"Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) – Day 33"
The Vineyard of the Saker (March 29, 2022)
First, a quick announcement – I have agreed with a Russian speaking reader to have a SITREP about the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) every 2nd day.
Here is the first one: http://thesaker.is/sitrep-operation-z/ (make sure to check it out!!!)
Please drop by and give us your feedback, suggestions, criticisms, etc.!
Second, there is a true panic going through the Russian society. It is due to the talk happening in Turkey between Russians and the Ukronazis. This is a sore point with most Russians because in Russian history there have been plenty of examples of Russian diplomats literally wasting away what was acquired by the blood of Russian soldiers. And just to make it worse, Russians remember the infamous Khasaviurt agreements and the two Minsk Agreements. The notion of a “Minsk 3.0” absolutely horrifies many Russians, including myself. So this begs the question – are these fears founded, yes or no?
I think that they both are and are not founded, let me explain. Here are some of the reasons why these negotiations are creating fear, uncertainty and doubts:
• First, if you want to denazify the Ukraine, why negotiate with Nazis in the first place? Does the concept of “denazification” not imply regime change in Kiev?
• Second, what is the notion of dramatically reducing the combat activities around Kiev and Chernigov??? Does that mean that Russia has given up on the notion of liberating these towns?
• Some of the delegates sent by Russia are rather pathetic looking, like the head of the delegation, Vladimir Medinsky.
• What in the world is Abramovich doing anywhere near these negotiations???
I can try to offer a few answers:
• Always remember that Russians always talk to everybody, including their enemies, even in case of war. So by itself the fact that they are sitting and talking is neither good nor bad, at least in the Russian mindset. Furthermore, if negotiating with Nazis can bring about a desirable outcome at a lower price in human lives and destruction of the civilian infrastructure, then to talk to these Nazis does make sense.
• The one aspect which freaked out the most people is this “reduction in military activities around Kiev and Chernigov” and that fear makes no sense whatsoever. The reality on the ground is simple: the Russians are close enough to both cities to keep them under control and nobody on the Russian side has ever claimed that the Russian intended to occupy these cities. In fact, lowering down the force levels around Kiev and Chernogov would free up some very needed forces to finally finish off the operational cauldron in Donbass. Finally, as with any unilateral gesture of goodwill, the side which said “yes” cannot say “no” 30 seconds later, that is the key characteristic of a unilateral “sign of goodwill” and any well trained negotiator will immediately recognize that kind of “gestures of goodwill” as a negotiating technique aimed at creating a specific mental dynamic in which both sides are pushed towards a specific outcome.
• If you think Medinskii is uninspiring, there is even worse. One member of the Russian delegation specifically is a total imbecile and a loudmouth who like to proffer inanities with a very loud voice. This is Russian State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky. To show you how stupid (and probably corrupt) this guy is, read this article where he calls the Houthis “terrorists”! There are some very sharp guys in that delegation too, I think of Boris Gryzlov for example. As for what in the world Abramovich is doing in Turkey, I am as baffled by this as everybody else, especially since the claim that he was kinda poisoned about a month ago, and it must have been by the Russians, since Abramovich survived, like all the other putative previsions victims of Russian poisoning attempts (and, considering that Abramovich survived, this MUST have been “Novichok”, right?!)
So? Is it time to freak out?
Nope, but it is time to make sure to convey to the Kremlin that we are all tense and that the Russian public opinion would be overwhelmingly against any type of Minsk 3.0, Abramovich or not.
Personally, I don’t like any of those talks, I tend to distrust Russian diplomats and I am quite aware that there are plenty of Atlantic Integrationists in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Duma and Presidential Administration. And, as I have mentioned, the history of Russia is full of examples of civilian diplomats pissing away what was conquered at a great price in blood.
That being said,
It is way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too early to start freaking out. First, if you listened, like I did, to the short statement of the Russian negotiators you will notice that the Russians only repeated the Ukrainian position, they did not say a word about what Russia would or would not do. They presented “reduction in military activity” as a “sign of good will”, but these are empty words, the military activity that really matters today is the one in Mariupol and in the Donbass, and about that the Russians did not say a word.
I also remind you that Russia uses the following technique quite often: appear to make concessions to your enemy knowing full well that your concessions are never going to be acceptable to that enemy, and when that enemy shows that he will not accept your concession, take unilateral actions and blame it on your enemy. That is *exactly* what Russia did, it turns out very successfully, with the two Minsk Agreements.
So this is what the French called a “storm in a glass of water” – lots of rumors and armchair strategists proclaiming with great gravitas that “Putin is about the betray the Donbass”, which has been their mantra for 7 years and which they keep chanting while the Russians liberate town after town in the Ukraine. Frankly, I am personally sick and tired of these second-guessing 6th columnist who are oh-so-certain that if THEY were in the Kremlin they would do so much better than Putin. I wish they would learn to shut up, wait for the facts on the ground to parsed in sufficient number and care, and then only made conclusions. But I know that this is a vain hope, those who have been saying that “all is lost” for 8 years now won’t shut up no matter what is really going on.
Which brings me to the latest news of the day: Mariupol.
There is some pretty good evidence that Mariupol is basically in Russian hands. Yes, there are still a few scattered Nazis in the city, but they are mostly hiding in basements and in various well-protected locations inside the Azovstal industrial complex. Also, the much-announced Ukronazis counter-offensive from Nikolaev to deblock Mariupol has totally failed, the units were immediately detected by the Russian intelligence service, so they were first hit with missile strikes and then finished off with Russian close air support. Yesterday, a Mi-8 helicopter was seen probably trying to evacuate the commanders of the Nazi force in Mariupol, but it was shot down.
This brings all points to the same reality: Mariupol has fallen and the defenses of Nikolaev have been severely degraded.
One last comment: all this “storm in a glass of water” proves again how primitive and misguided the Russian public information remains. I mean, seriously, how stupid are the folks in the Kremlin not to realize that ambiguous statements from Russian negotiators will immediately result in 6th column hysterics and a tsunami of rumors, some of them incredibly stupid and some of them very damaging to the Russian side.
Frankly, I would give the Russian PR/PSYOP/Information operations people a “F” for totally mismanaging the CRUCIAL aspect of public communications, especially during a war.
As for negotiating with the Nazis, I totally support such talks, but only if Russia is represented by one civilian, say Boris Gryzlov, and one military or ex-military man, like General Vladimir Shamanov. Second, I would demand a total embargo on the progress of talks until the Russians decide that a major goal has been achieved or until the Russian side gets fed up and leaves (General Shamanov has a short temper and no appreciation for crooks or their bullshit).
As a blogger, I spend way too much time in that frustrating sequence:
1. The Russians say something really asinine
2. The 6th column freaks out and goes “AHA! Told ‘ya!”
3. Then I have to explain that while the comment is, indeed, asinine, it carries no weight at all until and unless the Russians put ink to paper on the top level. Until then, all these declarations and statements are just hot air.
Every time a blogger needs to do that, it is proof that somebody on the Russian side screwed-up (again!) and is not taking his/her job seriously.
Please tell me that over time, and with more of these PR faceplants happening with a steady regularity somebody in Moscow will finally wake up, fire all the clowns who have no idea of what an effective information campaign should have looked like, and replace them with folks who actually understand both the nature and importance of their tasks.
But I am not holding my breath: being appallingly inept at information operations seems to be a Russian specialty.
But if that is really so, they the Russians have to 1) admit it to themselves and to the Russian people and 2) completely rebuilt the public information strategy and hire real professionals to execute it.
But that is wishful thinking: when I look at the faces of Medinskii or Abramovich I feel what many US Americans feel with they look at, say, Blinken or Musk – one is a born loser the other one a born crook. A very uninspiring and depressing sight…
Anyway, that’s from me for today.
“See you” soon
PS: and if you wonder what the Nazi crazies are up to, here is a good one: they want to ban the letter “Z”. This tells you that the Ukies MUST be winning, right? If they are down to fighting letters of the alphabet, the war must be going so well for them that I can’t even put it in words, right? :-)