Posts Tagged ‘War in Ukraine’

Underestimating Russia, etc.

June 16, 2022

[check the comment thread for a correction]

The Russian Federation has not lost a war or failed in a military intervention since it came into existence in 1991.

The United States has not won a war or succeeded in a military intervention since the U.S. attack on Panama in 1989, and this includes campaigns to destroy nations by means of economic sanctions.

As corrupt as Russia is, on many levels, I don’t think its government spends money on weapons that don’t work, promotes generals who lose wars or doubles down on foreign policies that have failed.

At the top levels of the U.S. government and journalism, failure has no consequences.  Yes-men are rewarded, even when they’re proved wrong.  Dissidents are pushed aside, even when they’re proved right.

It is pretty plain that Biden, Blinken and the rest had no idea what they were getting into when they decided on a showdown with Russia.

The economic blowback from the sanctions war is hurting the U.S. and its allies more than it is hurting Russia.   Public opinion polls indicate that average American voters are more concerned about the cost of living than Ukraine.  What nobody has told them is that the sanctions war against Russia is driving up the cost of living.

U.S. spokesmen are talking more and more about the possibility of defeat and the need for negotiations, although I suspect that Vladimir Putin has decided that the USA is, as he puts it, “not agreement-capable.”

I am not a military expert, I’m neither bold enough nor foolish enough to predict the outcome of the Ukraine war, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be of net benefit to the United States or its allies.

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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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The case for peace in Ukraine

May 16, 2022

We are told that the Russian invasion is a failure, that Putin completely miscalculated, that Russian forces are crumbling and Ukraine’s victory is just around the corner.

We also 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.

Leaders of the USA and Russia should be concerned should be thinking about what they hope to achieve in war, and whether it will be worth the cost and the risks.

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.

Since only some of Russia’s perceived threats involve Ukraine, there would have to be a restoration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty and a ban on missile forces from countries bordering Russia. 

Commentary by the Saker and Moon of Alabama’s Bernhard , and also the commentary by Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern on the video above, make me aware of why Vladimir Putin thinks Russia has been backed into a corner by the USA and NATO.

My readings of the Russian Dissent substack, Mezuda 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.

Here in the USA, the widening war in Ukraine provides an excuse to step up official and unofficial censorship, and to put off dealing with the pandemic, climate-related catastrophes, inflation, rising debt, business monopoly, labor abuses, and financial crime.

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.

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Ukraine war collateral damage and food prices

April 28, 2022

I’m stocking up on nonperishable food and other supplies in order to be prepared for scarcity this fall.

Both the fighting war and the sanctions war over Ukraine are disrupting world food supplies, and I think it can only get worse. Ukraine and Russia are important exporters of food, and also of diesel fuel, which is important in making fertilizer.

Food prices are already going up. Reasons for this include drought and floods in food-producing regions, disruption of supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic and the power of monopoly agribusiness.

What this means is that there is no buffer to escape the disruption caused by war.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have little to lose by being prepared. It is better to do too much than to learn the hard way I’ve done too little.

I also expect the war’s collateral damage to affect food prices, but there’s little I can do personally about that.

Russians will be affected by rising food and fuel prices, but both the USA and Russia have enough reserves and resources to avoid actual starvation.  The worst impact will be on poor small nations that depend in food imports. 

The price of wheat on world markets

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It seems Ukraine will never join NATO…

March 24, 2022

This video interview was given March 19.

Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN Sunday that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO or the European Union.  In that case, what is the fighting about?  Here is the CNN report:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that if his country had been admitted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance earlier, then Russia would not have invaded the country.

“If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn’t have started. I’d like to receive security guarantees for my country, for my people,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on “GPS,” adding that he was grateful for the aid NATO has provided since the invasion began. “If NATO members are ready to see us in the alliance, then do it immediately because people are dying on a daily basis.”

He continued, “But if you are not ready to preserve the lives of our people, if you just want to see us straddle two worlds, if you want to see us in this dubious position where we don’t understand whether you can accept us or not — you cannot place us in this situation, you cannot force us to be in this limbo.

“I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” Zelensky said.

“And the response was very clear, you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open,” he said.

If Ukraine is never going to be admitted to NATO, what is Russia fighting to prevent?  And why does the USA publicly insist on Ukraine’s right to do something it is not going to be allowed to do?

I think Scott Ritter’s interview above provides the answer.  Ukraine is not part of NATO, but it is a vassal of NATO.  By vassal, I mean a person or community that serves an overlord, and in return serves protection from that overlord.

Since the new pro-American government took power in 2014, Ukraine’s military forces have been receiving NATO training and NATO equipment.  For practical purposes, Ukraine is a member of NATO in every respect except having a voice and a vote. 

The same is true of the European Union.  Ukraine signed an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014 and received an International Monetary Fund loan.  This took down certain trade barriers between the EU and Ukraine, opened up Ukraine to EU investment and also required Ukraine to align its foreign and military policies with the EU as a whole.

So businesses in the European Union have essentially got what they want from Ukraine—access to its rich farmland and natural resources.  According to Wikipedia, the EU has replaced Russia as Ukraine’s main trading partner.

The bottom line: Formal NATO membership for Ukraine is a red herring.  The real issue is whether Ukraine will be a vassal of the USA or a vassal of Russia.

The best thing for Ukraine would be neutral, and have good relations with all nations.  As an American, I would be fine with that.  But this is not a choice on offer.

Many Russians open to use of N-weapons

March 21, 2022

A Ukrainian company conducted a public opinion poll of Russians about the Ukraine invasion.  The poll found that 40.3 percent of those answering think the Russian government would use nuclear weapons to protect its interests, and only 25.5 percent would not.  The rest were unsure.

I think the poll should be interpreted with caution.  If I were a Russian, I probably wouldn’t give my honest opinion to an anonymous pollster.  I suspect a lot of the non-committal answers were from people who had doubts about their government’s actions.

A recent Pew Research poll indicated that 35.5 percent of Americans are willing to take military action against Russia even at the risk of nuclear war.  

[I should have noted that there is an important difference between being willing to risk nuclear war and being willing to initiate nuclear war.]

None of this indicates Russians or Americans as a whole favor nuclear war.   It does indicate that a large fraction of both do not find nuclear war unthinkable.  This is disturbing.

Here are the rest of the Russian poll results.

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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?

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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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Ideals and realities in the Ukraine crisis

March 7, 2022

When World War One began, most people in Great Britain thought that the sold cause of the war was German aggression.  We Americans had to be propagandized a good bit before we came around to that view.

The reality was more complicated.  Some of other causes were the French desire to avenge their previous defeat, Russian intrigue in the Balkans and the Anglo-German naval rivalry.

But after Germany attacked France and Belgium, the question of war guilt didn’t really matter.  The questions become: (1) What would happen if Germany dominated Europe?  (2) What price are we wiling to pay to prevent this?

The answers to these questions are not obvious.  Few in England in 1914 would have accepted a 1920s Europe dominated by the German Empire.  But this would have meant a future without Hitler’s Germany and possibility without Stalin’s USSR.

In today’s Europe, the questions are: (1) What would be the consequences of Putin’s Russia becoming the dominant power in Eastern Europe? (2) What price are we willing to pay to prevent this?

The answers to those questions are not obvious.  It’s early days yet.  It’s important to consider these things dispassionately before the winds of war blow away all possibility of rational discussion.

I of course disapprove of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  I disapprove of a lot of things.  But, in the present situation, I think an imperfect peace that both sides could live with would be better than a long mutually destructive war that would leave one or both sides in ruin.. 

LINK

It’s time to ask: What would a Ukraine-Russian peace deal look like? by Anatol Leiven for The Guardian.

War in Ukraine: Links & comments 2022/3/7

March 7, 2022

The American Empire self-destructs by MIchael Hudson.

The economist MIchael Hudson thinks Russia will benefit from the coming economic war..

What it will do is to force Russia to become more Wself-sufficient than it already is and to detach itself from the U.S.-dominated world financial system, and also to make neutral countries more wary.

Any country who gets on the bad side of the United States is subject to having its national assets confiscated, to the degree that they are in banks in the United States, the United Kingdom or other countries subject to U.S. influence.

This happened to Iran, to Venezuela and many other countries, and now it is happening to Russia.  The U.K. also is confiscating savings and investments owned by Russian individuals.

In the long run, he wrote, this will force not only Russia and its allies, but any nation that doesn’t want to be under the thumb of the United States, to find an alternative financial system, which the Chinese will be glad to provide.  London will cease to be the money-laundering capital of the world.

He said it also will force Russia to invest its revenues from oil, gas and other export industries into building up the nation’s industrial strength, instead of going into the pockets of wealthy oligarchs.

History shows that given a choice between destruction and reform, ruling elites do not necessarily choose reform.

Efforts to decimate Russian economy may boomerang by Sylvan Lane for The Hill.

Economic warfare is mutual destruction.  The United States and its NATO allies are in a position greatly damage the Russian economy, despite the Russians’ decade of trying to build up their defenses against economic warfare.

But the United States and its NATO allies also will pay a price.  Russia is an important exporter of food and fossil fuels.  The first result of an embargo will be big increases in the cost of food, gasoline and natural gas.

Russia’s new foreign policy: the Putin doctrine by Prof. Sergei Karaganov, academic supervisor of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs in Moscow.

This is a voice of the Russian academic establishment.

Prof. Karaganov said Vladimir Putin’s policies are the result of a long-term plan to break up the present U.S.-dominated geopolitical order and replace it with one in which the Russian nation and culture are safe.  The war in Ukraine is part of this, but only party.

He said Western society is in the process of self-destruction—economically, politically and morally.  It also is eager to start a new Cold War with Russia.

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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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