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19 December 2019


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''The Trump administration should use sanctions to halt the construction of a pipeline that would allow Russia to transport natural gas directly to Europe, potentially generating cash to fuel President Vladimir Putin's military aggression, says Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas''

I don't know how many times I have said.....Who do these politicians think they are !!??
They were not elected to 'run the world'. WE must get rid of them.
The Col told me awhile ago that the CIA doesn't do 'accidental deaths' ....too bad.

Adrian E.

At least, these sanctions are not only directed against Russia, but also against Western Europe.
First,the sanctions directly affect not only Gasprom, but also Western European companies that are involved in building the pipelines (since only a small part of the work remains to be done, Nordstream 2 can probably be finished without some of them, but if everything continues as before, some Western European companies involved in building the pipelines would clearly be affected by US sanctions, among them a specialized Swiss company).
Second, the purpose of the pipelines clearly is not only to help Russia selling gas, but also to help Germany buying Russian gas.
The sanctions are not anti-Russian sanctions, but sanctions against Europe, including Russia, Germany, and other European countries.
Especially in Germany, there is absolutely no tolerance for such sanctions with which the US wants to force Europeans to buy uncompetitive expensive US fracking gas. There are talks about European countersanctions against the US. The US may hope to exploit disagreements among EU countries. After all some EU countries like Poland are against Nordstream. But the US should not rely on this - such blatant interference in European matters is clearly not tolerated by the EU. An appropriate countermeasure might be punitive Tarifs on US fracking gas exports - there is not much demand for it, anyway, but it would make sense to prevent any significant amounts of US fracking gas from being bought in Europe as long as the US wants to force Europeans to buy it.
In any case, these anti-European sanctions show once more that the US has become a pariah nation that has isolated itself and has no real allies any more (except perhaps Saudi Arabia and Israel).

Adrian E.

I would not call these sanctions only anti-Russian sanctions. They are just as well directed against Western Europe.

First, it is not only Gasprom which is involved in building the pipeline (although it is the owner), but also European companies (among them a Swiss one). Since Nordstream II is almost finished, the services of some of these companies may not be necessary any more, but if they continued normally, also some Western European companies would be sanctioned.

Second, obviously, the purpose of the pipelines is not only to help Russia selling gas, but also to help Germany (and other Western European countries that will receive it via Germany) buying Russian gas.

In Germany, there is very little tolerance for such sanctions, and people talk about counter-sanctions against the US. An appropriate measure could be punitive tariffs on US fracking gas. There is little demand for US fracking gas in Europe, anyway, since it is more expensive, but it may make sense to make sure than no significant amounts of US gas are sold in Europe as long as the US wants to force Europeans to buy it.

The US may hope to exploit disagreements about Nordstream within the EU. After all, some countries like Poland are against it. But the US should not rely on this tactic working. Such blatant interference in European energy supplies with sanction will hardly be tolerated by the EU.

In any case, these anti-European sanctions show one more how much the US has become a pariah country that has isolated itself and hardly has allies any more (except perhaps Saudi Arabia and Israel).

I agree that one of the motives for these anti-European sanctions is anti-Russian insanity in the US. But another important motive is disrespect of the US for Western Europe, which it seems to regard as a kind of colonies or vassal states it can tell what to do.

In Europe, there is still a certain gap - while polls show that the US is very unpopular, among European elites, pro-US forces still have a certain influence. But probably, it won't take very long until European countries will adapt their policies towards the US in the direction a majority of their citizens wants. Another such example of US folly is the idea that Germany should pay more for the presence of US troops. According to polls, about half of the German population wanted US troops to leave, anyway, even before the question of increased payments was raised, and if the US is serious about this demand, the consequence that it will lose its military bases is obvious.

Harlan Easley

John Titor


Who recently described Russia as third tier country, with an economy no bigger than the state of New York?


Send in Greta Thonburg. She'll show them. More use of fossil fuels zut alors! Who will even be buying Russian energy. How dare they.

Paul Damascene

I credit you with possessing the good sense, seemingly rare, to not wish to enter into a direct military conflict with Russia, particularly out of some hyper inflated sense of threat, owing (no less) to their aggression. Kudos to you for acknowledging which country is the number one threat of military aggression in the world.

The sarcasm of referring to a mounting Russian threat is merited insofar as their military budget is actually falling as a proportion of output.

I would suggest, however, when assessing the strength of the enemy you rightly argue that it is stupid to provoke, that you do not limit yourself to the prevailing think-tank approaches to assessing that threat. It's pretty obvious to most people that comparing an Su-35 to an F-35 in dollar terms makes the F-35 3 or 4 times the military threat of the Sukhoi. Ditto with an Su-57 to F-22 comparison.

But it would be better to listen to actual military experts with technical training in the STEM disciplines needed to provide the analysis. I would suggest you look at the work of A. Martyanov's work, a retired Russian naval officer writing occasionally US Naval institute Blog. Or visit his blog, Reminiscence of the Future, through which you could get more background on his books, including the latest, The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs.

His concern is that (while some of us use these CIA factbook-type analysis to cool off the hysterical claims of threat) Russia hawk politicians and think-tank military pseudo-experts are using these to seriously downplay Russia's capacity to counter American aggression. Would welcome your thoughts on his work.

Andrei Martyanov (aka SmoothieX12)

Russia’s 2018 GDP of $1.66 trillion, which is just 8% of America’s total GDP of $21.5 trillion.

Larry, it is patently and, actually, grossly untrue on both counts. Nor comparison of military budgets is legitimate tool. In fact, all this is in the foundation of the United States failing, time after time, having a good grasp of the military balance.

Ghost Ship

Last winter LNG from the Russian Yamal gas field was delivered to the United States. Perhaps Washington should deal with its own dependence on Russian energy before it starts pressuring Europe.


The goal is to overturn the government of Russia, just like the goal has been to overturn the government of Bolivia (Mission Accomplished), Venezuela, Cuba, China, Russia, North Korea, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Syria... This is imperialism. It's history is long and has been successfully practiced by far by the British and Americans. And it's goal is the theft of the resources, human and natural, of the countries targeted. It is old news. Nothing has changed for two hundred years. My God, the original Crimean War was fought for exactly the same reasons as the current Crimean War although the actual fighting is of a different scale and different style. Permit me to include in the litany above Native Americans who were slaughtered for their territory. It is astonishing that President Trump seems to be less than enthusiastic about this program, but it certainly recommends him highly if he is. And today, we may ask who is behind this program. It is certainly not the American people.


The only thing young Russians today would fight for is an American visa.

Seamus Padraig

First these idiots in congress wanted to sanction Turkey over their own failed régime-change gambit in Syria, and now they want to sanction Germany over Nordstream II? Well, I say ... good! This'll be the death of NATO real quick. It's long past time for us to pull out of Europe, come home and start taking care of our own country. America first!

Seamus Padraig

BTW, Larry, it's time for an update on Gen. Flynn, isn't it?

Christian J Chuba

Provoking War

If nothing else the Neocons are predictable. This is what they are thinking, 'Everyone said that Ronald Reagan was going to start a war but by standing up to Russia, peace through strength, he broke the Soviet Union'.

They want an arms race with Russia, they want to surround Russia with hostile countries. They think the new Evil Empire will collapse, they will break it into even smaller pieces, and maybe even take away her nukes. The difference between the Neocons and Reagan is that Reagan had actual principals while they are delusional jackals. Reagan, at his core, argued for the sovereignty of Eastern European countries. The Neocons want total power and hate any country strong enough to resist them.

This can end in any number of ways including war. The Neocons are drooling over the prospect of building missile bases in the new NATO members closer to Russia's borders in a new arms race. The nauseating thing will be to hear them and their MSM toadies claim to be the victim of Russian aggression while they do it.


Should you wish to expand on that at some point I, for one, would be very interested in how to interpret these metrics. The US seems to spend a phenomenal amount on procurement more what achieves. Russia and China seem to get a lot more for their buck. A view from the outside with no real way of knowing how close to the truth it is.


WarOnTheRocks (WotR, Carl!) even run recently an article, about how "it's not so clear-cut" (c) when assessing Russia's military spendings through the ususal auti... ahem... "think-tankers" lenses


If this abode of neo-cons is starting to smart-up, well, it's time for everyone else to do the same.

David Habakkuk


This notion that young Russians are all queuing up to flee the evil Putin is, I am afraid, just another of those fantasies to which the inhabitants of the ‘bubbles’ in Washington and London, who invariably listen to those from other societies who tell them what they want to hear, cling.

A kind of ‘running commentary’ on the issue has been maintained over the years in the ‘Unz Review’ by Anatoly Karlin, who is a ‘repatriate’, of what might be called ‘White Guard’ political sympathies.

His most recent piece, published at the start of this month, is headlined ‘Number of Russians Preparing to Emigrate Reaches Record Low.’

(See https://www.unz.com/akarlin/number-of-russians-preparing-to-emigrate-reaches-record-low/ .)

The title is tongue-in-cheek, because Karlin is deliberately responding by putting a tendentious headline on the latest Levada poll to the customary flurry of Western news reports eager to build large conclusions on data which fits with their preconceptions – in this case an uptick in the number of young Russians saying they want to emigrate.

As to your confidence that young Russians will not fight – which places you squarely in the great tradition of Napoleon and Hitler – it is material that, in general, those who do most of the fighting are not the kind of ‘liberals’ to whom Americans and Brits prefer to listen, but ‘deplorables.’

If you want a useful brief account, by a member of a group who might be called ‘liberals mugged by reality’, of how the policies pursued by successive Administrations comprehensively alienated most of their fellow countrymen, I would recommend a response by Alexander Lukin in the ‘National Interest’ last February to a characteristically inane explanation by Strobe Talbott of how Russia was really on the ‘right road’ in the ‘Nineties.

It is headlined ‘How the United States Got Russia Wrong; The West today is paying for its collusion with Russia in the 1990s.’

(See https://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-united-states-got-russia-wrong-42977 .)

An excerpt reveals what to me a clearly very deep and to my mind eminently understandable bitterness about the Clinton people:

‘Many Russians who advocated democratic reforms in the early 1990s and for whom both the Yeltsin kleptocracy and the Communist dictatorship were anathema now have reason to blame Talbott and his like-minded associates for contributing to authoritarianism in Russia. Those policies served to discredit Russia’s pro-Western forces completely because everything was lumped together in the public’s perception – kleptocracy, corruption, Western aid, pro-Western policies, and Russia’s abasement. And it was the policies developed by Talbott and his associates that gave rise to this perception.’

As to how the West is ‘paying’, one rather important way should I think be now rather evident. In very many ways, the Chinese have been the beneficiaries of, in particular, the Clintons. Part of this. obviously, has to do with the immense potential value of Russia as an ally.

Perhaps more important, however, the spectacle of what became of Russia, once ‘liberals’ who trusted the West took charge, may well have been of incalculable help to the Chinese Communist Party in heading off challenges to the legitimacy of their rule.

One can, very easily, be comprehensively cynical about one’s rulers. But if the likely result of toppling them looks like anarchy and national humiliation, then ‘better the devil you know’ is liable to seem a sound maxim.

Sven Lystbæk

There are two ways of measuring GDP. One is by current curency exchange rate and the other is by purchasing power parity ecchange rate.

There is absolutely no discussion yhat the current Rouble-Dollar exchange rate dramatically undervalues the Rouble. Consequently the real Russian economy is at least equal to 20 per cent of the American which makes it equal to the German GDP.

Further it seems that Russian progress in weaponsystems not least in missile technology implies that a war with Russia would be a very bad idea indeed.

Ken Roberts

Interesting article, thanks. Authors advocate purchasing power parity as a means of comparison. The 2nd author is Richard Connolly (sp?) who wrote a good book on Russia's response to sanctions. The Russian economy, and its ability to produce to focus, is intriguing. To really be "gret" requires a level of concentration, and ambition combined with humility towards acknowledging defeats and working on defects, sometimes found in the best athletes and teams. But unfortunately not often found among the cheer leaders.

Hah - see I misspelled "great" above. Curious similarity to "greta". I had a negative response to that publicity phenomenon but her recent admission "that didn't work, must try otherwise" suggests she has potential, because she introspects. We will see. She will possibly have a long run and may do some good, however launched.

Best wishes to all for the season. Col Lang's website has been a tremendous resource for trying to make sense of world / societies.

Andrei Martyanov (aka SmoothieX12)

Should you wish to expand on that at some point I, for one, would be very interested in how to interpret these metrics.

I wrote two books on that and am writing the third one. US GDP given in nominal USDs is nothing more than a sum of prices of all things and services provided in the US. This is not even serious metric and even IMF (controlled by the US) gives GDP stats on PPP (Purchase Power Parity) bases, and even that is not accurate. For starters, US "economy" is primarily FIRE (Finances, Insurance, Real Estate) economy, with US manufacturing sector shrinking catastrophically in the last two decades, with US machine building complex being hit especially hard. But here is a short comparison. US real economy is dwarfed by Chinese one, nor Russian economy is 1.66 trillion, Russian economy is larger than that of Germany, and, actually, much larger. Let's compare, say, two products which both Russia and US do actually produce--in construction, houses.

1. The US construction industry can built and sell a house (3 bedroom, 2 baths, some up to roughly 2,000 sq. feet) in some average mid-town USA for say this (it is about 10 years old)248Ks:


2. For the 53Ks you can buy this near Moscow (not Idaho, Russia)


So, here is the question and a simple math: US will count the house which is in the same league, not to mention being nowhere near any major cultural urban center at 248K, same level of housing in an extremely desirable location in Russia is 53Ks.

Guess who adds more to GDP? Right, the United States, Russia which builds housing like there is no tomorrow, will be adding 248-53=195 USDs less to her GDP if it is calculated in USD. This is just one single and simplified example. For 53K somewhere in superb Voronezh or Yekaterinburg, or Krasnoyarsk I can buy a freaking palace. One more example: for $8 billion Russian Navy already built and operates 3 and has 5 in the shipyards state-of-the-art strategic missile submarines of pr. 955-955A Borei class. $8 billion is exactly the estimated cost (most likely to be much higher) of a SINGLE (one) Columbia-class SSBN which is already having a truck lead of issues before being built. That is a definition of a bang for a buck.

Russia is somewhat poorer than the United States for obvious historic reasons and her economy is smaller than that of the US but it is a bout the third of the size. Just to illustrate--the United States doesn't have commercial shipbuilding to speak of. Russia's commercial shipbuilding is exploding, with still being constructed massive Zvezda Wharf already building and having contracts for 35 major vessel, with half of them being supertankers and LNG transporters whose displacement is larger than that of latest US aircraft carrier. Most of Western economic statistics is as reliable as public opinion polls in 2016 which stated that HRC will win elections.

Andrei Martyanov (aka SmoothieX12)

Michael Kofman seems to be reading my books. I am not talking even about operational models in which dyadic comparison of numbers of tanks, planes, guns etc. is an exercise in futility because taken out of the context tends to confuse, rather than clarify issues of military potentials. Just an example: USAF may have more (nominally) combat aircraft than Russia, but the state of the park in USAF is, actually, appalling with cannibalization reaching 30% (by different estimates). Even latest mods. of venerable F-15 are not competitors to SU-30SM, let alone SU-35C. No F-22, let alone F-35 will survive Russian AD systems. So, it is "slightly" more complex than mere comparison of numbers of anything. Admiral Stansfield Turner gave a superb succinct explanation of how warfare works in 1976 in his interview to CSM. Sheer brilliance of putting complex things into simple words.



Overall, I would rate Russia somewhere between 30 to 50% as powerfull as the USA overall. This puts her in a position where she can challenge American intrusions into Ukraine or Syria (2 places where she enjoys homefield advantadge) and can reasonably hope to prevail. Especially in the context of the actively misinformed US strategy in these areas.

History is replete with examples in which 2 sides with such a disparity clashed, and also quite as replete with situations in which the weaker side won.

The Russians have a couple of additional advantadges on their side:

-1: From my experience, Russians are a lot less arrogant about American capabilities then Americans (it appear that arrogance increases with rank here, this may be a by product of that conformism inducing up or out principle) are about Russias. I also think that the deciding Russian elites have a more precise and usable knowledge of the USA then the deciding US elites have of Russia. Arrogance is never good but it always happens. Being less arrogant does not mean that you will win a conflict, but it certainly helps.

-2: Russia appears to be more competently led

-3: Russia is a more unitary actor.

-4: Russia essentially relies on herself, while the US increasingly relies on a system of tributaries. Tributary managment binds resources, and tributaries get more independent minded if the overlord suffers clear setbacks, particularly on the battlefield.

There is potential for reform. Maybe a clear battlefield defeat would result in long overdue changes in the US political and military system (somewhat along the lines of Russias reforms following her defeat in the Crimean war), but it would be far less risky and far more beneficial for all of mankind if the impetus for such reforms would come in the form of a new Sputnik, rather then a new GRAD shock.

Andrei Martyanov (aka SmoothieX12)

And even PPP is inaccurate. Just to give one example: extremely well developed system of public transportation actually drives GDP down, because it "adversely" affects car production--this is in a nutshell. PPP is also not exact measure, granted, much better one than absolutely unrealistic nominal measures of GDP. This is what I call an "operational" dimension of economy, because it is akin to comparison of apples to oranges but which must be done to understand a real relation. It is akin to asking who wins--2000 F-15s fighting 1000 SU-35C in the environment covered by Air Defense Army armed with S-400, Buk-M3 and S1 systems. This is just a crude example. Life is complex and can not be always expressed just in numbers, context is always important. Just to give another example, neither Germany nor Japan can develop full blown, especially piloted, space program--it is a completely different level of complexity. At this stage only USSR/Russia and US can show serious results in that. China, while being an economic monster, is still nowhere near the US, let alone Russia, in terms of piloted space exploration. It is hard and requires more than just the size of economy, albeit the size is imperative.

A. Bear

I'm surprised you didn't respond to this, SmoothieX12, given your books:

"The US has eleven such carrier strike groups. Russia has zero modern carrier strike groups and one beat-up, smoky old (diesel) aircraft carrier. A carrier based strike group is composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, at least one cruiser, a squadron of destroyers and/or frigates, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft."

Larry should read your books!

Paul Damascene

Andrei has most of the issues under discussion well handled. But I would add that there is a basis of comparison of comparable importance, I suspect: that being a comparison of systems of military procurement in a crony-capitalist vs. a command and control system with capitalist elements.

* First there is the rake of off executive pay and the conflict of interest baked into executive remuneration based on shares.

* Then there are the immense sums lavished on lobbying, PR, marketing, sales, and conversely the cost of influence peddling of many kinds.

* Then of course there are the political contributions and the direct and indirect costs of the revolving door in which there is a steady stream of increasingly corrupt influencers moving into and out of the private sector, helping to spawn terrible military spending policy (think Star Wars) and terrible business practices (think, Boeing 737).

* Then there is the waste involved in spreading defense spending across voting districts to keep the political system captive.

* Then there is the rank profiteering -- the $500 USD toilet-bowl brushes.

* Then there are the PMCs and the sub-contracting of services.

Pitch, lobby, sell, buy, skim, inflate ... etc.

So any such technical comparisons still must somehow not lead us to miss these systemic factors.

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