make it likely to happen IRL. Not to mention that NATO’s mutual defence clause wouldn’t apply if Japan was the aggressor.

      The idea that Bashar would turn on Russia after it has spent like 11 years keeping him in power seems like a paranoid delusion. Not sure if that makes the letters more or less credible.

      Georgia attacking its breakaway regions seems unlikely, because those regions are unofficially (but very clearly) backed by Russia. Does Georgia have the capacity to do this? Does Georgia feel able to directly oppose Russia, and not regret it 2-5 years down the line? Again it feels paranoid delusiony, but maybe you need that mindset to work at the FSB.

      Also today I learned that Russia has forces in Libya, are they more Wagner mercenaries or is it something secret that no one was supposed to know?

      • Rayne says:

        Okay, sure. Whatev. I’m sure the Japanese were just gaslighting me.

        … Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government has reverted to long-standing basic principles on the Northern Territories, dropping the nuanced language used by predecessor Shinzo Abe, who had tried to speed up negotiations on a diplomatic solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin. …

        [source: Nikkei Asia, March 10, 2022]
        .

        … Without directly referring to the islands dispute, Abe hailed the development of relations with Russia during Putin’s 13-year presidency of the country but admitted more needed to be done.

        “The potential for cooperation has not been unlocked sufficiently and it is necessary to increase the cooperation between our countries as partners,” he said.

        Abe has made clear he wants to build a strong personal relationship with Putin as the basis for solving the two countries’ problematic relations. …

        [Al Jazeera, April 19, 2013]

  13. L. Eslinger says:

    In the Fortune 100 (and 500) companies I’ve worked for the senior executives were typically surrounded by Yes Men (and women), but the number of true believers was so small that its members were outliers. The Yes Men to whom I reported were all opportunists, who always calculated their moves in terms of self-interests, whereas the true believers might have stepped off the roof if so instructed. True believers frighten me.

    Hopefully, if and when it comes to Russia using WMD’s in Ukraine, opportunists will be in the critical path leading to the carrying out of orders.
    If so, we may later learn that the Command & Control systems needed to launch were inexplicably non-functional at the time.

  14. Arabiflora says:

    I find it curious that the ostensible FSB insider makes no mention of the Chechen hit squad reportedly tasked with taking-out Zelinskyy and the tip provided by a “disaffected” members of the FSB that resulted in its “neutralization” (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10569945/Disaffected-Russian-FSB-agents-tipped-Ukraine-Chechen-hit-squad-sent-kill-Zelensky.html). If that report is true, one would think the FSB letter writer would point to the incident as evidence that not all in the agency are all-in with supporting Putin’s delusional world view.

    • LizzyMom says:

      FWIW, I don‘t think the writer not mentioning that Chechen thing may be indicative of anything other than the fact that FSB is a large org with lots of people working on lots of different things. We don‘t know how widespread the knowledge of this incident is within the organization or in public, in particular because it puts FSB in a very poor light.

      • Arabiflora says:

        Fair enough but the Daily Mail isn’t exactly an obscure news source and so if, as you seem to assert, the FSB letter writer was unaware of such a consequential activity (as always, if true), it would cast serious doubt on the depth– if not fidelity– of the insider’s knowledge of events.

        • LizzyMom says:

          I understand your point — just not sure of two things: 1) does this analyst work with English-language documents (sounds like s/he’s describing a lot of gaming scenario analyses, for which s/he may be fed already preprocessed/pre-filtered intelligence) and 2) just how much direct access does all of FSB have to Western stuff at this time, particularly as the news coming out of the West is not so favorable (i.e., are all FSB employees going to get unfettered tunnels through to an unrestricted Internet). Organizations like FSB will usually have some compartmentalization, in part because of worries of moles and such, but also in part due to specialization (i.e., analysts focused on internal China issues may not see much Europran stuff).

          Since we have no idea where this person sits in the hierarchy, we have not idea of the level of access to outside OSINT is available to them. A lot, indeed most, of what is being described in these missives is internal dynamics. That‘s an entirely different can of worms.

          • LizzyMom says:

            Rainer, sorry, there was a typo in my email address which I saw only as the comment was sent. My apologies…

        • LizzyMom says:

          Well, there are several things to consider here, especially as we do not know exactly where in the FSB hierarchy this person is. A lot, if not most, of what this person is describing is internal dynamics (within FSB and in-country) against some background related to the situation (which everybody is aware of because of the on-going conflict).

          FSB is going to be compartmentalized on a variety of levels for several reasons, including insurance against potential moles or hidden detractors (limiting the access also allows for pinpointing in case of leakage). Also, different departments and groups will have different specialties. For example, experts on China will have access to different sources than experts on South America or Syria — they will not (need to) see all incoming intelligence from elsewhere.

          First, this person describes working on scenario analysis, which is different than processing raw intel — there‘s every possibility, that this person is getting preprocessed or pre-filtered information and not looking directly at, say, English-language OSINT sources. Second, we do not know that all of the various FSB employees will have direct “tunnel” access through to the unrestricted internet — which direct access to Daily Mail implies. (Also: if this person is the least bit concerned about being identified, they are going to be a bit hazy about exactly how much info they have access to and in what form, just to save their own neck.)

          So, yes, discussing stuff around the water cooler about freak-outs by the higher ups may be happening throughout FSB, but that isn’t an indicator that this person knows all intel about this situation.

          • LizzyMom says:

            Sorry, Rayne and everyone, for the overlapping messages. The first two appeared to go into some sort of limbo, so I re-did my basic points in a third msg… Argh.

            [A typo in your username/email/URL fields caused a delay. I’ve fixed the one which caused the hiccup. /~Rayne]

          • Troutwaxer says:

            If we assume the purported analyst is siloed s/he’s still clear on how bad the news might be.

            • LizzyMom says:

              Although the terms “silo” or “stovepipe” are useful to describe how the activities of various parts of an organization may function independently without cross-contact, there is a flaw in this analogy: the fact that the organization has a top layer (top management / board of directors) which sits on top of all silos/stovepipes which is visible to all of them. In other words silo/stovepipe is really more like a support pillar of a bridge. You may not be aware of exactly what your counterpart in another pillar may be doling, but you are all watching the folks up on top. And at this moment, you know that the two guys at the top are under house arrest and it’s clear everyone above you is freaking out — doesn’t take a genius to figure out it has something to do with the on-going “special operation” in Ukraine.

              • Troutwaxer says:

                Which begs the question of whether the information is making it to the top of the stovepipe. If it doesn’t get there it can’t be evaluated.

              • madwand says:

                Exactly and then there were the more than 20 searches of close colleagues, someone is blown, could be because of this guy Vladimir Osechkin publishing these things on his website, perhaps not, Ukrainian psyop, however, might have been successful in influencing one or two of those people who don’t trust anyone.

    • Rayne says:

      First, the letter writer mentioned Kadyrov in Letter 1 and Letter 2 — six and seven days after the Chechen hit squad had been eliminated, mentions how Kadyrov’s personnel are outside Russian law established by the Duma.

      Second, the hit squad was tasked by Putin, who may not have communicated that to FSB, perhaps out of paranoia, perhaps because Kadyrov says they’re outside, perhaps because Putin intended this to be non-official until completed:

      … According to the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, Putin instructed Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, last month to carry out the assassination. …

      [source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/02/zelensky-russia-ukraine-assassination-attempt-foiled ]

      And since Ukraine said they were tipped by the FSB — not the US though the US IC had heard the Chechens in advance over unsecured comms — it doesn’t make sense that someone from FSB would elaborate in any way about the hit squad. Frankly, it’s this point which gives me pause about this letter writer: whether FSB did/didn’t tip Ukraine about the hit squad, why would anyone in FSB mention Kadyrov at all given the sensitivity?

      BTW, you really could do better than citing the DailyMail on this one.

      • Eureka says:

        I’ve always thought that the “disaffected FSB tip-off” as to the Chechens was cover (or even disguise) for US IC tip — cover (disguise) which concords and layers nicely with all of the other RU-demoralizing data (and possible propaganda) points. Either way it’s win-win for the anti-Putinists. Paranoia will destroya.

        — Pausing here in the middle to note that as this relates to the post, Igor’s whole Wind of Change approach is wise. And while I don’t doubt at all that there are higher-ups inside the Curtain who would seek and serve change in that way — fully plausible that there could be a disaffected FSB writer — there might also be some Western assistance with voicing the letters, too. [That’s ‘Western’ writ-large and aspirational, and does not rule out Ukrainian origin.] —

        Relatedly (to the arts of war), if less firmly, I’ve suspected all the noisy back-and-forth between (e.g.) US-Poland over the jets might have been mask for transfers of other defenses/arms. I think it might have helped in that regard, seems like Putin had a delayed reaction in complaining about ~ the latter.

        • Rayne says:

          No idea whether FSB-tip was cover for US IC-tip or cover for Chechens who didn’t want to fight and turned in their own (seeing as some Chechens are now fighting for Ukraine in part because of Crimea). Messy.

          I don’t know about the noisy US-Poland bit; it was an EU official who blabbed first about it, wonder now if they outed themselves as an embedded Putinist/Russianist, or if they were cover for what you describe. I worry now that we’ll see attacks in places we didn’t expect because Putin has said equipment being shipped to Ukraine is now a legitimate target.

          • Eureka says:

            That Putin statement you link was the one I was referring to as his relatively delayed complaint — he could have made that aggro declaration much sooner — a cause for concern I agree. My point on that was more that the top-level back and forth about the jets distracted from the delivery of real helpful mil aid (some, such as Nance, even argue that the anti-tank and anti-missile implements are far more valuable than the jets). The protracted debate may have bought time, staved escalation (in concert with some RU mil incompetencies).

            • Eureka says:

              An interesting follow-up on the jets. Rep. Susan Wild (of the united bipartisan party who’d traveled to Poland) was just on MSNBC. She said these three things in a row (can’t say exactly how she meant to connect them and there’s no clip to review): they’re disappointed about Poland not delivering the planes; we have (had) really good intelligence on the ground; maybe they got some intelligence she/her group weren’t aware of that precluded delivery of the planes.


              I think she said their party had met (~ Polish border) around 12m from where the RU rockets hit Sunday

  15. drouse says:

    Not to address the various claims he makes,but it seems to me that these letters were written by a really stressed out individual. The repeated references for trying to get rest and the abrupt almost erratic changes in focus are telling. Desperation and despair practically drip from it. Increasingly desperate in that he seems like he is convinced that his probable escape will be feet first and despair in breaking through the happy talk fantasy bubble surrounding the decision makers.

    • Rayne says:

      Please don’t confuse the interstitial interjections by the translator with the letter writer.

      • taluslope says:

        Rayne, you don’t see despair in these FSB drops? It’s one thing that takes me out of the can’t possibly be real camp.

        • Rayne says:

          I’m aware in reading this I’m at least two iterations deep and one is a translation. Feeling can be injected by word choice. That said, the middle three letters are not exactly upbeat.

          It’s the last letter which I find most disturbing for its mismatch with events.

  16. gulageten says:

    The letters could be authentic without being true, and vice versa. And they could be dystopian fan fiction performance art. Regardless they make for good reading — the stone-hard prose is both compelling and convicing. Thank you for posting them here, where at least the commentary is always genuine.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Real or not, I think this missive is a sideshow. Militarily speaking the Russians are in terrible trouble and I don’t think the Ukrainians are going to let them off the hook. I don’t see much insight from the possible analyst that speaks to that terribly well. We’re learning what we already know about Putin and what we already know about the way Russian society is built to make sure that real news doesn’t reach the top. Subtract, from the missive above, the things we already know and there’s not much left. Also note that the message is a long way away from being thematically whole. So it’s not terribly coherent and the facts presented are unimportant. It’s what Le Carre once referred to as “chickenfeed.”

      Or is it?

      There’s one thing no member of our commentariat has considered, which is that this missive may be a coded communication with an agent someplace. Imagine that each tweet, or a special keyword in each tweet, is being looked up in a codebook by the person or people who are the specific, real recipients of the missive. So all the original writer, not the translator, needs to do is work in keywords like “shaman” in tweet 27. This may be why the message, taken as a whole, reads a little incoherently; the only real point of the message is that it be read by someone with a codebook, and the only real point of each tweet is to work in a couple keywords.

      Seen from this perspective the sender’s point of view is irrelevant.

      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, that last bit. Not being a native Russian speaker/reader, it’s difficult to know if there’s something else going on in this.

        The letters could be crap in a fashion similar to the Trump dossier, just a red herring — and yet there was content in that dossier which was tossed out, the import of the entire dossier’s existence similarly discarded. There should have been a red flag over the indication fragmentation of the Democratic Party was being worked on, and the entirety of the dossier was a similar indicator that things were wholly fucked up and needed much deeper intelligence and assessment. What is it we’re missing now which is right in front of our noses?

        I realized after responding to WilliamOckham earlier there may be a breadcrumb trail or two left to follow, but like the bloody dossier it’d be difficult to do anything about it without massive blowback.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Rayne, these letters have reminded me of the Steele dossier and its attendant issues too. Others have ferreted out most of what I noticed, and much I did not. I agree with your point about translations. Having done some professionally (from and into French mainly), I am wary of my desire to find an authorial tone in word choice and syntax. Such a tone does emerge here, however, and I would love to hear from a Russian reader who’s seen the original texts.

  17. Atomic Shadow says:

    I have been amazed at how little the Russians seem to understand basic military tactics. I am not a General, but you don’t blaze down the road with your infantry riding on the back of your tanks. At least not if you are moving though ruined buildings or forest. That is how they keep getting ambushed. It’s crazy.

    The Ukrainians know the lay of the land. With a good supply of those shoulder launched missiles they can do an amazing amount of damage. This could go on for a very long time. I feel almost as sorry for those Russian kids as I do for all of the innocent civilians who are running for their lives. It’s all horrible.

    The question I have is, why? There is nothing to be gained by this. Does Putin have a screw loose? Alright, yes he does. But did he think this was going to be a cakewalk? That it would make him look taller somehow? But now, it’s hard to an offramp that works out well for Ukraine. Putin’s position seems to be “Stop making me punch you in the face”. The Ukrainians are fighting for their homes, and their nation. Under that threat, people tend to get very hard and stubborn. I saw a fella on TV yesterday say that if it we impossible for a smaller force to defeat a larger military, there would not be a single free nation on the planet. True.

    One thing I do know for certain. If Putin is overthrown somehow, that could be worse in some ways. Power vacuums ALWAYS favor the most psychotic and violent person or group. That’s how the “Oligarchs” came to be. They weren’t elected. That’s how Putin got where he is today. The fall of Putin would probably set off a massive civil war inside Russia.

    Putin is actually destroying two countries right now.

    • rip says:

      Perhaps the northern invasions were just a feint. Bring the focus of the war to Ukraine’s northern flank and then attack from the south via the Black Sea fleet. All of those troops marching to Kyiv were just expendable fodder.

      Wonder how Turkey’s declaration that no warships can pass through the straits will hold up.

  18. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I learned a lot from reading the four letters, but the psychological profile was the most enlightening – especially discussing Putin being capable of approving multiple and potentially conflicting plans, and telling the person in charge of each plan “if your plan fails, it’s on you”.

  19. Spencer Dawkins says:

    Overgeneralization follows – sorry.

    I’ve been talking with my daughter about the difference between communist “true believers”, from something like 1905 to probably 1965-1975, and the Soviets who didn’t really believer that they would, or could, conquer capitalism, ever, and just started living it up until the Soviet Union collapsed.

    The cool thing, if you were Stalin, is that the Soviet government was FULL of committed communists who believed in Stalin, but now, the oligarchs believe in capitalism, no one else thinks that capitalism will ever benefit them, and it’s difficult to understand why anyone would fight for Putin.

    From the Cheka to the KGB, the intelligence services worked for the party, but even the FSB is sort of floating – the writer seems to long for the good old days when few people could force the intelligence service to lie for them, and sees that now, that’s ALL the intelligence service can do, is to tell happy lies for anyone nearer to Putin.

  20. Tom R. says:

    ICYMI: There is a nice 18,000 word interview with Masha Gessen in last Friday’s NY Times. She knows quite a lot about what’s going on in Russia at the moment, including how it looks to ordinary citizens.

    Also, she knows more than most people about what makes Putin tick, having written a biography of him.

  21. Dutch Louis says:

    Ukraine can’t win, but Putin can loose this war. According to the weatherforecast within a few days the winter will disappear in Ukraine. With rising temperatures the swampy earth will return and from then on tanks and other vehicles can follow only the roads. If by that moment the Russians have not conquered or completely isolated some big cities in the south or the north, their goal to squeeze Zelensky from power quickly and divide Ukraine in two parts with the river Dnepr as border, evaporates. That would make Putin’s position vulnerable: logistical problems, high costs, ongoing loss of lives and no return on investment. The big question is: what will happen then?

  22. Chris Perkins says:

    That was interesting to read, but I’m skeptical that it comes from someone in the FSB with the pretensions of the access it implies.

    For example, the thing about China planning to invade Taiwan this year, finishing before the autumn, is almost certainly wrong. Xi JinPing’s very secure all-completely-assured election is this year in November. An invasion of Taiwan beforehand would only jeopardize that, not ensure it. Furthermore, big operations like that are both impossibly to do secretly and impossible to do quickly. That’s not to say China won’t invade Taiwan, but they aren’t doing it anytime in 2022. And, moreover, the assertion that after seeing Russia’s progress in Ukraine, China is now abandoning said plan begs the question of how this analyst would possibly know these decisions being made in China. That could only be sheer speculation. And, frankly, I find most of it to be speculative. Interesting perspectives, certainly, and even ungrounded speculation can lead to insights, but only coincidentally.

  23. Alan Charbonneau says:

    I thought the community here would find this interesting…

    Headline: “Journalist crashes Russian live news show with anti-war poster”
    “The live main evening news program on Russia’s state television was briefly interrupted on Tuesday by a person who walked into the studio holding a poster against the war in Ukraine.”

    The poster said in Russian: “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. Here they are lying to you.” It is signed in English: “Russians against the war”.

    https://www.1news.co.nz/2022/03/14/journalist-crashes-russian-live-news-show-with-anti-war-poster/

  24. WSDarterr says:

    Incredible if true, and on 99% of it, I have no way of knowing, though it is consistent with my other tea-leaf reading. But when Russia has to ask China for weapons and other support, at week three, then this becomes more credible.

    As for the 1% that I do know about, there is no Venezuelan light crude. That I have ever hear about. Venezuelan crude is the thickest around, so much so they have to drill far more wells than anywhere else to maintain production. The very first Venezuelan oil production was actually done with shovels and wheelbarrows. And nearly all of it is refined in the US, so there is something to the idea that the US could buy all their production, if they ever get it going again. They have under-invested in drilling since the days of Hugo Chavez, and I have no idea how long it would take them to scale up to useful levels.

    • Rayne says:

      With Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov meeting Venezuela’s President Maduro on February 17 resulting in Maduro signing a letter of intent toward greater cooperation including “stabilizing the global oil market,” I wouldn’t count on *any* Venezuelan oil regardless of its weight.

      The lever on Venezuela is its debt; its two largest debtholders are Russia and China. Russia needs something other than rubles and oil, but Venezuela may need military equipment it may no longer be able to obtain from Russia along with grain it may not want from Brazil. There’s been and will be some serious international haggling over the next several weeks.

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