The Last Week: Some Thoughts and Updates

The weakening of the Russian image on the global scene

After the hasty Russian military withdrawal from the Kharkov region territories, Russian Army’s image suffered a mighty blow.

After the flare-up of Armenian-Azeri conflict, Armenia has officially requested for Russian protection under the collective defence treaty. Russian response was muddled, one of relatively low profile and slow. In the meantime, while Armenian president has cancelled his visit to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Putin had some pleasant talks with Azeri president Aliev and the Turkish president and the main sponsor of Azeri military actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Erdogan. Putin had a good time in Samarkand with his peers, as well as answering (almost certainly) pre-approved questions of the selected Russian media journalists. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi made a high-profile visit to Armenia in its support. Armenian official (National Security Comity chairman of something of similar nature) has expressed his disappointment in Russian response.

Armenia saw Russia as its main ally in a possible war with Azerbaijan. It has a Russian-friendly government, and a strong, Russian-aligned opposition. Now, where are attempts to organize anti-Russian protests. As a result of all this, Russian influence in Armenia will be significantly degraded.

It is understandable Russia had some good reasons not to get involved in this fight right now, after the giant setback in Ukraine. But it is exactly for this reason, Russia should have acted much more aggressively against Azeri and Turkish power moves in the region. Their timing is not coincidental. Azerbaijan chose the moment Russia was in its lowest point so far. It shows Aliev and Erdogan think this is the best time to squeeze Russia of this region. This also shows, they are afraid of direct military confrontation with Russia, but will act against Russian interest whenever possible.

Yet Putin chose to abandon Armenia in order to play an important leader in Uzbekistan. He stroked his ego, showing his impotency as a supreme leader of a greatly weakened military superpower. He has also showed again in his interviews, what he won’t give any regard to the lives of civilians and soldiers lost in this conflict. The previous “Russia hasn’t lost anything in this war” remark made not long ago in Vladivostok wasn’t a slip of tongue or mistake. And the ongoing and escalating slaughter of the civilians in Russian occupied Ukraine and Russia proper won’t even be acknowledged by him.

Along the Armenian-Azeri conflict, the Kyrgyz-Tajiki conflict, which was slowly burning for decades, suddenly and very quickly got almost out of control. Actually, it got out of control more than once, but somehow got again back under control. It seems to me, and I’m mostly guessing, that their national governments managed to stop the actions of some local forces. Again, this timing is highly suspicious, and it seems the goal was to ignite this Russian-allied region.

Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: all members of the Russian-led Collective Defense Treaty Organization. All may potentially require a large Russian military force to be sent to these countries, in order to prevent a war or regime change. If successful, all have one thing in common — militarily distracted Russia. And the winners of such possible outcome are Ukraine and the Western neocons/neoliberals.

The reformation of the Russian Army

For now, only some rumors (from Telegram channel “Rybar”, for example). It seems there is some movement in the Russian military. Some heads rolled, some reinforcements sent, some new “not a step back” orders were given. Only rumors for now but make sense, at least for me. It is also somewhat encouraging. At least major failures get some reaction. How useful this reaction is — I cannot say. But a reaction is a sign a failure was recognized as such, and not ignored or spined as it happens usually. Any acknowledgment of failures, even if it happens behind closed doors while projecting “all is going according to plan”, is a good thing.

I believed all along that: 1. Russian top military establishment is corrupted and incompetent (as almost any other giant monopolistic organization in the world); 2. war is an ultimate form of competition (to the point of natural selection, even), which is the best remedy for corruption and incompetence.

That is why I also believe that ultimately Russian military will come stronger out of this war, unless of course the war won’t be allowed to reach its natural conclusion: a total defeat of the enemy.

But seeing how much resistance there is to even acknowledge the facts of failure, is at the same time discouraging. You cannot improve something unless you acknowledge the improvement is needed. If Putin acts like all is fine and is going according to plan, it will create a natural resistance to any changes for better. If he thinks that his poker face is serving some national cause, he gravely mistaken. All that thinking Russians see is a president who is detached from the people and ignores all the suffering, resulting from the prolonged and underperforming military campaign.

The Russian strikes on Nikolaev nuclear power plant

I’m sure there be a lot of rationalization of this strike. My opinion is a revenge for the politically skewed IAEA report. Russians made a lot of efforts to bring IAEA to Zaporozhye NPP in order to stop its shelling, and in order for this UN organization to acknowledge that it was Ukrainian side who shelled the power plant. Yet all IAEA produced is a political statement in support of Ukraine. So, in my opinion, the Russian rational is: “If you make it OK for Ukraine to shell nuclear power plants, maybe we can start doing the same. If you don’t like it, you can change your approach. If not, we can shell some other Ukrainian nuclear power plants as well.”

I will wait to see the IAEA reaction to this new development. I’m sure some of the officials there won’t be happy with how things turned out after they gave Ukraine a green light to proceed with the selling of Zaporozhye NPP.

Iranian drones

I see some people assume Russia is buying those drones. I guess actually there were some deals done, and the Iranian drones are a part (or a whole) of a payment for some weapons Russia will supply (or maybe already is supplying) to Iran. Iran would very much want to get its hands on modern 4+ gen fighter jets or some advanced air defense systems like S-400.

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