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Nuclear

Vladimir Putin

First came the phony referendums; then came the phony annexation; then came the very real re-taking by Ukraine of the strategic hub Lyman, lying within the “annexed” territories; then came a prominent Russian leader threatening the use of tactical nuclear weapons; then came another Ukrainian victory in an area held by Russian military forces near Kherson in the South; and then came a new Ukrainian push, taking the village of Torske on the main road leading east out of Lyman.

It's been a busy few days in Ukraine, and reports from the front indicate it’s going to get even busier. The Ukrainian offensive in Kherson has taken more land in the area “annexed” by Russia last week, ignoring Vladimir Putin’s threat that he won’t stand for what he calls “New Russia” being attacked by Ukraine.

Putin’s threats are pure bullshit and contrast with the facts on the ground in Ukraine, where his army is in retreat, and his own political standing in Russia, where his back is against the wall from both left and right.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's southern Chechnya region and a close ally of Putin’s, hasn’t been happy with the performance of the Russian army in Ukraine for quite a while. Just before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed his country by video announcing the gains in the east and south, Kadyrov went on Telegram to proclaim, "In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”

Putin is facing increased opposition from arch-conservative supporters of his war as well as continued, if quieter, opposition from the left. Right-wing so-called “war bloggers,” some of whom are embedded with Russian units in Ukraine, have complained steadily of late about their troops on the front lines, shortage of ammunition, food, medical supplies, and their lack of discipline and morale. Their complaints were shown to be accurate in Ukraine’s rout of Lyman. Russian forces abandoned tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile howitzers, and ammunition stores as they fled from the Ukrainian advance to the east of Kharkiv.

Reuters reported that Kadyrov called the commander of Russian forces in Lyman a “mediocrity who should be stripped of his medals and sent to the front.” He claimed to have warned the Russian army chief Valery Gerasimov of “a looming disaster” in Lyman, according to Reuters. Russia had used Lyman, a major rail hub in the region, as the central location of its resupply efforts in the Luhansk province of the north Donbas region.


Map by George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Noel Mikkelsen, Daniel Mealie, and Will Kielm2022 by Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project


Re-taking Lyman is an important psychological boost for Ukraine and a strategic victory in its campaign to re-take the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces of the Donbas, which Russia has held since early in the war.

In the south, Ukrainian media have shown troops raising Ukrainian flags over the village of Khreshchenivka, west and a little north of Kherson itself, according to the Associated Press. Ukraine’s army has been using American-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to hit a bridge over the Dnipro River in Kherson and has been attacking pontoon bridges used by Russian forces to resupply their troops on the west bank of the Dnipro, the AP reported.

Russia used a suicide drone to strike Zelensky’s hometown of Krivyi Rih, destroying two floors of a school on Sunday. The Ukrainian Air Force said that it had shot down five Iranian-made drones. Two others made it through Ukrainian air defenses, according to the AP, which reported that not all accounts of Ukrainian military activity could be verified.

The Ukrainian victory in Lyman came just one day after Putin held a rally in Moscow to celebrate his fake annexation of four regions of eastern Ukraine. In an unhinged speech on Friday, Putin had described Lyman as part of “Novorossiya.” He was talking about a sliver of Ukraine he claimed as part of Russia’s “historic heartland.” Russia is the world’s largest country, spanning 11 time zones, not including Ukraine, although Putin has asserted control of eastern Ukraine’s time of day as well, including it within the westernmost time zone of Russia.

The New York Times reported that “Yevgeny Primakov, the head of a government agency managing ties with Russians abroad, wrote on Telegram that ‘we have given a Russian city to the enemy’ for the first time since World War II.”

Boo-fucking-hoo, Yevgeny.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

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Among the highly classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago was at least one that detailed the military defenses of a foreign nation, including its nuclear capabilities. The Washington Post is reporting that these documents were so tightly guarded that access to them could be granted only by the president and select cabinet members.

Reportedly, these documents are among the most closely held and valuable secrets the U.S. possesses. Obtaining such information can take years, or decades, and may require conducting extensive analysis, the expenditure of many millions of dollars, and even endangering the lives of numerous agents.

Not only are these documents of exceptional value, they are also acutely dangerous. Such documents are rarely, if ever, shared—not even with allies. Making such a document available to someone who should not see it could seriously destabilize whole regions, making war much more likely. Even nuclear war.

As described, these are documents are well beyond “top secret.” These are “need-to-know” documents, limited to a very small number of people at the highest level of government. Reportedly, some of these documents are so restricted that no one in the Biden administration except President Joe Biden is authorized to review them. Nonetheless, the Post reports that “such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.”

Imagine any two countries with a long history of animosity. Israel and Iraq. Pakistan and India. North and South Korea. Now imagine giving one of them all that the U.S. military knows about the defenses of their opponent—including how many nuclear weapons they have, where they’re stored, what kind of threat each poses. Or, imagine walking up to a representative from Russia or China and offering to show them everything that the United States knows about their own military.

At best, the outcome would be a hasty rearrangement of resources and weapons, negating much of the value of U.S. intelligence. At worst, the outcome could be war.

These are documents that could completely alter the balance between two rivals. Revealing such a document could also severely weaken the national security of the United States. It’s hard to imagine anything else that Donald Trump might have left lying around that represents a greater threat to the stability and well-being of the entire planet.

After previously reports suggested that documents related to nuclear weapons were among those sought at Mar-a-Lago, Trump, predictably, called the story “a hoax. just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax.”

A bipartisan Senate committee led by Republicans concluded that Trump’s campaign had over 100 contacts with Russian agents, provided information they knew was going to high levels in the Russian government, and sought more assistance from Russia. That report concluded that some of these actions “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

So if that’s how Donald Trump defines a “hoax,” then yes, maybe this is another one. An even more grievous one.

In the detailed list of documents subpoenaed from Trump were some including the “S/FRD” sub-classification in addition to top secret. This abbreviation is “reserved for information that relates primarily to the military use of nuclear weapons.”

In addition to these documents, some were labelled “HCS,” for human intelligence. The sources for these documents will likely now have to be exfiltrated where possible, or otherwise abandoned. Simply the chance that their identities have been compromised is enough to make any future information from these sources suspect.

At the moment, any investigative action that the federal government might take related to this material has been frozen by Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon, who ruled on Sunday night that Trump should be granted his request for a “special master” to review all seized documents and sort out any over which he might have some form of privilege. If the ruling is not overturned on appeal, the level of classification connected to these documents makes the pool of available masters vanishingly small.

Trump has repeatedly stated—though not in court—that he has declassified all material coming to Mar-a-Lago. However, not only does this contradict both practice and law concerning how documents are classified and declassified, documents at this level are never declassified.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.