HOW WILL YOUR LOCAL MSM OUTLET AVOID REPORTING THIS? Russian Defence Ministry briefing: ISIS is largely funded by oil smuggling, the oil goes into Turkey, Erdoğan and his family are involved (no evidence given but coming?). Thousands of trucks in and out of Turkey. The Russians claim to have cut the business in half. Watch it – the lines of tanker trucks – hundreds and hundreds – have to be seen to be believed. And we're supposed to believe that the all-seeing US satellite system missed them? Actually, here are the US excuses for not hitting them. As a reminder that the WMSM doesn't tell you very much, here's the former head of the US DIA saying that the White House made a "wilful decision" to ignore warnings about ISIS. Of course, given the Paris wakeup call, the WMSM just might report this. Watch and see. BUT – and a big but: see below.
ON THE OTHER HAND. The Russian videos purport to show hits on oil storage tanks. But look at this screenshot from the briefing: the upper left and upper right look like grain silos or something while the lower left looks like a water purification plant. This, on the other hand, does look like an oil refinery: note the flames and black smoke you'd expect from a petroleum fire. (Thanks to Petri Krohn for noticing what I did not). Blowing up anything that's round and claiming it's oil storage somewhat weakens the Russian case. To put it mildly. The lines of trucks are compelling, though. Note Turkish flag at 0:28.
PUTIN SPEECH. Annual address to the Federal Assembly. Haven't gone through it in detail; much on terrorism of course but also the usual emphasis on domestic matters – especially food production. The words "Ukraine", "Kiev" and "Donbass" do not appear in it. Which is rather interesting, isn't it?
CRIMEA. Finding their food blockade ineffective at persuading Crimeans to return to the embrace of Kiev, Right Sector and "Tatar nationalists" blew up power lines into Crimea and drove off repair crews. Fortunately there was no catastrophic aftereffect on nuclear power plants in Ukraine. However, Moscow foresaw this and has been building electricity connections. The first bit is up and running and 80-90% of the demand should be covered by the end of the month. The full provision is scheduled for May. Meanwhile, here is a video showing the progress of the bridge.
SOROS. The Prosecutor General's Office put George Soros' Open Society Foundations and Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation on the list of undesirable NGOs. This observer argues that Moscow lacks self confidence. I disagree: he and others managed to blow up Ukraine which was pretty placid in the 1990s; all societies have fissures which can be pried open with enough money and effort.
HOLLANDE. He met Putin and here are the joint press statements. Seems to me that he's pretty close to Putin's strategy: "France is ready and willing to work with Russia... common objective, which is to fight terrorist groups, above all ISIS... agreed... step up the exchange of intelligence... intensify strikes against ISIS and coordinate them... make sure that our air strikes concentrate on the Islamic State and terrorist groups." On the other hand: "it goes without saying that Assad does not have any role to play in the future of his country." But, step by step: politicians seem to be unable to openly change their minds.
SYRIA. Several sources claim that Russia is preparing another airfield for use. More S-400s?
DIA SCANDAL. To summarise: the former head is criticising the US Administration's policy; 50 analysts have complained their reports on ISIS were modified to look more optimistic; even the NYT notices.
TURKEY. Moscow's response will cost Turkey billions. Putin's executive order: tourism, trade and employment greatly cut. Turk Stream has just been suspended. S-400 SAMs are now in place in Syria (and Armenia?) and Russian fighters will carry AAMs and probably soon have fighter cover. What Ankara had better not hope is that Moscow "sells" some S-400s to Damascus, "trains" some operators who shoot down the Turkish aircraft that routinely fly into Syria. I do not believe that Washington put Ankara up to shooting it down. First the luke-warm response from NATO and second the absence of monovoiced WMSM coverage. Kerry has told Ankara to seal the border to stop the oil smuggling and Carter said the majority of Turkish strikes in Syria hit Kurds. Not, I think, full-throated support.