"CrossTalk: Returning to Russia"
RT.com (September 28, 2022)

CrossTalking with Pepe Escobar, Gilbert Doctorow, and Wyatt Reed

Peter Lavelle: At this point, it is almost a certainty that the regions of Ukraine voting to reject Kiev’s rule will join the Russian Federation, and soon. Moscow will protect these people as NATO’s war on Russia continues. How things will escalate is anybody’s guess.

Peter Lavelle: "Gilbert, the votes are almost all counted and the results will be in very soon. What is the significance of these referendums? First, because the political geography of Ukraine is going to change dramatically as this military conflict goes on. What are the implications?"

[1:32] Gilbert Doctorow: “The implications are for domestic Russian politics. The referendums and the reintegration of Novorussia into the Russian Federation is important because of the powers it extends to the President and executive of Russia to deploy military forces in territory which would otherwise be beyond the frontiers of Russia and are not within its remit. The referendums and the follow-up which in coming days which will be the legal integration of the four former oblasts of Ukraine into the Russian Federation has that particular novelty which is missed by most observers who debate whether it is a legal or illegal operation; whether it conforms or is in contradiction to the United Nations. All this rhetoric goes on, but it is missing the political dimension within Russia. And that is what I want to call attention to.”

[2:35] Peter Lavelle: "Pepe, same thing. Because obviously these are not going to be recognized by the West. However, this is where the danger lies because once they are inducted into the Russian Federation, Russia will claim Russian sovereignty. As this goes on NATO -- or Washington, de facto -- will test this. And we've heard from the Russian side: Don't do that because there will be very strong reactions. So, we are at a very dangerous inflection point."

[3:10] Pepe Escobar: “Yes, we are at a dangerous inflection point. But there are two very important things happening at the moment. One, ... now there are back channels between the Americans and the Russians. They are not talking directly, but at least we have back channels. This proves that the Biden Administration is absolutely terrified. They are cornered. They have no idea what they are going to do next. First of all because they have no strategic thinking. ... And the whole Kharkov episode was basically pre-planning for the Russian army to protect the four baby bears during the referendums this week. And this is exactly what happened. The Ukronazis tried everything to disrupt it. But, no, it didn't work. More people are voting than Crimea -- and Sevastopol still has the record -- everybody else, it's 80-85%. So it is a major success."

"What happens next is that any attack by Kiev is going to be an attack on the Russian federation. And we all know that that means."

[4:36] Peter Lavelle: "Wyatt here in Moscow, these referendums serve as a demonstration effect. Those who know even a little history know that Ukraine has always been one of the most fragile of states, cobbled together in the 20th century. And now we have these referendums. And places like Odessa, for example, will be watching very carefully. Obviously the Kiev regime has military assets there so the people are going to have to be very careful. But when they look at Donbass and say: 'They did it. Crimea did it. We can do it.' This is the most important precedent that is being set. But it is not without its danger"

[5:18] Wyatt Reed: "Absolutely. In the short term, [according to some Donbass diplomatic sources] this will be an inflection point but hostilities are likely to escalate. ... The Russian government may change the classification of hostilities from a Special Military Operation (SMO) to a Counter Terrorism Operation (CTO) which is what defines the Russian operations in Syria. It is also possible that Russia may seek to label [Kiev] as a terrorist state or sponsor of terrorism. So there are significant implications from these referendums and we are starting to see them play out."

Peter Lavelle: "We are going to go from a Special Military Operation to a very different kind of operation. And if the sovereignty of these newly reunited regions of Russia are violated, the gloves will come off. I think we all remember about ten days ago when for some unexplained reason the lights went off in most of Ukraine. It wasn't very long but it was as if someone were tapping on the brakes, reminding everyone that the brakes can be more than tapped."

[7:09] Pepe Escobar: “... The Chinese message: You have got to wrap this up as soon as possible. ...”

[8:37] Peter Lavelle: "We have to bring up the partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists. That's going to take time to deploy, if they're going to be deployed at all. It could take months. They've already had basic training. They already have their job descriptions. But I'm reflecting on what you said about timing. ... Who has the clocks and who has the time? But there is a general consensus that Russia has both the clocks and the time."

[9:10] Gilbert Doctorow: I think it's an inflection point. But the discussion up till now hasn't really reflected it. I think it's reasonable to expect that after the reintegration takes place and the Ukrainian armed forces continue their attacks across the new frontier, I think it's reasonable to expect that the Duma will promulgate and the President will sign a declaration of war against Ukraine. And that is no longer a war of attrition. It will be a sudden-death war. And I believe it is within Mr Putin's power to end this war in a matter of weeks if not days, if he follows what people around him suggest which is to decapitate the civilian and military administrations in Kiev by precision [missile] strikes. That is entirely within the Russian military capability. So I would look for that to happen.

[10:12 So what is the meaning of the partial mobilization. And I come back to the same point I made about the referendums. This is a matter of domestic Russian politics and government actions following within the Russian constitution. And I believe we will see this escalation of not tiny steps but a massive step. And the forces that are being mobilized will not need their three months of training. The logic of it to me is that they will be the forces to hold down and occupy the territories of Ukraine after it is decaptitated.

[10:52] Peter Lavelle: "Wyatt, here in Moscow. There is a sense of impatience where you and I live here wanting to see this thing wound up with these referendums providing an opportunty."

[11:10] Wyatt Reed: "... extremely popular. ... It is a situation of overwhelming emotion. People expressing their feeling of relief after eight long years. ..."

Peter Lavelle [interjecting]: "For the world, it's February 24th. But for these people, it has been eight long years of suffering and carnage. And it is about time that it came to an end. And that perspective is not understood whatsoever in the West. You read articles about what is going on in Ukraine. Most of them don't even mention the Minsk process. It is so out of context here. So I am very happy, have had my program cover this for eight years, that they are going to get some kind of closure here."

[12:10] -- program break ---

[12:38] Peter Lavelle [after break] “. . . about negotiating an end to the conflict here, well, Russia isn't going to negotiate the new Repubics of the Russian Federation. Russia is not going to negotiate that. And why would Russia negotiate with people who were involved in the Minsk process? … Russia isn’t doing this now so it can do it again in five years, ten years, or fifteen years.” ...

Pepe Escobar: There is no one to negotiate with. You don’t negotiate with vassals . . . The Russians have said, this is a do-or-die situation ...

Peter Lavelle, “The EU is going to lose

Gilbert Doctorow: The EU has already lost … The US has called the shots on this from the beginning. After Ukraine, the real negotiations with the “West” will begin.”

Pepe Escobar:

Peter Lavelle

Pepe Escobar:

[22:00] Gilbert Doctorow: … In Brussels, monthly electricity bill up from 150 Euros to 500 Euros on income of 1500 Euros. Perhaps 200 left to live on … People don’t care about Ukraine, but they do care about food and a warm home. --