Countering the narrative

Countering the narrative

At the start of the Special Military Operation there was some hope in the face of hopelessness.

For 7 months we have been told “Russia is winning”. Kherson has been abandoned but never mind this is Vlad playing chess and General Winter will come to the aid and Russia will march to victory.

I feel that there are some holes in that narrative that is being fed to us by western bloggers and pundits but not really backed up if one looks at the Russian language press.

If we want to keep a sense of reality, rather than hold to easy  narratives it behooves us to look at different sources. 

This is not coming from the CIA-backed Moscow Times, Meduza.

These are people who support the patriots, are anti-globalist but nevertheless are critical of the main narrative.

Have a look and make up your own mind.

Listen to the podcast HERE

Russia supports creation of Gates-Rockefeller “Pandemic Fund”

Moscow reaffirms fealty to WHO at G20 summit, calls for “global sanitary shield”

Despite geopolitical differences, all G20 member-states agreed that the WHO, the World Bank, Bill Gates, the Wellcome Trust, and the Rockefeller Foundation should protect the world from scary pandemics.

Indonesian Health Minister Budi Sadiki announced to reporters on Saturday that geopolitical squabbles didn’t interfere with the G20’s plan to create a Pandemic Fund to ensure people everywhere—and especially poor people—are injected in a timely manner.

“All decisions of the G20 are taken exclusively by consensus. Look, it is very difficult to reach consensus in the current geopolitical situation. But in this geopolitical situation, we managed to reach consensus on the creation of a fund, and this is the most important thing,” Sadiki said while discussing the results of a meeting with G20 finance and health ministers held in Bali.

Created in partnership with the WHO, the World Bank-led Pandemic Fund (formally known as the “Financial Intermediation Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response”) will be used to support the G20’s health agenda, which includes efforts to “improve genetic surveillance, encourage the mobilization of health resources for medical countermeasures, and expand research and manufacturing networks for vaccines, therapies, and diagnostics.”

Donors to the fund include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust, the G20 proudly stated in a November 12 press release.


Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov backed the creation of the Pandemic Fund, and said the WHO should continue to play a “central role” in maintaining the “global healthcare system.”

The new fund is designed to “compliment the existing global health system and support responses to emerging health threats,” Russia’s Finance Ministry said in a statement published on its website.

source: TASS


The press released added:

The head of the Russian Ministry of Finance noted the need to prevent fragmentation of the global healthcare system and maintain the central role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in it, and also shared the experience of creating a rapid response system to pandemics in Russia within the framework of [Russia’s] current “Sanitary Shield,” which involves the creation of a system for the rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases, accelerated development of test systems and vaccines in the event of new epidemiological threats.

“We believe that a similar sanitary shield could be built at the global level,” the Minister said.

Announced in April 2021, Russia’s Sanitary Shield program aims to rapidly develop “vaccines” (based on Sputnik V’s genetic platform) and PCR tests after the emergence of a purported health threat. Under the program, bio-checkpoints will be installed along Russia’s border—a process that began in December 2021.

Russia & the Eternal Pandemic

Attending the summit via video link, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko—a member of the WHO’s Executive Board—said the WHO should act as the “coordinator of international efforts in the field of health.”

“An important task is to strengthen the readiness of the global health architecture in order to respond in a timely manner to dangerous zoonotic infections with pandemic potential. Such a healthcare architecture should be based on the principles of transparency, openness and equal participation of all stakeholders,” he told Russian media after meeting with his G20 colleagues.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Saturday hailed the creation of the Pandemic Fund:

This new financing mechanism will be a crucial building block of a stronger global health security architecture.

Importantly, the fund has been designed with inclusive and effective governance, and operating arrangements with high standards of transparency and accountability.

We thank our partners at the World Bank, with whom we have worked so closely in the start-up of the fund.

Tedros added:

The next pandemic will not wait for us. We must move with urgency to close the gaps in global preparedness that put all countries at risk.

Oh happy days.

Surovikin Yields to Reality That Putin Lost Kherson Months Ago

The price of Putin not having mobilized for 7 months grows even steeper

“Russia is staying forever”

Abandoning Kherson (six weeks after it was supposedly annexed to Russia) might be the “correct”, pragmatic military decision in the immediate context in which it was made.

However, this does not:

  • Excuse the shockingly poor decision-making that created this context in which a withdrawal then made sense.
  • Excuse the weeks of lying there would be no retreat after it had already been greenlit and was being prepared for
  • Change the reality that Russia has now lost what was the most strategically valuable of its 2022 gains by far

Let’s start with the last point.

No Kherson means that Russia will more likely than not come out of this war a loser just as much as Ukraine will. No springboard on the right bank means a march on Odessa is most likely out of the question for this war. Without Odessa it’s very difficult to construe an outcome that would count as a Moscow victory. Russia could take half of the left bank (highly unlikely with the present posture) and without Odessa it will be a pyrrhic victory.

Then there is the lying. It is now clear as day that the purpose of the civilian evacuation was to make a military withdrawal politically digestible. Yet the whole time Russian officials maintained “Russia is here forever” and that the real reason for the evacuation was intel on some murky Ukrainian plot against the river dam.

What is the purpose of this constant lying? Who does this help? Why is Putin’s system pathologically incapable of leveling with the people and so comfortable with these Orwellian swings? One day a retreat from this esteemed Russian city was unthinkable and probably some NATO-planted rumor to discredit the armed forces. The next day it was the most impeccably correct military decision of all time. One that even the anti-RUMOD Kadyrov and Prigozhin are mobilized to defend if they want to keep favor with the boss who greenlighted it weeks ago as they surely now.

Then there is the supposed military impeccability of the decision to withdraw that we’re now informed we must celebrate. Thing is, the retreat does indeed have a ruthless military logic behind it — but only if you’re looking at the event through a straw. If a person takes an axe and chops off his leg then he probably should pull out of the upcoming track race he had signed up for. But does that really mean that we’re looking at someone who is great at track-racing logic??

Surovikin explains that he has to fall back because his supplies are shot. And I explain that he is telling the truth because his bridges are shot by HIMARS. But what are we talking about here? Russia incorporates Kherson into its sovereignty and hangs out billboards “Russia is here forever”“Kherson — With Russia for ages”“Kherson — Russian city” and then turns around and abandons the city of Suvorov, Ushakov, and Potemkin to the enemy because the Americans had sent over something as lightweight as puny little HIMARS (90-kg warhead with 90-km range)?

Firstly, you already knew that your bridges were shot when you “annexed” the city and told the folks Russia is never leaving. Secondly, are the Americans then gods? If the Americans are able to make an intervention into a Russian war as tiny as sending over some tiny little rockets and this being enough for Russia to abandon a storied Russian city, then maybe we should all become Washington slaves and start injecting hormone blockers right this minute because all resistance is obviously futile?!

But of course, the real reason Surovikin had to fall back isn’t because of HIMARS but because the Kherson bridgehead wasn’t expanded into something with real depth for several months while there was still plenty of opportunity and time. —Even without the HIMARS factor having a shallow bridgehead where an enemy advance of just 5 or 10 km can put your bridges in enemy howitzer range (and an advance of 30 km can cut you off) is a needlessly high-risk situation. —One that is acceptable early on as the bridgehead is being formed, or while you are occupied elsewhere, but that over the medium term you would be looking to rectify.

Had this been done, then by the time HIMARS made the appearance it would have been far less impactful. The reason this wasn’t done is by now known to all my readers. It’s the same old refrain of force availability and dispersion. Later on there just weren’t enough men compared to what the Ukrainians had. And early on when the Russians were still ascendant they were just way too dispersed over way too many objectives to properly leverage that.

So no. That the Russians withdrew because they are slaves to ruthless military logic and thus naturally had to retreat when their supply was lost is only true through a straw. But throw away that straw and the broader truth is that the Russian army was forced to abandon a Russian city because the Russian leader for 7 months stood in defiant rebellion against military logic and having started a major land war in Europe then starved his own military of the men to fight it.

Kherson bridge is difficult to protect because it can be reached even from Nikolayev and even from the west of the Bug, but the Kakhovka dam would have been safe with a larger perimeter

Tens of thousands of pro-Russians of Kherson who welcomed the Russians are now made homeless, sentenced to live out their lives as exiles, Russia is humiliated, and the Americans look like gods being able to inflict humiliation on Russia incredibly cheaply.

There is nobody in the world who praised Russia more than I for the other painful withdrawal from Kiev. I made the argument that is now being made for Kherson. I said the withdrawal would free up resources tied up in an obviously doomed expedition and address Russia’s dispersion problem. I praised Russia for having the guts to walk away and not fall pray to the sunk cost fallacy, no matter how difficult it may have been to abandon gains that had been paid for with blood. I proclaimed myself to be “in awe of the sheer ruthlessness of Russia’s withdrawal”.

So I understand that a withdrawal can be a good and logical thing. I’m the one who made that precise argument. 8 months ago.

But what I’m fed up with is that withdrawals are the only time Russia will ruthlessly yield to cold hard military logic. When it comes to anything else, such as resourcing the military, the name of the game is half-assery, procrastination and lethargy.

After Kiev I probably expected that Moscow’s decisiveness in calling a necessary retreat would also gradually start showing up in other matters. Like solving the problem of insufficient mass. That wasn’t the case. It took another six months for that and even then it was done in a half-assed way with conscripts remaining undeployable. Between Kiev, Kupyansk and Kherson a clear pattern now exists where it is somewhat easy for the military to get a permission for a withdrawal when they need one, but it is extremely difficult for the military to get anything else, such as the material and the manpower backing needed for the job.

“Kherson – Russian city”

And there’s nothing praiseworthy about that. Having delivered to NATO the gift of opening this war Putin is allowing Ukraine and the West to be introducing more men and new equipment to the battlefield quicker than Russia is. With consequences in KupyanskIzyum, Liman and Kherson that we have all witnessed.

It doesn’t matter that Ukraine’s economic mobilization isn’t that extensive and that American aid isn’t that vast on its own when Russia’s own industrial mobilization has been so utterly lethargic.

We are literally talking about a state that has not taken the steps in advance to ensure all mobiks have medkits with some gauze in them. A state that proclaims itself to be in an “existential” war and commands a PPP-adjusted $4.5 trillion economy with $130bn in yearly hydrocarbon earnings, but one in which it is left to the citizens to fundraise for the soldiers’ medkits, where the quality of mobik’s equipment varies wildly based on the region he hails from (because the central budget won’t pay for it), and which waited 7 months before it ever went to Iran for its excellent small drones. 7 months into a war Russia should have had its own plants to churn out these things by itself at scale. Instead it took it 7 months just to go to Iran and buy a small batch.

The Russian military tried to maintain the initiative on the battlefield for as long as it could have, bearing great sacrifices to do so. But when it comes to marshaling resources of the rear for the front the Kremlin has relinquished initiative to the Ukrainians and NATO from the start. In a war that the longer it lasts the less favorable the big picture is for Russia, the Kremlin is allowing Ukraine and the US all the time in the world to gear up way ahead of Russia.

What does it mean to be Moscow and to throw your military into Ukraine (piecemeal, just the contract component), then cut it off from reinforcements even as Ukraine and NATO are constantly adding more men and new equipment?

What does it mean to just stand by and watch, and not meaningfully reinforce your military as you then see it go from fast advances, to slow advances, to glacial advances, to stalemate, and finally to humiliating defeats?

What does it mean to wait until humiliating defeats until you move into action and mobilize the rear for the sake of the military and even then only in the most partial and limited way?

What is this? Is this some kind of a secret ploy to make NATO and Ukrainian nationalism look good?

I understand Putin’s MO where he does these minimal escalations and then he waits until they are completely and utterly exhausted before he will do another minimal escalation on his end. But in a war that is just pure poison. That is pretty much the exact opposite of how to win wars.

Look, I think what happened is that Kremlin went into the war with an extreme disconnect of ambition and means. I think that this disconnect is becoming smaller as the goals are made less ambitious and the investment into the war rises. But I think that of the two, the ambition is coming down much faster than investment in the war is rising.

I mean this is almost impossible to contradict. Putin has been much more willing to allow retreats than to gear up to the point that these retreats would not have been necessary. That he permitted even a retreat from Kherson which would have been invaluable to a spring push toward Odessa is telling.

Going back to Kherson, let’s not kid ourselves. What has been lost is greater than a historic city or the only regional capital Russia captured in this war. What has been lost is a right-bank bridgehead that was invaluable and Russia’s greatest accomplishment of this war. Capturing intact crossings over the Dnieper on the first day of the war was an incredible feat and incredible stroke of good luck. No one is ever going to capture an intact Dnieper crossing in this war ever again.

It was the kind of success that in a war you are looking to reinforce. Instead, in a microcosm of the entire war, the Russian army was starved of reinforcements even as Ukraine and NATO kept training more and more men for the other side, until the tide shifted and accomplishments paid for by blood had to be abandoned.

And that is how a year that started with the Eastern Military District in northern Kiev suburbs, the Central District in eastern Kiev suburbs, the Western District in Kupyansk, and the Southern District in Kherson ends with nothing but a Crimea land bridge to show for this entire war.

So by all means, praise the Kherson withdrawal as yielding to realities if you wish. But let us also be sincere about what reality precisely is being yielded to. The reality that Putin in his endless procrastination on the mobilization question had already lost Russia Kherson months ago. We just didn’t know it yet. (They didn’t tell us how bad the supply was.)

Let’s not fall for the distraction here. Surovikin is being praised for having made the correct and difficult military decision so that you would forget the reason he had to make one was that Putin for 7 months didn’t.

Kherson withdrawal: Views from Russian media

and deep thoughts from our podcast

The Russian military has withdrawn from Kherson. The city was declared a Russian territory at the end of September.

What do patriotic, pro-Putin, pro-SMO Russian-language media outlets think about this decision?, Russia’s most popular military news portal, published a scathing op-ed about the decision to abandon the city:

So, Kherson is finished.

The city is being handed over without a single shot being fired …

We have repeated Gostomel, Bucha, and Krasny Liman—only on a somewhat larger scale. 115,000 Kherson residents (data from the Ministry of Defense) became refugees, having lost everything: housing, work, property, prospects. […]

Now for several days we will listen to a stream of completely shameless propaganda, the purpose of which is to justify what happened. […]

But our shameless propagandists will justify anything. They’ve been paid. And they’ve already started to explain that Kherson was not needed at all and stuff like that.

The world’s second-largest army continues its heroic flight … But that’s not the point. The main thing is that a subject of the Russian Federation has been abandoned. […]

The bottom line is that today Russia is losing the remnants of self-confidence of the so-called “Russian world.”

And so on. The commentary ends with an appeal to the Kremlin:

The Russian government, which conducts the special military operation so splendidly, needs to understand the main thing that it (they) stubbornly refuses to understand: what they call the SMO is an ordinary war for the rest of the world … it’s time to start [really] fighting. […]

I can go on and on about what Russia should be doing besides the stupid destruction of its citizens.

Russia’s leadership must put aside its “business interests” and conduct a “real war,” the op-ed implores.

From Katyusha:

If this is not a plan to lure enemy troops in order to beat them in advantageous positions (which I really want to believe in spite of everything) and we just left, then this is the most serious defeat of our army since 1991, which will badly damage the morale of both the fighters at the front and the entire people as a whole. […]

From the point of view of domestic policy, this is more than a serious blow to the trust in the authorities …

Moreover, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, announced her readiness to negotiate with Ukraine, taking into account the current realities.

“We are still open to negotiations. We have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them, of course, taking into account the realities that are developing at the moment,” she said at a briefing.

The day before, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Moscow does not set any preconditions for peace talks with Kiev. According to him, to start a dialogue “only the good will of Ukraine is enough.”

The article ends by expressing hope that the withdrawal is a trap set for the Ukrainian military, while acknowledging it may actually be part of a backroom deal between Moscow and Kiev (Washington).

Both Topwar and Katyusha expressed suspicions about the curious death of Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of Kherson, who reportedly died in a car accident on the same day that the withdrawal was announced.

“Two days ago, when no one still believed in the abandonment of Kherson, Stremousov said that there were still many Russian citizens left in the city who could not leave. And he was against the surrender of the city,” Topwar noted. Both outlets hinted Moscow may be responsible for Stremousov’s demise.

From Nakanune:

Will the military threat increase if the Armed Forces of Ukraine enter Kherson? The Armed Forces of Ukraine, in principle, previously had the ability to strike at fairly large distances—up to 100 km deep into our defenses. And due to the fact that now they are actively supplied with guided strike weapons like UAVs, the range of delivering these strikes is about 200 km to our rear. Therefore, the entry of the Armed Forces of Ukraine into Kherson will not change anything in terms of defense. The Armed Forces of Ukraine, as they struck with the American HIMARS, will continue to strike. As they delivered strikes from the French Caesar self-propelled guns, they will continue to deliver these strikes using precision-guided munitions.

However, as our army captured this bridgehead at the beginning of the SMO, and it will not work the second time, because back then the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not have the necessary resources, there was not enough personnel, there was no modern Western weapons, and in fact our army entered there as a her home, there was nothing to stop her.

Next time this will not work, because now the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the right bank will deploy their echeloned defense, which will be backed up by high-precision Western weapons, and storming the right bank along the already destroyed bridges, without having normal crossings—this is a conversation about the experience of the Great Patriotic War. Those who are interested can read how it happened at that time and what difficulties it caused. And if the Armed Forces of Ukraine blow up the dam, they will flood all our positions to which we retreated, and nothing will be flooded on the right bank.

But personally, I believe that there was no military need to leave the Kherson bridgehead. During various wars, the armies were in much more difficult circumstances, and as we know, in such circumstances, military operations were carried out that were not much different from how military operations are now conducted on the territory of Ukraine, if we recall the experience of the 20th century. And, in my opinion, there is very little military solution in the very leaving of this springboard, there is more politics involved.

Unfortunately, we all depend on the political decisions that are made by our political leadership. And until our political leadership tells our army to move from defense to offensive, nothing will change. Wars are not won on the defensive.

It is difficult to say how the departure will affect the political sense. We do not know what behind-the-scenes negotiations were conducted by our leadership with the American representatives, with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was talking about something with our political representatives. We do not know what decisions were made and on what basis they were motivated. Perhaps there were political reasons for this, perhaps not.

However, this withdrawal does not look very nice against the background of the fact that this region was recently annexed to the Russian Federation. Concerts and celebrations were held even on Red Square.

I think that our political leadership should stop looking to the West, stop wondering what the US Democratic Party has to say. It must live by its own policy, make those political decisions that determine the national interests of Russia, and not live with an eye to the West …

If you pay attention to the statements made by various officials, including American ones, for them this was an expected decision. They expected that our politicians would decide to leave Kherson, because if it were a surprise and news for them, we would see completely different rhetoric.

Your correspondent joined Blog Friends Marko & Rolo for a podcast about the situation. Our weekly talks will henceforth be hosted on a dedicated Substack, The Worst of All Worlds. Subscribe?

You can read Rolo’s take on the withdrawal here. Marko published an excellent analysis looking into military realities that may have prompted the abandonment of the city.

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