hryvnas for dollars MUTUALLY ASSURED  DESTRUCTION                 

  The Pyrrhic Victories of  Putin and the West
                                                                               by Michael Hammerschlag

  updated Apr 28     GLOBAL POST (short)  BUSINESS INSIDER (short)   SCOOP   Yahoo   EUROMAIDANPRESS
KIEV:    The sanctions against Russia and oil price cuts have finally worked- they are destroying the Russian economy: the value of the Ruble has collapsed, losing 60%- it reached 80r/$ on Dec 15, since recovered to 59-66). But that's little solace for Ukraine, whose economy has collapsed faster, the hryvna also losing 68% of it's value since Putin's war started (their embargoes started with the Maidan Protests a year ago). The difference was Russia had an enormous cash reserve of $520 billion, now~ $380 bil. (some claim half isn't liquid), to weather shocks that allowed them to cruise through the 2008 crisis, whereas Ukraine had a $40 billion deficit, incidentally the same amount kleptocrat mis-ruler Yanukovich is alleged to have stolen in 4 years ($27 mil/day) .

The Western decision to assess sanctions on Russia after Crimea rather than give direct military aid to Ukraine consigned it to losing the East (Donbas*), since economic sanctions would take 8 months to a year to have any significant effect. Every cautious step of Putin's escalation went unopposed, despite the '94 Budapest Memorandum pledging US, England, and Russia to defend Ukraine's borders in exchange for giving up their nukes, no spine was shown by America or NATO: Obama considered it a peripheral issue in Russia's sphere of influence. A much firmer initial response could have probably backed Putin away from the Eastern insurgency/Invasion; Russia already had Crimea to digest. Ukraine could endure the loss of Crimea, but losing the industrial heart of Donbas likely would be fatal to the economy (letter/response to/from Obama), no matter how much Western money was thrown at them. $3 billion dollars of arms can do much more now than $30 billion of aid.

Separatist/Russian fighter in front of Ukrainians he ambushedThe problem with sanctions, besides being way to slow to have any effect on the War, was that they were regressive, not stimulative (as arms sales would be), damaging many economies, and would have no effect on Putin's lust to recreate a Soviet Union 2 in the Eurasian Customs Union he bullied several FSU republics into. Sanctions, in fact, to Vladimir Vladimirovich, were a tool of the weak, and infuriated him far more than a US fleet in the Black Sea or squadrons of F-16's sent to Ukraine. The PutInvasions + Sanctions have provoked a new Cold War as Russia retreats into isolation and self-pitying paranoia (the same Slavic syndrome that has so crippled them throughout history); and the fallout from Russia and Ukraine's economic devastation could soon spread beyond the countries that trade with Russia- EU still has 4 very shaky debtor countries, and the entire sanctions may collapse if the new Russia-friendly Greek Socialist Government renegs.

Putin's response was almost comically bad, damaging the Russian economy more. He put an embargo on Western foods, causing hardship to modern Russians, who've grown accustomed to eating exotic foods after decades of deprivation (foreign vacations are now out of reach); he jailed even friendly oligarchs to rob their companies (Yevtushenko), provoking capital flight of perhaps $200 billion; he continued sending massive Russian military aid and troops into the Donbas (whose missiles downed MH17); he spit in the West's eye with reckless military provocations, like kidnapping an Estonian criminal investigator from the border just after Obama spoke there or flying nuclear bombers to the borders of NATO.
   - Russian fighter in front of Ukrainians he ambushed in Donbas                             empty Crimean beach after invasion: 80% collapse of summer tourismempty crimea beach

The Crimea, now part of the imperial realm, will also need billions of support (pensions, food, infrastructure), construction of a huge bridge across the Kerch Strait to link it to Russia, replacement of the devastated tourist industry . Unprepared to fund the destroyed Donbas (although some pensions are now being paid!), Russia is furious that Kyiv has cut off payments to the lost region, though they still were providing free heat and electricity (also to Crimea); even thought the insipid Donetsk Peoples Rep. has denied Kyiv the coal to fuel those power plants. This could force Russia to spend billions or face charges of betraying NovaRossiya, when all they wanted was to bleed Ukraine and prevent their ascension to NATO. Having created deep hatreds and grandiose expectations with a year of toxic TV propaganda, Mr. Putin can't just abandon NovaRossiya to evil Kyiv.

The Saudi oil price collapse is 70% of Russia's problem (losing Russia ~$133 billion revenue in its $70 slide  $116 to 46 @ Jan 12 since the summer, oil + gas are 70% of Russia's exports) and was more an act to punish Iran and Russia than their putative claim to crush the American shale oil/gas producers who have created the worldwide glut. Oil could fall more,  maybe down to $40/barrel, stay there a year or more, and gas will soon follow (price is keyed to oil price on a 6 month delay: oil collapse started in June), forcing the Russians to renegotiate prices. And the Sanctions have made refinancing the huge Russian foreign bond payments due, impossible.

GRAD launch by SepsUkraine, roiled by 6 months of protest, turmoil, revolution, invasion, and war; badly mishandled the initial subversion in the East. 60 loyal commandos and 500 troops could have easily taken back all Separatist occupied buildings in April-May (I begged ministers to do that- for weeks the rabble was drunk- every day delay meant hundreds would die), but Ukraine was crippled by 350 years of Russian domination (not a shot was fired against Russians in Crimea by the "fascist" Ukrainians despite being beaten, tortured, and 4 killed by the invading "Green Men"), the total penetration of the Ukrainian intelligence and military by Russian agents (admitted to me by the Dep. Defence Minister), a moribund military starved for 24 years and crippled by Yanukovich's treachery (4 top ministers were ex-Russians), and the endemic Soviet corruption that was one of the prime reasons for the Maidan Revolution. After the breathtaking success of that Revolution, Ukraine had only 5 days to celebrate before Russian commandos invaded and amputated Crimea, paradisical vacation spot for the whole FSU.
  -  Grad fearsome multi-missile launch by Seps- they can (inaccurately) blanket a square KM with explosions 

With no real finances and a crippled military, the interim leaders chosen after Maidan just didn't take the hard decisions needed to fight a war: declaring martial law in the Donbas, sealing the border against Russian "tourists", instituting a draft, tripling military funding, and cutting military exports to Russia. Faced with 3 wars by Russia: 1. an economic embargo, including lifeblood natural gas; 2. destruction and theft of hundreds of billions in wealth, 22% of the people, 20% of the economy, 30% of the industrial base in the takeover of Crimea and the Donbas; and 3. a blizzard of poisonous propaganda about alleged suppression of Russian speakers (utterly imaginary- Russian is spoken by 90% of Kiev and Russians have historically been the master race here) and "Nazi" tendencies... Ukraine was effectively handcuffed from responding forcefully. Thousands of paid Russian trolls cluttered every news comment section, while fellow traveller journalists and old-line "liberals", addled by Bush's vast neocon crimes, repeated the Kremlin's absurd lies.

dead Ukr on fm Ilovaisk massacre It first provoked some of the previously content Donbassans to revolt, egged on by hundreds of paid protesters, many Russian "tourists": $500 to storm a bldg, $70/day to protest aud@3:00m (though Donetsk got 42% of all Ukraine's development money from previous Gov., Pres. Yanukovich), then Russian/Ukrainian mercenaries were sent in, then 80% of now gullible Russians, who've lost their 80's cynicism at Kremlin lies, turned against Ukraine (60% liked Ukrainians in Jan, by now only 10%).
  -Dead Ukrainian soldier on the "Road of Death" from Ilovaisk                  The President and the Pipsqueak -President and the pipsqueak

 Even the collapse of the Ruble is bad news for Ukraine- the economies are still so interlinked that it hurts the Hryvna too (now 32/34 to the $ and dropping 1 hrv daily; for 5 years till last Feb. it was stable at 8/$; it has lost 75% since then). With $11 billion of foreign loans due in 2015, 40% bad bank loans, a 7% drop in GDP, company + country bonds devalued 33-50%, and maybe under $7 billion of foreign reserves (which may be gone by March or April); at the now atrocious exchange rate, default is looming for Ukraine. That would also hurt Russia: Putin is getting an object lesson in the interdependency of the modern world. The EU was for months showing no desire to pop for the $15-25 billion Ukraine was begging for, risking a Lehman-like scenario of dominos.

A top Ukraine banker was more optimistic about Ukraine's prospects: "They're in ongoing talks over the next tranche of the $17 bil promised IMF money, which may be increased. They needed to have a budget first, which they just did Dec. 30th... I don't think the IMF would let Ukraine default." But still he says, "January is the supercritical month- everything has to happen by the end."  It didn't, but Feb 12 the IMF came through with a $17.5 bil 4 year loan plan, replacing the $17 bil 2 year plan ($4.5 bil already disbursed, so adding another $5.1 bil), and the World Bank also promised $2 bil in 2015. Ukraine, though must come up with $11 billion this year to repay foreign loans, quite impossible with the crumbling hryvna, they probably will be 50-70% rolled over, the first tranche of the new plan is expected around March 5.

The same is true for Russia; they owe $700 billion, but it's 92% private: overextended corporations or banks may default, though the Government won't. The Kremlin just bailed out banks for $16 bil. with more to come, the Russian interbank lending rate rocketed to 28%, and the Central Bank is allowing them to price "assets" at the old exchange rate.
Feb 24 Kiev Obmen: Currency drops 25% in a week againFeb24KievExchRate  2015©MHammerschlag  Grafitti: WHY THE F?!@#$

The Ukrainian populace, however, is being hammered- product prices, even domestic, have doubled to trippled, but wages haven't budged; and utilities have skyrocketed because of IMF pressure to stop the hemorrhaging of Naftogas, which looses $10 bil/year. There are reports of hunger and food riots in the East, where no banks are normally functioning. My hot water bill went up a breathless 8-fold in 1 month, and in telling fashion they estimate we use 1000L/day of cold water (maybe double reality): we have no meters, so there's no motivation to save gas or water. With the coal shut off from Donbas, Ukraine is only 1-3 weeks from running out for their power and central heating plants (Klitschko made Kyiv go 3 months without hot water till Oct; apt. heat till Nov). The high quality coal they burn- anthracite (+90% carbon), is only 1% of all coal reserves and after Ukraine + Russia, far away, so shipping the bulky material is expensive. Ukraine recently bought 1 mil tons of substandard coal from South Africa at twice the normal cost (burned now), and there are storehouses in the heavily besieged border city of Dbaltseve- most coal has been evacuated. Incredibly, they are now buying coal from Russia, another choke point for their now enemy. An avg monthly Ukrainian salary was ~$200 at 8hrv/$ (Kyiv, higher at ~$300 is usually quoted), at 32hrv/$ that is now a paltry $50, or at 40hr week=175 hr month, only 29 cents/hr. Since most people work more: 44-50 hours a week, that is about equal to the wages of the lowest Chinese factory workers: 25 cents/hour. The average monthly pension now weighs in at an absurd $34. Ukraine has officially entered the wage structure of the 3rd world.

In a sign of unprecedented hardball, Ukraine (new Security/Defense Council head Turchynov?) shut off power and cancelled all trains to Crimea Dec 26 (temporarily) and VISA and MC suspended operations in Crimea. It was restored Dec 30th after the Russians agreed to pay for services. The longterm gas situation isn't set to improve: all 3 shale gas projects have been cancelled, in the East cause of the war (Slovyansk is 2nd biggest reserve in Europe), in the Black Sea cause of Putin's land grab, and in Lviv cause useless lawmakers didn't reverse a confiscatory 55% gas tax, enacted to bleed the gas oligarchs, but killing any hope of foreign investment (Chevron planned to spend hundreds of millions in exploration). Even now, no corrupt officials have been jailed. And the one bright spot- agriculture in the rich black earth of Ukr, was sullied by the news that a glowing success story: Mryia turned out bankrupt: the books were massively cooked.     

The Central Bank finally lifted 4 months of currency controls Feb 5 (never compleCentral Banker Gontereva + Finance Min Jareskotely effective) and jacked up the interest rate from 14 to 19.5%,  and the official exchange rate lept from 16.8 to 22-24 in a flash, a staggering blow to an impoverished people (63% fall in the strength of hrv, stable for 5 years up to Feb 2014 @ 8/$). But the rate at my unregulated obmen was already 20-21, so it was about a real 2 1/2 hrv rise or 12% rise, since at the lower rate there were NO dollars to be bought anywhere. Andre Dubas, aid to Central Bank head Gontareva, said they wanted to do it in Nov, but banks weren't ready, "It was crazy to have 4 different rates. It was time to unify them... the banks will come together and maybe settle on a real defensible rate", meaning it's possible the hrv will strengthen. This is inevitable after ending artificial currency controls, but more likely it will fuel panic, and it will start to drop at 2-5% a day (it was ~ 20 kp a day, ~1% before). Yes, it jumped that much: 1 hrv in 2 days to Sunday Feb 8,  ~2% /day; Feb 13, however, in response to the Minsk I "Peace" Agreement and news of $7.1 bil more Western aid to Ukraine, it rose 4%, and price standardized for a few days, then started dropping again Feb 17. But Feb 23-4 it started collapsing much faster: 1hrv/day). In a panic, Feb 25 the Central Bank suspended foreign currency trading till Sat, criticized by PM Yatseniuk and sure to reassure rattled citizens. While not hyperinflation levels, the constant fear and uncertainty fuels the collapse- and most dollar/euro loans are likely to default now.  Let US approve shipping Ukraine the whole Pentagon inventory ("you chose"); then the hryvna would really  strengthen.

Cent. Banker Hontereva + Finance Min. Jarescka
NEW MAR 4:  The Ukrainian currency actually RECOVERED to 22 / 24 hrv to $ by Tuesday, tremendous news to everyone but importers and expats about to change money- Grrrrrrrr. On March 4th the RADA finally passed the package of laws the IMF was demanding, clearing the way for approval in their March 11th vote on approving the 4-year Extended Fund Facility and disburse the next tranche of $5-8 billion. Those laws include passing a 8.8% deficit budget, raising gas a brutal 3-fold over 2 months and electricity 3.5-fold over 2 years, cutting pensions + delaying their start- truly cruel- the Micky Mouse pensions with the devalution are maybe $50/month yet somehow eat up 15% of the budget. The Central Bank also raised the interest rate to a stunning 30% from 19.5% on March 4, from 14% 2 weeks earlier, sure to kill all incipient business, but probably temporary. It also raised bank capital requirements and closed some floundering banks, restricting money available to play currency variations.

MAR 12: The IMF made good on it's promises and delivered $5 bil  Mar 12, which Yatseniuk says could unlock another $7 bil (maybe $2.5 bil quickly from the World Bank, US, EU). This is welcome news for Ukrs, but even as the Hrv probably strengthens to 20-22/$ (now 22-25), major pricKerry and Poroshenko-Feb 6, "Whatdya want me to do?"e rises of food and necessities continue to rip through the populace as stores adjust to the 3-fold devaluation.                                      "Whadya want me to do?" - Kerry in Kyiv Feb 6 -
APRIL 1: The influx of IMF money and strict measures of the Central Bank have apparently worked, stabilizing the HRV at 24-25/$ for several weeks. Sadly, just as the HRV was set to claw back some strength from the ridiculously undervalued level it had sunk to... the dollar soared to 12 yr record highs ($1.06/eu!!), countering the hrv resurgence.
APRIL 28: Hrv has stabilized at ~23/$,
however huge price rises continue, some things are 4-5x more, when the currency is only <3x more; in one day apples jumped from 15 to 25h. However the offensive against Mariupol and Donbas that Zacharchenko promised 2 weeks ago will trash that stability. (Last Jan offensive started 2 weeks after he promised to attack). Ukrs have proven unable to resist Russian regulars, but Mariupol will be an apocalyptic battle, with Akhmetov's steelworkers/miners battling w TOTL gear alongside Nat. Guard to retain his last profit center. The one thing the Soviet military knew was defense in depth, and let's hope they've prepared the ground well.
Russian Soldiers (who don't exist) negotiating in Soledar UKRAINE- Feb 17

Russian Soldiers negotiating in Soledar UKRAINEKerry came Feb 6 bearing a paltry $16 mil loan, and gave a lugubrious pitiful press conf where he was literally pleading w Putin to "play nice".  Merkel + Holland blew through on their way to offer Putin a peace that would concede Russian control of Donbas (on almost the exact 70 year anniversary of Yalta Agreement that gave away Eastern Europe)- an absolutely no-go; there is no way Ukr would have ANY control with these criminals and killers in power (Putin loves criminals- see Aksyonov of Crimea, a 20 year contract killer!). Russians and all their Sep stooges must get out, in exchange for recognizing Crimea as Russian territory, ending all sanctions, and maybe 10-20 year hiatus on Ukraine joining NATO. Ukraine needs the resources in the Donbas- 68% of the people NEVER wanted to be absorbed by Russia; after all the death and destruction- now it would be 80%, but for 14 months of vicious poisonous Russian TV propaganda. It will become a isolated impoverished abandoned twilight zone under Rus/Sep control, like Crimea will without the influx of tourist money (70% were Ukrs); Russian money will 90% go to Crimea, where they fought hallowed defences of Sevastopol twice in Crimean War and WW2. After talking tough for weeks, Merkel has stated that Germany wouldn't be giving Ukraine any weapons.

Minsk2 "Peace" Agreement leaders But the MINSK 2 PEACE AGREEMENT was signed after an all-night 5-way Feb 11 meeting in Minsk Feb 12, but judging by how Putin + his Sep stooges immediately violated the last one, don't think there's much hope- it's probably just a device to avoid the next round of sanctions and Obama arming Ukraine. To show their commitment to peace during the marathon talks "around 50 tanks, 40 missile systems and 40 armoured vehicles entered Luhansk region from Russia via the Izvaryne border crossing." No leaders signed the 3 page agreement to cease fire at midnight Feb 14, only reps of the OSCE, Ukraine, Russia, + DNR. After deadly rocket attacks on Dbaltseve, and a long range one on Ukr Kramatorsk from Seps Horlivka (killed 17- Hurricane rocket trucks have a 80 mile range!, these were Smerch- Tornado), both sides may escalate fighting before the cease fire, esp. in Dbaltseve. Of the 11 provisions, including pulling back heavy weapons 25-70 km from the current line for Ukrs and Sept line for Seps; removal of foreign, mercenary, and illegal fighters (95% of Seps: even the locals are paid by Russia) and disarming them; Kyiv restarting payments to people in the rebel zone; "elections" in rebel territory in June; Kiev opening banks and all resuming payments there;...  the only one that might happen is some prisoner exchanges (many Ukr prisoners are still slaving away on repairs of the "damage they caused", though they were all supposed to be released). The border with Russia would stay open till 2016, Seps can appoint their own militia and help pick judges; so the place will remain a lawless jungle ruled by gangsters.
Feb 24: Yes, the Seps attacked like banshees, and have effectively encircled the ~6000 Ukrs in Dbaltseve, even holding the train station, eventually forcing them to flee overland in a probable massacre; and neither side budged their heavy weapons. “It became quiet abruptly at midnight on Feb. 15 and we even started hoping for truce," said Dbal Ukr soldier. “But it wasn't yet 1 a.m. when the shelling resumed." Supposedly 2000 (80%) of Ukrainians escaped Dbaltseve in the night Feb 17-18 on their own initiative with some 500 left; unclear about what happened to the rest, or the discrepency in numbers- since Russian/Seps captured a town on the only road out, and were targeting it from both sides, they could have shelled them anywhere. Demjin also said there were 6000 Ukrs there, so there are 4000 unaccounted for, perhaps mostly dead.6 Month Crude Oil Prices - Crude Oil Price Chart If Poroshenko doesn't clean house of the criminally incompetent Generals and Military leaders that have now abandonned regiments to die 4 times in cut off cul de sacs, no one in their right mind will keep signing up. Incredibly, after the monstrous violation of the cease-fire... there waas no further talk of sanctions.

- Minsk2 Leaders leading toward agreement
Meanwhile the Little Big Man's star is falling in Moscow, economic disruption is ripping through the country as the daily nightmare of inflation returned. After years of it in '91-96, '98-9, Russians thought their relative wealth had banished it forever. Like all Westerners, Russians now all have billions of $ of loans out, many denoted in dollars or Euros, now double what they were a year ago.Among oligarchs, Putin's pals are being pummelled, Tymchenko, Sechin, Usmanov have lost 1/3 of their paper fortune; financier Ivan Shervashidze shot himself dead Dec 16 at the National Hotel by the Kremlin; Sechin got the Central Bank to issue his Rosneft oil monopoly billions in unsecured credit Dec 15th, provoking the latest collapse, even as the Central Bank jacked up the interest rate to 17%. The ruble bounced back after the Jan 16 debacle to 59-66R / $, after Russia bought $7 billion dollars of rubles, and Russians settled down. But Moody's downgraded it to junk (the 2nd agency) on Feb 23, dropping the Ruble 3.5% to 64/$ Feb 24

Putin is a man from the past, the KGB of the 70's, and has returned Russia to the party monoculture, astronomical corruption, overweening central authority, 85% propaganda, military bullying and bluster, and fear of dissent of that era. After the Crimean invasion, I predicted that he had unleashed tidal forces that would sweep him away in 4-5 years, maybe sooner now. Docile Russian press have made unprecedented criticisms- “Vladimir Putin has lost the political initiative." His great claim to fame after the wild 90's was economic stability, now vaporized. That was his agreement with his people, you can't have political freedom or less corruption, but you will live well. "I'm happy with him. I'm making 7 times more than 5 years ago!" said an IT guy to me in 2007 Moscow.
         Russian soldiers bodies from Ukraine

russian soldier bodies in UkrThe Donbas War has now caused perhaps 11,000 deaths, every one on Putin's head (all quotes are ridiculously low, not counting Ukr soldiers ~1500-2000, Separatists ~2000-4000?, Russians ~1000-3000?), +2100 people just since the porous "cease fire" of  Sept 7- UNHRW counts 13 a day still being killed there. German intel reports an absurd 50,000 have been killed; though there is huge doubt over Sep and Russian deaths, and no question Ukraine has been lowballing it's fatalities, 15,000 is the maximum possible I think: large numbers of Seps and maybe Russians were killed in the early big sustained Ukr artillery barrages. Gonzo Aussie journo Demjin D, who's spent 7 months in the Donbas, said he's seen 1500 new Russian vehicles in the last 2 months there, inc 400 tanks, 200 Grad trucks, 100 mobile artillery- he expects a massive offensive (Dec 21- that offensive started in mid Jan)DNR "PM" Zakharchenko has promised to retake Slovyansk, Artyemsk, + the large port of Mariupol, and he declared the cease-fire was over; multiple attempts to restart the Minsk talks have failed. The long awaited attack on Mariupol began, then was suspended after 30 civilians were killed in a Sep-shelled bus. The Donbas Airport finally fell when Russian demolition commandos blew the ceiling from the floor above, collapsing it on the heroic Cyborgs- many were killed in the final tragic rout. That end was inevitable as it was in Ilovaisk and probably soon in encircled Debaltseve, the only access road being shelled from both sides. Idiot Ukr Generals don't understand the value of tactical retreat. Instead they massively reinforced the indefensible city with 5000-8000 troops! If they let the now cut off defenders of surrounded Debaltseve die, recruits will dry to a trickle!  Maybe 100-200 were killed and captured in the Airport Armaegeddon; Demjin says 400, with maybe 2000 Rus/Seps killed in 6 months of nonstop attacks, annihilated over and over when the Ukrainians popped out of extensive Soviet tunnels and ambushed them from behind. The next flashpoint is the important 1/2 million pop port of Mariupol, which the Seps have pledged to take- Kyiv has massively reinforced it, but their ability to resist full-scale Russian attack doubtful.

Demjin says there are about 4200 Sep fighters (many aren't from Donbas but pro-Russia orgs from the south + Crimea, some real Russian citizens there), not too many from a 7.7 million pop area, TU-95 Bear Bomber @ Kyiv Air Museumor rather the 46 mil people of Ukraine. Russian mercenaries and regulars number 9800, many of the original Russian mercenaries have gone home (some of whom were real Nazis and neo-facists; soldiers are much cheaper), and many of the original Seps have been killed or bailed out when it became all Russian ruled "insurgency" (Ukr Zakharchenko was appointed when the Russians realized the PR disaster). 2 of my correspondents have been killed out there, so it's always with some terror that I call him. The US Congress finally passed a bill to provide $350 million of military aid to Ukraine, 6 months too late, and Obama signed it. Included are more painful sanctions against international financing of large Russian state firms (who owe $100's of bil. of loans), which at this moment will be more salt in the wounds to Putin. Obama is (forever) considering heavy weapons to Ukraine - a decision is finally expected by Feb 27.
Borei Ballistic Missile sub Yuri Dolgoruky w Medvedev     DONETSK AIRPORT pics- before + after         TU-95 Bear Bomber Kiev Air Museum©MHammerschlag-Oct2012

Borei Ballistic Missile sub Yuri Dolgoruky A new Cold War isn't a possibility; it is here now. Russia is building new advanced missile subs and attack subs (Borei, Yasen, nuclear missiles, and long range cruise missiles (violating arms treaties)- some go 1600mph and again are carried by attack subs! America hasn't built a new sub since the 80's, while Putin is doubling the Russian military budget. "We know where every Soviet sub is," said a milk white submariner in Groton to me confidently many years ago- Soviet subs were famously loud, and US subs very quiet. But the new subs are so quiet they may be undetectable, terrifying to nuclear strategists. Incredibly, in their many probes of NATO borders, Russia recently sent 2 TU-95 Bear bombers (photos - propeller driven but almost as fast as B-52s w 8 counter-rotating props) over the English Channel, allegedly loaded with nuclear anti-submarine missiles (intercepted by Typhoon fighters). Meanwhile BRICS and others are smugly cozying up to Putin, including surprisingly even Turkey's Erdogan, who has reason to be furious at Russian oppression of the Turkic Tatars in Crimea. Indeed, they threatened to close the Bosphorus in March after my petition campaign to try to reverse/forestall the Crimean Invasion.
                           Unemployment protest in Maidan, headband: "Without Work"

UnemployedProtests-Maidan-"without work" The PutInvasions, embargoes, and especially Eastern partition have been devastating to Ukraine; meanwhile the sanctions and especially oil price collapse are also trashing Russia- both occurred because of the reckless rage of one autocrat, and the reluctant incremental actions by an outraged world to the first major European power invasion since WW2- both Pyrrhic victories in a winner-less struggle. After all the pain and travail Ukraine has suffered in their year odyssey to escape their Soviet chains, it would be a tragedy to let them go down the tubes now, especially when the new 75% reformist Parliament and Government are finally undertaking brutal reforms and confronting corruption, cutting all ministries spending 25%. But Ukraine is like a battlefield amputee- the IMF can pour 50 units of blood ($30 bil funding) into it, but as long as Donbas is cut off and the war continues, it will just drain out of it. $3-5 bil of heavy weapons, however, may stem the bleeding by killing enough Russians to brace Putin into stopping the war.

Putin seemed to be resigned to a long standoff in his opus yearly press conference- he expected 2 years of hardship. But seeing his realm and power shrinking or collapsing, he is still utterly unpredictable- he might react militarily and up the ante in standard Soviet training or back off like in the Cuban Missile Crisis (dubious). The Pearl Harbor attack was partially provoked by a US embargo, which historically was considered an act of war. He was born in 1952 amidst the devastation of post-war Leningrad, but never saw the 28 million deaths in WW2; he doesn't have that seminal experience of mass death that informed and moderated all Soviet leaders., or the visceral understanding of the realities of a nuclear apocalypse that kept the nuclear balloon from going up in 1962 Cuba or the 1973 Yom Kippur War (Brezhnev was going to land Soviet troops + Nixon, in the middle of the fatal Watergate scandal, went to Defcon 3). He is also a small man of enormous self-regard, putin grumpserious skills, a steely will, and essentially absolute power- a retreat now would be an almost inconceivable humiliation to the still vastly popular potentate. In the explosive³ new Frontline on Putin's corrupt rise to power,  an expert says, "Putin never retreats, never."

That makes Vladimir Putin the most dangerous man in the world. 

This conflict MUST BE STOPPED NOW, because the hatred, isolation, and paranoia the KGB President is generating will take years, decades even, to reverse... and could really result in the "mushroom cloud" Condi fabricated for Iraq.... or thousands of them. We may not have to wait for AGW to brutally trim humanity.      

Feb12-Cease Fire Lines                                              MichaelHammerschlag©2015                            Feb 12 Cease Fire Lines As of Feb 24, no movement of heavy weapons-

* North DONets River BASin: Ukraine's industrial coal and iron-rich Donetsk and Lugansk Regions (+ technically some of Russia's Donetsk region)  

I lived by Piskarevskoye in 1991-2 St. Petersburg, a single mass grave that holds ~700,000 victims, the nonstop ghostly dirge faintly floating into my windows was testament to the fact that Russians never give up. I speculated in '94 that the Soviets had nuke and missile-making factories inside mountains to keep building them after a nuclear war, ~5 years later 60 Minutes took a tour of one.

³It exposed Putin's Heart of Darkness, the 1999 Moscow FSB aptmt bombings (killed ~300), which the current Brit investigation of Litvenko's death also may- he had written a book on it: Blowing Up Russia. It also details Putin's criminal conspiracies back to near-starving 1991 winter St. Petersburg, where he allegedly stole $140 (vid) mil of food (that money in rubles was then equal to $15 bil! @ 110R/$). I was there then and big supermarkets were bare, with maybe 4 products. St. Pete was a gangster paradise then; and I got kidnapped, driven into the woods, + almost executed, just after the SU collapsed (I had accepted a ride from Mafiya guys). Indeed one reason Sobchak picked Putin was to manage the Mafiya groups, which KGB had a long history of working with.

Michael Hammerschlag's articles (HAMMERNEWS) have appeared in NYT, IHT, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Global Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Honolulu Advertiser, Business Insider; Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian, Novaya Gazeta; Kyiv Post & Kyiv Weekly, Politics in Ukraine, and Business Ukraine. He's spent 9 years over the last 23 in Russia & Ukraine, has covered the Protests/Invasions/War since Nov 2013, and warned of Ukraine's loss of Independence in May 2010 after Yanukovich's election. He's been a TV reporter, and produced documentaries on the Presidential campaign.

George Soros makes some of these same points and comes up with novel plans to crack loose $50 bil of financing for Ukraine in an overly-optimistic NYT Books article Jan 8th. Would be better if Ukraine had jailed a few hundred corrupt officials guaranteed to loot it.

new  updated Dec 23  UKRAINE WAR/Revolt: 1 year BLOG ; OBAMA Letr, MASSACRES, WHAT'S PUTIN'S GAME?, "RELIEF" CONVOY, Strelkov, Borodai,Bolotov OUT!,  PutINTERVENTION!, Soldiers Story, Lysychansk Battle, SEPARATROCITY!, DONETSK

Russian "Green Men" invaders in CrimeaIMPERIAL STRETCH: A Bridge Too Far - Yahoo  LOCAL (updated 4/19)   KYIV: With his reckless invasion Putin has unleashed titanic forces that may sweep him from power in 4-5 years: inspiration to 6 separatist regions of Russia, economic devastation from sanctions and Euro resource diversification, reinvigorated NATO + EU, EU pushed into Ukraine's arms, EUAA signed, $36 billion of loans + grants; outraged Russian liberals, desperate oligarchs, world economy closed, UKR lost forever   in Ukrainian - 5000 words
Green Men- Crimea               

WHAT'S PUTINS GAME: 5 Scenarios - EuroMaidanPress   ALT     AUG 31 Updates
  Is Putin coming or going? Are the half-empty Potemkin relief trucks a false flag op to be attacked and spur a full PutINVASION or are they supposed to REMOVE the Seps and all their gear cause Putin is pulling the plug on the whole foul adventure?  Not since 1938-9 has the world so obsessed over the psycho-pathology of one potentate. WITHDRAW, INVADE, PUTIN's SNAPPED, BLEEDING UKR- the latest events, assessments, probabilities, and ramifications. Strelkov, Borodai, Bolotov, Gubarov all wounded/retired + removed. 2-4000 Russians regulars flood Ukraine w 400 tanks + APCs. American-Ukr millionaire diaspora pvt. killed- Aug 31

 UKR ROLLING: THE BATTLE FOR LYSYCHANSK SCOOP - Kiev: With a stunning series of victories and rebel leaders fleeing (Bezler, Borodai), Ukraine may be close to a breakthrough in their Putinvasion/civil war. LATEST NEWS+LINKS Donetsk is encircled and almost cut off, has little electricity, water, phone- Lugansk also dark. Horlivka, Snizhne under seige. Sep counterattack w fresh Rus weapons in Shaktarsk, Torez- Donetsk's lifeline; Interview w National Guard troop who has been fighting 10 days straight - Jul 31
NOTE: hero of this story Andre is missing in Ilovaisk (massacre)- anyone who knows of his fate plz contact me; Donbas Bat. bazooka (RPG or minomyet) operator, 28-32 yo, last phone ring - Aug 19- 0958350002, worked Olympisky detailing cars a year ago, single father w 7 yo daughter Violet

VICTORY FOR MAIDAN PROTESTS? - THE TAKING of UKRAINIAN HOUSEScoop  the frigid (-18C) seige and taking of Ukrainian House; Klitschko saves day; Yanu cracks- offer PM, DPM, concessions to Opposition; Ode to courage + endurance of Ukrs  Jan 29, 2014

 COUNTDOWN: LAST  CHANCE  FOR  UKRAINE  Yahoo   LOCAL (w pics) KIEV:  Ukraine at crossroads between East and West: join the Russian Eurasian Customs Union or sign the EU Association Agreement  and Free Trade Agreement  in Lithuania Nov 28-9. Incredibly, after 15 years of negotiation, Pres. Yanukovich scotched the deal a week before, predicted in this article. Huge demonstrations have broken out across Ukraine  - most people prefer the EU. The choice is stark: whether Ukraine will be locked in a neo-Soviet ghetto of dependency and corruption, or join the Western world in greater transparency, freedom, and rule of law.   - Nov 2-Dec 1, 2013   
pics- Maidan Nov 24-2013©