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The Voyage of the Nikolai Filchenkov

September 8th, 2013 - 6:26 pm

Even as Saudi Arabia dispatched death row inmates to fight in Syria, the media reported that Russia was sending a large landing ship to Syria with a “special cargo”. The reinforcements from the Kingdom consisted of individuals who had nothing to lose.

Saudi Arabia has sent death-row inmates from several nations to fight against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences, the Assyrian International News Agency reports. …

According to an English translation of the memo, besides Saudis, the prisoners included Afghans, Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Somalis, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis. All faced “execution by sword” for murder, rape or drug smuggling.

Although this can hardly improve the moral tone of the rebels the Saudi recruits will undoubtedly not have many inhibitions to lose. Which cast the nature of the Russian ship’s cargo, the Nikolai Filchenkov’s into focus. Are these also reinforcements to counter the Saudi’s Legion of the Lost? The Business Insider reports: “A Russian warship carrying ‘special cargo’ will be dispatched toward Syria, a navy source said on Friday, as the Kremlin beefs up its presence in the region ahead of possible US strikes against the Damascus regime.”

The large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov will on Friday leave the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, from where it will head to Syria’s coast, the Interfax news agency quoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying.

“The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean,” the source said.

The source did not specify the nature of the cargo.

Defense Updates, however, has further to say on the Filchenkov’s secret mission.

The arrival of the Nikolai Filchenkov in Tartus is not the first that Russian landing ships made to this port. Only recently the Russian Interfax news agency reported the LST Novocherkassk, (carrying 150 marine special forces) and Minsk (with 300 troops), were sent to the Syrian port, although their mission was not specified. According to the website of the Russian Black Sea Fleet the Filchenkov can carry 300 troops + 1,700 tons of cargo, including about 20 tanks and trucks or 40 AFV’s.

The recent mission coincided with an unplanned US-Russian summit at St. Petersburg. Although no such meeting was priori arranged between President Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin at the G20 conference in St Petersburg, the meeting between the two leaders (just them, no staff) lasted 30 minutes. Following the meeting no announcements were given to the media, which seems strange under the present Syrian crisis, that has already dominated the Summit.

The suggestion is that the ship has come in connection with whatever understanding was reached in St Petersburg.

The exact size of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is not known with any precision, though the French government has estimated it to be more than 1,000 tons. This is believed to be one of the largest stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) existing in the Middle East today. …

But if any one, the Russians should know the exact inventory. The weapons were stored originally in five major locations – near the cities of Latakia, Palmyra, Homs and Hama, all in the north and central part of the country, and at al-Safir, near the Turkish border. However, weapons have been moved around the country over the last year for operational reasons, a process that has recently accelerated as the threat of a retaliatory strike by the U.S. has increased. The obvious target for storing these safely for the regime would be the coastal mountains in which Bashar Assad’s Alawite minority still dominates the scene.

Moreover, it seems logical that under the mentioned circumstances, Russian special forces based at Tartus, could have been directing these critical movements. In fact, western intelligence monitoring the chemical weapons hideouts, indicate that underground storage depots, which may include chemical weapons have been sighted in the coastal mountain region of Latakia, the Alawite stronghold. These locations are conveniently accessible to the Russian Naval Port of Tartus, where the LST Nikolai Filchenkov is likely heading.

So what could be more natural to solve the Syrian crisis, which is already nearing a political, if not military disaster? It would be to remove the fuse from this ‘time bomb’, remove the critical parts of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, especially its delivery systems and most vulnerable and dangerous agents, before the entire Middle East enters into another highly dangerous quagmire, which no one really wants. Such means could include specific warheads, sarin and VX binari agents (which can be carried safely to a temporary storage area in Russia)

The speculation in other words is that Russia is going to pull a “Saddam” on Syria. If and when American or international coalition inspectors arrive on the ground there will be … no … WMDs. Or maybe the sequence was for the strikes to take place and for Russia to defuse the situation and pull out the chemical weapons.

Of course that is only one of several possibilities. However, the voyage of the Nikolai Filchenkov underscores the indistinctness of all the Red Lines in the region. We don’t know the ending of the script as written. Maybe even the players do not know how the story ends.

The fight in Syria is as much a battle of narratives as it is of weapons and tactics among armies of the night. We are getting a glimpse into the face of modern proxy warfare in which the press — and the public — are often the last to know.

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Top Rated Comments   
Yes, but did Putin and Obama meet in order to coordinate the decline of the U.S.? If you read Norman Podhoretz in the WSJ, that's a real possibility!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (29)
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The ship could be carrying the long promised S-300 SAM system.

Or it could be a bluff. One wonders if the Russians are playing Kriegspiel with their "special [secret] cargo."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Russian official floats plan to avert military strike on Syria

"Russia's foreign minister said Monday that Moscow will push Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. "

The push comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in London that if Bashar Assad wanted to defuse the crisis, "he could turn every single bit of his chemical weapons over to the international community" within a week.

But Kerry claimed that Assad "isn't about to do it."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the Australian front

The Triumph of Tony Abbott

"And crucially, the opposition's leaders embraced the global warming agenda. As if to demonstrate the liberal Liberals' fitness for government, they endorsed Mr. Rudd's signature legislation, a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme. The result was that the governing Labor party held commanding double-digit leads over its conservative opponents.

But Labor's Indian summer came to an end, and what changed the political climate was climate change.

For two years, the global warming debate had been conducted in a heretic-hunting and illiberal environment. It was deemed blasphemy for anyone to dare question not only the climate science but the policy consensus to decarbonize the economy. Mr. Rudd even claimed that climate change was the "great moral challenge" of our time and even denounced critics of cap and trade as "deniers" and "conspiracy theorists." The hapless Liberals led by Mr. Turnbull—an Oz version of Mitt Romney—were in the deepest political valley.


Then along came the failed 2009 Copenhagen summit, which exposed the Rudd agenda as a sham. When the rest of the world refused to endorse the climate enthusiasts' fanciful notions for slashing carbon emissions, Mr. Rudd imploded. Mr. Abbott seized the moment and highlighted the higher energy costs created by Labor's emissions trading scheme.

Almost overnight, Mr. Rudd's stratospheric poll figures cratered. Facing a changing (political) climate, he ditched the emissions trading scheme, his government's keynote legislation.

Labor factional warlords panicked, knifed Mr. Rudd in an internal party coup and installed Julia Gillard as prime minister. Undeterred, Mr. Abbott continued his relentless attacks on other key issues of principle and policy.

He opposed Canberra's big-spending and interventionist agenda, which had turned a $20 billion surplus under the previous conservative government to skyrocketing debt and deficits; while he supported tough border protection, which had traditionally helped boost public confidence in large-scale and legal immigration. By refusing to buckle in his opposition to Labor's increasingly antibusiness agenda, he set the scene for his electoral success at the weekend.'

Who else has been pushing a green energy agenda and has had (past tense) seemingly insurmountable public approval numbers? Barry?

Abbott won running against high energy prices. Anybody seen the price of gas lately? The Keystone XL offer by Canada's Stephen Harper?

Could this be a preference cascade in its early stages?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hopefully Aussie Liberals are leading the way for GOP Conservatives.

Nah...The RINO's will abort that baby with the bathwater.

BTW here's a monkeyfan's believe it or not factiod: Did you all know that a large group of baboons is called a congress?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, and PETA is suing on behalf of Baboons everywhere for defamation of character.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the Russian home front...

Putin's Nose Bloodied by Rival Mayoral Candidates

"Russia's opposition movement recorded its most telling electoral result in 13 years of Vladimir Putin's rule on Sunday when candidates for mayor in two of the country's largest cities pulled off impressive results against incumbents."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Massive Attack meets John le Carré...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe a 30 minute "mano-a-boyo" meeting so Putin could show obama a Kenyan (original, un-photoshopped) birth certificate and a set of college transcripts showing an "exchange-student" preference record and maybe some choice, short videos of cocaine use and boy on boy sex in the back of a limo in the not-that-distant past. (Just to remind obama of what Snowden REALLY holds on those four mystery computers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rumsfeld's Doctrine applies. There are unknown unkowns and known unkowns. Here, based on the information provided, we simply do not know. The ship may be sent to extract weapons, or to deliver something. Perhaps the Russians will evacuate the Assad clan. We don't know.

The Saudis can send their dregs off to die. In Europe and America the Progressives have removed that incentive for the criminal class to do something useful.

If we are playing fantasy disasters here are some possible scenarios. The Russians send troops to physically guard Iranian WMD sites. That would raise the ante on any US or Israeli strike against Iran. Chechens and other "Volunteers" stage a WMD attack in Russia. The Russians return to a policy of genocide to eliminate the near domestic threat.

Would the Iranians ally with the Russians that explicitly against the Sunnis? So far they have not. The alliances and betrayals in the region are notoriously blurred. For the Russians though the war in Syria is partly a diversion of the threat from their own open sore.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Dark events cast dark shadows, darker than the night, unrelieved by dawn. Large shadows and small shadows, energetic shadows and indecisive shadows, all moving fitfully across our limited field of vision, indistinguishable from the dark, miasmic mist rising from the fetid swamp.

What do we know of past events
What of all future discontents
Knowing we naught of present tense
Only the shadow knows
Shadowy figures in the dark
Silent so that the dogs won’t bark
Carefully voiced the hushed remark
Options lined up in rows
Options the public will not see
Actions the shadows will decree
Followed by who knows what will be
Darker the shadow grows

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Or, T.S. Eliot:

''Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow.''
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What about THIS? The Grauniad is reporting today that the Bild am Sonntag "cites high-level German surveillance source suggesting Syrian president was NOT behind attacks"

"President Bashar al-Assad did not personally order last month's chemical weapons attack near Damascus that has triggered calls for US military intervention, and Blocked numerous requests from his military commanders to use chemical weapons against regime opponents in recent months, a German newspaper has reported , citing unidentified, high-level national security sources.

The intelligence findings were based on phone calls intercepted by a German surveillance ship operated by the BND, the German intelligence service, and deployed off the Syrian coast, Bild am Sonntag said.

The intercepted communications suggested Assad, who is accused of war crimes by the west, including foreign secretary William Hague, was not himself involved in last month's attack or in other instances when government forces have allegedly used chemical weapons."

Yet Grond still crawls onward, heedless of trivia like facts and truth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In all of the punditry, I never see anyone note the existential nature of Russia's dependence upon Damascus.

Russia has been in conflict with Turkey for over one-thousand years. Erdogan is an Islamist with great ambitions within the (Turkish) 'near abroad.'

In his mind's eye, Erdogan sees Turkey RE-TAKING vast Muslim lands that were lost to the Tsars in the 'energy belt' running off and east towards Red China. The oil and gas potential of this zone is as vast as the Arab lands. It's size keeps expanding, dramatically, with each passing survey.

Stepping back, it's obvious that the Caspian Sea was once directly connected to the Indian Ocean; and that the oil strata around the Caspian is of the exact same origin as that of the Gulf.

Indeed, it's now becoming obvious that the strata extend off, away, and down the eastern shelf of Africa. It's never been explored because of politics.

Even Kenya figures to be serious oil exporter, in time.

All in all, these MASSIVE trends + fracking are causing the entire industry to re-evaluate the Arab industry. It's going to peak within this generation.

So, Putin figures to put his finger in the dike... And, after a fashion, welcomes capacity destruction within AOPEC.

BTW, Syria also has serious oil resources. Politics has kept the competent firms out of the area. Hence, Assad's economic position is pathetic.

Say, who's giving him his mad money?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Say, who's giving him his mad money?"

Probably the same people who are giving 0bama his.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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