Early Wednesday morning, the Kremlin was struck by two explosive-laden drones believed to have been launched by Ukraine. No one was injured, and the Russians assure us that Vladimir Putin was not in the area and is safe. However, I have it on good authority that you can’t find a pair of brown trousers for sale in Moscow at any price. The size of the impact indicates the drones were from inside Russia.
Was Putin the Target?
Russia claims this was an assassination attempt.
According to Russia’s mouthpieces on social media, the fact that Putin was not killed means that the attack failed.
Ukraine Denies Responsibility
Kiev denied responsibility for the attack and claimed that this was a provocation engineered by the Russians to justify even more terrorist attacks on Ukrainian cities.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was on a trip to Helsinki when the attack happened, a strange place to be if you’re trying to assassinate Putin. He also denies Ukrianian responsibility.
Like everything in this war, the official accounts make you think you are trapped in a carnival house of mirrors.
Calling this an assassination attempt is obvious bullsh**. No one outside Putin’s inner circle knows where he is at night. If the Ukrainians had good enough intelligence to target Putin, he has problems much bigger than a couple of quadrocopters slamming into a Kremlin dome.
On the other hand, calling it an assassination attempt is one way of diverting attention from the obvious: two drones carrying explosives hit the Kremlin. The Russians claim electronic defenses brought them down, but when you bring down things on your own facilities, one has to question which side your defensive systems are working for. Of course, this is the country that bombed one of its own cities (Well, It Looks Like Russia Accidentally Bombed Itself on Thursday and Putin’s War, Week 61. Xi Calls, Prigozhin Sounds El Deg?ello, and Surprise Attacks at Sevastopol, Kherson, and (Maybe) St. Petersburg).
Ukraine has hit targets deep inside Russia on several occasions. These targets have all been purely military; see The War in Ukraine Heats up as Drones Attack Russian Airbase Only 100 Miles From Moscow and Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again…and Prigozhin Makes His Move. A strike directly at the Kremlin would be a marked departure from Ukraine’s modus operandi. That said, striking the Kremlin makes Russia look weak. One wonders what genius in the Kremlin could have dreamed this up because, best case, it might create a bubble of popular support for Putin that would put him at over 100% popularity in official polls.
I don’t like quoting Jonah Goldberg, but I tend to agree with this.
And there is this mystery. If you look carefully at the video of the drones striking the dome, you see this on the lower left of the dome.
There is also the question of the high quality of the video coming out of Moscow.
This has led to claims that this was a “false flag” attack. This Twitter thread is the best defense of that theory.
In addition to the items Sergey Sumlenny highlights, there is this over-the-top reaction from the chairman of the Duma.
Occam’s Razor Becomes a Corkscrew
If the attack was related to Putin’s War in Ukraine, I think it was carried out by autonomous partisans working independently. These attacks, usually targeting recruiting stations but sometimes hitting infrastructure, are not uncommon. Two Russian trains carrying supplies for the Russian Army in Ukraine were derailed inside Russia over the weekend. The timing of the attack makes no sense from a Ukrainian strategic point of view, but an attack on the Kremlin just before Victory Day is something that might appeal to freelance partisans. Strategically, this is definitely against Ukraine’s interests. Any sugar rush gained from drones bouncing off the Kremlin is more than offset by the potential damage. Ukraine is negotiating with the US for weapons systems, particularly the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that would let the Ukrainian armed forces strike targets deep behind Russian lines. This has been denied because of fears that Ukraine might use them to hit targets in Russia that are not in the theater of operations. Moreover, the US has only recently given the Ukrainians kits to convert conventional bombs into long-range precision strike weapons. A gratuitous attack on the Kremlin would scuttle all Ukrainian hopes of getting long-range weapons.
When in Danger, When in Doubt, Run in Circles, Scream, and Shout
I’m sure there will be a lot said about “escalation,” “World War III,” and “Putin taking the gloves off.” This is just a vatnik coping strategy. If you think Russia hasn’t been using every means at its disposal since March-April 2022, you haven’t been paying attention. Russia has used every non-nuclear weapon it owns to target Ukraine. It has failed to destroy Ukraine’s army, and it has failed to destroy Ukrainian civilian morale. He can’t “escalate” conventionally because the Russian armed forces are sh**. Xi Jinping, who is Putin’s puppetmaster, not his ally, won’t permit Putin to use nuclear weapons.
The most that will happen is that Russia will step up its attacks on Ukrainian cities under the banner of “they tried to kill our President so we can do whatever the hell we want in retaliation.” I think we’re way past the high tide of Russian capability to launch large-scale missile attacks targeting anything but Ukraine’s under-defended strategic periphery. The most likely course of action is the old “waving the bloody shirt” and trying to use this as a rallying point to increase enlistments in the military and support for the war. Good luck with that.