Putin’s Other War of Attrition

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

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, died today as a complication of Vladimir Putin’s trumped-up imprisonment.

Reports indicate Navalny died of an embolism, though no independent autopsy has been scheduled. Putin had previously tried to poison Navalny with nerve agent novichok, the same poison used against former double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Navalny’s work documenting Russia’s corruption tweaked not only Putin but his underbosses and capos.

The example in the video above, centered on the family of Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, offers a reason why Putin targeted Navalny: the Russian emperor is an organized crime overlord whose henchmen have hollowed out Russia.

This is a key reason, too, why Russia is engaged in a war of attrition against Ukraine. It can’t muster the military might to take out Ukraine because its defense department has been riddled with leaks siphoning off the resources needed to build a first world credible military, just as Chaika and his family have bled Russia’s law enforcement and tax revenue structure.

While we can thank this hollowing out for preventing an absolute blow-out against Ukraine, the Russian military as it exists continues to offer the corrupt regime opportunities to vacuum more resources out of the country.

Navalny’s continued existence was a threat to what was yet another of Putin’s war of attrition – the one of organized crime against the Russian people.

It has not helped that the Republican Party has been aiding and abetting Putin’s antidemocratic efforts against Russians by supporting Putin’s useful idiots, most especially Donald Trump.

It has not helped that useful idiots like Tucker Carlson have been so eager to kneel down before Putin and kiss his ring.

Former ambassador and academic Michael McFaul was blunt in his assessment: “Putin killed Navalny, let’s be crystal clear about that.

Though Navalny had been declared a political prisoner by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Putin certainly did nothing to ensure the safety and longevity of Navalny, who had been transferred to high security penal facility IK-3 in late December 2023.

How convenient for Putin to have Tucker Carlson interview him the week before Navalny died out of the public’s view in thinly-populated western Siberia, providing a synthetic gloss of western approbation over Putin’s criminality.

Navalny may have lost this war of attrition but he was right: “Listen, I’ve got something very obvious to tell you. You’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.”

If Navalny had not continued to pose a threat to Putin’s regime, he would have been ignored.

Call and Response: Putin Demanded Greater Russia and Trump Agreed

Over the weekend, Putin and Donald Trump seem to have come to public agreement that, if elected in November, Trump would help Putin pursue Greater Russia.

In his session with Tucker Carlson, after all, Putin corrected the propagandist, informing him that, no, he didn’t invade Ukraine because of concerns about NATO expansion, but because he considers Ukraine — and much of Eastern Europe — part of Greater Russia. He subjected Tucker to a half hour lesson in his, Putin’s, mythology about Russia.

Tucker Carlson:Mr. President, thank you.

On February 24, 2022, you addressed your country in your nationwide address when the conflict in Ukraine started and you said that you were acting because you had come to the conclusion that the United States through NATO might initiate a quote, “surprise attack on our country”. And to American ears that sounds paranoid. Tell us why you believe the United States might strike Russia out of the blue. How did you conclude that?

Vladimir Putin:The point is not that the United States was going to launch a surprise strike on Russia, I didn’t say so. Are we having a talk show or serious conversation?

Tucker Carlson:That was a good quote. Thank you, it’s formidably, serious!

Vladimir Putin: Your education background is in history, as far as I understand, right?

Tucker Carlson: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Then I will allow myself – just 30 seconds or one minute – to give a little historical background, if you don’t mind.

Tucker Carlson: Please.

Vladimir Putin: Look how did our relations with Ukraine begin, where does Ukraine come from.


Tucker Carlson: May I ask… You are making the case that Ukraine, certain parts of Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, in fact, has been Russia for hundreds of years, why wouldn’t you just take it when you became President 24 years ago? Your have nuclear weapons, they don’t. It’s actually your land. Why did you wait so long?

Vladimir Putin: I’ll tell you. I’m coming to that. This briefing is coming to an end. It might be boring, but it explains many things.

And then, within a day, Trump told a fabricated story that served to promise that not only wouldn’t he honor America’s commitment to defend NATO states, but would instead encourage Russia to do “whatever they hell they want.”

One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, “Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?,” I said, “You didn’t pay. You’re delinquent.” He said, “Yes, let’s say that happened.” No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.

Call and response.

I still owe you a post(s) about my full understanding of the Russian investigation, one of the last parts of my Ball of Thread before I describe how Trump trained Republicans to hate rule of law. But I want to point to some aspects of 2016 — how Russia used similar calls and response to lock Trump in as part of the help they gave him.

As Adam Schiff addressed to in the exchange where he walked John Durham through all the elements of what Schiff described as “collusion” of which Durham claimed to be ignorant, Trump first asked for help, then got it.

Mr. Schiff. Don Jr. when offered dirt as part of what was described as Russian government effort to help the Trump Campaign said, “if it’s what you say, I love it;” Would you call that an invitation to get Russian help with dirt on Hillary Clinton?

Mr. Durham. The words speak for themselves, I supposed.

Mr. Schiff. I think they do. In fact, he said, especially late in summer. Late in summer was around when the Russians started to dump the stolen emails, wasn’t it?

Mr. Durham. Late in the summer, there was information that was disclosed by WikiLeaks in mid to late July.

Only, it happened even more than Schiff laid out. And it happened in ways that ensured Trump would be stuck down the road.

The way it worked with the Trump Tower Moscow dangle may be most instructive (this is, obviously, a paraphrase).

Late 2015, Felix Sater to Michael Cohen: Do you want the biggest bestest tower in Moscow? Are you willing to work with a former GRU officer and sanctioned banks to get it?

Cohen: Yes.

January 2016, Sater: Okay, then call the Kremlin.

January 2016, Michael Cohen to Dmitry Peskov, writing on a server hosted by Microsoft: Can I have Vladimir Putin’s help to build the biggest bestest tower in Moscow?

[Peskov pockets proof that Cohen and Trump were willing to work with a former GRU officer and sanctioned banks. Before the first primary, Putin pocketed his first receipt.]

May, after Trump has sealed the nomination, Sater to Cohen: You should fly to St. Petersburg to meet with Putin.

Cohen agrees, but once the DNC hack is revealed, Cohen decides that’s a bad idea and calls it off. Already, the stakes of having agreed to work with a former GRU officer have now gone up considerably.

July 27, Trump responding to some totally predictable questions, between asking Russia to hack Hillary some more and stating he would consider recognizing Russia’s seizure of Crimeia:

TRUMP: No, I have nothing to do with Russia, John (ph). How many times do I have say that? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.

And even — for anything. What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I told it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, OK?


TRUMP: Excuse me, listen. We wanted to; we were doing Miss Universe 4 or 5 years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success. Very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out.

Frankly I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. But we had a major developer, particular, but numerous developers that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places. But we decided not to do it.

[Peskov now has a secret with Trump and Cohen, that in fact this was a lie.]

By the time Trump told this lie, Roger Stone was already working on getting advance notice of the contents of the John Podesta emails, a more specific ask. And Konstantin Kilimnik was preparing his trip to meet in a cigar bar with Paul Manafort where they would discuss how to win the swing states, how Manafort could get paid, and how to carve up Ukraine.

Later Steele dossier entries, sourced through Olga Galkina, who had started working directly with Peskov, claimed that Cohen had direct contact with the Kremlin (he had!), and claimed he was fixing Trump problems (he was! Trump’s sex worker problem!), but instead claimed that Cohen was instead fixing a Russian tie problem.

By the time those October Steele dossier entries were written, and especially by the time the December one was, Russia had done the following:

  • Gotten Cohen (and through him, Trump) to agree to work with sanctioned banks and a former GRU officer to get the biggest bestest Tower in Moscow
  • Left evidence of this fact on Cohen and Sater’s phones, in Trump Organization call records, and Trump Organization emails hosted by Microsoft, where they would be discoverable in case of investigation
  • Established a secret between the Kremlin and Trump: that the statements Trump made on the same day Russia obliged his request to hack Hillary, denying that he had ongoing discussions with Russia, were a lie
  • Made the substance of the lie look far, far worse, thereby increasing the chances the lie would be discovered, which it was

Through a predictable mix of narcissism and sloppiness, then, Trump had compromised himself without even thinking through the consequences.

Trump always insisted that his request that Russia further hack his opponent on July 27, 2016 was just a joke (and never really accounted for the Crimea comment). But Roger Stone was inserting himself into Trump’s public foreign policy statements as early as April.

And, after two conversations with Trump on July 31, Stone scripted a number of pro-Russian tweets for Trump to post. Trump didn’t post the tweets Stone sent; his staffers were instead cleaning up from the “Are you listening” comment. But Stone may have posted the ones he drafted himself.

Of course the Russians hacked @HillaryClinton’s e-mail- Putin doesn’t want the WAR with Russia neo-con Hillary’s donors have paid for

HYPOCRISY ! @HillaryClinton attacks Trump for non-relationship with Putin when she and Bill have taken millions from Russians oligarchs

Trump wants to end the cold war and defuse out tensions with Russia. Hillary ,neocon wants war. Putin gets it. @smerconish @realDonaldTrump

,@RealDonaldTrump wants to end new cold war tensions with Russia-thru tough negotiation- #detente #NYTimes

That is, in 2016, days before Stone’s lifelong friend Manafort would discuss election help in the same conversation as carving up Ukraine, days before Stone himself got advance notice of the Podesta emails, the rat-fucker was promising that Trump would end cold and hot wars with Russia.

By the time Stone did get those advance Podesta emails in mid-August 2016, the operation had already linked Stone to two Russian intelligence operations: the use of Julian Assange as a cut-out (and his request for a pardon), and the Shadow Brokers operation releasing NSA files publicly. That is, by chasing the carrot of stolen Hillary emails, Stone linked himself inextricably with two sticks, association with the most effective attacks on the US Deep State in recent history. Stone and Trump would have happily targeted the Deep State anyway, but Russia didn’t leave that to chance.

First Trump and Cohen compromised themselves by asking for help. Then Trump personally and through Stone made policy commitments. Along the way, Russia kept pocketing one or another receipt that would help bind Trump to those commitments, or if not, ensure some kind of leverage over him.

Here we are, eight years later, and that formula has only gotten more overt. At a time when winning the election is an existential necessity for Trump, one day after Putin made clear he is seeking not just Ukraine, but Greater Russia, Trump overtly promised to allow Russia to carve up NATO.

Past history suggests that may be no coincidence.

Update: Fixed a reference to Manafort.

Three Things: This Week’s Massive Dickhead Award Goes To…

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

This last week was bad. We were swamped with dickheads, more so than usual, and some of them bigger dickheads than the usual fare.

There are so many it’s worth assessing who was the champion dickhead this week.

Below are my top three. Tell us in comments who you’d have picked for this week’s Massive Dickhead Award.

~ 3 ~

WINNER: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10)

This asshat became the Acting House Speaker after the ultra-fascist faction of the GOP House Caucus led by Matt Ephebophile Gaetz forced the feckless Kevin McCarthy out of the speaker’s role.

McHenry chose to come out swinging rather than settling calmly and rationally into the speakership.

Within hours of McCarthy’s removal, McHenry booted Nancy Pelosi out of her office while she was out of D.C. escorting Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s body back to California. She was not accorded a reasonable amount of time to attend the funeral service and return to D.C. to clean out her office.

He then blew off the Congressional delegation in need of air transportation to California for Feinstein’s funeral.

…the House Republican leadership did not allow a plane to transport the late Senator’s colleagues from DC to SFO. After the late Senator passed, Rep. Zo Lofgren contacted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy to request air transportation for colleagues to attend the memorial service.

This is a courtesy any delegation is traditionally afforded to allow members to travel together to honor a member who passed away. But, Rep. Lofgren, who’s the delegation representative, never heard back from McCarthy. According to Thompson, she made the same request of Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry but also didn’t get a response.

“It’s just sad commentary on the House Republican leadership where they wouldn’t allow a plane to come back so her colleagues can pay tribute to this great legislator, great Senator remarkable leader,” Thompson said. “I’m assuming some people will not be able to make it because of that.”

Sloppy if not arrogantly thoughtless. A slap at the state which is the fifth largest economy in the world, with the largest congressional delegation, as if McHenry doesn’t think anything of winning Democratic seats in California.

There have been 39 representatives and senators who’ve died in office since 2000, and at no time has there been such a pointed dickishness toward the congressional delegation traveling to funeral services, regardless of the political party in control of the House or Senate.

But this is McHenry’s SOP, has been since at least 2008. He demonstrated his sloppy thoughtless arrogance then:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn’t re-air a video he’d shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican, traveled to Iraq with other lawmakers for the first time on March 22. The video was the second incident stemming from that trip that has drawn unwanted attention to McHenry. Earlier, he was criticized for berating a guard in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone for not allowing him into a gym there because the congressman did not have the proper identification credential.

The new criticism stems from a video that was featured on his Web site last Friday. Shot in the Green Zone, it showed McHenry gesturing to a building behind him and saying that one of 11 rockets “hit just over my head.” Then he named two other places struck by the rockets.

As in 2008, his unthinking reflexive behavior is a sign McHenry is not capable of governance, only peevish pettiness which pisses on the American public and their needs for rational effective government.

Our country deserves and needs better than massive dickheads who believe owning the libs is the job for which the American public pays them. It’d be nice to think the GOP thinks so, too, but they actually allowed McHenry to pull this bullshit and spit on congressional comity at a time when it’s most needed to negotiate a budget. Thanks to North Carolina’s persistent partisan gerrymandering, the GOP ensures both NC-10 and the country are stuck with this prize-winning jerk, at least through the 2024 election.

~ 2 ~

SECOND PLACE: Vladimir Putin

Killing 50 civilians including a child with a missile, wiping out half the village of Hroza while its residents interred a loved one is both a war crime and the height of dickishness.

Way to win hearts and minds, Pooty, you kidnapper and murderer of children.

You’d think he’d have learned something from U.S. errors in places like Iraq and Afghanistan but nope. He just doubles down on his criminality.

Added asshole-ishness: this agitprop trying to stir up shit between the U.S. and Israel immediately after the attack by Hamas.

Unlike Putin, POTUS can walk and chew gum, isn’t hiding in their ill-gotten fortress of solitude, and isn’t obsessed with toxic nostalgia for the past like the decades-plus effort to restore the USSR.

The U.S. also has a defense budget larger which makes Russia’s look like nothing – we can manage more than one challenge.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? All Russia has in its arsenal is cheap influence operations amplified by cringelords?

Speaking of cringelords…

~ 1 ~


Why this guy bothers with American citizenship is beyond me given his reluctance to respect its government.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday sought to force Elon Musk to sit for a deposition as part of an ongoing investigation about his purchase of Twitter, now known as X.

The SEC said Musk failed to appear for testimony as required by a May subpoena despite agreeing to show up last month at the SEC’s office in San Francisco.

Musk waited until two days before the scheduled date to notify the SEC he would not appear, regulators said. They’re now seeking a court order to force Musk to comply.

Musk’s response this week was pure DARVO:

Elon Musk called for an overhaul of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday, the same day the agency sued him in an effort to compel him to testify about his purchase of Twitter, the platform now known as X.

“A comprehensive overhaul of these agencies is sorely needed, along with a commission to take punitive action against those individuals who have abused their regulatory power for personal and political gain. Can’t wait for this to happen,” Musk wrote on X in response to news of the SEC suing him.

So predictable: deny the abuse, reverse victim-abuser order. Poor Musk is the victim, won’t somebody deal with the mean old SEC?

The acquisition of Twitter by this narcissistic git very much needs investigation. As noted previously, Musk was so desperate to avoid Delaware’s Chancery Court after he sued to stop his acquisition last year that he threw in the towel and proceeded to buy Twitter.

What is it that Musk doesn’t want revealed in public record?

An alleged proponent of free speech, Musk appears to have shrugged off an egregious persecution of civil rights though it’s his platform which has been at the heart of the Saudis’ charges and death sentence against Saudi citizen Mohammad Alghamdi for their tweets.

Besides blowing off the SEC’s subpoena and blowing off free speech, Musk also managed to both screw up his own company’s product and spit in the face of media outlets which have continued to bolster the sagging social media platform.

Musk decided headlines make tweets look bad so he’s had them removed. Before the change if a news outlet included a link to a news article in their post, the article’s headline would appear next to an image served from the link so that users would know what the link was about and the tweeter could add a prefacing blurb in the tweet’s body.

Now the user must allocate their post’s text to adding a headline. Jay Peters at The Verge does a better job of explaining the problem (red markup mine on image below):

In short, Musk stiffed news media the most with this move which he claims improves the platform’s aesthetics.

Ri-ight. Because all the white supremacists and TERFs and other haters don’t damage the platform at all.

Bloomberg’s finally coming around about the moral argument against the former bird app, but it’s infuriating they can’t see the business argument is right there, too, thanks to Musk’s constant degradation of service.

What happens when journalists are targeted by intelligence operatives because Musk has decided maintaining privacy of personal data shared with the former Twitter is now an inconvenience, or that data is just another fungible to be harvested without regard to users’ privacy and security and the FTC’s consent decree?

~ 0 ~

Honorable Mention:

Matt Gaetz, because a pumpkin has more smarts and savvy than this shit stirrer who launched the ouster of Kevin McCarthy thereby setting McHenry loose to be a bigger dick than usual.

At some point we need to call Gaetz and his wrecking crew anarchists because that’s what they are – they don’t give a fuck about the republic and keeping it, they just want to destroy it.

Let’s hope this next week we run into fewer dickheads.

Who’s on your list of Massive Dickheads from this past week? Who has screwed over more people and undermined democracy in a big way? Share your nominees in comments.

This is an open thread.

Trump’s DC Trial Strategies, Helsinki, and Dumb and Dumber

After Trump was indicted in DC, the speculation — informed and otherwise — went to his possible defense strategies. “Delay delay delay” was an early one, following his increasingly successful efforts to do so in the Mar-a-Lago case before Judge Cannon. Judge Chutkan, however, is no Judge Cannon, and she has been pushing hard to move things along briskly. Trump sycophants have been putting some trial balloons out there, to see what might fly with the base, if not with the court, such as cries of “Free Speech!” and “First Amendment!” which pointed to a possible defense strategy. Another was the claim that Trump was relying on the advice of counsel, and thereby cannot be held liable.

That last one I found rather  . . . what’s the correct legal term of art? Oh yes . . . silly.

White House Counsel Pat Cippolone told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly. He was more polite about it, but that’s what his advice boiled down to. Trump’s AG, DAG, Acting AG, head of OLC, and numerous other lawyers at the DOJ told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly. Christopher Krebs, a lawyer and the first head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly for multiple reasons. DNI John Ratcliffe (per Cassidy Hutchinson) said Trump’s claims were silly and dangerous.

But apparently the advice of all these lawyers he appointed to positions in his own administration wasn’t enough for Trump, because Rudy et al. said all these lawyers were wrong.

Out in the states, there were other lawyers weighing in, too. Ryan Germany, the general counsel to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told him that his claims about fraud in Georgia were silly. Some of Trump’s own lawyers in Pennsylvania and Arizona withdrew from representing Trump before the courts in their states, which is a strong sign that their client would not listen to them and take their advice that his claims were silly. Then more of his PA lawyers did the same. Even the lawyers who stayed on to represent Trump in these election cases told the judges in their cases that Trump’s claims of fraud were silly, as there was no evidence to back up those claims.

But apparently the advice of all these lawyers wasn’t enough for Trump, either.

Which brings us to the judges. State judges and federal judges. Trial judges and appellate judges. The justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. In more than five dozen separate cases, the rulings issued by all these courts said that as a matter of law, Trump’s claims were silly. Let’s let US Judge Matthew Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania speak for the all lawyers who wear the black robes, who passed judgment on one or more of Trump’s claims. As Brann wrote in the Introduction to his ruling in DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC., et al. v. KATHY BOOCKVAR, et al.:

In this action, the Trump Campaign and the Individual Plaintiffs (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) seek to discard millions of votes legally cast by Pennsylvanians from all corners – from Greene County to Pike County, and everywhere in between. In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens.

That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Therefore, I grant Defendants’ motions and dismiss Plaintiffs’ action with prejudice.

Short Judge Brann: Mr. Trump, you’re being silly. Go away, and don’t bring this crap into my courtroom again.

So back to the case before Judge Chutkan. If Trump’s team tries to raise the “reliance on the advice of counsel” defense, I would hope that Jack Smith and his team would run through the list of each one of the Trump administration lawyers who told Trump his claims were silly, and each one of the judges who ruled that as a matter of law, these claims were silly, and ask whoever is representing Trump one simple question: how many MORE lawyers need to tell Trump he’s wrong before he accepts their conclusions?

Which brings me to the final question asked at Trump’s infamous July 2018 press conference alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Jonathan Lemire: Thank you. A question for each President. President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. What – who – my first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe? My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin – would you denounce what happened in 2016? And would you warn him to never do it again?

Donald J. Trump: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me – Dan Coats came to me and some others – they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have – I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone – just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.

Given a choice between believing the conclusions of every US intelligence agency on Russian interference in the 2016 election on the one hand and the extremely strong and powerful denial by the leader of Russia on the other, Trump chose Putin.

Can you see why Helsinki came to my mind?

Trump has a pattern when it comes to getting advice from others, that revolves around two immutable statements:

  1. Trump wants advice that supports his current thinking, OR advice that will provide him some kind of immediate or future benefit.
  2. Trump does NOT want advice that tells him he is wrong about something, that he lost a court case or election, or that he otherwise failed.

When confronted by failure, Trump will seize on anything that suggests even the slimmest possibility of ultimate success.

Again, look at Helsinki. Sure, the unanimous conclusion of the US intelligence community was that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but if Trump accepted that conclusion in public, while standing next to Putin, any hope Trump had of a grand Trump Tower Moscow (something he had worked on for years) would be gone. Also, if Putin held some kind of compromising information on Trump (a conclusion that Marcy leaned toward in her post on the press conference), Putin would surely release it. The result of backing the US IC would be immediate harm and future failure for Trump. Not good.

Would this loss and damage be outweighed by some other benefit, like being seen as the heroic leader of the US intelligence community? Hardly. In Trump’s eyes, these were Deep State folks who were out to get him, and even if he accepted their advice, they’d never accept him as their leader, and he’d piss off his other supporters who had been backing him against the IC. Also not good. Thus, Trump’s answer to Lemire’s question was simple: I believe Putin.

Faced with a mountain of evidence against him, either in Helsinki or in courtrooms across the country, Trump will always reject the advice of those who say definitively that he has lost and cling for his life to the advice of whomever tells him otherwise. Trump lives by the immortal line of Lloyd Christmas: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance . . . Yeah!”

Trump is not seeking out folks like Rudy “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” Giuliani, Sidney “Release the Kracken!” Powell, or any of his other lawyers to guide his legal strategy. He keeps them around because they keep telling him that there’s a chance.

Spoiler alert for Trump and anyone who hasn’t seen Dumb and Dumber: Lloyd’s 1 in a million chance did not come through for him, and he didn’t get the girl.



The Likely Content of a Trump Search Affidavit

Even Trump supporters are beginning to call on him to release the warrant used to search Mar-a-Lago Monday. In spite of serving as a source for multiple outlets yesterday, the lawyer who received the warrant, Christina Bobb, has refused to turn it over.

She’s probably refusing for several reasons. First, it’s likely that 18 USC 793 is among the suspected crimes cited on the warrant. If Trump admitted he’s under investigation for part of the Espionage Act, his supporters might be less likely to prepare for civil war, as they currently are doing. Plus, given the inconsistent numbers of boxes seized in Bobb-sourced stories (the WSJ reported at least 10 boxes were seized, Politico and WaPo reported that 12 were), it suggests the search warrant return is far more detailed than just listing boxes of stolen documents, but instead lists individual documents.

If the return looked something like, [and to be clear, this is strictly hypothetical, and my “yaddayadda” is a fake compartment name] …

  1. Single existing copy of transcript of phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, July 25, 2019, TS/SCI/SAR-YADDAYADDA/NF
  2. Single existing copy of hand-written notes of meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 16, 2018, TS/SCI/SAR-YADDAYADDA/NF
  3. Transcript of NSA intercept of Saudi intelligence official in advance of Turkey operation involving Jamal Khashoggi, September 29, 2018, TS/SCI/SAR-YADDAYADDA/NF
  4. NSA targeting list for Russia, dated January 15, 2021, TS/SCI/SAR-YADDAYADDA/NF (see this post)

…Then the gravity of Trump’s crime would become immediately apparent.

Plus, Bobb didn’t receive the most interesting part of it, the affidavit the FBI used to obtain the search warrant.

So I wanted to write up what an affidavit would likely include, based on the public understanding of the investigation.

For comparison, here are the warrants for Reality Winner and Josh Schulte, both of which were also, at least in part, warrants for a 793 investigation. Here are warrants to search Roger Stone and Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown’s houses, both Federal searches in Florida related to investigations conducted in DC (the search of Brown’s house even found allegedly classified documents, albeit only at the Secret level). Here’s the warrant Robert Mueller’s team used to get Michael Cohen’s Trump Organization emails from Microsoft.

Cover Page

The cover page would include the address to be searched, 1100 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL. It would name the magistrate docket for the warrant, 9:22-mj-08332, references to Attachment A describing the premises to be searched, and Attachment B, the description of things to search for, as well as the Affidavit.

It would have checkboxes checked, listing that the search was for evidence of a crime and to retrieve contraband.

It would list the crimes under investigation — according to public reports, probably 40 USC 2201-2209, 18 USC 2071, and 18 USC 793.

It would be dated and signed by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Attachment A

Attachment A would include a description of Mar-a-Lago, probably with a nifty picture of the garish resort, possibly also pictures of the basement storage area that investigators saw in their June visit. It would likely mention Trump’s hotel safe in the bridal suite.

Attachment B

Attachment B would authorize seizure of all documents relating to violations of the statutes in question, so probably 40 USC 2201 and 18 USC 793, with bullet points stemming from what is covered under the PRA and what is covered — defense information — under the Espionage Act.

No computer files were described to have been seized, so it would consistent entirely of paper seizures.


This would include:

  • Several paragraphs describing the affiant’s background and training
  • An assertion that the affiant believed there was probable cause for the subject offenses
  • The statutory language, basically a cut-and-paste describing the elements of the offense
  • Language about classification, including the various levels of classification
  • Language about Presidential Records
  • Language about 32 CFR sections 2001 and 2003, which cover the storage of classified information

Then there’d be a probable cause section that would include:

  • A description of who is under investigation (whether it’s just Trump, or whether his staffers are as well)
  • A reference to the Archive’s February 2022 request that DOJ investigate Trump’s document theft
  • Background on the year-long effort leading up to the Archives’ request to get Trump to return stolen documents, including the specific records the Archives identified that Trump had withheld (CNN has a timeline here)
  • Other evidence of Trump’s refusal to abide by Presidential Records Act
  • Other evidence of Trump’s failures to protect classified information (particularly if FBI knows of any instances from after he left the presidency)
  • The outcome of the investigation into Mike Ellis’ efforts to retain highly sensitive NSA documents at the White House as staffers were packing boxes
  • The Archives’ three statements on the effort to obtain the documents
  • A description of what aides told the FBI in interviews about the stolen documents in April and May
  • Testimony about efforts to keep uncleared staffers from accessing boxes that included classified information
  • A description of the May subpoena to the Archives for the classified documents stolen
  • A summary of the classified documents found in the 15 boxes turned over last year, possibly with examples of the most sensitive documents
  • Some explanation of why DOJ believes that these documents weren’t actually declassified by Trump before he stole them
  • A description of the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago, which show three really key parts of the probable cause:
    • Acknowledgement from Trump lawyers that he remained in possession of stolen documents
    • A description of things the lawyers said that proved Trump was treating these as classified documents
    • A description of the storage location in the basement, including why it did not meet the standards for storage of classified documents
    • Possibly a description of documents seen on that visit that would qualify as potentially classified Presidential Records
  • A description of the letter asking Trump to better secure the documents
  • A description of the subpoena for surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, including anything suspicious on it
  • A list of known Presidential Records that had not yet been shared with the Archives

The affidavit would explain why the items being searched for are necessary to investigate the crime, which would explain:

  • FBI needed to obtain the documents to see if they were Presidential Records not otherwise shared with the Archives
  • FBI needed to obtain the documents to see if they were defense information
  • DOJ needed to secure the documents because they are all the property of the Archives

Finally, the affidavit would include a conclusion stating that all this amounts to probable cause that Trump was in possession of documents that were covered by the PRA, some subset of which were believed to be classified.

Playing Jenga the Russian Trade Edition

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

If you’ve played Jenga, you know many pieces can be pulled out of the tower of blocks and added to the top before the tower collapses. The trick is knowing how many pieces and which pieces must remain if the tower is to remain standing during its ongoing construction.

Now that Russia’s economy is heavily sanctioned, let’s play Jenga with Russian commodities. Which export commodities will be most affected? Which importing countries might be most affected?

I’ve spent a little time looking at Russia’s exports, concentrating on those where Russia’s products are a large part of the market. The picture is complicated. (It’s also not complete here, there are a few gaps which aren’t easy to fill.)

Context also matters which this simplistic look doesn’t offer. It should give us something to discuss and to consider outcomes.

Look at refined petroleum as an example. Within the last few years the US has been the largest importer at 7.84% of the total global export volume, but the US is also the largest exporter at 12.3%. While refined petroleum means more than one product — including ‘Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation’ as well as ‘Oils petroleum, bituminous, distillates’ (under Harmonized Tariff Code 271000) — sanctions on Russia’s refined petroleum aren’t likely to affect export/import of US’s refined petroleum products.

Where sanctions will pose more serious challenges: smaller countries which may have relied on Russia because of negotiated finance terms which kept them in Russia’s political orbit, sometimes through secondaries. Think Cuba as one example (for good or ill, it’s not an IMF member) and its relationship with Venezuela. These countries may have difficulty obtaining materials in the market if they are crowded out by larger countries with better financing vehicles.

Here are the top products exported by Russia listed in order by total value:

Largest export product

Value USD

World Rank

Largest Importer

1 Crude Petroleum


2nd – 12.5%

2nd in daily production

(2019 data)

1 – China ($204B) – 20.7%

2 – United States ($123B)

3 – India ($92.7B)

4 – South Korea ($67.4B)

5 – Japan ($64B)

Note: all EU combined ($276B, 2017)

2 Refined Petroleum


1st- 9.62% (2019 data)

1 – United States ($54B) – 7.84%

2 – Netherlands ($41.8B)

3 – Singapore ($41.4B)

4 – Mexico ($29.3B)

5 – Germany ($23.5B)

3 Unspecified commodities

– Barley

– Buckwheat

– Oats

– Rye


– Barley – 1st

– Buckwheat – 1st

– Oats – 1st

– Rye – 3rd


1 – China 10K MT

2 – Saudi Arabia 6K MT

3 – Turkey 2.7K MT

4 – Iran 2.6K MT

5 – EU-27 1.3K MT

6 – Japan 1.2K MT

7 – Thailand 1.2K MT

8 – Libya 850 MT

9 – Jordan 800 MT

10 – Viet Nam 800 MT

Buckwheat: TBD


1 – United States 1.3K MT

2 – China 350 MT

3 – Mexico 150 MT

4 – Peru 50 MT

5 – Switzerland 50 MT

6 – Chile 50 MT

7 – EU-27 50 MT

8 – India 50 MT

9 – Japan 50 MT

10 – South Korea 25 MT


1 – United States 241 MT

2 – EU-27 60 MT

3 – Israel 30 MT

4 – Japan 20 MT

5 – Turkey 20 MT

6 – Norway 10 MT

7 – Kazakhstan 6 MT

8 – South Korea 5 MT

9 – United Kingdom 5 MT

10 – Belarus 3 MT

4 Coal


2nd – 14.4%

(bituminous, not briquettes)

(2019 data)

1 – Japan ($19.3B) – 20.3%

2 – China ($15.8B)

3 – India ($11B)

4 – South Korea ($10.3B)

5 – Taiwan ($5.27B)

5 Petroleum Gas


4th – 8.77% 1 – China ($47.8B) – 15.9%

2 – Japan ($42.3B)

3 – South Korea ($21.8B)

4 – India ($16.4B)

5 – Italy ($15.8B)

6 Wheat


3rd 1 – Egypt 13K MT

2 – Turkey 11K MT

3 – Indonesia 11K MT

4 – China 9K MT

5 – Algeria 7.7K MT

6 – Bangladesh 7.4K MT

7 – Iran 7K MT

8 – Brazil 6.5K MT

9 – Philippines 6.5K MT

10 – Nigeria 6.2K MT

7 Semi-Finished Iron


1st – 27.1% (2019 data)

1 – United States ($2.79B) – 10.8%

2 – Taiwan ($2.22B)

3 – Indonesia ($1.7B)

4 – South Korea ($67.4B)

5 – Egypt ($1.62B)

8 Gold


less than 7% (2019 data)

1 – United Kingdom ($65B) – 19%

2 – Switzerland ($63.5B)

3 – China ($41.5B)

4 – India ($33.8B)

5 – United Arab Emirates ($31.8B)

9 Platinum


1st – 16% (2019 data)

1 – United Kingdom ($6.83B) – 16.8%

2 – United States ($6.69B)

3 – Germany ($6.01B)

4 – Japan ($4.22B)

5 – China ($2.78B)

10 Raw Aluminum


2nd – 10.1% (2019)
1 – United States ($8.63B) – 16.8%
2 – Japan ($4.44B)
3 – Germany ($4.44B)
4 – Netherlands ($3.36B)
5 – South Korea ($2.9B)
11 Sawn Wood


2nd – 12.4% (2019 data)

1 – China ($7.36B) – 20%

2 – United States ($6.01B)

3 – Japan ($2.03B)

4 – United Kingdom ($1.95B)

5 – Germany ($1.45B)

12 Oils


13 Copper


less than 3%

(copper bars)

(2019 data)

1 – China ($474M) – 9.17%

2 – Germany ($438M)

3 – United States ($395M)

4 – Italy ($392M)

5 – France ($226M)

14 Diamonds


less than 4%

(all diamond types)

(2019 data)

1 – India ($21.4B) – 20.7%

2 – Hong Kong ($18.6B)

3 – United States ($17.9B)

4 – Belgium ($12B)

5 – United Arab Emirates ($9.56B)

15 Chemical Fertilizers

– Nitrogen

– Phosphorus

– Potassium


– Nitrogen – 1st

– Phosphorus – TBD

– Potassium – 2nd (potassic fertilizers)

Nitrogen TBD

Phosphorus TBD

Potassic fertilizers (2019)

1 – Brazil ($2.98B) – 18.4%

2 – United States ($2.81B)

3 – China ($2.34B)

4 – India ($1.25B)

5 – Indonesia ($716M)

16 Nitrogenous Fertilizers


1st – 12.9% (2019 data)

1 – India ($2.71B) – 11.4%

2 – Brazil ($2.36B)

3 – United States ($2.17B)

4 – France ($1.14B)

5 – Turkey ($808M)

17 Frozen Fish


11th (fillets) – 2.48% (2019 data)

1 – United States ($3.02B) – 19.1%

2 – Japan ($1.98B)

3 – Germany ($1.42B)

4 – United Kingdom ($930M)

5 – France ($855M)

18 Hot-Rolled Iron


6th – 5.25% (2019 data)

1 – Italy ($3.35B) – 6.82%

2 – Vietnam ($3.24B)

3 – Germany ($2.86B)

4 – South Korea ($2.19B)

5 – Turkey ($2.1B)

19 Gas Turbines


less than 2% of global total (2019 data)

1 – United States ($36.5B) – 22.9%

2 – Germany ($11.2B)

3 – China ($9.44B)

4 – Singapore ($8.37B)

5 – France ($8.14B)

20 Potassic Fertilizers


3rd – 15.1% (2019 data)

1 – Brazil ($2.98B) – 18.4%

2 – United States ($2.81B)

3 – China ($2.34B)

4 – India ($1.25B)

5 – Indonesia ($716M)

Here are export products besides those in the list above for which Russia is among the top five exporters in the world.


Largest export product


World Rank

Largest Importer

Cabbage and other brassicas


3rd TBD


3rd TBD


3rd TBD
Carrots and turnips


3rd TBD
Pumpkin, squash, and gourds


3rd TBD


3rd TBD
Sunflower seed


2nd TBD




1st TBD


1st TBD


1st TBD




4th Chicken meat:

1 – Japan 1K MT

2 – Mexico 940 MT

3 – China 800 MT

4 – United Kingdom 675 MT

5 – EU-27 635 MT

6 – Saudi Arabia 625 MT

7 – United Arab Emirates 445 MT

8 – Philippines 400 MT

9 – Iraq 375 MT

10 – South Africa 370 MT


Bast fibre


2nd TBD


4th TBD


Sawnwood (sawn wood and dimensional lumber)

See above

See above See above
Wood-based panels (plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, and veneer sheets)


3rd – 9.31% (2019 data)

1 – United States ($2.47B) – 16.7%

2 – Japan ($1.38B)

3 – Germany ($982M)

4 – South Korea ($714M)

5 – United Kingdom ($682M)

It’s easy to discount some of these commodities as inconveniences if they aren’t readily available. But for a country like Germany for which more than 40% of its GDP relies on exports which in turn require raw material imports, it’s not as easy to say a gooseberry or cabbage shortage is no big deal when it exports a lot of jam or kraut.  That iron whether semi-finished or hot-rolled may be short is a problem for a country whose largest industry is automotive with one in ten Germans working for that industry.

25.5% of Russia’s GDP relies on exports with much of the volume and income consisting of fossil fuels. In years when fossil fuels have been volatile, other commodities like agricultural products have kept GDP elevated. With the sanctions Russia’s GDP is already taken a beating. It could try to sell to neutral countries, but some of them may not have the financing or come with other risks. What could Venezuela offer, for example, when more than 80% of its own exports are fossil fuels in direct competition with Russia’s? Venezuela isn’t likely to want rubles even if it did have something to offer Russia.

Russia could trade with Mexico which has declared its neutrality. But efforts to increase trade would come at the expense of Mexico’s relationship with the US which buys more than 75% of Mexico’s exports in comparison with less than 3% Mexico exports to Russia.

The more immediate problem for Russia isn’t just that its industries are forced to scramble to find alternative buyers while imports needed for production are substantially more expensive now that rubles have lost most of their buying power. Or that their workers are or will be very unhappy with their wages which have also lost buying power.

It’s that they can’t make enough materiel fast enough to replace what has been destroyed in its 21 days of war on Ukraine. There won’t be enough electronics without some sort of submission on the part of Russia to China, in the same submissiveness exhibited by asking China for MREs for its troops.

There will be tectonic shifts in the marketplace because of the sanctions. India may play a much bigger role in filling the world’s wheat demand, as Dr. Sarah Taber noted in a Twitter thread this week. But it’s going to take time to ramp up a sustained place for India in the wheat market, and the amount of time is damned hard to predict when talking about a country which still plants, harvests, processes, and packages a considerable amount of its wheat using methods predating the 20th century. India is trying to scale up its seaports, but its largest seaport Port of Kandla is the size of Corpus Christi, TX. The changes are necessary immediately, not another crop season away even if India has a longer, more versatile growing season.

The upside to India as a wheat exporter is the physical location of Port of Kandla and its proximity to the markets which will need it most and urgently in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

And none of this figures COVID’s impact on agricultural labor. We’re kidding ourselves this is not a contributing factor to Russia’s problematic military deployment when we can see it’s a problem in our US labor force. It will be a problem in other countries which are now looked to as alternatives to Russian exports and we haven’t yet seen the worst of Omicron subvariant BA.2.

What are the other short-term challenges sanctions on Russia and war on Ukraine will cause? Pull another Jenga piece…in addition to all the damage wreaked on Ukraine, roughly 10% of its exports went to Russia. Ukraine may not miss the rubles for now, but they’ll need trade to replace that once the war is over.

Let’s hope military adviser to Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy is right in his prediction this won’t be a protracted war.




Index Mundi:

Observatory of Economic Complexity: (2019)

Another Report from an Unidentified Russian Operative

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

Once again, a MASSIVE CAVEAT in advance of the fifth letter in a series purportedly by an FSB insider; this could be a psyop, it may be complete nonsense, it could be real, or something in between. I have no other authentication available at this time.

You can read the previous letters at these posts:

Letter One: The Pointy End of Attrition’s Stick

Letters Two through Four: Reports from an Unidentified Russian Operative

This most recent one is painful, knowing what we know now about some areas under Russian control in Ukraine.

There’s no rationality to this, no logic whatsoever correlating the actions of Russian military with Putin’s claims Ukraine is one people with Russia.

Or there is a rationality to this, consistent for the man who has either blown up, poisoned, or defenstrated those who are inconvenient.

Thanks to Igor Sushko for his effort translating the Russian to English.

1 🧵My translation of the 5th letter from the #WindofChange inside the FSB to Vladimir Osechkin. Written after the raid of the FSB on 3/11. The part that can be made public is pretty short and definitely please share far & wide. The text is only ~600 words. #FSBletters
2 As always, my comments for clarification are in parenthesis. So, let’s roll:

“Vladimir, good (REDACTED)! The temperature has really risen here, it’s uncomfortably hot. I won’t be able to communicate for a bit here going forward.

3 I hope that we’ll be able to chat normally again in several days. There is a lot that I need to share with you…
4 The questions are being raised by FSO (Federal Protective Service of the Russian Federation, aka Putin’s Praetorian Guard) & DKVR (Russian Dept. of Military Counterintelligence).
5 It is specifically the DKVR that’s mounted its horse and they are searching for “moles” and traitors here (FSB) and at Genstaff (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) concerning leaks of Russian column movements in Ukraine.
6 Now every structure’s task is to transfer blame to others and make the others’ guilt more visible. Almost all of us here (FSB) are occupied with this right now.
7 The bullseye is on us moreso than others right now because of the utmost hellish circumstances concerning the interpolitical situation in Ukraine:
8 We (the FSB, not #WindofChange specifically) issued reports that at minimum about 2,000 trained civilian in every major city in Ukraine were ready to overthrow Zelensky (President of Ukraine).
9 And that at least 5,000 civilians were prepared to come out with flags against Zelensky on the beck-and-call of Russia.
10 Do you want a laugh? We (FSB) were expected to be the arbitrators for crowning Ukrainian politicians who were supposed to start tearing each other apart competing for the right to be called “aligned with Russia.”
11 We even had established criteria on how to select the best of the best (of the Ukrainian politicians). Of course some concerns were even raised that we may not be able to attract a large number of people (Ukrainian politicians) in Western Ukraine among small tows and Lvov itself.
12 What do we actually have? Berdyansk, Kherson, Mariupol, Kharkiv are the *most* pro-Russian populated areas (and there is no support for Russia even there).
13 A plan call fall apart, a plan can be wrong. A plan can yield a 90% result, even 50%, or 10%. And that would be a total failure. Here – it’s 0.0%.
14 There is also a question: “How did this happen?” This question is actually a setup (disingenuous). Because 0.0% is an estimate derived from many years of work of very serious (top rank) officials.
15 And now it turns out that they are either “agents of the enemy” or are simply incomprehensible (according to FSO / DKVR that are now searching for “moles” within the FSB).
16 But the question doesn’t end there. If they are so bad, then who appointed them and who controlled their work? Turns out – the people of the same quality but one rank higher. And where does this pyramid of responsibility end? At the boss (Putin).
17 And here the wicked games begin: Our dear Александр Васильевич (Alexander Vasilyevich Bortnikov – Director of the entire FSB) can’t not understand how deeply he got caught. (Bortnikov realizes the deep mess he is in now)
18 And our ill-wishers from the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) and the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service – equivalent to the CIA) understand everything [and not just from these two orgs].
19 The situation is so bad that there are no boundaries to possible variants (of events about to take place), but something extraordinary will happen.
20 (The insinuation here is rather obvious in Russian: Putin and the Director of the FSB Bortnikov cannot co-exist.)
21 (The letter continues but we cannot post the rest)(END OF TRANSLATION)
22 Full translation in article form available here: http://igorsushko(.)com
23 [tweet promoting substack omitted]
24 Missed a word translating – “2000 trained civilian FIGHTERS in every major city…” Sorry.
25 [tweet containing Youtube music link omitted]

There’s such an emotional and psychic disconnect between the system described above which derived manipulated numbers reported as supporting Putin and Russia in Ukraine, and reality in Ukraine.

~ ~ ~

On March 11 in Melitopol, located in southern Ukraine about 119 miles west of Mariupol, the mayor was seized by Russian forces. A black plastic bag placed over his head, Ivan Fedorov was dragged away by armed men. He’s been accused of terror and allegedly tortured until he “cooperated.”

The town’s citizens have protested and demanded the return of their duly elected mayor.

Translation: “Residents of Melitopol took to the streets of the city. They chant: “Ukraine – Melitopol” and “Where is our mayor?” Russian military warns over a loudspeaker about the ban on rallies.”

A new mayor has been appointed. She sounds like a Trumpist.

On Sunday in Dniprorudne which is 50 miles north of Melitipol, the mayor was kidnapped.

We can expect yet another appointed mayor who will likewise sound like a Trumpy Stepford wife.

And as Guardian’s Isobel Koshiw wrote, there have been executions of civilians along with confiscations (a.k.a. thefts).

This is not an attempt to win the hearts and minds of Ukraine. It’s not a legitimate attempt to return people to the fold.

Putin’s invasion is genocide, and no amount of tepid arms-length explanations about Russia’s toxic internal politics can make this make sense.

If there’s a sixth letter in the future, I don’t think it will be worth the effort if it can’t shed realistic light on how to make this humanitarian disaster stop without compromising the consent of the Ukrainian people.

If there’s any value to this exercise, it’s that we can see connections more clearly between the U.S.’s veer toward fascism and its violent realization by Russia, manifest now in Ukraine.

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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.

Putin’s FSB: Failed Straightforwardness and Benevolence

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

It’s rather amusing that in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War — the ancient Chinese monograph used globally to teach the fundaments of warfare — spying is addressed in the very last of its 13 chapters.

To conduct successful and effective warfare, intelligence collection and analysis including spying should be a country’s first consideration. A nation’s leader can’t make an informed, reasoned decision  to take any military action let alone commit resources ahead of the possibility of war, without knowing everything possible about the potential opponent as well as knowledge of one’s own state.

Somehow Vladimir Putin neglected this critical lesson, subordinating the critical nature of Russia’s own FSB to his narcissism. He’s learned the hard way — assuming he’s actually getting the truth from anyone in his circle — that the intelligence on which he operated was deeply flawed.

He has no one to blame but himself but he’ll be sure to punish others for his weakness. The director and deputy of FSB have allegedly been taken into custody for questioning.

I actually feel a little sorry for FSB personnel, if the first letter from the FSB insider is true; political conditions didn’t allow anyone to share anything but happy talk of victory based on the narrowest of intelligence, because Putin apparently can’t handle the truth.

From The Art of War:

15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity.

16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness.

17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports.

Assuming the first FSB letter is true — and the detention of FSB leadership suggests it is — Putin wasn’t able to exercise the necessary benevolence and straightforwardness necessary to obtain candid and complete reports. How can spies and analysts obtain and present the truth when they’re under tight political restrictions to report only what a volatile president wants to hear?

Furthermore, if the president is afraid of his own intelligence community to the point where he ensures they are suffocatingly restrained, he will get out of them nothing useful.

~ ~ ~

Let’s look at the organization of the Russian “coercive apparatus” which has been compartmented to reduce the changes of a coup. Adam Casey, post-doc fellow at Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan, shared a Twitter thread describing this system.

1 What are the prospects for a coup against Putin in Russia? A thread on what we know about coups in other similar regimes and how the Russian coercive apparatus is structured to prevent coups 1/16
2 First of all, the grievances that have motivated coups elsewhere are present in Russia: battlefield setbacks, low morale, economic catastrophe, disgruntled elites harmed by Putin’s actions
3 But Putin has been preparing for the risks posed by a palace or military coup for decades. The Russian coercive apparatus in fact has multiple mechanisms to prevent a coup
4 First, Russia has a large praetorian guard, the Federal Protective Service (Федеральная служба охраны). The FSO is the successor to the KGB 9th Directorate and is responsible for leadership protection and is well armed. Estimates of its size vary widely
5 Second, Putin consolidated his internal security troops under the National Guard (Росгвардия) in 2016. I don’t see the Guard as a coup-proofing measure per se, but more about centralizing the agencies useful for repressing mass protests in Russia
6 Yet by removing the possible use of the regular army for repression at home, Rosgvardia does help reduce some of the motivations for coups. In comparative perspective, we know militaries really dislike being used for domestic repression and it has motivated coups
7 Third, Russia has the FSB. The FSB is not only large, with its own security troops, but it has one key mechanism to prevent a military coup in Russia: the military counterintelligence department (Департамента военной контрразведки ФСБ)
8 The Soviet system had essentially three components to prevent a military coup: 1) party membership for officers/soldiers; 2) political commissars; 3) embedded secret police (‘special departments’). This was coup prevention through the penetration of the army by monitoring agents
9 Contemporary Russia has 1 of those 3 mechanisms. Officers are not generally members of the ruling party (United Russia) and when active duty officers have run for office (like Gen. Kartapolov last year) it was unusual. He also retired his commission
10 Commissars are also absent. There is technically a successor to the main political administration (the org responsible for managing the commissars) but it does not function in the same way as during the USSR)
11 The only major part of the Soviet system present is the military counterintelligence department of the FSB. This department monitors the military. It was strengthened considerably a couple months after Putin came into office. He once described the department as a “mini-FSB”
12 The FSB is much more autonomous than the Soviet KGB (it is not under any central party control), it is also engaged far more in corruption than the Soviet service. Corruption of course was (especially later on) a problem in the KGB, but in the FSB it is more pronounced
13 In short, there are a lot of mechanisms to prevent a coup in Russia. Yet in other ways Russia also doesn’t have a typically ‘coup proofed’ military. His nephew doesn’t run the 1st armored division in Moscow or anything like that. It has a professional officer corps
14 Instead, the Russian military’s loyalty to the system is generally sought through autonomy and insulation from politics, and of course the watchful gaze of the FSB military counterintelligence department.
15 In part for these reasons, I think the most likely scenario for actually ousting Putin is elite defection rather than a coup. It is really hard to coordinate a coup even against a hated dictator, especially with a security apparatus as extensive as Putin’s
16 But it might be more likely for elites to defect from the regime rather than use extensive repression to save Putin. This too is perhaps unlikely, but the costs of defection can be less than the costs of a failed coup (jail, exile, death). /end

There are so many moving parts watching other moving parts it’s a wonder anything constructive has ever been done — and perhaps there hasn’t. Each function must be constantly looking over their shoulder making straight feedback difficult. Benevolence as The Art of War calls it, or the lack thereof, expressed in suspicion inhibits productivity.

When the apparatus spends so much time looking inward, constantly second guessing what the leader wants to hear while working under pressure from kleptocratic forces, it’s irrational to expect lucid, honest intelligence. Straightforwardness in reporting is a casualty.

~ ~ ~

The quality of Russian intelligence is not the only loss; nine Russian generals are reported to have died since the invasion of Ukraine began.

I used the passive voice there because Russia and its predecessor the USSR have an unfortunate history when it comes to losing generals.

Materiel losses continue to mount…

…along with personnel losses.

There can’t be much regular army to call up to replace those killed, injured, or surrendered if Putin is calling for volunteers from elsewhere like Syria.

Wagner Group personnel were detailed as part of a hit squad to decapitate Ukraine’s government, but now there appears to be wider recruitment. Again, this also suggests limited regular army for deployment to Ukraine.

Contractors don’t have the same motivations as regular army; they may not accept getting paid in rubles which makes sanctions even more important to deterring mercenaries. They’re not loyal to a nationalist cause if they’re not Russian, which may make them harder to command and control.

How will the Russian army respond if it feels it’s not only been set up to fail, its efforts potentially undermined by contractors while it suffers for lack of adequate support? We’ve seen enough anecdotes about Russian troops who had inadequate food and water from day one; they may have been given permission to loot. What happens when remaining Russian military leadership feels the weight of  condemnation and ridicule directed at their mission, let alone its futility?

None of this suggests the kind of discipline necessary to prevent a coup.

~ ~ ~

Outside the “coercive apparatus,” the Russian government, and the shuttered social and independent media, the truth about Russia’s illegal and misbegotten invasion of Ukraine has begun to leak through to the public. Protests have made it onto television:

Vladimir Soloviyev, usually one of the Kremlin’s most reliable chief propagandists, had to interrupt guests on his prime time television talk show to stop their criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking during a broadcast on Russia 1, Karen Shakhnazarov, a filmmaker and state pundit, said the conflict in Ukraine risked isolating Russia.

He told Mr Soloviyev: “I have a hard time imagining taking cities such as Kyiv. I can’t imagine how that would look.”

He went on to call for the conflict to be brought to an end, saying: “If this picture starts to transform into an absolute humanitarian disaster, even our close allies like China and India will be forced to distance themselves from us.

This is an interesting sleight of hand. Soloviyev has been sanctioned by the European Union, his Italian villa seized. He stopped the protest against the invasion on his program featured on Russia 1 network, but he could have prevented the content from being broadcast if he really wanted to keep it off the air.

Similarly, a protest by a military officer also leaked through a talk show on Zvezda, the Russian ministry of defense’s network. The officer wanted the deaths of his comrades honored thought the program host asked him to stop his line of commentary. It was another subtle method of telling the public there are many military deaths in Ukraine to be acknowledged by the government and the public.

The invasion began only 17 days ago and it’s already been likened to “Afghanistan, but even worse” on Russian television.

One doesn’t need to be a trained intelligence analyst to understand what this means in a country which does not allow much free speech.

~ ~ ~

In the first chapter of The Art of War it is written, “All warfare is based on deception.”

Deceiving one’s own country about warfare treats them like the enemy. After a while it becomes difficult to know who the enemy really is. We might wonder if Russia’s FSB has come to the same conclusion.

The Pointy End of Attrition’s Stick

[NB: check the byline as usual, thanks. /~Rayne]

Russia continued bombing Ukraine this weekend, as you’re no doubt well aware.

On Friday I wrote about a world war of attrition, in which Russia’s economy appears fucked in tandem with Russia’s Aleppo-style attack on Ukrainian cities.

It’s not clear whether a majority of the Russian public knows what’s going on and how badly they will be affected by economic sanctions, thanks to Putin’s stranglehold on independent news media and social media. We’ve seen brave protesters in large numbers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other cities but the sentiment of Russians outside urban centers isn’t readily accessible.

While Putin continues his steady genocidal obliteration of Ukraine’s cities, the pointy end of this war of attrition is coming around toward Russia.

~ ~ ~

I want to share and discuss something published on Twitter and shared in Pastebin which may shed light on the how, what, and why of the Russian invasion.

MASSIVE CAVEAT: The letter which follows is believed to be the assessment of a current FSB employee. Christo Grosev, executive director of Bellingcat, sought validation of the letter’s origins.

This is not an assurance on my part of the letter’s source or its contents. Grosev’s investigation, though, allows readers to weight the authenticity of the letter and and its content. Team Bellingcat has been extremely reliable in its open source intelligence. /END CAVEAT

If this letter is a very good psyop — one which Grosev and his FSB contacts couldn’t detect easily — and is instead the work of a Russian active measure intended to influence the west, how would Putin expect it work on us, especially if the best, most effective influence operations contain truth mixed with disinformation?

Which portions of this are more likely to be true than not if it is a psyop? What indicators would validate those portions which might be true?

If this letter and its assessment is wholly true, what are the likely next failures we’ll see in Russia?

1 One of the insiders from the Russian special services, I will publish without edits or censorship, because it’s hell: “I’ll be honest: I almost did not sleep all these days, almost all the time at work, my head is a bit floating, like in a fog. And from overwork sometimes already catching states, as if it’s all not real.
2 Frankly speaking, Pandora’s Box is open – by summer a real horror of world scale will start – global famine is inevitable (Russia and Ukraine were the main grain suppliers in the world, this year’s harvest will be smaller, and logistical problems will bring the disaster to its peak).
3 I cannot tell you what guided the decision to operate, but now all the dogs are methodically brought down on us (the Service). We are scolded for being analytical – this is very much in my line of work, so I will explain what is wrong.
4 We have been under increasing pressure lately to adjust reports to the requirements of management – I once touched on this subject. All these political consultants, politicians and their entourage, influence teams – it’s all been creating chaos. A lot of it.
5 Most importantly, no one knew that there would be such a war, it was hidden from everyone. And here is an example: You are asked (conventionally) to calculate the possibility of human rights in different conditions, including a prison attack by meteorites. You specify the meteorites, and you are told that this is just a reinsurance for calculations, there will be nothing like that. You understand that the report will be only for a tick, but it must be written in a victorious style, so that there would be no questions, saying, why do you have so many problems, did you not work well? In general, you write a report that in the fall of a meteorite, we have everything to eliminate the consequences, we are good, all is well. And you concentrate on the tasks that are real – we do not have enough strength. And then suddenly really throw meteorites and expect that everything will be on your analysis, which were written from the ball.
6 That’s why we have total fuck-ups – I don’t even want to choose another word. There is no defense against sanctions for the same reason: Nabiullina may well be found guilty of negligence (more likely the point men on her team), but what is their fault? No one knew that there would be such a war, so no one was prepared for such sanctions. This is the flip side of secrecy: since no one told anyone, who could have calculated what no one told?
7 Kadyrov’s going off the rails. There was almost a conflict with us, too: the Ukrainians may have planted the lie that we had given up the routes of Kadyrov’s special units in the first days of the operation. They were killed in the most horrific way, they hadn’t even begun to fight yet, and they were simply torn apart in some places. And so it went: the FSB leaked the routes to the Ukrainians. I do not have such information, I will leave 1-2% for the reliability (you can not completely exclude it either).
8 The blitz has failed. It is simply impossible to accomplish the task now: if in the first 1-3 days they had captured Zelensky and government officials, seized all the key buildings in Kiev, let them read the order to surrender – yes, the resistance would have subsided to a minimum. Theoretically. But then what? Even with this ideal scenario, there was an unsolvable problem: with whom to negotiate? If we tear down Zelensky, all right, with whom would we sign agreements? If with Zelensky, then these papers won’t be worth anything after his demolition. OPZJ refused to cooperate: Medvedchuk is a coward, he ran away. There is a second leader there – Boyko, but he refuses to work with us – even his own people won’t understand him. We wanted to bring Tsarev back, but even our pro-Russian ones have turned against us. Should we bring back Yanukovych? How can we do that? If we say that we can’t occupy him, then all our government will be killed 10 minutes after we leave. Occupy? And where are we going to get so many people? Commandant’s office, military police, counterintelligence, guards – even with the minimum resistance from the locals we need 500 thousand or more people. Not counting the supply system. And there is a rule of thumb that by overriding quantity with poor management you only ruin everything. And that, I repeat, would be under an ideal scenario, which does not exist.
9 What about now? We can’t declare a mobilization for two reasons:
10 1) Large-scale mobilization would undermine the situation inside the country: political, economic, social.
11 2) Our logistics are already overstretched today. We will send a much larger contingent, and what will we get? Ukraine is a huge country in terms of territory. And now the level of hatred towards us is off the charts. Our roads simply can’t absorb such supply caravans – everything will come to a standstill. And we will not be able to manage it, because it is chaos.
12 And these two reasons are falling out at the same time, although even one is enough to break everything.
13 As for losses: I do not know how many. Nobody knows. The first two days there was still control, now no one knows what’s going on there. It is possible to lose large units from communication. They may be found, or they may be dispersed because they were attacked. And even their commanders may not know how many are running around, how many have died, how many have been taken prisoner. The death toll is definitely in the thousands. It can be 10 thousand, it can be 5, and it can be only 2. Even at headquarters they don’t know that for sure. But it should be closer to 10. And we are not counting the LNRD corps right now – they have their own count.
14 Now, even if we kill Zelensky and take him prisoner, nothing will change. Chechnya is there by the level of hatred towards us. And now even those who were loyal to us are against it. Because they were planning on above, because we were told that such an option will not happen, unless we are attacked. Because we were told that we must create the most credible threat in order to agree peacefully on the right terms. Because we initially prepared protests inside Ukraine against Zelensky. Without regard to our direct entry. An invasion, to put it simply.
15 Further, civilian losses will go exponentially – and resistance to us will only increase, too. We have already tried to enter the cities with infantry – out of twenty landing groups, only one was a tentative success. Remember the storming of Mosul – that was the rule in all countries, nothing new.
16 To keep it under siege? According to the experience of military conflicts in Europe in recent decades (Serbia is the largest testing ground here), cities can be under siege for years, and even function. It is only a matter of time before humanitarian convoys from Europe get there.
17 We have a conditional deadline of June. Conditional – because in June we have no economy, nothing left. By and large, next week will begin to turn to one side, simply because the situation cannot be in such overdrive. There is no analytics – you can’t calculate the chaos, no one can say anything for sure here. Acting on intuition, and even on emotion – but this is not poker. The stakes will be raised, hoping that suddenly some option will shoot through. The trouble is that we too can now miscalculate and lose everything in one move.
18 Basically, the country has no way out. There is simply no option for a possible victory, and if we lose – that’s it, we’re screwed. Then they decided to kick weak Japan and get a quick win, then it turned out that the army was a disaster. Then they started a war to the bitter end, then they took the Bolsheviks to “re-educate” them in the army – they were outcasts, nobody was interested in them in the masses. And then nobody really knew the Bolsheviks picked up anti-war slogans and they went crazy…
19 On the plus side: we did everything to prevent even a hint of mass sending of the “fine men” to the front line. Send there cons and “socially unreliable”, political (so they don’t muddy the water inside the country) – the morale of the army will simply go down the drain. And the enemy is motivated, motivated monstrously. They know how to fight, they have enough middle-ranking commanders. They have weapons. They have support. We will simply create a precedent for human losses in the world. That’s all.
20 What we fear the most: they are acting on the rule of overlapping an old problem with a new one. This was largely the reason for the start of Donbass in 2014 – it was necessary to draw the attention of Westerners away from the Russian spring in Crimea, so the Donbass crisis was supposed to draw all the attention to itself and become a bargaining chip. But even bigger problems started there. Then they decided to sell Erdogan on the four pipes of South Stream and went into Syria – this was after Suleimani gave deliberately false inputs to solve his problems. As a result, we failed to solve the problem with the Crimea, there are problems with Donbass too, South Stream has shrunk to 2 pipes, and Syria is another headache (if we go out, they will bring down Assad, which will make us look idiots, but it will be hard and useless to sit still).
21 I don’t know who came up with the “Ukrainian blitzkrieg.” If we were given real inputs, we would at the very least point out that the original plan is moot, that we need to double-check a lot of things. A lot of things. Now we are up to our necks in shit. And it’s not clear what to do. “Denazification” and “demilitarization” are not analytical categories, because they have no clearly formed parameters by which to determine the level of accomplishment or non-fulfillment of the assigned task.
22 Now all that remains is to wait for some fucked-up advisor to convince the upper echelons to start a conflict with Europe with a demand to lower some sanctions. Either they lower the sanctions or they go to war. And if they refuse? Now I don’t rule out that then we’ll get into a real international conflict like Hitler did in 1939. And we would then get our Z’s flattened with a swastika.
23 Is there a possibility of a local nuclear strike? Yes. Not for military purposes (it won’t do anything – it’s a defense breakthrough weapon), but to intimidate the rest. At the same time the ground is being prepared to turn everything over to Ukraine – Naryshkin and his SVR are now digging the ground to prove that they secretly created nuclear weapons there. They are hammering on what we have studied and analysed on bones long time ago: the proofs cannot be drawn up on a knee-high, and the availability of specialists and uranium (Ukraine is full of depleted isotope 238) is of no importance.
24 [blank space]
25 “And the fact that their old nuclear power plants can yield weapons-grade plutonium (plants like REB-1000 give it in minimal quantities as a “by-product” of the reaction) – so the Americans have introduced such controls there with the involvement of the IAEA that it is silly to discuss the topic.
26 Do you know what will start in a week? Well, even in two weeks. We’re going to be so caught up that we’re going to miss the hungry ’90s. While the auction was closed, Nabiullina seems to be making normal steps – but it’s like plugging a hole in the dam with a finger. It will still burst, and even stronger. Nothing will be solved in three, five or ten days.
27 Kadyrov doesn’t just hoof it for a reason – they have their own adventures there. He’s created an image of himself as the most powerful and invincible. And if he falls once, he’ll be brought down by his own people. He will no longer be the master of the victorious clan.
28 Let’s move on. Syria. “The guys will hold out, everything will be over in Ukraine – and there in Syria we will reinforce everything by positions again. And now at any moment they can wait there when the contingent runs out of resources – and such a heat will go… Turkey is blocking the straits – airlifting supplies there is like heating an oven with money.
29 Note – all this is happening at the same time, we do not even have time to put it all in one pile. Our situation is like Germany’s in ’43-’44. At the start all at once. Sometimes I am already lost in this overwork, sometimes it seems that everything was a dream, that everything is as it was before.
30 On prisons, by the way, it’s going to get worse. Now they’re going to tighten the screws until they bleed. Everywhere. To be honest, then purely technically it’s the only chance of containing the situation – we’re already in a total mobilization mode. But we can’t stay in such a mode for long, and our timetable is unclear, and it will only get worse. Mobilization always makes management lose its way. And just imagine: you can run a hundred meters in a sprint, but to go into a marathon race and run as hard as you can is bad. Here we are with the Ukrainian question rushed, as on a hundred meters, and fit into a cross-country marathon.
31 And that’s a very, very brief description of what’s going on.
32 The only cynical thing I can add is that I do not believe that VV Putin will press the red button to destroy the whole world.
33 First of all, there is not one person who makes the decision, at least someone will jump out. And there are many people there – there is no “single red button”.
34 Secondly, there are some doubts that everything successfully functions there. Experience shows that the higher the transparency and control, the easier it is to identify deficiencies. And where it is unclear who and how controls, but always bravura reports – everything is always wrong there. I am not sure that the red button system is functioning as declared. Besides, the plutonium charge has to be replaced every 10 years.
35 Thirdly, and most disgusting and sad, I personally do not believe in the willingness to sacrifice a man who does not let his closest representatives and ministers near him, nor the members of the Federation Council. Whether out of fear of coronavirus or attack, it doesn’t matter. If you are afraid to let your most trusted ones near you, how will you dare to destroy yourself and your loved ones inclusive?
36 Ask me anything, but I may not answer for days at a time. We’re in rush mode, and we’re getting more and more tasked.
37 On the whole, our reports are upbeat, but everything goes to hell.
38 Never before has this source Gulagu[.]net swear, wrote briefly and to the point. But now even he…


the Service — the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation or FSB, successor counterintelligence and security agency to USSR’s KGB

Nabiullina — Elvira Nabiullina, chair of Bank of Russia (since 2013, before Euromaidan and subsequent incursion into Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine).

Kadyrov — Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic (since 2007); also a member of the Advisory Commission of the State Council of the Russian Federation.

blitz — slang for Blitzkrieg

Medvedchuk — Viktor Medvedchuk, People’s Deputy of Ukraine (since August 2019), chair of pro-Russian entity Ukrainian Choice; an oligarch who calls Putin a “personal friend”; Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter Daryna. Currently under house arrest for “treason and attempted looting of national resources.”

OZPH — Opposition Platform for Life, the party to which Medvedchuk belongs.

Boyko — Yuriy Boyko, former Vice Minister of Ukraine (2012-2014).

Tsarev — Oleg Tsaryov, former People’s Deputy of Ukraine representing pro-Russian Party of Regions; Speaker of the Unity Parliament for Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.

Yanukovych — Viktor Yanukovych, pro-Russian fourth president of Ukraine from 2010 until removal during 2014 Maidan Revolution.

LNRD corps — component of Russian ground forces, believe this is personnel in Luhansk and Donetsk regions (TBD, subject to revision).

storming of Mosul — believed to refer to 2017 Battle of Mosul against ISIS consisting of urban warfare in a dense urban environment. (Two US military “lessons learned” papers on Battle of Mosul: The Mosul Study Group and the Lessons of the Battle of Mosul (longer);  Five Operational Lessons (shorter).)

Donbass — Donbas, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, Russian occupied since 2014.

Crimea — Peninsular region of southern Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Suleimani — Qasem Soleimani, major general of Iran’s army, assassinated in 2020 on order of Donald Trump.

South Stream — Natural gas pipeline project which was to run west from Russia through the Black Sea to Europe, canceled in 2014.

Naryshkin — Sergey Naryshkin, director of the SVR since 2016.

SVR — Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Russia’s intelligence agency.

depleted isotope 238 — Depleted uranium, the product of processing natural uranium for nuclear power plant fuel and nuclear weapons.

REB-1000 — unclear, likely a reference to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Federation Council — Senat of the Federal Assembly, Russia’s legislative body.

Gulagu(.)net — Human rights NGO focused on prisoners’ rights and prison abuses in Russia, founded by Vladimir Osechkin. (See Oct 2021 article regarding this organization and a key conflict with Russian government.)

~ ~ ~

The letter supports other indicators Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a tightly-held secret. There have been anecdotes of conscripts and non-military personnel who were told they were going on an exercise only to find themselves ordered to invade Ukraine. This may have been a key reason why the Russians deployed had no cell phones — not merely for operations security to protect the deployment mission, but to prevent any discussion between different factions of the Russian Federation’s military and government personnel as well as the Russian public.

The author doesn’t appear to know there were supply problems from the start for the deployed personnel though they know the first echelon aren’t the best part of the regular army. The understanding of the difference in passion between the front line Russians and the Ukrainians fighting to preserve their country acknowledges a critical failing in other Russian operations like Chechnya. There’s also recognition that logistics limited the launch and expansion of the invasion, and will play a role in the economic crash to come as military personnel and resources along with commodities will hurt for the loss of ports and equipment.

The tight silos and narrative constraints placed on models the Bank of Russia used as well as the FSB suggests each branch of Russia’s government and military will experience failures earlier rather than later because they have been modeling and operating on flawed and incomplete understandings of their country’s mission.

Imagine if the Bank of Russia and Finance Ministry as well as Energy and Agriculture were tasked with modeling to the same flimsy “prison attack by meteorites” scenario the letter’s author uses as an example. How deeply flawed would their assumptions be? How could their functions integrate with other ministries to mitigate risks to Russia and in an extremely tight timeline with constraints they hadn’t planned on in the given scenario?

“Kadyrov’s going off the rails” suggests increased tensions between the Chechen leader and Russian leadership after what is perceived as a possible betrayal by FSB. The letter writer doesn’t appear to know that the Chechen national guard itself leaked badly ahead of the invasion’s launch because of poor operation security on their part; there’s no inkling the decimation of Chechen forces may have been blamed on FSB by Ukraine (or others) in order to manipulate and fragment the Russian-Chechen relationship.

An invasion driven in no small part by Russian Orthodox faith was already very much at risk if it relied on an ethnic Muslim state to perform its decapitation of a popular democratically-elected Jewish president to obtain control over a majority Ukrainian Orthodox state. The hatred mentioned explains anecdotes of Chechens who’ve switched loyalties (if they had any to Russia) to Ukraine; the annexation of Muslim-majority Crimea may also fuel fighters’ flips.

Yet another challenge not fully addressed is the possibility of a country-wide power vacuum if Zelenskyy were removed from Ukraine’s presidency. Who of any of the candidates mentioned would be up to leading a deeply-angry occupied population? The letter writer acknowledges Russia simply doesn’t have an adequate number of people who can step into governmental roles across Ukraine; at least one mayor in Russia had mentioned this same problem the week the invasion began, so it’s obvious outside FSB an occupation is already problematic.

The discussion of the use of the 2014 Donetsk and Luhansk conflict to mask the annexation of Crimea brings up another question: did Russia not only provide pro-Russian rebel forces with a Buk 9M83 surface-to-air missile launcher, but loosely encourage their sloppiness which shot down civilian aircraft Malaysia Air MH17 in order to draw the west’s attention away from Crimea?

Manufacturing evidence of nuclear weapons production as an ex postfacto casus belli is also acknowledged and likely explains why Chernobyl was such an early target of Russian forces in spite of its location away from Kyiv. An active disinformation campaign has already been noted on the internet to bolster this false claim.

The letter both assures and scares when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons. They could be used but the author doesn’t think Putin will push the button, and further assumes the Russian system will likely bottleneck their use even if approved, and the equipment itself may not be adequate because of implied maintenance lapses. The problem, though, is whether the assumptions in this letter are damaged in the same way the FSB’s assessments were by siloed information.

One surprising issue to arise from this letter is the possible fall of Syria if Russia can’t continue its military action in service to Bashar al-Assad’s continued leadership. Not mentioned in this letter is that Russia deployed jets with missile launch capability to Syria a week or two ahead of the invasion. What drove that deployment?

The one point which is most problematic in this letter is the assumption that “We have a conditional deadline of June. ” No — Russia’s economy has weeks, not months. The speed of the downturn could accelerate if more economic sanctions are brought to bear; the UK hasn’t made much if any genuine effort to constrain the Russian oligarchs which own Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party.

~ ~ ~

Economic attrition has begun its march on Russia. Another caveat on the following tweet and video — the sourcing is seen as credible by other credible sources, and yet we’re three or more degrees away from the origin. It’s still important to note the event documented, and the lack of any published pushback by the company where this took place.

Workers at a factory in Tatarstan stopped work Saturday because their wages weren’t protected from decreases in currency valuation.

Gemont is a subsidiary of a Turkish transnational construction company which appears to compete with firms like KBR, Bechtel, or Fluor Corporation. It’s had a contract to produce and operate a turnkey polyethylene production plant in Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan for Russian chemical company Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Radio Free Europe reported the workers received a higher wage after negotiation, but this may not last.

An additional wrinkle: the workers may also be Turkish, not Russian. Will they be allowed to leave Russia if they are dissatisfied with their workplace and economic conditions as sanctions affect their targets more deeply?

Imagine this same scenario playing out repeatedly across Russia, resulting in longer walk-outs when a higher wage isn’t available to offset decreases in currency valuation, and when paychecks aren’t available at all due to lack of banking and access to cash.

Russia doesn’t have until June at this rate — it has weeks, not months.