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Monday, December 09, 2019

Russia

Vladimir Putin

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Militarily and politically as well as economically, the war in Ukraine has been a major drain on Russia. President Vladimir Putin and his allies in the Kremlin were hoping for a quick, easy invasion, but Ukrainian forces have been much more skillful fighters than Putin anticipated.

Moreover, the invasion of Ukraine has had an unintended consequence: the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sweden and Finland, for many years, stayed out of NATO; in 2022, they applied for membership. And U.S. President Joe Biden, in contrast to former President Donald Trump’s anti-NATO views, has welcomed NATO’s expansion.

Despite all that, an obstinate Putin is determined to keep fighting in Ukraine. But Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter, is predicting that Putin’s days as president of Russia will be ending sooner rather than later.

During a Monday, January 30 appearance on CNN, the 50-year-old Gallyamov argued that because of all the hardship the war is causing in Russia, Putin will likely be removed from power via a military coup.

Gallyamov told CNN’s Erin Burnett, “The Russian economy is deteriorating. The war is lost. There are more and more dead bodies returning to Russia; so, Russians will be coming across more difficulties, and they'll be trying to find an explanation why this is happening, looking around to the political process. And they'll be answering themselves: 'Well, this is because our country is governed by an old tyrant, an old dictator.’”

The former Putin speechwriter, born in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 1972, predicted that a military coup will occur in Russia sometime within the next 12 months.

“So, in one year, when the political situation changes and there's a really hated unpopular president at the head of the country and the war is really unpopular — and they need to shed blood for this, at this moment — a coup becomes a real possibility,” Gallyamov told Burnett.

The United States isn’t the only country that is having a presidential election next year; Russia has one scheduled for March 2024. But Gallyamov fears that Putin may cancel Russia’s 2024 elections, which will only add to the tensions in that country.

Gallyamov told Burnett, “Judging by his actions, when he is escalating on something without necessity, he might really cancel the elections. Without victory over Ukraine, he'll face difficulty with the Russians. Russians don't need him if he's not strong. He might really declare the martial law and cancel the elections.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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Ukraine troops operate howitzer
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A “western official” said at a briefing in London that casualties in Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine have reached the 200,000 mark, “with a similar number killed and wounded on either side,” according to a report in The Guardian. There is an argument by experts that Russia’s losses are greater than Ukraine’s because more of their soldiers have been killed in the war. No matter how you look at it, however, it is a bloody, deadly war for the soldiers out there in the wintry cold in the trenches.

As the war has settled into a so-called war of attrition, many soldiers on both sides are being killed by artillery strikes. It’s hard to imagine the terror on that battlefield. 155 mm howitzers can fire accurately (or inaccurately, as the case may be) from 15 miles behind the front lines. That means the Ukrainian soldiers defending towns like Bakhmut and trying to retake Donetsk never hear Russian cannons when they go off. The standard American M107 projectile and its Russian equivalent weigh about 95 pounds, and its passage through the air is audible as a high-pitched whistle. The American M107 is designed to produce as many as 2,000 separate fragments when it explodes. It is likely the Russian 155 projectile is just as deadly, so the terror among soldiers when one of these monsters whistles overhead is unknowable. Unless the artillery strike ends up in the middle of a field, as I showed in a satellite image a couple of weeks ago, the sound a shell makes as it flies through the air means someone is going to die.

The big story last week was that the U.S. was giving serious consideration to sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but President Biden shot down that prospect yesterday when he answered a question about the F-16’s with a single word: “No.” It is not known how or why U.S. officials came to that decision, but it may have been because reports in the media held that such a move would be an “escalation” in the war.

That is total bullshit. Since the war began, Russia’s air force has flown combat missions over Ukrainian airspace using their missiles to hit targets in population centers such as Kharkiv, as well as to strike Ukrainian military targets on the ground. In fact, every time the U.S. has stepped up its shipments of weapons to Ukraine, Russia has called it an escalation. They did it when we first supplied Ukraine with our HIMARS mobile missile launchers which are able to place accurate fire on targets miles beyond the reach of 155 mm howitzers.

Russia called it an escalation when we supplied Ukraine with ground-based Avenger radar-controlled anti-aircraft missiles. Russia called it an escalation when it was announced that the U.S. would provide Ukraine with its longer-range Patriot guided anti-missile batteries. Now that Germany will send 14 of its Leopard II tanks and the U.S. will supply Ukraine with 31 Abrams M1 tanks, Russia has charged once again that it marks an escalation in the war. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said last month that NATO and American supplies of sophisticated weapons systems to Ukraine could “trigger” a nuclear response by Russia. “Western powers are pushing the world to a global war,” Medvedev bellowed, apparently in response to criticism by Russian hard-liner Viktor Alksnis that a Russian defeat by Ukraine would lead to Russia’s “shameful capitulation and its subsequent breakup.”

In case Medvedev and Alksnis hadn’t noticed, Russian T-72 tanks rolled across the Belarussian and Russian borders last February 24, accompanied by every kind of armored personnel carrier in their arsenal. Russia deployed its SA-6 surface to air mobile missile systems against Ukraine’s small air force. Russia deployed its BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers on day one. In fact, many of the fragments of rockets shown in the photograph above are from Russian Grad rockets that failed to explode in a December rocket attack on Kharkiv. How is anything an escalation against that?

It's not an escalation to match an aggressor weapon-for-weapon, and so far that is exactly what Ukraine and its western allies have done. Putin and his fellow-bellowers can try to spin it any way they want, but not even using American F-16 fighters would be an escalation in Ukraine’s war to defend itself from the Russian army that has attacked and seized part of Ukrainian territory.

Vladimir Putin knows this. His generals know this. It’s past time for American media to stop echoing Russian propaganda by calling our shipment of increasingly sophisticated and deadly weapons to Ukraine an escalation. When you’re under attack, especially by forces that have been deliberately bombing civilian targets since day one, you fight back with anything you can get your hands on. That’s all Ukraine is doing, and we should help them by sending F-16’s and longer range mobile rocket systems that can strike Russian targets in Crimea. It’s fair and it’s the right thing to do. If Russia doesn’t want its army to face Abrams tanks and HIMARS missiles on the battlefield, and if they don’t want their fighter jets shot down by Patriot missiles, they should pull their forces out of Ukraine and go home.

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.

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