Of all the podcasts I have done over the last 18 months, my chats with Stephen Gardner are the most surprising. I did not know much about Stephen until after I received his invite for an interview. Stephen is your consummate regular guy just trying to make sense out of a confusing jumble of world events. He does not pretend to be an expert and does not require an ideological purity test for any prospective guest.
Anyway, the podcast from my first interview with Stephen generated over 700,000 views. That man has some genuine reach. One other thing I discovered about Stephen — he is a generous soul. After my first appearance on his podcast I received an incredible food gift from Stephen. He was just thanking me for taking my time to talk with him. I made no demands of any kind. He simply acted on his own. That’s a class act in my book.
Since Stephen and I spoke on Wednesday there have been some significant developments. The most important, in my view, is Russia imposing a de facto blockade on Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. This is just one consequence of Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported:
On 13 August at about 6.40 a.m. Moscow time, the Black Sea Fleet patrol ship Vasily Bykov, which was carrying out shipping control monitoring, detected the bulk cargo ship Sukra Okan under the flag of Palau, which was on its way to the Ukrainian port of Izmail, in the south-western part of the Black Sea.
The captain of the bulk cargo ship did not respond to the request to stop for inspection for the carriage of prohibited goods.
The Russian warship opened warning fire from automatic small arms fire to forcefully stop the vessel.
In order to inspect the bulk cargo ship, a Ka-29 helicopter with a group of Russian servicemen was hoisted from the patrol ship Vasily Bykov.
Following radio conversations, the ship stopped its course and the boarding team landed on the bulk cargo ship.
After the work of the boarding team on board Sukra Okan was completed, the vessel continued its journey to the port of Izmail.
Black Sea Fleet ships continue patrolling in the designated areas.
There are still politically influential oligarchs in Ukraine that are being financially harmed by Russia’s blockade. Now that a major bite is being taken out of oligarch bank accounts it is highly likely that President Zelensky will face growing pressure to find a way to end the war and get the “commerce” back in gear. Also, don’t ignore the difficulties that this is creating for black market smugglers as well. Here is an excellent overview of how drug traffickers are using Black Sea routes.
Shifting topics to the continued delusional analysis by retired U.S. Generals. Phil Breedlove did a stint as the Commander of EUCOM (i.e., U.S. European Command) and is quoted in a recent NY Times article insisting that Ukraine’s counter offensive can succeed without air power:
All of which has raised a question: Without significant air power — a pillar of the warfare tactics that the West has urged Ukraine to adopt — can the counteroffensive prevail?
The answer appears to be yes, as current and former officials in Ukraine, the United States and Europe, as well as Western defense analysts, said in interviews last week as the counteroffensive ground on, with volleys of artillery fire and drone strikes but no major breakthroughs.
But it is likely to be far more difficult without the jets.
“It will have to happen without the F-16,” said Philip M. Breedlove, a retired United States Air Force general and former NATO commander, “but I believe they can.”
A former F-16 pilot, Mr. Breedlove said there was “great benefit” for Ukraine’s forces to learn and deploy the so-called combined arms tactics that are the backbone of modern ground warfare, given that they “are going to be applicable in many different phases of what you do, no matter what.”
Nevertheless, he added, “If you expect Ukraine to fight like we fight, then they have to have the tools that we have, and we have not given them those tools.”
Breedlove “believes?” What else does he believe in? Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? Fiji winning the World Cup? I am flabbergasted that an experienced officer like Breedlove will say something that is so out of touch with reality. Russia’s air defense system, coupled with its robust combat air force, can easily defeat any threat posed by the F-16.
Without a large number of fixed wing combat aircraft Ukraine has ZERO chance of defeating even one layer of the Surovikin defense line. ZERO! As long as these Western “experts” continue to issue this kind of propaganda it will be difficult to generate the political opposition to sending Ukraine billions of dollars of more ineffective military assistance.
What could account for Breedlove’s crazy comments? Could it be money? He does have a commercial relationship with Dyncorp and other Beltway Bandits:
DynCorp was a scandal-plagued military contractor with an expertise in military flight operations support, whose primary client was the U.S. government until its acquisition last year by Amentum, a company that boasts of its “deep relationships with customers in the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy.”
Breedlove is also promoted as an “advisor” at Stellar Solutions, a consultancy that markets itself to clients needing expertise in “coalition operations” and “expert solutions for Department of Defense customers related to space and missile systems of national protection and security.”
In other words, since retiring from the Air Force, Breedlove associated himself with firms that either directly profit from military contracts, like DynCorp, or market themselves as effective consultants for defense contractors seeking to manage their relationships with the U.S. government.
Cabaret seems to explain what is going on: