“The Ukrainian Armed Forces are increasing their forces and gathering heavy equipment and personnel. The number of Ukrainian troops in the conflict zone has already reached 125,000, which represents half of the total composition of its Armed Forces” -Russian Foreign Ministry 
“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he so decide” -Antony Blinken 
The Russians fail to grasp how this second quote should be countered in media. In short, Russia is prepared to counter the upcoming Ukrainian invasion of the separatist (ethic Russian) region of Ukraine. Purely in terms of English language semantics, as employed to now, the propaganda art favors the NATO states. When Ukraine attacks the separatist region of Donbass, and Russia responds with a counter attack, the NATO states will call this a Russian invasion of Ukraine for the simple fact of so-called ‘de jure’ international boundaries, never mind the fact of the anti-ethnic-Russian bias and related criminality in this matter should be lain squarely on the shoulders of the NATO supported ultra-nationalist-neo-nazi infested Ukrainian side. , ,  & 
Russia, meanwhile, has propagated three separate, and when taken together, confusing messages, the first is Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine and the second is, what Russia’s armed forces do on Russia’s territory (no matter in proximity to Ukraine’s borders) is solely Russia’s business and third, there are “red lines” the NATO states should not cross in Ukraine that counter Russia’s security interests.
This is clearly a Russian propaganda fail, and when Ukraine DOES attack the breakaway (ethnic Russian) Donbass region of Ukraine and Russia responds with counter-attack to protect the ethnic Russian population, Western (NATO) propaganda will flood the Western liberal democracies’ media platforms with the (technically correct) fact Russian armed forces have ‘invaded’ Ukraine’s territory. Meanwhile in the events leading up to this highly likely scenario, with aggressive NATO exercises playing out in the Baltic region, and especially the Black Sea, Russia is losing its’ opportunity to reach the Western audience with effective message.
In short: Russia should be presenting a single, integrated message:
1) If Ukraine adheres to the Minsk accord (grants the Donbass autonomy) together with excluding NATO and there is no attack on the (ethnic Russian) separatist region but rather Kiev initiates sincere developments towards a cooperative relationship, Russia will have no interest in military intervention in Ukraine; BUT if there IS an attack on Ukraine’s ethnic Russian region and/or NATO continues developing Ukraine as its’ military platform on the border of the Russian heartland, there is NO QUESTION Russia will militarily intervene in Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian populated areas of Ukraine and/or to fence NATO out, full stop.
This is a message that would resonate with people concerned with the related, increasing political tensions across Europe, by putting NATO squarely on the spot.
Meanwhile, an exam of Russia’s propaganda weakness, where Putin recently addresses the Ukraine and NATO issues, is in order:
Putin, Valdai & Bloody Talons
“I have long observed one rule which prevents any inconveniences from such practices. It is simply this: to be concerned in no affairs I should blush to have made public, and to do nothing but what spies may see and welcome. When a man’s actions are just and honorable, the more they are known, the more his reputation is increased and established. If I was sure, therefore, that my valet de place was a spy, as he probably is, I think I should probably not discharge him for that, if in other respects I liked him” -Benjamin Franklin
This preceding statement concerning the infestation of 1780s Paris by spies during the American revolutionary alliance with France, attributed to the American Minister-Plenipotentiary to France, Benjamin Franklin, goes to his [Franklin’s] driving the French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier (Count of Vergennes), out of his mind on a single point: Franklin refused to fire his valet who was known to be a British spy. Expanding on the quote (from reading history) Franklin’s attitude (and refusal to fire his valet) stemmed from his conviction that, given the British knowing that Franklin knew the man was a spy, everything the valet reported from Franklin’s conversations would be taken for disinformation.
We’ll come back to this.
Putin’s 2021 annual address to the Valdai Discussion Club struck me as showing a profoundly disillusioned man (in contrast to Putin projecting an oftentimes humorous, lively self-confidence in past.) Waxing philosophical, he seemed a man disabused of any notion he could believe in the olive branches offered in his polite habits of speech regarding the West, did not seem convinced in (his past conviction) a longstanding support for the primacy of international law will prevail, and seemed at a loss when advancing avenue to reasoned, stabilizing solutions when confronted with the malfeasance of NATO, and NATO’s rhetoric versus NATO’s actions (and much more.) His self confidence seems seriously eroded, or alternately stated, Putin seems resigned to understanding his many years proposed solutions of reason has been wasted and must inevitably be discarded in relation to the confounding behavior and intractable nature of those powers confronting Russia.
In a nutshell, his speech impressed as though Putin understood he were wasting his breath, finally accepting principled behaviors will find little reciprocity from the West in the 21st Century play of the “Great Game.”
The Great Misapprehension
Those embracing the misnomer “Cultural Marxism” will be jubilant at Putin’s comparing today’s Western values to the Soviet experiment at its formation. His characterization of this, although not without merit in defending a “healthy conservatism”, nevertheless embraces a cultural myopia; inter-generational socialization determines the shape of societies and Karl Marx’s utopian socialism had been birthed in Christian culture and features (however perverted in practice) early Christian ideal. Denuded of ‘God’, socialism carried secularism to extreme in application of Christian social principle where science was substituted for the mystic experience in humanity; if Marxism aspired to become the great enforcer of Jesus’ teaching “It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom” in matters of social equity, it must be stated (in short) why this experiment failed. There was no nurturing of the Human spiritual dimension. Marxism, as put into practice in the 20th Century, originated as oxymoron; a faux, inter-generational, culturally Christian shaped cult in denial of God. As a matter of fact cultures cannot easily overthrow their social origins. Marxism, and V.I. Lenin’s launching of this phenomenon on what was to become the Soviet Socialist Republics, was, culturally speaking, a Western ‘Christian’ event from inception to demise. It was, perhaps, the greatest example of denial in modern history (and in some respects, probably still is.)
Be that as it may, Putin is spot on in his defense of a “healthy” social conservatism, and despite his (probable) lack of understanding of the Western Christian cultures’ inter-generational socialization shaping Marxism, his comparison of Soviet experiment, to the one hundred years later (today’s) Western experiment, is not that far off the mark. Both are devoid of the necessary traditions feeding the need of the human spirit. What he appears to struggle with, however unaware, is the Western cultures’ spiritual necrosis originating with Calvinism, the ‘predestination’ infection inviting discarding lived morality as a rewarded experience. This is an infection which, mutated to one form or another (like a certain virus), has crossed every social boundary and buried the ‘do no harm’ axiom across the societies of Capitalism. The root at the evil Putin senses but does not (yet) fully grasp is not actually “Cultural Marxism” but is a Calvinism rooted, Western phenomenon of society-wide psychopathy.*
“I don’t know what to do”
The “I don’t know what to do” statement by Putin about the circumstance in Ukraine concerning NATO is likely the most telling remark revealing a palpable sense of helplessness. This is where one might have expected something along the lines of a ‘zero-sum’ push-back (at the least) but that’s not what we saw. While conceding NATO showed no sign of backing off a military build-up in a context of Ukrainian citizens having little to no say over the (German & American intelligence agencies installed) Bandera putsch regime opening the door to a spear-point aimed at the heart of Russia, Putin openly admits his hesitancy. His dilemma is understandable; NATO ‘all or nothing’ approach shows no inclination whatsoever to back off incorporating to itself a military development of Ukraine and the only recourse to prevent this developing threat would be to fence NATO out with resort to combat arms. This avenue would require Putin violate international law by launching what amounts to illegal ‘preemptive war’ and it is international law Putin has been trying to rescue from obliteration by NATO and NATO aligned states. His choice? Wait the “years” it will take for the Ukrainian people/state to sort putting their house in order (defaulting to the NATO military build-up) or take Eastern Ukraine to the Dnieper river based on international law’s presumptive right of the majority ethnic Russians located there to “Self-Determination.” Putin clearly does not wish to initiate the inevitable war NATO is thrusting upon Russia; but to wait “years” (even just a few years or a year or two) is to give up strategic advantage that could cost Russia dearly. With NATO states pumping arms into Ukraine, each month that passes insures any forthcoming war will be bloodier. No doubt Sergei Shoigu will have a strong opinion in regard to NATO forcing the burden of taking this decision onto Putin.
Here we’ll conclude with the too often under-examined point of taking responsibility. It is here yours truly comes closest to outright criticism of Vladimir Putin, relating to the information wars.
This point goes to the cynicism of awarding the Nobel Prize to Novaya Gazeta’s Dmitry Muratov for “defending free speech” in the context of Russia’s recent law (mirroring USA law) requiring organizations receiving funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” In fact Muratov’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, panders to the Western political lies undermining Russia and its designation as a ‘foreign agent” is absolutely well deserved. Muratov is certainly not a Russian patriot when, as editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, example given, that yellow rag publishes a hit piece pushing ‘the Russians did it’ DNC hack lie. , 
Nobel Prize for political lies? The cynicism of using non governmental organizations to embed and/or recruit agents and manipulate persons, in this case Muratov, to undermine one’s own country, is certainly nothing new in the world of espionage, where there are three basic means of penetrating and/or using an organization to one’s advantage:
1) Turning an employee through some means such as blackmail, sex, bribery or appeal to a psychological weakness such as working on someone’s conscience or ideology and convince them to become your organization’s asset (agent/traitor)
2) Using psychology and/or disinformation to convince an organization’s staff to work to your advantage and/or commit acts against its own [in this case, national] interests (false flag/sale)
3) Placing your own officer within the organization as an employee (spy)
Novaya Gazeta’s editor-in-chief Muratov STRONGLY profiles as manipulated using method 2) of the preceding, although method 1) cannot be ruled out. Coming up through Russia’s security services and fully aware of these facts, when questioned by the ‘nobel laureate’, why didn’t Putin call Muratov out at Valdai? Is it because Russia has its own filthy players in the information wars? , 
In the embedded Valdai video, Muratov questions Putin at about 1:16:00, followed by Margarita Simonyan at about 1:28:00.
Putin should have detailed why Russia hadn’t (yet) gone far enough in shutting down the poison of Western style ‘free speech’ in the information wars; but instead he deferred to the ugliest player on his team, Russian master propagandist Margarita Simonyan. What is remarkable beyond Simoyan’s obvious lust for the rank fool Muratov’s blood is her stark familiarity in her interaction with Putin on a world stage; gloating in her sense of power. Simonyan is no patriot either, Russia’s well being is not the priority here, her argument doesn’t go to the underlying facts, isn’t well thought out & reasoned, rather her first instinct is to go for Muratov’s throat. At a meta level, the premier Russian propaganda attack dog, Simonyan, profiles as a psychopath killer.
Going to the Franklin quote that introduces this essay, Putin doesn’t only carry responsibility for keeping his personal character clean, but carries responsibility for keeping a clean character within all of Russia. Putin’s professional liar, Margarita Simoyan, makes a mockery of this. A clean house does not conceal a deadly black mold in the pantry.
*A warning to Russia: A single generation of children left by their parents to be raised by an unfiltered internet in the 21st Century and you could be there too; it won’t require the 400 years it took John Calvin’s social dementia to overtake and finally poison the wider Western cultures’ mentality beyond redemption. It’s a different world now.