More to ignore, Book 56........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine update: About Moldova, Transnistria, and the obvious solution to that problem
kos

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Donbas separatists charge into battle in Ukraine flying the Novorossiyan flag.

Very few of us would’ve had occasion to know about a place called Transnistria. The current war in Ukraine has disabused us of that notion. Russia wants it inside its borders in the worst way.


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Russian-backed separatist regions

Transnistria is a breakaway region in the small, poor nation of Moldova (pop. 2.6 million). It is one of several separatist regions in former Soviet states, including Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Donbas region, of course, designed and supported by Russia to destabilize its neighbors and prevent them from joining the European Union and/or NATO. The transatlantic alliance, in particular, prohibits membership to countries with ongoing conflicts.


Transnistria is also the easternmost edge of Russia’s Novorossiya (or “New Russia”) territorial expansion, because current giant-ass Russia is never big enough.

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Don’t be shocked to learn that this region is both rich in natural gas deposits and would dramatically increase Russia’s strategic coverage of the Black Sea (while also denying Ukraine, that petulant, ungrateful child, their own ocean access.) Russia pretends that it’s about protecting Russian-speakers from imagined persecution. But as usual, these territorial ambitions are about natural resources.

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The flag of Novorossiya, looking quite … confederate-y.

In recent weeks, Western and Ukrainian intelligence have warned of impending Russian action in Transnistria, with several “false flag” events trying to either compel the region’s entrance into the war or justify direct Russian intervention. There are already 1,500-2,000 Russians in the region, ostensibly to guard the Cobasna depot, the largest Soviet-era depository of ammunition in eastern Europe. While Russia claims Ukraine wants its hands on the 22,000 tons of ammo stored at the facility, it is by all indications old, rusty, leaky, and inoperable. Seems like an ecological nightmare, actually, and still incredibly dangerous. Moldova’s Academy of Sciences has warned that an explosion at the depot would be "equivalent to the atomic bombs from Hiroshima and Nagasaki."


Russia has staged several false flag events over the last couple of weeks, here, here, here, and possibly here, as it gins up the local populace for … something. There are two theories:

1) The first is that Russia, desperate for cannon fodder, wants to drag the region into the war. Outside fodder is of particular value, since it protects Vladimir Putin from the domestic consequences of his idiotic war. Russian mothers can threaten his regime. Mothers from Chechnya, Transnistria, Syria, Libya, and those other breakaway regions? No one in Russia cares.

Thing is, Transnistria is tiny, with a population of only 347,000. Its army is only around 5,000 large, and is more of a local militia than trained force. Russia would have no problem feeding those soldiers into the Donbas wood chipper, but Transnistria has zero interest in surrendering its youth to Russia, or to give Moldova a military opening to reassert control over the region.


Not that Moldova could take advantage of any such situation. Its army has only 5,000 soldiers and is poorly equipped and trained. Russia could’ve waltzed in before invading Ukraine.


2) The other possibility is an outright invasion of Moldova, using the Transnistria garrison, along with an amphibious landing south of Odesa, to take near-defenseless Moldova and subsequently open up another front on the Ukrainian border. Russia loves opening new fronts.

Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko literally revealed a map with Russian designs on Transnistria. (Something Kamil Galeev believes was purposeful sabotage.)

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Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko giving away Russia’s game.

Russia has repeatedly hit a bridge connecting Odesa to Ukrainian lands to its south, which would cut off defensive reinforcements during a Russian amphibious landing, and not only is the Russian garrison in Transnistria on alert, but their families are being evacuated to Russia.


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As I wrote previously, this would be so patently idiotic it can’t possibly be under serious consideration: “Would Russia really be stupid enough to open up yet another front, spreading out its troops even further, and risk additional naval losses, for a logistically unsupported assault on a piece of land with zero value to the current war effort in Ukraine?”

That chunk of Ukrainian territory south of Odesa is marshy, full of sand banks, and lacks a major port for resupply. (A small one can be blown by Ukraine if an amphibious assault materializes.) The area has scant roads, with the best route into Transnistria within easy Ukrainian artillery range, in a place remote enough that Russia couldn’t protect its forces from the Ukrainian Air Force. And good luck not running out of fuel before ever getting to Transnistria.

The Russian garrison is light infantry, no tanks, and I’ve seen suggestions that it is heavily made up of locals with issued Russian passports. In other words: mall cops. Ukraine has blown all bridges to Transnistria and has kept a watchful eye, but it hasn’t seemed particularly concerned as it moved troops previously stationed in Odesa to the Kherson theater. If Russia could mobilize those troops for something useful, it would.

So if a Moldovan invasion is too stupid to attempt, and Transnistria is uninterested in killing off a sizable chunk of its youth, why else would Russia be stirring up trouble? It could be as simple as an attempt to “fix” Ukrainian forces near Odesa, pinning them down on the off-chance Russia manages to pull something off, instead of committing them to the main areas of conflict.

Either way, Moldova is helpless to do anything about anything. It’s just too weak, the poorest nation in Europe with nominal GDP per capita of only $3,096 per year. (The second-poorest is Ukraine; endless war is not lucrative, all part of Russia’s designs.) But there is an answer, and it has to do with its far better-off (though still poor) next-door neighbor, Romania (nominal GDP per capita of $15,000) .

Moldova speaks Romanian, and in fact, it was a founding territory of the country of Romania.

Most of Moldovan territory was a part of the Principality of Moldavia from the 14th century until 1812, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Ottoman Empire (to which Moldavia was a vassal state) and became known as Bessarabia. In 1856, southern Bessarabia was returned to Moldavia, which three years later united with Wallachia to form Romania, but Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bessarabia briefly became an autonomous state within the Russian Republic, known as the Moldavian Democratic Republic. In February 1918, the Moldavian Democratic Republic declared independence and then integrated into Romania later that year following a vote of its assembly. The decision was disputed by Soviet Russia, which in 1924 established, within the Ukrainian SSR, a Moldavian autonomous republic (MASSR) on partially Moldovan-inhabited territories to the east of Bessarabia.

Reintegration with Romania makes sense in every way possible. Economically, Moldova would gain immediate entry into the European Union. Militarily, Moldova would gain protection from both Romania’s more capable armed forces, as well as instant NATO protection. Transnistria would remain a festering problem—the 1992 war that carved out the territory was sparked in part because of unification talks. But the separatist region could be left to its own devices, along with another restless Moldovan region, Gagauzia (pop. 134,000), in Moldova’s southern tip. (Romania’s constitution forbids special regions based on ethnicity.)

Romanians dig the idea, with 74% supporting unification in a 2018 poll. Romanian land mass would increase, and the country would receive a population boost at a time of massive demographic decline (pop. 19 million in 2020, down from 23 million in 1990). Moldova has been less enthusiastic. In January of this year, two polls showed unification support at 34% and 38%, with around half of respondents in opposition. However, that was when few believed Russia would so brazenly invade a neighbor. Moldova is now desperately looking to the EU for security guarantees, and that Romanian reunification might suddenly start looking a lot better.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine Update: One side knows how to fight a war, and it's not Russia
kos

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A Ukrainian T-80, captured from Russia, operating somewhere in the Kharkiv region. Russia is one of the most prolific arms suppliers to Ukraine ... inadvertently.

This past Monday, a local Telegram account gave us the first inkling something was happening near Kharkiv, in Ukraine’s northeast. The account claimed that Ukraine had pushed Russians out of Staryi Saltiv, well east of the last known Ukrainian positions around Kharkiv (as well as complained that withdrawing Russians had run over his aviary). It’s as if Ukraine had leap-frogged a whole string of villages en route to the key city on the Donets. Today, we finally got confirmation from Ukraine General Staff that they had, indeed, taken all the towns between Kharkiv and Staryi Saltiv.


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Ukrainian gains east/northeast of Kharkiv, in light yellow.

Ukraine General Staff’s
territorial claims have always been extremely conservative, usually lagging early reports by days. In this case, four to five days. They don’t just want to take the town, they want to be sure they can hold it. Perhaps Russia doesn’t even know what’s happening, given the poor state of their communications equipment and systems. Waiting also keeps Russia’s general staff guessing.

Ukraine is also gaining ground west of Izyum, the territory Russia won by pushing in the exact opposite direction from their main objective—the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk to Izyum’s
southeast.

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White marks the territory Ukraine has retaken, west of Izyum.

Russia’s Izyum salient has been frozen since last … Friday or so, about a week, despite being the most heavily reinforced axis of the entire war with around 22 battalion tactical groups (BTG).


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A BTG, on paper, is supposed to have 1,000 men, 10 tanks, and 40 infantry fighting vehicles. The reality is around half that. The Ukrainian side lists brigades, which are around 2-3x the strength of a BTG. (Henry Schlottman|@HN_Schlottman on Twitter)

Why has Russia stopped advancing, and is now losing ground, in its most heavily reinforced part of Ukraine? Because, here we go again, they can’t manage long supply lines. Look how long the Izyum supply lines are:


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Supply lines in purple.

Directly north of Izyum, that entire stretch of major highway is in range of Ukrainian artillery, and just like they did around Sumy earlier in the war, Ukraine has feasted on Russian equipment.




Meanwhile, see all that white on the map above? That’s territory recaptured by Ukraine in recent days. That means even more of that supply line is exposed to indirect Ukrainian artillery fire, and so is the town of Volchansk, on the Russian border—the primary road and rail supply line from the key Russian city of Belgorod.

Indeed, the collapse of Russian lines around Kharkiv has become so dire that Russia’s border is at risk, with Belgorod within range of Ukrainian artillery. Russia seemingly has no choice but to reinforce, but … from where?

Not Izyum, that’s for sure. Russia is getting spanked there.



In the Severodonetsk direction, Russia picked up one village and crept ever closer to that city. Their problem is that Russia is still fighting for territory on the north side of the Donets river. Ukraine has plenty of room to retreat tactically, trading territory for blood until they hit the river. And for all its troubles, Russia is then stuck on the wrong side of the river, where Ukraine’s defenses are even stronger. (I wrote about the importance of rivers for Ukraine’s defense in late March.)

In other words, Ukraine isn’t even at its strongest defensive position yet in that corner of the front lines. That’s why Izyum was so important—it’s the first and only place where Russia managed to cross the Donets, thus threatening Ukraine’s rear.


There’s nothing anywhere near Izyum or Severodonetsk to send to the border near Kharkiv. Nor Kherson down south, also under pressure from Ukrainian counter-offensives. The troops pulled out of Mariupol are going to the Donetsk direction, just north of Mariupol, where Russian troops are also stuck. Russia has really made a mess of things!


From the very beginning, Russia had too few troops for such a big country. It diluted those troops across too many axes of attack. It pulled out of the Kyiv area after a bloody debacle, but Russia is still spread too thin, and attacks at random, without consideration of any broader strategic goal like that push west of Izyum. Those attacks are the usual drip-drip-drip, proving daily that Russia simply cannot open the spigot and attack en masse. It never has, and seemingly never will.

Ukraine has played it smart, playing rope-a-dope with Russia, attriting its forces, pinning them down, and then counter-attacking judiciously, never over-committing, but probing weaknesses in Russia’s lines. It’s no mistake that Ukraine is counterattacking in the two regions (Kharkiv and Kherson) that have the fewest number of committed Russian forces.

Ukraine is still not ready for a true massed counteroffensive—Russia’s advantage in artillery and air support make that too risky. But the balance shifts slowly toward Ukraine every single day, with every tank and artillery gun destroyed, with every warplane and helicopter shot down, and with every Russian and proxy soldier taken off the field.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2014
102,680
18,405
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The Susan Collinsest Susan Collins That Ever Susan Collinsed
ShowerCap

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Wooooooo…rough one this week, even by the weary, battered standards of the year two thousand twenty-two. Well, grab yourself a beer, or a whiskey, or a great big slice of cake, or, I dunno, your favorite tentacle porn video, whatever gets you goin’, and let’s stare this ****er straight in the eye, if only to let it know we’re not afraid........
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So, I’m guessing by now you’ve heard about Sammy Alito’s little Guess Whose Rights I’m Taking Away This Summer essay. I have to say, there’s nothing quite so disturbing as a Republican reveling in his own abuse of power; and of course, punishing so many uppity women all at once, conceivably for generations yet to come, is every religious fanatic’s wettest dream made reality. So it’s pretty gross out there.

Within the snug, padded confines of the wingnut outrage bubble, (“Where YOU’RE always the victim, no matter whose neck your boot is crushing!”) the real scandal here isn’t a deranged, illegitimate, theocrat court abusing their purloined authority to steal millions of Americans’ rights, in vicious defiance of the public will, but rather…that the opinion leaked.

Because I guess the plan was to keep the whole thing secret. Quiet, like. Slide it into the Friday news dump, everybody just shrugs and moves on to whatever’s on HBO.

I understand that rationality isn’t really a “thing” on the right these days, but they truly seem to expect folks to docilely accept the steady erosion of their rights by a resentment-fueled, kakistocrat minority. Which is precisely the sort of crap that led to America in the first place, if you think about; congratulations on devolving into a tawdry parody of the villains in your own national founding myth.

Now, we’ve all seen this day coming, and we all knew exactly how Susan Collins would behave when it came, but actually sitting through the obscene spectacle of her sputtering, stupid, self-justifying lies made me puke on my shoes. Fortunately, I keep a pair for just such occasions; they were still a bit crusty from that gloaty lecture she delivered when she stuck the nation with Kavanaugh in the first place.

Incidentally, the Senator from Moderate Cloud Cuckoo Land has already announced she won’t be backing Senate Dems’ reproductive rights bill, offering an unusually insulting bit of swiftly-debunked horseshit as justification, because she’s Susan Collins, and these are simply the sorts of things one does when one is Susan Collins. It would be funny, I suppose, if it weren’t for all the senseless human suffering she’s caused.

And of course, various regional cells of the American Taliban have all sorts of additional legislative vileness on tap, eager to test the limits of this mad new majority’s tolerance for authoritarianism. I don’t imagine we’ve seen the last wave of ****ery out of Anti Choicey Barrett and her power-drunk gang of thugs, is all I’m saying........
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****ing hell. Well, let’s switch to a lighter topic for a minute, like Ukraine, and the War of Misguided Russian Aggression, where Vladimir Putin’s multifaceted master plan gallops along with nary a hitch.

See, Poots
wanted the world to spend three weeks watching his cut-rate military fail and fail and fail to capture the Azovstal steel plant; it serves the nifty dual function of providing endless hours of content documenting senseless civilian suffering, which happens to be the fuel that runs the engine that’s been delivering that merciless supply of increasingly-powerful western weapons that keep popping up on the other side of the ol’ battlefield, AND advertising the inescapable incompetence of his own forces, as if to demonstrate to the entire world that he is helpless to prevent them from kicking him while he’s down, so mired is he in this mess of his own making.

Good luck with your speech, though. Gonna go great.........
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And you gotta love the off-the-record-wink-wink victory lap the Biden Administration is taking over providing the intelligence Ukraine has used to take out Russian generals n’ warships n’ such; Joe’s practically playing “why’re you hitting yourself” with the big, scary KGB man........
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Meanwhile, the Russian diplomatic corps seems determined to equal the self-destructive incompetence of their comrades in the field. Sergey Lavrov, who is somehow Foreign Minister of a regime that fancies itself a superpower, figured that what this fraught moment called for was a casual, “Look, Hitler was basically Jewish,” no doubt earning himself an amusing little sidebar in the diplomacy school textbooks of tomorrow.

One is tempted to suggest that Vlad just isn’t sending his best, but he totally is, isn’t he? There doesn’t appear to be a solitary strong link in the entire Russian chain of command...........
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The Failing New York Times debuted an experimental new horror section, publishing a three-part deep dive into Tucker Carlson, the throbbing, acid-spewing tumor at the heart of ascendant American fascism, and the apparatus he uses to spread his infection: the tauntingly Orwellian Fox News Channel. Here in this childishly scatological blog, we’ve seen Liar Tuck for the assiduous manufacturer of goose-stepping terrorists he is for a while now, but it’s nice to see th’paper of record finally catching up..........
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Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are not, I’m sad to report, behind bars where they belong, but actively campaigning for J.D. Vance, who, as the sort of fellow who willingly associates with violence-inciting maniacs and child molesters, would, I think, make for a very poor Senator indeed. Congrats on your big primary “victory,” J.D., though I imagine that painting in your attic is in rough shape by now..........

Speaking of Republican primaries, I see the death cult felt like spicing up the expected slate of Q-addled shitwits, nominating a charming fellow who finds himself currently incarcerated for KILLING HIS CANCER-STRICKEN WIFE with a “concrete, gallon-sized flower pot.” Andrew Wilhoite, you’re gonna fit right in.......
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The shittier the human the better, as far as Cult45 is concerned. God knows Idaho Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin has been having the time of her life, wallowing in the white nationalist hog pen she tripped into a few weeks back, at Nick Fuentes’ Grievance Gala for the White and Subpar. Cool friends, Janice.........
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Greg Abbott’s sorry bid for his own fifteen MAGA minutes failed to capture the mob’s attention, let alone their adoration, and now he’s just the guy who gave some undocumented migrants a bus ride to D.C. at Texas taxpayers’ expense. Real nice work, kid.

People who attempt things as foolish and ignoble as mimicking Donald Trump’s political tactics shouldn’t be in charge because they’re shitty, hateful people. People who make the attempt, and fail as spectacularly as Abbott shouldn’t be in charge because they’re ****ing idiots. I’m sure there’s a third reason Abbott shouldn’t be in charge, but do you really need it?.........
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Former Turd Reich Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new book is apparently chock-full of anecdotes about Wee Donnie One-Term trying to get the Pentagon to slaughter people for him, be they peacefully protesting American citizens, or whoever might find themselves on the receiving end of the missiles he proposed lobbing into Mexico, believing evading responsibility for this act of war on a neighboring ally would be as simple as blaming a fart on the dog, or Eric probably, now that I think about it.

One obvious thought here is that “trigger-happy” is maybe not the best quality for a Commander in Chief. You never hear a story about Donald Trump asking if the army could like, cut through all the goddamn red tape and just deliver food to hungry children, y’know? Just periodic, sullen stabs at I Can Haz Secret Police?.......
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Which is why I certainly wish Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis well with that shiny, new grand jury over in Georgia. I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but of all the legal challenges besieging the nitwit cabal that tried to steal my country, this is the one that holds my heart. And maybe that’s because I just really, really hope it’s formally written down somewhere that it’s illegal to call up an election official and brazenly ask him to fraudulently alter voting results.........
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Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson is like that recurring sitcom character who reliably demonstrates a single predictable behavior, and that behavior is “uncritically accepting any and all Covid conspiracy theories, however bizarre and/or imbecilic.” In a truly regrettable coincidence, Johnson’s lone other significant trait is that he’s one of 100 currently serving United States Senators........
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Madison Cawthorn has gotten himself into so much unsettlingly weird trouble, and at such a young age, that I’m honestly starting to feel insecure about my own productivity levels. Like, this kid’s bucket list is deeeeeeply ****ed up, yes, but he’s certainly checkin’ shit off. (And may I gently suggest it’s in the national interest to get this little Nazi creep the **** out of Congress before he works his way to the bottom?).........
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Seems Lauren Boebert has “written” a “book,” and admit it, you’re morbidly curious to witness the contortions this poo-flinging fascist dolt undertakes to craft a hero narrative around herself. She should call it, “My Struggul.”.........
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In such jet-black times, you gotta take the good news wherever you can find it; in this week’s case, in the welcome twist at the end of an otherwise unpleasant headline like, “GOP candidate who told women to "enjoy" rape suffers surprise loss.”

Lotta magic in those last three words, don’tcha think? “Suffers surprise loss.” Say ‘em out loud…pretty sweet, huh? And I believe there’re plenty of opportunities to hang those same three words on a whole bunch of aspiring autocrats this November. Let’s sneak up on ‘em while they’re measuring the drapes, shall we?

Just…don’t let the bastards grind you down. Because they’re trying to. And because we’re absolutely going to beat the ****ers, no matter how long it takes, and you’re gonna want to be there for that. Till then, stay safe out there, Resisters…
 

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