These may be the last days of NATO

We still cannot break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in the Donbass – Peski, Avdiivka, and other directions. It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words.   ==Volodymyr Zelensky.


Back in December, Russia issued an ultimatum to the United States and NATO that consisted of the following demands:

  • No more NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders. Retraction of the 2008 NATO invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.
  • Legally binding guarantee that no strike systems which could target Moscow will be deployed in countries next to Russia.
  • No NATO or equivalent (UK, U.S., Pl.) ‘exercises’ near Russian borders.
  • NATO ships, planes to keep certain distances from Russian borders.
  • Regular military-to-military talks.
  • No intermediate-range nukes in Europe

At the time these were understood to be fighting words.  John Helmer has helpfully provided maps of NATO installations that are covered by the ultimatum.

NATO bases in Poland

NATO base near Kaliningrad

NATO installation in Rumania

The U.S. government can’t say it wasn’t warned.  Vladimir Putin had been complaining about the eastward expansion of NATO for decades, and his complaints were ignored.  

The result is that the Russian government is no longer interested in negotiating with the USA.   Putin is done complaining.  He has decided to impose his demands by force.

So far he is succeeding.  Ukraine is in retreat.  Its U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped army is faring no better than U.S.-trained and U.S.-equipped armies in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Vietnam.

The Russian strategy is based on use of artillery.  Ukrainian forces, brave as they might be, are being annihilated by  constant bombardments.

The Russian army reportedly has fired more artillery shells than U.S. forces fired during the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But Russians claim to be manufacturing them faster than they are being used up.

Russia is only using a fraction of its military manpower.  A rule of thumb is that an invading force suffers heavier casualties than a defending force, and needs a three to one advantage.  But the Russian force is only one-third the size of the Ukrainian force.  

The Russians are fighting and winning with, figuratively speaking, one hand tied behind their back.

This means Russia has forces in reserve to enforce the other parts of its ultimatum.  It also has the power to escalate if the U.S. steps up its support for Ukraine.

In the early stages of the conflict, President Biden expressed the hope that Russia’s might could be destroyed by sanctions.  But the sanctions war has backfired.  European nations now realize they need Russia’s oil and gas to get through the winter.  Even we in the USA see rising prices and empty store shelves (not all due to sanctions, to be sure).

We Americans face the possibility of a great national humiliation in Ukraine.  The longer the war goes on, the greater the humiliation will likely be.  The more the conflict expands, the greater the humiliation will be.

There is no honorable way out.  It is dishonorable to encourage Ukrainians, Poles and other allies to fight and then refuse to fight by their sides.  Abandonment is shameful.  Using allies as cannon fodder is shameful.  Directly fighting Russians in a ground war, aside from the danger of nuclear war, is something we Americans are not prepared to do.

Ukraine could have had peace up to the end of last year by agreeing to withdraw from NATO, accept Russian control of Crimea and recognize the autonomy of Luhansk and Donetsk.  Now the only agreement on offer is terms of surrender.

What comes after a Ukraine defeat?  Poland and Rumania may accept the ultimatum, or they may resist.  If they resist, there is no reason to think that the United States can do for them what it could not do for Ukraine.

Either way NATO will be shattered.  It may continue to exist, but its guarantees will have been shown to be meaningless.  

The whole point of joining NATO was to gain U.S. protection and deter invasion from Russia.  If NATO bases instead bring on an invasion, and the United States is helpless to protect you, what is the point?

I fear how my fellow Americans will react.  We’ve retreated before – from Vietnam and Afghanistan – but that was on a timetable of U.S. choosing after Americans had tired of carrying on these wars.  That’s different from being defeated on the battlefield.  In history, such defeats have been preludes to revolutions and coups.  I fear our morale and our political system are too weak to absorb  such a defeat.


John Helmer wrote on Dances With Bears:

How will this war in Europe end?

[On July 20] the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answered by drawing a geographic line three hundred kilometers [187 miles] westward and southwestward from the Russian border, including Donetsk, Lugansk, Sevastopol, Kaliningrad, Brest and Hrodna (Belarus).  That is, the direct line of fire by the artillery, rocket, or missile batteries which the US and the NATO allies are installing.  

“Now the geography is different,” Lavrov said.  “It is more than the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic], but also the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and a number of other areas.  This process continues, consistently and persistently.  It will continue as long as the West, in its impotent rage, desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible, continues to flood Ukraine with more and more long-range weapons. Take the HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System].  Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov [Kiev] boasts that they have already received 300-kilometer ammunition.  This means our geographic objectives will move even further from the current line.  We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Vladimir Zelensky, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory or to the republics that have declared their independence and want to determine their own future.”

Will this line extend to Lvov in western Ukraine, or somewhere between Dniepropetrovsk, Kiev and the Polish border, Lavrov was asked. The answer will not be given by diplomatic negotiations, he replied. “There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.”

What makes Lavrov so confident?  Scott Ritter sums up.

Armies are a product of doctrine, and doctrine defines tactics and operations and determines how much logistics are needed. So when you’re building a force structure – let’s say the United States is building a brigade and we say we’re going to include an artillery battalion in it, and we’re planning to fight a roughly equal military force. We expect the battalion to fire such and such a number of rounds of ammunition per day, and we expect the war to last so and so long, so we have to produce enough ammunition for that conflict. Maybe a little more, but not much more.

For example, during Operation Desert Storm, the United States fired a total of 60.000 pieces of artillery ammunition during the entire conflict. Russia fires 60.000-75.000 per day. The Russians are implementing their doctrine, their force structure, their plan, which means that they have provided thousands of pieces of artillery that will fire large amounts of ammunition, they know that the war will last a long time, so they have provided sufficient amounts of ammunition for that purpose.

 This also means that they have the industrial capacity to produce large quantities of ammunition. Therefore, before the start of the special military operation, the Russian military industry switched to a war mode of production of the type of ammunition that they will need. Some people said in the initial phase that the Russians would run out of ammunition. The Russians are not running out of ammunition. Ukraine will run out of manpower sooner than Russia will run out of ammunition!

And as for NATO, they are now emptying their stocks and sending them to Ukraine. First, NATO no longer has Soviet-era ammunition. All those former members of the Warsaw Pact that had Soviet artillery gave their ammunition to Ukraine. There is nothing left. Which means that the Ukrainian army, which was primarily armed with Soviet-era weapons, no longer has ammunition for its artillery. They are now completely dependent on Western artillery. And where does she come from? Because unless there is a huge stockpile of weapons in reserve, the West is stealing from one to give to the other.

On paper, the total military strength of the NATO countries greatly exceeds the military strength of Russia.  But General Mieczysław Gocuł, chief of staff of the Polish army in 2013-2017, said in an interview that what matters is the number of troops you can bring to the battlefield, and that is a different matter.

First of all: NATO at the 2014 summit in Newport, by creating the Readiness Action Plan, increased the Response Force to 40,000 troops, including land, sea, air, space and cyber components. Now, in 2021-22 — because the Russians mobilized their forces for this war in October last year — we have a war.  And what happened on NATO’s eastern flank?  US troops arrived, but importantly, the NATO Response Force did not arrive. And yet, if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine close to our borders did not cause a reaction by the NATO Response Force, then it is necessary to ask the head of NATO whether the Alliance’s crisis response procedures have been launched at all.

If the Pact triggered them, after the initiating phase (conflict detection), it would be necessary to move on to the next phase — strategic assessment by the commander of the combined NATO forces in Europe. Such an assessment should be presented by the commander at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council [NAC – NATO’s most important decision-making body]. After all, this assessment ought to be a simple one.  Russia deployed over 150,000 troops and launched an invasion of Ukraine. It was therefore to be expected that the NAC would share the [NATO] commander’s assessment. The next step in NATO’s crisis response should have been to use Response Options Development. But nothing like that happened. We in Poland and the Baltic states understand the threat, but the approach of other NATO states is diametrically different.  [snip]

If Putin wanted to start the war further and decided to cut a corridor through the Baltics to the Kaliningrad District at the Suwałki Gap, what forces could stop him? Could the forces of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland stop Putin? Not at all. Putin will not be stopped by the Americans, who are present on the eastern flank only in small numbers. I repeat, Russia talks and calculates only with strong countries and organizations. And NATO in our region is weak. [snip]

If anyone says that by increasing the declared number of soldiers of the NATO Response Force to 300,000 and also that we want to increase the size of our own army to 300,000, we will ensure our own safety, that’s talking nonsense. If someone says that the Polish army will be so strong that it will win a war with Russia, that is also gibberish. In fact,  even with these numbers of NATO forces on the eastern flank and of our army, the Russians will demolish the country.

 Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism commented:

Russia is beating a military trained and equipped to NATO standards over eight years, which had the additional advantage of building extensive, layered bunkers in Donbass.  Russia is wearing it down with a peacetime expeditionary force, battle-hardened local militias, the Chechens, the Wagner Group (somewhere between volunteers and mercs) and most importantly lots of ammo and missiles.  Russia has depleted Ukraine’s armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and seasoned fighters, as well as draining NATO caches, while reportedly manufacturing ammo and weapons at a rate so high that Russia is keeping up with the usage in the Special Military Operation.  Russia has also demonstrated superiority to the West in missiles, missile defenses, and signal jamming.  Yet somehow our strategists had convinced themselves that Russia was a military paper tiger, when that is increasingly looking like projection.

Apparently, the latest state of play is that Ukraine keeps shelling some bridges and a dam in Kherson. Bridges and dams are very sturdy, so realistically the worst Ukraine is likely to do is take a roadway or railway out of commission for a bit (one of the bridges under attack may be damaged to that degree).  It appears the Ukraine forces there aren’t large or cohesive enough to launch the much-bruited August offensive, at least not big enough to do more than make some short-term gains.  The most credible interpretation is that this effort is yet more PR: by going (not effectively) against visible targets, Ukraine is trying to persuade the locals that they still could return.

U.S. military strategists hope that Russia will get bogged down in a quagmire war, as in Chechnya and Afghanistan, but Russian leaders will avoid that if they can.  Their stated war aims are to clear neighboring territory of NATO bases and missile sites.  

They have not stated an intention to occupy or annex Poland, Rumania or the Ukrainian part of Ukraine.  They would be foolish if they tried.

The outcome of the war is not certain.  If it were, there wouldn’t have been war in the first place.  But Russia was prepared for war, the USA wasn’t and the odds favor Russia more than most Americans know, or are willing to think about.

I do not claim that Russia has a right to invade Ukraine or other neighboring countries.  What Russia has done is a clear violation of international law.  But the fact is that Russian leaders think this is a survival issue, and the United States may well lack the power to stop them.  

The question for us Americans is not what we approve of, but what we have the power to do. 


Russia’s proposed draft treaty between the United States and Russia.

Russia’s proposed draft treaty between NATO and Russia.

For 20 Years, Russia has been preparing for a conflict with NATO and the destruction of NATO in that war, an interview of Scott Ritter.

Will the War in Europe End in Germany Again, Like 1945? by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

Fighting Words: What the Poles Say When They Dare Do Nothing by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.  The complete interview with General Gocul is in the second half of this article.

The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight: Western Leaders Bungle Russia Oil Price Supply and Appeal Unable Even to Line Up Meetings by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Hidden Truth About the War in Ukraine by Jacques Baud for The Postil Magazine.  The historical record is even worse than I thought.

Policy by Other Means by Helmholz Smith for Moon of Alabama.  How Russia is winning.

Regime Instability in Kiev? by Gordon Hahn for Natylie’s Place: Understanding Russia.

New Batches of Ukrainian Troops Quitting the Fight as Russia Grinds on by Larry Johnson for Son of the New American Revolution.

While Establishment Media Pushes Delusional Narrative on Ukraine, US Military Brass Recognizes the War Is Lost by Larry Johnson for Son of the New American Revolution.

Pentagon scrambles to replenish weapons stocks sent to Ukraine by Lee Hudson, Paul McLeary and Connor O’Brien for Politico.

Lavrov – Extended Range Weapons in Ukraine Will Lead to More Loss of Its Land by ‘Bernhard’ for Moon of Alabama.

What Presidents Say Does Not Matter: It Is the Execution of Policy That Counts by ‘Bernhard’ for Moon of Alabama.

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One Response to “These may be the last days of NATO”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Ukraine does not appear to be in retreat. I’ve been watching the war front very closely and it appears to be another frozen conflict. Having failed at it’s original objective of controlling Ukraine, Russia is forced to accept a consolation prize – Donbas and a land bridge to Crimea.

    Ukraine would love to counterattack but its military was never designed to be an offensive force. NATO is unwilling to supply what would be needed because Putin keeps threatening the nuclear card.


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