Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 16FEB22; 1500 Eastern
[Originally posted on author’s Facebook page; post is publicly available.]
1.) The news is slowing somewhat over the last 24 hours. Russia, however, has claimed that some of its troops are moving away from forward positions near Ukraine. This does not seem to have been verified at this point, and some sources suggest that this is false and that whatever troops are moving are simply repositioning.
2.) I am intrigued by the Biden Administration’s approach to this issue. Firstly, the release of intelligence, much of which is likely classified to one degree or another, seems to be a purposeful and methodical policy decision rather than isolated incidents of unauthorized leaks. This is very interesting to me. I kind of like it, to be honest, but I am hopeful that someone is advising the decision makers on the risks to sources and methods.
2.a.) Overall, I’m somewhat pleased with the Biden Administration’s tactics. The message has been consistent, by and large, and instead of “diplomacy speak,” the effort has been to simply call out what the US is seeing and to reveal — in public and through the press — what the US sees as the most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) that Russia might take. From “they’re going to invade Wednesday” to suggesting false flag operations as a justification for war, the Biden White House is laying the cards on the table, vis a vis potential Russian activities. Unlike in 2014, the West cannot suggest that they were in any way surprised by a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead, they can only be surprised if Russia cools the situation by backing away from the brink. Denying Russia strategic surprise is important, and the West far too often allows Russia the initiative, painting Putin as some sort of savant. This is a shift. It’s interesting. Dislike Biden all you want, but this is a very interesting tactic in my view.
3.) I was watching Sky News while I worked yesterday morning, and the journalist on air was interviewing some Russian minister. I cannot recall his name, and the moment I tried to take a picture of the screen the crawl shifted to something else and never again showed his title or position. This was a failure on my part, but the larger point is that this fellow was engaging in the sort of propaganda-spewing speech you’d have seen at the height of the Cold War. He kept speaking over the interviewer, and at one point said something to the effect that while Russian democracy may have it’s problems, it has nothing like the racism, lack of free speech, and voter suppression that some western nations do. It consisted largely of denials and misinformation. It was enlightening.
4.) The UK is planning to double the number of troops in Estonia, and NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has stated that the alliance may increase the number of battlegroups in eastern Europe. Currently there are four, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. France is said to have offered to lead a fifth, in Romania.
5.) The White House is attempting, however futilely it may end up being, to convince Saudi Arabia to increase its production of oil in the hopes of offsetting any price increases a Russian invasion of Ukraine might cause. Such an invasion would undoubtedly impact the price of energy in Europe.
6.) Since bipartisanship on any issue in the United States is all but dead, which includes any sanctions against Russia, apparently, Republicans have introduced their own sanctions package. Defying all belief, it is called the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory Act. For those paying attention, that’s NYET. Or “no,” in Russian. Yes. Republicans have proposed the NO Act. Fucking branding, I guess.
7.) Russian aircraft intercepted three P-8A aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea last weekend in what the Navy is describing as “unprofessional intercepts.” The P-8A Poseidon is an anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare plane.
8.) As an update to yesterday’s news on a DDoS attack against Ukrainian defense and banking websites, it was evidently the largest such attack in Ukraine’s history. According to CrowdStrike’s Senior VP of Intelligence Adam Meyers, who I’ve definitely never, ever worked for, it was “three orders of magnitude more than regularly observed traffic.” I’d assume it was a nifty botnet. Fun times. I’d love to see the numbers behind it. Meh.
For being a slow news day, I guess there was a lot of news.