Rumours of War: 16 February

No one seems to know where exactly the implausible rumour originated that war will occur between Russia and Ukraine precisely on 16 February. Bloomberg, a source of financial news, seems to have been the first, followed by the President Biden. In contrast the Russian financial press, such as Vedomosti, always appeared sceptical of doom and gloom even while the Russian Rouble was plummeting.

After Russian President Putin’s meeting yesterday with Shoigu and Lavrov, his Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, the temperature in Moscow appeared to have dropped, and along with it the US dollar and the Euro against the Rouble.

This morning various leading commentators were interviewed as to their plans for 16 February, the most interesting of whom is Andrei Kortunov, Director-general of the Russian Council of International Affairs and widely regarded as the leading academic commentator on international affairs. He is scheduled to have lunch at the residence of the British ambassador, Deborah Bronnert – who has evidently brushed up at least some of the broken china scattered by the Foreign Secretary on her fleeting visit – to meet colleagues, led by the director Karin von Hippel, from the Royal United Services Institute, Britain’s leading foreign and defence policy think tank, ensconced along Whitehall, and John Scarlett, former head of MI6, declared persona non grata in 1994 as station head in Moscow; followed in the afternoon by a meeting of the Russian Council for International Affairs. Presumably the atmosphere will not be so fraught as to rule out the silver service and require British Airways plastic tableware.

Kortunov is a long time Americanist, so it is interesting that he is lunching with the British; just as it was interesting that it was Ukraine’s ambassador to London who began to process of unfreezing Moscow’s relations with its foreign rivals. And Kortunov sees “no rational reason in favour of war.”

Kommersant’, 15 February 2021:

«Как аналитик не вижу ни одного рационального аргумента в пользу войны»

Лукьянов, Собчак, Пельш о своих планах на 16 февраля