Fandango: Def. – 1) a Spanish dance, or 2) tomfoolery (a foolish activity)
Most readers will have heard by now about increasing Russian aggression and troop movements in far eastern Ukraine. That’s the story we get – “Russian aggression”. Ukrainian forces, egged on by certain NATO partners, have chosen to forego talks with Lavrov over the increasing tensions in Ukraine. As a result, and reading from the 1st two parts of this series of posts, we hold the thought there will be no ‘conversation’ between the Ukrainian armed forces and Shoigu about the Donbass or Crimea. But the situation there is looking increasingly to be the case. Rumor has it that there may be a full assault on the Donbass by mid-April – the 15th to be exact – the date for the region to turn hot, or sometime in May at the latest. We need to have a look at this rapidly evolving situation.
Speaking of fandangos, CNN is reporting “Putin is playing with fire”, referring here to CNN’s reporting on Russian troop movements. The story is actually quite different. There are reports in the past weeks of Ukrainian forces, complete with Nazi flags, shelling villages in the Donbass, populated by civilians, even killing a 4½ year-old boy by a drone and a pensioner by sniper. There is no military objective there, no military installation. This appears to be nothing but a move to provoke a Russian response. It is also a war crime. But, the resistance in the Donbass is giving as good as it is getting. There are losses on both sides. So we see fire back and forth between Ukrainian and Donbass forces.
We have a kind of timeline on action, if there is to be any, with two American warships entering the Black Sea, one on the 14th and the other the day after, staying until the 8th of May. Keep that timeline in mind as we go along. There has been a flurry of diplomatic action in recent days. France and Germany are sitting on their hands. Ukrainian President Zelensky has tried to fast-track NATO membership by appealing the Canada, Jen Stoltenberg and the UK, which is a red line for Russia. He was essentially brushed off. NATO demands reforms be enacted and carried through before membership will be allowed. Zelensky is desperate and has painted himself into a corner.
The economic and pandemic situation in Ukraine worsens by the day. Ukraine is bogged down in negotiations with the IMF for further loans. Ukraine has been dependent on the IMF for its survival since the 2014 coup. Zelensky’s attempts at reforms to try to rein in the oligarchs have met increasing resistance from them, with increasing calls for him to be impeached. His position is impossible, and he is trapped, by his own actions and by Western demands. It seems fairly obvious to observers that he will have to back down or face disaster. In either case, his political fortunes are quickly coming to an end. That is the situation within Ukraine.
It has been a dream for years in the halls of power in the West to have Ukraine as a NATO member, complete with Western military bases and missiles on Russia’s border. This has especially been the goal in the Beltway, which sees Ukraine as the linchpin to Russian encirclement. If they cannot have Ukraine as a NATO member, then the aim is to draw Russia into conflict, which the Beltway hopes would cow the EU into submission, out of fear of a Russian attack, thus keeping the EU within the American orbit and tied to it financially. There is currently a battle of wills in the EU about where to turn – retain European sovereignty, reconstitute ties and NATO alliances with the US, or explore domains East. It is clear which way Europe should choose to the outside observer if the EU wants to prosper. NATO needs to dissolve, thus freeing Europe. The EU is at a crucial turning point in its history, to be addressed in a future post.
But to present matters, Ukraine is a fractious state, and the memory of when far western regions of Ukraine were parts of four other nations are still alive in the elderly of Ukraine and those four other states – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. The Soviets annexed those territories from the four aforementioned states during WWII. There are also strong memories across Eastern Europe of Soviet occupation post-WWII. Hence we see some of the roots of the anti-Russian sentiments in those states and across western Ukraine in general. We note also Crimea was Russian territory then. The map below shows the details:
The EU and the US have played on those anti-Russian sentiments since the collapse of the Soviet Union as a means to pull Ukraine into the Western orbit, with very mixed results. The post-Soviet Ukraine, when it gained its independence, retained the territory gained in WWII, but also gained the Ukrainian oligarchy, which has gone on to plunder the country (The linked video contains an interview with Bill Browder, wanted in Russia for the very things he is describing.), stashing their ill-gotten gains in offshore accounts and shell companies, with many of those oligarchs having settled in London and the US, with still a few having fled to Russia post-Maidan, since 2014. Lukashenko was one of the latter.
The situation for the public in the Ukraine is thus dire, given the corruption and lawlessness, aided by Western banks and financial interests, much as what we saw in Russia in the ‘90s, which only goes toward fracturing the state even further. Something has to give, and the middle of this month may well see the break point. But not everyone is so certain that will be the case.
Commentary by people who know Russia and Ukraine know very well what would happen if the government in Kiev decided to throw caution to the wind and invade the Donbass or Crimea. Such a move would be crushed in a matter of days, if not hours. From Ukraine’s astrology, which we examined in Part 2 of this series, we see there is no wider war indicated, nor a collapse of the regime in Kiev. But the possibility for a conflict is there nonetheless, shown by a transit of Mars square Ukraine’s Mars, and bolstered by a few other factors. The current transits for Ukraine are below (bigger):
The entire setup speaks to overconfidence, betrayal, agitation by opposition forces and defeat. We have the following:
- Overconfidence: Jupiter on Antivertex, opposing Mercury (ruling the military), opposing natal Jupiter (ruling 11th and 12th houses – alliances and secret enemies, resp.) Overconfidence is also shown by transiting Mars sextile natal Jupiter, bolstering confidence.
- Agitation by opposition forces: Transiting Eris on the 3rd house cusp sowing disinformation, transiting Sedna square natal Venus, the latter ruling the 4th house (opposition parties) and the 9th house (foreign relations).
- Betrayal and/or sabotage: Transiting Pluto quincunx natal Mercury/Vertex conjunction, Mercury ruling the 5th, 6th and 8th houses. This is further enhanced by transiting Neptune trine the MC (sitting government) from the 2nd house. Zelensky dreams of victory over Russia, not to mention saving himself. The transit through that house is highlighting the financial instability in the nation, with the hope that Western powers will pour financial support into Ukraine.
Then, to top that off, we have to add the transit of Uranus sesquisquare the natal Mars and semisquare transiting Mars, the latter also being out-of-bounds, increasing its potency. The potential for rash and sudden action is thus very great on the 15th of this month. But then, we also have to look at the directions. Those are below (bigger):
The most telling direction we see is that of directed Saturn opposite the natal Sun, marking a fall from grace and a defeat of leadership. Added to that, we have the combined directions of Mercury, Jupiter and the Vertex to the natal Mars, again highlighting overconfidence, increased militancy, a vision of a military victory and so forth. In other words, the Zelensky regime sees itself to be stronger than it really is and believes a narrative that is coming out of the Beltway and NATO that Ukraine would be supported in the event of military action. It is a false narrative. NATO has no intention of helping Ukraine if Ukrainian forces try to invade Donbass. The setup reminds one of the old ‘hold-my-beer-and-watch-this’ routine, which always ends in disaster.
The Western media is already turning up the volume on the ‘Russian threat of invasion’, with quite a bit of reporting on Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s border, with ‘Russian dreams’ of wanting to bring Ukraine back into the fold. The latter point is laughable from the Russian perspective. Russia will not invade Ukraine. And there is barely if any a mention of Ukrainian forces (16:10) and heavy weaponry massing on the disputed regions prior to the Russian moves. This comes along with misreporting on the domestic situation in Russia and Vladimir Putin’s ‘problems at home’, especially relating to Navalny. In fact, Putin has no concerns at all about Navalny and enjoys a high approval rating.
Aside from the preceding points, the Biden administration is poised to face a big test in its relations with Russia. There are people in the halls of power in the US who have a visceral hatred of Russia, and these people are pushing for confrontation and are behind the constant smears against Russia and Putin in the media. On the other side, there is a growing chorus of voices in the US who are calling for the Russia-haters to tone down the rhetoric.
If the Ukrainians are emboldened enough to start an offensive in the Donbass, then if Russia intervened (They would if it appeared the Donbass would be overrun.) then the Ukrainian army would have to abandon its positions. If that were to be the case it would be the end of Zelensky as well as the end of any illusions about the strength of the Ukrainian army, which is in a very poor state.
Patrick Armstrong, a long-standing Russia observer, has outlined the following sitrep on the state of play. A read through the links is most informative:
US propaganda organs are winding themselves up. Maybe the Russians have sent enough signals to make even the war-crazed in Kiev and Washington think twice. EW equipment in Donbass. Artillery exercise. Disappeared submarine in Med. Paratroop exercise in Crimea. Belarus-Russia exercise. All Black Sea Fleet subs at sea. Second disappeared submarine. Lots of ships in the Med. AD exercise in Crimea. Also a great deal of activity in Syria. And, just for fun, submarines in the high Arctic. So maybe nothing will happen. But, for sure, Moscow’s response will stun everybody.
There are three objectives the Western powers, led by the US, are aiming for in provoking a conflict in the Donbass. Such objectives would no doubt be attained if there is open conflict in the Donbass, even if it could be proven it was the Ukrainians who initiated the conflict. Those objectives are:
- The stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
- To separate off Russia from the rest of Europe, as Russia would be so heavily sanctioned after the fact and ostracised by the liberal establishments in the EU, UK, Canada and US. Russia would separate itself in kind. That would have unintended consequences for the West.
- To provoke a greater alliance due to the fear of ‘Russian aggression’ that would then, eventually, be able to face off against the combined strength of Russia, China and even Iran. Such would be the hope of the Western elites. That outcome is doubtful, though.
The key here in the objectives thus listed is to be able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it was Russia who intervened and started the conflict. That is highly unlikely to happen, the reason being the Russians are well aware of such a plan, have time on their side (They can wait for the completion of Nord Stream and have no desire to invade Ukraine. Washington cannot wait.), and have far more patience than the Western allies. They also have better intelligence services. So here is the kicker for the entire Ukraine scenario:
Without success in Ukraine for the West, their ability to form a formidable military alliance capable of confronting Russia and eventually China in the near future is finished, at least for now.
From the 1st bullet point above, we might well ask why stopping Nord Stream 2 is important in this Ukraine scheme. To avoid a thousand-word essay, the following picture shows us why:
The main trunk of gas supply from Russia to Europe used to run through Ukraine. The completion of the 1st Nord Stream in 2011 cut gas transit fees through Ukraine by around $720 million/year. It will lose $3 billion/year if/when Nord Stream 2 is completed. This has the gas mafia in Kiev up in arms, as well as the Poles and Baltic States. But there is more to the story. Completion of Nord Stream 2 will enable Russia and Germany to effectively bypass Ukraine in gas supply to Western Europe, and Germany would thus not be held hostage to gas supply through Ukraine. However, at the same time, cutting off supply to Ukraine would also adversely affect gas supply to Poland, Hungary, the Slovak Republic and Romania, all NATO members.
There is a deeper reason why the Beltway is trying to scuttle Nord Stream 2, though, and that relates to a feared industrial cooperation between Germany and Russia, one which would rival China and which would push the US to the margins in Europe. The NATO alliance would thereby become redundant, would greatly reduce US arms sales to EU states, would firmly establish Germany as the main powerhouse in the EU and would end the state of a perceived threat from Russia. In other words, Washington would lose its pride of place in Europe, as would the UK as an adjunct to US military power in the region.
Even establishment fish wrap like The Sun sometimes carry nuggets of truth, like this one: “Open war between Russia and Ukraine would force the West into an impossible situation.” The preceding paragraph outlines why. We have a sort of Catch-22 here between old rivals. Washington is watching growing disenchantment between itself and its old EU partners and wants to reaffirm its presence – in fact, dominance – in Europe, hence Biden’s affirmation that “America is back!” But France and Germany are not so sure, and they want those better business ties with Russia.
The US wants to revive its shale industry, too, aside from having dominance in EU affairs, but a broken Ukraine on the EU’s doorstep would not go well in the EU, added to the probable flood of refugees the conflict would produce. And if NATO fails to step into the fray, it will show up the hypocrisy and irrelevance of the organization. Who would trust any NATO promise or decree after that? Finally, if NATO were to step in, it would met with a severe trouncing, again showing up its weakness and irrelevance.
Ukraine and Ukrainians are being used by Washington as a tool against Russia. That has been the intent behind EU and NATO membership for Ukraine all along. Biden opened a Pandora’s Box when he gave the green light for the 2014 coup in Maidan. Now we are seeing the results of it. And from what we hear emerging in the last few days, war seems more and more likely in the Donbass. It is a very sad state of affairs for the people of Ukraine, who were led to believe Maidan would lead to an end of corruption and a better life for Ukraine’s citizens. They are about to get a very ugly awakening, whether there is war or not.
No nation is going to save Ukraine from its situation. Only the Ukrainian people can. So many states have designs on Ukraine and its assets, what little remains of the latter. Russia will not occupy Ukraine, nor will it likely invade. It doesn’t have to invade to be effective. NATO will not intervene, but it will sell all the American weapons to Ukraine the Ukrainians can go into debt for. A conflict will mean Russia will cut off all trade with Ukraine, including gas, probably. The domestic scene within Ukraine’s borders would then devolve very quickly. Corruption in Ukraine has been worse since Lukashenko was ousted in 2014, bad as it was then.
If all the preceding sounds dark, it is. But it is the reality of Ukraine’s present plight, nearly as independent commentary outlines it. And much of the blame for it lies at the feet of the Western powers, the US and UK especially. Perhaps Ukraine will eventually fracture, returning to its pre-WWII borders, leaving a rump agricultural land, but more at peace within itself. Let the West take back the old regions and deal with the consequences thereby.
At one time Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe. It does have resources. Its people will have to reinvent their state, but in the long term that would be a good thing, so long as it leads to greater prosperity for its people and better relations with its neighbors. And in the interim, Kiev needs a complete makeover, free of neo-Nazis and oligarchs. It probably goes without saying that will not come overnight, nor without another great upheaval. So, we meditate and pray for the people of Ukraine. Let them decide their own fate, without meddling by other powers.
If you want to keep track of what is going on at present in Ukraine, outside of Western or Ukrainian media mouthpieces, the following sites are recommended (not in any particular order):
In closing, we hear hysteria about a possible WWIII starting in the Donbass, but it ain’t gonna happen. That’s not the purpose. If war starts, it will be short, devastating and decisive. It will cause a serious reset of relations in the West. As Armstrong stated above, it will stun the West. And it will probably result in the eventual breakup of Ukraine. If this happens – and it still may not – we’ll re-examine things at that point. Zelensky has chosen a very silly fandango in sending heavy arms to the Donbass. It may be a Hail Mary move, or a suicide pill in disguise.
But there is one more possibility, among many. In the first week of May, if nothing has happened untoward before then, Mars transits sesquisquare the Ukrainian MC. Zelensky could be ousted, or possibly step down. There is a coincident transit of Venus across the IC at that point, energizing opposition parties and favouring them, Venus ruling the 4th and 9th houses. Perhaps an offer of asylum? Zelensky is isolated and desperate. Who knows? It would fit with the Saturn direction opposite the Ukrainian Sun. Whatever happens, we carefully watch this space.
Update on 15 April:
Since this was first posted there has been some movement – toward a stalemate or a delay of the rumoured date, which was today, or even an eventual draw-down of forces on both sides. However, at the moment Ukraine continues to move heavy armor and troops to the line of separation at the Donbass and has amassed an estimated 40,000 troops there. Russia has responded with 200,000 troops at the Ukrainian border. CNN has done a stunning piece of misreporting, calling the Russian build-up ‘Russian aggression’. It was a propaganda piece complete with pictures trying to portray a Ukrainian rail station as Russian. It was Ukraine who started amassing troops and armor in the line of separation at the first of March, with Russia starting its deployment in April in response to Ukraine.
The G7 has issued a strangely-worded statement in the past days calling on all sides to seek a political and diplomatic solution to the tensions. In other words, the G7 is stating diplomatically that Ukraine must adhere to the Minsk Protocol, which Ukraine has routinely broken and wants to ignore. Russia is not a party to the Protocol and was only a facilitator. Even Ukrainian officials are now saying there must be a political solution to the current tensions. It was clear what would happen if a hot conflict erupted, and reality has dawned in Kiev. Now Ukraine and the Western partners are looking for face-saving measures instead of conflict. If the standoff lasts past the end of May, when Mars goes back inbounds, then the tensions will amount to a non-event.
Given Russian warnings and seeing the massed troops, Biden broke the standoff and called Putin, proposing face-to-face (video-linked) talks at the coming climate summit in a week (22 – 23 April) to discuss solutions to the situation in Ukraine. Then he promptly slapped silly sanctions on Russia and the talks were called off. The two warships have been recalled from the Black Sea after being warned by Russia it would be better if they were not there. US foreign policy seems to be all over the place, lacking coherency. But there are few good options for Russia if war breaks out, even if war is looking less and less likely given the flurry of diplomatic speak.
There is another option short of an all-out war that would show real promise, and that would be to evacuate the residents of Donbass (opened w/o paywall here) in the event of war, as upwards of a half-million (machine translate) of those now have Russian passports. That would leave Ukraine and NATO scratching their heads and being left to clean up their mess. And it would be legal, as it would be classed as a humanitarian evacuation. It is also possible (emphasis added):
Here, we have to pay careful attention to the official pronouncements Putin has made over the years, and to take them as face value. First, he said that Russia does not need any more territory; it has all the land it could ever want. Second, he said that Russia will follow the path of maximum liberalization in granting citizenship to compatriots and that, in turn, the well-being of Russia’s citizens is a top priority. Third, he said that resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine through military means is unacceptable. Given these constraints, what courses of action remain open?
The answer, I believe, is obvious: evacuation. There are around 3.2 million residents in Donetsk People’s Republic and 1.4 million in Lugansk People’s Republic, for a total of some 4.6 million residents. This may seem like a huge number, but it’s moderate by the scale of World War II evacuations. Keep in mind that Russia has already absorbed over a million Ukrainian migrants and refugees without much of a problem. Also, Russia is currently experiencing a major labor shortage, and an infusion of able-bodied Russians would be most welcome.
Imagine the reaction to such a turn of events in the West. It goes to show what people are thinking, as in outside the box, and what is possible instead of war or stalemate. But until we see troop and equipment drawdowns, starting with Ukraine, the chance of war remains high – after May, less so. From what we are hearing out of the West, the folks in Kiev are being strongly encouraged to take some Valium and settle down.
Featured pic from Getty Images