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What Explains The Latest De-Escalation In Donbass?

24 APRIL 2021

What Explains The Latest De-Escalation In Donbass?

The latest de-escalation in Donbass is attributable to Russia’s resoluteness in refusing to fall into the US’ Hybrid War trap of launching an all-out military intervention there in support of its legal interests while nevertheless flexing its muscles in this respect by sending the signal that it reserves the right to deliver a crushing strike in defense of its border and/or citizens if they’re seriously threatened.

The month of April was marked by serious tension in the Eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass after Kiev appeared to be gearing up for an Operation Storm-like genocidal advance against the Russian-friendly separatists there which many predicted might trigger a major military response from Moscow. Of course, the Mainstream Media flipped the victims and villains in order to misportray Russia as the aggressor even though it was Ukraine that declined to implement its legal obligations as agreed to during the Minsk peace process and thus unilaterally worsened the situation. I published two analyses at the time explaining the complicated dynamics of those tense events, which should be reviewed by interested readers in case they aren’t already familiar with them:

* 6 April: “Are Vaccines The Real Driving Force Behind The Latest Donbass Destabilization?

* 8 April: “Why Does Ukraine Want War?

Basically, Kiev was being put up to this by its Washington patron which wanted to provoke a scenario that would make it politically impossible for most of the EU nations to purchase Russia’s Sputnik V like they were reportedly planning to do up until that point. The US feared the long-term strategic impact of improved Russian-EU relations as a result of their prospective epidemiological cooperation. It hoped to “bait the bear” into launching an all-out military intervention in support of its border and/or citizens, which could in turn function as a Hybrid War trap for creating an Afghan-like quagmire in the worst-case scenario. Russia refused to fall for this scheme but nevertheless flexed its muscles by sending the signal that it still reserves the right to deliver a crushing strike in defense of its legal interests if they’re threatened, which got the West to back off.

The situation could of course change at any moment since the strategic dynamics haven’t changed all that much, but Russia’s confident moves must have made the West rethink the wisdom of this Hybrid War plot considering the obviously unacceptable costs that it would likely entail. For the moment at least, everything seems to be de-escalating a bit as a result of Russia’s prudent policy. The Russian “spy” scandal in Czechia was manufactured to serve as a convenient distraction from Western warmongers backtracking in Eastern Ukraine since their leadership couldn’t openly acknowledge that they blinked in the face of Russian resoluteness lest they lose credibility with their populace which has been hyped up by anti-Russian propaganda. This was followed by President Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly and the end of Russian drills in the south.

About those last two, they’re actually interconnected if one takes the time to think about them. The Russian leader very clearly implied that his country’s red lines are connected not only to conventional security interests such as the obvious ones in Eastern Ukraine that everyone had been talking about up until that point, but also “Democratic Security” insofar as announcing how unacceptable the recently foiled Belarusian regime change plot was. Without saying as much but clearly hinting in this direction, President Putin was conveying the message that the West mustn’t dare even think about attempting to assassinate him, stage a Color Revolution (the ongoing Navalny-inspired unrest isn’t a serious threat), try to co-opt military officials for a coup plot, or launch a crippling cyber offensive attack to shut down the national capital like was all planned for Belarus.

Since Russia’s southern military drills were sufficient enough to prove how resolute it was in defending its legal interests if need be, and considering the fact that the West had already begun to de facto de-escalate the situation by staging the Russian “spy” distraction in Czechia and subsequent expulsion of diplomats across a growing number of European countries, it naturally followed that Russia would reciprocate by ending its exercises. Moscow had already managed to show the West that it won’t be pushed around, and its military forces can always snap back into action at a moment’s notice if the situation requires them to do so. In other words, those drills and President Putin’s very clearly implied “Democratic Security” (counter-Hybrid War) red lines were responsible for getting the West to de-escalate, after which Russia responded in kind as is the norm.

The lessons to be learned are several. Firstly, Russia is much too wise to fall into Hybrid War traps that are so obviously laid out for it. Secondly, it still succeeded in showing its opponents that they’ll suffer unacceptably high costs for their schemes if they force Russia to militarily respond in a limited way in defense of its legal interests. Thirdly, awareness of these first two points resulted in a rethink of Western strategy, which was fourthly followed by their desperate manufacturing of the Russian “spy” scandal in Czechia to distract their hyped-up Russophobic populations that had expected the West to be the one to deliver a crushing blow to Russia and not the inverse. Fifthly, Russia conveyed its “Democratic Security” red lines, thereby essentially expanding the list of unacceptable actions against it which could provoke a hot war in the worst-case scenario.

This sequence of events explains the latest de-escalation in Donbass, but observers must remember that the present respite might only be short-lived since the strategic dynamics that provoked the original tensions still remain. There’s nothing stopping the West from trying to provoke Russia again and again, albeit perhaps modifying their approach each time. That would of course increase the chances of a war by miscalculation and contradict the so-called “rational actor theory” upon which many had (naively?) premised their understanding of International Relations up until this point. It might still be premature to predict that this will happen and that the US isn’t behaving rationally since it did after all de-escalate, though only in the face of Russian resoluteness, but everything should become much clearer by the time NATO’s Defender Europe 2021 drills end in June.


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The Strategic Consequences Of Myanmar’s State Of Emergency: The Quad vs. China & Russia?

The Strategic Consequences Of Myanmar’s State Of Emergency: The Quad vs. China & Russia?

1 FEBRUARY 2021

The Strategic Consequences Of Myanmar

The Tatmadaw’s decision to impose a year-long state of emergency in response to the formerly ruling National League for Democracy’s refusal to seriously investigate the military’s accusations of fraud stemming from last November’s contested elections will temporarily revert Myanmar back to its prior regional pariah status, one which will be exposed to multidimensional pressure from the US-backed Quad while China and Russia seek to stabilize the country in support of its political transition towards new elections in twelve months’ time.

Executive Summary

Myanmar entered into a year-long state of emergency after the Tatmadaw detained leaders of the formerly ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) following their refusal to seriously investigate the military’s accusations of fraud stemming from last November’s contested elections. Popularly described as a “coup” by the international media despite technically being in legal alignment with Article 417 of the 2008 Constitution, it’s already drawn widespread condemnation from the US and its allies, including those in the Quad such as neighboring India. This sets the stage for temporarily reverting Myanmar back to its prior regional pariah status, during which time it’s expected that the Southeast Asian state will come to depend more heavily on China and Russia. Those two Great Powers will seek to stabilize the country in support of its political transition towards new elections in twelve months’ time while the former coalition of American-backed states will attempt to undermine it.


Political Context

Myanmar began its political transition towards a national model of Western-inspired democracy a decade ago when it began implementing reforms in 2011. Western democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won elections in 2015, after which she was made “State Counsellor” as a workaround to entering some sort of office since the Constitution barred her from holding a seat due to members of her immediate family holding dual citizenship. Contrary to expectations, she generally continued the military-led government’s strategic partnerships with China and Russia while nevertheless expanding ties with new partners such as the US, India, and others. She also supported the Tatmadaw’s security operation in the restive northwestern Rakhine State against the self-professed “Rohingya” Muslim minority. Even so, the military never truly trusted her and accused the NLD of rigging November’s elections despite the Election Commission rejecting this claim as recently as late last week.

Military Context

All the while, Myanmar continued to experience what’s regarded as the world’s longest-running civil war which has been in effect on and off with varying intensity since shortly after the end of World War II. In short, many of the country’s peripheral minorities (especially those in natural resource-rich areas) are at odds with the ethnic majority Bamar’s centralizing tendencies. This led to various stages of Old Cold War proxy struggles being fought on its territory. Suu Kyi attempted to revive the spirit of the former Panglong Conference first pioneered by her father which federalized the then-Burma, but this provoked even more suspicions from the military since some feared that she was planning to institutionalize the de facto internal partition of the country despite them having previously agreed to peace talks with the country’s many rebels. That could in turn transform Myanmar into a checkerboard of proxy statelets to be divided and ruled in the New Cold War.

Strategic Context

It deserves premier mention that Myanmar serves an ultra-significant role in China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) by virtue of hosting the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), an ASEAN analogue of BRI’s flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which also crucially enables the People’s Republic to connect to the Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean without having to pass through the tense South China Sea and Strait of Malacca. Over time, CMEC and CPEC could greatly enhance China’s connectivity with its fellow Global South partners in Africa, thus enabling the People’s Republic to more tangibly actualize former Chairman Mao’s “Third World Theory” of prioritizing South-South cooperation through its current international development policy. The externally provoked exacerbation of Myanmar’s preexisting identity fault lines (Hybrid War) during its ongoing state of emergency could therefore deal an enormous setback to China’s grand strategy in the worst-case scenario.


Political Risks

The NLD has already called on its supporters to protest throughout the country against the “coup”, which could lead to Color Revolution unrest if it’s not promptly brought under control by the Tatmadaw. Given their history of effectively implementing “Democratic Security” (counter-Hybrid War, including -Color Revolution, tactics and strategies), there’s little doubt that the military will succeed in this respect, but this might in turn prompt the US, the Quad (including India), and their allies into imposing sanctions (whether personal, sectoral, etc.) in response. They might also provide an uncertain degree of political support to the protesters, which could dangerously evolve into military aid to certain rebel groups, including “Rohingya” insurgents who are regarded by the Tatmadaw as terrorists. Depending on the phased transition of this indirect adaptive approach to regime change, a new Hybrid War might break out in Myanmar.

Military Risks

I explored the most likely Hybrid War scenarios for Myanmar in a highly detailed four-part analytical series in fall 2016 (I, IIIIIIV) that should at least be skimmed by those who are interested in learning more about the complex dynamics of the world’s longest-running civil war. Basically, the “Rohingya”-inhabited areas of Rakhine State just north of CMEC’s terminal port of Kyaukpyu, the long-restive Kachin State bordering both China and India, and the battle-hardened Shan State abutting China and Thailand might end up as the scenes that see the most action. The worst-case scenario would be if India became the US’ “Lead From Behind” vanguard state for waging the Quad’s Hybrid War on Myanmar, which might dangerously draw it and China into a proxy struggle as Beijing would likely double down on its backing of Naypyidaw. Despite publicly declaring its support for “democracy” in Myanmar, India doesn’t seem to have any interest in this role, though it can’t be fully ruled out. Even in the absence of that worst-case scenario, a new Hybrid War on Myanmar could still be pretty intense.

Strategic Risks

Myanmar’s reversion back to its prior pariah state status would risk repeating the scenario of disproportionate “dependence” on China that ultimately led to the Tatmadaw’s desire to restore “balance” to this relationship by “diversifying” its range of partnerships through its brief experiment with “democracy”. In other words, Myanmar might be entering the second iteration of this cycle which could be destined to ultimately conclude in the same way, even if the process accelerates and is compressed within the timeframe of just one year as officially expected or perhaps a couple if the next elections are delayed for unforeseen reasons instead of two decades. The point being made is that Myanmar’s expected near-immediate return to its prior “dependence” on China could eventually be exploited once more for anti-Chinese aims depending on the outcome of the next elections even though the NLD had hitherto been unexpectedly pragmatic towards the People’s Republic.


Political Solutions

Every solution to Myanmar’s most immediate problems rests with China, but it would be wise if Naypyidaw and Beijing expanded their predictably strengthened bilateral cooperation into a trilateral format involving Moscow. The Eurasian Great Power has plenty of experience dealing with cutting-edge “Democratic Security” threats, both within its own borders and also those of its BelarusianCentral African RepublicKyrgyz, and Syrian allies. This makes its contribution to politically stabilizing Myanmar invaluable and of immense use to its Southeast Asian partner and China, who could collectively learn more about the most effective ways for thwarting Hybrid War threats through their trilateral cooperation. Just as importantly, Russia also has the political will to scale up its support to Myanmar, which no other Great Power of significance other than China has. This makes them perfect partners and could greatly advance the Asian dimension of Russia’s “balancing” act.

Military Solutions

Myanmar will require reliable support from its premier Chinese and Russian military partners, hence one of the reasons why it was suggested above for Moscow to expand its cooperation with Naypyidaw into the political dimension as well. Both Great Powers are Myanmar’s long-standing arms partners, but Moscow has recently re-engaged Naypyidaw in order to take their military ties to a qualitatively new level. Defense Minister Shoigu was just there last month, during which time they “agreed that Russia will supply Myanmar with Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems, Orlan-10E surveillance drones, and radar equipment.” Such supplies will prove crucial in securing Myanmar’s defensive capabilities in the future even though they’re not expected to be delivered right away of course. This speaks to the long-term vision that both countries have, which complements China’s own there while also helping Myanmar “diversify” from its erstwhile “dependence” on Beijing in a “friendly” way.

Strategic Solutions

Keeping with proposed trend of Russia comprehensively improving its presence in Myanmar during the country’s ongoing state of emergency, it follows that Moscow should be invited to invest in part of CMEC or other related connectivity ventures within this geostategically positioned state. Doing so could easily make Russia a key stakeholder in one of Asia’s fastest growing and most promising economies despite the significant risks involved related to its stability. Russia’s “Democratic Security” assistance, true to the pattern that was pioneered in Syria and more recently in the Central African Republic, could result in tacit quid pro quos whereby Moscow obtains valuable stakes in strategic projects in exchange for helping to defend its partner from Hybrid War threats. If successful, then Russia could diversify from its present regional strategic dependence on India and Vietnam in the South-Southeast Asian space along the South Eurasian Rimland.


Concluding Thoughts

Myanmar is poised to experience another round of intense international pressure after Monday’s imposition of its year-long state of emergency, though unlike during the 1990s and 2000s, the country is better positioned to deal with this because of its much stronger and balanced strategic partnerships with China and Russia. Moscow in particular is expected to play a larger role in supporting Naypyidaw than before, both because of its restored status as a Great Power and also due to its partner’s desire to lessen its “dependence” on Beijing in a “friendly” way during this sensitive time. It’ll of course remain to be seen whether the Quad-led pressure campaign will evolve into a sustained Hybrid War or not, but that scenario doesn’t seem too likely at the moment since India doesn’t appear to have the appetite for leading it on the US’ behalf, at least not at the moment. That being the case, Myanmar probably won’t be destabilized all that much and will likely survive this pressure campaign.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Myanmar, Tatmadaw, Suu Kyi, Regime Change, Color Revolution, Hybrid War, US, India, Russia, China, Quad, Democratic Security.


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Russia Is Reportedly Preparing To Defend The Central African Republic From A Coup

Russia Is Reportedly Preparing To Defend The Central African Republic From A Coup

21 DECEMBER 2020

Russia Is Reportedly Preparing To Defend The Central African Republic From A Coup

The Agence France Presse’s report on Monday citing Central African Republic spokesman Ange Maxim Kazagui’s claim that Russia “sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” to stave off an impending armed coup attempt in the landlocked country is likely true since it aligns with Moscow’s “Democratic Security” interests in Africa.

The news just broke earlier on Monday that Russia “sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” to the Central African Republic to stave off an impending armed coup attempt there according to spokesman Ange Maxim Kazagui as cited by the Agence France Presse (AFP). The Kremlin has yet to confirm this report at the time of writing though President Putin’s spokesman Peskov voiced “deep concern” about the latest events there on the same day. Nevertheless, it’s likely that this actually did happen since it aligns with Moscow’s “Democratic Security” interests in Africa that I previously elaborated upon.

My May 2019 analysis about how “Russia’s Military Deal With The Congo Republic Completes Its African Transversal” cited eight of my prior works (some of which link to a defunct site whose articles can still be read by using the free Internet Archive service) explaining this concept. In a nutshell, Russia’s differential strategic value in the ongoing “Scramble for Africa” is its ability to commence low-cost and -commitment but potentially high-impact interventions aimed at thwarting Hybrid War plots in geostrategic states in exchange for preferential economic deals.

In the specific context of the Central African Republic, Russia was invited by its UN-recognized government to provide much-needed security assistance in stabilizing the country after its most recent civil war threatened to reach genocidal proportions. Moscow has since become Bangui’s indispensable security partner, hence why it reportedly rushed to its aid to prevent the impending armed coup attempt that the government there warned about over the weekend.

Russia isn’t alone in its commitment to the Central African Republic’s stability since the previously mentioned spokesman is also quoted as saying that several hundred Rwandan troops were dispatched as well and are already “on the ground and have started fighting.” I wrote back in June 2018 following Foreign Minister Lavrov’s successful trip to Rwanda that month that “Rwanda Is Poised To Play In Irreplaceable Role In Russia’s ‘Pivot To Africa’”, explaining that Moscow appreciates the fact that Kigali is a Central African military superpower despite serious controversies over its role in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) infamous wars.

It’s unclear at this time whether the Russians and Rwandans are coordinating with one another or operating separately, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s at least some communication between their military representatives in this respect considering the fact that they share the same goal of defending the Central African Republic’s internationally recognized government from an impending armed coup attempt. If successful, then Russia will likely leverage its “military diplomacy” to expand relations with Rwanda, which is one of Africa’s rapidly emerging tech and investment hubs, thus complementing Kigali’s Great Power “balancing” act.

As it stands, it’s too early to tell how far Russia’s reported intervention might go. There are just too many variables at play, including whether or not Russian and/or Rwandan troops will launch offensive operations against the rebels (be it independently or jointly). Moreover, the US might politicize the crisis by fearmongering about what it might dishonestly misportray as a “Russian invasion of Africa” in order to push for another round of sanctions against the Eurasian Great Power, perhaps in partnership with former colonial power France. In any case, it’s optimistically predicted that Russian forces will at least successfully defend the capital from capture.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Central African Republic, Democratic Security, Hybrid War, Regime Change, Civil War, Rwanda.


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