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October 1, 2022 2:03 pm

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Selected Articles Review

President Ilham Aliyev met with Prime Minister of Greece in Sofia VIDEO

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Sofia, October 1, AZERTAC

As part of the opening ceremony of the Greece-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector (IGB), President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has met with Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The issues of cooperation in the field of energy was pointed out at the meeting, and the importance of the TAP project was emphasized in this regard. The importance of the natural gas interconnector to be commissioned between Greece and Bulgaria, was also mentioned.

The sides also hailed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Partnership signed between Azerbaijan and the European Union in the field of energy.

AZERTAG.AZ :President Ilham Aliyev met with Prime Minister of Greece in Sofia VIDEO

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Importance Of Energy Security Issues Increased Even More In …

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(MENAFN– Trend News Agency)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, September 30. Following the
expanded meeting, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham
Aliyev and President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rumen Radev have
made press statements.

Statement by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Thank you,
Mr. President.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Mr. President, first of all, I would like to thank you for
inviting me to Bulgaria and for the hospitality extended to me and
my delegation. I am very happy to be visiting your beautiful
country again.

President Radev gave extensive information about the issues we
have discussed today. For my part, I would like to add that many
issues have been discussed in a friendly atmosphere, both in our
one-on-one conversation and in the discussions with the
participation of delegations. I am sure that the results of this
visit will be very successful and the agreements reached today will
definitely be implemented, as was the case with those reached in
previous times. In particular, I would like to mention the Joint
Declaration on strategic partnership between Bulgaria and
Azerbaijan signed in 2015. This Declaration has raised our
relations to a high level and, at the same time, all the issues
identified in that declaration have been implemented. Today,
Bulgaria and Azerbaijan are maintain closer contact with each other
as two friendly and strategic partner countries.

As for political relations, it would be enough to mention our
contacts, as well as the numerous meetings held at the ministerial
level. Of course, my trip is slightly belated, but that is because
of COVID. I have visited several countries, including Bulgaria,
right after COVID. I am sure that as strategic partners we will
take further steps in the field of energy security, which is the
main issue discussed today. Partnership in this field has already
been implemented, as Azerbaijan’s gas is now in Bulgaria. During
the conversation with the President today, we also discussed ways
of increasing the volume of Azerbaijani gas to be exported to
Bulgaria. Relevant instructions have been given. Energy security
issues have always been important, but in today’s circumstances,
this importance has increased even more. We are well aware of this.
Therefore, we are doing our best to increase gas production and
supply our partners with natural gas. Azerbaijan has been exporting
its crude oil to world and European markets as a reliable partner
for many years. Azerbaijan, which now exports natural gas, will
assert how itself as a reliable partner in this field as well.

We have also exchanged opinions about the ceremony to be held
tomorrow. I congratulated President Radev on this great historic
achievement. The Greece-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector project is
indeed of historic importance. I am sure that this interconnector
will enable the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe on a
larger scale. At the same time, it will be of great benefit to
energy security on the European continent.

As the President noted, a Memorandum on strategic partnership in
the field of energy was recently signed between the European Union
and Azerbaijan. According to this Memorandum, in the next few
years, we will increase our gas exports to Europe at least twice,
and there are opportunities to do that. Azerbaijan’s confirmed gas
reserves are at 2.6 trillion cubic meters. New and diversified gas
transportation infrastructure allows us the opportunity to supply
natural gas to many countries. Of course, the successes achieved in
this field are also a good foundation for future plans.

At the same time, as already mentioned by the President, the
issue of opening SOCAR’s office in Bulgaria has also been
discussed. We should not limit our energy agenda to the exports of
natural gas. We have also discussed other issues related to energy.
Export of electricity and mutually beneficial cooperation in this
field, the transportation of crude oil to Bulgaria, possible
participation of SOCAR in the renewal of energy infrastructure in
Bulgaria and other issues have been discussed as well. In short,
the time has come to open SOCAR’s office in Bulgaria, and I am sure
that we will do that soon.

As for other issues as a whole, transport security is certainly
an important issue considering the new geopolitical situation
today. Azerbaijan has created a very modern transport
infrastructure in its territory – railways, highways, a new
International Trade Sea Port – all these infrastructure facilities
have one goal of increasing the volume of transit cargo through
Azerbaijan. This year, the volume of these cargoes has increased by
approximately 50 percent. In the future, this number will be even
greater. Therefore, Bulgarian and Azerbaijani transport workers
will come together and exchange ideas about long-term and
large-scale future cooperation.

I will meet with the heads of several leading companies of
Bulgaria today. There are already quite a few topics for the
meeting. I am sure that this meeting will play a very important
role for the deepening of cooperation in the fields of economy and
investment as a whole. At the same time, I will invite Bulgarian
companies to do more large-scale work in Azerbaijan, including the
territories liberated from occupation. At the moment, major
construction and improvement work is under way there, and we would
like to see companies of friendly countries there.

In short, the discussions held today and those that will be
continued – Mr. President and I will meet in the evening again, I
will have a meeting with the Prime Minister, and we will
participate in the event tomorrow – these meetings, held in a very
nice atmosphere, are and will be of great importance .

Thank you again for your hospitality and attention. Thank


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Kyiv Residents Praise President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Announcement of a Bid for Fast-track … – Latest – LatestLY

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Kyiv Residents Praise President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Announcement of a Bid for Fast-track … – Latest  LatestLY

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An Alternative Red Scenario for the war between Ukraine and Russia

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(Art direction: Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli)

The September 2022 Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia is hailed as very successful. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the “true heroes” who allowed for a “very rapid liberation” of 8000 sq km by 14 September 22 “in the east, notably in the Kharkiv Oblast, and the south, notably in the Kherson oblast”, (e.g. BBC News, 12 September 22; CNN, 14 September 22).

Yet, U.S. President Joe Biden and other American officials, as well as Germany Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht first cautioned against a feeling of “premature victory”, of a “turning point in the war”, even though they acknowledge the territorial gains (Lolita Baldor and Ellen Knickmeyer, “US leaders avoid victory dance in Ukraine combat advances“, AP, 13 September 22; Reuters, “Too early to tell if Ukraine counter-offensive is turning point, Germany says“, 14 September 22). As time passed, on 18 September, President Biden appeared as far more confident in an interview, stating that “They’re defeating Russia” (Reuters, “Zelenskiy vows no let-up as Ukraine says troops cross Oskil river in northeast“, 19 September 2022).

What lies ahead?

With this article we shall first briefly stress why it is important to look at a comprehensive set of scenarios, and why it matters even more in the context of a war where information is degraded by the use of propaganda or psyops. Then, we shall focus not on the scenario favoured in the West, which predicts a victory of Ukraine, as this scenario is well-known, but describe another scenario, different from the most common narrative. We shall call it the Red Scenario, in reference to red teaming (taking the point of view of the enemy). We mainly present explanations rather than scenario narrative (story-telling), using maps tracking the evolution of the control of the terrain in Ukraine by the two protagonists and established daily by the Institute for the Study of War. First we present our key hypotheses and then develop an explanatory narrative according to phases during the war.

The need for alternative scenarios

Useful and actionable scenarios are constituted in a set with evolving likelihoods

Many commentators tend to focus on a single scenario highlighting a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat. The current Ukrainian counter-offensive goes hand in hand with the Russian “debacle”, “rout”, “disaster”, “disintegration”, etc. This is indeed one scenario. Its narrative runs more or less as follows:

The current counter-offensive heralds coming successes for the Ukrainian army while showing deep seated problems within Russian forces that will lead to a string of defeats, until Moscow is vanquished.

However, proper foresight must consider all possible scenarios (see FAQ on scenarios), even those that are unlikely, contrary to one’s objectives or unpalatable. Actually those scenarios are even more interesting because they are those that allow for the best planning, for truly countering the enemy and finally for victory and success.

The likelihood of seeing a scenario taking place actually is something that is separated from the narrative of the scenario itself. The key variables for a set of scenarios are used both to craft the narrative and then to assess the probability of the scenario. Yet, to create a specific scenario for this set does not mean that this scenario is more likely than another. A good set of scenarios must consider all possible scenarios. Then according to reality the probability of each scenario is assessed, varies and evolves. This is where scenarios become most useful, because they help steer policy. However, to be able to reach this lofty aim, we need first to have a complete set of scenarios, and not only a couple of pleasant scenarios that fit our aims, beliefs and wishes.

Overcoming potential propaganda

Furthermore, a swift Ukrainian victory by heroes in the framework of a Russian rout could also be a way to narrate events that is part of the information operations (I/Os – psyops) of Ukraine and its allies (see Helene Lavoix, “Information Warfare and the War in Ukraine“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 24 May 2022). More surprisingly but not impossible, it could even be part of Russian I/Os and deception, as Russia is meant to be a master at using “reflexive control” (refleksivnoe upravlenie / рефлексивного управления).

As during war information is degraded and as we shall not know with certainty what is truly taking place on the ground until archives are opened – i.e. in 30, 60, or 100 years according to cases and countries, we need to rely on scenarios. Scenarios allow to make hypotheses and to take into account uncertainty, which is key when information is lacking or of dubious quality. Furthermore it will help us stretching our minds, asking inconvenient questions and thus think out of the box.

A Red Scenario – Main hypotheses

Our first hypothesis for this scenario is that Russia has two major territorial aims in Ukraine and only two.

The first territorial objective, as declared when Russia launched its “special operation”, is to free and protect the territory of the two separatist Republics of the Donbass: the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) (Address by the President of the Russian Federation, February 24, 2022, 06:00, The Kremlin, Moscow).

The second aim can be inferred from the same Russian Address, and consists in protecting Crimea (Ibid.). This means creating strategic depth for the peninsula, which would allow protecting it from any Ukrainian threat.

North Crimean Canal. Connects the Denpr at the Kakhovka reservoir with the east of Crimea – Berihert, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The importance of that goal is highlighted by one of the first actions of the Russian army on 24 February 22, thus at the very beginning of the war. It restored water flow to the North Crimean canal (Pivnichno-Krymskyi kanal) between the Dniepr River in Ukraine and Crimea, which had been cut off by Ukraine in 2014 (Reuters, “Russian forces unblock water flow for canal to annexed Crimea, Moscow says,” 24 February 2022).

These territorial aims are shown on the map below. The size of the necessary strategic depth for Crimea is an estimate and may vary according to other factors. It is against this map that operations elsewhere will be evaluated.

War in Ukraine 2022 – Russian objectives – Red scenario (on an ISW map as background)

The second hypothesis is that the Russian leadership is neither mad nor stupid, nor completely out of touch with reality, nor any of the extreme epithets and ungrounded emotional assertions that have been made about the Russian political authorities. This does not mean that leadership cannot be surprised. As for any system, analyses and evaluations may be flawed. Actions may not go as planned. The fog of war operates.

The third hypothesis or rather principle is that if something cannot be explained or understood when using prior reasoning and framework for understanding, then it is likely that the initial line of thinking is flawed.

A Red Scenario – Phases in the war

Phase 1 – 24 Feb 2022 to 29 March 2022

Creating the conditions for the conquest of the South (outside Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts)

Considering the Russian territorial objectives for this scenario, all operations carried out outside Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and the southern part of Zaporizhzhia oblasts are either “decoy” operations or “negotiation” ones.

They aimed at focusing the attention and effort of the enemy and its allies on non-essential, indeed false aims. At best, if gains are achieved, they will be used for exchange during negotiation, against the territory that constitutes the real aim, or against other key objectives such as the neutrality of Ukraine.

This phase ended on 29 March 22. Then, in the framework of the negotiations taking place in Istanbul, Russian Ministry of Defence announced to “fundamentally reduce military activity in the direction of Kiev and Chernihiv” in order to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine” (DW; Asia Times 29 March 22).

As far as its territorial objectives are concerned, in one month, the Russian side succeeded in creating strategic depth for Crimea by taking a large part of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. It made the junction with Donetsk Oblast or rather, from a Russian perspective, the DPR. It gave the latter its connection to the sea. Finally, it conquered a large part of Luhansk.

However, hardly any progress was made in the western part of Donetsk Oblast, which remained strongly in Ukrainian hands. There, the 2015 “contact line” acts as a quasi border where an attrition war started and would last.

All other territorial gains and operations – which includes Kiev, despite Western beliefs – were secondary or part of Russian psyops and could be abandoned to consolidate the territory taken that is part of the objectives.

On 1st April 2022, the massacres of Bucha and other locations around Kiev was then revealed, creating widespread outrage (e.g. Eliot Higgins, “Russia’s Bucha ‘Facts’ Versus the Evidence“, Bellingcat, 4 April 22). The negotiations stopped, despite initial Turkish hope to see them continuing (Daily Sabah, “Turkey expects more Russia-Ukraine peace talks, FM Çavuşoğlu says“, 7 April 22).

Phase 2 – April 2022

Withdrawal from the north and repositioning of forces on real territorial objectives with, as potential “decoy area”, Kharkiv Oblast

Throughout April, the Russian forces withdrew from all northern territories as stated at the end of March. They repositioned their forces where territory matters in terms of main goals and started consolidating what they had already conquered. Meanwhile they also began the slow grinding progress to conquer or free according to side the territory of Luhansk oblast for the LPR and of Donetsk Oblast for the DPR.

The only remaining territory not belonging to their main goals is in Kharkiv oblast. This area could then be used as “decoy” or way to pin down Ukrainian forces on areas that did not matter to the Russian side. The slow withdrawal from Kharkiv region started then.

Phase 3 – May 2022 to date

Attrition warfare, freeing/conquering Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts territory, keeping as much as possible of the southern oblasts.

Phase 3-1 – The conquest of Luhansk Oblast – Attrition warfare elsewhere

By 25 June 2022, in Luhansk, Severodonetsk fully fell to the Russian army (ISW, Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 25). Lysychansk followed suit on 2 July and the border of the Luhansk Oblast was reached on 3 July (ISW, Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 3).

Kharkiv Oblast remains a zone that is dispensable and does not belong to true Russian objectives. It is partly in Russian hands, but by mid-May, Ukrainian forces have regained a small part of this territory, east of Kharkiv (city).

Elsewhere, the frontline hardly moved compared with previous periods. Attrition warfare settled, with rather offensive objectives in Donetsk Oblast and defensive aims in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.

Assuming the new weapons Ukraine received from Western allies, notably the U.S., as well as intelligence and special forces support, and consequent Ukrainian actions do not change the strategic situation for Crimea, it is likely that Russia will mainly seek to consolidate its gain in the south.

The western part of Donetsk remains, however, apparently stubbornly out of reach. As it is the last objective that needs to be met, then it should be the focus of the next phase.

Hypothetical Phase 3-2 – Conquering Donetsk, Keeping what was taken and Ending the War?

Reflexive control again?

Russia must find a way to conquer what remains of the Donetsk oblast, which represents a large part of territory and demands overcoming entrenched Ukrainian defense. Meanwhile, it must also preserve what matters, the territory conquered that corresponds to its real objectives.

This also means countering the Ukrainian counter-offensive officially started on 29 August 22, but with earlier premises (Reuters, “Ukraine says long-anticipated southern offensive has begun“, 29 August 2022, Oleksiy Yarmolenko, Tetyana Lohvynenko, “The Russian army sacrificed a massive offensive in Donbas to strengthen its position in the south‘, 12 August 22).

By 14 September, Ukrainian troops have re-conquered 8000 sq km of Kharkiv oblast (DW, “Ukraine stabilizes counteroffensive gains in northeast“, 14 September 2022). Notably the Ukrainian army could mobilise enough men, with a smart strategy to surprise “the rather small Russian forces of the 144th Motorised Division reinforced with disparate independent units” (Michel Goya, “1918 en Ukraine ?“, La Voix de l’Epée, 11 September 2022). Russian forces did not really fight and the “massive Russian forces stationned in Izium retreated eastwards” (ibid.). Izium was re-taken by Ukraine (Ibid.). Actually, according to the maps below, the territory liberated seems to have stabilised on 12 September, and even up to 18 September with different declarations however (see below).

Whatever the rhetoric used to explain Ukrainian successes in Kharkiv oblast, be it withdrawal of Russian troops for repositioning elsewhere (Russian MoD Telegram) or plain defeat in losing a territory (by Western analysts and Russian nationalists military bloggers and discussions in the Duma as stressed by the ISW “Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 13“), it remains that the territory held in Karkhiv was not part of the main Russian objectives. This area could, of course, have a tactical, operational and strategic use, but yet it was not part of the Russian aims. Furthermore, its value in obtaining territorial gains in Donetsk may not have been that high considering the absence of results of the previous months. Hence losing it may not be as crucial as commentators, whatever their nationality, including Russian, may think, if – and this is a key “if” – a new front line along the river Oskil, or along the border of Luhansk oblast is established.

The Russian “recognition” of defeat in Kharkiv that is hailed in the West as something new (see details in ISW, “Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 13“) may not matter that much either, as long it is not followed by other defeats or series thereof in areas corresponding to main territorial objectives. In that light, the loss of a very small part of Luhansk oblast on 10 September may be far more important, if it were to be followed by other losses.

Moreover, considering Russian practice of reflexive control and psyops, we should not forget the possibility that not only the change of rhetoric regarding the Ukrainian victory in Kharkiv – i.e. Russia recognising defeat there – but also, most importantly the very swift loss of territory could actually be part of an information operation.

This could be a Russian version of Operation Fortitude, when the allies deceived the Germans about where they would land on D-Day. In terms of reflexive control, we may imagine that the Russians acted in such a way that they prompted the decision by Ukraine and its allies to attack militarily on Kharkiv oblast.

One possible indication that deception could have been at work comes from an inconsistency highlighted by military experts. Specialists wonder about the inability of the Russian army to detect “five armoured-mechanised brigades near the front in Zmiv”, despite all the Russian intelligence capabilities (Goya, “1918 en Ukraine ?“). The only explanations that are offered are a failure of tactical assessment in the chain of command and failure of understanding at highest level (e.g. Goya, “1918 en Ukraine ?“). Of course, these explanations may very well be correct. Yet, one possibility is not envisioned: would it be possible that detection took place and that nothing was done, purposefully, because something else is at work, indeed deception.

The questions we would need to ponder would then be: what would be the interest of the Russian leadership in not defending and thus losing territory? Then in acknowledging defeat? Which goals could this serve? Answers to these questions are multiple. For example, as far as acknowledging defeat is concerned, the ISW details some of them, notably in terms of Russian domestic politics with bearings on Ukraine. To these, we should also add answers, for example, that would be related to really repositioning Russian and pro-Russian forces on major objectives, to pinning down Ukrainian troops away from main Russian objectives, as well as answers related to creating conditions that could favour over-confidence in Ukrainian forces.

Of course, an alternative would be that indeed the Russian tried to focus their war effort elsewhere considering that Kharkiv oblast was not part of the main aims, that American and Ukrainian intelligence spotted it and that they smartly took advantage of the Russian strategy. If ever a “Reflexive Control” operation was at work, then in would have backfired.

Whatever the explanation, the Ukrainian advance also signals the disappearance of the last non-key position held by Russia, while a large part of Donetsk oblast remains to be conquered. A new line of front must be established that will be a defense line to protect Luhansk oblast, i.e. from a pro-Russian perspective, the LPR. This new front line could run along the Oskil River with as main cities Logachevka-Dvorichana -Kupyansk-Boroza-Lyman, possibly joining the Siverskyi Donets river. It would allow Russia to keep use of the railway, and protect le LPR “border”.

However, by 19 September 22, Ukraine would already be on the Eastern bank in some ares, and either fighting to keep that position, while Russia tries to repel Ukrainian forces (e.g. ISW, “Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 18“), or in full control of it according to Ukrainian Armed Forces and President (Reuters, “Zelenskiy vows no let-up as Ukraine says troops cross Oskil river in northeast“, 19 September 2022).

If Russia proved unable to construct and hold that new front line, or if it considered the threat has now increased considerably considering the support given to Ukraine, then Russia might resort to escalate longer range attacks behind the front line to disrupt Ukrainian advances, as signaled by attacks during the first part of September (e.g. The Guardian, “Russian strikes knock out power and water in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region“, 11 September), or to other means. This could mean a change towards enlarging the scope of war. Russia could justify these attacks by a similar strategy used by Ukraine that now utilises longer range armament besides support such as intelligence provided by its allies, notably Americans, as well as foreign “mercenaries” and “advisors”.

Once the retreat, plus holding of the new front line, and repositioning are done, Russian and pro-Russian forces will likely focus on their main objectives, Donetsk oblast, while defending elsewhere, with the right bank of the Dniepr in Kherson Oblast – which includes Kherson – as potential focal line of defence for the south.

The choice of an offensive on Donetsk oblast could be supported by Russian advances south of Bakhmut over the second week of September, as shown on the maps below. Fighting also takes place in Spirne, Adviivka and south of Marinka. Russian advances are still small in terms of area, and the moves forward have only taken place on less than one week. We are thus more in the realm of signals than of certainty.

Ending the war? Patience and length of time…

Finally, we may ponder the following hypothetical situation. Let us imagine that Russia would conquer the whole of Donetsk oblast, and succeed in keeping what it has conquered elsewhere. How would it then end the war?

The polarisation at work in Ukraine and among its allies – i.e. the U.S. and Europe, would probably forbid any peace negotiations allowing Russia and the separatist Republics of the Donbass to keep the territory conquered. (e.g. Reuters, “Zelenskiy vows no let-up as Ukraine says troops cross Oskil river in northeast“, 19 September 2022)

If we assume that the Russian leadership is well aware of this key pitfall, then we may wonder if one possible Russian strategy is not to buy time or to be ready to wait until international conditions have changed.

The key actors which positions would need to change are Ukraine’s allies. The latter, from a Russian point of view, need to favour stopping the war and reaching a negotiated settlement recognising the territory conquered by Russia, the DPR and the LPR, plus probably the neutrality of Ukraine.

The Russian political authorities may thus position themselves for a kind of “intense frozen war” that would last at least over the winter 2022-2023.

Their bet would be that Europe notably will not be able to sustain a winter without energy or with a complicated energy situation, while a deep recession is very likely to be triggered (Blackrock commentary 12 September 2022; Jennifer Sor, “Europe will spiral into a severe recession as the energy crisis hikes inflation and weighs on GDP, BlackRock says“, 12 September 2022).

Relatively, Russia may suffer less of the sanctions it faces, all the more so it benefits from the rise in energy prices. Indeed, for example, a Russian economy ministry document expects to see “Russian earnings from energy exports to $337.5 billion this year, a 38% rise on 2021 revenue from oil” (Reuters, 17 August 22). However, Russia still has to face recession and probably long term economic damage (Bloomberg, “Russia Privately Warns of Deep and Prolonged Economic Damage“, 6 September 22).

Nonetheless, Russia is also most likely to withstand pain with more equanimity, compared with European populations, which are already showing signs of rebellion against energy prices (Reuters, “Can’t pay, don’t pay” – Italian group urges energy bill strike“, 15 September 2022).

Furthermore, the very aggressive American actions worldwide, aiming at remaining the leader of the world and enforcing its international order, notably against China, only strengthen the partnership and friendship between Russia and China (e.g. Al Jazeera, “French, US delegations visit Taiwan as tension with China festers“, 8 September 2022; Helene Lavoix, “The War between China and the U.S. – The Normative Dimension“, 4 July 2022, and “The American National Interest“, 22 June 22, The Red Team Analysis Society)Ministry of foreign affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “President Xi Jinping Meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin“, 15 September 2022). As a result, Russia is likely to have time on its side. Finally, the American stance may get out of hand, fundamentally upsetting the global strategic terrain.

Hence, Russia may choose to wait and keep waiting, while war goes on in Ukraine with its pains and hardships, and both Europe and Russia suffer of deep recession.

Winter is coming.

Featured image: Russian T-90 tanks during a parade in Volgograd region; 2010,, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Macron Tells Aliyev to Respect Armenia’s Territorial Integrity

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President Emmanuel Macron of France reiterated his demand on respecting Armenia’s territorial integrity during a phone call with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the French president’s office reported in a statement.

Macron reportedly called Aliyev following his meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Paris.

“The French President repeated his call to his Azerbaijani colleague on returning to the ceasefire and holding the troops in their initial positions. There are numerous deaths as a result of the clashes of the recent days. He also reminded about his demand to respect Armenia’s territorial integrity,” the Elysee Palace statement said.

Macron also told Aliyev that Pashinyan has voiced his willingness to continue negotiations over unresolved issues. Macron underscored France’s readiness to contribute to these talks.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Defense Minister Suren Papikyan met with his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu, with whom he discussed the current situation following the Sept. 13 attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia’s sovereign territory.

Armenia’s Defense Minister Suren Papikyan (left) during a meeting with France’s Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu

Lecornu said that France will send a delegation to assess the current situation.

“We discussed the situation on the border with Azerbaijan where the hostilities must cease, and the Azerbaijani forces must return to their initial positions. I have announced the rapid dispatch of a French delegation to Armenia to assess the situation,” Lecornu said.

Meanwhile The French Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Brice Roquefeuil will visit Yerevan, according to France’s Foreign Ministry.

“By the end of the week the French Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Brice Roquefeuil will visit Baku, then Yerevan to support and encourage the search of solutions for all outstanding issues,” the French foreign ministry said, adding that Roquefeuil will also visit Georgia,” the statement said.

There a delegation of French senators currently in Armenia. They met on Wednesday with foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as well as President Vahagn Khachatryan.

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Jamie Lee Henry & Anna Gabrielian: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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anna gabrielian jamie lee henry

US Army/LinkedIn Major Jamie Lee Henry, left, and Dr. Anna Gabrielian.

Dr. Anna Gabrielian is a Johns Hopkins Hospital anesthesiologist accused along with her U.S. Army doctor spouse, Major Jamie Lee Henry, in a plot to provide soldiers’ medical info to Russia, federal authorities say. Gabrielian and Henry were indicted on September 28, 2022, in Maryland federal court on charges of conspiracy and wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information (IIHI), according to court documents obtained by Heavy.

According to the indictment, Henry worked as a staff internist at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and had secret security clearance. Gabrielian works in anestheiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and has also specialized in obstretic anesthesiology, according to her biography on the hospital’s website, which notes she speaks Russian and English. They live in Rockville, Maryland, according to prosecutors. Both Henry and Gabrielian, who have been married since 2015, are in custody, authorities said.

Gabrielian, 36, believed she was providing medical information on U.S. service members to a person working at the Russian embassy, prosecutors said in the indictment. But that person was really an undercover FBI agent who met with her in August and asked Gabrielian about assistance she had offered to the Russian embassy earlier in the year, according to the indictment.

Henry, 39, previously made headlines in 2015 by becoming the first active U.S. Army officer to come out as transgender. The indictment refers to Henry as Gabrielian’s husband and uses he/him pronouns, but in a 2015 article by BuzzFeed News, Henry used she/her pronouns and identified as a woman. It was not immediately known if Henry and Gabrielian have hired attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Gabrielian was scheduled to make her first appearance in court in Baltimore on September 29, while Henry’s first court appearance hasn’t been set. “The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office,” the DOJ said.

“If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for each count of disclosing IIHI. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors,” the DOJ said its press release.

Here’s what you need to know about Anna Gabrielian and Jamie Lee Henry:

1. Gabrielian Told the FBI Agent She Would ‘Provide Any Assistance She Could to Russia, Even If It Meant Being Fired or Going to Jail,’ the Indictment Says

anna gabrielian johns hopkins

GettyAnna Gabrielian works at Johns Hopkins.

According to the indictment, an undercover FBI agent approached Gabrielian on August 17, 2022, and told her “she was asked to contact” her “about the assistance she offered a couple months ago.” Gabrelian then asked the undercover agent if she was from the Russian embassy and the agent said she was, prosecutors said. Gabrielian told the agent she had reached out to the embassy by phone and email “offering Russia” her and her spouse’s assistance, according to the indictment. Gabrelian told the agent she was reaching out on behalf of her and Henry, but never mentioned Henry’s name in interactions with the Russian Embassy so Henry could pretend to be unaware of her actions if needed, according to the indictment.

Gabrelian and Henry conspired to provide private health information of Fort Bragg and Johns Hopkins patients to the Russian government to demonstrate their access to that information on U.S. military and government personnel, their willingness to provide that information to Russia and the “potential for the Russian government to gain insights into the medical conditions of individuals associated with the U.S. government and military, to exploit this information,” according to the indictment.

According to prosecutors, Gabrielian and Henry met with the undercover FBI agent, who they believed to be working for the Russian government, together, “to discuss ways in which they could help” Russia. The couple suggested they could obtain patient records for U.S. military members and family members to pass to the Russian government, prosecutors said.

Gabrielian told the agent during an August 17 meeting she was “motivated by patriotism toward Russian” and would “provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail.” During the meeting, Gabrielian told the undercover agent “Henry, a military officer, was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, since Henry had more helpful information, including on how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and about previous training the U.S. military had provided to Ukrainian military personnel.”

jamie lee henry ukraine

GettyMarina, 6, from Kherson region plays with a landmine sniffer dog, Jack Russell Terrier Patron, during US’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s (R) visit to a children’s hospital in Kyiv on September 8, 2022. Blinken made a surprise trip to Kyiv as the United States unveiled nearly $2.7 billion in new military support to Ukraine and neighbors to face Russia.

According to the indictment, Gabrielian and Henry met with the undercover agent at the agent’s hotel room. Gabrielian told the agent, “If you have a useful long-term weapon, that can be used for years. If you use it for something that’s not tactically advantageous, you’ve lost it for nothing. So if (Henry) can’t practice medicine, can’t be in the National Guard, you’ve lost an Army doctor. If I have to look somebody up, and I do look somebody up, you’ve lost a link to (Johns Hopkins) to establish those medical connections. It has to be something massively important, not just check if this person has polyps.”

Gabrielian met with the undercover agent again on August 24, according to the indictment. Gabrielian told the agent that “though Henry was a ‘coward’ and concerned about violating HIPAA by providing records” to the agent, “Gabrielian had no such concerns and violated HIPAA ‘all the time.’ Gabrielian further told the UC she would check with Henry about providing medical records from Fort Bragg patients and get back in touch.”

Gabrielian texted the undercover agent using coded language on August 25, according to the indictment, saying, “Jamie might have samples of his poetry laying around. He says he will look for them and decide if he has the bandwidth for another project over the weekend. I think it would be good for him to at least show you examples of his past work.”

Henry and Gabrielian met with the undercover agent on August 31 at a hotel in Gaithersburg, Maryland, according to the indictment. They gave the agent records related to the spouse of a current Office of Naval Intelligence employee and information related to a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. According to the indictment, Gabrielian “highlighted to the UC a medical issue reflected in the records of” the spouse of the ONI employee, “that Russia could exploit.”

The couple also accessed records for five people, including a retired Army officer, a current Department of Defense employee, the spouse of a U.S. Army veteran, and two spouses of deceased U.S. Army veterans, and gave that info to the undercover agent, according to the indictment.

2. Gabrielian Planned to Send the Couple’s Children to Turkey if They Were At Risk of Getting Caught & Henry Considered Volunteering to Join the Russian Army to Help With the War Effort in Ukraine, Prosecutors Say

anna gabrielian doctor

GettyA general view of The Johns Hopkins Hospital on March 28, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.

According to the indictment, Henry was “committed to assisting Russia” and “had looked into volunteering to join the Russian Army after the conflict in Ukraine began, but Russia wanted people with ‘combat experience,’” which Henry does not have. Henry told the FBI agent, “the way I view what is going on in Ukraine now, is that the United States is using Uksrainians as a proxy for their own hatred toward Russia.”

Henry told the agent, “My point of view is until the United States actually declares war against Russia, I’m able to help as much as I want. At that point, I’ll have some ethical issues I have to work through,” according to the indictment. Gabrielian said in reply to Henry, “You’ll work through those ethical issues,” the indictment states.

According to the indictment, Gabrielian told the undercover agent if she undertook an action that put her at “significant risk of arrest,” she wanted her and Henry’s children to “have a nice flight to Turkey to go on vacation because I don’t want to end in jail here with my kids being hostages over my head.”

Henry told the agent they had to take precautions so Henry could continue passing background checks for security clearance. Henry told the agent, according to the indictment, “I don’t want to know your name…because I want plausible deniability. In a security clearance situation, they want to know names and people and all this stuff.”

3. Gabrielian Received a Grant in 2020 for a Project Titled ‘Investigation & Optimization of Current Obstetric Anesthesiology Practice in Ukraine,’ Johns Hopkins Says

Anna Gabrielian, MD, was awarded the Center for Global Health’s Paul S. Lietman Global Health Travel Grant for her project titled “Investigation and Optimization of Current Obstetric Anesthesiology Practice in Ukraine.” Her mentor on the award is Dr. Oleg Turkot.

— JHU ACCM Research (@JHACCMResearch) July 21, 2020

According to a July 21, 2020, tweet from Johns Hopkins, Gabrielian, “was awarded the Center for Global Health’s Paul S. Lietman Global Health Travel Grant for her project titled ‘Investigation and Optimization of Current Obstetric Anesthesiology Practice in Ukraine.’”

Gabrielian proposed during a meeting with the undercover agent that they concoct a cover story where the agent, whom she thought was a Russian government agent, would be a “delightful medical translator who has reached out to met … and you want to talk with me about programs and how they can be expanded,” the indictment states.

According to the indictment, Henry told the agent that Gabrielian recommended reading the book “Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy.” The 1986 book by Victor Suvorov “describes the recruitment and training of a Russian spy inside the headquarters of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the then-Soviet Union (nicknamed ‘The Aquarium’),” the indictment said. Gabrielian told the agent she told Henry to read the book, “Because it’s the mentality of sacrificing everything…and loyalty in you from day one. That’s not something you walked away from.”

On July 26, Henry tweeted a link to an article from CNN titled, “US approves treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at US military hospital in Germany,” but did not add any commentary. In June, Henry tweeted a link to an article about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

4. Gabrielian, Graduated From the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2012 & Previously Worked at Allegheny General Hospital & Danbury Hospital

An indictment filed Wednesday charges two Maryland doctors with conspiracy and unlawful disclosure of medical information.

U.S. Army Dr. Jamie Lee Henry and Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist Dr. Anna Gabrielian are accused of attempting to provide info to the Russian government.

— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) September 29, 2022

According to her biography on the Johns Hopkins website, Gabrielian graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2012. She had a residency in surgery at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut starting in 2014 and a residency in anesthesiology at Allegheny General Hospital in Pennsylvania in 2019, according to the hospital’s website.

She began a fellowship in anesthesia obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2021 and was an instructor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine there, the hospital’s website says. Few other details about Gabrielian’s life and career were immediately available.

On September 9, 2022, Gabrielian gave a presentation on ophthalmic surgery and anesthesia in pregnancy and lactation at the Ophthalmic Anesthesia Society’s annual meeting, according to a program for the event. Gabrielian talked about understanding optimal surgery timing in pregnancy, identifying possible complications and understanding the implications of anesthetics on fetus and lactation, according to the program.

5. Henry Talked in an Interview About Being Outed as Trans by Medical Information

The Department of Justice said in its press release, “During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the United States Army Special Operations Command, and the Womack Army Medical Center.”

Henry was previously married before Gabrielian, according to a 2015 interview with Brightest Young Things. Gabrielian was also previously married and divorced, records show. Henry joined the Army at 17, according to the interview.

“After I became very ill as a result of a bicycle crash in 2008, I felt very vulnerable while being treated as a patient in the same hospital I worked as a physician. What made it worse was that, as a soldier, my medical records were not private, and when the question of mental illness came up, I felt stark naked,” Henry told Brightest Young Things. “When my then wife outed me to a military psychiatrist, I felt violated. Things kind of blew up from there. I experienced very intense gender dysphoria from 2008 until 2014, leading to the breakdown of a number of relationships, leading my entire social network with a few exceptions to shun me for being ‘sexually immoral’. From 2012 to 2014, I underwent depositions and public trials, because I wanted to continue having a meaningful relationship with my son.”

According to BuzzFeed News, Henry joined the ROTC at 17. Henry’s first rotation as a military doctor was in the psych ward at Walter Reed hospital, according to BuzzFeed. Henry came out amid a divorce and child custody battle, according to BuzzFeed. Henry told BuzzFeed, “I find my trans experience has allowed me to relate to people, because all of us suffer, and I could relate to people’s suffering. I’m able to comfort people that feel isolated and lost and alone and broken. I can sit down with them and look them in the eyes, and say, ‘I can walk with you through this. I care about you, and I mean it.’”

Henry said in the interview with Brightest Young Things, “My passion is service member health, which is a big reason I have stayed on with the military despite being given a number of opportunities to separate. The biggest part in supporting the health of service members is listening to them. Trauma has to be handled on an individual’s timeline and in a way that is unique to that individual.”

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“There is no need to duplicate formats”: about Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

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Negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Despite the ongoing tension after the hostilities of September 13-14, Armenian officials are not refusing negotiations with representatives of Azerbaijan. The next meeting of Foreign Ministers Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov is scheduled for October 2 in Geneva.

This information was confirmed by the press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Vahan Hunanyan: “Despite the provocations from Azerbaijan, Armenia will take part in the meeting. Thus, the statements of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry that Armenia is trying to disrupt the negotiations are groundless. Armenia, as before, is constructive, aimed at achieving a lasting peace in the South Caucasus, and expects the same of Azerbaijan.”

Earlier, on September 27, a meeting was held in the United States between Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan and Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev.

Azerbaijanologist Tatevik Hayrapetyan considers this format of meetings unnecessary, since the platform for negotiations between the foreign ministers of the two countries has long been used.

Details of the Grigoryan-Hajiyev meeting, topics of the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks, and xpert opinion on the expediency of their formats.

“Eliminating consequences of the September aggression”

Armen Grigoryan and Hikmet Hajiyev met at the White House on the initiative of US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

According to the Armenian Security Council, the parties recognized the importance of eliminating the consequences of hostilities, and discussed

  • the need for peace in the region,
  • the process of a long-term peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.

Intense hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border began at midnight on September 13. On the evening of September 14, Armenia announced that, thanks to the intervention of international partners, an agreement had been reached on a ceasefire. The officially announced total number of dead and missing Armenian soldiers is 207 men. At least 20 soldiers were captured.

On the evening of September 28 the Armenian Defense Ministry reported that Azerbaijan had resumed hostilities, as a result of which three more soldiers were killed.

Jake Sullivan described the Grigoryan-Gadzhiev meeting as “direct and constructive.”

“We discussed the importance of preventing further violence and holding timely and focused negotiations. We have also outlined clear steps to achieve a stable and lasting peace,” he wrote on his Twitter page.

Hikmet Hajiyev also commented on the meeting on Twitter. The adviser to the President of Azerbaijan expressed gratitude to America for “discussing and promoting the agenda of lasting peace and stability in the region.”

The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia and the Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan met three times in 2022. The talks were held in Brussels with the participation of EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar.

What issues are Yerevan and Baku discussing?

On September 28 Armen Grigoryan, who is in Washington, gave an interview to the Armenian service of the Voice of America. He called the meeting with Hajiyev productive.

According to Grigoryan, Armenia and Azerbaijan are discussing four interrelated issues: humanitarian problems, unblocking roads, delimitation and demarcation of the border, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“We have tried to be clear about how we will move forward in these areas. The peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is connected with all this,” he said.

Grigoryan recalled that there are other formats for Armenian-Azerbaijani talks: with the participation of foreign ministers, vice-premiers, as well as heads of national security services. According to him, “the meetings of the leaders of the countries are due to the progress made in these formats.”

The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia emphasized the positive effect of US involvement in regional processes.

As an example, he cited recent hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. He said it was possible to stop the fighting thanks to the retaliatory actions of the Armenian army and American intervention.


Azerbaijanologist Tatevik Hayrapetyan says the Grigoryan-Hajiyev format raises questions:

“To be honest the format is incomprehensible to me, because if there is a platform for negotiations between foreign ministers, then why launch duplicate formats. What are these issues that cannot be discussed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, but are discussed by the Secretary of the Security Council and Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan?”

She considers direct communication between the heads of security services and defense ministers more understandable. Hayrapetyan believes that the problem is that Armen Grigoryan is not meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, but with Aliyev’s adviser.

The Azerbaijanologist considers this format not only problematic, but even dangerous, “just like Grigoryan’s statements”:

“It should not be forgotten that his response to Aliyev about the illegitimacy of Azerbaijan’s demand to use another route connecting Artsakh with Armenia instead of the Lachin corridor was used by Azerbaijan to unleash aggression in the Berdzor [Lachin] region on August 3. After that the route connecting Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh was quickly changed. I’m not talking about that anymore. Before the attack on September 12, Grigoryan and Hajiyev met in Brussels in August.”

Tatevik Hayrapetyan also believes that the Brussels format of the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks has exhausted itself, and mediation should go to the United States and France:

“In the Brussels format there is not even a mention of Nagorno-Karabakh, there have never been any normal formulations arising from the interests of Armenia. This format has already proven its worthlessness. The mediation of the United States and France is more useful for us, including from the point of view of containing Azerbaijan.”

Negotiation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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Putin’s Annexation and Lyman’s Encirclement

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Even by his own standards Vladimir Putin’s speech on 30 September in the Kremlin’s St George’s Hall was unhinged. For those who can face reading it, it can be found here. As he ranted about the west, denouncing it in lurid terms for a range of evils, from imperialism to satanism, it seemed, as Mark Galeotti observed, that he was trying to convince himself as much the outside world about this grand civilisational struggle with the West. The rant had a purpose, which was to demonstrate the irrelevance of legality. The annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, now to join Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, goes directly against the Charter of the United Nations. Instead of this being acknowledged as a foundational document of international law, it was wrapped up in a denunication of the West’s claims about a ‘rules-based international order’, which only reflected their selfish and malevolent interests. Russia was under no obligation to follow those rules. If it wanted to expand its borders, it was fully entitled to do so.

Ever since the Kosovo War in 1999, and NATO’s use of the principle of self-determination and reports of atrocities to justify their support of the Kosovar Albanians, he has employed this same combination of claims to rationalise his violations of the sovereignty of neighbouring countries. Hence the contrived processes of sham referendums and fake claims of Ukrainian terror.

Implications for Diplomacy

Although it is always disturbing listening to these rants, the conclusion was not surprising. He explained that this was an irreversible move. This was his political offer:

‘I want the Kyiv authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me, so that everyone remembers this: people living in Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia become our citizens forever. (Applause.)’

‘We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately cease fire, all hostilities, the war that it unleashed back in 2014, and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this, it has been said more than once. But we will not discuss the choice of the people in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson, it has been made, Russia will not betray it. (Applause.) And today’s Kyiv authorities should treat this free will of the people with respect, and nothing else. This is the only way to peace.’

Should Kyiv do as he asked and accept the permanent transfer of these provinces, it is not clear what they would be getting in return: Putin presumably would be looking for Ukrainian neutrality and the ending of sanctions. If he was negotiating from a position of strength then these demands might have some credibility. But his position is weak. Ukraine’s only interest is total Russian withdrawal which Putin now says in constitutionally impossible.

Even those in the West most keen to push for a negotiation around the current territorial holdings should appreciate that however difficult it is to get Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, they are not going to convince Ukraine to withdraw from Ukraine. In addition, while Crimea had a separate status of all its own, because of its annexation back in 2014, it was possible to imagine how it might be dealt with in negotiations by special measures. Now it is just one of five illegally annexed provinces whose fate is tied together.

Putin has boxed himself in with these moves. Before it was possible to imagine, if always unlikely, that there could be some diplomatic means to bring the bloodshed to an end, for example by discussing forms of shared citizenship for those who wished to be attached to Russia or new forms of security arrangements. That path has now been blocked. The Ukrainian government’s response to the speech was to insist that they could not negotiate with Russia so long as Putin remains in power. The war is now destined to carry on to its own bitter end. It also means that even should the fighting conclude it is not clear how issues such as war crimes, reparations and the unwinding of the sanctions’ regime will be handled.

Implications for Nuclear Use

Nuclear threats were not as prominent in this speech as they had been in the mobilisation announcement of 21 September. There was a strong implicit reference when he spoke of Russia’s willingness to use ‘all available means’ to keep safe Russian territory, in its new expanded definition. There was also an explicit hint, when he referred to the US as ‘the only country in the world that twice used nuclear weapons, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.’ He then added, ‘Incidentally, they created a precedent.’ In the years since 1945 enormous international efforts, many involving first the Soviet Union and then Russia, went into ensuring – successfully – that this precedent was not followed. But at least Putin did not follow this up with any overt nuclear threats. Conveying a sense of nuclear menace is part of his strategy, but that is not the same as identifying ways of employing these weapons to help turn the tide of this war without making everything a whole lot worse.

The nuclear issue does come into play with Zelensky’s response to Putin’s statement. He announced that he would seek to fast track the country’s accession to NATO. Holding back on that aspiration was the one big concession that Zelensky was keeping available as something that might be put on the table in a serious negotiation. But the Biden Administration quickly dismissed the idea that this could be addressed at speed. Once Ukraine joined NATO it would benefit from the alliance’s Article V and expect active engagement in Ukraine’s defence. This is exactly the development that Putin has been using his nuclear forces to seek to deter. But the application can stay on the table, a reminder to Russia that once nuclear weapons were used in any form they would no longer be serving a deterrent purpose.

Biden’s main response, as he dismissed the legitimacy of Putin’s move, will affect the course of the war. He announced that he was pushing forward with the next $12 billion assistance package to Ukraine and imposing more sanctions on Russia and members of the elite responsible for the prosecution of this war.

The Implications of Lyman

Meanwhile as this elite gathered to listen to Putin’s speech news was coming in from eastern Ukraine of the effective encirclement of the town of Lyman, a key logistical hub for the eastern Donbas, as anticipated in my previous post. I pointed there to the tension between a political strategy that must have the Russian flag in as many places as possible and a military strategy that should conserve scarce resources, and so trade space for time, abandon vulerable positions to establish stronger defensive lines that might be held until the newly mobilised forces can fill out the front lines. The political strategy has won. Putin’s fixation with taking and holding pieces of territory at whatever cost has made a full defeat more likely.

There were believed to be some 2,500 troops in Lyman along with a similar number already pushed out by Ukrainian forces from surrounding villages. Cut off from logistical support, the Russians do not appear to be settling down for a long drawn out defence of their position but instead are trying to get out in some shape or form. There are reports from Ukrainian sources that the Russian troops asked for permission to evacuate but this was denied. Now their position is even worse than shown in the above map. They are trapped, without supplies or reinforcements, and must either surrender or try to find their own way out in the face of heavy Ukrainian artillery fire. Ukrainian forces do not need to storm Russian positions. Instead they can use available forces to press on, making a point of crossing the border into Luhansk. The absence of the forces caught in Lyman, and growing logistical difficulties, means that Russian forces will continue to be pushed back. Ukrainian units are reported to be pressing Kreminna and may soon threaten the Russian positions in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, taken in June after a long and costly (for both sides) struggle.

All this mocks Putin’s announcement, demonstrating that he can’t hold what he has just annexed. The qustion now is how long the Russian people and, most importantly, the members of the power elite, put up with this recklessness. Polling suggests that support for the war has fallen sharply. The latest shows that from 48% of Russians wanting the war to continue in August now only 29% are determined about pressing on. Another 15% are lukewarm and 48% want peace. Putin offers no way to fight or negotiate a way to victory. More men may so far have fled the country than joined the army. The audience at St George’s Hall look more perplexed than inspired, watching a man who has lost his swagger, caught up in a deluded world of his own construction, but out of which he has inflicted a real-world catastrophe.

Thank you for reading Comment is Freed. This post is public so please share it if you found it interesting.


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RealClearInvestigations’ Picks of the Week

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Since being named special counsel, John Durham has investigated and indicted unscrupulous anti-Trump informants – but none of the FBI agents who handled them and went along with their lies, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations. That’s raising suspicions he’s letting investigators off the hook in his waning investigation of misconduct in the Russiagate probe. 

  • In recent court filings, Durham has portrayed the G-men as naive recipients of bad information tricked into opening improper investigations targeting Donald Trump and obtaining invalid warrants to spy on one of his advisers. 
  • But as the cases against the informants have gone to trial, defense lawyers have revealed evidence that undercuts that narrative. FBI investigators look less like guileless victims and more like willing partners. 
  • Case in point: Igor Danchenko, key fabulist behind the infamous Steele dossier, including its “pee tape” yarn. According to Durham, the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency was misled by a serial liar and con man – even though the evidence shows it knew of Danchenko’s dishonesty for years and said nothing as it pursued court spy authorizations. 
  • In fact, after learning of Danchenko’s fabrications, the bureau put him on its payroll. 
  • Sperry reviews chapter and verse of Durham’s tenure to reveal a pattern of pulled punches. The special counsel has even made excuses for the misconduct of FBI investigators, providing them a ready-made defense against any possible future prosecution, according to legal experts. 
  • Durham legal critic: “He started with a bang and is ending with a whimper.”


Featured Investigation
Opioids @ Work:
The Hidden Scourge Sapping the Economy

Opioids are taking an immeasurable toll on the American workforce, James Varney reports for RealClearInvestigations, exploring a largely invisible crisis sustained by fentanyl smuggling from China and likely to haunt the nation’s economic well-being for years if not decades to come.  The only thing certain is that the costs are staggering, according to physicians, counselors, economists, workers, and public officials:

  • First, record fatal overdoses of workers in their prime years mean untold years of lost productivity from the economy.
  • Next, opioid addiction’s rise in the U.S. has exerted strong downward pressure on the workforce participation rate – although precise causality is difficult to establish.
  • It’s similarly difficult to calculate just how much drug abuse has caused absenteeism and tardiness and swelled state disability rolls, but the connection is strong, experts say.
  • Opioids are a dirty secret that employers and workers are reluctant to talk about.
  • A neighborhood social media thread about opioids’ dire impact in the workforce unleashes a barrage of horror stories. Homeowners speak of an inability to find reliable handymen, painters, landscape workers, etc.
  • Tree service operator in suburban New Orleans: “If I’m lucky enough to have an employee that can pass a [urine analysis] the chances of them doing so after the first check is slim.”
  • The staying power of the crisis is suggested by other lasting national challenges, including the porous southern border – a major conduit for smuggled, Chinese-made fentanyl – and economic and social traumas set in motion by the pandemic.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Postal Service Surveilled Pro-Gun, Anti-Biden Protesters Washington Times
Intimidation? Forceful FBI Arrest of Pro-Life Protester National Review
FBI Misled Judge, Rifled Thousands of Safe Deposit Boxes LA Times
How GOP Leaders Secretly Kneecapped Trump Allies Washington Post
Border Surge Under Biden Sends Smuggling Prices Soaring Washington Times
DoJ Gives $41M to Group Fighting Illegal-Alien Deportation Fox

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Vulnerable CIA Websites Blamed for Deaths

The CIA used hundreds of websites for covert communications that were so severely flawed that they led to the death of more than two dozen U.S. sources in China in 2011 and 2012 and also reportedly led Iran to execute or imprison other CIA assets. The findings, based on research conducted by security experts at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, “raise serious doubts about the intelligence agency’s handling of safety measures,” this article reports.

Using just a single website and publicly available material, Citizen Lab said it identified a network of 885 websites that it attributed “with high confidence” as having been used by the CIA. It found that the websites purported to be concerned with news, weather, healthcare and other legitimate websites.

“Knowing only one website, it is likely that while the websites were online, a motivated amateur sleuth could have mapped out the CIA network and attributed it to the US government,” Citizen Lab said in a statement. … Citizen Lab began investigating the matter when it got a tip from [Reuters reporter Joel] Schectmann of a CIA asset in Iran who had been captured and served seven years in prison after using what Citizen Lab later determined was a “fatally insecure network.”

In a separate article for Reuters, Schectmann and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin report the case of Gholamreza Hosseini, a U.S. source in Iran who spent more than a decade in a Tehran prison for spying:

Hosseini was the victim of CIA negligence, a year-long Reuters investigation into the agency’s handling of its informants found. A faulty CIA covert communications system made it easy for Iranian intelligence to identify and capture him. Jailed for nearly a decade and speaking out for the first time, Hosseini said he never heard from the agency again, even after he was released in 2019. … Hosseini’s experience of sloppy handling and abandonment was not unique. In interviews with six Iranian former CIA informants, Reuters found that the agency was careless in other ways amid its intense drive to gather intelligence in Iran, putting in peril those risking their lives to help the United States.


Intercepted Calls Reveal
A Russian Army in Disarray

New York Times

Russian soldiers have made thousands of calls from the battlefield in Ukraine to relatives at home – many of which have been intercepted Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and obtained exclusively by the New York Times. This article reproduces snippets from these conversations in which the soldiers describe a crisis in morale and a lack of equipment, and say they were lied to about the mission they were on — all conditions that have contributed to the recent setbacks for Russia’s campaign in the east of Ukraine. “No one told us we were going to war. They warned us one day before we left,” one fighter said. “I didn’t know this was going to happen. They said we were going for training. These bastards didn’t tell us anything,” said another.

Soldiers complain about strategic blunders and a dire shortage of supplies. They confess to capturing and killing non-combatants, and they openly admit to looting Ukrainian homes and businesses. Many say they want to terminate their military contracts, and they rebut the propaganda broadcast by Russian news media back home with the stark realities of the war around them. … Soldiers describe tactical blunders and complain about their lack of weaponry and basic equipment, like night vision devices and proper bulletproof vests. Our own forces fucking shelled us,” [one soldier told his girlfriend]. 

Back home in Russia, the phone calls reveal that the mounting deaths are beginning to reverberate in military towns, where tight-knit communities and families exchange news of casualties. Relatives described rows of corpses and coffins arriving in their cities, as soldiers warn that even more bodies will soon return. One woman told her husband that a military funeral was held every day that week. In shock, some families say they have begun to see psychologists.

Hospital Chain Gamed Feds’ Drug Aid
New York Times

Ringed by public housing projects, Richmond Community Hospital in Virginia consists of little more than a strapped emergency room and a psychiatric ward. It does not have kidney or lung specialists, or a maternity ward. Its magnetic resonance imaging machine frequently breaks. And yet, this article reports, the hollowed-out hospital – owned by Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care chains in the country – has the highest profit margins of any hospital in Virginia, generating as much as $100 million a year. Much of its profit comes from …

… a federal program that allows clinics in impoverished neighborhoods to buy prescription drugs at steep discounts, charge insurers full price and pocket the difference. The drug program was created with the intention that hospitals would reinvest the windfalls into their facilities, improving care for poor patients. But Bon Secours, founded by Roman Catholic nuns more than a century ago, has been slashing services at Richmond Community while investing in the city’s wealthier, white neighborhoods, according to more than 20 former executives, doctors and nurses. “Bon Secours was basically laundering money through this poor hospital to its wealthy outposts,” said Dr. Lucas English, who worked in Richmond Community’s emergency department until 2018. “It was all about profits.”


Regulation-Heavy U.S.
Running Short of Land for Housing

Wall Street Journal

The United States, a country of wide-open spaces, is short on land. Or at least land where people can live, this article reports:

Land-use restrictions and a lack of public investment in roads, rail and other infrastructure have made it harder than ever for developers to find sites near big population centers to build homes. As people keep moving to cities such as Austin, Phoenix and Tampa, they are pushing up the price of dirt and making the housing shortages in these fast-growing areas even worse.

This historic land boom has provided a windfall for homeowners. Land now accounts for 47% of U.S. home values, up from 38% in 2012 and less than 20% in the early 1960s. The rising value of land is responsible for almost all of the surge in home values in recent decades, he said.

Paradise Lost:
Illegal Gold Mining Ravages Peru

NBC News

Highly organized crime syndicates have ravaged parts of the Peruvian Amazon mining for gold. As the mining operations expanded, so has the ecological devastation. In this exclusive report filled with stark illustrations, NBC News reports that the miners chopped down huge swaths of rainforest in what was once one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. The toxic chemical they use to separate gold from the sediment – mercury – wreaked havoc on the land. Acre by acre, pristine vegetation was replaced by clay-colored sand and pools of contaminated water that poisoned fish and permeated the soil.

U.S. military and government officials told NBC News that these criminal organizations originating in countries that include not only Peru but Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil have more people, hold more territory and possess about five times as much money as the collective militaries in the region. One group, the Brazil-based Red Command, is now believed to be trafficking gold as well as guns in Madre de Dios, the section of Peru that encompasses La Pampa.

As with most crimes, success depends on the cooperation of seemingly honest partners. Most of the illegal lucre reaches Switzerland, which refines around 70% of the world’s gold. Along the way, it’s melted down into bars and often mixed with gold that’s been extracted legally, making it impossible to trace, officials say. Some portion of the illegal gold from Peru arrives in the U.S., largely in the suitcases of smugglers traveling by plane, law enforcement officials said. It’s then sold to refineries in and around Miami that have a history of looking the other way.

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Truss Tried to Reassure Britons With Media Blitz. Her Woes Multiplied.

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In a round of interviews, the prime minister showed little sympathy for the pain that high interest rates could inflict on mortgage holders, critics said.

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Prime Minister Liz Truss’s Conservative Party now trails the opposition Labour Party by 33 percentage points in polling.

Prime Minister Liz Truss’s Conservative Party now trails the opposition Labour Party by 33 percentage points in polling.Credit…Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters

Mark Landler
Sept. 30, 2022, 12:08 p.m. ET

LONDON — For Prime Minister Liz Truss, it was a chance to steady the waters after days of turmoil in the financial markets over her new fiscal plan: eight rapid-fire interviews with local BBC radio stations from Leeds to Nottingham.

By the time Ms. Truss signed off from the last one on Thursday morning, her political woes had multiplied, leaving her new government in a state of disarray almost without precedent in recent British politics.

She was, critics said, robotic in defending a tax-cut plan that had been eviscerated by the markets, and showed little sympathy for the pain that high interest rates could inflict on mortgage holders. One host described her as a “reverse Robin Hood.” A listener on another station asked, “Are you ashamed of what you’ve done?”

Barely three weeks into her job, Ms. Truss has suffered a dizzying loss of public support. Her Conservative Party now trails the opposition Labour Party by 33 percentage points, according to a new poll by the market research firm YouGov. That is the largest Labour lead since Tony Blair’s early days as prime minister in 1998, and the kind of gap that usually results in a landslide election defeat.

Her plunging poll numbers have badly damaged Ms. Truss’s standing in her party, which is gathering on Sunday in Birmingham for what promises to be an anxious annual conference. Some speak openly of the party ousting her before the next election, though the mechanics for doing that remain complicated.

“This is by far the biggest and swiftest hit to a party’s opinion poll rating that British politics has ever seen,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “For Tory MPs, this is like realizing on your wedding night that you’ve made a truly terrible mistake.”

Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at Kent University and an expert on the Tory Party, said, “I can’t think in my lifetime of any British prime minister who has mismanaged her first few weeks in office like Liz Truss.”

What makes Ms. Truss’s predicament so difficult is that none of the escape hatches are appealing. Reversing some of her tax cuts — particularly the one for the top income bracket of people earning more than 150,000 pounds, or about $164,000, a year — would mollify the markets and probably some voters.

Tax cuts announced last week by Kwasi Kwarteng, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer, threw the markets into turmoil.Credit…Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

But it would be a heavy psychological blow for a leader who ran her campaign, and has built her government, on the conviction that tax cuts and supply-side policies will reignite growth. Giving that up, Professor Bale said, would vitiate the ideological rationale of her government and potentially turn her into a lame-duck leader until the next election, which she will have to call by early 2025.

Sticking to her guns, which has been Ms. Truss’s response so far, leaves open the chance that Britain’s economy will pick up by the time she faces voters. But the stubborn threat of inflation all but guarantees that the Bank of England, Britain’s central bank, will keep raising interest rates. That will hurt people who need to refinance home mortgages and likely throw the broader economy into a recession.

When she was asked by BBC Radio Stoke about her fiscal plan’s impact on the housing market, Ms. Truss paused before saying, “Interest rates are a matter for the independent Bank of England.” She added that “interest rates have been rising around the world” and blamed much of the crisis on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

For the last few days, the bank has actually helped Ms. Truss by intervening in the market to buy British government bonds. That brought down interest rates and strengthened the pound, which had tumbled to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985. On Friday, the pound traded up to $1.11.

But the intervention, which was driven by fears of the damage done to British pension funds by the turbulent market, has put the Bank of England in an awkward position, economists said. It runs counter to the bank’s monetary policy of raising interest rates to cool inflationary pressures.

“The bank has had to reverse course on its objectives practically overnight,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of economics at Cornell University. “It looks like the bank is being forced to clean up the adverse consequences of the U.K. Treasury’s actions.”

“This could have some longer-term implications for the bank’s independence, credibility, and effectiveness,” Professor Prasad continued. “That really hampers it in its ability to fulfill its objectives.”

Once the Bank of England completes its bond-buying program on Oct. 14, economists said they expected it to revert to its tighter monetary policy, which would suggest another increase in interest rates at its November meeting. The only government action that could forestall, or even moderate a sharp spike in rates, economists said, would be if the government reversed one of more of its tax cuts.

“Absent that U-turn, the bank is going to have to raise interest rates a lot,” said Adam S. Posen, who served on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. He said the bank needed to curb both the inflation from an expansionary fiscal budget and the additional inflation caused by a devalued pound.

Once the Bank of England completes its bond buying program, economists expect it to revert to its tighter monetary policy by possibly raising interest rates at its November meeting.Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Beyond the tug-of-war between fiscal and monetary policy, critics say Ms. Truss faces a more elemental problem: her chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, has lost the faith of the markets in his economic stewardship.

That is partly because when Mr. Kwarteng announced the tax cuts last week, he did not submit the package to the scrutiny that a government budget normally receives. That fed fears that the tax cuts were “unfunded,” meaning that they would not be matched with cuts in spending and so would require massive borrowing.

On Friday, Mr. Kwarteng and Ms. Truss met at Downing Street with officials from the government’s forecasting agency, the Office of Budget Responsibility — a move designed to signal they now welcomed the scrutiny. The office will submit its projections for the cost of the fiscal program and its effect on Britain’s growth on Oct. 7, but the government will not publish the numbers until Nov. 23.

For Ms. Truss, the political fallout from her program’s botched rollout has been profound. Political analysts point out that she won the support of only a third of Conservative Party lawmakers in the first stage of the leadership contest. Now, the collapsing polls have left the lawmakers angry, fearful, and divided.

Unless the trends are reversed, many of the party’s members in Parliament will be swept out of their seats in the next election, particularly in the “red wall” districts of the Midlands and the North, where Ms. Truss’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, lured traditional Labour voters to switch to the Tories with his promise to “Get Brexit done.”

That realignment of British politics is in jeopardy. Professor Goodwin, of the University of Kent, said these voters did not want Ms. Truss’s low-tax, neoliberal economic policies. Adding to the alienation, he said, she was determined to relax immigration laws, another core issue for working-class voters.

“We’re seeing the complete implosion of the Conservative vote,” Professor Goodwin said. “They’re losing middle-class voters who are alienated by Brexit, and working-class voters who are alienated by their economic policy.”

For all the hand-wringing, it is not immediately clear what the Tories can do about it. Three months after evicting Mr. Johnson from Downing Street, few people want to go through with another protracted, divisive leadership contest.

Professor Bale said another option would be for the party to settle on a consensus alternative to Ms. Truss and then pressure her to step down, so the new leader could be crowned without any delay. The problem with this scenario, he said, is a lack of obvious candidates to step into the role of the party’s savior.

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