Ukraine Updates and Scott Ritter on Russia Military Strategy and Progress

A few updates on Ukraine before turning to the main course of Scott Ritter’s latest take on how Russia is prosecuting its campaign. His bottom line is, as he says near the top of a two hour-talk:

The Russians are grinding down the Ukrainians and they are doing it with flipped math. 200,000 guys are grinding down 600,000 guys. It’s one of the most amazing things. When this story is finally told, people are going to be stunned. All these people now are saying, “Oh, the Russians, they are doing so poorly, the Russians this…”. Maybe they are. Maybe I’m getting this all wrong. But you know, I’ve studied military history, I think I know how to read a map, I think I know how to look at the balance of forces, I think I know how to study logistics and stuff, and I think I’m reading this right….This war is closer to being over than many people think.

Ritter also argues, interestingly, that it is of paramount importance that Zelensky surrenders to Russia, or the functional equivalent by signing a peace on Russian terms. Ritter argues that at this juncture, that means Russians cannot win too quickly. Ukraine has to look like it has exhausted its options.

Not that this is factoring into how Russia proceeds on the field, but a slower tempo favors Russia politically. Whether Zelensky accedes to Russia’s demands is ultimately a US call, unless he has found a way to go rogue. The West is at present unprepared to accept that, given that they believe their own/Ukraine’s propaganda that Russia is losing the war and that Russia’s economy is collapsing under the sanctions.

Western leaders and pundits appear not to have worked out that the rouble falling (so far much less than in the 1998 crisis) is not the same as a domestic economic seize-up. Aside from Western goods being hoovered up after the sanctions hit, we have yet to hear of domestic shortages. Admittedly, new hardships could kick in starting in a few months as important speciality items from the West like car parts become unattainable.

But the US and Europe are about to see energy price pain kick in in April, and that may soften them up with respect to a Ukraine settlement. We linked to this story on Saturday, but it’s important to keep in mind. From the Financial Times, IEA calls for driving restrictions and air travel curbs to reduce oil demand:

The International Energy Agency has called for member countries to adopt “emergency measures” to cut oil demand in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including driving restrictions, lower speed limits and curbs on air travel…

As much as 2.5mn barrels a day of Russian oil exports could cease from next month due to the impact of the war and consumer boycotts of Russian crude, he said. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers.

The IEA has proposed 10 measures to reduce oil demand by 2.7m b/d within the next four months, which it said would help balance potential loss from the Russian market.

I don’t see the US as willing or able to adopt any of these measures to enough of a degree to make a difference. And I see the US as politically and practically fragile to another leg up of gas price increases, even more so if and when they add to our food price inflation (which is also set to get worse due to Russian fertilizer and Russian and Ukrainian wheat going missing in action).

The Wall Street Journal has just published an odd story, Russia, Failing to Achieve Early Victory in Ukraine, Is Seen Shifting to ‘Plan B’, that it deemed important to be a News Alert, as in deserving of an e-mail. ReaderChigal’s reaction was similar to ours:

World’s dumbest article. Putin having failed to take Kiev is falling back on “Plan B”–demanding Ukranian neutrality. Forgive me, but isn’t that what he said he wanted from the start?

Upon further reflection, this article is a very good thing. It depicts conceding to one of Russia’s central demands as somehow a partial failure by Russia. That look like the West trying to face save when it has to relent. It does so by depicting Russia as wanting to take Kiev and not succeeding, when as Scott Ritter explains, that was never one of Russia’s aims.

As readers likely know, Biden is going to Europe this week, meeting first in Brussels and then in Poland to discuss how to make things even more painful for Russia as well as how to provide humanitarian relief to refugees.

I can’t verify the accuracy of this translated snippet from Aftershock,news, a Russian language newsfeed of sorts focused on the war, but this would fall in the category of “making things more painful for Russia”:

Now to Scott Ritter. Ritter is a Marine who spent substantial time on the ground in Russia (as a weapons controller) and in Iraq. Keep in mind that in the early phases of the war in Ukraine, Ritter over-estimated how quickly Russia would be able to wind up the conflict. He is still very firmly of the view not only that Russia is winning but makes the strong-form claim that Russia will succeed in getting NATO to withdraw to its fall of the USSR boundaries, based on some moves Russia is making with Belarus (more on that shortly).

As you’ll also see through the key points highlighted below, and even more so if you watch the entire video, Ritter stresses that the “Russia is bogged down” assertions are based on either miscomprehension or misrepresentation of how Russia is conducting its campaign. For instance, it has not taken Kiev because it does not intend to take Kiev.

I strongly urge you to listen to the entire video…but I still took the liberty of identifying key points.

I’ll parse out “conduct of the war” from “where this may wind up” issues.

Conduct of the War

Ritter argues that the Ukrainians can’t win, that it’s only a matter of time and he thinks the time is at most a month. Russian has pinned down the Ukrainian forces around Kiev and in the east, there in what are becoming multiple cauldrons. Russia has been systematically destroying Ukrainian fuel depots and munitions caches. They are running out of supplies, including food and water. He describes this process as “grinding them down”.

Ritter contends that Russia has been running an extremely effective campaign with its narrow aims. He points out that in a conquest, the aggressor normally has to have at least 3x the forces of the defender. Russia has deployed about 200,000 troops, with more across the border, while Ritter counts all of the Ukrainian forces, including reservists, at roughly 600,000. (Ritter not having a full Ukraine manpower count may explain his initial over-estimation of how quickly Russia could wrap its incursion up).

Ritter explains that the Russians do not want or need to capture Kiev. They simply need to present enough of a threat to the city to keep the Kiev army tied down there. Had Russia intended to take Kiev, they would need over a million troops and would need to fight house to house, and they clearly have not and are not mobilizing to do that.

Ritter also contends that the Russians clearly have been avoiding civilian casualties. In war, the usual ratio of civilian casualties to military is 1:1. He uses the Ukrainian estimates of their military casualties at 6,000 and the Russian estimates of their own military deaths at about 1,000 (Ritter notes that armed forces tend to be accurate in estimates of their own deaths; the coffins go home).

The Ukraine estimates of civilian deaths are according to Ritter, only 800, less than 1/10th of total military losses.

Ritter similarly does not believe the Russians have targeted civilians. He dismisses the idea that they attacked the notorious theater in Mariupol. The Russians claim they specifically identified it as a building to be avoided, and that they had no aircraft over the city the day the theater blew up. Ritter effectively says NATO should provide the evidence of Russian overflight that day or shut up.

He thinks it is possible that the Russians hit the square on which the similarly-notorious maternity hospital in Kiev. Lavrov has made inconsistent statements, first saying no planes were nearby, then saying that Russia thought the hospital was empty. However, Ritter said the West is accusing Russia of committing a war crime here. NATO tracks every Russian plane flying in Ukraine. The onus is on NATO to substantiate the war crimes allegation.

How the West Helped Putin With Sanctions

Ritter is amped up on the topic of sanctions. He argues that Saddam Hussein would have been shot by his own generals after the loss of the 1991 war save for Western sanctions, which unified the country behind him.

As for Putin, Ritter contends that Putin, who was originally pro-Western, became convinced of the time of the need to distance Russia from Europe, but was hampered by the roughly 20% of Russians who are middle class, normally politically indifferent, but would turn on Putin if he threatened their access to European goods and vacations. Per Ritter:

The West just did Putin the greatest favor in the world. They don’t even realize how stupid they were. The West divorced itself from Russia. Putin said, “Thank you. Thanks you very much! You’ve now allowed me to do what I needed to do.”

Where the War Might Wind Up

Ritter unintentionally points how Russia can (and probably will) get trapped even if it succeeds in all of its military objectives. Ritter contends that the West made a huge mistake in letting Zelensky become the face of the Ukrainian government by speaking before Congress and parliaments around the world. Russia tried to negotiate with the West before but is no longer negotiating. It has certain demand that it wants met, and it warned that it will add to those demands if Ukraine does not agree to them (mind you, I am sure Russia would negotiate around the margin but it is not going to cede much ground).

Ritter describes at length how the Russians have gone fairly light to avoid civilian casualties, and until the last couple of days, were even avoiding hitting convoys and Ukrainian barracks. He said that the Russians had been waiting until convoys were unloaded before striking to take out the materiel only, but too much was leaking through and they’ve gotten tired of it. Ritter mentions an account I also heard from Gonzalo Lira, that Russia struck a barracks with over 200 soldiers in it near the Polish border. Lira said it was for officers and opined that Russia had to have inside intel to have targeted it.

By showcasing Zelensky as the legitimate head of the Ukrainian government, if Zelensky agrees to a deal with Russia, the West cannot depict it as illegitimate.

Therefore Russia has every reason to wand Zelensky alive.

What Ritter does not add is therefore every Banderite fascist and the US have every reason to want Zelensky dead if he looks to be coming to terms with Russia.

Ritter does say the worst thing for the Russia would be if Zelensky were killed and the US set up a government in exile in Poland to continue to destabilize Ukraine.

I have said in comments that if Zelensky wants to stay alive, the best thing for him would be to flee to Poland. It’s much harder to dispose of him there.

Ritter thinks Russia will obtain its ultimate aim of getting NATO to withdraw to its 1997. This strikes me as wildly optimistic. But Ritter argues (around 20 of his talk) that Russia is on its way to permanently deploying major offensive military formations combined with nuclear forces in Belarus. Ritter argues that this will completely change NATO dynamics and they will climb down to get Russia to climb down.

Ritter contends like Belarus, the West has ignored another important development. On February 4, Russia and China issued a joint statement about their friendship, which they depicted as closer than an alliance. Ritter described a key portion that the English language press ignored:

“We are done with the rules based international order.” That of course is the cornerstone of American foreign policy, NATO foreign policy…It put America at the top of the pyramid and was designed to keep America at the top of the pyramid. Russia and China have said, “We’re now part of the law-based international order and we’re leaning more toward the United Nations charter and the concept of a multi-polar world.”

Needless to say, the war has rapidly accelerated the move to a new world order, and one not of America’a making.

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  1. Martin Oline

    Thank you very much for providing links to this. I saw it yesterday and I think it is closer to 2 1/2 hours long. I hoped you or the regular commentators would mention it at some time. It is excellent and presented me with new information. I believe the most interesting thing he said was that the Wests cancelling Russia was just what Putin wanted. He could not do this by himself as there are too many influential people in Russia who are pro-European. He does not need to close the door now, it has been slammed shut by the clever children in Washington DC. He believes the door will stay shut for decades after this. This is quite an accomplishment for a failed administration who only wanted to rise in the opinion polls and only got a bump of 8%.

    1. Carolinian

      Latest talk on the pro Russia sites has been about the patriotic surge in Russia now that the public has both grown used to the war and watched our Western politicians, indeed, turn this into an existential crisis for Russia. The largely pro Western members of the Russian entertainment and news media are suddenly taking “vacations” abroad. Putin’s approval rating has surged to 80 percent.

      Clearly this is where the Bidenistas miscalculated if any calculation was involved. Russia always had the power to stand up to the US and the only question was whether they had the will. Here’s betting that America, by contrast, does not have the will to oppose. Trash talk is easy but Americans aren’t into sacrifice, whether it’s soldiers or lifestyle.

      1. timbers

        The most recent updates from Russian Defense has a steady series of claims of progress including 61 UAF surrendered in outskirts of Kiev when surrounded, missile strikes of military targets in Western Ukraine, capturing of villages and cities and eliminations of UAF soldiers in and near the breakaway Republics allowing Russian advances West and North. UAF forces in the East appear to be scattering.

  2. William Beyer

    Surprised that we haven’t heard a whisper since the invasion of the MH17 “shoot-down” eight years ago. Perhaps it was such a clumsy fraud that nobody wants it analyzed?

    1. The Rev Kev

      It’s not over yet. About a week ago, Australia and the Netherlands launched legal proceedings against Russia through the International Civil Aviation Organization for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. They want compensation and an apology from the Russian Federation so in other words they want Russia to say that it was entirely their fault and not the doing of the Ukrainians-

      1. William Beyer

        Guess I missed that one. Australia should have a fun time further suppressing the reports of their own coroners, who, per John Helmer, examined the victims’ bodies and declared they were not killed by shrapnel from any Buk. After a suitable interval the coroners’ reports were declared state secrets by the Aussies, faithful American lapdogs.

    2. La Peruse

      What is interesting is the forum shopping the Australian and Dutch legal proceeding is using. This article in The Conversation basically says it is the wrong forum.

      Two things. The first is that would indicate a weak case that cannot get up in a more appropriate forum like the ICJ. The second is that the article is an outlier in the The Conversation that to date has been following the western hive mind on all matters Russian. And they may not even know it.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Makes me wonder if the Russian accusations that Ukraine was planning a spring offensive are correct.

      Makes no military sense to have had so much of the Ukrainian army in the southeast and vulnerable to encirclement by Russia unless there were plans for an offensive and DC-CIA-Zelensky were confident that Russians would never intervene.

      1. Leftist Mole

        Likewise that our military was so quickly able to supply Ukraine with millions of dollars worth of weapons. Perhaps they were already packed and ready to go.

        1. scraping_by

          Most of the NATO/US weapons are in storage and have been ever since they were bought and brought home, rather than deployed to front line positions. No reason to wear out high tech toys banging around the in the bush when there’s no real conflict.

        2. Chops

          Well, yes. Weapons that aren’t currently deployed are, barring maintenance and decommissioning, packed and ready to deploy. That’s not evidence of a secret plan to send them to Ukraine; that’s the sensible state of weapons not deployed.

      2. Soredemos

        My initial, knee-jerk reaction was that Russia was lying about an imminent offensive as a pretext. But I’ve since revised that opinion. The OSCE reports showed a huge increase in shelling along the front. The way the Donbass front has proven to be the most resilient part of the Ukrainian military tells me that they would have been prepared to attack and elicit a potential Russian response (they might have been convinced Russia would back down). A third of the Ukrainian military, including most of the best equipped and trained units and clearly the forces with the most motivation and best morale, weren’t being massed on the Donbass border for no reason. I’m inclined to believe that they really were planning an offensive in late February or early March.

        I still think Russia should have waited. They should have told the Donbass republics to continue the evacuation, and to prepare to fall back as best they could. Ideally hold on a day or two until it was really clear to the world who was attacking who, then Russia would have had a much better casus belli. I think we would have ended up in much the same place we are now, but western media and governments would have had a harder time blaming Russia. Also the Ukrainian forces on the Donbass front would have been much more vulnerable if bombed mid-assault. But perhaps Russia predicted the Donbass militia couldn’t hold on even 24-48 hours.

        1. The Rev Kev

          ‘Ideally hold on a day or two until it was really clear to the world who was attacking who’

          No good that idea. Much of the official world remains convinced that it was the Russians that attacked and invaded Georgia back in 2008, all recorded history to the contrary. After a few days of a Ukrainian invasion of the Donbass, the legend will still be that the Russian attacked the Ukrainians first.

        2. sulfurcrested

          I’m sympathic to your views on waiting. Had the Ukrainians moved first Russia’s position would have been greatly strengthened (esp re: sanctions).
          However, Ukraine was in a position where it could do vast damage to the Donbass with stand-off weapons & commando like raids. Nothing too overt, but destructive none the less.
          So — where would that leave Putin? Back where this started?

  3. timbers

    Everyone I talk to watches MSM and thinks Russia is in the weeds over he head and killing lots of civilians because she is targeting them.

    1. mrsyk

      I’ve found that most of the people I talk to don’t mention Russia or Ukraine at all. When I bring it up in passing, hardly anyone seems that concerned. Maybe the challenges of day to day existence don’t leave room for breaking a night sweat over Ukraine. Maybe our ocean insulated history of having no wars nearby has created a layer of abstraction that allows people to dismiss the whole business as someone else’s problem. I don’t know but I find it fascinating.

      1. fresno dan

        I agree with you.
        All of the bar denizens I hang with, most who have jobs (a few retirees too) never talk about Ukraine. You want to get people chattering, talk about prices going up…

        1. Alex Cox

          This is true in my experience in rural Oregon. I turned out for a wildfire last week. All the responders were working class Oregonians. The rising price of gas was discussed; Russia and Ukraine were not.

          So it’s perhaps only that small PMC band which is marching us with NPR to war.

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          that gels with what i’m seeing, here.
          small-c conservative rural place…inertial phenomenon of the poor and the brown being absent in local political discussions/actions(unless the latter are “coconuts”, of course*)
          rather tiny but very loud at times bougie set, mostly GOPtea-ers.
          I am constantly reminding myself that the only exposure i have to the “progressive”/Blue Check PMC types is online…the 3-400 of them out here hide in plain sight, leaving overt politics back at the hillfort.

          on my infrequent town trips, my big ears hear lots of things…and people ask me what i think(remarkably).
          last 3 weeks, nobody is talking about ukraine/russia…but everyone’s talking about prices/shortages.
          the handful of blue checks i’ve run into in that time made efforts to talk to me in the parking lot(feedstore, mostly)…and quickly decide that i’m a trumper/putin stooge…because i say, when asked, that russia was pushed into this corner by usa/nato belligerence.(this cohort, as a rule, only talks about current affairs out of earshot of the public…as they’ve felt encircled since 9-11. i have nothing but contempt for my local demparty: cowards and shills, overly concerned with outward appearances and virtue signalling among their own)

          the majority small-c conservatives/apoliticals don’t care one way or another…perhaps with vague and vapid half-remembered talking points they heard on faux about “biden’s gas tax” or the commies ruining the economy, etc.
          this cohort is definitely worried about prices, and being able to keep on going(lots of construction, etc and jobs that require lots of driving…generally their own trucks)

          i generally endeavor to avoid the hard core goptea people around here…as i have always found them odious, corrupt and not to be trusted…so i don’t know what they’re thinking.

          nobody at all has mentioned the potential for nuclear war…and when i bring it up(as in ‘it’s stupid to behave this way with a nuclear superpower”)…i’m met with glazed eyes and incomprehension…which i find pretty astounding.

          the bluecheck specimen i observe the most(Mom) believes sincerely that putin has designs on world domination, and unwittingly parrots various Bushisms like “preemptive war”, “fight them over there…”, etc.
          all of which is extremely discouraging.

          (*re:”coconuts”…derogatory term among local brown folks for other brown folks who “act white”, aspire to join the bougie set, and disparage various aspects of their former brown culture…2 major branches of wife’s familia fits this description, and it can get ugly, sometimes)

          1. dcrane

            I hope you all are right. Saw two Ukraine flags however on just my parent’s little street in a very GOP-voting village in central Florida.

            Maybe just the Nevertrumpers.

          2. Swamp Yankee

            Amfortas, it’s interesting in that we are in places that are pretty different — southeastern Massachusetts and the Texas Hill Country (I believe?) — but there are some commonalities of theme.

            The major one is the bellicosity of the professional-managerial class, and the indifference/outright non-interventionism of the working class, in my personal experience.

            And as I expressed in a previous thread, I am shocked, shocked, not gambling-in-Casablanca shocked, but actually deeply shocked and disturbed, that there seems to be little appreciation among said PMC that they are playing with radioactive [redacted] fire here. To the extent that one, who went to an elite liberal arts college, asked what the “defense” is against ICBMs.

            Defense! I found that droll, but tried not to be wise with him, because he is, despite or because of his GOP Conservatism, surprisingly sensible on having to negotiate with the Russians on Finlandizing the Ukraine; the Romneyites among my high school chums, mostly PMC,. are much more sensible on Russia, believe it or not; the Team Blue No Matter Who types have become either vacuous CNN heads, or full on Glenn Beck c. 2011 conspiracy theorists with regard to Russia (one intimated that Ronald Reagan was on some putative and presumably Russian payroll, I guess Putin’s been manipulating us since the Eighties!).

            The virtue signaling among the Hillary Moms and Beto Dads (my brother’s locution, the latter) is turned up to friggin’ 11, too. “Oh, that’s my house on W______ Street! The one with the Black Lives Matter sign, the Ukrainian flag, and the [local Wokeista mediocrity School Committee candidate] sign! You can’t miss it!”

            No, no I can’t.*

            *I did not make this up. This was said to me a little over a week ago, at Town Meeting.

      2. britzklieg

        maybe fewer and fewer people are watching cable news. percentages do not favor the “west is winning the propaganda war” narrative in terms of people who are actually consuming it. this includes twitter and FB which, imho, overestimate their importance by using entirely self-centric numbers.

      3. Waking Up

        The U.S. narrative is that we must support Ukraine no matter what (including support for Neo-Nazi’s). Add in questionable polling, censorship if you fail to support the official narrative, angering a major nuclear armed country with the REAL potential of a nuclear war, sanctions which first and foremost primarily and ALWAYS hurt the citizens in the country, inflation in the basics of food and energy certainly due in part to decades of endless profit first decisions by our businesses.. you just might have people who are tired and afraid of our endless wars, the endless level of greed and corruption by those with power and wealth, and now simply having the basics (food, medicine, energy) is becoming a daily concern. Add in how the media has deliberately divided our country ideologically and people just might not want to talk about the Ukraine and Russia except with those who are already familiar with their beliefs.

    2. K.k

      A friend was trying to convince me 10000+ civilians had died due to Russia targeting civilians intentionally because that’s how they roll. Asked where she got that number, Facebook.
      As of couple days ago the U.N puts it at around 850 civilian deaths. I imagine as the report suggests its an underestimate. Thats terrible. No doubt. But clearly they are not intentionally wholesale targeting civilians as is the impression you get from tuning into NPR.

      1. John Wright

        I just spoke with one member of the progressive left.

        When I mentioned that about 700 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Ukraine, she responded that “that is too much”

        Then I mentioned that the USA is estimated to have caused about 1 million excess deaths in Iraq or roughly 1400 times as many. (The 850 number you mention brings the ratio to around 1200x)

        However, I don’t believe that had any effect on her “Putin/Russia bad, USA/Ukraine noble and good” point of view.

        1. PHLDenizen

          I’m amazed she didn’t start yelping that your “whataboutism” was indicative of you being a “Putin stooge” or something to that effect. Of the few people who’ve solicited my opinion, that’s been their general reaction. That and being a “brainwashed Trump supporter” due to his alleged conspiracy with Russia for some nebulously defined nefariousness.

          Neoliberal’s biggest problem, IMHO, is incentivizing its adherents to be completely stupid. No evidence of being educated in the true sense, just some really expensive schooling whose result is parochialism, a confirmation bias reflex, smugness, meanness, and detachment from reality.

        2. jonboinAR

          What has struck home to me in this business is that people, in general, are compelled by narrative and pretty indifferent to facts that don’t conform to the narrative they’ve glommed on to. If you try to press with those contradicting-of-narrative facts, instead of getting a quizzical, puzzling, or thoughtful look about them, they get either angry or dismissive. (I’ve had a couple of relatives who were past masters of the dismissive reaction.) As I’ve thought about it recently, it’s seemed to me that these kinds of reactions have applied in a lot of other circumstances.

        3. deltasquared

          “Then I mentioned that the USA is estimated to have caused about 1 million excess deaths in Iraq or roughly 1400 times as many.”
          To paraphrase Madelaine Albright: “we think the price was worth it”

    3. WJ

      I have noticed that the higher-educated, higher-income, ‘professionals’ in my circle are the most rabid about Ukraine. Roughly these are the same sort of people who were most rabid about vaccination mandates, cancelling Rogan, etc. They listen to NPR, watch CNN and maybe MSNBC, read The Atlantic and the Times, and think themselves smarter than the average bear. They are in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties. Many of them are old enough to remember the Iraq War propaganda, but not all of them. Those who are old enough to remember somehow don’t process that, structurally, nothing has changed: that the media and government that lied then is probably lying now. In part their resistance to this very simple inference has to do with the fact that Biden is in the office; in part, I think, their belief that Trump waged a war against “experts” and “professionals” who deserved to be listened to (i.e. who were like them, socially, economically, and culturally), has buttressed their trust in and defense of the corporate media. This, again, is in large part an unconscious class identification imo.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        TDS has morphed into Putin Derangement Syndrome.

        There is no cure. The only way Putin gets a break is if Trump announces another run.

      2. hemeantwell

        What’s become clear is that the ability of many “progressives” to think critically about international relations relevant to warmaking evaporates once you get past a kind of bully critique. The US bullied Vietnam, it might have bullied Cuba, etc. But in this situation, where it is imperative to look at long-term systemic strategies and pressures, they default back to the comfort of Russia as bully. They think of themselves as capable of clarity, they’ve dared to hold views critical of the country they grew up in, and so their critical apparatus, as it were, has been validated.

        As the article usefully points out, that’s going to fray. And, to harp on it again, there is a well-established “realist” analysis ready and waiting to be picked up, along with Hunter’s laptop.

      3. XXYY

        I have noticed that the higher-educated, higher-income, ‘professionals’ in my circle are the most rabid about Ukraine.

        The most highly educated people are usually the most heavily indoctrinated. They spent more years in elite-run educational institutions, and spend their time reading and watching the “respectable” news outlets staffed by people like themselves.

      4. Donald

        In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons liberals had for opposing the Iraq War was that they thought it could be blamed solely on Bush–if you mention that Clinton and Kerry and Biden supported it, they had ways of brushing that off. There was an otherwise really smart commenter at another blog who used to do that–I never understood it. He understood much better than most the politics of the Middle East and he still was a reflexive Clinton apologist.

        Democratic partisanship is literally a core moral principle with this branch of the PMC. Every other political and moral principle is subordinated to it. It is not enough to say you vote for the Democrat as the lesser evil–you are not allowed to say that Democrats are in any way evil. Anything bad that they do is something that is someone else’s fault.

        1. gepay

          The liberals you mention still believe Obama was one of the best Presidents ever. After baby Bush he certainly sounded good. To me he sounded like a man I wouldn’t have minded if my daughter had married him unlike Trump but..g. My sister who was a successful lawyer for decades has plenty of blue and yellow on her facebook and wants stickers to blame Putin for the gas price rises. Replying to her in a comment I mention the killing of around 15,000 people in Donbas since the 2014 coup when they voted to leave Ukraine – she replies with “what aboutism”. I guess this is the answer in the same way “conspiracy theory” is used to ignore invenient facts that might cause cognitive dissonance.

      5. c_heale

        Maybe with the PMC it’s a subconscious awareness of the end of Pax Americana poses a threat to their lifestyles, social status, and employment.

    1. Joshua Ellinger

      I had a long email exchange with Josh K., a reporter at TalkingPointsMemo, after I accused him of being a warmonger for writing “Russia bombs hospitals” based on Ukrainian claims about the maturity hospital without vetting.

      It turns out I was wrong — the statement and subsequent articles were well-sourced. The reporter in this article (and two others) were at the site and the Russians are almost certainly responsible for the damage. Josh K also claims that they found no evidence that the Azov militants had taken over the hospital before hand.

      Unfortunately, I fear the fact that it is likely true will cause the Western media to become even more pro-intervention. The destruction of Mariupol is going to justify a lot of continuing violence.

      Based on what he (Josh K) is seeing he believes that the Russians are attempting to terrorize the Ukrainians into submission and that they will make an example out of one or two cities as a warning to the rest.

      I’m glad to see the reporters made it out safe. My presumption is that the Theater bombing was as ‘accident’ by the Russia forces rather than an explosion set by the Azov militants. By accident, I mean that they were lobbing a bunch of bombs at a city and were not specifically targeting that building. But the destruction of the city looks deliberate. The Russian thinks that Mariupol is being run by neo-Nazis so they decided to both get rid of a military force and destroy a city to serve as a warning to the other cities.

      The evolution of the maturity hospital story is interesting (although the whole thing is tragic). Initially, the official Russian channels ignored it. The reporters published photos of the attack and the pro-Russia bloggers accused it of being faked. Eventually, it got enough attention that the Russian officials started repeating the bloggers side.

      I think it came as a surprise to them (as it did to me) that there were Western reporters on the ground. The later push to capture them was likely to prevent them from exposing more events that make Russia look bad as it was to get them to recant the story.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I hate to tell you but someone writing you and saying they were at the site is not dispositive. Have they been broadcasting from Mariupol? Do they have videos themselves showing the bombs falling, or did they see them with their own eyes?

        Unless they are munitions experts and able to do forensics, visiting afterwards proves nothing. Even the weapons allegedly being Russian is not proof since the Ukrainian army uses a lot of Russian materiel.

        I strongly suspect all the reporters have are the sources they spoke to. That city is still in control of the Ukrainian army, so they are almost certainly hearing a Ukrainian story. They may sincerely believe that they are objective, but they are in a similar position to American reporters being embedded with US troops in the Middle East. That was a deliberate effort to produce US favorable stories and it worked.

        Gonzalo Lira has been reporting from Kharkiv, which is only a bit under attack, as in the military are nowhere as strong a presence as in Mariupol. He has had to change locations because the Ukrainian army is searching out and incarcerating people like him who do not hew to the Ukrainian story line on the war. And Lira has a foreign passport, as in he could assume he’d be less likely to be mistreated than a local. Nevertheless, he made clear he was afraid for his safety. So why do you assume local people would be willing to speak out against the government account if it were not true? Why should they take that risk?

        And that story has already changed so many times it is mighty suspect.

        Scott Ritter pointed out that it is easy to prove the Russians did it if they did it. Show the NATO records of Russian planes that were capable dropping bombs of flying in the proximity of the theater near the time of the blast. If they can’t/won’t produce that, they got nuthin’.

        1. Raymond Sim

          Scott Ritter pointed out that it is easy to prove the Russians did it if they did it. Show the NATO records of Russian planes that were capable dropping bombs of flying in the proximity of the theater near the time of the blast. If they can’t/won’t produce that, they got nuthin’.

          Indeed, if NATO capabilities are even close to being what I’ve seen claimed for them, then they should be able to provide an almost complete accountiing for when and where the Russians have employed their heavy ordinance, with separate listings for each category of weapon.

          Normally I’d assume the claims of omniscience were b.s., but in this case, since the Russians are apparently not using much ECM perhaps it’s true?

          1. Dave in Austin

            I’m sure NATO radar and American AWACs planes are tracking the Russian (and Ukrainian) planes but for understandable reasons they will not release the information because the information would reveal how well- or badly- the West is doing at this. Truly military secrets. Like communications intercepts.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              They can release the data about one day, or even six hours, of planes over one city in the past. This is not a state secret. No one has even made a statement that NATO has records that show a Russian plane in the area at a guilty-looking time.

              No one fantasizes that the West has air control over Mariupol.

        2. Glossolalia

          Do we know if the theater was hit with ordinance dropped from a plane? Could it have been land launched missiles or artillery? And even if NATO suddenly shows us a record of a Russian plane in the vicinity at the time, is there any way to independently verify it?

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I have not followed this story closely but I believe Ritter discussed planes because that was the accusation made, an aerial strike.

        3. Joshua Ellinger

          [Yves! Long time reader but first time you’ve replied to something I’ve written. I’m actually upping my contribution to NK because to match my cancelled subscription to TPM.]

          The Theater story is completely different. It looks fishy and it has changed a lot. These reporters never got a chance to look at it. These guys were writing about the maturity hospital bombing a week earlier.

          I was agreeing with you which is why I got into an argument with Josh K at TPM. But this particular story feels real a week later. The three people on the ground are not obvious partisans. They arrived 30 minutes after the fact. Josh knows one of them personally for a decade. Their story never changed. They followed up with the people who were there. Of course, they are hostile to the invaders after witnessing the carnage.

          You are correct that they do not have a forensics background and could have easily overlooked or been told overlook militants in the hospital but the final story after they escape the city doesn’t change and the supporting details explain why they happened to be nearby. They also appear to lack the kind of support I’d expect for a full fabrication. They rushed to Mariupol right before the shooting started not expecting to be on the frontline and got stuck there.

          Now, I don’t naively believe that they would have been allowed to access this site if they were critical of the locals. I also don’t believe that they would have gotten published if they didn’t have this story. It is obvious that they’ve chosen sides after this event but I don’t think they are lying.

          In fact, the causality numbers make it feel more likely to be real. 17 injured and no dead seems oddly low until you think about birth rates. 400K people. 1 birth per thousand people per year. 365 days in a year. 20-50 people on hand seems reasonable. If you were ‘making shit up’, wouldn’t you at least have a few more dead babies to lament?

          The probably explanation is that it was an accidental hit from a stray artillery shell fired by Russia, the causalities were low because it didn’t actually hit the building, and that there were no fighters present. It happened before the ground fight and I don’t see how Russia would have know to target it.

          So, despite my skepticism, I think Josh K has the overall picture right. Russia is making an example of Mariupol out of what happens if you resist and they are trying to wrap this up regardless of the civilian cost. They would rather not kill a bunch of people but they are not going to let any of the Azov battalion get away and they need the troops in the north.

          This one event can be another example of ‘selective waterworks’ but it is still a tragedy and will likely be used by the worst parts of our Foreign Policy establishment to prolong the war and kill hundreds more. I’ve been pushing on Josh Marshall to tell a fuller story than “Russia bombs hospitals” but it feels like a lost cause.

          Again, thanks for your work on Naked Capitalism.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            These sources and the reporter may be sincere but you haven’t said anything that is convincing.

            The Russians are avoiding civilian targets. The theater has no military value. Ritter in his video went through how the US and Russia identify targets. Hitting the theater is a negative for Russia. So the burden of proof is high. The presumption is that they did not do it because it is against their interest. However, the MSM is running the opposite as a Big Lie.

            The theater being hit does not prove the Russians did it. The Russians were not in the area. You have not provided one iota of information as to what the sources saw that would establish that this was a Russian strike, aside from “sources believe it”. What evidentiary basis do they have for that belief? I have heard zero that is substantive in either of your two posts.

            Did they actually see a bomb fall from the sky? That’s apparently the claimed source of the attack. A missile strike could would look the same even if they saw the ordinance fall, and a missile strike could be a false flag. The Azov Battalion has been seeking to create civilian casualties, for instance by putting tanks next to apartment buildings. They have an established pattern that leads them to be the probable perps in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary.

            Finally, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. We don’t keep videos in our head. We reconstruct a memory anew every time we access it:

            The uncritical acceptance of eyewitness accounts may stem from a popular misconception of how memory works. Many people believe that human memory works like a video recorder: the mind records events and then, on cue, plays back an exact replica of them. On the contrary, psychologists have found that memories are reconstructed rather than played back each time we recall them. The act of remembering, says eminent memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, is “more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a video recording.” Even questioning by a lawyer can alter the witness’s testimony because fragments of the memory may unknowingly be combined with information provided by the questioner, leading to inaccurate recall.


            The Innocence Project found that in nearly 3/4 of the rape convictions they reversed with DNA evidence, the conviction resulted from eyewitness testimony. In 1/3 of those cases, there were two eyewitness accounts.

            See this demonstration for more proof:


            1. Joshua Ellinger

              The theater doesn’t look real from a bunch of angles. It’s the maturity hospital from a week before that looks like it is.

              Obviously, that doesn’t mean Russians are targeting civilians in general but it’s a war and accidents happen. And it is still possible that it was a provoked attack.

              Critically, the reporters fled the city after someone came looking for them before looking at the theater. No reporter has looked at the theater site.

              I do think we should not invest too much effort in defending the Russian’s actions in Mariupol. It looks like they are going to make an example of what happens when you fight them and the Ukraine government is not going to have to make stuff up to find plenty of dead civilians. Despite the ‘selective waterworks’ as you call it (i.e. – ignoring the prior eight years in Donbass, the mass starvation of Afghanistan to name two of many), it is still tragedy.

              While most of the west is blaming Putin, I lay the blame with the US State department particularly Blinken. There were multiple low-cost ways to avoid this but they didn’t even try. I don’t even think they were wanting a war — I think they are just incompetent. It’s like they were literally thinking “We have to act tough or we will look weak.” Foreign policy by posing.

        4. Chops

          The idea that Russian aircraft are all constantly and perfectly monitored by NATO. Do you have any evidence for this? If the proof that Russian aircraft didn’t do something is that NATO would definitely have seen them do it and then told everyone, it feels like ascribing magical abilities to NATO. NATO isn’t magic.

          1. The Rev Kev

            The day before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in the Ukraine, the US sent up a satellite to observe events in the Ukraine. And that was eight years ago. By now there will be multiple satellites watching what is going on and recording events as they happen for later analysis. Fun fact. That 2008 satellite that I mentioned? You would think that it recorded the shot that took down MH17 but to this day they have absolutely refused to release it. Nobody is allowed to see that image. Strange that.

          2. JCC

            I worked for an MI Battalion in Iraq during the 1st year and a half of the War there. We tracked every single military and civilian flight over Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. Just about every room in the building had a dedicated console with real time flight map tracking. This technology is basic and has been around for many years.

      2. Offtrail

        It is extremely helpful to go directly to the source, in this case Josh K, for clarification. As Yves said, that doesn’t necessarily prove that what he says is true. However, I really appreciated your comment.

    1. Lena

      There is also a transcript of the Macgregor interview on Grayzone’s website. It’s an excellent, highly informative piece. One of the best I have seen on the subject.

    2. Peter Nightingale

      I tried to add some comments that Doug Macgregor made to this Wikipedia entry on Macgregor Wikipedia responded by letting me know that the “community” considered THE GRAYZONE “deprecated.” That both Aaron Maté and Max Blumenthal have been cancelled is well known to those who know it well.

      Wikipedia threatened with suspending my editing rights if I went ahead to publish the added information without providing an alternative source. How one does that for an interview remains a question. Ritter may talk about false flag operations too; they were certainly a grave concern of Macgregor’s and a comment I added.

      I cannot tell what is war propaganda. The same applies to all sides. Whatever it is, censorship is not the answer.

      I removed the entry to think about what to do next. Any thoughts?

  4. lyman alpha blob

    “Whether Zelensky accedes to Russia’s demands is ultimately a US call, unless he has found a way to go rogue.”

    But Yves, Mitch McConnell told me Ukraine was a “sovereign country“. So did the Grauniad. And so did any number of other Western sources. Surely Zelensky is a real boy now who can do what he thinks best for his country?!? /s

    Thanks for this take on things and for highlighting Ritter again.

  5. Donald

    Morality aside ( I’ve said numerous times I think the invasion is wrong), the “ denazification “ goal strikes me as similar to the US behavior when we invade or conduct air strikes or engage in other military activity supposedly meant to end terrorism. People don’t like being invaded or bombed and you probably increase the number of people sympathetic to terrorist groups.

    I am in no position to judge how well the Russians are doing in avoiding civilian deaths given the scale of the invasion, but the fact is that given the scale, many ( yes a deliberately vague term) civilians will die. Many buildings will be destroyed and we know there are millions of refugees. The Russian invasion had almost certainly greatly increased the number of Ukrainians who have a visceral hatred of Russia. You can predict that with a fair degree of confidence.

    1. digi_owl

      Frankly the whole statement from Putin struck me as a kind of verbal judo. He took all the justification NATO and USA had been using for their “interventions” since the days of the Bosnia bombing, balled them up, and threw them back in NATOs face.

      I guess he was hoping for a bit more self-reflection and thus a less coordinated response. But instead it seems “we” have gone all in on a holy propaganda war, the likes perhaps not seen since the start of WW1.

      I guess the last think a group of narcissists wants is for someone to lift up a mirror and remind them of their nakedness.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          You’re both right here – there are clearly nazi elements in Ukraine and they do hold a significant amount of power and have for years. But I also think the way Putin described his objectives was very deliberate and intended to mock the US’ own prior justifications for their imperial adventures.

          And now the US can deny the nazis all they want, but videos like the one in your link tend to belie the US propaganda. US citizens may not see it, but my guess is that the rest of the world does, and that’s Russia’s main audience since the real end game here is to change the world economic order.

          If that does happen, I will be waiting for the Kremlin spokesperson to throw a little “disruption” rhetoric right back at the West.

          1. JoeC100

            Or even better review John Helmer’s post yesterday where he has a picture of Zelensky doing a video conference with the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. Helmer notes that Zelensky has two flags behind him: the Ukraine national flag and the OUN flag – this is the group that worked with the Nazi’s (SS) in serious genocide events targeting Poles, Russians and Jews. This almost seems like taunting his audience to prove how clueless they are..

            1. Lisa

              If you were more attentive and inquisitive, you would learn the facts better. One of the two OUN flags depicts a trident with a sword instead of the middle prong.

              Behind Zelensky’s back is a flag with a trident without a sword. These are TWO DIFFERENT images. This is the official small coat of arms of Ukraine, approved in 1992. The history of this trident begins in Kievan Rus. And in 1918, after the revolution, this trident was approved as a coat of arms for the first time.

              This strange stuffing alone already speaks of the competence and professionalism or rather the absence of these skills from the author of the article.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                I don’t understand how this rebuts Helmer’s point. You agree that there were two images. You haven’t said anything that amounts to a clear statement that the one Helmer said was an OUN flag was something else…and if not that, what was it?

                1. Lisa

                  He called the flag behind Zelensky the flag of the OUN, right? But this is not the OUN flag. The flag of the OUN has a completely different image of the trident. His point of view looks like a cheap provocation.

                  The flag behind Zelensky’s back shows the official small coat of arms of Ukraine, which has nothing to do with the flag of the OUN.

                  Нe confidently declares that the second flag is the flag of the OUN. But this is a lie.

                  Check out his article and heraldry.

                  Ukrainians do not hide the small coat of arms of Ukraine: a trident on a blue background. You can see this flag at all state events. It is strange to say that he put up this flag at one meeting and hid it at another because it is the flag of the OUN. THIS IS NOT THE OUN FLAG.

                2. Lisa

                  Apparently, you were puzzled that I wrote that one of the two flags of the OUN. Historical note: The OUN was divided into two wings that were at enmity with each other, but both wings collaborated with the Third Reich. The leaders of the two wings were: Bandera and Melnik. Bandera’s wing had a black and red flag. Miller’s Wing: a trident with a sword on a blue background. NONE OF THESE FLAGS IS THE IMAGE OF THE SMALL ARMS OF UKRAINE.

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      I thought that too, at first. But I’ve become less convinced. Russian sources are already trotting out people in the liberated areas of the Donbass who claim that they were arrested and tortured by the Ukrainian secret police after 2014 for pro-Russian sympathies. That may be propaganda and certainly will be considered so in the west but the locals will be in the position to know the truth of the matter. If there’s any truth at all to the stories, and if the activities of the Ukrainian secret police were not confined just to the Donbass, the sympathies of the population in the east could be far more up for grabs than people in the West think and the Ukrainian government claims.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Western sources estimate that at least 1.5 million fled Eastern Ukraine for Russia and Belarus since 2014. I have provided the relevant links several times before, so forgive me for not doing so yet again. I need to turn in.

        1. Dave in Austin

          “Turn in”. Good grief! 9:30 am. I’m Yves’ age and far to old for all-nighters.

          1. LawnDart

            They keep “vampire hours.”

            I have found that those hours kill me when there are other people around. But flying solo during the overnight shift, alone, I have a lot of focus and energy.

            It’s because most people suck. Literally.

    3. Lex

      It is not. I was willing to at least partially agree with that thesis before the conflict and in the earliest stages, but I’ve been heavily on Slavic social media (telegram mostly) since this started and remember enough Russian to get the gist of interviews as well as generally check the accuracy of machine translations. I thought it was a handful of OUN-type fascists in high places and some largish paramilitary groups. It’s much, much deeper and more disturbing. And it seems to have generally taken hold to some degree or another amongst the larger, ethnic Ukrainian population.

      This isn’t a foreign invasion exactly, this is much more like a civil war. Every Russian service member can communicate directly with everyone in Ukraine. Maybe a few of the Chechens only have rudimentary Russian skills but most are bilingual. The stories coming out of Mariupol, and this will likely go for most of the eastern oblasts, indicates the opposite of your prediction. If Russia goes all the way west, the reaction you predict is almost certain. But I’m guessing that Russia stops and lets NATO deal with the West after ruining as much military capability as it can. The ethnic Hungarians and Romanians (Rusyns) are already asking for independence; Poland seems to be hinting that it would like a chunk of Western Ukraine that’s historically, ethnic Polish. There’s historical precedent for stopping halfway too. The western oblasts weren’t part of Russian/Soviet territory until 1939. Traditionally they were Polish, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Austrian, or Austria-Hungarian.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Could you give a concrete example? That would help make the point.

        If Russia gets control of Odessa, it controls the entire Black Sea and Azov Sea coast. Lambert says Russia has already mined the Odessa harbor (I assume it can remove them, informed readers please pipe up) so it has already prevented Ukraine from using it. So it won’t need to hold the western part of Ukraine if it controls their lifeline.

        And as Ritter stresses, Russia never intended to hold territory. This is a Western projection. It wants to destroy military capability, eliminate the Banderites from the military and government posts, and get a commitment to neutrality. Who runs it then is of no import.

        Russia will want Donbass and Crimea to be recognized as at least federalized (more independent) and will probably add Mariupol to the list. Remember Russia said the longer the war went on, the more demands it would make.

        1. Polar Socialist

          As for Crimea, Russia wants it to be recognized as part of Russia.

          And Mariupol is part of Donetsk by their count. The republics were not recognized as they were, but within the borders of their respective oblasts in 2014. Thus the big portion of DPR troops in Mariupol fighting the “occupiers”.

        2. Lex

          The newscaster naming and quoting Eichmann about killing Russian babies to purify the nation is one, the celebrated activist from the Maidan (now I’m blanking on his name) who leads the mobile ambulance group two nights ago (Ukraine time) saying that he gave an order that all Russian POWs will be castrated because they are cockroaches and less than human. Though today he’s said that he was just emotional and didn’t really mean that. He’s been on CNN recently.

          Not super reliable, but the Russian MoD claims intercepted communication with Azov in Mariupol in which the high command says there will be not rescue of Azov forces, use human shields, martyr or sneak out as civilians. But the big ones are the interviews with civilians who’ve managed to escape Mariupol, and these are relatively easy to confirm since several Greek residents of Mariupol have said similar things on Greek television. It will be in Mariupol where the evidence is mostly found. More than a few videos from apartments with Hitler shrines in them. It could be propaganda, but I don’t think it is.

          I should have been more clear in that I do not think Russia wants to occupy Ukraine at all beyond Crimea. I don’t think Russia even wants the Black Sea coast so long as whoever does control is friendly/neutral. I meant only the major, ground operations stopping around the Dnieper.

          My understanding is that the Ukrainians mined the Odessa harbor to stop an amphibious assault, but many have broken from their moorings and are floating towards Istanbul though there is film of some being washed onto shore and exploding.

        3. Sibiryak

          Yves: And as Ritter stresses, Russia never intended to hold territory. This is a Western projection. It wants to destroy military capability, eliminate the Banderites from the military and government posts, and get a commitment to neutrality. Who runs it then is of no import.

          I agree that those are Russia’s stated intentions, and that Ritter’s predictions may turn out to be entirely accurate, Still, I can’t feel very certain about any endgame scenario. Whatever Russia’s intentions are, they can change when faced with insurmountable obstacles.

          Putting “denazification” aside, a commitment to neutrality and demilitarization requires a formal, enforceable agreement with a Ukrainian government. However, it appears increasingly likely that Zelensky, and his Western backers, are agreement-incapable.

          Zelensky has called for” security guarantees” to be formalized prior to any negotiations on Crimea and the Donbass republics. But what does “security guarantees” mean? It means the creation of a US-led coalition of states committed to the defense of Ukraine. From the Russian national security perspective, that would be hardly any different from Ukraine joining NATO!

          Zelensky has also said he would not give up an inch of territory. And he has said that any agreement would need to be ratified through a popular referendum. Put all that together, and it’s clear that Zelensky/US is not interested in ANY concessions to Russia whatsoever. A military pact with the US & Co, followed by more Minsk-like negotiations about the Donbass republics (Crimea is non-negotiable) – that’s really just a return to the pre-invasion situation, only now with Ukraine a member of a de facto NATO alliance.

          In such a case, if Russia were to withdraw from Ukraine (still recognizing Donbass independent republics in all of their declared territory), how would Russia be able to enforce a permanent de-militarized status for Ukraine? As soon as Russia forces rolled out, massive arms would start rolling in.

          With a US-led multinational defense pact in place, any future shelling of the Donbass region by Ukrainian forces, let alone a full-scale attack, or any move on Crimea, would lead directly to a conflict not just between Russia and Ukraine, but also between Russia and all those states now committed to Ukraine’s defense. This is exactly the kind of position Russia does not want to be in, and went to war to prevent.

          It seems to me we can’t rule out a scenario in which Russia gives up on the idea of coming to an agreement with a Ukrainian government, or maintaining a pro-Russian government via indefinite occupation, and instead ends up breaking off various regions in the east and south from Ukraine (perhaps overseeing popular referendums), reducing Ukraine to a rump state.

          Let’s not forget what Putin said in his Feb. 21 speech: “We are ready to show what real decommunization would mean for Ukraine.”

      2. Randy G

        Lex —

        Especially appreciate your perspective as it’s a view I’ve come to as well but I do not speak Russian so can’t be certain of anything. There’s a Russian military invasion occurring on top of the civil war that began in 2014.

        There’s a number of disturbing videos popping up that include footage of civilians — including children — being duct-taped to poles in the freezing cold by Ukrainian soldiers for “looting”. Also, numerous interviews with Mariupol civilians describing their abuse by Azov & Ukrainian soldiers during the fighting. On top of this, apparent interviews on Ukrainian TV calling for the killing of Russian speaking children, the castration of wounded Russian soldiers, etc.

        I get some help confirming translations with Russian speaking friends but they don’t know Ukrainian — and honestly, they don’t want to view the videos. I have traveled in Ukraine and Russia, including Lugansk and Donetsk, (before Maidan) so knew the geography of Ukraine fairly well before the invasion.

        I am certain none of these videos and interviews will appear on Western corporate media.

        Zelensky just banned 11 opposition parties and numerous TV channels for lacking patriotic fervor. Ultra-nationalist right-wing parties were not banned, of course.

        Also, there’s an interview with a now-banned Ukrainian MP, I believe, saying the SBU (Ukrainian FBI/CIA) is running wild arresting and even killing anyone who has ever made the slightest criticism of Zelensky in the past. So Zelensky appears to be emerging as a dictator but also simultaneously held hostage by his Praetorian Guard — not to mention his Western handlers.

        Trying to read pro-Ukrainian coverage such as the Kyiv Independent for balance —especially on Twitter — but it is so hyperbolic and surreal that it’s hard to get anything solid, other than immense numbers of people believe it.

        I won’t link to the videos as don’t want to get to sent to limbo and people may not want to watch them anyway. They pop up on Twitter through certain accounts although Twitter is banning a lot of people that stray from official narratives. I joined Telegram to try get views that Twitter will not allow.

        Admittedly, I may be getting things wrong in the fog of war and propaganda. I hope you will continue to add your impressions here at NC as they are helpful.

        Thank you.

          1. Lex

            They’re mostly from Ukrainians posting on social media and they are quite real. Normally they’d be very hard to date but in quite a few of them there are uniformed people participating and wearing the blue tape band on their arm to identify as Ukrainian. I’ve been seeing them almost since the beginning of the conflict. Most of the time it’s an accusation of being a Russian agent or sympathizer, lately they’ve been happening for petty theft.

            I agree on provenance generally, but these strike me as disturbingly real.

    4. redleg

      Here’s an easy test to see if an attacker is trying to make it easy on civilians:
      Is the power on?
      If yes, they are.
      Tactically, military assaults are much easier when the defenders don’t have electric power, as electricity is critical for fuel, communication, heat, water, cooking, etc. Taking out electrical infrastructure is also much harder on the civilians. If the power is still on, then the attacker is either incompetent (that’s not the case with Russians) or willing to operate at a disadvantage to protect civilians.
      Protecting civilians isn’t necessarily an indication of good intentions, as it can be an operatinal advantage for one or both sides in a conflict. Refugees milling about will clog roads and confuse soldiers.

  6. David

    I watched nearly all of the video last night and thought it was pretty impressive. Thanks for positing it. Just a couple of points to add:
    First, the numbers thing is rather more complex than it appears. What Ritter was referring to is not a military law, but rather a rule of thumb developed in the Prussian Military Academy in the late 19th century. In the war games the students played, if a player was able to achieve three-to-one local superiority in a battle then for convenience the attacker was judged to have won. But of course there are many actual examples in the real world of battles being won without this superiority. Moreover, it’s a tactical level rule of thumb only, and as Ritter is obviously aware, there are many examples where the overall balance of forces in a campaign didn’t favour the attacker, but they still won. (Moreover, the Prussian rule of thumb covered only battles between forces that were essentially identical: armies with infantry, cavalry and artillery.) The Wehrmacht invaded both France in 1940 and Russia in 1941 without an overall superiority, especially counting reserves. As Ritter says, logistics is really the key; if you can’t supply and equip troops, it doesn’t mater how many you have. Moreover, what the Russians may be doing is actually making a series of attacks where they can muster a local superiority. I frankly don’t think overall numbers matter that much in a short war like thins.

    Second, on Zelznsky. I’m beginning to wonder whether the real risk here is of civil war, rather than a nice tidy peace settlement, or even a guerrilla war. There are obviously various factions in Ukraine, ranging from moderates to bitter-enders, and I could see a coup being attempted against him either if the West forces him to compromise, or if it doesn’t. That would, of course, make an already terrible situation even worse.

    Thirdly, Ritter was asked about the BW stories. On the whole he was very sensible (he knows the person running the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction programme) but he did allow himself to be sidetracked on avian flu, and allegations that it had been re-engineered to be more effective against Russian DNA. My impression is that this is a bit of a myth, no? Wasn’t there something in comments yesterday?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Russian DNA bit might at most have been in a memo but it is a total non-starter as an idea. I wish Ritter hadn’t dignified that….but I listened to a bit of the Russian presentation to the UN and if I am not hallucinating, they did mention that, so it probably was papered up somehow.

      From scientist GM who we often quote on Covid:

      The story about ethnically targeted bioweapons is largely BS. You might possibly develop something like that against Asians or Africans, but Russians are Indo-Europeans just as Westerners are, and the split dates back a mere 3,000 years. Russians are also much more mixed than the typical European (not true about Americans). So first, there has not been enough evolutionary divergence to allow for meaningful differences that can be exploited by such schemes to develop, and second, there isn’t really such a thing as a “Russian/Slavic” genome. When you live over a vast territory right on the nomadic highway between Europe and Asia, what naturally ends up happening is a ton of admixture.

      1. Ignacio

        A Russian directed avian flu strain is the most stupid idea I have read so far in 2022. If this supposed thing was a significantly different strain compared to those seen before, successful (doubtful) and particularly virulent (again doubtfully), it would expand around the world and damage all countries with significant winter flu waves. It would be a crime against humanity and a shot on our own feet.
        It wouldn’t be a bioweapon it would be extreme bio-idiocy. My best guess is that this is just fictional and spurred by Covid events and lab-leak idiocy. We now see respiratory viral bioweapons everywhere.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, this was apparently in records the Russians found in the labs they captured, I will now have to go look at that UN video again, but I am reasonably confident the Russians would not make a claim like that (even if as you point out the Russian targeting part was silly) unless they had some documents to back this up. As indicated, that does not mean this scheme got anywhere but still…but I my impression was some work done on avian flus and how to distribute them.

          1. Ignacio

            My guess is that Russians can also do propaganda when they see a good idea and seeing how all this lab-leak idiocy permeated in the West they thought suggesting this could be brilliant.

              1. Ignacio

                The belief that SARS CoV 2 was a lab leak, naturally.
                And, please, don’t start replaying it again.

                1. Akash

                  Ah, it is official then, all talk of furin cleavages and such is sheer idiocy. Good to know, thanks.

                    1. Akash

                      I defer to your expertise my friend. I’m too diffident to apply labels like ‘idiocy’ to theories, or should I say conspiracies? I leave it to the experts to fulfill that role, like yourself of course.

                2. WJ

                  I was unaware that there was scientific consensus about the matter of the origins of the virus in question, a recent NY Times article notwithstanding.

                  1. Ignacio

                    Surely the NYT did an excellent metadata job to reach a scientific consensus. Cannot say, I have no subscription but a lot of faith.

        2. The Rev Kev

          I can do one better than that story, Ignacio. There was the one two years ago where the Chinese cooked up a super, duper Coronavirus in one of their biolabs and let it loose to spread around the world while they locked down their own to be safe. That way, they would be able to cripple the world and would then be able to move in and take over. I have heard that one a couple times the past two years. To me, it sounded like having a flamethrower fight in a telephone booth.

        3. Raymond Sim

          A Russian directed avian flu strain is the most stupid idea I have read so far in 2022.

          A while ago I said something along the lines of “I think an army making the sort of difficult preparations the Russians have been for the past year should be taken very seriously.” A bookend to that might be “We underestimate the clowinish malice, psuedosophistication, and depraved incompetence of the US Natsec community at our peril.”

          The idea that the Russians might be targetable in this way, though risible, would almost certainly appeal to those who view the ‘Moskvals’ as something other than true Slavs/Aryans. Hence, Ukraine is a place where people might actually be trying to do this. Though for them ‘Slavic’ genomes would be the ones they were trying to spare. They’d be trying to target ‘Asiatics’.

          That our own evil clown college would fund such people as part of a program of worldwide genomic assessment looking for things like local disproportions in HLA haplotypes which might cause a given pathogen to hit particularly hard in a given population also strikes me as plausible. Stupid yes, but not too stupid for America’s defense procurement system to fund.

      2. Ignacio

        But let’s go to this stupid idea for a minute. Let’s think that someone developed such bioweapon and suppose it was tested so as to have an idea this might indeed have any effect on your enemy. You of course tried it before in ‘Westeners’ and Slavics and magically it only worked on Slavics (that would include Ukrainians and others, mind you) cos they have soooo different flu receptors. You should release it via infected people (just releasing some virus here and there wouldn’t work), let us say some suicide Azov Battalion elements infected to be taken as prisoners by Russians but passing them the disease…

        Hey I think I have a starting point here for a Netflix project!!

        1. hemeantwell

          I agree that biolabs are a distraction. But given all that we know about US government support for scientifically farfetched ideas — Men Who Stare at Goats et al — we might assume that from a national security bureaucracy standpoint, it would be thought of as negligent not to at least explore the idea, both in the sense that it might be a way to “kill Russians,” sorta like a biowarfare neutron bomb, and as a source of funding and advancement for some poor souls.

          1. juno mas

            … and a way to send money into Ukraine. The US will do anything and everything to support a failed state; if they think it would poke at Russia.

          2. ArvidMartensen

            However, I recall reading a decade ago (and sorry, cannot find the link) that Russians living near the border were intermittently plagued with infestations of insects that had never lived in their area, and were thousands of miles from their known habitats.
            Perhaps the biolabs were in reality developing pests to carry diseases to Russians and disrupt Russian agriculture, amongst other things.
            And as far as the notion that the people behind biolabs have thought this through, you only have to look at the western world to see it is built on a lust for power, and lust has never been known as an enabler for rational thinking.

        2. urdsama

          While I agree with you and others who state this is a stupid idea, I have one word that should make it clear why this could be a real program, even if the science for it was non-existent:


      3. Pat

        Call me wild and crazy but watching the utter delusional idiocy of so many of our military and foreign policy choices I cannot stop thinking that the stupidity and delusion is the norm. For instance the unworkable nature ofour airplane and aircraft carrier design is a feature not a bug. And that probably goes to a fair number our black opp plans as well.

        So no expertise here, but watching the greed and stupidity of American contractors and the American government coupled with our throw money at the defense department that has no oversight. Might there really have been a bull shit program to develop an ethnically directed avian flu that would 1.) give the contractor/donor a whole lot of money to do this, 2.) setting up the program in the Ukraine is cheap, spreads money in a selected US cats paw, 3. directing towards Russia plays on the hurt feefees of a whole lot of politicians making it an even easier sale especially with the Russia is the big problem tendencies they have. That it is and was bull shit does not make it any less a criminal malignant act, but it would explain some of the counter opinions that these labs were not a problem.

        Just a thought.

        1. Eustachedesaintpierre

          The bioweapon idea smacks of Hitler’s racial designations in Mein Kampf, as in Slavs being sub-human. Funnily enough during WW2 some members of the IRA tried to do a deal with the fuhrer, then someone eventually read MK & discovered what the Celts role would be at a level of 2 notches above Slavs, but still being judged suitable as good slave material.

        2. John Wright

          I remember visiting the Cape Cod region of liberal Massachusetts during the Reagan era “Star Wars” effort.

          I was told that there was a second home buying spree in Cape Cod funded by all the government money flowing to Mass academics and think tanks for Star Wars.

          As far as I know, nothing much (vaporware?) came of Star Wars.

          But the effort was lucrative for some Americans.

      4. ISL

        Yves, GM assumes that just because it is unlikely to succeed as planned DoD wont fund it. Think of chemical weapons that blow back on your own troops. Mucho money for that here! Recall the west rated itself best prepared for a pandemic. There is precedent.

        Heck if blowback was a factor, what are all those nukes we have for?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Straw manning is absolutely not allowed here. You abjectly misrepresented what GM said. He said targeting Slavs was a non-starter because Slavs do not have a distinctive genetic profile. Period.

        2. Paradan

          Has anyone considered that the bioweapons thing was done with the sole specific goal of provoking the Russians to invade? They never expected it to work, but funded it and gave it a shot simply so that the info about the project would leak out, after all Dilayna G is still alive right? If it had been a real project she’d have been killed years ago.

          1. Yves Smith Post author


            First, these were biolabs with admittedly dangerous material like anthrax. The “bioweapons” charge is not proven.

            Second, as Ritter explains, at around 1:40 (and you had better listen to that before commenting again, you are risking being banned if you don’t, I don’t have time to spoon feed you material you should be accessing on your own) there were good reasons to set up these biolabs, basically to get control of old Soviet bioweapons and to give employment to former bioweapons researchers who would otherwise might seek work from very unsavory types.

            However, third, Ritter quotes a Western source who had a toad hop out of his mouth by saying some of the old Soviet bioweapons might not have been destroyed but might still be preserved in frozen form. That means the bioweapons charge could be accurate, not due to the labs creating new nasties but by hanging on to old ones.

      1. Dean

        Exactly Ignacio, Ignobel worthy for sure. Guess some don’t realize that humans are 99.9% identical genetically.

        1. juno mas

          Well, Native Americans (North and South) would likely respond that that 0.1% can be deadly.

          (Smallpox and entero viruses arriving from the Old World is what allowed Anglos to overrun the New World. See: “Guns, Germs and Steel”, or “1491”.)

          1. OnceWereVirologist

            The problem was that they had naive immune systems not that they were so different from the common run of humanity.

  7. Randall Flagg

    I don’t see how any Russian victory is or will be possible. After watching the latest propaganda piece ( excuse me, 60 Minutes episode last night), In it’s first segment we were informed how the Biden Administration’s latest Economic Shock and Awe/weapons of financial destruction sanctions will bring Russia to it’s knees. Though if course lacking in details, how could you not believe them? Okay, sarcasm off.
    I wonder who will really cry uncle first. Batten down the hatches…

    1. Ashburn

      With regard to the full spectrum dominance of MSM propaganda, I suspect it will be impossible for there to ever be a mea culpa. Much like the four-year Russia-gate nonsense they simply cannot admit error. However, once we are paying over $5 for gas, mortgage rates go to 5%, and the S&P loses 30% it will be hard for the public to ignore the disaster Biden and Blinken provoked.

  8. Martin Oline

    Thucydides’ History showed me where hubris can lead for nations. The fates of the Athenian generals Nicias and Alcibiades is illuminating. In the Pelopenisian War Alcibiades advocated an aggressive foreign policy and was a prominent proponent of the Athenian expedition to Sicily. After being recalled from Sicily for sacrilege he fled to Sparta, where he made new enemies and later fled to Persia. Any similarity with Robert Gates is purely coincidental.
    Nicias opposed the imperialism of the expedition but joined it and died with his troops in Sicily.

    I am reading The Dawn Of Everything for the second time. Perhaps the cup is really half full?

    Turn around go back down
    Back the way you came
    Can’t you see that flash of fire
    10 times brighter than the day
    And behold a mighty city
    Broken in the dust again
    Oh God, pride of man
    Broken in the dust again

    1. Bazarov

      Alcibiades originally called for a rather modest expedition to Sicily–a kind of “show of force,” but Nicias miscalculated enormously when, during debate in the Assembly, he cried foul by arguing that Alcibiades’ proposed expedition was much too small. Nicias then enumerated all the forces that would be necessary to conquer Sicily, thinking that this would overawe the Assembly and make them think twice about supporting Alcibiades’ reckless plan.

      It totally backfired–the Assembly agreed entirely with Nicias and voted to raise the forces that Nicias described. Thus Alcibiades’ modest expedition became the infamous, empire-destroying disaster (though the expedition nearly succeeded!) that we know today.

      The choices of individual human beings are often historically decisive.

  9. Lex

    Something has gone terribly, darkly wrong in Ukraine. The social and broadcast media coming out of the country directly is disturbing in a way that’s hard to describe. Frankly, I understood that there was a significant Nazi/fascist problem and that it had gained specific, high level power but I also thought that Russia may be exaggerating it for internal propaganda. They may have been understating it.

    I don’t doubt Russian “information warfare” (we should go back to calling it propaganda) is amplifying accounts, but I’m also watching from telegram that includes Ukrainian accounts. Even with adjustment for propaganda and adjustment for social media in general, it’s overwhelming and disturbing. The west had better come to its senses quickly, because when this is over it will be very hard to hide what’s been happening in Ukraine. I fear that the worst may be yet to come.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I see attempts are being made to give Zelensky a Noble Peace Prize but it was only a day or so ago that he blacklisted 11 opposition parties – including their Parliament’s second largest group – and I think that he has cracked down of the media as well-

      But if you want something sick as a sign of what is happening in the Ukraine, a Ukrainian doctor – Gennadiy Druzenko and who is a well-known volunteer medic, claimed during a live interview that he had ordered his volunteer unit to castrate captured Russian soldiers saying “I gave my doctors … a very strict order to castrate all men, because they are cockroaches and not people.” He is walking back that statement but I am sure that the Russians have him on a list now-

      1. praxis

        If Russia meets its objectives, I imagine most of these colorful sorts will flee into the west.

        1. ambrit

          Their predecessors did so back in 1945-46.
          Then: “Operation Paperclip.”
          Now: “Operation Azov App.”

        2. wilroncanada

          and any one of them, Praxis, might have a child who will eventually become deputy Prime Minister of Canada, or maybe in charge of the US State department. I’m “blinkin'” when I say that, but it’s a “free land.”

      2. Thuto

        I said a week ago on a comment here that he was a shoo in for the Nobel Peace Prize, how prescient I was, that’s why he’s going all in on becoming a social media content creator (the videos are becoming slicker and slicker) and passing himself off as a latter day Winston Churchill. And make no mistake, he’s going to have that nobel laureate tag pinned on him, come rain or shine (Netflix is lending a hand by making the “Servant of the People” series immediately available for streaming worldwide as part of the hearts&minds Psyops).

        Re: the Ukrainian doctor, the western msm and the “system pigs” who fill up its ranks (as Gonzalo Lira refers to these pseudo-journalists) is now parading him as a humanitarian. I know truth is the first thing to be nailed to the stake during war but this is something else, the propaganda has hit escape velocity and blasted its way beyond the gravity pull of reality.

    2. Raymond Sim

      The Ukrainian Nazis have been out in the light of day for years now, openly calling for the exterrmination of Russian ‘cockroaches’ talking about leading the white race into the bright uplands of its true destiny and so on. It has required effort to prevent widespread knowledge of this kind of titillating fodder for gossip.

    3. hemeantwell

      After youtube removed it there was an outcry about a doc Oliver Stone gave his imprimatur to, Ukraine in Flames. Parts of it are so sloppy — within 30 seconds the same dates for WW1 and WW2 are shown in segment titles — and other parts are so goofy — the intro credits focus on a nude female model throwing flames around — that you have to wonder if the production team was infiltrated. Still, it does a pretty decent job outlining the viciously anti-Semitic pedigree of ascendant political forces in the western Ukraine, *and* it links their preservation into the post-WW2 period to the US enlistment of former Nazis into the anti-Soviet campaign.

      The latter bit dovetails with a recent viewing of the doc series Gladio, about the OSS/CIA effort to build a “stay behind” force in Western Europe in case the Soviets invaded. I was gobsmacked at the way the producers marshalled testimony from government officials from Italy, Belgium and France, not to mention walk-ins by former CIA director Colby, to support their case. Iirc, the Italians ran parliamentary investigations that really spilled the beans. The Left was still a significant government force and at least some segments of the Italian security state were pissed off because the Italian fascists who were recruited had the habit of blowing up civilians in false flag attacks. Very relevant in gauging what’s in the tactical manual of the Ukrofascists. .

  10. digi_owl

    Seems to fit my own thinking about the situation almost point for point, but then i am no soldier (by training or otherwise).

    The civilian casualties numbers have been a particular interest of mine, as i seem to recall that during the Iraq invasion the civilian deaths from US bombs etc quickly rose past 100 000. and just kept climbing as the years dragged on. Thus something was not jiving with how media kept talking about indiscriminate bombing and shelling from the Russian side and the casualty numbers.

  11. Safety First

    I think one important military consideration in this case – and Ritter hits on this to a degree – is that this is NOT a classic war of conquest. In simple terms, the Russian government wants to, on the one hand, accomplish some form of regime change (as yet debatable what precise form this might end up taking), but on the other hand, to not inflame Ukrainian public opinion against either Russia or this new Russian-backed regime(s) to the degree possible. If this sounds like two mutually exclusive aims, that is because they more or less are, and they are further complemented by a third – to keep Russian casualties as low as humanly possible so as to not rock the boat domestically (based on its actions domestically over the past few years, it appears Kremlin wants a completely disengaged and apolitical populace – which is hard to achieve if one generates enough casualties to spark a Vietnam-era like protest movement).

    The most effective and efficient military operation would have involved zero consideration for the local population, however in that case the average Ukrainian in the street might end up feeling about the Russians the same way that the average Iraqi must have felt about the Americans in the past two decades or so. As well, the speediest and most aggressive military operation in the face of an opponent that has not already completely collapsed would entail a significant number of casualties. Hence the Russian military appears to be taking a leisurely stroll, avoiding any meatgrinder sort of engagements*, and slowly knocking out the Ukrainian military infrastructure and logistics to wear away its capacity to resist. For now, at least. To say that this is a very strange war, especially compared with how the American military is used to operating (operation Just Cause in Panama is kind of an “ideal” smash-and-grab regime change in that sense), is to significantly understate matters.

    The biggest question, really, is what happens viz. western (“right bank”) Ukraine. The leisurely stroll approach should eventually either secure or block off eastern (“left bank”) Ukraine, but that leaves nearly half the country unoccupied and any new assault would have to be launched from rather less favourable positions (just look at the geography – the right-bank portion could be gone at from three directions; the left-bank, especially once you cut off the part in the south bordering Transdnistria, gives one a lot fewer options, even if using Belarus as a staging area once again).

    Also, too. I think Ritter is seriously underestimating civilian deaths, BUT – because you also have to look at civilian deaths away from the combat zones. E.g. when they handed out 10k-20k assault rifles to any civvies who’d have them in Kiev, back in February, in just the first day the Kiev police reported 60 civilian deaths from firearms. How many Ukrainians all over the eastern part of the country have since ended up getting shot by Ukrainians, either military, paramilitaries or just gangsters who got their hands on some free guns? A few hundred? A thousand? We literally have no way of counting this at present, but unfortunately I suspect that the ultimate death toll for Ukrainian civilians will be very high indeed irrespective of what angle the Russians take.

    *Early on, they did apparently send some recon teams into Kharkov (with videos immediately popping up on social media), but after those took heavy losses decided to just slowly encircle the city and work it from a distance. As for Mariupol, according to Russian news sources the fighting there is being done primarily by LDNR troops (which are, sad to say, viewed as expendable), and by a Chechen battalion (ditto), thus keeping RUSSIAN casualties down. The French and British with their extensive usage of colonial regiments and divisions all the way through the 1950s say “hi”.

  12. Jung

    It seems to me easy to jump from one narrative to the other, especially when the Western idea of power (oligarchs, and corruption at the highest levels) doesn’t exactly apply in Russia. We can see Russia fighting our shared enemy, but this doesn’t really mean they should be our friends, or they are telling the whole truth.

    Given the amount of intelligence publicly available I’m not sure we can assign blame for shelling of civilians. It does seem that Russia has been avoiding civilian casualties, especially in the beginning of the war. Further it seems their initial demands were likely genuine, anything more would likely turn into an extremely expensive and messy occupation with little gain.

    Ritters seems right about the sanctions, and about how the Russian economy is fairing. I’m certain immanent sanctions factored into the decision to invade, and if anything help support the broader new order Russia is attempting to create. Even still they didn’t foresee enough as their financial system was still damaged (why were capital controls, movement of reserves within the country, and creation of bilateral agreements to conduct commerce in rubles not made in advance?).

    That being said his numbers seem wanky to me, and to paint too rosy a picture of the campaign.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He’s relying on official figures. He is probably assuming they can be grossed up similarly so the ratios still come out more or less the same.

      And our wars in the Middle East showed that modern wars kill way fewer people due to much better medical treatments, but maim many many more. And as Lambert has pointed out, the Western stories on civilian casualties (aside from the almost surely fabricated Mariupol theater) have had very small numbers per instance, and have often centered stories around individual deaths. That is not what you’d expect if a lot of civilians were dying.

      1. Jung

        Your comment on the use of official figures seems reasonable (although it’s in Russia’s interest to under-report committed troops and in Ukraine’s to over-report). The current UN civilian death count is 902 (with a couple thousand maimed), which is very low, even though it’s more than was stated. He was likely just using earlier UN reports for his number.

        By rosy picture of the campaign I was meaning exaggerating the extent to which the campaign has succeeded. Victory for Russia is effectively guaranteed, the main question is how much it costs them, and it’s not currently clear to me whether or not it has been overly costly.

        1. David

          A large part of the problem is that “civilian” is not a recognised category, legally. You’re a combatant or a non-combatant. Non-combatants can lose their protected status if they directly contribute to military operations – eg transporting ammunition in a car. Non-combatants who are carrying arms – grannies, children, whatever – are military targets and can be engaged. This can create enormous problems of classification (does a person in civilian clothes who puts down their rifle and goes off to have a sleep recover their protected status?). It’s not hard (and the KLA did this in Kosovo) to gather together a group of battle casualties in civilian clothes, without their weapons, and proclaim “massacre of civilians!” It is possible to tell by chemical tests if someone has recently been using a weapon, but that requires time and effort. I tend to regard figures for “civilian casualties” as essentially meaningless. The only useful rubric is that they are much too small at the start and much too large as time goes on.

  13. Dr. John Carpenter

    Thanks for this and I will try to carve out time to give the video the attention it deserves. The first point is something I can relate to. There is such a disconnect between reporting on the war in the MSM and sources like here, for instance. Gaslighting was such a thing people fretted over during the Trump years, but it seems what’s going on now puts his stuff to shame.

    Assuming Ritter is correct, I have to wonder what the reckoning will be when this all comes down. Not that I believe anything will change with our message makers (after all, we’re just seeing the logical decay of the media post-9/11.) But how will they spin this so all the people who have just discovered Ukraine and are all in don’t realize they were sold a bill of goods? Will it even matter? Will they just have a new shiny to wave about?

    Also, on sanctions, I hadn’t even considered the point that they serve as a rallying point for the people the US wants out. I’ve long thought they were an ineffective tool as they harm the citizens more than anyone else. But it never occurred to me that instead of raising up and overthrowing the government, as the misguided US heads think will happen, it causes the really power brokers to support the government instead. Very interesting.

    1. Soredemos

      “Assuming Ritter is correct, I have to wonder what the reckoning will be when this all comes down.”

      Might not be long now. Mariupol is almost cleared, and the Donbass front seems to be cracking; they supposedly requested permission to withdraw and Zelensky denied them. He said it would be bad for the informational war. Pretty sure losing a third of your military will be worse for that.

  14. Jeremy Grimm

    I have been listening again to the series of interviews Daniel Elsberg did with Paul Jay around the time Elberg’s “The Doomsday Machine” was published, describing an insider’s view of the history and policies of the u.s. MIC and nuclear weapons industry. I believe Elsberg makes a very strong case for why it is so important to prop-up Russia as an enemy to justify expenditures on the MIC and nuclear weapons. All the media concern about Russia targeting civilians is almost comical after even the most cursory review of some of the propaganda stoking past wars. Elsberg’s description of the fire-bombing of Hamburg and Tokyo and a few moments thought about what an H-bomb targets should clarify the moral stance of the u.s. MIC where civilian targets are concerned.

  15. Bob

    Is Ritter correct ?

    Or is his reporting confusing conventional warfare with guerilla warfare ?

    The fact is that guerilla warfare which includes the mobilization/empowerment of the civilian population can win simply by not losing.

    See Wendell Fertig – American Guerilla in the Philippines Or John Paul Vann – A Bright Shining Lie

    Don’t forget that Ukraine was invaded and this invasion in and of itself will induce the Ukrainians to fight. This is the natural response of any invaded country or region.

    The conflict can continue with minimal logistics for the Ukrainians and in spite of the horrific nature of modern weapons of war.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      There is no evidence that guerrilla warfare is happening. One picture of four women making Molotov cocktails does not an insurgency make. Plus they are ineffective against tanks and armored vehicles.

      And they can backfire:

      As far as the guns distributed to civilians, reports are they are being used mainly for personal vengeance and by gangs (recall Zelensky released all prisoners).

      1. jimmy cc

        guerilla warfare – the Ukrainian Territorial Defense force would seem to fit thw definition of a irregular army unit.

        i have heard of no large scale troop battles. seems to be a guerilla war.

        1. OnceWereVirologist

          I think it’s not so much a question of whether there are guerilla actions. There obviously are. The question is whether they amount to anything more than a nuisance.

    2. John k

      Most action has been in the east, Russian speaking/sympathizing donbass that likely feel grateful for Russians taking out nazis etc. Russians are mopping up the last of the Ukraine army/nazis operating in donbass that have been surrounded.
      Guerillas fighting an army would need sympathetic locals to hide with after their raids on superior forces. Ukraine-speaking nazi types will imo find this difficult in the donbass… Ukraine leaning locals will likely leave the area soon, maybe most already have, they will not be popular. This is not Vietnam. Granted, Russia will expect donbass to form an army/police sufficient for their own defense.

      1. gepay

        If Russia tries to invest the Western part of Ukraine then this possible guerilla problem will happen. The guerillas would have sanctuary with the large Banderista sympathizers there. Poland would also be a sanctuary. And we don’t have guess if the CIA would do everything they can to support it. As you ;mentioned the East of Ukraine would be a whole different story. Though after 8 years and millions of Russian oriented Ukrainians emigrating – with the local opposition parties outlawed or members imprisoned it will be hard for the Russians to find competent Russian oriented or even neutral Ukrainians to run the parts of Ukraine not part of Donbas.

    3. KD

      Sure, the Ukrainian troops, starving, uniforms rotting off their bodies, will leave the Ukrainian jungles and ambush the Russian armor divisions with sticks and stones.

  16. IronForge

    Analyst is wrong on Murican “Parts”.

    A good deal of Heavy and Light Consumer Goods and Components are made in – CHINA, JAPAN, or VIETNAM.

    Also, RUS have the means to make anything.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, do your homework. Car parts are one of the top EU exports to Russia, along with aerospace parts.

      And Russian consumers do not believe Russia has the capability to replace EU car parts now, although they can clearly get there in time.

      1. Dave in Austin

        The next step will be used and wrecked EU, Japanese and American cars being put in shipping containers and going to Russia for parts via the usual intermediaries- UAE and Afghanistan.

      2. ambrit

        The interesting metric here would be the supply of farm machinery spare parts. I’m assuming that Russian industrial level agriculture is machine based. So, next year’s harvests would be somewhat in the thrall of the supply of spare parts for tractors, harvesters, etc.
        If I were a betting man, I’d put some money on Russia already instigation some crash course programs to ramp up the domestic supply of agricultural machiners and parts for such.
        Stay safe in this ‘insane’ society.

      3. cfraenkel

        “Car parts” is such a deceptively simple phrase. Russia can surely produce “car parts”. Ie – they can make a crankshaft. But can they tool up a production system to make 2001 (& 1995, 2015 etc) Toyota crankshafts? And Mercedes? and Kia? etc. They’re all slightly different. Each one needs engineering, tooling, set-up, QC. How do you spin up that many production lines for such a tiny market? And that’s before worrying about all the systems these days with embedded processors, software and DRM.

        1. Bob

          Ever heard of “Just in Time” or short run CNC manufacturing ?

          Ever heard of reverse engineering ?

          Please while there can be difficulties modern machine tools are generally capable of efficient, economical, short run production. No need to setup a production line with machines dedicated for each operation.

          If there is a need and a profit stream just about any part can be copied and manufactured. And reasonably quickly too.

          And of course it is possible to recycle parts “Pull a Part” anyone ?

        2. JoeC100

          Regarding car parts (thanks to WolfStreet) it turns out that Ukraine is apparently a major supplier of wiring harnesses for new cars and their export has apparently been heavily shut down. So more good news on availability and price of new cars.

          My son is visiting here in Maine w/grandson and he was complaining when he arrived that it costed $75 to fill up his high mpg diesel Audi cost $75 when he was leaving Philadelphia yesterday.

  17. Samuel Conner

    ISW recently predicted that the R forces would not achieve their objectives.

    But in recent days the ISW “assessed control” maps have been showing paper-thin R encroachments into the rear of front-line regions.

    In yesterday’s assessment,

    it looks like they are affirming encirclements of U forces around Chernihiv, Sumy, the region north of Luhansk, and southwest of Donetsk.

    It’s as if they’re acknowledging the reality of R encirclements of U forces, but it a way that makes it seem like ‘not a big deal; breakouts would be easy — no problem punching through those thin lines’.

    The accompanying verbiage doesn’t make a big deal about these, but I wonder if they are getting ready to acknowledge some big setbacks for the U forces.

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      Someone obviously decided that they could minimize the appearance of Russian victories if they only depicted Russian advances in the most pedantic sense possible, i.e. the territory is not occupied if the Russians only advance down a few roads. I would say that if the Russians can move down those roads without getting cut to pieces by flanking attacks, then the Ukrainian forces have probably retreated or been isolated in small pockets and for all intents and purposes the territory is occupied. These reports by the ISW are becoming Baghdad Bob-level ludicrous, it’s all unsupported assertions sourced directly from the Ukrainian General Staff.

    2. Soredemos

      I use the ISW assessment as the baseline, as in ‘Russia has advanced at minimum this far’. The actual events on the battlefield often seem to be a week or more ahead of what ISW shows.

  18. A Regular Tycho Brahe Over Here

    Put Ukraine aside; NATO is stronger now then pre-2014 without Russia achieving anything. Sweden and Finland will be joining NATO. Germany’s military spending is up for the first time in 30 years. Russia has lost what modest influence in Europe it had, less now than even so-called pariah states. Even Iran can find investors in Luxembourg. — Is there not international pity for the Russian conscript?

    “Moskali” is now synonymous with barbarity regardless how little responsibility the Kremlin is willing to take. Take none; nobody really believes it. Europe sees NATO as vital, let alone, relevant. Checkpoint Charlie is now reborn on the Polish frontier; I foresee it moving to the Dnieper. Putin served in Dortmund, the next generation leaders will have served Donbass. Is that victory?

    1. Acacia

      Minor quibble: Putin served in Dresden — 1985 to 1990 — in the former DDR. Dortmund is in the West.

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      It would seem that Russia already had no influence in Europe, given that the Europeans said we’ll invite who we want into NATO, and we’ll station weapons systems where we want, and that’s the end of the matter. Doors may be shut to Russian diplomats for the time being, but it shows in that farce where the Polish wanted to hand off their Mig-29s to the Americans in Germany, rather than let Ukrainian pilots fly them out of Poland, European countries are giving weight now to what Russia says are its red lines. I think once the initial storm of emotions calm down, both Sweden and Finland, will have to think long and hard about whether the advantages of joining NATO outweighs the disadvantages. I don’t think they will in the end. In that sense, you could say Russia’s opinions have become more rather than less influential.

      And what’s with the “moskali” business ? That’s a Ukrainian ethnic slur for Russians, and not one of the moderately affectionate ones, like “mick” for the Irish, either. I mean I hate what the Israelis do in Palestine but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to call them any of the vast collection of slurs for Jewish people that history has given us. At any any rate I suspect the “Russians are barbarians” outrage will be memory-holed like every other ‘horror’ that engages the West’s attention and then is abruptly forgotten once the Western media’s attention moves on.

  19. Raymond Sim

    Ritter thinks Russia will obtain its ultimate aim of getting NATO to withdraw to its 1997. This strikes me as wildly optimistic.

    I would have thought so too, but that was before our leadership allowed the situation to degenerate into outright war. Before Maidan I would have thought that Russia reclaiming Crimea without triggering something close to WWIII was the stuff of fantasy.

    Raising the stakes when you hold a weak hand (That’s literally ‘bluffing’ isn’t it?) can lead to very undesireable outcomes, and if you haven’t bothered to think through what having a strong hand might make possible, those outcomes might seem ‘unthinkable’.

    If they desire to do so, the Russians are in a position to offer a post-Ukraine, post-NATO order in Eastern Europe that might be very appealing to leadership in Poland and Hungary. The Chinese, I would guess, are in a position to provide tangible support to such a project.

    On the other hand, for the people of the Baltic nations, the current outbreak of war, together with what looks like a new Warsaw Pact between Russia and Belarus ought to make the downsides of NATO membership a lot more obvious.

  20. ex-PFC Chuck

    Just finished watching the whole video. I’m not usually much of a video watcher/audio listener except when I’m out for a walk or otherwise exercising, but this entire discussion is in “Must Watch” territory. Especially, don’t miss the part beginning about 1:45 in regarding the risk of nuclear war and the shrinking range of options the USA has. Not only in Europe but also Asia.
    The USA’s blow off of Russia’s plea last December to engage in serious negotiations for mutual security has turned into a world-historical own-goal blunder the consequences of which will reverberate for generations.

    1. orlbucfan

      Well, when you’ve got idiots as warlusty vampires like Blinken, and doofuses like K-woman doing the “negotiating,” anything bad is a very distinct possibility. And SloMoJoe Biden? Spare me.

    2. gepay

      There is the viewpoint that although this is a blunder for the US and Europe, the ensuing chaos and economic destruction is just what the World Economic Forum Great Reset needs. Their stated plan is for a total digital monetary system. They want the US dollar world reserve currency system to fail. They want a new world order and the downgrading of sovereign state power. They could care less about US hegemony if they can control the world with a new world order. A new great world depression would be exactly what they need to implement their plans.

  21. AnArchitect

    The ESPN/CNBC-ification of War Observation is becoming exhausting. Ritter might be right, he might be wrong. He has as much clue as another person “who can read maps, knows logistics…”, which is to say, not much. He was off on his original prediction of the war, just like almost everyone else.

    What matters is that he’s dangling a counter-point to the prevailing Western narrative (propaganda) and that’s a juicy take for many.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      I think Ritter is entitled to a bit more weight than that given what he did in the run-up to Iraq. It’s not a counterpoint people are looking for. It’s not-bought-off honesty.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        Plus Ritter’s had extensive experience with Ukraine & Russia. He was on the joint USA/Russia team that in the early 90s dismantled the 1,400 plus nuclear warheads in Ukraine and secured the plutonium pits, etc. IIRC his wife is Russian, which likely gives him more insight and connections into the country than most of the rest of us. Then there are his years as a WMD inspector in Iraq.

    2. britzklieg

      He has as much clue as another person “who can read maps, knows logistics…”, which is to say, not much. He was off on his original prediction of the war, just like almost everyone else.

      keep digging, fella

  22. Canadian Canuck

    Ukrainian army must immediately bomb the hell out of the gas and oil pipelines throughout their country.
    That will immediately stop the flow of money to Putin and bring this horrible war to an end.
    They should stop playing nice to EU.
    The Putin’s war if being financed by the EU and they wont do a dam thing about it as long as energy keeps flowing.
    Take the US out of the picture and Putin will march all the way to Lisbon without encountering any resistance.

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      You advise the Ukrainians to destroy their biggest source of leverage over Europe and an enormous source of revenue that they’ll never get back ?

      1. Canadian Canuck

        Ukraine isn’t dependent on russian energy since 2014 I believe, they might have transit fees but dont buy energy from russia. The big money is coming from EU.
        The idea isnt as far fetched as it sounds and the only thing preventing it from happening is that Ukrainians dont want to annoy EU countries at this point.
        But war being war, I wouldnt rule that out and it will help Ukraine.

        1. The Rev Kev

          The Ukraine had the bright idea to get their gas from the EU. And where did the EU get that gas from? Russia. So the gas went from Russia to the EU via the Ukraine where it was then sent back to the Ukraine. Of course that was breaking the contracts that the Russians had with those EU countries but luckily the Russians did not kick up too much of a stink.

    2. Thuto

      You’re starting to sound like a fanatic. Are you seriously suggesting they bomb the oil and gas pipelines and blow a multibillion dollar hole in Ukraine’s state budget during a war as collateral damage, seriously? You clearly have no clue, and I mean no clue, how pipeline transit agreements work. Ukraine earns a tidy sum from transit fees that i’m sure is being diverted to financing the “fierce resistance” their armed forces are apparently putting up against the Russians. Why do you think Ukraine was so vehemently opposed to Nordstream2, i’ll give you a clue, those juicy transit fees would eventually evaporate. It’s evident your apoplexy, veiled under a veneer of virtue signalling, and living inside Putin’s head and knowing exactly what he would do if he weren’t stopped, are together reducing your capacity to offer the sort of commentary on this subject worthy of being taken seriously.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Apparently, the only thing stopping Putin from going to Lisbon is supply of Euros…so “Canadian Canuck” hasn’t exactly thought that one through.

    3. wilroncanada

      M. Canadian Canuck
      Are you commenting from your Big Rig on the ferry on the way to Victoria, to take part in the next episode of the Koch-sponsored “Patrios’r Us parade at the BC legislature? The US administration and the Ukraine administration do not need advice on own goals. They have scored enough on their own.

    4. John k

      I’m really surprised the Russians haven’t done it already, imo that would force Germany to open Nordstream direct line that bypasses Ukraine in order to keep their industry running now and heat their homes next winter.
      Ukraine siphons off gas intended Europe plus gets large transit fees. This would be economic suicide for them. And cold winter. It would never reopen.

  23. David in Santa Cruz

    I’m not going to sit and watch a 2.5 hour video, so thank you for this summary Yves!

    I do think that the Russian generals have a strategy. A large part of the “Ukrainian” army does appear to have been massed at the separatist border. The Russian forces’ encirclement of Kiev, Mariupol, and Kharkov are cutting them off from their lines of supply. This was the successful “cauldron” strategy that destroyed Paulus’ 2 million-strong army at Stalingrad, who were starved, frozen, and captured.

    I also look at the troop movements and they appear to be concentrated east of the Dnieper, save for the Kiev “cauldron.” This appears to me to be evidence of a civil war aimed at “recovering” Novorossyia either as an independent protectorate or to re-integrate the region with Russia, by whom it was historically settled.

    The return of NATO to its pre-1997 confines is not realistic and probably just a negotiating/propaganda point. The U.S. has no “economy” other than the MIC, Big Oil, and FIRE. This whole train-wreck is working-out swimmingly for Our Billionaire Overlords: weapons sales are up; oil prices are up; Russian foreign assets are being confiscated.

    The “little people” in America will ultimately suffer, but they can be conned to vote against their class interests any day of the week.

    1. Mikel

      “U.S. has no “economy” other than the MIC, Big Oil, and FIRE.”
      USA also is big on food and entertainment exports and toy/”Mom” tech. Then all these industries support a marketing/advertising bubble that is a big elephant in the room.
      But yeah, it’s mostly a lot of brain-dead, strutting around talking about a GDP based on servicing loans and the rentier economy.

  24. Anthony G Stegman

    The West has proven that it has the capacity and will to wage forever wars. The Russia-Ukraine conflict will not end with a Russian military victory for the simple reason that the West can maintain the war for decades if it chooses to do so. The ultimate grinding down will be of Russia, not Ukraine. When all is said and done, avoiding high civilian casualties will prove Russia’s undoing as Ukrainian forces will be continually re-armed by the West, command and control capacities will be maintained, and morale will remain generally high. Russia does not seem intent on doing what is required in order to win the war. Fighting a half-war is fighting a losing war.

    1. jimmy cc

      humanitarian war is a misnomer.

      we will have to give time, time before we will know.

      Ritter has been wrong about this war since the beginning, when he said russia planning to invade ukraine was a figment of the wests imagination.

      no one knows what will happen or who has plans for what. we are all just guesstimating what we think will happen.

    2. Polar Socialist

      In 1921 it took two months to quell the guerrilla war waged by the UPA. In 1944-48 it took 4 years to finish UPA as a guerrilla fighting force. The area has a history of raising ethno-nationalist right-wing rule and a following put-down. In the end people always found out that life without UPA was better than life with it. Of course it’s possible the population will tolerate terrorist among them longer this time, but the odds are not in favor of this.

      About arming Ukraine, I believe both Germany and Canada have already said they can’t/won’t provide more weapons for Ukraine.

    3. David

      Guerrilla wars happen over contested terrain, where the guerrillas have at least some popular support and where they can ambush and attack isolated enemy units. The idea is usually to force an invader or a colonial power to go home. But the Russians are clearly not going to be occupiers, so the only terrain over which the guerrillas could fight would be the majority-Russian areas that the Russians are going to annex or at least protect. Offensive guerrilla warfare in an area where most of the people are against you anyway, sounds like a quick way to get yourself killed. You can, of course try bombings and assassinations as the IRA did, but that was still in pursuit of a goal which was formally anti-colonialist. I can’t, off-hand, think of a single example of a campaign of that kind that has been successful. Remember, the guerrillas will need supplies from across the borders, as well as a network of safe-houses and sympathisers in the Donbass.

      The other point, of course, is that guerrilla forces are never a match for formed units in control of the terrain.In South Africa during the apartheid years, for example, Umkhonto we Sizwe never tried to fight the apartheid militarily conventionally (although they were individually quite well trained) and had great difficulty even getting weapons into the country. The few attempts the French Resistance made to fight the Germans conventionally were a disaster. I can see a few bombs in Donetz, but that’s about it.

      1. Bob

        Perhaps I’m mistaken however isn’t the whole point of irregular warfare not to contest terrain but rather to gain and maintain popular support ? And to use that support to make the occupiers/invaders actions too costly ?

        See Fertig’s “Pillow Defense”.

  25. guurst

    Ukrainian army trained to nato-standards. What does that say if they are so,relatively speaking, easily defeated ? Shades of Afghan army anyone ?

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      Can’t say the Ukrainian army hasn’t fought, unlike the Afghans. When the history books are written it will be interesting to see if the Western trainers did what they usually do, teach the locals to fight a high-tech war with the kind of air support and logistics that they could never hope to maintain going alone against the Russians.

  26. Dave in Austin

    This from Slashdot today on the nuclear program in the Ukraine:

    “Earlier this month a former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (from 1998 to 2007) argued in the Wall Street Journal that “An unappreciated motive for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that Kyiv was positioning itself to break from its longtime Russian nuclear suppliers, as the U.S. was encroaching on Russia’s largest nuclear export market….”

    “The project was intended to allow Ukraine to store this fuel safely without shipping it back to Russia for reprocessing. The processing and storage facility was completed in 2020, and Holtec and SSE Chernobyl were loading the canisters to be stored when the war began on February 24…”
    By taking over Chernobyl, Russia gives itself control of the disposal of its spent fuel, which it can store in canisters at the site or ship to a reprocessing facility in Russia. Either way, this represents hundreds of millions of dollars for Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear enterprise….

    The timing is telling. In November 2021, Ukraine’s leaders signed a deal with Westinghouse to start construction on what they hoped would be at least five nuclear units — the first tranche of a program that could more than double the number of plants in the country, with a potential total value approaching $100 billion. Ukraine clearly intended that Russia receive none of that business.”

    So according to the first paragraph, the Ukraine will stop sending the used uranium fuel from the power reactors to Russia for reprocessing. The used fuel contains plutonium useful for making a bomb and now it will be stored at a site under Ukrainian control. And the first load of used fuel was being loaded into the new facility while Zelinskyy was publically ruminating about becoming a nuclear power.

    One more reason for the Russians to move and expend a lot of effort early on in the invasion to secure the Chernobel site. Remember, it was apparently the diversion of used power reactor fuel from US nuclear subs at a Pennsylvania plant in 1967 that provided the plutonium for roughly fifty Isreali nuclear weapons.

  27. Dave in Austin

    (to the reviewer. I’ve been multitasking like mad since 5 am and put this together in spare moments this morning. I thought I’d submitted it but was just checking other comments and It hasn’t turned up as a post. So I either failed to submit or it or it is in the pipeline. Please check to aviod a duplication)
    In the past four days the Ukraine War has changed in a way that suggests it will not end soon.

    Some details. The Russians have not stalled in front of Kiev. They have simply decided not to attack and appear to be building defensive lines, laying mines and settling down on a 200+ degree arc to the north of the city, pinning the defenders in place with little ongoing cost.

    The real action is in the south. I’m reminded of the story of the German boy who kept a map on his wall. German victories; Poland, France, the Balkans and eventually Russia. They advanced inexorably. Then he noticed that the attacks, counter-attacks and destruction of Russian units were still being reported, but the pins on his map were moving to the west, toward Berlin. The victory reports remained the same. But the map was changing.

    The WSJ seems to have reported a few days ago that the Russians were in Bashtanka, 40 miles north of Mykoliav on the H 11. Pictures from other sources show no fighting or damaged vehicles and the Russians seemed to have passed through on the way toward Kyrvyi Rih. The El Jazeera map today shows slow, creeping Russian advances on the southeastern front from south of Karkov to north of Mykolaiv. There are no reports of heavy fighting and the Russians seem to be moving forward slowly
    and methodically. From the videos, the fighting in Mariapol is over except for a few snipers, which will release Russian units for use in other places in the south.

    I’ll speculate that the Russians have settled in for a prolonged conflict, 90-100 days of active campaigning. No cease-fire without a programmed step-by-step reduction in the western economic war will be acceptable to Putin. And just as happened in 1914 to all the European powers, the media/government-generated war hysteria has inadvertently backed the American leadership and both parties into a corner where they can’t reduce the sanctions and make peace without generating public push-back from the “informed and outraged” public. Zelenskyy is stuck in the middle; he can’t snegotiate and end to the war if the US nixes sanction reductions. Media blitzes, like wars, are easy to start and hard to stop once they get rolling. It was no accident that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Mickey Mouse showed up in 1940.

    If the Ukraine won’t (or under pressure from the US can’t) make peace, then the Russian goal will change from “no NATO” be to “occupy the industrial and largely Russian-speaking, southeast” on a line from Karkov through Dnipro to Kyrvyi Rih, taking the iron, steel, manganese, coal and frackable gas resources and leaving the Ukraine what it was before 1920, a rich agricultural heartland to the northwest. Hitler’s desperate attempts to retain this industrial area in January and February, 1944 led to the collapse of Army Group Center that spring (see Wikipedia Nikopol-Krivoi Rog Offensive). In this scenario the fate of Odessa and the southwest coast is uncertain.

    And if Zelenskyy, who now has banned all political opposition and closed down all opposition press, chooses to fight on, the Russians have the US model in Serbia to work with; bomb the electrical system and the water treatment facilities and leave the cities without electricity or water. It worked in Serbia although it took almost 90 days. Few civilian casualties; few photo-ops. Kiev as Belgrade, while most of the educated young and the families with children leave the Ukraine for Western Europe. The movement of population from the agricultural east of Europe to the industrial west has been going on for centuries. A sad disaster for the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian nation.

    All this while the only big news should be the unprecedented temperature change near the poles. At this rate Odessa may not matter because, if the polar ice melts, it will be underwater in 60 years.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I do disagree. Ritter made the point loudly and repeatedly at the the top of his video that war is about logistics. A tank with no gas is useless.

        Russia has been destroying all Ukrainian fuel depots it has found, and all ammo dumps. It is destroying weapons NATO is shipping in from the West. It is doing an effective job in the east of preventing troops from retreating, which means it is also denying resupply.

        The force in the east will soon collapse due to lack of fuel and ordnance. Russia will capture 60,000 to 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers. That will have a huge psychological impact on Zelensky, if no one else.

        The Russians are running the same script in the west of Ukraine. They are not as far along but the denial of resupply is still pretty advanced.

        The Russians are starving the Ukies out, war-making-wise.

        And as I said, not expending more effort to take the Ukies out faster (which results in more non-combatant deaths and more killing of soldiers, some of whom might surrender if given the chance, although I am also sure Russia has plenty for them to do on its gulags if not) leaves more time for the blowback from Russian sanctions to hurt the West. That will bite starting in mid-April and get worse in May.

        The US public won’t tolerate gas over $6 a gallon and that is baked in unless we back down.

  28. Mikerw0

    I think the most important point is that Putin and Xi are weakening the US on multiple fronts. The short term pain imposed on Russia is relatively small. With elections looming in the US and the prospects of greater and expanded inflation the likelihood of continued political volatility go up. Same is true in the UK.

    1. Carolinian

      I like Alastair Crooke but think articles like this are too apocalyptic and give too much credit to Zelinsky’s schtick. Perhaps the surprising thing about the first cold war is that we didn’t have a nuclear exchange. Somehow I don’t believe media hysteria is enough to get us there.

  29. Mikel

    “Ukraine has to look like it has exhausted its options….”
    Is that another way of saying they have to at least by some more weapons?

    1. jo6pac

      if he goes by train he might make there but he would probably be killed on the way back by joe b. Nazi. Then blame who else but Russia. Z needs find a safe as possible hiding spot until the Russian arrive to protect him.

    2. super extra

      I wondered when the Europe trip was announced if they would try some absolutely stupid and ham-handed attempt at trying to broker a negotiated settlement to attempt to close this issue up in the western media before it gets too close to the personal corruption links to various congresscritters’ families, including Biden’s. Like the last week of Ze’s hints at ‘compromise’ (which are also most of Russia’s demands) might be the outline of this ‘settlement’. Scare quotes are because I think it will not be enough to roll things back either to status quo ante ex ukraine, or enough to placate the Russians or the Ukr hardliners. It might (with the application of force to the domestic propagandists) be enough to climb down under the guise of a Biden ‘victory’.

  30. jo6pac

    I beleive Ritter is right. I think the Russians are about 4 weeks away from wrapping this up but at the same time like Ritter points out they need to drag it out until there is no fight left in ukraine.

    Ives I’ve read the mines were placed by ukraine and some have now broken away from the moorings. One was found a beach and another hit ship leaving harbor but was told by the Russian Navy the safest thing to do was return to port which they did. The Russian Navy watch’s over this closely I’m sure and only find and remove them when this is over.

    I have close friend who believe Russia wants to build their old empire back and Amerika is in the right. NATO is only a defense unit. Then point out every nato offensive time then been used, no that not true. My friend is twice wounded Nam Vet and some how listening to npr and pbs all these years has truly changed him.

  31. ChrisRUEcon

    Thanks for this!

    With respect to:

    “Upon further reflection, this article is a very good thing. It depicts conceding to one of Russia’s central demands as somehow a partial failure by Russia. That look[s] like the West trying to face save when it has to relent.”

    Too right! Just like:

    “Venezuelan Migrants Are Coming Home as Maduro Embraces Capitalism” … LOL

    So just because “the Biden administration sent an envoy to Caracas this weekend to negotiate a possible lifting of the sanctions” – because they screwed up with Ukraine saber-rattling and sanctions – it’s a big “win” for capitalism.

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      I don’t think Zelensky stays alive if he stays in Ukraine … the move to ban parties and consolidate lifts the veil on any erstwhile “democratic” intentions. I think he’s probably already in Poland, and he should probably stay there.

  32. Susan the other

    Germany. Germany has much in common with Ukraine. They are both nations without sovereignty. One “in” the West and one up for grabs. If the West divests itself from any connection with Ukraine it puts up a barrier to the Eurasian economic organization. That seems necessary for the dollar system to survive. At least survive until it can evolve. If Ukraine isn’t booted out it will drag us into a competition for the best trading system and we will lose. The dollar has been overextended for decades. Now, China and Russia are construing a way out for the US. It looks like a bloody battle, but I’m beginning to think it is going according to plan. Germany, in the end will import Russian oil, paying in roubles, that comes from a Pipeline for Peace that runs through Ukraine. But it will be a separation of the soul of the Eurasian continent. A Russian pipeline will probably support peace on both sides of this issue and create an oil firewall as a treaty. It’s almost like it isn’t a war about oil but about the archaic structure of NATO; it is a war to establish the limits of a new multilateralism. Because the dollar has reached its own limits as an international currency and a new SDR system for Eurasia will create stability. So it’s interesting to think that the thing that is being resolved here is not oil, or trade, or the leadership of NATO, but the inability of the dollar to extend itself any further. If it could have, it would have. Maybe. And to that end we are already seeing a crackdown on international finance.

  33. Chops

    “we have yet to hear of domestic shortages.”

    A simple search of recent news certainly mentions them.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The onus is on you to provide links. The failure to do so suggests the sourcing is not high quality.

      Readers in Russia say they don’t see evidence of them, save of high end Western goods that sold out right after the sanctions were imposed. Even stockpiling items like sugar and some sort of grain (buckwheat? bulgur?) were resupplied after some panic buying.

      Pharmaceuticals are still being supplied. As I have said repeatedly, the most urgent item from the West seems to be car parts. Shortages have not hit yet and there are work arounds but that could bite as soon as in a couple of months.

  34. KFritz

    In the video, does Ritter say whether he believes Putin’s Russia planned its campaign of attrition, or whether it’s an adaptation? Did they believe they could defeat the Ukrainians quickly and leave, or was that their “wish list,” with the “grinding” strategy as a backup?

  35. VietnamVet

    I admit to cognitive bias and confusion from the fog of war. But, there is no way the Kremlin would start a war with a plan that achieves none of its objectives after 26 days and killed thousands of its troops already. Yes, since 2014, a civil war between ethnic Russians and Western Ukrainians has been underway on Russia’s border with the West’s aiding and abetting it to destabilize Russia in order for western corporations to loot its resources.

    A war of attrition is always plan B. At times, counting all the dead bodies does not work if the opponent society survives, reproduces new generations of fighters, and is resupplied from outside, i.e. Vietnam and Afghanistan. 200,000 Russian troops are way too few to pacify all of Ukraine. The USA failed in Iraq which is roughly the same size with around 500,000 troops; not the million men army that General Eric Shinseki said was required. Russia must call up its reserves, hire mercenaries, and go on a war footing to replenish the already deplete military supplies while being sanctioned by the West.

    Last century, the Red Army didn’t have their enemies driving convoys at 75 mph on expressways across Poland to the border resupplying the Ukrainian resistance fighters with weapons, medicine, and vehicles including MANPADS that limit close air support and Javelins that halted the initial tank blitzkrieg. If supported, ethnic Ukrainians will fight on. By invading Ukraine in the first place, this indicates that the Kremlin will use nuclear weapons if the war threatens to destroy the Russian State.

    The real question is how fast the Western Empire collapses due to the sanctions, supply disruptions, and economic collapse from hyperinflation and the lack of workers due to food shortages, illness, and early deaths. Or, will a nuclear holocaust destroy the world first? The Kremlin could have waited to invade. They didn’t. They wanted to see the fall of their enemies and reflect in the glory.

    The only way now to avoid the adverse consequences of the war is a peace treaty that partitions Ukraine into East and West with the Dnieper River as the DMZ between both nations.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Have you forgotten what Russia’s objectives were? They don’t want to hold territory.

      Denazification was never going to happen quickly. Nor was demilitarization. Nor was getting the West to accept “no NATO” in Ukraine.

      You are also ignoring that Russia could have easily won a conventional war quickly by flattening Ukraine’s cities. They have instead chosen to sacrifice Russian soldiers to reduce civilian casualties.

      And it does not appear that Russia has lost “thousands”. Russia says they’ve lost 1000 v. Ukraine saying they lost >6000 of their own troops. Ritter says that armies, certainly the Russians, report their own losses accurately, it’s the other side’s they exaggerate.

      Alexander Mercouris stresses that Russians have a Clausewitzian view of war, that they see it as an adjunct to politics. And in his latest video, he reads at some length from an FT story that I need to track down (since it’s paywalled, Mercouris is the more accessible source), from WESTERN sources that Russia has lost 1,300 troops v. Ukraine losing 10% of its military. If you work from Ritter’s figures of a bit over 200,000 regulars, this is 20,000 dead, a vastly worse loss ratio that Ritter posited, and he already depicted the Russians as inflicting extremely heavy losses at his estimated 6:1 ratio. In an earlier video, Ritter claimed that if one side is inflicting losses on the other at a mere 1:1.2 or 1:1.4 ratio, it will prevail (of course, he assumes similarly large armies, but Russia is vastly larger than Ukraine to begin with…)

      See starting at about 14:00

      Mercouris points out that Russia is using the exact same approach it did in Syria, of targeting sources of supply, and starving out the troops from a warmaking capacity standpoint. He returns to the FT, which remarkably admits that Western analysts have been working only with Ukraine-sourced information and it may be biased. The pink paper quotes a Western defense official saying he has seen no change in the Russian plans over the course of the war.

      He finally adds, again based on the FT, that the Russian objective, following Clausewitzing principles (AM does a happy dance here) is out to capture/destroy Ukraine’s military, that that per Clausewitz is a faster path to victory than capturing cities.

      Russia may have decided that given the West’s refusal to negotiate that steady prosecution of the war is just fine. It does not appear that they have moved more troops into Urkaine even though by all accounts they have more across the border. That is not a classic war of attrition since they are not being ground down.

      Ritter also hints that Russian capturing Ukrainians smaller bites at a time makes for better processing of soldiers for neoNazis v. not, which is a prime Russian objective.

      It would have made for better appearances if Russia has been able to encircle Kiev early on and give a clear picture of the inevitability of Russian success. But it’s not clear that even that would have been reported all that accurately, given the huge and consistent fakery we’ve seen from Ukraine.

      In other words, you act as if the way things are playing out is a terrible shortfall for Russia, when even at least one Western official disagrees. And regardless, even if Russia has had to adapt, it’s not at all clear that this is a bad outcome for Russia. A 6:1 or 20:1 loss ratio in favor of Russia is simply catastrophic for Ukraine, and the Russians have to have a pretty good handle on that for internal purposes.

      It’s not clear that a fast victory (which really would not have been attainable, Russia would then have had a very long denazification mopping up operation) would have made any difference in how quickly the US will accept the new reality….which is not quickly at all. The Ukraine Army needs to be finished as a fighting force for Zelensky to accept terms and not risk being assassinated by his own side.

  36. Sean

    Sorry but the data he shares is way off what everyone else is sharing.

    Kyiv independent data is probably high
    3k vehicles destroyed would be way over 1k deaths.

    Oryx claims photographic confirmation on everything

    1600+ vehicles lossed. 800 destroyed. Which should still imply far more casualties.

    What is your basis that your guy is correct and these other guys are wrong?

    Also if Zelensky makes a peace deal it would make it “legitimate”. A guy signing a contract with a gun to his head isn’t considered a legitimate contract in western society. That line is pure propaganda. Unless we are back into a barbaric might makes right society.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, did you miss that the MSM reporting in the West is amplified Ukrainian propaganda? And that tons of it has been shown to be fake, particularly the visual part? Ukraine has been pulling stock images and videos from Israel (a Palestinian girl defying Israeli soldiers was claimed to be Ukrainian), other Middle Eastern wars, Donbass, and either attributing them as Russian action or Ukraine success when it suits their purposes.

      1. Sean

        Sure they have faked some stuff but this seems to be a huge jump and fringe view that Russia is cruising in the war.

        I don’t trust the Ukrainian data but the counts given here seem off.

        I can’t even think of the logic for why Dems would want to be faking victory at this scale instead of building up narrative and damage control.

        I also wouldn’t trust Russian data on casualties.

        I do like reading alternative viewpoints but this feels fringe so I wanted to know why you think this data is the actual correct data.

        And Russian General deaths at 5 plus a Chechen General is a lot. Supposedly around 25% of the Generals they brought into theatre. Which they wouldn’t at this level of risks if casualties are as low as you claim.

        So above you do claim you can just trust Russian data. I can understand being tired of western lying MSM media, but you really think an authoritarian state like Russia would announce their losing?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Do you have a reading comprehension problem?

          The Financial Times just published a long piece effectively saying Ukraine is losing, big time. The figures they posted on Russia’s losses are in line with Ritter’s, and the ones on Ukraine losses are way higher than the ones he cited (Ritter was using Ukraine’s reports of their own losses). That means a ratio of over 10:1.

          So the FT not only confirmed Ritter’s observation that Russia’s counts of their own deaths are accurate, they found he was being wildly charitable in similarly treating the Ukrainian reports of their own losses as accurate.

          As for the Russian general(s)’ deaths, the only confirmed one they admitted to is the one that just happened, and they reported it immediately. By contrast, the Ukrainians lied about Snake Island, about Russians targeting civilians, about Russians running out of fuel. They’ve been repeatedly caught out faking visuals. Why should we give them the benefit of an informational doubt, given their track record of dishonesty?

          The FT includes a mention that Western analysts have been relying on Ukrainian supplied information and are looking like they’ve been led astray.

          The Dems have a terrible foreign policy team. Blinken and Nuland are ideologues lacking in common sense. The Democrats were dumb enough to impose wide-ranging sanctions which will in the end hurt the US economically and strategically way way way more than Russia. And they have gotten so high on their propaganda that they can’t back down.

          “Fringe” is name calling and says you are unable to rebut the arguments made here. We are knee deep in propaganda and you can’t see it?

          Calling out serious problems in subprime and CDOs in 2007 was fringe. Many readers were grateful for getting out of the stock market then.

          Calling out the huge level of foreclosure and chain of title abuses in 2009 to 2012 was fringe.

          Saying that Greece and the Troika would not come to terms in the 2015 bailout negotiations was fringe.

          Raising alarms about Covid in January 2019 as having the potential to become a global pandemic unless we cut off travel with China until it was contained was fringe.

          Demonstrating that the Covid vaccines were not sterilizing and would not prevent transmission was fringe.

          Go read sites that are more in line with your cloistered beliefs. You make clear you only like orthodoxy.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      See the Mercouris video linked above, starting at 14:00. The Financial Times supports my contention, not yours.

      The West has put Zelensky on a pedestal. He’s the legitimate leader of Ukraine per all the splashy PR despite his having shut down all other parties. If someone loses a war, they surrender or they are garrisoned. That’s how it works. Letting Zelensky negotiate a peace is face saving for the West compared to that.

      I suggest you bone up on the history of war, since it seems not to be a strong point of yours.

      1. Sean

        You are talking pre 1950’s war. Might makes Right. I don’t disagree with that’s but that’s from our barbaric past.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You seriously believe what you just wrote? This is delusional.

          Were you asleep during the War in Iraq, and our nation-breaking exercises all over the Middle East?

    3. The Rev Kev

      Re your last point, Zelensky has said that if there is a peace treaty, that it would have to be put to a referendum. Apart from the fact that millions of Ukrainians are internally displaced, millions more are spread across European nations and even further afield, that any results in Russian-speaking areas will be disputed, etc. this sounds like a non-starter of an idea. But for a way for Zelenski to throw a spanner into any agreement reached so that it can be broken, well, I guess that the Ukraine has not yet run out of cannon-fodder as far as he is concerned-

  37. Skippy

    It seems many in the West have been conditioned by the Atlanticist/ME wars of the past and project those sorts of metrics/views on this military event, largely from the media presentation and etymological word bingo before being put through a syntax blender. What happened to the collateral damage, kinetic systems, embedded journalists, and all that other stuff about terrorists and colour alert levels for heightened anxiety at the dinner table. I can only imagine the effort it takes for the media not to step on it in shaping viewers views when the recent past could be held under their noses.

    What happens when someone does something completely different, like securing a border, rather than projecting force[tm] or deploying military assets thousands of miles away on the premise of preemptive strike[tm].

    Not to mention the level of sanctions means the market will just set up new lines of information and move on, so the shelf life and effect of them is limited. On that note it seems the Chinese and the Russians are a bit more inclined to long term outcomes and not just this years investor expectations.

    For my own worthless two bits it been interesting to watch the Russians very methodological approach, which is at the same time adaptive compared to the recent Western past of throw the kitchen sink at it, build little forts everywhere to run patrols out of and then wonder why no one wants the coke and a smile shtick. BTW agree with the perspective of some here that the more this event drags out plays badly for the West more than the East – indoctrinated consumers having their cheese rations cut in half will start behaving badly and that pump has been primed.

    PS. @VietnamVet … hope your proximity after the move is not unsettling you.

  38. alex-hoch3

    Sie können am besten den Gegenteil vom was die Medien erzählen, dann liegen Sie richtig.
    Wem zu Nutzen ist, wer profitiert davon? Das ist die Frage die zuerst kommen soll…
    Wem gehören die Medien? …

    1. orlbucfan

      Please translate into English. There are Americans like myself who HATE the fact that we were not allowed/or encouraged to be bi/multi-lingual.

  39. Cetra Ess

    I was just reading ISW’s release today saying that the Kremlin has defined “denazification” for the first time as part of its latest demands – as removal of all Ukrainian laws which discriminate against Russians. This is based on Tass.

    “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defined the “denazification” of Ukraine as the abolition of any laws that discriminate against Russian-speaking populations on March 18—the first time a senior Kremlin official has publicly stated the Kremlin’s definition of Ukrainian “denazification.”[2] “

    This is the first I’ve seen of this anywhere. If true, it’s very different from what many of us thought “denazification” meant, which has been more along the lines of rounding up neo-nazis.

    And, if accurate, the Russian demands thus far are: 1) Neutrality, no NATO membership, 2) No NATO weapons, 3) No laws which discriminate against Russians. Since the Ukrainians have already conceded to 1), it’s the other two they’re not agreeing to, which is…..remarkable.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think they still are going to kill or take to a gulag every soldier they find with Nazi tattoos. But they can’t say that part out loud. The Azov Battalion types carry themselves as if they fight to the death, so ironically that provides some cover.

      Thanks for the update.

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