Russia and Ukraine, February 17, 2022… Czekmate’s Operational Analysis & Commentary

Remember: It is what they (Russia) do, not what they say.

THIS is Russian diplomacy at its most essential. They are moving troops forward while emphasizing that some are packing up to go home. This is against the backdrop of “heightened” tensions with the separatists. These tensions are ongoing. From what I can tell, the Donbas exchanges of fire are not particularly bad as compared to a couple of weeks ago. It is a mess, and will likely remain so the balance of the week while the allies and the world are meeting in Munich for the security summit. The Russians are sitting out their participation in that conference.

photo: Moscow Times

I am amazed at the Russian media buy-in on the exchange of fires that are going on in the Donbas regions (Luhansk & Donestsk). Exchange of fires happen frequently and the elevated tenor of them is over a month old.

As mortar exchanges happen and possible tank/artillery shelling, the Ukrainian separatists are working overtime to stoke further tension.

From social media: Russian/separatist tv channels are trying to pass off dead children from an explosion in Damascus from 2012 as being from the Donbas region. Reverse image search is quick and easy.

Further to my previous, the enclosed article summarizes the Russian/Ukrainian news cycle for the past 12-18 hours, from the western vantage point. It is solid writing and informative. It is a rallying cry for some of the allies going into the Munich Security Conference this week.

It is also dignifying one of the effects the Moscow seeks for its own purposes during that conference: to create an atmosphere of concern that can be spotlighted by the Russians and media (they consider friendly) to throw the allies into a negative light.

In other words, Russia seeks to create the image of a bellicose NATO. This Reuters article serves that end, if unintended.

As I’ve discussed here, the Russian diplomatic approach is frequently a case good cop/ bad cop. Capitalizing on the media enhanced war drumbeating shows the Russian deftness at this multi-faceted and often contradictory approach to diplomacy in it’s public messaging. Through media lackeys they have hiked tensions in/through the Donbas (separatist regions of Ukraine) while planting stories of withdrawal from the Ukrainian frontier. Their approach appears to be in contrast to what you see here. But they harness stories such as this for domestic use and the intimidation of Ukraine.

These dual-track, contradictory signals are transmitted while western press largely confines itself to reporting the movement of troops out of assembly areas to offensive positions closer to the Ukrainian border. Western media addresses the Russian narrative-contradiction, but as an aside. Instead of calling the double-game for what it is, the western media stereotypically dwells on the forces arrayed and whispers “Hosanna” at the leaks they get out of the US executive branch.

These confusing signals keep Moscow in command of the high ground of decision making, leaving all of Putin’s options in play. They are playing to a number of audiences while at the same time auditioning the resonance of diplomatic overtures and/or demands. Put differently, articles like the one below give the Russian approach an upper hand at all times. Having such a saturation of differing media messaging gives the Russian government cover for any changes in approach to objectives as events demand.

Much more succinctly: Moscow speaks, the world reacts.

They have superiority in freedom of action. This is the situation the allies and the Ukrainians have been in, since this epoch began. More to come gang!

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