Skip to comments.Why The Russians Are Panicking Over Flight 17
Posted on 07/21/2014 1:32:19 PM PDT by Tailgunner JoeEdited on 07/21/2014 2:08:11 PM PDT by Admin Moderator. [history]
The one emotion most of us who study Russia never associate with the men of the Kremlin is panic. Theyre not the type. Theyre more like mobsters, prone to say we have a problem rather than to freak out. They think everything has a solution, although sometimes that solution might mean someone has to take nine grams of lead behind the ear. They do not raise their voicesmy experience is that most Russian tough-guys are mumblers, not yellersand they get things done, even if the final outcome might lack a certain, say, elegance.
Thats why its unusual to see the government of Vladimir Putin, and maybe even Putin himself, panicking over the downing of Malaysian Airline Flight 17. For the first time in a long time, maybe even since Putins first election to power, the Russian regime has a problem it cannot solve, one that will cost the Kremlin in both money and reputation.
First, lets review whats happened, and use the real-world version of events, rather than the paranoid, flaky stuff coming out of less responsible news outlets (like, say, all of the ones in Russia).
Malaysian Air Flight 17 was crossing the Ukraine-Russia border when it was blown out of the sky. We have a high degree of certainty (and probably more inside the governments of the United States and NATO) that the plane was downed with a BUK anti-air missile system. In fact, its starting to look like there was a BUK battery in the area when the airplane was destroyed.
We have a mountain of evidence that the Russians were up to their necks in this. The BUK is a Russian system, found in both Ukraine and Russia, but it looks like the Russians brought some over the border, along with Russian military intelligence guysthe men actually running this partition Ukraine operationand they taught some of the locals, including transplanted mercenary separatists, how to use them. The thing is, the BUK is really too complicated to use without adult supervision, and thats especially true of a battery.
And now we get to the panic. Evidence is mounting not only that the BUK that killed MH17 came from Russia, but that the firing on the airliner was either supervised or ordered, or even operated, by Russian personnel.
If this is the case, the lone rebel with an itchy trigger finger theory goes out the window, and the Russia is running a reckless and undeclared air war inside Ukraine theory comes into sharp focus. Suddenly, an act of terrorism becomes an act of interstate war, directed with subterfuge and deniability (what my colleague John Schindler has dubbed Special War) with the goal of dismembering the Ukrainian state.
Putin, Im sure, was briefed ahead of time and told that such an accident could never happen.
No, Mr. President, we will sweep any Ukrainian military jets from the sky. Yes, Mr. President, we will control their airspace, and paralyze them, until they accept partition, as we did with Crimea. No, Mr. President, we are professionals and there is no chance of error or detection. We have trained to fight Americans, this will be a piece of cake.
In other words, a slam-dunk. (Assuming the Russians are inclined to basketball metaphors. Its not really their sport.) And then a few weeks later, some somber-looking, sorry bastard walks in and says: Sir, we have a problem. The briefing begins, and the bad news rolls.
It was our stuff. Our missile. Our goons. Commanded by our officers. Yes, weve been caught on camera. Yes, there was some clumsiness on social media. No, we have not allowed anyone near the crash site, but we cant hold it off forever. The men involved are in hiding. Except Strelkov, who has said the plane was full of dead bodies. (He freelanced that one, sir.)
How far does this go, Mr. President? Well, sirand here the aide might shuffle some papers uncomfortably to avoid noting that the orders came from the very topwe can deny it all, but sooner or later the trail leads back through military intelligence to special channels in the military, to special channels here in the Presidents office, to well, you know
At this point, Putin and his advisers have to know the game is up, and thus they have resorted to the only time they remember when they felt really competent and in control of events: the Soviet days. And the stupid, dangerous ideas begin to tumble out, the product of panic rather than policy:
Put out the story that Ukraine was responsible. Suggest the plane was off course and thus imply it was doing something nefarious. (Didnt we work that angle in the 1983 crash?) Pledge our cooperation, but tell those idiots in Donetsk we want the black boxes in Moscow immediately. Dont talk to the Western press. Send Churkin to take his obligatory ass-whipping from Sam Power
But most importantly, keep doubling down on everything.
Make sure the crash site belongs to us and no one else. Obfuscate as much as possible about who was doing what, and where. Suggest the Ukraine military planned this all along. See if you can dig up old stories about that Iranian plane the Americans hit, what was it? Iran 655? Yeah, work that for a while.
None of this will go anywhere. The Russians are busted. To use an American folk saying, they are screwed, chewed, and barbecued. They know it. Someones got to go down for this, and there are obvious candidates. The question, as in any Mafia where somethings gone bad, is who rats out whom first. Because sooner or later, all will be known.
Panic in Moscow is hard to spot, but even from 6000 miles away, its easy to smell, and the metallic stink of fear is rising off the palace offices of the Russian executive as if from the gurneys in a cancer ward on the morning of an operation.
The only question, really, is how far Putin wants to go toward a trade war, economic collapse, further status as a pariah, maybe even open war, only in order to save face. The conventional wisdom is that he has to cut the insurgency loose.
Maybe. But if he doesnt want to, he may settle for leaving a grinding conflict in place for now, and will claim that any real investigation and closure is impossible. He can then place his hopes in the Wests short attention span, and wait until all this blows over.
That would all work if it were 1975. But its not. I suspect the investigation and the tick-tock of the moments before the BUK fire are already clear and widely distributed enough that we have the complete case against the separatists with a bill of particulars that stretches right to the rug in front of Putins desk.
He knows it, and he knows that we know it. And until he finds a way to square this circle, panicand more deathwill be the order of the day. I wish I had good advice for him to extricate himself. But there isnt any, and it would not be mine to give even if there were.
Worse than a crime - a blunder.
No offense, Mr. Nichols, but I have not noticed any signs that the Russians are panicking.
That’s precisely true. We haven’t noticed.
They are trying to edit Wikipedia to give the SU-25 the capability to do what they claim one from Ukraine did.
In the PR of the Russian government, America and West Europe were responsible for screwing their economy when Yeltsin took Keynesian economic advice. Many Russians don’t see us as friends, and wouldn’t be so offended if Americans are outraged at them.
And he certainly doesn't care what obama and the American kneepad media says about him or Russia. Vlad lost his respect for obama long ago, if it ever even existed.
Nope, give it a few more days and it'll be business as usual.
There’s blowback coming for Russia.
Hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming.
"If I'm gonna get busted, it is *not* gonna be by a guy like *that*."
Vlad never respected 0bama. He’d seen the KGB/FSB dossier.
And he’s not panicking now.
Um, because they forgot they can only control the news flow inside Russia, and the world knows that they murdered 298 people?
Fair enough, but it only applies if they give a damn what “the world knows”.
I don’t see them panicking. They didn’t panic over flight 007 which actually had a slim chance of starting a war with America, they won’t panic over this. By the end of the week it’ll just be another installment in Malaysia Air’s bad year.
I don’t think they are panicked. The Soviets did the same thing during a time when America had a REAL LEADER. They feared and respected Reagan. And eventually, the Soviet Union fell.
Today, we have BO. Putin is not worried.
I think, frankly, Putin is not happy with his generals or his supporters in Ukraine. Heads will roll in his military, I am sure.
But this tragedy was not an intentional act—and the West has lost moral authority, so I sadly think nothing America does will bring the perps who shot this plane out of the sky to justice.
He could throw some separatists under the bus but that would involve admitting that something bad happened that could realistically be tied back to him. So, I’m not sure he’s going to do that.
Think about what Obama would do in this situation. 1. Make up some lies, 2. hide the real information, 3. blame Bush, and .4 wait till the media finds a new shiny object. So Putin has done steps 1-3 (substitute blame the US for blame Bush) maybe he’ll just stand pat and wait for the anti-Semitic western media to forget him and focus back on how horrible Israel is.
Well, they can’t really control the news flow inside of Russia any more. We have a large number of Russians out here, and they tend to talk to people back home.
Russia is hoping that its oil wealth and armsdealing prowess will give it an automatic pass every time.
But they are not the only game in town, and if certain customers grow tired of their hamhandedness, they stand to lose.
” if certain customers grow tired of their hamhandedness, they stand to lose. “
The Europeans have no other place to go for energy. The US has proven to be such a horribly inconsistent ally that places like Iraq are looking for a better arms dealer. Every day they are closer to a black sea pipeline and a pipeline to China. Maybe they don’t need to care what the Western media thinks. It will be interesting to see what his next move is, assuming the media hasn’t found a new shiny object by then.
The panic by the Soviet Air Defense Command is what led to the downing of KAL007 to begin with. Even Izvestia acknowledged this after a lengthy investigation in 1992.
They are “panicking” in the sense that it took them days (if they have yet) to land on a media message. The stuff coming over Russian state-owned airways was laughable. But I agree that their “panic” has no bearing over the long run. Russians will do what Russians do. They don’t care.