Ukraine Situation Update

It’s really hard to know what to say about this. The public rhetoric and propaganda has reached insane proportions, the cartoonish “Russians Preparing to Invade” on one side, the “Nazi hordes joining forces to besiege Mother Russia” on the other, and caught in the middle, the people in the region that is called “Ukraine.” It’s a complex situation, and simplistic, good vs bad, right vs. wrong depictions are not only unhelpful, they are inflammatory and misleading. So recognizing that environment here are a few thoughts.

As an introduction to my view on the background please read this previous post for some notes on the history of how we got here. In short, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the eastern regions of Ukraine should probably have been transferred back to Russia since the old boundaries of the Soviet Republics were in some cases arbitrary, and changed over time. Speaking of which, can you find Ukraine (or any other country) on this map?

But all anybody cared about at first was making sure the nukes and bugs were secured, and to make a buck in the process. The borders of the Soviet Republics were convenient lines for the breakup. Russia was in turmoil, and the nascent government of Ukraine wanted to make sure it had control of the resources located in the east. This put significant areas in Eastern Ukraine that had strong economic, historical, and cultural ties to Russia, not to mention the vital Black Sea bases mentioned in the earlier post, in the new nation-state. All that said, my feeling is that it could have worked had everyone followed the Budapest Memorandum and other agreements in good faith, and just let Ukraine evolve a middle path. But instead the games started, and competition rather than cooperation took over. Trying to force Ukraine as a whole to pick sides has created division, conflict and chaos. And that’s the true tragedy: there shouldn’t have been any “sides”.

Post-2014 revolution/coup Ukraine is a gigantic train wreck. Even with all these words I worry I oversimplify the political situation in Ukraine and LPR/Novorossiya by speaking of the five “sides” (Ukraine Government, LPR, Russia, EU, US/NATO). It is such a mess; and the various factions within Ukraine are complex. There are legitimately pro-EU groups, legitimately pro-Russia groups, etc. You have rampant influence and astroturf organizations sponsored by US entities like NED, Soros funded organizations, etc. all stirring up trouble and anti-Russian sentiment. You have widespread Russian influence operations in play as well, trying to counter those groups. Russian sources speak of Nazis. Certainly within military circles the neo-Nazis are powerful and important, even though they no longer hold seats in the Rada (Ukraine’s legislative body). There are hard-core OUN type nationalists who are not technically Nazis, and they do hold a majority number of seats, but they (like the US) make common cause with the Nazis and use them as their enforcers thinking that they will deal with them “later” (which never ends well). The forces in the east sponsored by Russia aren’t so bad, but aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy either. And caught in the middle are the average people of Ukraine, who would probably have been perfectly happy with a less corrupt, neutral path between the EU and Russia. But I would argue the US is at fault in that we sought to exploit the justified desire for change to destabilize the situation and gain geopolitical advantage rather than strive for improvement and stability. In other words, Russia found itself resisting change out of fears the US would exploit it; the US pushed change precisely to exploit it, and the spiral continues.

As for the immediate situation, Is Russia Preparing to Invade Ukraine? No, with a caveat. As far as I can tell, Russia does not have the intent to “invade” Ukraine in any traditional sense of the word, and if the goal is to conquer the entire territory of Ukraine, I see no evidence they either want to or have put the forces in place to do so. The current hyperbole is only relevant if you haven’t been paying attention; it’s nothing new. But … Russia has in place tremendous military capacity to act in Ukraine. Of course it does; it’s like asking if the US can project enormous military force into Mexico or Canada should it chose to do so. So naturally Russia has had in place significant firepower to be able to project it in to Ukraine should a provocation arise for a long time. Besides, there has been a civil war on their border for the last seven years that threatens to spill over into their country, and Ukrainian radical groups often express the desire to “retake” areas of Russia (which even if not rational or realistic are still threats that have to be considered – especially given the silence of the US on the issue), so the Минобороны России would be incompetent if they didn’t keep forces on standby, and given recent rhetoric, increasing readiness to respond to provocations is both prudent and unsurprising.

Does that mean a conflict is not imminent? Unfortunately, I suspect conflict is on the horizon. I think there is a very high probability there will be an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine/Novorossiya in the coming months. There has been ongoing violence for years now, and potential for it to escalate are increasing. Russia is extremely concerned that Ukraine is becoming the latest, and most dangerous, link in the US policy of encirclement, economic isolation, and “containment.” Here comes the caveat in the above “No” to invasion. At some point Russia is going to feel it has nothing to lose by stabilizing the situation on the border by occupying (liberating, whatever) either directly or more likely indirectly with stand-off fire support the eastern Oblasti (administrative regions). While that will further rupture the already deteriorating situation between the US/NATO and Russia, and will probably wreck the European economies and trigger turmoil, if we survive it might reduce the level of violence and stabilize things in the long run with the remainder of Ukraine becoming more integrated in Europe, and eastern Ukraine/Novorossiya reuniting with Russia. That is, if the US will allow that to happen by not escalating militarily. Here is where the danger lies, because the correlation of forces is such that any attempt by the US or NATO to intervene militarily will end in regional conventional defeat or the use of nuclear weapons. So my bet is that a “gentleman agreement” of sorts will occur to split up Ukraine if things devolve to a military confrontation, and direct conflict between the two (US/NATO and Russia) will be avoided. But it’s a horribly dangerous situation that can easily get out of control.

Given the nature of the US political leadership and philosophy, I’m having a hard time seeing how this ends well. There may well be a collapse of the government in Ukraine due to all of the internal and external stresses. Of course in the Western media it will be portrayed as all Russia’s fault, but while they are certainly involved, in all fairness, and with great sadness, I have to say that most of the blame for the situation there rests with the US.

And the destruction of Ukraine, and a rupture of relations between Europe and Russia, are in some warped perspectives to the short term advantage of the US. I think the US has decided the best way to disrupt what it sees as Europe’s energy dependence on Russia is blowing up relations, and Ukraine is the fuse to do just that. It would make the EU utterly dependent on US energy, give a major boost to defense spending, and a stable Iron Curtain Redux might actually allow the “pivot to Asia” to confront China that many in the US MIC and Foreign Policy community want. I think there are serious flaws in that thinking and worldview, but it’s ship of fools.

To be clear, I’m not saying the Russians are the “good guys” here. What I’m saying is that they haven’t been given the opportunity to do much of anything other than what they are doing. The US is pumping millions of dollars of military aid into a hostile country engaged in a civil war, with an unstable government, and policies that to a neutral observer, and this may seem harsh, were starting to border on ethnic cleansing. Consider what the reaction of the US would be if, say, China participated in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mexico, then starting pumping in the equivalent over $4 Billion dollars a year of military aid (which in relative terms is what the US is sending Ukraine). I can imagine the utterly epic rending of garments and gnashing of teeth … and not just threats of intervention, but an actual armed response.

So as we watch what unfolds in the coming weeks, realize that the simplistic view being presented by politicians and the media is no where near the whole “truth”, that in perspective there are probably few or no true heroes or villains. And most of all recognize and regret this was all avoidable with some good faith and a willingness to take the long view rather than constantly maneuver as if this were a short term, zero sum game.

Big nor’easter to hit the Northeast this weekend; insanity in Eastern Europe

Not much to add to yesterday’s post. The current summary from the National Weather Service is the best, least drama free summary. The key message:

Moderate to heavy snow and gusty winds are forecast to materialize along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts this evening as the low arrives off the coast of North Carolina. Some moderate to heavy amounts are also likely to spread into parts of the Central and Southern Appalachians. Heavy snow and intense winds are then expected to develop over New England on Saturday as the Nor’easter continues to intensify off the Northeast coast. Blizzard conditions are forecast from eastern Long Island through much of coastal New England, particularly from southeast Maine to Cape Cod. This will make travel nearly impossible. Significant beach erosion and coastal flooding will also be a concern.

WPC Short term forecast (available at this link)

For those in Coastal GA/SC, the chances of rain are not as high as forecast yesterday. Temperatures will be right at or just below freezing tonight, but in the mid 20’s in Savannah, and lower 20’s in Beaufort County (warmer on the islands; Hilton Head and Tybee will barely go below freezing this weekend). So nothing dramatic, but protect delicate plants, etc. However if you do need drama, it’s almost February 2nd …

Lots going on in the world, especially Ukraine. Will have some words on that this weekend. The rhetoric and posturing is insane. Watching Russian TV, reading Ukrainian sources, European news, not to mention the fantasy world of the US media bubble, is an extreme Rashōmon experience. Trying to unravel it and provide some perspective is hard, but I’ll give it a shot …

Winter produces another Winter Storm!

TLDR: A cold front moving through the east coast will cause a low in Florida to spin up and zoom northward, a classic nor’easter situation, so the Southeast will get cold, and the Northeast US and Canadian Maritime Provinces will get a snowstorm.

First, let’s see what a real meteorologist has to say:

Who needs that oversized rat to do a forecast?

Well, except that last part: I think it’s a safe bet Winter will only last until Spring. OK, now that we’ve got the required doom out of the way, let’s see what the actual data looks like. As usual, the exact track will determine how much snow the northeast will get. The various models all show a significant winter storm developing, but wobbles make a lot of difference as to which areas get the most snow. Here is what the GFS predicts for Saturday afternoon, model run as of this morning (Thursday 27 Jan). Dark blue is heaviest snow.

Classic Nor’easter for the Northeast. (sorry the boundaries are hard to see). Click to embiggen.

A couple of feet of snow is possible, which will create the usual mess. This storm will also, as usual, create flight delays. Winds are one potentially real concern with this storm – they could reach strong tropical storm force in places along the coast north from New York and northwards, especially the Massachusetts coast. Such strong onshore winds will produce coastal flooding, with surges to 2-3 feet above normal high tides (which are already above average since we’re almost at new moon).

For the Coastal GA/SC area, the storm itself won’t develop until the system is far to our north. Inland will of course be colder, east of I-95 will see a couple of nights at or below freezing, especially Saturday which will likely reach the mid 20’s Saturday night. So protecting delicate plants and making sure outside/exposed hoses are drained is a good idea. Generally pipes should be ok unless really exposed and not insulated. Soil temperatures here in Savannah are still in the mid 40’s, and you’ve got to get on the other side of Macon before you see freezing ground temperatures. But there’s nothing wrong with a slow drip if you’re worried. Just don’t forget to turn it off, and watch for the mud under the faucet 🙂 …

Earthquake in #Haiti yesterday

There was an earthquake in Haiti yesterday, continuing to add to the misery in that often forgotten country on our doorstep. At least two dead and dozens injured

click to embiggen.

I’m not seeing much in the US media about this. I guess Joe Biden’s latest SOB gaff, or the latest horse race political analysis, or the insane situation in Ukraine buried the story. It’s hard to know what to say about Haiti and the situation there other than to sigh in despair.

Icy doom descends on GA/SC Coast

As the huddled denizens of the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry awaken to the dark and gloomy dawn, frantic weathercasters engage in verbal warmups and syntactical gymnastics as they stretch and bend to keep viewers and readers engaged and clicks coming despite the diminishing threat of actual winter weather … 😛 In all seriousness, doesn’t look bad, but still some precautions are smart, even if you don’t need to hoard food like this guy:

Scrat, clearly the hero of the Ice Age movies.

Probably just rain in Savannah, east of I 95 and south of the Broad River in SC (eg Hilton Head, Bluffton). Any icy precip isn’t likely to be significant. Temperatures are dropping all day, and will be around freezing overnight. As you go north or east from there, the chances of seeing some ice increase, and inland like Claxton, Allendale, Charleston, etc. ice may accumulate some overnight. The main risk is for slick patches on sidewalks, and on the roads for a few hours late tonight and in the morning. The main risks for any problems are north of I-26 (Moncks Corner, SC). Still, be alert even down to the Savannah area just in case. The forecast looks pretty good at this point, but it’s going to be close to freezing along the coast, and if temps are a degree or so colder, or rain persists longer than expected, in theory could get more than expected. But it’s not likely. And, of course, it doesn’t take ice for people to drive stupid around here, a little rain works just fine … already hearing about accidents.

It will be cold (well, for us, anyway). While it won’t likely go below freezing overnight in Savannah, tomorrow night will be in the 20’s, and Sunday at or slightly below freezing as well. Either way, obviously animals need to be inside both nights, and not a bad idea to protect delicate plants for the next couple of days.

#Ice Age coming to #CoastalGA, #Lowcountry of SC

TLDR: maybe some freezing rain late Friday Night into Early Saturday morning, probably not any significant accumulation in Beaufort and points south, as you get closer to Charleston the potential for significant ice increases. See the NWS Charleston Forecast office (which is responsible for both Georgia north of Darien and the SC Coast) for updates. Further south is under the Jacksonville office (their forecast is boring today). Here’s the current forecast (Thu Morning for Friday/Saturday):

As with most weather systems, once we get into the 48 hour range confidence grows quickly until, 2-4 weeks later, we have a good picture as to what happened 😛 ! But in all seriousness, what this looks like for Coastal GA and the Lowcountry is not a big deal. Sorry, no snow this time, maybe next week (but that’s too far out to get excited about). Most of the areas in light yellow (< 0.1 inch) it won’t be a problem. That band north of Charleston gets closer to the warning criteria of 0.25 inches, when you start to worry about power outages, tree limbs breaking, that sort of thing. Either way, south of that (including coastal Georgia) if you have to go out Saturday morning be careful on bridges and watch for slick spots. By noon it will all be gone. Otherwise, a couple of cold days are coming up. Hopefully it kills off some bugs since spring is coming …

Conversations at the End of the World

One of the people who are working to save the world that you’ve probably never heard of is Nate Hagens. He is involved in a number of projects designed to not only raise awareness about the dangerous traps humanity has set for itself like environment, energy, finance, geopolitics, technology, he’s actually trying to do something about it, especially through education. As part of that work, Nate has started producing podcasts featuring deep conversations with a broad spectrum of researchers. The first 3 conversations are now live:

  1. Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, on social media, leadership and democracy;
  2. Endocrine/chemical expert Dr Shanna Swan on impact of chemicals on human (and animal) reproduction;
  3. Geologist Art Berman on the importance of (and risks to) US oil production.

These are fascinating deep dives in to each subject area. Those of you who are concerned about the trajectory Humanity is on, I highly recommend listening in. The links are at The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens (direct), or subscribe via substack at this link.

While I probably doesn’t deserve to be in such august company, Nate needed some filler so a talk with me is episode four. Nate and I started talking about risk and climate and ended up talking mostly about nuclear war since that is probably the biggest threat to climate that you’ve never heard of … and wouldn’t be good for humans either.

Coastal GA/SC #Snowmageddon this week?

As the last normal winter storm is moving north today (Monday 17 Jan), leaving normal if inconvenient amounts of snow and ice, the forecast models are starting to indicate another storm brewing for later this week, but this time, some of them are showing freezing precipitation into the SC Lowcountry and perhaps even the Coastal Georgia/Savannah area itself …

Left is snow depth forecast, right is precipitation type, 06Z GFS model forecast for Friday afternoon.
Click to embiggen.

Now, at this point, there’s not a lot of confidence in any of this. Run-to-run and model-to-model consistency has been terrible, so nothing to get excited about, but I expect the local weather folks will start to mention it, and schools and workplaces would be smart to at least think about it quietly to themselves. The most likely event will be a rain/snow mix on Friday, which is what the current NWS Forecast is showing for downtown Savannah. Towards Charleston there is a greater chance of icy conditions sticking and being a bigger problem, but inland Georgia will possibly see some icy roads as well Friday night.

Southeast #Snow Update

First, a reminder: WINTER STORMS DON”T HAVE NAMES! There is a note on this below; please click to experience the full ranty goodness. TLDR: a normal winter storm is moving through the south, it’s not a terrible one, but could produce snow (nice) and ice hazards (not nice) in a few places. Here is how things look about 7:12am this morning … on the left is the radar intensity, on the right is the surface precipitation type:

Click to embiggen.

Notice the “warm nose” poking into North Georgia, and the dry slot (the area in the middle where it isn’t raining much). As the storm moves east today these will wrap around. Some areas in SC that are getting snow now will have it change back over to freezing rain/sleet or just rain. Atlanta is still in the rain band, will likely switch over to freezing mix today. This is setting up for a mess in the morning, and you will start to see advisories and warnings about black ice in a band running along and north of I-20 for in the morning that will include Atlanta, Columbia, etc. Fortunately it’s a work holiday for many people, but if you are traveling check the advisories and be careful. People in the South don’t know how to drive. In winter either. 😛

I also need to rant, as I do every year, that WINTER STORMS DO NOT HAVE OFFICIAL NAMES!  There is a certain “weather channel”, who shall go unnamed as well, which started to give winter storms names as a marketing ploy to engage (eg scare) people and try to keep the hurricane hype going into the off season.  A note to journalists: The AP Stylebook guidelines say don’t do it.:

  Major storm names provided by government weather agencies, the European Union or the World Meteorological Organization are acceptable. Do not use names created by private weather agencies or other organizations.

It’s a gimmick. Research shows it doesn’t help preparedness (and may actually harm it). Please don’t contribute to hyping normal weather; save it for the truly dangerous stuff.

Brief note on the Tonga eruptions

An undersea volcano near the island of Tonga (named Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai if you are curious) has erupted sending ash, debris, and a small tsunami over the island. Residents heard the boom of the eruption. While there have been tsunami warnings across the Pacific (including Japan, Australia/New Zealand, and the US West coast). Japan has seen four foot waves. Waves at Hawai’i have been small, and waves hitting California and Mexico should be under a foot, but there may be strong currents and higher surges in places. Here is what it looked like from the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Himawari satellite …