What happened in Odessa yesterday is much worse than what the initial reports had indicated: it was truly a deliberate and blood-curling massacre. To summarize:
In Odessa the pro-Russian demonstrators had never seized a building, all they did was erecting a small tent city and hanging out there. Hardly any violence had taken place. Yesterday, the neo-Nazis finally made their move:
1) They bussed in large numbers of Right Sector thugs.
2) They then got the local football hooligans (paid by oligarchs according to some reports) to begin a nationalist demonstration.
3) The Right Sector thugs then joined the hooligans and together they viciously attacked the pro-Russian tent city: the tents were torn down and the anti-regime demonstrators viciously beat up to a pulp. The local cops stood by and watched.
4) The anti-regime demonstrators ran literally for their lives towards the building of Unions which had been their normal rallying point at which point they were surrounded and the building set ablaze.
5) Those attempting to leave the building were severely beat up and many murdered. Many were shot while standing in the windows to flee from the flames.
6) The neo-Nazis did not let the firefighters through.
7) With each jumping demonstrator or each person shot in the windows the crowd would scream “Glory to the Ukraine! Glory to he heroes!” Many took souvenir videos. For them, this was a joyful, liberating event.
8) The Ukrainian social networks flooded with joyful messages congratulation the “heroes” in Odessa and promising more of the same to the accursed Moskals.
9) The Western and Ukie press reported the events as a “clash” with “casualties” but with no reference to any one party causing this massacre.
10) The last fatalities figure was at 46. But with many dying from smoke inhalation and, especially, burns, it will probably go up.
So what about Russia in all this?
I am amazed to see so many commentators posting messages here like “Russia has surrendered” or “Putin has caved in” or “Russia has made a deal”. Truly, I wonder if there is some kind of “mysterious Russian soul” that is so hard to understand. Nora also asked a very interesting question. She wrote:
Saker, am I wrong about this or is Putin’s reluctance based in large part on a profound cultural and historical lack of blood-lust? I mean, we certainly have no compunction Just Plain Destroying… women, children, cultures, societies: really, that’s just what we do, at home and abroad. But apart from Kiev being holy as the beginning of both Russia and her Orthodox faith and wondering how any Orthodox Russian could attack it despite it being perhaps the prime military target, I am so struck by the great desire of the people, all over Ukraine really, not to kill their own. I sure don’t see that here — even the militia types supporting Bundy are now at each other’s throats. I’m not being very articulate here and don’t really know how to take this observation, if it is real, to the next step because I just bump into this wall of “How does morality fight immorality without losing in this life?
So let me try to make sense of all this.
First and foremost, let’s remember the not too distant past.
The very first thing Putin did when he came to power was to prosecute and win an amazingly violent and vicious war against the Chechen Wahabis. As I have mentioned many times here, a typical situation during that war was like this: a Russian commander would be met by a delegation of local “elders” who would assure him that their village was peaceful. The commander would reply “okay, we will not enter your village, but if a single shot comes out of it, we will wipe it off the face of the earth with artillery fire”. And they did so. Every time. With artillery and multiple-rocket launcher fire. A huge number of civilians died because a village of 500 people would harbor 20 or 30 insurgents. And when the commanders of this operation were accused of war crimes (like General Shamanov) Putin not only stood by them, he gave many them the highest Russian decoration: Hero of Russia. Does that mean that Putin was a bloodthirsty genocidal maniac in 1999 and that in 2014 he turned into a pot-smoking peacenik singing “give peace a chance”?
Of course not.
In 1999 Russia had absolutely no other option left. None. The Wahabi insurgency had to be ruthlessly crushed or Russia would collapse. So if the numerous massacres (on both sides) in the First Chechen War were the result of gross incompetence and total indifference by the gang of Jewish oligarch in power under Eltsin, then the numerous massacres (mostly committed by the Russian military) in the Second Chechen War were carefully planned and systematically executed by the military high command with the full backing of the Kremlin.
I am not writing this to trash Putin or accuse him of being a war criminal. I am, like most Russians, absolutely convinced that Russia had no other choice. I even think that this willingness to deliver a massive amount of violence in specific circumstances saved a lot of lives, shortened the war and was actually met with a great deal of understanding by a lot of non-Wahabi Chechens. What Putin and Kadyrov (himself an ex-field commander and also a man with a reputation of ruthlessness, which he does not even deny) achieved in Chechnia is nothing short of a miracle and today Chechnia is a fantastic success story. But to make that possible, the Wahabis had to be quite literally eliminated, one by one, and all their sympathizers given a stark choice: desist or die. Do I really need to remind you all that Putin is the guy who, after a Chechen terrorist attack, publicly declared “we will hunt them down and kill them, and if they hide in a toilet, we will kill them there” (he used a slang term “mochits” which means to “off”, “waste” or “whack” somebody).
Guys, never underestimate the potential of a person like Putin to mete out a huge amounts of ruthless violence if needed. So far all those who have done so have paid dearly.
So why does Russia stand by and do nothing?
Guys, when the Russians look across the border they see two groups they really really hate: Nazis and oligarchs. Them they would gladly kill with even more ruthless mass violence than the Chechen insurgents some of whom at least they respected as courageous combatants. But besides Nazis and oligarchs they also see their own fellow-Russians, who are in a bind, stuck between stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Did you guys see the footage of the Ukie army captain shot down by the pro-Russians over Slaviansk being rescued by the locals? Normally, captured Mi-24 pilots are not treated kindly as they fly a truly terrifying machine which even the Afghan guerrillas feared. In Syria today, these guys typically are tortured and then executed. In this case, I wish you could understand the audio, the pro-Russian militiamen were encouraging the guy by saying: “brother, no worries, we will get you to a hospital, hang in there captain, you still have a long life to live, don’t let go, just a little longer and you will be fine“. There was such an outpouring of compassion towards this men that it was absolutely amazing to see (if somebody could post a subtitled video of this footage that would be fantastic).
Now please understand that if/when Russian intervenes in the Ukraine there will be a lot of people killed. How many neo-Nazis or oligarchs to you think will be manning the Ukie Mi-24 which will be sent to try to stop the movement of Russian armor? How many oligarchs or neo-Nazis will be told to take off in old and poorly maintained SU-27 or MiG-29 to try to stop the Russian Air Force? Zero of course.
And if in Crimea there was not a single shot fired in anger, this will not be the case in the Donbass because it will be much harder to distinguish who is who. Think about it: you see a tank in your targeting scope. Say an old T-72, which you can easily smoke, but whose 125mm smoothbore shell still can kill you and your entire crew. Will you take the chance and try to talk to the other guy? What if his family is a de-facto hostage of the junta? What if he is simply terrified of your upgraded T-90 and shoots first?
The Russians know that most of the Ukrainian military is completely on their side. It is enough to look at the tense and embarrassed faces of the Ukrainian paratroopers which attacked the checkpoints around Slaviansk yesterday to see that they are going through a painful internal struggle.
The Russian military culture is profoundly averse to shooting on civilians or fellow Russians (and I mean “Russian” not ethnically, of course, but in a civilizational sense).
Furthermore, there are two ways to achieve deterrence: denial and punishment.
The first implies that you deny the other guy the means to achieve his goal. The second one means that you punish him if he acts.
Now, let me ask you: how does the Russian military deny the neo-Nazis in Odessa the ability to attack a tent city or burn people alive in a building? And if Russia cannot do that, then whom does Russia “punish” for that and how?
I promise you that if Russia had a magic death ray weapon which would only kill the Ukrainian neo-Nazis and oligarchs Putin would have used it a long time ago. But Putin is not Obama – he does not believe that such a magic death ray weapon (Obama calls it “drones”) exists. Putin fully understands that if Russia moves in there will be a lot of innocent people killed, including pro-Russian Ukrainians, including decent anti-Russian civilians and, of course, Russian soldiers.
The outcome, however, is not in doubt. As I have said here many times, Russia can occupy all of the Ukraine if needed and there is nothing the US/NATO can do about that except protest, gesticulate, threaten, grandstand and increase global warming by a massive release of hot air.
There is no “mysterious Russian soul”. Many in the West have a hard time understanding Putin because they are so used to completely irresponsible politicians who have been carefully selected by the West’s “deep state” precisely for their lack of even basic decency, their knee jerk use of violence as the method of first resort and their eager willingness to reject any form of negotiations. What is mysterious is not the Russian soul but the West unique track record in meting out senseless violence over and over and over again and to hell with the consequences. That is the real mystery.
I also want to say this: up to the moment Putin ordered the “Polite Armed Men in Green” to take Crimea under control, the comments section was full of the very same comments accusing Putin, the Kremlin and Russia of selling out, of weakness or of surrender. Then, quite literally overnight, everybody went “WOW!” when the Crimean Peninsula was taken without a single fatality. Why are we repeating the same mistake today?
I promise you, Russia is ready to intervene in the Ukraine. To my immense sadness, I even suspect that it will. Clearly the US wants Russia to intervene to have a pretext for a new Cold War which would re-subordinate the EU to the US, prevent any Russia-EU rapprochement and give NATO a justification for its absurd existence. As for the freaks in power in Kiev (Timoshenko: “we have to execute these accursed Moskals with nuclear weapons“) they have nothing to loose and they will obey any order coming from their western masters. The recent events in Slaviansk, Kramatorsk and Odessa can only be understood as a provocation to force Russia to intervene. Sadly, this technique might work and those who are now cheering for a Russian intervention might get their wish.
Personally, if Russia sends its military into the Ukraine I will not be rejoicing. I will be heartbroken (even if I will also be elated by the fact that all that neo-Nazi scum will finally have an opportunity to shows its worth in a fair battle agianst the acccursed Moskals).
I personally am deeply grateful to Putin and his outstanding government for not intervening so far and for waiting until the very last second, when there is really no other option left, before doing so. Frankly, my hope is that the Russian-speakers in the East and South of the Ukraine will find a way to secede from Banderastan without any overt Russian intervention. So far, I see no signs at all that the Ukies are winning this one. Yes, reports say that they have taken most of Kramatorsk today. So what? During the first Chechen War a hapless Russian armored brigade also “succeeded” in “taking” the center of Grozny. Then most of them got killed.
Guys – “taking” a city defended by a guerrilla force is always easy. Always. It’s what comes after which is really hard. There is a darn good reason why, at least so far, the Ukie military always withdrew after it’s initial “successes”. These guys are not cowards, they are smart and a lot of them remember their training in the Soviet military. By the way, and this has not been reported in the English blogosphere, did you know that the folks manning the checkpoints around Slaviansk were ordered to withdraw soon after the first skirmishes with the attacking Ukies began. Why? Because a single burst of 30mm gunfire form the Ukie APCs would tear those so-called “checkpoints” into shred in just a few seconds. So what is the point of dying there? So the defenders pulled back, the attackers seized the checkpoint, declared victory, and promptly left. That is the real face of the pseudo-war taking place right now. Every military person there knows and understands that. It’s just the moronic western press corps which just does not want to understand what is really happening in front of it’s nose.
So here is my request to you all: let’s stop both the pro-Russian warmongering on one hand, and the constant Russia-bashing for non-intervention on the other. It’s not good enough to see some dramatic footage on the idiot-tube to jump to conclusions. We first must carefully look at the full picture, at all the issues at stake, try to understand both why this or that actor does something (especially if that something seems stupid or senseless) and then develop a hypothesis of what will happen if, say, Russia intervenes with its armed force. Or if it does not.
It is true that western politicians play poker (bluff) and monopoly (grab it all). These are all sort-term & immediate results games. The Russians (and the Chinese for that matter) play chess where you move slow, calculate each move way in advance, offer gambits, sacrifice pieces and there both the opening and the mid-game have the sole purpose of setting up the desired conditions for the end game. In chess you don’t just smash a piece off your board to show how much of a man you are.
I want to conclude this by reminding you of three basic Russian sayings:
Россия не злится, она сосредотачивается.
(Russia does not get mad, she concentrates)
Русские долго запрягают, да быстро едут.
(Russians are slow to saddle-up, but they ride fast)
Eсли замахнулся – то бей.
(Once you swing, then you have to strike)
Maybe these are the keys to the “mysterious Russian soul”? ;-)