He died on Tuesday. I haven’t bothered to read many of the obits that have been published but I will make a guess about their general flavour. The Western ones will say he ended the Cold War, removed the Soviet threat and, maybe, introduced fast food to Russia (a reverse on the supposed origin of the bistro). The Russian ones will be rather uncomplimentary and will blame him for the miseries of the 1990s when jobs disappeared, savings evaporated, deaths increased and Russia was pushed around.

I approach this with a somewhat different view that, as it happens, I share with Putin. I believe that, when Gorbachev beme GenSek in 1985, the USSR system had exhausted its possibilities. I believe, but nnot find the reference, that Putin told Oliver Stone that the system was inefficient at its core, but more of his thoughts on the viability of the USSR n be found here. Not very complimentary: ideals not accomplished, too much repression ab initio, he pays credit to Stalin’s industrialisation for victory in 1945 but concludes “However, in the final count, the inability to embrace change, to embrace technil revolutions and new technology led to a collapse of that economy”. Or how about this from September 2005? “In the Soviet Union, for many dedes, we lived under the motto, we need to think about the future generation. But we never thought about the existing, current, present generations.” (PS he never said “the greatest tastrophe”: that’s a mistranslation.)

In short, I believe that the USSR was heading for trouble in 1985: the 1990s were bad enough but I’m not sure they would have been much better with other players.

So Putin and I would agree that Gorbachev inherited a failing idea. He had three solutions. You n agree that they didn’t work but they were better than Andropov’s notion of tightening discipline and Chernyenko’s inertia. Glasnost was an attempt to start telling the truth, or some of it, and perestroyka attempted a side-to-side, top-to-bottom reconstruction. His third idea was a redesign of the union itself. This, by the way, gave me my first revelation that many Western “experts” formed their conclusions without data. At a Wilton Park conference, one of these “experts” built his whole presentation around the assertion that nobody had any idea what Gorbachev’s New Union would be. This after three drafts, produced after much negotiation, had been published in full in the media! I was rather amazed at this ignorance and equally so to be sually brushed off when I pointed out that the texts had been published and that I had read them.

The idea of re-creating the union was put to a referendum and, with certain revealing exceptions, passed by a solid majority. But the New Union never happened. A day or so before it was due to be implemented, the August coup attempt took place. I have written about my involvement in it here. As it turned out, that killed it. Shortly afterwards, for whatever reason, Yeltsin, Shushkevich and Kravchuk declared the USSR dead and gone and Gorbachev resigned and the flag me down. And that was that. (And, not for the last time, Kiev dismissed the wishes of the Ukrainian population: 59% of the total electorate having voted yes in the referendum.)

Could something different have happened? Had the treaty had been signed; that would have been different. Most of the USSR would have remained, with some republics at the edges gone, and a lot of the suffering of the breakup of such an absurdly centralised economy would have been prevented. The Union of Sovereign States would have remained a major player in the world system and there would have been less likelihood of outsiders meddling.

But it didn’t happen and therefore Gorbachev failed in what he was trying to do. Which was something dangerous and rarely successful.

But was it so bad for Russia? A question few ask. In 2005 Vladislav Surkov told Der Spiegal that he still remembered what he felt when the USSR went down: “an enormous sense of relief, as if a huge leech had dropped from my back”. He thereby showed himself to be one of the few people who understood that, whatever may have been true at other times, by the 1980s the RSFSR was subsidising the whole thing. Most people thought the opposite. Here’s Leonid Kuchma in 1993 “…like everyone else, I believed that Ukraine is so rich that it provided for the entire [Soviet] Union. It turned out that it is, in fact, rich. However, was it really a provider?” Thus, from Russia’s perspective, the end of the USSR was actually a good thing. Admittedly, a lot of misery had to be gone though first. But, of the former fifteen – and the 1990s were bad for all the USSR successor states, not just Russia – which is doing the best now? The Baltics with their huge population loss? Ukraine or Moldova, contenders for the poorest countries in Europe? Central Asia? The usus? For those who think Russia is a deying sinkhole I invite a perusal of these Google Street View shots of numerous cities taken ten years apart.

So, despite the strong dislike most Russians have for him, they may come to have a kinder view over time.

(PS I n’t give hyperlinks for everything. Most of this happened pre-Internet and the quotations are from the collections I made at the time.)


I am going to pause this site and my other activities for a while until I see how things break out.

What was a post-retirement hobby – a continuation of my job of trying to figure out what was happening in Russia – has now led to accusations of being a Russian agent of disinformation.

Deviation from the approved narrative is to risk, at best, being accused of sowing disinformation and, at worst, of treason.

I’m too old for this.


I did not expect Russia to invade Ukraine. I was quite definite about it several times: “Russia will not invade Ukraine” I said. I envisaged several possibilities but nothing like what we have seen in the last weeks. My argument was based on the assumption that Moscow did not want to take ownership of, in ?slund’s words, “the poorest country in Europe“. I still do not think that it does – I believe that Moscow wants a neutral and de-nazified Ukraine that is a buffer between it and NATO. I am also coming to believe that Novorossiya, more or less in its historil borders as formed by Katherine when recovered from the Ottomans, will be independent. The chance that it would remain part of Ukraine has probably passed. As I wrote in 2014 “In short, the West broke Ukraine, it now owns it. Or, to put it more precisely, it owns that part that Moscow doesn’t want. And what part that is is entirely up to Moscow to choose“. Moscow is choosing now.

So why was I wrong? What did I miss?

I believe I missed three things – two I didn’t know about and one that I did but did not properly weigh. These are: the nuclear weapons issue, the planned strike on LDNR and the biolabs.

At the Munich Conference, Ukraine President Zelensky alluded to the possibility that Ukraine might make nuclear weapons. There is a widespread belief that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons after the breakup of the USSR but that is nonsense. Yes, some of the USSR’s nuclear weapons were based in the Ukrainian SSR, but they were no more under Kiev’s control than the Amerin ICBMs in Montana are controlled by the state government in Helena. The West was delighted when Moscow undertook responsibility for the USSR’s nuclear weapons just as it was delighted when Moscow undertook to give Russian citizenship to any Soviet citizen left over, to move all USSR weapons and troops out of Eastern Europe and take on the USSR’s debts. Imagine if Moscow had said that it would only take on the RSFSR’s share (about half) of these things and Moldova, for example, should be responsible for its share. It was later that Moscow’s acceptance was re-purposed into accusations – we (and I well remember it) were very relieved at the time: no abandoned nuclear bombs or missiles, leftover weapons, ownerless armed soldiers, unpaid debts, people without citizenship. So Ukraine never “had” nuclear weapons. But Zelensky’s raising the possibility was seen in Moscow as a real threat: if not a fully functioning nuclear weapon, then surely a dirty bomb could have been constructed – there’s plenty of radioactive material at Chernobyl after all and Ukraine inherited a stock of Tochka missiles. So that was a factor. Whether Azarov’s assertion that NATO was actually planning such a thing is true or not, Moscow could not afford the possibility. Putin himself mentioned this as a factor.

The second reason for the attack was the assessment– and some documents have been said to have been discovered – that Kiev was planning an assault on LDNR in March. Definite proof has not yet surfaced but the fact that the bulk of the Ukraine Armed Forces were positioned to attack LDNR rather than to defend Ukraine’s borders is suggestive. Observing this, Moscow evidently decided on a pre-emptive strike. Putin has mentioned this as a factor.

I knew there were a large number of US biolabs around the world – indeed the whole world is now aware of the one in Wuhan and I think I was generally aware that there were some in Ukraine. In this respect the investigative reporting of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is essential reading. A “conspiracy theory” only a week or so ago, none other than Nuland herself has admitted their existence. The story has therefore morphed from conspiracy theory, through a few benign labs to the Russians might make an attack with dangerous materials from them. I remembered the revelation some years ago that the US military had been collecting DNA samples of Russians. But I didn’t put these fragments together. How big an issue this actually was we should find out: documents are said to have been ptured. Putin has referred to this issue.

So there are three reasons for an attack now: a pre-emptive attack to stop the possibility of nuclear or biologil attacks and to protect LDNR. It is now evident that the “ultimatum” was a last chance: had Washington, the actual power behind the scenes, seriously addressed Moscow’s concerns – NATO membership for Ukraine and forcing Kiev to follow the Minsk Agreements – there would be no war today. Moscow evidently decided on Plan B sometime towards the end of 2021 and began preparations.

Then, as the war progressed, I forgot Clausewitz’ famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means and over-estimated the speed of developments. At the start, Putin put out the aims: de-nazifition, disarming and no NATO. The first to be accomplished by killing them and by trials and exposure of the survivors, the second aim is mostly completed and the third has not yet happened (although Zelensky periodilly hints at it). These aims n be achieved by violence or by negotiation (aided by violence – the “other means”). The Russian operation will continue until all three are accomplished. I do not foresee Russian troops advancing much into Western Ukraine: let NATO, Poland especially, have the joy of dealing with Galicia.

But, at the end of the day, there will still be something lled Ukraine and plenty of Ukrainians next door to Russia. Moscow prefers that these Ukrainians not hate them and that requires reful and utious movement and the least number of widows and orphans. Therefore, the first week was fast moving but since then there have been many pauses for talks – without much result as far as we know – pauses for humanitarian corridors and lol ceasefires. As Colonel Macgregor says, the Russians are trying to minimise civilian sualties.

Russian forces have a good deal of experience in this sort of thing from Syria and we see the slow encirclement of cities and military deployments always with exit routes to allow civilians (and combatants who have lost their will to fight) to get out of the way. The Chechens in particular are skilled at this. (And not least beuse of their experience of fighting Russia in the First Chechen War. And who would have expected that turn of events?) Larry Johnson puts Russia’s advances in context here.

Therefore the military operation is in service to the politics and is slower than it would be if only destruction were the aim.

game baccarat


So far the Russian military operation in Ukraine has been a reconnaissance in force preceded by the destruction of the supplies and headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by standoff weapons. The object being to suss out where the Ukrainian forces are, to surround them, to check existing Russian intelligence against reality and, at the same time, destroy known headquarters, air and naval assets, supplies and ammunition depots. And, perhaps, there was the hope that the speed and success (Russian/LDPR forces dominated an area of Ukraine about the size of the United Kingdom in the first week) would force an early end (aka recognition of reality).

At the moment they are readying for the next phase. The long column that so obsessed the “experts” on CNN is the preparation for the next phase. And that is this: “You didn’t get the hint, so now we have to hit you”. The fact that the column has been sitting there indites that the Russians know they have complete air superiority. Secondly it is a message to the Ukrainian armed forces that it’s over, give up. (And one should never forget that the Russians/Soviets have always been the best at strategic deception, so who knows what’s actually there versus what the images show?)

As far as I n see they’ve created three uldrons (encirclements). Probably the most important one is the one around Mariupol where the main concentration of Azov, the principal nazi force, is. Another is being established around the main concentration of the Ukrainian Armed Forces facing LDPR. And there appears to be another developing to the east of Kiev. A super uldron of all three is visible. The nazis will be exterminated; the ordinary Ukrainian soldier will be allowed to go home. The nightmare question is how many ordinary Ukrainians will be free to choose.

The dilemma for the Russians is city fighting. They do not want to have a Raqqa in which every building is destroyed, every person killed and solitudinem is declared to be pax. They know that at the end of the day there will still be Ukrainians and they will want them to be friends: Washington n create solitudes far away, but Moscow nnot create them nearby. This greatly complites their problem when they try to clear the nazis out of Mariupol knowing that the nazis are using the city’s people as hostages. The same problem exists, to a lesser degree, in the other cities of Novorossiya. My guess is they will surround most cities and hope that Zelinsky & Co come to their senses. But I fear that the Mariupol battle will be horrible.

There are some slight inditions, on Day 8, that Ukrainian negotiators are realising that neutrality is something they have to agree to. I also see the realisation creeping up on the Amerin side.

The ultimate Russian aim is not visible. By this I mean the ultimate strategic aim; we know what the grand strategic aim is. Are the Russians planning to create a Novorossiya which will be independent or are they aiming to create a Novorossiya which will be a bargaining chip with rump Ukraine? I think the answer depends on what Zelinsky and Kiev (and the lols) decide. In about a week’s time, an independent Novorossiya will exist and Russia will continue to have the hammer.

I would expect large-sle surrenders of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to begin in the next 24/48 hours (Chechen forces already claim one and have an impressive collection of “trophies” to prove it). A signifint proportion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is now surrounded and, as is usual (vide Sun Tsu) the Russians have left them an exit.


The impotence of the EU and NATO is clear to everyone (Well, OK, not anyone on CNN, or in the US Congress or in the halls of power in the West. But they are not the whole world). In this respect, I recommend watching Riyadh – Abdul Aziz was very good at seeing how the wind blew and one n assume his descendents are too.

The 97, or whatever they were, fighter planes that were excitedly announced, are obviously not coming. The no fly zone n’t be “declared”. The Chechens have picked up a lot of MANPADs that NATO supplied. All that NATO support will get you is destruction when you fight the war it suckered you into and an extra special Christmas rd when you’re defeated and ruined.

We are seeing the collapse of post Cold War triumphalism, “end of history”, “unilateralism” and all the rest of it. Reality is biting, and biting hard. All you have to do is watch CNN’s parade of talking heads and “experts” speculating about how crazy Putin is: they don’t understand, therefore he must be nuts. For the West, as it has been, it’s over. The confusion, the bullshit, the boasting, the hysteria, the bans: the West has nothing left in the locker. Pour Russian vodka down the toilet, fire a singer and director, change the name of a drink or a salad, ban ts or trees, sanction a Russian plutocrat and steal his yacht, wear a blue and yellow t-shirt. Pathetic. And don’t, under any circumstances, allow a Russian outlet to tempt the sheeple with “disinformation”. Just like the USSR but stupider. And who thought stupider was even possible?

Judo is about deception and using the opponent’s strength against him. Putin, the judoka, has judoed the West into suicide. Put your money in our banks, we n confiste it; put your assets in our territory, we n steal them; use our money and we n ncel it; put your yacht in our harbour, we n pirate it; put your gold in our vault, we n grab it. That is a lesson that will resound around the world. A naked illustration that the “rules-based international order” is simply that we make the rules and order you to obey them. In 2 or 3 weeks everybody in the world who is on the potential Western hit list will have moved his assets out of the reach of the West. Xi will permit himself a small smile.

As to Western sanctions against Russia, I think there’s a very simple answer to that: last week 1000 cubic metres of gas cost $1,000; today it’s over twice that. Next week it certainly won’t be cheaper. Ditto for aluminum, potash, titanium, wheat. Russian airlines lease their planes; now what? Russian rocket motors. What the people in the West do not understand is the ruble is the currency the Russians use inside the country but the price of oil and gas is the Russian currency outside the country. I am astounded at the stupidity: they’re cutting their own throats and destroying their own economies.

Russia sits back and laughs: fly into space on your own broomstick.

The world order has changed. Week Two.