by Simplicius The Thinker
Well, strap in to your seats, folks, things are heating up and we’re in for a wild ride.
Putin’s big address came and went. And depending who you ask it was either a dud or full of eerie portent. The speech mostly focused on banal domestic and economic matters, hardly mentioning the SMO—at least not with the fiery rhetoric some of us expected.
However, there was an important theme laid out by Putin which confirms certain things we mentioned previously. Namely, that the focus of Russia will be on the human development of its people, its culture and values, and that Putin will not allow the country’s spirit and operations to be overshadowed by the SMO, or to fall into the trap of letting Western Atlanticist powers use the SMO to degrade the social fabric of society.
In short, in many ways this speech seemed to signal a firm taking of a stand on one side of the two poles of: full blown war, militarization of society, restructuring of the social/national consciousness around war and militarism.
And that of the second option: continuing the status quo of society ‘as is’, and not letting the war detract from important socio-economic and human-index development.
Now, one can hear the grumbles already. Many a deflated observer were hoping for a firebrand declaration, mass mobilizations and a barrage of threats against NATO/U.S. Well, to some extent you got them, just in Putin’s usual underhanded, ‘nod-and-a-wink’ demeanor. Not only did he announce the seminal suspension of the START III Treaty, which paves the way for all sorts of new nuclear developments and testing, but, also nonchalantly explained that Russia will continue taking more territory if U.S. continues sending longer-ranged weapons. Medvedev too fired a shot across the bow later that day with the threat that, ‘Russia can use nukes to defend itself’ against the West.
Rumors already swirled, last month, that Russia would ‘soon update its nuclear doctrine’ (not confirmed) to include the ability to use nuclear weapons not only in the scenario of ‘existential crisis’, but also that of 1. a mass-casualty terror event on Russian soil 2. critical Russian infrastructure being struck 3. Russian strategic infrastructure being struck (which has already happened, when Ukraine struck Russia’s strategic airbase holding the nuke-carrying Tu-95’s last year).
And what Putin said was true—the reason he gave for the suspension of the START III treaty was that the U.S. helped Ukraine strike the Russian strategic nuclear bases of Ryazan and Engels Airbase. The Tu-143 Soviet jet-powered drone used was proven by Russian investigators to have been modified with the technical help of U.S. engineers, likely in the area of the guidance system (adding GPS ability, etc).
So Putin’s reasoning was: why should U.S. inspectors be allowed (as ordained by the treaty) to come inspect our nuclear bases so that they can draw up intricate maps/charts of them to give to Ukraine for future strikes? Sure, you might argue, the base can be seen by satellite, and targets easily drawn up, why would the inspectors matter? Well, satellites can’t see the secret sites, inside hangars and depots, where the weapons and nukes are stored. The inspectors would necessarily have to access those areas (as per their job), and thus be able to give Ukraine distinct coordinates on how to strike Russia’s strategic reserves—not much different than OSCE’s underhanded espionage tactics in Donbass.
Some in the Russian blogosphere and punditry circles are taking the speech as confirmation, as Vladlen Tatarsky put it, that Putin has chosen to merely ‘endure’ the SMO, and that Russia will commit to a long, local grinding campaign in the Donbass, due to the inability to conduct mass maneuvers in the style of WW2.
Many people continue to jump to unfounded conclusions. For instance, while it’s true that Putin appeared to signal toward a ‘status quo’, which many disappointingly took to mean that Russia won’t be actuating a full ‘war-time economy’ as they so hoped, if you peer under the surface, there are some interesting movements which point to ‘far more than meets the eye’.
A Financial Times report showed that Russian Year On Year budget expenditures in January registered at a whopping 59% higher, which some pundits suggested could mean Russia’s 3%+ of GDP military spending could balloon as high as 12-15%—an enormous leap toward actualizing a real ‘war-time economy’.
After all, Putin announced a 43% hike to defense spending last year, but it seems there could be an even bigger ‘shadow budget’ taking shape beneath the surface. And this would be a good sign: that Russia is taking war-time armament and industrialization far more seriously than Putin’s lowkey speech implied.
Ultimately, we need to wait and see how Russia truly responds in this next ‘Phase’ to judge whether Putin is committing to the so-called ‘status quo’ slow-grind, or whether it’s just an act disguising far more serious preparations.
One Ukrainian General issued this forecast:
Russia is preparing to send hundreds of thousands of troops to the war in the coming weeks – General Romanenko
▪️This is a strategic reserve of the Russian Armed Forces, which numbers about 200,000 soldiers, said the former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant General Igor Romanenko.
▪️ “According to military logic, they are using the forces of this reserve to strengthen themselves in the east and try to fulfill Putin’s political task of taking the Donbass,” the general assures.
▪️The ex-deputy head of the General Staff noted that the reservists will be on the battlefield in the next month – in March.
According to him, the attack will happen in March, though some sources are still looking at the key February 24 anniversary date of the actual start of the SMO.
Another thing Putin’s speech subtly confirmed is the likely focus of Russia’s troops on securing Russian territory. Not only Donbass, but specifically Russian territory proper, from long range missile strikes. This jibes with what we outlined in a previous report regarding Putin’s #1 task and priority being that of securing constitutional Russian lands, which would necessitate the prioritization of liberating Kharkov, Sumy, and Donbass in order to push AFU forces back far enough that their long range systems can’t strike Russian soil.
Putin stated explicitly in his speech that, “the more long range weaponry the West supplies to Ukraine, the more territory Russia will have to take” to push Ukrainian lines back. This further corroborates various reports, some of which we posted last time, from UA troops/officials who continue to see Russia’s next phase offensives developing in the Donbass region, rather than the improbable and far-flung vectors like that of Belarus toward Lvov, etc.
More and more, reports continue to mount that Russian forces appear to be gathering in the Donbass region—not only near Donetsk/Avdeevka, but the southern sector—Mariupol to Zaporozhe, and large reserves in Kremennaya / north Lugansk / east Kharkov oblast. These are looking like the most probable vectors, barring some unforeseen maskirovka tricks.
And in fact, it’s increasingly looking like a stealth offensive has already begun. Today again there was news of major breakthroughs in the Kremennaya area, where Russian forces reportedly advanced 4km. And what’s more, is we’re seeing signs of major increases in Russian aerospace operations. For instance, in this video and this one, both from the Kremennaya area, Russian attack choppers of every sort, and planes, are visibly providing CAS to the advancing troops with a density of airpower we haven’t seen since the early days.
Further, there are increasing intermittent missile strikes. Whereas before, Russia would wait a week or two to launch one large grouping of strikes, now we are getting smaller pinpoint doses every day/night. Several days ago a Russian frigate fired off Kalibrs, then yesterday cruise missiles from tactical aviation were launched, as well as various drone strikes.
And the Sumy/Kharkov regions continue to be hammered by artillery from the Russian border for the first time in half a year. Again last night powerful strikes on Sumy were reported, which suggests ‘softening up’ operations.
As stated in one of the earlier reports, I was most partial to the idea of a ‘staggered’ offensive simply because it makes the most strategic sense. By staggering your advances, you can first intuit your enemy’s reaction, where they’re pulling their forces, how they’re moving their reserves, and then respond accordingly at their weak point. There does look to be like a concerted push from the Svatovo-Kremennaya direction with newly injected troops and increased airpower, while the north is being ‘softened up’ with artillery with some shaping strikes. However, the vast majority of new forces have not yet been committed so we are still awaiting either a major push from all sides or more staggered infusions of formations.
But, the CIA/SBU are not sitting idly by. As we said last time, it’s turning out that Transnistria (PMR) is in fact culminating into a dangerous thorn of hybrid activity. A raft of escalatory reports have come in today which weigh dangerously on the direction things are headed in.
We reported last time how the Moldovan president suddenly and belligerently announced that Russian troops need to be ‘expelled’ from Transnistria. Followed by the announcement of military exercises to be held Feb 21. – Feb. 23. Today, this was followed by Arestovich again releasing a statement (in deja vu of last year), that if only given the word, the AFU can seize the Russian garrison in Transnistria “in 3 days.”
Interestingly, TV station TVR in Romania broadcast a segment explaining that French Leclerc tanks in Romania are also there to ‘protect Moldova’ if necessary. This was also broadcast on TVM Moldova station.
“Recall that the first column with French military equipment, consisting of armored personnel carriers, arrived in Romania on October 23. The second column of French military equipment, consisting of a company of Leclerc tanks, arrived by rail in Brasov on November 16. In total, the French army brought 13 Leclerc tanks to Romania. Military equipment is intended to replenish the technical means of the NATO Battle Group Forward Presence (BGFP).”
Now, there are reports the AFU moved border guard units to within 2km of the Transnistrian border.
This isn’t far away from Kobasna, the location of the ‘largest ammo depot in all of Europe’(47.76043303138093, 29.20634523295087)—the same we mentioned last time, which Ukraine threatened to attack in April of last year:
It contains over 20,000 tons of armaments, something the depleted AFU would kill to get their hands on. Now, some of this might sound like hype, but there are too many moving pieces that attest to real goings on. Photos of Ukrainian BTRs appeared near the border:
But some were quick to dispel it, as there’s an agreement between Moldova and Ukraine that allows transits on that road, so it’s difficult to gauge (albeit that would make strange, coincidental timing). The below map claims to show where Ukrainian security forces were seen to move nearer the border.
But Moldova’s PM Dorin Recean reportedly affirmed Zelensky’s statement that ‘Russia plans to seize Chisinau airport’.
Later in the day, a flight track of NATO P-8A Poseidon (out of Sigonella base in Italy) with electronic data gathering suite seemed to show a very peculiar fixation on the region:
And, Putin revoked a 2012 decree signed with Moldova.
The order revoking the 2012 document was published on the Kremlin’s website and states that the decision was taken to “ensure the national interests of Russia in connection with the profound changes taking place in international relations”.
Here’s the full text of the decree revocation on the Kremlin’s official website: http://kremlin.ru/acts/news/70571
The page also links to the original 2012 decree in question. Most interesting of all is the point which says:
“Continue to actively participate in the search for solutions to the Transdniestrian problem based on respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral status of the Republic of Moldova in determining the special status of Transdniestria;”
So, in short, Putin just cancelled a decree which obligated Russia to respect the sovereignty of Moldova, specifically in question to the resolution of the special status of Transnistria. Do you see where this is going? Putin is laying the legal groundwork to be able to use force in a way that violates Moldova’s sovereignty—if necessary, of course.
Not long after, Moldova retaliated with an announcement that it will be annulling several treaties with the CIS states.
And the corporate media are doing the bidding of the MIC planners, dressing the stage for confrontation.
Our leader, getting it right and what we need right now: