Friday, May 27, 2022

Tank Story

 I sat this week and looked at a battlefield photo in the Ukraine....with a T-62 tank in the landscape.  

T-62s....for most of you....were manufactured from 1961 to 1975.  There were just over 20,000 of them made in this era, and it was the standard battle tank for the Soviet Union for about twenty years....being pushed out by the mid-70s and replaced by the T-72.  A decade later....came the T-80 and that pushed out most of the remaining T-62s.  In the past decade, an even newer battle-tank has been rolled out (the T-14).

So, it begs a question....why is the T-62 even being seen in use here in 2022?

My gut feeling?  I think tank losses have forced the logistics people to go out to the Russian tank 'bone-yard' and review options.  Somewhere out there....there's probably forty-odd T-62s used for Conscript or mechanic training....kept in reasonable decent shape over the past sixty years.  They got the call....grease up the 'old lady' and send her off to one final war effort.

A bad sign?  Well....if I were a Russian NCO and knew the limits/past history of the T-62....I'd question this matter, and wonder the long-term strategy.   Course, I'm just a little 'cog' in this wheel.  

The odds of the T-54 appearing shortly?  Originally, there were supposed to be around 100,000 manufactured (mostly all in the era shortly after WW II to the mid-1950s).   It was a fairly decent tank, without much in terms of luxury (compared to modern tanks).  Wouldn't shock me if we arrive at mid-summer in the war, and a dozen T-54s show up for the Russians.   

How Screwed-Up Was the September Election in Berlin?

 Well....it's reached the point that a legal case is proceeding....(RBB reports the basic facts)....to the state Constitutional Court.

General story?  A  national election occurred in September of 2021.  Berlin seemed to have issues.

Statements have been made over the 2,257 polling stations for the city, and the judges will have to evaluate the 'mess'.

Lack of ballots at certain stations?  Well....this gets brought up and there were a number of polling stations that simply didn't have the allocation of ballots as you'd think. 

Remember, in Germany....as you move from apartment to apartment....you re-register at the city hall....so everyone is in effect....registered to vote.  If they say in this one district that there are 3,211 'citizens'.....there should be 3,211 ballots on hand, even if only 60-percent show up.

But they had this other odd problem for the day.....it was also a marathon day in the city....so traffic was tied up in various ways.

The story of some polling sites shut down for two hours because they ran out of ballots?  This comes up, and begs questions.

The story of 250-odd polling sites still open after 6:30 PM (mandated time to shut down)?  Yeah, this is a major problem that begs questions as well.

Allowing 16-year olds to vote in a federal election?  Various cases are noted, and illegal.....you can vote as a 16-year old in local elections....NOT federal elections.  This begs questions.

The voting assistants involved? Well.....this gets interesting because they were given status as a volunteer.....getting the Covid shot earlier than regular people.  So when the election training stuff came up.....a lot of these workers just said 'no'....they refused to be a voting assistant.  

So, what'll happen here with the court?  It's possible in several districts that the vote will be thrown out, but this decision won't occur until 18 months after the election.

There are six Berlin neighborhoods in this 'threat' area where the vote might be cancelled on results.

Affecting the national results?  I doubt that it matters that much.  No one says the numbers but I seriously doubt that it affected more than 10,000 voters.  These are people who likely stood there for 90 minutes at a closed station (no ballots) and just gave up....walking over for a beer or heading home.  Course, no one has said much on the 16-year old voting problem.  There might have been 10,000 of them in the mix as well, and their vote shouldn't count.  

The curious thing to me?  We are eight  months past the election, and just now reaching the court 'path'.  

Sanctions Story

 I noticed a short business related story over Russia two days ago.  The way it went....a non-European/non-American cellphone tower company had some Russian contact them and asking about spare/used equipment.  

The story went to the angle that up until the sanctions business occurred in Russia over the war....they utilized the services/hardware of a number of 'western' companies.  Now?  They are stuck with whats in use and waiting for serious breakdowns to occur.

What you will start to notice...probably by the end of summer....a couple of towns now report that cellphone coverage is now effective in only 50-percent of the towns, because breakdowns have occurred in other cities, and assets have been 're-deployed' for the more important cities.  By late fall....probably 10-percent of Russian towns will report limited to marginal cellphone coverage....with people negative about paying for service that they can't connect to.

This lead me  to this moment of pondering.  Are there scenarios that would get the attention of the Duma and finally open some 'we-gotta-movie-Putin-out' scenario?

These are my five suggested scenarios:

1.  Airport 'X' is expecting a plane to land at 4 PM.  The plane doesn't arrive.  Calls go out and the question comes up when they last saw them on radar.  The airport has to admit that their long-range radar (out to 120 miles) was re-deployed to another more important airport two weeks ago.....so they only had a short-range radar (good out to 20 miles).  

An hour passes, and some lumberjack crew calls in to report smoke in some region.  Another two hours pass and they finally find the plane.  Without the radar maintenance/parts....airline travel is sketchy and more dangerous.

2. A city water reservoir reports issues with their filtering system, and that the water is reaching a contamination stage.  The filtering system?  Made in France, and the filters aren't arriving to ensure safe water through the system.

3.  A series of 500 car accidents occur in a month-long period.....due to driving with faulty brakes (European cars).  No replacement parts or cheap Chinese knock-off brakes.

4.  Cancer treatment clinics report that various treatment plans in Russia have reached a stage where the drugs needed or the analysis systems used....can't be provided or function.  

5.  A series of power sub-stations fail in the midst of summer heat, and spare equipment (usually from Europe) isn't readily available.  So you have a town of 17k residents who go through nine days of zero power....while a jerry-rigged system is put into place with black-market equipment to bring them back on line.

There are probably a thousand scenarios like this....if you sit and think how connected things were in 2021. Putin or any of his high-level people grasping this?  I seriously doubt it.  

Thursday, May 26, 2022

What's With The Aland Islands and Saimaa Canal?

 Well....they are in some dispute between Russia and Finland....for a fairly long period.  So  lets talk about them.

Aland Islands.  If you gaze at a map of the islands...they sit between Turku, Finland (western coast of Finland) and Stockholm, Sweden.  From Sweden, you have to go 30 km before you come to the first island, and 5 km from Finland to the first island.

Total number of islands?  Experts say around 6,000 islands.  Yeah, some are fairly small (100 meters across).

Population?  30,000.....more or less.

In the early 1800s.....a treaty by Russia and Sweden...ended up ceding the islands over to Russia.  In the 1830s....the Russians tried to build up a 'fort' to signal regions of intent.  That act ended in 1856....with the French and British taking control but 'handing' the region to Finland.

The Civil War of Finland (1917) changed things, with the Swedes establishing control temporary, and later the Germans controlling the region but acknowledging some ownership by Finland.

In 1919, a vote was held....with the vast majority of islanders wanting status with Sweden.  Finland said no to the vote but agreed to demilitarize the whole region. Other than police....no military assets.

Currently?  Since the Fin discussion started up on NATO status....the Russians have hyped up the Aland Islands.  The general chatter?  The islands can't be militarized.

Geographically?  Does any of this matter?  Well....gaze at the map and note that if you leave the harbor of St Petersburg....you will pass about 100 km from the islands.  For some reason, Russians feel hyped up about this.  

Do the islands have any economic value?  Mostly for tourism, fishing, and agriculture.  

One might suspect the biggest Russian discussion is that they want to have a say in how the islands fit into the Fin NATO scheme.  

So, onto the Saimaa Canal, built in the 1850s.  It's a system of 8 locks....which connects Vyborg, Russia to the Gulf of Finland.  On paper, it's rented by Finland....so you pay them to travel through it, and they pay Russia for the lease.

Total length?  43 km.

The lease deal?  Well....in the early 1960s...the canal needed restoration and Finland wrote up a deal....lease it to 'us' and we'll restore it.  A 50-year deal was done. 

In 2010, a second lease was accomplished.

How much is paid to Russia for running the canal?  Currently, in the range of 1.2-million Euro a year.  

Who uses the canal primarily?  Well...mostly tourists.  It's not exactly a trade-canal.

Various 'comments' have been made in recent weeks....that the canal is Russian property and should be only leased to Russians.  How did the Fins work this deal?  No one says much....but you get the impression that the Russians didn't have the technology or business nature to operate the canal....at a profit (without corruption and higher fees required).

If you were looking for petty or extremely marginal reasons to get hyped up in Russia over anything.....these two (the islands and the canal) are a joke.  But a year ago....suggesting the Ukraine would be invaded over Nazis....would have been considered a joke as well.

In the next couple of months, you might see both regions mentioned and at least understand the value (or lack of value) over the islands and the canal.

The Mask Business

 Presently, there are only a couple of mandated places where you wear the Covid-mask in Germany: on buses, on trains, at a doctor's office, and while flying.  

If you asked me about the in-stores business....I'd tell you that it ranges from 20-percent and 50-percent on people masked up....on their own....in grocery operations.  The older the person....the more likely they will be masked up.

There's chatter from yesterday...that the Health Minister (Lauterbach) spoke to the necessity of mandating mask rules again by the fall.....expecting Covid to return.

Masks still being readily sold?  If you walk into a pharmacy or grocery operation....there's always a box out with masks listed.  No discounted price.....the stores aren't afraid of holding them for long periods.  Covid test kits at the grocery stores?  Almost never seen now.  

I drove by the village Covid test center yesterday.  It's still open but I doubt if the 'kid' running it.....has more than five customers per day.  Free-testing was halted, and you have to pay 15 Euro for the test....out of your pocket.  Closing anytime soon?  I think the 'center' (private operation) will stick it out and wait for the fall to arrive, with massive Covid occurring....hoping the government's free test program starts back up. 

As for the return of the mask 'period'?  I expect the topic to be near the topic by mid-September.  Course, we have that Monkey-pox thing to worry about now as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Court Chatter

 The Koln Administrative Court stood up today and said that the AfD Party can be monitored by the Office For the Protection of the Constitution.  Totally legal....no issues standing.

What this means? 

Well....the funnel of donated money will now be viewed and the phone chats (probably going beyond Germany) will be noted.  

It might take a year, but I'd take a reasonable guess that several of the 'big boys' are going to be dragged into a court and asked for statements.  

The look and feel that some of the VIPs in the party might be pro-Russian 'players'?  This has come up more and more over the past two years.  I won't say all of the top twenty members are this way....but there's going to be some cleansing period (probably in 2023), and they will lose voters over this.

Russian GDP, Unemployment and Inflation Numbers?

 Since February, nothing in Russia has been published over the estimate of the Gross Domestic Product, the current unemployment numbers, or the inflation index.  NOTHING.

The Central Bank of Russia saying anything?  No.

This morning, I noticed the German business community had three odd comments to add to this situation.

First, oil sold/pumped?  Nothing.

Second, Russian national debt explained in any detail?  Nothing.

Trade, into or out of Russia?  Nothing.

What gets me here....you'd usually have a Putin-appointee who'd make up a number out of thin air.....to say things are bad but not that bad.  Yes, a plain fake-number.

But in this case?  They didn't even crank out a fake-number.

How long can you do this? I would speculate that you could go for a year at this game.  As long as you aren't trying to get bonds or bank loans....saying nothing is legit.

Now, if I worked for any of the 350 banks in Russia....I'd kinda of track this information and it'd be of interest to the bank, the business community, and would put the view of the landscape into my mind.

I would suggest these people are sitting there....glossy-eyed, and wondering....just how bad are the six numbers?

Do the Oligarch folks even know the full story?  I would imagine each knows one or two of the numbers, and if they socialized enough....they'd all have a good idea of the six key numbers.

Maybe nothing much matters here, and you just continue progressing ahead.  But if these are extremely negative...how far can you progress?  

EC Card Issue Story

 Around Germany this morning, you might have noticed if you were out and about....using your EC to pay for bakery goods, or something at the local grocery....the EC card didn't work, and you needed 'bargeld' (cash).

There are around seven operations (major ones, like Netto, DM and Rewe)....that the EC card systems broke down.

Reason?  So far, unknown.  Terminals simply can't reach the banking system.

Hacker deal?  No one says that yet.

Over the past twenty years, I have to admit that a fair number of Germans have gotten away from cash, and probably use their EC card for 90-percent of purchases.  I had to get a bus-ticket this morning, and used the EC card for that three-Euro item.

If this was a long-term (three or four days) thing?  Well....it'd present a problem in people going to ATM machines, and emptying them out to some extent.  It'll be curious how they explain the root cause for this.