AGREEMENT. Ceasefire. Pull-back of heavy weapons. Autonomy talks. OSCE. Does Poroshenko mean it? Can he deliver? Will Washington let him? What happens if there's a “nazi spring” in Kiev? Or in Galicia? The Donbass wants out. Will the WMSM stop its propaganda? (If Putin is so determined to conquer Ukraine why has he twice signed an agreement by which the Donbass stays there?). There's no provision for vigorous enforcement. The Debaltsevo pocket isn't cleared. It's too much like the last agreement when Kiev forces never pulled back and never stopped shelling. At best, a first small step; at worst, a pause so Kiev can try again (here's Poroshenko explaining they used the last pause to re-arm).
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN. Obama says the US “brokered a deal on Ukraine”. Interesting slip: Washington wasn't part of the 21 February 2014 agreement. Perhaps he's referring to two American officials deciding the new Ukrainian government without reference (well one) to the EU. The ineffable Jen Psaki explains that's not what he meant. Perhaps he meant to say “broke the deal”.
IF YOU WANT ENEMIES, WE CAN DO THAT TOO. Revealing photo: why are Putin and Lukashenko smiling and the other three not? Have Hollande and Merkel just had a reality check? Could it be something like this: NATO says it's taking “necessary measures to respond to the challenges posed by Russia and their strategic implications” and lumps Russia in with “risks and threats” in the southern neighbourhood; “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not an isolated incident, but a game-changer in European security”. Should Russia treat these statements from the world's most powerful military alliance as empty prattle? Or should it ask itself why it's selling energy to countries that call it an enemy?
MORE REALITY. The Debaltsevo pocket traps several thousand Kiev troops. (Maps and videos). More talk of “betrayal” and the like. It is said that a million Ukrainians of military age have fled to Russia joining another million or so. Here's a video from eastern Ukraine illustrating the reaction to the latest conscription. Deserters can now be shot. German intelligence says the death toll is more like 50,000. Neo-nazis carefully ignored by WMSM. And the solution is more weapons? Kiev started with most of the weapons and has been regularly defeated. The rebels now even have an aircraft they captured. If you prefer, here's a Kiev side account: victory all the way!
LITVINENKO DEATH. At last the words “Ichkeria” and “nuclear weapons” have surfaced in the London enquiry. Always been my favourite theory and Gordon Hahn's too.
ECONOMY. We have official numbers for 2014. GDP was up 0.6%, the January-November trade balance was US$176 billion, up 0.6%; industrial production up 1.7%. On the bad side, the consumer price index rose 7.8% while real disposable income fell 1%. Capital flight (so-called) was US$151.5 billion but 85% of that was actually debt repayment (see below). The RUB/USD exchange worsened from 33 to 56. Oil prices are creeping up gradually. Hardly Obama's “economy in tatters”.
RUSSIA'S EXTERNAL DEBT. It's being paid off quickly – here's a report.
REPORTERS COMMIT REPORTING! “Dramatic video has emerged of the moment a soup kitchen was hit by Ukrainian military rockets.” This is first time I've seen a Western media outlet telling the truth that Kiev forces are routinely shelling civilians; always before where the shots come from has been a Great Mystery. “Untold story of the Maidan massacre”! What's next: suddenly unsuppressed MH17 reports?
SANCTIONS. The Spanish Foreign Minister estimates that Russia's food sanctions have cost the EU €21 billion. Meanwhile Turkey's food exports have gone way up. Ditto Argentina's. Whatever happens, I think the Europeans have lost most of that market.
ISOLATED RUSSIA. China again supports Russia. China, Russia and India vow to “build a more just, fair and stable international political and economic order”. An excellent trip to Egypt and, maybe, new relations with Greece. Not “isolated” either.
DELUSION. Saakashvili thinks a properly armed and prepared Ukrainian army has the “spirit” to capture all of Russia. Soros and BHL tell us Ukraine is a “participatory democracy; a noble adventure”. McCain thinks that arming the side that began with all the weapons and lost anyway is a good idea; Graham says it will make him “feel better”. Poroshenko thinks Russian soldiers would carry passports with them.