Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine and Russia’

Pipeline sabotage kills last hope of Ukraine truce

September 29, 2022

I don’t know for a fact who is responsible for the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage.   But it is plain who benefits from the sabotage, who is hurt and what the results will be.

A winter truce or peace negotiations in the Ukraine war are now virtually impossible.

People in Germany and other European countries face a disastrous winter because of the cutoff of Russian oil and gas. The possibility of turning the gas back on gave Vladimir Putin great leverage in negotiating a possible truce.

The leaks in the gas pipelines take away that leverage.  Now Putin has little or nothing to offer Russia’s former European gas customers in return for peace.

The chief beneficiaries of the pipeline sabotage are Ukraine, the USA and maybe Poland.  The chief victims are Germany, other European gas importers and Russia itself.

On the day of the pipeline break, Poland announced a new pipeline that will transport gas from Norway’s North Sea gas fields to Poland via Denmark and the Baltic Sea.  It reportedly will supply 15 percent of Poland’s needs.

[Added Later]  Alex Christoforous of The Duran, in the video posted above, makes some good points.  He said Russia wouldn’t have sabotaged its own pipeline, for the same reasons I gave.  It would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

If it had been a false flag operation of the United States, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wouldn’t have been caught by surprise.  He’d be saying there is no need for an investigation, Russia is to blame, let’s retaliate.

Also, he said, the great powers do not attack each others’ undersea pipelines and cables because they all are so vulnerable and it would be so easy to retaliate.

His speculative answer is that there is some sort of a cabal, including rogue elements of the U.S. and other governments, which is committed to bringing down Russia and deindustrializing Germany at all costs, but which hasn’t thought out the consequences.

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Ukrainian general says: Take the war to Russia

September 25, 2022

RSZV M142 HIMARS and ATACMS missiles . Photo: Mariusz Burcz

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces co-wrote an article saying the only way for Ukraine to win is to take the war to Russia itself.

Right now Russian missiles can hit any target in Ukraine with pinpoint accuracy, General Valery Zaluzhny wrote; Ukrainian drones can only reach 60 miles into Russian territory.  I’ve read elsewhere that these drone attacks are already taking place.

Zaluzhny is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a member of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.  

General Zaluzhny

He said that, in order to win, Ukraine needs the USA and other allies to provide longer-range missiles that can penetrate deep into Russia.  

Only then will the people of Russia feel the consequences of their war of aggression and pressure their government to back off.

General Zaluzhny said his short-range goal is to reconquer Crimea, an important Russian military and population center from which attacks on Ukraine are launched.  But that in itself will not end the war, he said.  It is necessary to attack the Russian Federation itself.

He went on to say:

Ukraine’s repulsion of aggression by a superpower requires and will require significant material resources and financial costs for a long time to come.  In 2023, the material basis of the Ukrainian resistance should remain significant in terms of military and technical assistance from partner countries.

After all, despite its own losses from economic sanctions, dependence on Russian energy sources and individual attempts to “pacify” the Russian Federation, world history will not forgive any country in the world for conniving with a bloody predator that only gets drunk on new blood. 

In the long run. he wrote, Ukraine needs to create its own armaments industry, perhaps in partnership with foreign investors.

I think this is an accurate description of the situation.  Right now the balance of forces is against Ukraine, both in the shooting war and the sanctions war.  Ukraine needs a game-changer if it is to win.

But what exactly would Zaluzhny do with longer-range missiles?  Just bombard Russian forces massing along the border?   Or bomb Moscow and St. Petersburg?  

Either way, the Russians would retaliate immediately, not just against Ukraine, but its NATO allies.  Then what?

Does he think a widening of the war would work to Ukraine’s advantage?  Indeed, a general war in Europe would devastate Russia and the NATO allies, but might well leave Ukraine a fully-sovereign nation—and also a blood-soaked wasteland. 

I wonder what U.S. and other NATO commanders this of this.  Do they also want to take the war to a new level rather than admit defeat?  Have they thought about the consequences?  We live in “interesting” times.

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Escalation in Ukraine

September 21, 2022

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin did two things today that escalate the war in Ukraine and make nuclear war a little more likely than it was before.

The first thing was to announce referenda in Russian-speaking, Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine on joining the Russian Federation.  It’s reasonable to think that the vote will be “yes.”

The second was to announce a partial mobilization, which will increase Russian troop strength by about 300,000.  This could double or triple the number of troops available to fight in Ukraine.

In other words, Russia has drawn a new red line and is increasing its war-fighting ability to maintain it.

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For years, Putin’s demand was only that Ukraine grant autonomy to the Luhansk and Donetzk regions and respect the civil rights of Russian-speakers.  But early this year, he persuaded the Duma to recognize Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics.

This provided a theoretical legal justification for the “special military operation.”  Russia was defending two sovereign nations from attack.

Annexation of the Luhansk, Donetzk, Marupol and Kherson means that Russia would say that any invasion of these regions was an attack on Russia itself.  According to stated Russian policy, Russia would retaliate by any means deemed necessary, including use of nuclear weapons.

It also means that Russia’s occupation of these lands is non-negotiable.  Russia cannot afford to give them up.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, it had the advantage.  It had prepared arms production so that the Ukrainians were outgunned.  It also had bolstered its economy so as to be able to survive the sanctions war launched by the United States.

By supplying Ukraine with modern weapons, and by providing intelligence, training and possibly support by elite troops, the U.S. has changed the nature of the war.  Military analyst Scott Ritter says the war is no longer a Ukrainian war using NATO equipment; it has become a NATO war using Ukrainian troops.

Russia’s main weakness is that the Russian people themselves are not eager to go fight and die in Ukraine.  The bulk of the fighting has been done by militias of Russian-speakers in Luhansk and Donetzk, the Wagner Group (private mercenary soldiers), Chechens and fighters from the Syria and other foreign countries.

While Russia has a military draft, there is an understanding that draftees won’t be sent to fight in Ukraine.

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‘Why are we in Ukraine?’

August 24, 2022

The conservative writer Christopher Caldwell wrote an article in the latest Claremont Review of Books saying that even if the USA and its Ukrainian proxy win their ground war against Russia, the USA may well lose on the economic war front and the culture war front.

On March 24, a month after Russian tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders, the Biden White House summoned America’s partners (as its allies are now called) to a civilizational crusade.  The administration proclaimed its commitment to those affected by Russia’s recent invasion—“especially vulnerable populations such as women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and persons with disabilities.”

At noon that same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted about the “massive, unprecedented consequences” American sanctions were wreaking on Russia, and claimed Russia’s economic “collapse” was imminent.

Never has an official non-belligerent been more implicated in a war.  Russia and its sympathizers assert that the U.S. attempt to turn Ukraine into an armed anti-Russian camp is what the war is about in the first place.  Even those who dismiss this view will agree that the United States has made itself a central player in the conflict.  

It is pursuing a three-pronged strategy to defeat Russia through every means short of entering the war—which, of course, raises the risk that the United States will enter the war.  

One prong is the state-of-the-art weaponry it is supplying to Ukraine. Since June, thousands of computer-guided artillery rockets have been wreaking havoc behind Russian lines.  

A second prong is sanctions.  With western European help, Washington has used its control of the choke points of the global marketplace to impoverish Russians, in hopes of punishing Russia.

Finally, the U.S. seeks to rally the world’s peoples to a culture war against an enemy whose traditionalism, even if it does not constitute the whole of his evil, is at least a symbol of it.

It would be foolish to bet against the United States, a mighty global hegemon with a military budget 12 times Russia’s. Yet something is going badly off track.  Russia’s military tenacity was to be expected—bloodying and defeating more technologically advanced armies has been a hallmark of Russian civilization for 600 years.  

But the economic sanctions, far from bringing about the collapse Blinken gloated over, have driven up the price of the energy Russia sells, strengthened the ruble, and threatened America’s western European allies with frostbite, shortages, and recession.  

The culture war has found few proponents outside of the West’s richest latte neighborhoods. Indeed, cultural self-defense may be part of the reason India, China, and other rising countries have conspicuously declined to cut economic ties with the Russians.

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Suppose Russia wins – what happens next?

August 22, 2022

 

Ukraine in 2021

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.

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.  ==Donald Rumsfeld.

I think the Russians have a good chance of winning their war in Ukraine, for reasons I’ve stated in previous posts.  You may disagree.  But suppose, for the sake of argument, I’m right.  What would happen next?

The first thing to understand is that, at this point, Russians are not interested in negotiation, only in terms of surrender.  And the terms offered at the outset of the war may not be enough.

Historical map of Ukraine

Before invading, the Russian leaders demanded that Ukraine recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of the secessionist Donbas republics, and renounce future membership in NATO.  But that is no longer enough to satisfy.

Russia is extending its operations to absorb the pink and blue areas on the map at the right, which are the areas with the heaviest concentrations of Russian speakers.  It is issuing passports to those who desire Russian citizenship.

This indicates a plan to carve out a “new Russia” from Ukrainian territory which would extend from Russia to Transnistria on the Moldovan border.

Russia’s demands go beyond Ukraine.  Russia’s goal is to push back all NATO bases and installations from which NATO forces could strike at Russia.  This includes missile sites in Poland and Rumania.  Presumably it would include Sweden, Finland or any other U.S. ally that becomes a site for NATO strike weapons.

The ultimate goal, which Russia shares with China, is to crack global U.S. military and financial domination and replace it with a balance of power that includes Russia, China, the USA and maybe other countries, such as India.

A vain hope

Compromise is no longer possible.  Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov say that US American leaders are “not agreement-capable.”  They say the USA and NATO allies have ignored their red lines for years, and the time for talk is past.  A recent speech by General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, the Russian minister of defense, gives a good idea of the Russian point of view.

The main advantage Russia has in Ukraine is superior firepower.  The USA and its allies are drawing down their arsenals to supply Ukraine and will not be able to quickly replenish them.

Russia claims to be producing as much ammunition and armaments as it is expending.  If Russia wins, this claim will have been proved right.

Where does this leave Poland, Rumania and other NATO allies?  Their governments joined NATO because they believed the USA could protect them from Russia.  This belief will have been proved wrong.  The choices for Poland and Rumania will be to submit to Russia’s demands or to fight at a worse disadvantage than Ukraine had (except for being less corrupt than Ukraine).

The European nations would have to face the fact that they must either be willing to make peace with Russia or be prepared to depend on themselves for defense.  Ideally, they would do both, as Finland, Sweden and Switzerland did during the Cold War era.

At the same time, economic warfare against Russia is failing.  Economic sanctions have backfired.  The USA’s NATO allies are hurting much more than Russia is.

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Russia is winning, and here’s why

August 16, 2022

I never thought Russia would invade Ukraine. When it did, I thought President Putin had made a big mistake.

My reason was that I thought that if Russia invaded Ukraine, it would get bogged down in a quagmire war, as it did in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. Rather than being a quagmire for Russia, it has turned out to be a sinkhole for Ukrainian lives and NATO military equipment.

Russia has been preparing for this war since 2014, or maybe 2008. It has created war industries capable of supplying artillery shells and missiles as fast as they are being used up. It is using strategy based on leveraging its quantitative superiority in artillery and missiles to maximize Ukrainian casualties and minimize Russian casualties

The United States and other NATO allies are supplying expensive, high-tech weapons that are hard to use and in limited supply. They are stripping their own arsenals to prop up Ukraine.

The situation reminds me of an article written years ago by a management expert named Clayton Christiansen about disruptive innovation.  The idea was that high tech companies become so focused on the high-performance, high-margin and high priced end of the market  that they are disrupted by competitors who concentrate on the cheap and reliable.  Russia is using a disruptive military strategy.

A report by Britain’s Royal United Services Institute says that the United States and other NATO allies are depleting their stockpiles of munitions and do not have the manufacturing capability to quickly replace them.

It says annual U.S. artillery production would last only two weeks of combat in Ukraine.  In a recent war game involving U.S., U.K. and French forces, the U.K. forces exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after eight days.

The United State shipped 7,000 Javelin missiles to Ukraine, about one-third of its stockpile, with more shipments to come.  Lockheed Martin produces about 2,100 missiles a year, although it might ramp up to 4,000 in a few years.  Ukraine claims to use 500 Javelin missiles every day.

A 2018 report for the U.S. Department of Defense described the weaknesses of the U.S. armaments industry.  These included a lack of skilled workers, a lack of manufacturing investment and dependence on foreign suppliers for crucial components and for raw materials.

The Russian superiority in firepower is devastating.  A writer for the Marine Corps Gazette, quoted in the previous post, say the barrages are equal to the most intense shelling in battles of the two world wars.  

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A U.S. Marine analyzes Russia’s Ukraine war

August 15, 2022

‘Lambert Strether’ of Naked Capitalism came across an article in the August issue of the Marine Corps Gazette analyzing the reasons why Russia is winning its war in Ukraine.

The anonymous author, whose pen name is Marinus, said the key to Russian victory was its use of artillery – surprisingly intense in some ways, surprising restrained in others.

The Russians took great pains to avoid hitting physical infrastructure such as electric power plants, water purification plants and railroad stations. There were civilian casualties, and, of course, it was Russia’s decision to start the war in the first place, but there was a real effort to avoid unnecessary death and destruction.

The first phase of the war was a raid, bypassing big cities and intended, in the author’s opinion, to pin down Ukrainian forces and keep them from being used elsewhere.  The second phase of the war, to install pro-Russian governing authorities in areas where there was a large Russian-speaking population. In both these phases, use of artillery and guided missiles was held to a minimum.

But third phase of the war consisted of trapping Ukrainian forces in “cauldrons,” where there were no Russian ground forces and they could be pounded with artillery and missiles without restraint.  The Russian bombardments, Marinus wrote, were equal to the most intense artillery bombardments of the two world wars.

Like certain French divisions in World War One, certain Ukrainian troops are saying that they will hold their ground, but they will not attack.  I don’t blame them.

“The program of missile strikes exploited a capability that was nothing short of revolutionary,” Marinus concluded.  “Whether new or old, however, these component efforts were conducted in a way that demonstrated profound appreciation of all those realms in which wars are waged.  That is, the Russians rarely forgot that, in addition to being a physical struggle, war is both a mental contest and a moral argument.”

The four-page article is behind a pay wall, but somebody posted a copy on Reddit.  I’ve taken the liberty of copying it in my turn. 

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Patrick Lawrence on truth, lies and propaganda

August 13, 2022

The news that most Americans are getting about Ukraine is war propaganda.  That doesn’t mean that it is all false.  What it does mean is that it is next to impossible for the ordinary busy person to separate truth from falsehood.  Patrick Lawrence, a respected retired foreign correspondent, gives examples.

Ten days into the Russian intervention, the propaganda coming out of Kiev was already so preposterous The New York Times felt compelled to publish a piece headlined, “In Ukraine’s Information War, a Blend of Fact and Fiction.” This was a baldly rendered apologia for the many “stories of questionable veracity,” as The Times put it, then in circulation. I do love The Times for its delicate phrasing when describing indelicate matters.

There was the “Ghost of Kiev” story, featuring an heroic fighter pilot who turned out to derive from a video game. There were the Snake Island heroes, 13 Ukrainian soldiers who held out to the death on some small speck in the Black Sea, except that it turned out they surrendered, though not before Zelensky awarded them posthumous medals of honor that were not posthumous.

After railing against disinformation for years, The Times wants us to know, disinformation is O.K. in Ukraine because the Ukrainians are our side and they are simply “boosting morale.”

We cannot say we weren’t warned. The Ghost of Kiev and Snake Island turn out now to be mere prelude, opening acts in the most extensive propaganda operation of the many I can recall.

There was the maternity ward the Russians supposedly bombed in Mariupol. And then the theater, and then the art school. All filled with huddling citizens the Russian air force cynically targeted because “this is genocide,” as the ever-intemperate Zelensky does not hesitate to assert.

All of this has been reported as fact in the Times and other major dailies and, of course, by the major broadcasters. There have been pictures. There have been videos, all very persuasive to the eye.

And then, as evidence mounts that these incidents were staged as propaganda to frame the Russians and draw NATO forces directly into the war, a silence worthy of a Catholic chapel descends. We read no more of the maternity ward that turned out to be an improvised Azov base, or the theater, where citizens were herded, photographed in raggedy blankets, and sent away.   Ditto the art school: Nothing more on this since the initial reports began to collapse. No body counts, no mention of the fact that Russian jets did not fly over Mariupol on the days in question.

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Some voices you’re not supposed to listen to

August 12, 2022

If you are Russian and read Tass and Pravda, my guess is that there are a lot of things you aren’t being told.  My guess is that you need to check dissident and foreign sources to learn things that don’t fit the Russian government’s propaganda version of reality.

I know – I don’t have to guess- that if you are a US American and read the so-called “mainstream media,” there are a lot of things you aren’t being told.  You need to check dissident and foreign sources to learn things that don’t fit the U.S. government’s propaganda version of reality.

Petal bombs

One of the things I wouldn’t know if I didn’t check alternative sources is that the Donbass is being sprinkled with “petal” or “butterfly” bombs, which are designed to injure and kill civilians.

Donetzk authorities say they are delivered via Hurricane MLRS rockets.  Each rocket has 12 cluster munitions, each cluster has 26 bombs.  Because of their shape, they float down without exploding and can land anywhere.  

They are the size of a cigarette lighter and hard to see. If your car runs over one, you will lose a wheel—or worse.  If you step on one, you will lose a foot—or worse.  

I learned about this by reading an article by Eva Bartlett, an independent Canadian journalist.  It first appeared on the RT News web site.  Maybe you think that fact discredits her reporting.  If you do, would you say the same thing about a Russian journalist quoted on BBC News or the Voice of America?

Bartlett is lucky.  She hasn’t been charged with a crime, nor has her bank account been closed down.  Not so  Alina Lipp and Graham Phillips, two other independent journalists reporting from the Donbass.

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These may be the last days of NATO

August 9, 2022

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.

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The Ukraine war and the cost of living

June 1, 2022

Click to enlarge.

Whatever else it is, the war in Ukraine is a war to control food and energy supplies.  The turning point was the 2014 coup, which took Ukraine out of the Russian economic orbit and into the U.S.-dominated  “rules-based economic order.”  

Umair Haque gives the big picture.

Food prices rising — commodities prices in general — were a directeffect of climate change.  So what about Putin’s war?  Well, just think about what it’s really about. Controlling resources.  Putin knows that if he controls the resources — oil, gas, metal, wheat, and so forth — he can control a dying planet.  He who controls the resources controls a dying planet, because we all need them that much more.  You can see this very, very clearly in the way that Putin’s skewered Europe right on the horns on an insoluble dilemma: allow war in Ukraine, or depend on Russian resources?

Putin’s war in Ukraine is driven by ideological reasons, true — the weird blend of religion and fanaticism I’ve called New Age Fascism.  But more than that, it’s the first of the great resource wars on a dying planet. Ukraine is a strategically vital nation, at least on a dying planet — it’s Europe’s breadbasket, provides the world all kinds of basic resources from wheat to metals.  Ukraine is one of the very first nations you’d want to conquer if you wanted to control what few resources were going to be left on a dying planet, and this is the deeper logic of Putin’s game.

Resource wars are not going to end. In fact, they are only now just getting started — just after commodities prices have been soaring for the last few years thanks to failed harvests.  See how predictable that is?  It’s not that the two are even consciously linked — some dictator sees commodities prices rising and thinks “it’s time for war!” — it’s just that this is what inevitably happens.  Putin’s wars are obviously not going to end.  China, soon enough, will have to secure its own empire of resources, as the planet goes on dying. The West appears to have no strategy for any of this, because it’s only answer is globalization,” which has failed the way that my first marriage did — she threw plates at me, dear reader, because I was a bastard.

We are therefore now entering an age of (a) resource wars (b) shortages and (c) inflation.  Serious, sustained, vicious inflation.  These three things have already the defined the 2020s.  What did Covid do? Cause shortages around the globe — in a foreshadowing of the future on a dying planet.  Covid highlighted just how illusionary all this abundance of stuff really is — ships stop for a few days, borders shut down for a day or two, and bang — you can’t get stuff to eat or drink the way you’re used to.  But what happens on a planet of mega fires and mega floods and mega weather?  Mega risk does.  Shortages becomes endemic, a way of life.  As they slowly are now.

The flipside of shortages is, of course, inflation.  And inflation is the savage, gruesome reality of living on a dying planet.  There isn’t enough left to go around.  There never was.  20% of humanity — otherwise known as “The West” — consumes 90% of the planet’s resources.  That leaves just 10% of them for 80% of humanity.  The rest of the world has always lived without.  It’s just we in the West who are starting to discover what the real economics of existence are.

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Is peace in Ukraine even possible?

May 18, 2022

Peace does not require two individuals or two nations to like or trust each other. Peace requires that two sides decide the price of war is greater than the price of peace.

Defense analysts in Washington, D.C., are talking with relish about the possibility of Russia being drawn into a self-destructive quagmire war in Ukraine, like the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m sure Vladimir Putin and Volodomor Zelensky are aware of these discussions. I don’t imagine that Putin wants Russia to be bled dry, or that Zelensky wants his country to be offered up as a sacrifice to U.S. geopolitical strategy.

Now maybe one side or the other thinks it can win a quick and decisive victory.  But, as things stand now, the USA is willing to provide Ukraine with modern weapons as long as it continues fighting, and China is committed to preventing Russia from going under.  So a quick end seems unlikely.

The alternative is some sort of compromise peace, in which neither side suffers complete defeat but each side gives up some of what it wants. In the previous post, I speculated on the possible elements of such a peace.

The odds are against such an agreement anytime soon. Both sides are in too deep, and have shed too much blood. But that is no reason to stop talking about it.

Remember that Zelensky, a political unknown, won a landslide victory in 2019 as a peace candidate.  He was the George McGovern of Ukraine.  Right now he is not a free agent.  He is trapped between his U.S. paymasters and the fanatical Banderite faction.  But even so, he has said he is open to negotiation.

Remember that Vladimir Putin spent 20 years trying to get the Western powers to accept Russia as an equal partner before he turned to war.

The Russian leaders believe they are fighting an existential threat of which Ukraine is only a part. It also includes missile launchers in Poland and Rumania, which could be used to launch hypersonic missiles against Russia.

A comprehensive agreement would have to include not only the dismantling of those missile sites, but the restoration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to remove Russia’s existential threat to Poland, Rumania and other non-nuclear European nations.

The U.S. government has a perceived interest in keeping the fight going. The goal of the U.S. national security establishment is to maintain its nuclear dominance and its economic dominance, so that the U.S. government has the power to threaten any opponent with nuclear war and economic war.

The question is whether we the American people are willing to pay the price of maintaining this dominance. We already see rising prices of gasoline, heating oil and food. The longer the war in Ukraine and the global old war continue, the worse this will get. So we, too, have an interest in peace.

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The case for peace in Ukraine

May 16, 2022

We are being told the USA needs to send another $40 billion in aid to Ukraine pronto and to completely disrupt world trade in grain, oil and gas.  Otherwise Russia may win.   Even so, some of our military leaders are saying the war will go on for years.

The independent military analyst Scott Ritter says the last is a real possibility.  Although he had been predicting a Russian victory, he now says that if the Ukrainian army can train in Poland and Germany, and receive potentially unlimited numbers of U.S. and other NATO arms, there is no telling how long they can hold out.

I consider Ritter an authority on the Russian military and on military science in general.  What his reassessments tell me is that war is, by its nature, unpredictable.  If the outcomes of wars could be foreseen with certainty, no nation would go to war in the first place.

Biden’s stated war aim is not just to save Ukraine.  It is to weaken Russia to the point where it is no longer capable of waging war.  Also, to pressure Russians into replacing Putin with a leader wiling to beg for mercy.   

Putin’s stated war aim is not just to save the Russians in the Donbas.  It is to roll back NATO so that it is no longer capable of threatening Russia.

If neither of them gives in, it is very possible the result will be the bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy of the USA, Russia and many other countries, including some neutral countries, with Ukraine, including its Donbas region, left as a blood-soaked wasteland.  That is not the worst-case scenario.  The worst case would be a nuclear holocaust of most of Russia, Europe and the USA..

The best possible outcome would be a truce and a ratification of the previous status quo—neutrality for Ukraine, autonomy for Donbas, continuing Russian control of strategically vital Crimea.

My readings of the Russian Dissent substack, Meduza news service and Alexey Navalny videos also make me aware of the authoritarianism, corruption and cronyism of the Putin administration, and of misgivings about the war by ordinary Russians.

Russia and Ukraine may be separate countries, but many Russians and Ukrainians are related by friendship, lineage and marriage.  They don’t want war with each other.

Both Russia and Ukraine are cracking down on dissent, so it is impossible for outsiders to know how much potential opposition there is to the war on either side.

All the Democrats I would have hoped might stand up for peace—Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ihan Omar, etc.—supported the $40 billion appropriation for the war.

It is strange that the progressives in Congress can be pressured to give in at key points, while Senators Manchin and Sinema have free rein to block the whole Democratic program.

Are the progressives so weak?  Or is it that the Biden Administration only applies pressure when its war policy is concerned?

Post-Communist Ukraine, like Russia, has long been known for corruption.  There is a real possibility of American weapons winding up on the black market or in the hands of Banderite white nationalist terrorists.

I’ve started reading a biography of their hero, Stepan Bandera, who really was a kind of little junior Hitler.  

The main difference between him and Hitler, apart from the enormously greater scale of Hitler’s crimes, was that Hitler thought of the Germans as a master race and Bandera thought of the Ukrainians as a victim race.  He would have been happy to see Ukraine as a German client state, provided it was cleansed of Russians, Poles and Jews.

The Banderites are much more influential in Ukraine than their voting strength or the size of the Azov Battalion would indicate.  

They’ve threatened to kill any Ukrainian to fails to resist the Russian army.  Circumstantial evidence indicates they may have been the ones responsible for the Bucha massacre.  They have threatened to kill Zelensky if he gives in.

If Zelensky negotiated a peace such as I suggested, he probably would have to wage a civil war in his own country to get it accepted.

The top 0.1 percent of income earners and the Washington elite glory in ignoring pandemic restrictions and holding possible super spreader events, such as the recent Washington Correspondents Dinner.

Many people at these events report getting covid, which means they could be suffering from long-term organ damage, including brain fog.

I seriously wonder whether Joe Biden, Anthony Blinken, Donald Trump and others suffer from covid-induced brain fog.  I am not being sarcastic (well,  not completely sarcastic).  But then again, if they were, how could you tell?

Noam Chomsky on moral equivalence

April 19, 2022

Noam Chomsky in an interview condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine.  He said it is not only morally wrong, but a violation of international law.

He also said that Russia has not done anything that the USA has not done.  The invasion of Iraq was no less wrong than the invasion of Ukraine.  The bombing of Fallujah caused at least as much death and suffering as the bombing of Mariupol’.

Neither the Russia nor the USA accepts the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  In 1984, the court condemned the United States for mining the harbors of Nicaragua as part of its covert war against that country, the U.S. government shrugged off that decision.

In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing the U.S. government to take military again to prevent any American or allied citizen from being tried as a war criminal.  President Biden has no standing to call for President Putin to be tried for violating international law the USA does not respect.

I believe that many consider it out of bounds for me, or for Prof. Chomsky, to weigh the crimes of the U.S. government in the same balance as the crimes of other governments.  This is “moral equivalence” or “whataboutism.”  Instead you’re supposed to be silent about U.S. crimes unless you have first researched and condemned every other wrong that may have been worse.

It can be argued that a murderer who kills one person is less of a murderer who kills ten people, but the first is a murderer just the same.  And the fact that one murderer gets away with their crime does not generate an entitlement to commit murder.

None of this is a justification for the invasion of Ukraine.  The ordinary people of Ukraine did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are not responsible for the persecution of Julian Assange.  They do not deserve to be killed, maimed and terrorized because of what the U.S. government has done.

The U.S. government has an obligation to provide the Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves, Chomsky said.  But he said it also has a duty to try to bring both sides to the negotiating table before Ukraine is completely ruined.  He’s right.

LINKS

Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill on the Russia-Ukraine War, an interview for The Intercept.

Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III, an interview for Current Affairs.  [Added 04/20/2022]

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Vladimir Putin is not a madman

April 11, 2022

I never thought Vladimir Putin would order a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 

My reasoning was that it was not in Putin’s or Russia’s interest to take responsibility for a country that, by most accounts, was even poorer than Russia itself and almost as corrupt.  Nor did it make sense for Russia to risk getting bogged down in a long quagmire war as it did in Afghanistan.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, had elected as a peace candidate with more than 70 percent of the vote, so there seemed like a possibility of negotiating the status of the Donbas secessionists and other issues.  

I thought Putin would take some limited action that would demonstrate Ukraine’s vulnerability and NATO’s lack of unity.

As a result of the invasion, members of NATO are more united against Russia than ever.  Sweden and Finland have abandoned their neutrality and may formally join NATO.  Countries not willing to fight Russia with troops are waging economic warfare against Russia.

So why did he do it? Was he crazy?

One of my rules of thumb is that when someone who seems highly intelligent does something that makes no sense to me, that person may have reasons that I do not understand.

I believe Putin has made this high-stakes gamble because he believes the actual existence of Russia is at risk.  I believe he further believes that the danger is growing and he had to act before time runs out.   

He has been saying for years that the goal of the U.S.-led alliance is to put itself in a position to be able to successfully attack Russia.  He may be mistaken, but he has reason to think so.

Notice that the ultimatum he issued last year is not limited to Ukraine.  It contains for main demands (1) Ukraine neutrality, (2) autonomy of Donetz and Luhansk, (3) no missiles in Poland or Rumania and (4) NATO troops back to 1991 limits.

Notice also that Russia has not used its full military might in invading Ukraine.  That means Putin may be holding back troops to enforce the rest of his ultimatum.

∞∞∞

When Russia withdrew its troops from East Germany and other satellite countries in Eastern Europe in 1989, Secretary of State James Baker allegedly promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO troops would not move “one inch” to the east.  There’s argument as to what he really said.  But many people, myself included, hoped for a new era when the USA and Russia were at peace with each other.

In 1999, NATO expanded.  Putin protested and was ignored.  In 2004, NATO expanded again.  Putin protested and was ignored.

In 2008, NATO announced an intention to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.  Putin said that was a red line that Russia would not tolerate.  

I can understand why.  If you look at a map of Europe showing the peak of German conquests during World War Two, and compare it with a map of NATO with Ukraine and Georgia, you will see they are almost the same.

In 2014, a pro-American faction seized power in Ukraine. Since then, Ukraine has been a NATO member in all but name.

A missile defense system is being placed in Poland and Romania, which could be made capable of launching nuclear missiles. The U.S. meanwhile has exited the Anti-Ballistic Missile agreement and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement.

Soon the United States will have duplicated Russia’s hypersonic missile, which means that a nuclear warhead launched from Poland or Rumania could hit Moscow in a few minutes.

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The search for truth in the Ukraine war

April 9, 2022

I think the world is at a major historical turning point.  China and Russia, with their allies and vassals, have begun an attack on a system of economic and military power dominated by the United States, which probably will succeed.  The Russian attack on Ukraine is a ramping up to that larger conflict.

That is why I am so obsessively focused on the war in Ukraine.  Trying to understand the conflict allows me to overcome my feeling of helplessness in the face of the coming catastrophe.

This video interview of Scott Ritter from last Wednesday is a good summary of the situation in Ukraine, which is different from the propaganda version in most U.S. newspapers and broadcast networks.  The meat of the interview begins at the seven-minute mark.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing to get something out of it.  

I think that Scott Ritter, Michael Hudson and the Naked Capitalism bloggers have the best handle on what’s going on.  Both Ritter and Hudson are giving video interviews to virtually anybody who will talk to them, and these interviews should be easy to find.  

Of course what they (and I) say is based on uncertain and incomplete knowledge.  The verdict of history may be different from what I (or you) think now.  But time spent trying to learn and understand is not time wasted.

LINKS

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Perspective by Scott Ritter for Energy Intelligence.

The American Empire Self-Destructs by Michael Hudson.

Craig Murray on inconvenient truths

April 7, 2022

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador, who has paid a price in his own life for inconvenient truth-telling, published a list of true statements about Russia, Ukraine and the West.

a) The Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal: Putin is a war criminal
b) The US led invasion of Iraq was illegal: Blair and Bush are war criminals

a) Russian troops are looting, raping and shelling civilian areas
b) Ukraine has Nazis entrenched in the military and in government and commits atrocities against Russians

Craig Murray

a) Zelensky is an excellent war leader
b) Zelensky is corrupt and an oligarch puppet

a) Russian subjugation of Chechnya was brutal and a disproportionate response to an independence movement
b) Russian intervention in Syria saved the Middle East from an ISIS controlled jihadist state

a) Russia is extremely corrupt with a very poor human rights record
b) Western security service narratives such as “Russiagate” and “Skripals” are highly suspect, politically motivated and unevidenced.

a) NATO expansion is unnecessary, threatening to Russia and benefits nobody but the military industrial complex
b) The Russian military industrial complex is equally powerful in its own polity as is Russian nationalism

I agree with all these statements.  I don’t question your good faith if you happen to disagree with any of them or all of them.  I just think it is highly unlikely, with nations as with individuals, that one side is completely good and the other completely bad.  It is hard to stand aside from propaganda and judge for yourself.  

More from Murray:

One final thought on the tone of the coverage of the war both of the media and of supporters of the official western line on social media.  Though affecting to be sickened by the atrocities of war, their tone is not of sorrow or devastation, it is triumphalist and jubilant.  The amount of war porn and glorying in war is worrying.  The mood of the British nation is atavistic.  Russians living here are forced on a daily basis to declare antagonism to their own people and homeland.

I have had great difficulty in writing this piece – I have worked on it some three weeks, and the reason is a deep sadness which this unnecessary war has caused me.  In the course of my typing any paragraph, somebody has probably been killed or seriously injured in Ukraine, of whatever background.  They had a mother and others who loved them.  There is no triumph in violent death.

[Afterthought 04/09/2022].  On thinking things over, I have some reservations about some of the things on Murray’s list.  But I agree with the spirit of what he wrote.  The fact that one side in a conflict may be bad does not make the other side good.

LINK

Striving to Make Sense of the War in Ukraine by Craig Murray.  A long post, but worth reading the whole way through.

What is Russian exceptionalism?

April 6, 2022

LOST KINGDOM: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation from 1470 to the Present by Serhii Plokhy (2017)

Serhii Plokhy is professor of Ukrainian history and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University.  His book,  Lost Kingdom, is about Russian exceptionalism—that is, Russia’s historic claim to lead and rule the eastern Slavic peoples and the pushback from Ukrainians and Belarusians.  

Kievan Rus’

It is an important and complicated story—full of ironies, zigzags and contradictions, and historical turning points that could have turned out differently from what they did.  It provides interesting background to the current war in Ukraine, although I do not think it is the final word on that topic.

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus all trace their origins to the culture Kievan Rus’ and the conversion of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Christianity in 987.  The Kievan Rus’ lands stretched from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Finland and were regarded as a unity.  But most of them were overrun by the Mongol-Tatar Golden Horde in 1237-1239.  

The book’s story begins when Prince Ivan III of Muscovy, a vassal of the Golden Horde, married Sophia Palaiologos, a princess of the Byzantine Empire, which  had fallen to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  

Ivan claimed his marriage made Muscovy “the Third Rome,” the successor of the Byzantine and Roman empires.  This was bold talk for the ruler of a relatively small principality.   

Europe in 1470.

Muscovy expanded, step by step, although with a lot of back and forth struggle.  Its rulers adopted the title of Tsar, which is Russian for Caesar.  Muscovy conquered the independent Republic of Novgorod and warred against Tartars, Ottomans and the great and powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  

On the vast Eurasian plain, there were few obstacles to conquest, but also few barriers against invasion.  A Polish army occupied Moscow in 1610-1612 and a Swedish army occupied Ukraine in 1706.   Later on a French army reached Moscow in 1812, and German armies occupied Ukraine in 1918 and 1941.  It’s easy to understand why questions of allegiance and national unity were life-and-death issue.

Plokhy wrote that from earliest days, there was a recognized difference between the Great Russians, Little Russians (Ukrainians) and White Russians (Belarusians).  I recall that the Tsars claimed to be rulers of “all the Russias”—implying that there was more than one.

One turning point was the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796).  She was of German origin, and came to the throne after the murder of his husband, so her legitimacy was questionable.  Although she toyed with the ideas of the European Enlightenment, she doubled down on promoting Great Russian national identity and Eastern Orthodox religion.  

She joined the rulers of Austria and Prussia in partitioning Russia’s old enemy, Poland.  Russia got more than half of Poland, including its capital, Warsaw.  

In the ensuring years, the Polish nobility, remembering their former power and greatness, resisted Russian rule as best they could, while the Russian government tried to Russianize the Poles.

The Russian government began to look on Ukrainian language and culture in a new way, as a possible source of Polish-like nationalism.  This wasn’t altogether wrong.  

As with other subjugated and divided peoples in 19th century Europe, Ukrainian intellectuals began to study their cultural and national roots and think about independence and unification.    Academic studies of linguistics and ethnography in one generation became nationalistic intellectual weapons in later decades.  I think this was the real origin of Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalism.

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What is Ukraine?

March 30, 2022

FRONTLINE UKRAINE: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa (2015, 2016)

The Ukrainian flag consists of a field of blue, symbolizing the sky, above a field of yellow, symbolizing a field of wheat.

To Richard Sakwa, a scholar specializing in Russian and European politics, the flag also symbolizes the two schools of Ukrainian nationalism.

The blue sky symbolizes a unified blood-and-soil nationalism, the idea that Ukraine belongs only to those of Ukrainian lineage who speak the Ukrainian language, and everybody else is a lesser citizen or a foreigner.

The yellow field of wheat symbolizes a pluralistic nationalism, one that respects the cultures of all the peoples who live in Ukraine, not just Ukrainians and Russians, but Poles, Jews, Tatars and other minorities.

In Frontline Ukraine, Sakwa traced the history of Ukraine from 1991, when Ukraine become an independent nation, to 2014, when anationalistic anti-Russian government took power, and Ukraine was set on its present course of irreconcilable conflict with Russia and its own Russian-speaking minority.

Europe 2014. Click to enlarge.

He said Ukraine’s problems are due to a shift from the yellow to the blue.  I think this is true as far as it goes.  But Ukraine’s problems are not all of its own making.

One is that Ukraine’s boundaries were not determined by Ukrainians.  They were drawn by Joseph Stalin, and were created with the intention of making trouble down the line.

When the Soviet Union was formed, V.I. Lenin promised the Russian Empire’s former subject peoples that they could have self-government.  Stalin was given the job of drawing the boundaries of the new Soviet republics.

As someone pointed out to me, these boundaries were drawn so that each of the republics would have a large minority group and so would lack national unity.  The result has been frozen conflicts and ethnic clashes all across the former Soviet Union.  In many cases, they invited—or provided an excuse for—Russian intervention.  

Ukraine was part of this pattern.  Its eastern boundary was set so as to include many ethnic Russians.  Then, following the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Polish and Rumanian territories were added to Ukraine in the west, 

However, Stalin was careful to keep Crimea, with its important naval base and Russian-majority population, as part of the Russian Soviet republic.  It didn’t become part of Ukraine until 1954, by decision of Nikita Khrushchev, an ethnic Ukrainian.

But the real explanation for the intensity of Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalism lies in what Ukrainians call the Holodomor, the deliberate killing of millions of Ukrainians by Stalin’s government in 1929-1933  This was twofold: an attack on independent peasants, who were the majority of the population of Ukraine, and a specific attack on Ukrainian culture and nationality.

 Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow tells the story of the Holodomor.  It makes extremely painful reading.  The consequence was that some Ukrainian nationalists saw the Nazi invaders as a lesser evil than the Soviets.  Their legacy continues to this day.

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The music of Peter Tchaikovsky is universal

March 20, 2022

From a letter by Peter Tchaikovsky to a friend:

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.  If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it halfway, we easily become indolent and apathetic.  We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.  

A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration.  Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness.  But my patience and faith did not fail me, and today I felt the inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write today will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it.

I was indignant all the cancellations of performances of works by Russian composers, and demands that Russian musicians and singers denounce Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

I think my own government is wrong in a lot of ways, but, if I were abroad and people demanded I broadcast a denunciation of, say, Donald Trump, I would not do it.

Forced loyalty oaths are bad enough, because they do not signify loyalty, only that you are willing to bow to pressure.  Forced denunciations of one’s own government are even worse for the same reason.

But then it occurred to me that Tchaikovsky could not be canceled.  All his works were available online to me, and to anybody else with a computer.  I in fact could have listened to great music by great composers, including Russians, every night of my life, and I never took advantage of it.

I spent yesterday evening listening to a YouTube collection of short sections of Peter Tchaikovsky’s works.  I am not a great concert-goer or music-lover, and I was surprised at how familiar so much of this music sounded to me.  His music is part of world culture, including U.S. culture.  It will be remembered when Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky are forgotten.

LINKS

Putin’s Russia vs. Pushkin’s Russia by Gary Saul Morson for Quillette.

The Cancelation of Russian Culture by Gary Saul Morson for First Things.

Classical Music Cancels Russians by Heather MacDonald for City Journal.

Not everyone in the Western music world has lost courage and humanistic values by Gilbert Doctorow.

Examples of sanity in a mad world

March 18, 2022

Sister Cities of Rochester responds to war in Ukraine by Peter Lovenheim for the Rochester (N.Y.) Beacon.

Russia and Wrath by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Who’s winning in Ukraine?

March 14, 2022

Not Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and outgunned.  President Zelensky is arming untrained civilians, including convicts, and calling for volunteers to come help, including anti-Russian jihadists from Syria.  This is evidence of desperation, like the German arming of teenagers and the elderly during the last days of World War Two.

Until now, Russians have held back, in the false hope they could accomplish a relatively—I said, relatively—bloodless conquest and reconcile Ukrainians to defeat.  Military analyst Scott Ritter said the Russians wanted to give Ukrainians one last chance to surrender.  If that fails, Russians will wage war as they did in Afghanistan and Chechnya, which, as he said, will turn Ukraine into “hell on Earth.”

Not Russia

Hardly anybody expected a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, because hardly anybody outside President Putin’s circle thought it would make sense.  Evidently Putin expected a weak resistance, after which the Ukrainian government would surrender and agree to stay out of NATO, recognize the independence of the Donbas republics, and accept Russian rule of Crimea.

This didn’t happen.  Putin is using Chechen and even Syrian fighters against his supposed Ukrainian brothers.  So much for Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood!  This is a sign of lack of Russian enthusiasm for the war.

Probably Russia will defeat the Ukrainian forces in the end.  Then Russians will face a protracted resistance movement in Ukraine, supported by the Western powers, and a long period of economic warfare that will strain Russian society to the limit.

Not the USA

The clash between Russia and the USA involves much more than Ukraine.  Russia’s aim is to challenge the military security structure that makes the U.S. the world’s dominant military power, and the financial structure which makes the U.S. the world’s dominant financial power.  The present conflict may stretch that power to its limit.

No nation in Latin America, Africa or Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and South Korea, has been willing to join the United States is imposing economic sanctions against Russia.  Russia can count on the support of China, the world’s most powerful manufacturing nation, and others who’ve been alienated from the U.S. system.

Russia has been planning for years on how to withstand a siege.  The USA is unprepared.  President Biden has swallowed his pride and asked for help from Iran and Venezuela, two nations he and his predecessors have literally been trying to destroy with economic sanctions.  What will we Americans do a year or so from now, if gasoline costs double or triple or ten times what it does now?

###

One side or another may claim victory, by some criterion.  But all will be worse off than they are now.

“A strange game,” said the machine intelligence in the movie, War Games.  “The only way to win is not to play.”

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Why are Nazis acceptable in Ukraine?

March 4, 2022

Azov Battaltion insignia and Nazi symbols

One of Vladimir Putin’s demands is that Ukraine “de-Nazify.”

These days the word “Nazi” is often a general purpose insult with no specific meaning. except “very, very evil.” But there are Nazis in Ukraine, and they are the real thing.

I don’t want to exaggerate.  

Ukrainian neo-Nazis are few in number. Most estimates put hardo-core Nazis at less than 2 percent of the population.  The extreme nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector parties each received less than 2 percent of the vote in recent presidential elections.  

Volodymyr Zelensky, the current President of Ukraine, is Jewish, and he received more than 72 percent of the vote.  Most of the rest went to the incumbent.

On the other hand the neo-Nazi parties are part of the Ukraine’s governing coalition.  The Azov Battalion, whose members are openly neo-Nazi, is an important part of Ukraine’s fighting force.  The “Overton window”—the range of ideas that are acceptable to discuss—includes neo-Nazis.

To understand how this can be, you have to know about the Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or Great Famine, imposed by Joseph Stalin on Ukraine from 1929 to 1933.  

It was one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes against humanity.  A United Nations report estimates it cost the lives of 3 million to 10 million Ukrainians.  It is officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and 16  other countries.

Joseph Stalin forced millions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union to starve to death in order to force the peasants into collective farms and gain control of the food supply.  He also suppressed Ukrainian cultural institutions.

Most historians interpret this as the Soviet Communist Party preemptively destroying all potential sources of resistance to the regime, including farmers who owned their land and individuals loyal to non-Russian cultures.

But there are those who see the Holodomor as an attempt by “the Russians” to destroy the Ukrainian race.  I’ve come across this meme serval times over the years while doing Internet research.  And I’ve also come across the meme that it was an attempt by “the Jews” to destroy the Ukrainian race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s first look at the Ukraine terror-famine in all its horror.

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The war hawks’ view of the Ukraine situation

March 2, 2022

This panel discussion is interesting because it represents the thinking of the U.S. national security establishment.  I watched it with mingled anger and despair, but their ideas and opinions are important to understand.

The panelists point out that Vladimir Putin probably thought the invasion of Ukraine would reveal the weakness and lack of solidarity of NATO, but the result has been just the opposite.

The immediate result  has been to create a new sense of anti-Russian solidarity among the Ukrainian people and the NATO allies.  The NATO countries, particularly Germany, are remilitarizing.

The result of the invasion is the very thing Putin feared, an attack (although not a direct military attack) on Russia itself.  I think they’re right about that.

What the analysts say we can look forward to over the next few years is a long mutually destructive economic war, a dangerous cyberwar and a propaganda war.  But it’s all good, because Russia will suffer most and ultimately be defeated.

The cyberwar threat is the most worrisome.  The USA, other NATO countries, Ukraine and Russia are all dependent on electronic computerized systems that are vulnerable to being hacked, which would result in economic breakdown and chaos.

Both sides have held back because of the mutually assured destruction principle.  But now NATO and Russia are at war, so there is no restraining principle.

The panelists think Ukraine will be defeated militarily after a heroic resistance.  But it’s all good, because it means the U.S. government can support an insurgency, as it did against the pro-Russian government of Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Even if the result is to leave Ukraine in ruins, it will bleed and destabilize Russia.

The problem, the panelists say, will be maintaining the will to wage economic war, psychological war and cyberwar for a period of years, and, for the Ukrainians and other front-line countries, to continue fighting and dying over the long term.

President Biden or some future president may prioritize his domestic agenda (i.e., the needs and wants of the unimportant American people) or the U.S. rivalry with China. That would be a problem, they say.

I can’t say their predictions are wrong.  I hate how comfortable and even pleased they are with the war, but as a description of the sad reality, they could be right.

But there are things they didn’t talk about.

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Shock and awe in Ukraine

February 25, 2022

Kiev early this morning.

At this point in time, the Russian invasion of Kiev reminds me of the initial phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—except that the Russians so far seem to be doing their best to avoid civilian casualties and refraining from destroying the electrical grid, water and sewerage systems and other vital infrastructure.

Looked at purely as a military operation, it looks like a brilliant success.  Of course so did the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in their initial phase.

What made these wars disasters for the United States were the failed occupations and the unsuccessful attempts to establish friendly, self-sustaining governments.

President Vladimir Putin’s rule began with a bloody war to pacify the rebellious Chechen region.  Since then  Russia’s military occupations have been short and decisive.

Putin has stated he does not plan a permanent occupation of Ukraine.  He also says he plans to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine and to bring to justice all those who committed atrocities against Ukraine’s Russian minority.  Taking him at his word, is this possible without a long-term occupation?

The ideal outcome, from the Russian point of view, would be for the Ukrainian government to quickly surrender and agree to Russia’s terms.

What terms of surrender would Russia accept?  Would Ukraine be forced to become a puppet of Russia, like Poland during the Cold War era or the Central Asian countries today?  Or would Russia be willing to settle for neutrality, like Finland and Austria during the Cold War.

The least Russia would demand would be purging of Nazis from the Ukrainian government and armed forces, and turning over accused war criminals to Russia or to international tribunals.

This also would be the best outcome from the point of view of minimizing human suffering.  But it would leave Russia as the strongest—because most feared—power in Europe.

The risk Russia has taken is the possibility of getting bogged down in a long quagmire war, as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.

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