Putin’s Logic vs. Strelkov’s Logic


June 10, 2015

Putin’s Logic vs. Strelkov’s Logic

By Pavel Shipilin

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

If one were to believe some of our political scientists and politicians, Vladimir Putin and his associates don’t seem to care very much about Russia’s security. Which leads to the following conclusion: Kremlin has been taken over by traitors who influence the president’s will and force him to surrender the Motherland’s interests in order to satisfy the liberal-oligarchic wing which is tied to the international capital.

In order to attempt to figure out whether it’s really so, we have to first try to understand how, and by whom, the most important decisions are made.

It’s no secret that currently Ukraine is our main problem–as a US-wielded instrument of destabilizing the situation in Europe. In particular, we are expecting the growth of tensions in Transnistria.

Naturally, a few decisions about that region have already been made, depending on how events unfold. It’s difficult to say what scenarios were considered by that narrow circle. But no doubt they considered as many as possible, for every possible eventuality.

I already discussed the members of the president’s inner circle. Since that time my certainty has only grown–Vladimir Putin has finally assembled a team of professionals and is not about to change it. Let’s go over its composition once again (in alphabetical order, not in order of importance):

Bortnikov, Aleksandr Vasilyevich, FSB Director
Ivanov, Sergey Borisovich, the Director of the Presidential Administration
Lavrov, Sergey Viktorovich, the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Medvedev, Dmitriy Anatolyevich, the Head of Government
Patrushev, Nikolay Yefimovich, Security Council Director
Fradkov, Mikhail Yefimovich, Foreign Intelligence Service director
Shoygu, Sergey Kuzhugetovich, Minister of Defense.

When it comes to the most important issues (Crimea, Donbass, Transnistria, sanctions and countersanctions), these people assemble together with the president in a secret location. It’s likely somewhere in Moscow, in order for them to meet rapidly and without drawing attention. It may be that there is a special bunker somewhere in the Kremlin or in the Lubyanka.

Presidential residences are equipped with communications equipment. For example, the Bocharov Ruchey in Sochi was, in all likelihood, actively used for secret meetings of the above-named individuals with the president during the Olympics.

The Ukraine coup took place on February 22, while the Olympics lasted between February 7 and 23, and a smiling Vladimir Putin appeared on the tribune. I suspect he had to fly back to Moscow several times during those two weeks, and he will remember those sleepless nights forever. Incidentally, this is already the second Olympics messed up for him by the US.

The capture of the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea in Simferopol was carried out by the “polite people” during the night of February 26-27.

We could only guess how these secret meetings take place. They are informal, since the country’s fate is at stake. Let’s fantasize a little and imagine an invasion of Ukraine’s territory in order to defend Transnistria.

Naturally, they are discussing GenStaff plans presented by Shoygu, as well as the military intelligence data. Lavrov reports on the international situation, the depth of disagreement with the West, will India and China take a neutral position.

Bornikov and Fradkov formulate agents’ reports. Medvedev talks about the situation in the economy, the routes of population evacuation, and the industrial capacities in the event of a total war. Ivanov and Patrushev have the role of disseminating information and developing political and military scenarios.

However, a military invasion into another country always carries a risk of a big war. And not only against one country, but against many.

Therefore the military operation is but one topic to discuss. It’s as important to discuss the country’s position after its completion, what aims will be achieved, and what aims will have to be sacrificed. Possible reactions–military, economic, political. China’s reaction (and, at the same time, the security of Eastern borders), as well as the reaction by Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iran, Israel, etc.

The final decision, naturally, is made by Putin.

Please keep in mind: these plans are not being developed with the participation of oligarchs or liberals, whose pressure is so feared by our quasipatriots. There is simply no place for them in the secret bunker. They are somewhere on the surface, dealing with their petty affairs–they are getting rich off kickbacks, buying villas and yachts. Nobody has ever asked their opinion concerning Crimea or South Ossetia–it’s none of their business.

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There is no liberal-oligarchic pressure on the development of the most important decisions concerning the country’s fate. Their access to state secrets is limited to their firms. Which is already a lot.

We don’t know and we’ll never know what is contained on the thousands of pages of secret reports and intercepts from the US, Europe, Ukraine, Moldova, China, Belarus, India, Georgia, the Baltics. However, we can safely assume that they exist, and that strategic and tactical decisions are made on their basis. And these documents should never be made public–or, at any rate, any time soon.

Therefore it’s all the more amazing that we have people in our society who demand an immediate report. “Government policies are entirely opaque. We don’t know what the President wants. We don’t know what the country’s highest leadership wants. We as a country all too often say what we don’t do, and do what we don’t say,” complains Igor Girkin.

He is absolutely correct. Except that, in contrast to the hero of Novorossia, I don’t see a tragedy here–I am pleased that we are so good at keeping our secrets.

What is more, yesterday Rostislav Ishchenko expressed in his very interesting article the opinion that Igor Strelkov is guilty of what happened in Novorossia a year ago. In his opinion, the capture of Slavyansk took place for the same reason as the Polish government in exile launched the Warsaw Uprising in 1944–in order to control the capital at the moment of the entry of Russian regular forces. The “militarists” wanted very little–simply to have a small piece of “liberated territory” when Russian troops entered Ukraine, so that they could enter the new government. They didn’t hide that they wished to create in Novorossia a country of the sort they wished to see in Russia. Following in the footsteps of the Warsaw Uprising, which was also started in order to meet the Red Army with an “independently liberated” capital, complete with a ready “government,” Ishchenko writes.

Can’t argue with his logic.

I’d only disagree with his assumption that the entry of Russian forces was forestalled by the threat of sanctions. “Something happens in the end of April. Russian government and media rhetoric changes, forces return to permanent bases, and conflict becomes a prolonged one. According to the ‘militarists’, the ‘fifth column’ in the Kremlin forced Putin to make concessions and attempt to reach an agreement with the US at Donbass’ expense. It’s a crazy scenario, good only for scaring housewives,” Ishchenko writes.

In his opinion, the economic-financial block within the government could insist on the delay of the active phase of conflict, arguing that the economy needed time to prepare for possible sanctions.

But I think it was all much simpler than that. And here’s why.

When Vladimir Putin discussed the details of the Crimea operation, he deliberately emphasized that he first took an interest in the opinion of the peninsula’s inhabitants. Let me assure you, he has far more reliable sources than the pollsters (the data was most likely provided by the FSB director Bortnikov). And he gave the go-ahead only after he was certain that Crimea would vote in favor of reunification with Russia.

I think he was told last year about the actual attitudes among Ukrainians. It is precisely in April that Russia’s rating fell in their eyes. It became clear they would not meet our army with flowers.


But what is Igor Strelkov telling us? Having given us his assessment of the situation around Transnistria, he proposed an alternative scenario which he voiced more than once–marching on Kiev. “The enemy is deliberately attempting to escalate the conflict, he is deliberately preparing for it, he is constantly increasing his strength. Further ignoring of that fact, indecisiveness, delay in inflicting a decisive defeat, destroying and overthrowing the junta and liberating Kiev are leading us in the direction of a global defeat.”

Note that the hero of Novorossia is only talking about the military aspect of resolving the Transnistria problem. Naturally, the technical possibility exists, and it is no doubt being discussed among the narrow circle that I mentioned.

But the people responsible for the fate of 146 million Russians are used to looking beyond the horizon, and gaming not only their own actions but also the reactions, thinking several steps ahead. And in contrast to Igor Strelkov, they are trying to avoid fatal mistakes.

South Ossetia and Crimea are proof they can be trusted. The former DPR Minister of Defense could not convince me, in spite of his passion.

J.Hawk’s Comment: In response to the comments below, I think Shipilin has it basically right. I outlined what my view of  Kremlin’s strategy is here–this is still the early ’30s, lots can still happen or not happen, but one thing is for sure: there is no Wehrmacht anywhere in sight, and that being the case, why risk another major, Stalin-like, transformation of the society to meet a non-existent threat, given the risks such a mobilization entails? That being the case, liberals have their proper place but in the antechambers of policymaking, not at the actual table.

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