Well, what can I say? Snake Island was back in the news yesterday, and the news is not good for the pro-Russian crowd. While Team Ukraine danced and hooted like chimpanzees, Team Russia erupted in disbelief and anger. Here is a typical comment:
Denis Zhevak on iEarlGrey:
Because of this island. In Russia, unrest on the Internet has literally begun. Everyone is swearing at the authorities and the command about the “gesture of goodwill”. There was talk of a treacherous government that had agreed on something behind the scenes with Europe and was betraying the Russian people. The same thing happened when the Russian command decided to leave the Kiev region.
We Russians, from love for their government to complete hatred is one step.
Everyone is swearing “Why did our soldiers die there? And you just gave away the island, you pathetic corrupt officials. Probably agreed on something with Europe.” Something like that.
Putin had to take full responsibility for himself in order to extinguish the unrest in the media. He took responsibility for the exchange of “Azov”, said that it was his decision. Because then people also started swearing about why they exchanged Nazis.
In short, everything was smooth, but several events undermined the Russian public and the people began to insult the authorities again. But as soon as Putin takes responsibility, people calm down (Trust in him is bottomless). When the Russian soldiers left the Kiev region, the same thing happened, then people cooled down. Although then I remember the people called to put Medinsky in prison, who was negotiating at the time and looked pathetic. Then even Putin was reproached for not following who is negotiating on behalf of Russia. In such situations, people demand explanations from Putin, they always demand that he explain any actions.
People hate it when the state conducts agreements behind its back in such matters and then does not explain anything to the people, and the situation is explained as a “Gesture of goodwill”.
Alex Shu on Military Summary channel retorts:
If cannon artillery began to reach the island, then it no longer makes sense to stay on it.
Which will be my main point later on, as you shall see. (SPOILER ALERT!)
Peremoha Turns to Zrada
One recalls the classic joke about the Ukrainians with their two interlinked words peremoha (“victory”) and zrada (“betrayal”). And how the one keeps transforming into the other. Snake Island is an exact illustration of that point, but now from the Russian POV.
I saw the news early yesterday morning about the Russian garrison retreating from Snake Island (apparently they all just leaped into speedboats and sped away). Somewhat later I clicked on this headline article in VZGLIAD, thinking, “Hm, let’s see how Russian mainstream media spin this defeat…” The headline gives us a hint at the new talking point:
Russia Has Converted Snake Island Into a Trap For the Ukrainian Armed Forces!
Yeah, right. But wait till you hear the “real” reason for this zrada: It’s to send a signal of “good will” to the United Nations and Western countries. Uh huh. Readers and commenters of the Russian blogosphere are not necessarily buying this kool-aid. As we saw in the sample comment above, words like “traitor” and “treason” are being bandied about. And that commenter was fairly mild in his disgruntlement, comparatively, his point being, Don’t treat us like children. If there is a bitter pill to be swallowed, then just give it to us straight. And no more of these behind-the-curtain maneuvers.
Another blogo-commenter points out how just a week ago (and I covered that in one of my earlier posts), the VZGLIAD editors were earnestly trying to convince us that Snake Island is the most strategically important object in the war for reasons a) b) and c) — in the current article the VZGLIAD reporters, to their credit, reiterate and review these earlier talking points, instead of trying to drop them down a memory hole, as Westie media would do. Another commenter chafes that, just a few days ago, Putin was awarding a posthumous medal to the hero officer who perished while bringing anti-air defenses to the tiny island. Was his sacrifice all in vain?
Well, war is war. Shit happens. If the brass say they need to retreat because things got too hot, just do it, but don’t try to feed us pablum about humanitarian gestures. I shall take the red pill, if you please. Meanwhile, what I will do here is work through this piece, which consists of a) editorial contortionism that would make a Chinese circus acrobat blush, b) some honest analysis, c) some promise not to allow Ukies to turn the island into their own playground, d) a MacArthur-ite vow to return (once Odessa is taken) and e) a goodly portion of B.S., in my view, especially the bit about trying to help feed the world with Ukrainian grain.
I shall give you my own opinion right off the bat, then I’ll translate/summarize the piece so my readers can make up their own minds. My opinion: it seems to me (and this is very fluid, so don’t assume I am married to this talking point) is that the Russian soldiers were forced off the island by too-heavy Ukrainian artillery, and just taking too many losses to make it worth it. The turning point was Ukies acquiring Westie cannon with a longer range. Long enough to reach Snake from Odessa. Then, forced to abandon this rock, which they previously convinced us was the most important thing in the world, the Russian military tries to sweeten the pill by painting it as a beau geste of unparalled virtue. Meanwhile, we shall meet various analysts who offer other plausible theories, for example: Maybe this was a quid pro quo to Westie enemies, in return for de-blockading Kaliningrad? [paint me dubious]
If I Could Feed The World
Well, without further ado, let us dive into this multiple-dimension chess puzzle and see if we can figure it out. The reporters/analysts here are Alena Zadorozhnaya and Darya Volkova. They begin by laying out the new party line about Russia withdrawing its garrison voluntarily, as a “good-will gesture”. To prove to the world that tis not we who are blocking grain-filled vessels from leaving the Black Sea! And allegedly as a direct response to a request from the United Nations. Well, since the UN asked us nicely, who are we to say no?
Next, the authors masochistically take us through the history of the island, its strategic importance, even quoting from earlier op-eds from the same newspaper, on why it was impossible to abandon it. Again, this shows a certain integrity, although the authors know very well they are dealing with readers who have a memory longer than that of a mayfly, and can very well recall words they read, oh, say, a week ago. In the course of several lengthy paragraphs (which I don’t have time to summarize), they take us through the tortured series of events post-February 24, the numerous Ukrainian attempts to seize the island, the heroic Russian defense, etc.
And then they finally arrive at the current turn of events: “Experts are convinced that Russia did not take this decision lightly, to withdraw this garrison from this island.” We meet a military expert named Konstantin Sivkov, who explains how the Ukrainians, after suffering numerous defeats and losing many planes, helicopters, soldiers, drones, etc., finally managed to acquire the kind of cannons that could do the job:
“We can assume from intelligence that was acquired, that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were preparing a massive attack against this island, an attack which would have been very difficult to repel, given the current state of forces. We do not exclude the possibility that they intended to employ French CAESAR self-propelled artillery systems.” Sivkov reminds us that similar systems have been employed by the Ukies on the island of Kubansky, which is located in the Odessa Oblast, near the mouth of the Beautiful Blue Danube River, just 36 kilometers (as the crow flies) from Snake Island. “Such [artillery] attacks against the island would have threatened with personnel losses, this is why the decision was taken,” Sivkov concludes.
A similar opinion is expressed by Rybar, one of the prominent pro-Russian bloggers of this war: After the Ukrainians had brought the CAESARs into Odessa, they, along with their Tochka-U complexes, formed an accelerating density of artillery fire that could not be evaded, therefore it was decided to evacuate the personnel from this death trap. Snake Island cannot be retaken until Odessa itself has been dealt with.
And that is my main theme here. And yet there is much, much more to this story, many other opinions to consider, and a few more twists to round things out…
[to be continued]