Ukraine War Highlights Tensions in Putin’s Objectives. Will He Win the War and Lose the Peace?

[Reader note: this post launched just before 7:00 EST but was not complete because reasons. Please come back at 8:00, or you can start to speculate in comments and see if you beat me to the punch time-wise!]

Russia embarked on a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, catching just about everyone by surprise.1 Despite Western politicians and the press attempting to depict Russia as going slowly and/or doing poorly, it’s already clear a mere week in Russia will prevail. Russia had only deployed a small portion of its available forces. It appears to have been taking more casualties to reduce civilian deaths. It has left the power, the Internet, and even the cell phone system up even though that helped the Ukrainian army, presumably to reduce civilian panic and hardship. So far, it has also avoided civilian targets and infrastructure (“avoided” does not mean “completely spared”; something that surgical isn’t feasible).

Russia still has to subdue important population centers, such as Kiev, Mariupol, Odessa. While the exact conditions on the ground are disputed, Russia appears to have encircled or at least terminally tied down the bulk of the Ukrainian army in Donbass, making it impossible to relieve Kiev. Depending on who you trust, Kiev is largely or entirely encircled. Ditto Mariupol and Odessa. Russia is also reported to be staging an amphibious assault on Odessa.

We are now hitting the point where Putin will be forced to make tradeoffs among his stated aims, and those will play a significant role in whether Russia can win the peace. Remember Russia does not want to have to occupy or control Ukraine; that’s a big motivator in trying to leave it as intact as possible. The less that is broken in a war, the more feasible it is to restore a reasonable approximation of status quo ante from the perspective of ordinary people. The US of course hopes for the reverse: for Russia to become bogged down militarily, such as not being able to leave because there are enough nasty insurgents to be able to pose a threat to Russia.

Recall Putin’s stated aims:2

“We will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine.”

“It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force.”

You probably worked out that those are actually three objectives.

The demilitarize part presumably means at least taking out airbases, large weapons systems, large weapons caches. There are additional not verified claims that Ukraine had 12 Level 4 bioweapons labs that Russia has secured. Russia has also secured most and perhaps all of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors.

It might seem impossible or impractical to keep dual-use assets, like the reactors that can provide fissionable materiel, “demilitarized”. But the Ukrainians and Russians already established a joint operation at Chernobyl.

Russell Bentley, a Texan who is fighting in Donbass with the independence forces (don’t even ask) and a shameless Russia booster, nevertheless provides on the ground intel and does appear to take care to sort out what he has seen, what he has heard from Russian units elsewhere and informed rumors. One informed rumor has it that Russia will cede Ukraine in the northwest (ex of course Kiev) to help the US maintain that it has successfully held off a full Russian takeover.

Denazify also seems like a tall order even though the hard core Nazis are estimated to represent a maximum of 2% of the population. However, they are working hard at and will likely have at least some success in denying Russia a win that is relatively low cost to civilians. Given the Russian desire to minimize civilian deaths so as not to produce a resentful neighbor and make an easy case for insurgents, the Ukrainian army is reported to be have moved large weapons into residential areas, making it hard for Russians to eliminate them without also killing civilians and wrecking housing. Bentley and others report that that tactic has been taken further in Mariupol, where civilians who attempt to flee the city are allegedly being killed by the Azov Battalion.

In other words, even before you get to the question of how to identify and round up the neoNazis, there’s an even more immediate problem of how to wrest control of Ukraine from the key pockets they control without creating the conditions for engineering a buffer state government that knows its place.

Putin has every reason to be willing to let Zelensky stay if he accepts that Ukraine needs to stay defanged and not hostile to Russia. Even if Zelensky were that, erm, flexible, he’d have to know that the West would regard that as unacceptable and his days would likely be numbered.

While it may seem a bridge too far to believe that Russia can have elections in the south-eastern 2/3 of Ukraine go more or less its way without interference, our Brexit brain trust, which has more feel in their bones for the way European borders have shifted over time regard it as possible, even if not seeming likely at this juncture. As PlutoniumKun:

From what I can see, Russia is slowly but surely winning. The absence of Russian drone or gun cam footage means we can’t get a real handle on Ukraine losses, but I suspect that they are unsustainable. No amount of Javelins3 can make up for the loss of armour, artillery and air support. This is still an old fashioned sort of war. Its not impossible that the Ukrainian military high command may make the decision for the government that it can’t keep fighting. Most of Ukraine is not suitable for guerrilla warfare, its too flat and open. Once the main Ukrainian army is encircled east of the Dneiper, its curtains for them, their only resort would be urban warfare. And unless they’ve been asleep the last decade, they would know that the Russians are very good at urban warfare. Bear in mind that the wide open boulevards of former Soviet Cities were designed specifically to make urban guerrilla defence difficult (which shows of course that Stalin feared his own people more than invaders).

Europe will then have a choice to make. It can continue to try to support Kviv, and risk having a Yugoslavia on its doorstep with millions of refugees (I’m pretty sure the Washington neocons would see this as a success) along with the prospect of massive power shortages in 2023, or it can take the pragmatic route and go for a face saving deal, which I suspect would be fine by Putin. With the exception of the UK, I suspect that nearly all European leaders would prefer the latter. As usual, the retreat will be covered in all sorts of fudge and smoke and mirrors.

And David:

As I said, I’m not sure that the Russians want Ukrainian territory as such. A demilitarised Ukraine would suit them very well, even if Russian troops would probably be stationed there under some pretext in small numbers. But there would be no point in a guerilla war, because the targets would not be there, and the West would be obliged to try to stir Ukrainians up against each other.

So then the question is what the US will accept. I’m not sure how it can back down. But Biden completely undercut his ability to push Europeans around by stating the US would not provide troops to support ground combat in Eastern Europe. So the French and Germans are supposed to serve as cannon fodder when they tried to avoid confrontation with Russia, such as opposing the NATO enlargement in 2008 to include Georgia and Ukraine, and by their repeated failed efforts to implement the Minsk Protocol.

As we’ve pointed out, Russia has held back from economic retaliation, such as seizing Western assets in Russia, choking commodities supplies, and violating patents. But the current sanctions are inflicting pain and weakening Putin’s position, although not necessarily in the way the Western press portrays. Readers closer to Russia report that citizens, particularly now the pretty large middle class, are freaked out by the collapse of the rouble. But even more important, many have been directly whacked by the increase in interest rates to 20%. Many if not most mortgages are floating rate. And vlade reports that new mortgages are not being written, so home sales are presumably frozen.

So if Western economic sanctions aren’t unwound soon, which seems extremely unlikely, Putin will lose backing among the more prosperous segments of Russian society. How that plays out remains to be seen.


1 Despite the Western press crying “wolf” twice about date-certain Russian invasion, the fact that the Russians established control of airspace quickly, knocked out the military’s communications infrastructure, and even moved rapidly to secure Chernobyl, among other things, says that even though the West gave all the appearances of expecting a serious attack, they managed not to prepare adequately for it. Or to put it more cynically, the US may not have cared if the Ukrainians did badly in the face of a full bore assault. They may have assumed the Russians would get mired either during the campaign or its aftermath.

2 Not a confident look for the West that access to is still blocked. Am embedding the two key Putin speeches, on the evening of February 21 (which I have mistakenly been referring to as February 22 since that’s when it was reported here, and February 24).

3 Not only has there been some doubt about how useful the Javelins sent in during January could be, given the need for training, they could be counterproductive. Given conditions on the ground, Russia may wind up seizing them.

00 Putin Address 2-21
00 Putin Address 2-24
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      1. liam

        That’s funny. It works for me ok. But you might need to refresh the page after clicking on it. I use nitter as I refuse to sign up to twitter, and it keeps blocking me unless I do. In any case it sometimes appears as a white screen. Refreshing/reloading the page will resolve that.

      2. liam

        That’s odd Massinissa. It works for me. In any case, you’ll find it here also.

        Regarding the video in the link, (which I probably posted far too early – sorry Yves): It shows the leader of the AfD, laying out to the Bundestag the truth of the situation. It’s an interesting data point, and shows how warped things are that it’s the far right in Germany that can see what a mess has been made and is speaking the most reason.

        There’s a lot of economic damage coming if Europe in particular doesn’t calm down a bit. I don’t think the populations of Europe are even close to being willing to accept that. Politicians who speak reason will be listened to, even if they are the AfD.

    1. JohnM_inMN

      Thank you for this. Since twitter no longer lets me scroll, I thought I was going to have to break down and join. Now I just need to replace twitter bookmarks with niter.

      1. BillC

        John, if your scrolling is blocked by a pop-up dialog that gives you only the choice between logging in or signing up — without the common “X” to dismiss that dialog — I finally found a bypass. Just click the “sign up” option and dismiss THAT dialog. Gets me back to the initial and usual scrollable Twitter display.

        In any case, thanks to Liam for the heads-up on nitter!

  1. Samuel Conner

    Russian restraint, for example in use of its overwhelming air power advantage, is being increasingly remarked in the press I encounter.

    US retired military talking heads are characterizing this as an incomprehensible blunder; evidently they regard their own history of nation-breaking as ‘best practice’ — and it may be from the narrow and short-term perspective of rapidly ‘winning the (kinetic) war.’ But US keeps losing the subsequent peace.

    Maybe the Russians have been watching US and learning.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think its more a case that the Russians have learned from their own previous experiences, particularly in the second Chechen War and in Syria. Avoiding ‘shock and awe’ and instead ratcheting up pressure and destruction is a way of providing a carrot to those willing to do a deal or surrender relatively quickly. The stick involves thermobaric warheads.

      1. Après-moi

        Writing as someone, who is from the area (related to all sides, including EU) – Russians did not have to learn from Chechnia. There are several reasons why Rus army is sparing civilians (nothing to do with Ch.): one, there is no need to kill civilians, since many are not actually enemies and it would not help the military action anyway; two, if infrastructure is destroyed, it has to be rebuilt at high cost (why do it?); three, the Rus army has a fundamentally different approach to war (no shock and awe, remember Mosul or Rakka?); and four, “Russians and Ukrainians are one nation, I will never give that up,” he stressed (i.e., Putin).
        The part about being one nation may be hard for some to grasp, but believe me… it is a firmly held view by many in the region. The ol’ Kievskaia Rus was a precursor to today’s Russia – the one difference is that the land that is today Ukraine (minus NovoRossia, Crimea) was over the centuries swept up by Mongols (1238 AD), Poles, Lithuanians, Swedes, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians – and god knows what else. People had to learn to go with the prevailing winds.

          1. Martin Davis

            Thanks for that. He really did summarise the position as you say, comprehensively and succinctly.

    2. The Rev Kev

      US military doctrine for decades has been to destroy civilian infrastructure such as water supplies, telecommunications, electricity grids and sewerage networks to encourage rampant diseases and misery for the civilians. Also, this would result in nice juicy contracts for American corporations to rebuild that infrastructure after the fighting was over. In Fallujah, US snipers stationed themselves atop hospitals and would shoot at civilians making their way to those hospitals for treatment and they would also shoot up ambulances approaching the hospital with wounded as well. Why yes, they are international war crimes by definition but did any nation sanction them for any of this? I think that the Russians saw the result of all this and said nyet because it only resulted in hatred and bitterness.

      1. Oh

        And when the patients/ambulances reached the hospital it was time to bomb the hospital. Great strategy!
        In Iraq the contracts were to rebuild the the infrastructure but they got paid even if they didn’t.

      2. tegnost

        this is how I see it. US war policy is shock and awe, disrupt (this is a very american theme, and it’s abusive when it’s done both inside the US and as foreign policy), break things to the extent that they can be reconstructed in the accepted globalist manner (which does in fact mean “take over the world”, and in our (US) case control though finance and patents). Plus Exceptional! Harvard! Goldman Sachs!, you get the idea, it’s our way or smoking rubble. This is what these crazies want to do to Russia, thus conflict… and Russia may not adhere to this way of doing business.

        1. Susan the other

          In Syria it looked like we were excavating a pipeline path by bombing everything to rubble. Especially Allepo. I remember reading stg. about the Germans’ tactic in WW1 as well – much the same thing was planned. They wanted to bring oil to Europe via Aleppo. I think there is an old RR line through that territory. So it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that we had something similar in mind. If you anticipate counterinsurgencies and resistance it’s probably best to just bomb it “back to the stone age” as they say. But Russia seems to want to establish cooperation in eastern Ukraine. With Russia it is a political maneuver to cause as little damage as possible. They are looking much farther into the future.

          1. Andy

            In Syria it looked like we were excavating a pipeline path by bombing everything to rubble. Especially Allepo.

            The US never bombed Aleppo (Syria and Russia did). We did, with some help from our lackeys UK and France, flatten Raqqa though. Patrick Cockburn wrote an excellent article about it.

            “I visited it earlier in the year and have never seen such destruction. There are districts of Mosul, Damascus and Aleppo that are as bad, but here the whole city has gone.”

    3. Tor User

      Some of the larger Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems are still operational. In addition it appears Ukraine has received another few hundred man-portable anti-aircraft weapons. It also possible Ukraine got some smaller vehicle mounted anti-aircraft systems which would be a step above the man-pads.

      Thus the Russians are likely to be not yet willing to risk too many aircraft as they continue to grind down the Ukraine forces.

    4. Daniele

      You’ve heard this tune before:

      How many wedding parties
      can a drone vaporize,
      before, before a nation is free?
      How many millions must die
      to show, advantages of liberty?

      How many trillions must be spent,
      before a dictator is bent?
      The answer my friend
      is blowin’ in the wind
      the answer in blowin’ in the wind.

      Those sneaky Rooskies are showing incredible restraint.
      Who knows what they are up to, allowing citizens to reveal
      their location with cell phones, to watch confusing TV,
      to cook food and maybe just let their country be occupied?

    5. clarky90

      This lecture was given in the last 24 hours. Current information….

      War in Ukraine: A Historical View

      Dr.Brovkin is a Russian-born American historian, former Associate Professor of Soviet History at Harvard University.

      “…. the factor of US attempts to bring Ukraine into NATO after the Maidan revolution and the secession of Donbas is seen in the context of the nationalist transformation of the Maidan revolution into a neo-Nazi nationalist regime, that banned the Russian language, even in Russian speaking areas. And finally, I discuss Putin’s ultimatum to the West, its rejection, and the path to war.”

    6. KFritz

      Sorry to be late to the party, but…I think there’s a remote possibility–repeat, remote–that the Russians are keeping their planes mostly grounded to avoid any airspace incident that might trigger a wider conflict. They can achieve their objectives anyway, so why take the chance?

  2. farmboy

    “I expect Russia to withdraw this week. I can’t imagine that it has any intention of expending resources and lives on occupation. Its first task was to stop the attack on the Russian-speaking eastern provinces and to protect Crimea. Its second task was to wipe out the neo-Nazi military forces, capturing their leaders if possible and bringing them to trial for war crimes — and then proceeding up the ladder to their U.S. sponsors, NED etc.”

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The way the Russians are setting up near Odessa and around Kyiv show clearly they intend at least several weeks worth of military pressure (unless of course Kyiv concedes defeat rapidly, and this seems unlikely so far). It seems pretty clear that they have an objective of fully securing the Azov/Black Sea coast and all crossing points on the Dneiper as a minimum. Even if they don’t move in on the big cities, its hard not to see this taking several weeks.

      A rapid withdrawal would be extremely difficult, not least because it would create local power vacuums that may well allow local militias (including various local mafias and neo-Nazi groups) to emerge from the shadows.

      These situations have a habit of going out of everyones control.

      1. Après-moi

        This is taken out of your comment in the article: ” Bear in mind that the wide open boulevards of former Soviet Cities were designed specifically to make urban guerrilla defence difficult (which shows of course that Stalin feared his own people more than invaders).”
        Here is a more accurate way to look at this: most Russian cities and towns were built well before Stalin (some reflecting the imperial majesty of the czar). So, while it may be fashionable to bash Stalin at any opportunity one gets, the above opinion is not – shall we say – accurate, given the timing. Just thought that this needed to be cleared up.
        As for Yugoslavia – Russia had fears that the west was preparing the fate of Y. for it. Remember when PM Primakov turned his plane around, after hearing of Nato bombing of Y. Was on the way to DC, but went straight back to Moscow.
        Bottom line: what we’re seeing now was building up for a VERY, VERY long time.

        1. Darthbobber

          The “wide open boulevards of Soviet cities” seems more like a description of the famous redesign of 2nd empire Paris.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Were the wide-open boulevards of pre-Soviet Cities built in admiration of the wide-open boulevards of some major French cities?

  3. PlutoniumKun

    The conflict on the ground seems to be going pretty well for Russia so far – the best units of the Ukrainians seem to be close to complete encirclement in eastern Ukraine.

    Its important to note of course that things looked pretty rosy at this stage in Iraq II and Afghanistan for the US too. Gaining a quick victory over an inferior enemy in these circumstances is the easy bit. Its what comes later thats proven very hard.

    Only the Russians know what they intend to do in the coming weeks. Much of course depends on the willingness of the Ukrainian government to fight to the last molotov cocktail (or a hope of dragging their neighbours in), or whether they’ll take the pragmatic way out and do a deal. I suspect the US is hoping for the former, the rest of Europe the latter.

    The nightmare scenario is that hidden stresses within the country breaks it up into a chaotic series of local conflicts out of the control of either Kviv or Moscow, fueled of course by all the weapons stupidly handed out by the government, aided by the west. Russia simply doesn’t have the manpower to tamp down multiple conflicts over an area as big as the Ukraine.

    1. Ignacio

      Yep, I guess an overwhelming majority of Ukranians aren’t those crazy nationalist neo-nazis that could turn whatever goes into the nightmare scenario, but, can these few make anything impossible?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        My armchair general guess is that based on Russias past experiences in Syria and Chechnya the Russians believe that the majority of opponents can be pressured/persuaded/bribed into surrendering or changing sides. Some of the most impressive advances in Syria occurred because weeks of intensive negotiations meant that local warlords simply switched sides before a major advance.

        In simple terms, while the US tries to sort people into ‘who is with us, who is against us’, the Russians sort people into ‘who can be persuaded to surrender’, and ‘who will fight to the last man’.

        The strategy would be to use the initial shock to sort out the two elements. Once they work out who will surrender, and who they won’t, they’ll go for all out assault on the latter. The danger of this approach is that some elements may simply go underground, and wait for an opportunity to strike back.

        1. Andy

          My armchair general guess is that based on Russias past experiences in Syria and Chechnya the Russians believe that the majority of opponents can be pressured/persuaded/bribed into surrendering or changing sides.

          The Syrian government used this method quite a bit in their fight against Islamist militias. They let rebel fighters go back home to their families if they agreed to lay down their arms and stop fighting government forces (and attend “de-radicalization” classes). Many of the fighters were defectors from the Syrian Arab Army or had previously been conscripted for mandatory military service and they were able to get a number of them to change sides. RT even made a documentary about this.

          I suspect the Syrians learned this from the Russians as I can’t recall them doing it before Russia became involved in the conflict.

      2. Polar Socialist

        Well, there are militias from Luhansk and Donetsk currently “liberating” their regions from 8 years of “occupation”. And these people do have family and relatives everywhere in Eastern Ukraine from Kherson to Kharkov. Many mayors are already integrating their cities into the administration of the republics – if not for other reasons than to gain access to the humanitarian aid (food and water) Russia (Communist Party of RF even has it’s own organization for this) is providing – as it has been doing for years.

        From history we can also see, that Ukraine has been occupied, reorganized, split and remolded multiple times. And usually the occupier has been able to normalize the situation. I still assume most Ukrainians would be at ease with good relations to both Russia and the West, and if given security services not totally infiltrated by extra-nationalist elements will be quite able to police the extremists by themselves.

    2. Tor User

      The best units of the Ukrainian army where not all located on the line of contact.

      Several of them have been identified as fighting around Kyiv. For example, at that airport where the Russians tried to create an airhead on the first day.

  4. Louis Fyne

    Putin has been cancelled, Russia has been cancelled by the US, EU, UK.

    Even after a cease fire Russia will be so demonized that Putin will know that the moment that shooting stops, every Western intel service will be pouring weapons and mercenaries into Ukraine.

    Even if Putin was 100% honest in saying that Russia does not want to occupy Ukraine, Russian troops will have to stay behind and occupy some “borderland” in Ukraine.

    Democrats hold the White House until 2024, vonder Leyden is EU President to 2024.

    There is no real anti-war movement in the West.

    Amazing that any tiny chance of the US being anti-war rests on Republicans winning congress in november

    1. Carolinian

      Aren’t the Republicans just as rabid on this as the Dems? (Although I don’t think Trump would have provoked the Russians into an invasion).

      As for Ukraine remilitarizing, the Russians may withdraw but cookies in the square will be over. And it seems likely the Russians will closely monitor what goes into and out of the country. They may keep control of the nuclear reactors.

      And one pro Russian commentator has said that they no longer worry about Nordstream 2–built to bypass Ukraine–if they once again have Ukraine or at least its pipeline. It’s hard to imagine how anything in Ukraine will be the same.

      Finally I don’t think discussions about this including from people like Craig Murray talk nearly enough about how messed up Ukraine was before the invasion. It’s telling that the Ukrainians are letting women and children flee but are press ganging the men into defending whether they want to or not. If the corrupt oligarchs who run the place want to hold an entire populace hostage as human shields then what to do? This is surely Putin’s biggest problem.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        One close watcher of Republicans noted that there are about six noisy Republican hawks who always call for more war, all the time. However, she opines that most Republicans know that war is not popular and they want to be re-elected.

        A confirmation of her theory is that the Republican reply to the SOTU didn’t warmonger. Instead it hammered on inflation, schools, and policing.

        1. nippersdad

          They have been harping on “energy independence” for at least a couple of years now, so prolonging of the war in Ukraine would help them to make that case. As we speak Murkowski is sending in a bill to stop Russian oil imports, and is saying that the pain would be worth it.

          If they are willing to chance a recession, also not popular, just so that the North Slope can be opened up then they are capable of anything.

          1. Screwball

            Any of these pukes are capable of anything because they all suck.

            Driving home from class today I noticed our small town in a red state (Ohio)now has $3.69 gas. That’s not popular, but I don’t think they care. I remember in 2008 when gas hit almost $4 bucks a gallon here how people were very very unhappy. The girls at the gas station were scared because so many people were taking their anger out on them (not their fault, but that’s people). It’s going to happen again.

            Combine the gas with prices rising on so many other things and the forward outlook doesn’t look good, no matter what Joe had to say a few days ago.

            When people get desperate….

            1. Petter

              Here in Norway gas is approaching 10$ a gallon. Oh, just read that natural gas is at an equivalent of 360$ a barrel of oil.

            2. juno mas

              Gas is pushing $5 a gallon here in my SoCal city. It increased 15cents a gallon in four days. As for food prices: Avos are still $2.50 ea.; lean meat (turkey/chicken) up a buck/pound. (Don’t eat red meat.). Low wage, middle-class, retirees, are all gonna be losing ground.

            3. Copeland

              Gas has been $3.69 for over a year where I live in Oregon, I’m sure its gone up recently but I rarely buy gas so I don’t monitor the price regularly.

              This does not deter all of the local males (and some of the females) from using RAM 3500’s as their daily drivers, and modifying them to make more noise & smoke and even less Miles Per Gallon.

            4. RonR

              We are paying $1.80 a liter `=$6.48 imperial/ $5.48 US gallon) & it’s going up. Port Alberni BC

          2. jimmy cc

            they all probably moved their assets into General Dynamics before anyone even thought to warn the Ukrainians.

      2. tgs

        While I have always admired Murray’s work, his claim that if you opposed the invasion of Iraq, then moral consistency demands that you condemn Russia’s operation in Ukraine is weak. There are important dis-analogies between these events. Iraq was thousands of miles from our border and not a threat to the US or our allies. Moreover, support for the Iraq invasion, such as it was, required a huge amount of outright lying.

        The regime in Kiev really is a threat to Russia and is actually on Russia’s border. The so-called ‘west’ has been warned that this is unacceptable for years – given every chance to avoid what has happened.

        1. Science Officer Smirnoff

          Preventive war requires an amazingly high standard of reason.

          Bush-Cheney into Iraq started with WMDs and disintegrated into protecting Israel, spreading democracy, etc. Putin generalizing from immediate security threats to the lost glory of Mother Russia hints at another analogy.

          Preventive war should mean, if not emergency, like justification for preemptive attack, something very immediate and irremediable by other means.

          1. lemele

            Amen. Really dudes, when is the rational of “I feel unsafe and threatened” ever satisfied? Where’s the line? What a dumb argument! I guess the answer is not until Russia has nukes in Cuba again right? Will that help Adolf Putin sleep better finally? You guys make me sick.

            1. tegnost

              This war is about US nukes on russias border and so yes, I suppose russian missiles in cuba would help putin sleep. Maybe if cuba is your concern you should write your congresscritter and complain how their actions are making that even a possibility. I’m sorry their actions (NATO’s) are making you feel unsafe and threatened.
              Here are some recipes to help you with the upset stomach


            2. Soredemos

              In the 60s it was satisfied by the US removing missiles from Turkey. Seems like a pretty sound argument to me, judging by history.

        2. Minsky

          The US needs to remember this rationale so it can invade Mexico soon. Mexico has been warned for years that the cartels are out of control, and there’s a refugee crisis on the Southern border. The cartels are well-armed and are also intertwined with the Mexican government.

          The US at least as good a case as Russia at this point.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        There was an interesting video posted here a few days ago from a former NC contributor. He mentioned he was currently in Ukraine and could state for a fact that a lot of the refugees leaving Ukraine right now were not fleeing the Russians, but were military aged men try to get the hell out before someone shoved a rifle in their hands and made them try to stop a tank. Very interesting if true.

    2. redleg

      There is no real anti-war movement in the West.

      There’s Russia’s strategic objective- a kinetic demonstration of “enough” to a USA that doesn’t understand limits or negotiation, and has effectively no internal resistance to endless war.
      Russia has to look like a competent fighting force, which is being demonstrated, only fight hard enough to win the equivalent of a split decision, and mostly leave in order to achieve the strategic objective.

      Assuming, of course, that NATO doesn’t get kinetically involved. If that happens then it’s the apocalypse that certain US bible thumpers have been praying for.

  5. Ignacio

    What a situation! If maximalist positions taken at both sides Russia might be forced to occupy most of Ukraine. Is it what the ‘west front’ likes as a way to erode Russia? Will Ukrainians be left to the desires of blocks or some sensible solution with a rapid end will be reached? Are NATO countries unanimous in their objectives? Many more questions arise…

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Ukranazis are an internal preventive to reasonableness from the Ukranormal side. The Ukranazis would have to be exterminated before the Ukranormals would be free to be reasonable, if reasonable is what they want to be. I don’t know how many Ukranazis there are in Ukraine, but however many Ukranazis there are, that is the number of people who would have to be killed. And can the Russian forces find and kill every Ukranazi without killing many Ukranormals along the way? If not, they will find the Ukranormals being just as unreasonable for Ukranormal reasons as the Ukranazis currently are for Ukranazi reasons.

  6. Pat

    I think we can be certain that the Americans did exactly the preparation they thought was necessary. Ukraine being left a bombed out disaster area was their goal. What is important to remember is they fully expected the Russians to follow their usual game plan. Which is the only weak link in their preparations.
    What was prepared was the full on media pile on complete with incendiary imagery from the past and even videos games. Similar to that clip you can find on you tube with multiple local anchors reading the exact same script with sincerity and dismay about false news, the “reporting” on the invasion of Ukraine has been remarkably similar to at times identical across the media. It has also moved remarkably quickly from scary or heart rending item to item enough that even when there has been a correction it gets buried. Many more Americans still think 13 men were massacred at Snake Island than know that every bit of that story was bull. They know everyone was given guns and prisoners released to fight for their home but not that those guns have been mostly used in gang fights and robberies.

    It took years for most Americans to realize that WMDs were a lie and that they were tricked into supporting the invasion of Iraq, and that propaganda campaign was vastly amateur compared to what we are seeing today. And this time we have most of the European press complicit in the pile on.

    Even without the Russians playing the expected role of American style invaders, I don’t know if it is possible for the truth of this unnecessary event to be understood by the public before we either have a Cold War on speed or full on world war with the daily threat of nuclear bombing. For the West, Americans and Europeans to understand their countries conspired for whatever reason to either subjugate a major nation or prod them to protect themselves before it was impossible to do so and that any damage to a sad nation no matter how corrupt can and should be laid at the feet of their leaders. To know that the failure to negotiate was not Russia’s but that of America, Britain and the EU may not happen before it is far too late.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Ukraine being left a bombed out disaster area was their goal.

      Amplify this one to 11. We only have to look at history to see that this is indeed the case:

      Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya. Failed-states-r-us!

      (Syria is still hanging in there, but large parts of the east and Idlib province certainly qualify.

      1. JBird4049

        Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos… all massively bombed by B-52s so, same old, same old thing.

    2. skippy

      “Ukraine being left a bombed out disaster area was their goal.”

      Take the money and run – ????

      1. jsn

        “Empire of Chaos”: when you just leave the husk, those with access to capital for extraction and protection can just go in and take what they want.

        See Syrian oilfields, until recently Afghan poppy fields, and that triangle where Columbia, Venezuela and Brazil meet.

        In Ukraine, the obvious goal is to try to get the Russians to occupy and subject themselves to a guerilla war sustained from the West.

  7. CG

    Yesterday, Michael Schwirtz at the New York Times tweeted out a report that the Russians are setting up a military administration in Kherson after having taken it yesterday ( Not having even imagined that the Russians would go as far as to invade Ukraine as they have and being a complete dilettante, I have no idea what the actual Russian objectives in this operation are and/or the degree to which they differ from those stated by the Russian government. However, it does seem to me that establishing military governments in cities that the Russians capture indicates plans for a long term presence, instead of this being limited to being a punitive expedition. Which brings to mind a question I have had since day 1 of this conflict, did Putin somehow forget the outcome of our escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      Iraq and Afghanistan both have a population around 40 m like Ukraine but where the median age in those countries is around 20, it’s around 40 in Ukraine. That means that in Iraq and Afghanistan around half a million young men turn 18 this year, in Ukraine it’s under 200,000. If you consider those young men as potential fighters in an insurgency you also have to consider that they have far more appealing alternative options than the average Iraqi or Afghanistani, being just one border crossing from a better life as refugees within the EU or as guest workers in Russia. Also, unlike the Americans, the occupiers in Ukraine are going to share a culture and a language with the occupiees. As regards Kiev :

      According to the 2001 census data, more than 130 nationalities and ethnic groups reside within the territory of Kyiv. Ukrainians constitute the largest ethnic group in Kyiv, and they account for 2,110,800 people, or 82.2% of the population. Russians comprise 337,300 (13.1%)

      So a great majority consider themselves Ukrainian yet when you look at language things are more complicated

      Both Ukrainian and Russian are commonly spoken in the city; approximately 75% of Kyiv’s population responded “Ukrainian” to the 2001 census question on their native language, roughly 25% responded “Russian”. According to a 2006 survey, Ukrainian is used at home by 23% of Kyivans, 52% use Russian, and 24% switch between both. In the 2003 sociological survey, when the question “What language do you use in everyday life ?” was asked, 52% said “mostly Russian”, 32% “both Russian and Ukrainian in equal measure”, 14% “mostly Ukrainian”, and 4.3% “exclusively Ukrainian”.

      In short, I don’t think the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, in which Americans were 100% and unequivocally foreign invaders in a country that was culturally incomprehensible to them, is a good analogy for Russians in Ukraine.

      1. CG

        However, as we’ve seen with groups like ISIS, you only need a few tens of thousands of men, at the very most, to make a complete mess of things. So as long as you can find a couple thousand young men who want to fight, you can make things pretty nasty in fairly short order in a country. And being bordered by NATO countries in the West, any potential insurgency will have access to the best weapons and supplies that NATO money can buy. As well as having routes by which foreign fighters can enter into the country. Which is fairly important to keep in mind since I would imagine that the existing far right in Ukraine would be the nucleus for any such insurgency, and while there aren’t many of them there are some people in the West with an ideological affinity to them who might be convinced to join in the fight.

        1. OnceWereVirologist

          I’d argue that ISIS was only the result of many years of failure in Iraq. If the Russians fire everyone with governmental experience in Ukraine, from the clerks who make payroll to the highest generals and provide no alternative job opportunities, attempt to rebuild the economy, but prove unable to restore even the basics like electricity to pre-war levels, then ten years down the track a nihilistic far-right insurgency on the ISIS model might be able to get off the ground. I could be wrong but I think far-right ideology is far less able to motivate a hopeless fight to the death than fundamentalist religious ideology.

          1. K.k

            From what I recall, an important factor in the success of IS was due to the U..S brilliant plan to completely smash and debaathify Iraqi State and its military. Bremer dismantled the Iraqi military that rendered nearly half a million men, with a range of military training and experience unemployed, armed, and pissed. It was from these ranks that provided the most experienced former generals and officers that made ISIS an effective insurgent force. Many of these men, relatively secular before the U.s invasion had spend plenty of time hunting down and fighting sunni jihadis that were causing trouble for Saddam, yet they put aside their differences and joined forces.

            1. OnceWereVirologist

              Yes, I don’t think it’s as simple a formula (lost war + foreign weapons = inevitable insurgency) as some people think.

            2. lyman alpha blob

              The US had to do that so they could then fund ISIS to fight for them in Syria. “Terrorist” one day, freedom fighter removing an “evil dictator” the next!

            3. Science Officer Smirnoff

              The Bremer attribution is key. So is the U. S. not securing the square miles of Saddam’s munitions in favor of securing the oil fields.

    2. Andrey Subbotin

      We are not complete aliens to Ukrainians. In Afghanistan 99% of soldiers could not even talk to locals. Perhaps a better analogy would be USA occupying Canada. Two peoples that have shared language and history.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Churchill once stated that “Americans and British are one people separated by a common language.”

    3. Tor User

      The French are saying Putin called Macon today. They spoke for 90 minutes. After the call the French are saying Russia intends to take over the entire Ukraine. (Doesn’t mean that they would continue to occupy it, but who knows.)

      This would seem to make Lukashenko’s map the real thing.

      1. David

        The Elysée hasn’t put out an official communiqué yet, and have given very few details of the call. It’s not clear how much is what Putin said, and how much was Macron’s interpretation.

        1. Après-moi

          Interfax published a readout of the call… 90 mins and very heated. Putin firm and unshakeable.
          De-militarization and no neo-nazis. (Using NZs for the 2014 overthrow was a particularly cynical and cruel act on the part of the west; a slap in the face to Russia, given the 20th cent history. As they say, for every action, there is a reaction.)
          H*ll, we’re talking about a place, where War and Peace is taken as a fairly recent documentary.

    4. Kouros

      It likely means doing some serious HR work. See who works in administration, police, etc., and de-Nazify it.

      Russians have a long history of doing this. this is how Stalin ended up on the top, and how the Bolsheviks ended up taking control of all the thousands of Soviets established across Russia after the February Revolution.

    5. juno mas

      Setting up a military administration in Kherson may not mean what you think. It appears that Russia wants to control access/egress to the Ukraine via water or the eastern borderland. Control these points and you control weapons inflow and commerce. The Russians will likely acquire all the land adjacent to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea for those reasons. The military administration of Kherson is likely part of that plan.

  8. j

    The hysterical proportions of the propaganda blitz defy logic unless you consider that having driven Russia and China together, the inhabitants of the DC bubble and echo chamber have awakened to the realization that they have ginned up a two front war. Even that cannot account for the level of malice in the hourly barrage of exaggeration and misinformation. Cold War I evolved into a “rule-based-order” ( I enjoyed using that phrase.) so constituted as to minimize the chance of a nuclear exchange. The unhinged reaction of this moment strikes me as being scarier than anything since 1962.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i woke up thinking about the numerous instances of incompetence and/or stupidity and/or exhaustion with various us military things over the last few years.
      running billion dollar warships aground, or into other ships, helicopters and such crashing…too tired to go look, but i remember seeing these things repeatedly.

      then there’s the nazi presence in the troops…as well as the crazy xtian blob that we never hear much about any more…
      who’s manning The Button?
      how well are they vetted for world ending delusions?

      way out here, i’m hearing(it’s at night, mostly) a LOT of big military planes, headed east.
      and seeing lots of squadrons of various helicopter gunships…headed east.
      i’ve also heard what can only be B-52’s…headed east(nothing quite sounds like those things)
      the level of such overflights is similar to the buildup before iraq 2.0.—since iraq 1.0, i’ve learned to take this as an indicator.
      (directly to my east are the bases around El Paso, as well as San Diego, ft irwin, etc far to my west)

      also, we’ve been in san antone, alot, lately for the intensive phase of the current clinical trial.
      so i’ve spent a lot of time in the truck, sitting there reading.
      many more of the big C-5’s coming into Lackland from the west…but i have no idea what that means… according to wiki, Joint Base San Antonio is mostly training, but with a “support wing”, and a lot of cyperwarfare stuff that i don’t understand.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The US brilliantly shut down the airbase in Brunswick, Maine, meant to “defend” against Russia (recall polar overflight = proximity). Nearest big base now is in South Carolina.

    2. Petter

      Here on the home front in Norway, there was an article by a defense expert stating that there was little chance that we would get into a war but recommended that everyone stock up on water, oatmeal, canned goods and iodine pills. Then read a number of pharmacy chains are out of iodine pills.
      We’re in touch with our former cleaning lady who has been back home in Poland (Lomza, close to Belarus) since the Covid outbreak and is scared sh*tless. She’s mailing us iodine pills. We’ll see if the pills get through, Customs is ridiculous here.

  9. Gerd

    I wonder what would have happened if Russia had just attacked in the Eastern regions to extend its reach into Ukraine and knockout the militias in the area? What if they had ignored Kyiv? Putin would have had some justification for that move.

    Would the west have reacted in the same way? I am sure there would have been some additional sanctions, but maybe not to the level we see now. Could Putin’s hatred of Zelensky be his Achilles heel?

    1. Carolinian

      From what I read Biden was looking at any excuse for maximum sanctions and therefore the Russians decided it didn’t enter into their decision. Indeed the whole crisis could have been avoided if Biden had simply given the Russians the security guarantees that they asked for. This, of course. you won’t read in the NY Times or Washington Post.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      My understanding of the arguments against this option is that the West would refuse to recognise those as independent States, and they wouldn’t be economically viable anyway, so Russia would have little option but to either prop them up at vast expense, or absorb them into Russia, which doesn’t solve the problem of having NATO right up to its border.

      Russias strategic objective is a line of buffer states between it and NATO. Only forcing Ukraine within its present borders to unambiguously become neutral or pro-Russian fulfils that objective.

      1. Tom Bradford

        From my armchair I think that’s the point. Just holding the eastern provinces would have allowed Zelensky and the ‘Home Rule for Ukraine Including the Bits that don’t want to be’ bloc, to move up to the western borders and cause mischief long term from there – now with even more Western support than before. Putin’s hope was that by threatening Kyiv Zelensky would come to the table and negotiate Russia’s wants as per Putin’s above statements, allowing the Russian’s to withdraw with a new reality.

        What Putin seems to have misjudged is Zelensky’s determination to fight to the penultimate Ukrainian before hopping on the plane out, to bask in more applause from the West than his career as actor and comedian ever earned him.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Kiev is encircled. The conclusion is a given. It will fall.

          The only open question is what means Russia uses. Does it sit pat and starve them out, which might take a week, two tops? Or does it go in and/or bomb the city to speed up the process?

      2. cheka

        there is a twist, there are considerable reserves of gas and oil under Ukraine itself. mostly in the Russian speaking East. estimates are 5 trillion m3 or more with 1 trillion confirmed.
        Donetsk has already proven tight gas, shell did a lot of drilling around 2013.

        it is no coincidence that Biden jnr was involved with a gas company, the vultures see the Ukr nat gas and oil as a pay day. Lend taxpayers money through the IMF and Worldbank and a few select insiders get to profit from exploiting the resources. Economic Hitman style.


        If the Western ukrainian government had managaed to go ahead with their spring campaign (the Nato supported Ukranian army was set to go hot against the Donbass republics. then Putin would face a double problem, NATO aligned country up against his border and a significant competitor in the EU gas market.

        The globalists mostly EU and NATO saw Ukraine as a self financing NATO vassal state, NATO could care less about the ukrainian people, and they are more than happy to fight Russia til the last Ukrainian.

    3. TimmyB

      Russia has repeated stated its goals for Ukraine. A demilitarized neutral country that will never join NATO, and trials for the Nazis for the war in Donbas.

      The hysterics we see resulting from the Russian invasion would not be lessened if the Russians had only invaded less of the country. Moreover, a Ukraine with the present government intact and fighting only in the East invites a longer war and risks defeat as NATO sends in more and more arms and Ukraine builds an new army to repel the invaders. No. For Russia to obtain its goal of a neutral Ukraine, the present government needs to either surrender or be defeated. If that means Russia conquers the entire country, so be it.

      As for Putin hating Zelensky, I see no evidence of this. This isn’t a personal conflict that blossomed into a war. Russia has chafed at broken promises of no NATO expansion for decades. Now, Russia is strong enough and NATO is weak enough for Russia to do something about it. And we are seeing that something.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Why would Putin hate Zelensky? For inspiring resistance and symbolizing that resistance?

      1. lyman alpha blob

        The smartest thing Russia could do, especially since the West has recently turned Zelensky into some kind of Hero for Democracy, would be to finish up their de-militarization and de-nazification objectives, and then put Zelensky back in charge of Ukraine to finish his term. And then cut his phone line to DC and make sure any future calls go to Moscow. That would make heads explode all over the US and Europe.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Russia has every interest in negotiating an armistice with Zelensky. Ginormously better optics than having to install a new government or running the country on a provisional basis while organizing elections.

        So it will never happen.

  10. David Jones

    Maybe,maybe the economic effects are what will change things.To paraphrase Lenin “You are only a week or so without food or energy from a revolution.”

    At the moment here in the UK West Country the local BBC news -Points West – has been turned into a worship of all things Ukrainian. For the first 15 minutes of the concentrates on Ukraine and we get things like sending helmets with “Glory to the Ukraine” written on them.There is a strong anti-Slav Russian tone not yet of course up to Hitler and the Tuetonic “untermensch” standard but I always thought that there was plenty of good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon triumphalism when the old Soviet Union collapsed. BTW Russia Today is now unobtainable for me – so much for free speech!

    1. The Rev Kev

      “Glory to the Ukraine”? Seriously? The phrase ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!’ was used by Ukrainian groups in WW2 who were shall we say of fascist,nationalist tendencies. That is why the old USSR banned it after WW2 as it was akin to the old ‘Sieg Heil’ of the Germans. But now?

      ‘Republican US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced on Wednesday that they were introducing a new bill to further sanction Russia by targeting state-owned enterprises. The bill is called the Halting Enrichment of Russian Oligarchs and Industry Allies of Moscow’s Schemes to Leverage its Abject Villainy Abroad Act, an unwieldy title the acronym for which is HEROIAM SLAVA, a Ukrainian nationalist phrase that translates to “Glory to the Heroes.”’ And you know that I am not making it up-

      1. CoryP

        I thought surely that Sputnik article is tongue in cheek and then I went to Rubio’s site.. Jeez. But then it seems to be a popular phrase among my own leadership here in Canada….

        1. Moose and Squirrel

          I have never read the source linked at the end of my comment. I googlegarglededededededed “Heroiam Slava” “Bill Clinton” and ran across this: In the late 1980s and early 1990s the slogan began to be heard at rallies and demonstrations.[11] After Ukraine declared independence in 1991, the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” became a common patriotic slogan. In 1995, President of the United States Bill Clinton used the phrase in his speech in Kyiv (together with “God bless America”).[2]. The footnote links are not active, at least to my IP.

      2. David Jones

        Yes indeed Rev that was written on the hat in felt tip in Ukranian/Russian and the translation given by the BBC

      3. Pookah Harvey

        I am assuming that the economic warfare on the Russian oligarchs, by confiscating their Western holdings, is trying to get them to oppose Putin.
        Maybe I don’t completely understand the situation, but by making sure all of the Russian oligarchs’ assets are solely in Russia doesn’t seem a sure prospect of getting them to go against Putin. Putin came to power by taming Yeltsin’s oligarchs. Putin stripped them of their wealth and imprisoned several. By making sure all of the current oligarchs’ wealth is where Putin has complete control doesn’t seem to be a good plan in achieving a separation from Putin. It could very well produce the opposite effect. Here is a short history (15 min) of Putin’s war on the oligarchs.

  11. Safety First

    About those two Putin speeches.

    What one has to remember is that these were directed explicitly at the domestic audience, and meant to set the tone for the ensuing propaganda campaign trying to convince them that this war…oops, “special operation”, is a good thing. Unlike the US with its invasion of Iraq, Moscow did not have months and months in which to build the public case for military action – and especially after its formal recognition of LDNR, just about all internal observers assumed that the matter was settled.

    Which means that they should not be read (or listened to) in the frame of – this is what the Putin government really wants, or this is what its objectives are. These are the “we do not want the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud” type speeches, which are further complicated by the imperative to blame communism for everything wrong with the world today. Hence the extended “historical” sections, in which arguably every single individual sentence is in at least some way untrue. [Thus, after the first speech, just about every popular left-wing channel in the Russian segment of YouTube rushed to put out a “correcting the record” type of response.]

    In truth, irrespective of how well these two speeches worked to shape the narrative and public opinion – again, inside Russia, not in the West – Moscow’s real objectives remain rather opaque, even to commentators inside Russia. Some suspect that the endgame will be splitting the country into four (or more) quasi-independent sections; there is absolutely no consensus as to whether Ukrainian oligarchs will be allowed to remain as such, or whether their assets (and those not yet privatised) will be seized by the Russian oligarchs; there has been zero articulation of how “denazification” is supposed to take place in a country that had spent 30 years (!) elevating collaborators to hero status (new school textbooks?), since no-one seriously believes Putin wants to spend the last 10-20 years of his life on this, at least not exclusively. Never mind that, as some regional KPRF people have pointed out on a broadcast a couple of days ago, there is no way any new Ukraine government will be recognised by the West as legitimate, so even if there is no formal “occupation” Russia ends up with a 40-million strong South Ossetia…

    In other words, it is clear that Ukraine is to be firmly reintegrated into Russia’s newly found sphere of influence. How exactly this is to happen, however, is yet an open question.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I beg to differ. Even though Putin’s primary audience was domestic, Putin and Lavrov have consistently tried to communicate with the West even if no one is listening. He’s also sending a message to Ukrainians. That is explicit in the second speech, telling members of the Ukrainian military that if they dropped their arms and went home, they would not be persecuted.

      1. Après-moi

        Yes, ‘safety’ could not be more wrong. Speeches may be presented to the locals; however, it is also a way to communicate with the western interlocutors. After years of listening to Putin (no translation needed), I must say that he tends to be very plain-spoken (yet erudite) and clear. He does not mince words, though at times, there is poetry in his language.
        (Remember that recent kerfuffle about a use of indecent words, when referring to Ze? P was actually quoting a line from a song – and one that rhymes («Нравится, не нравится — терпи, моя красавица – like it or not, just bear it, my beauty). Kind of cute, if you ask me.).
        What Russians want is a neutral Ukr., end of story (and not one with SIX military naval bases – as was shaping out, plus bio labs).

    2. Anon

      Well… if everybody goes back to work once the fuss is over, they’ll have lots of cheap, oil, gas and food to sell, in a hyperinflationary world market, and you know our guys aren’t going to waste this crisis, so how long before someone decides to trade? Russia probably looks like an exciting market for Huawei right now, with Apple exiting.

  12. Michael Ismoe

    I’d rather be in Putin’s shoes than Zelensky’s. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

  13. Eric Blair

    Russia will win the war – China will win the peace.

    Western oligarchs direct the rage against Putin because Russia & China have bridled their billionaires.

    Once the majority of the globe sees that the US Military can no longer perform as the World Policeman, they will gladly renounce the last 5 centuries of Colonial Racism and embrace the BRI.

    Will the USA be able to recover from the 5 Eyes tantrum or will it join the EU in its decline?

    1. Kouros

      Totally agree. The inflection point in all this will come with China taking an actual, palpable stand. And somebody was saying that KSA intends to reduce its investment in the USA (and likely in the USD).

  14. timbers

    South front has this, not so good: “The overall slowdown of the Russian Armed Forces’ offensive amid tiredness from eight days of fighting, the local successes of the AFU, the mass arrival of weapons from NATO countries and mercenaries, mistakes of the tactical command in certain parts of the front raise difficult questions for the strategic command of the Russian Armed Forces. If Moscow fails to reverse the situation in the next 72 hours, the war in Ukraine will inevitably develop into a long-term, bloody conflict. In this case, NATO forces will sooner or later become direct participants of the conflict, while Russia will be mobilized.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? My understanding is that while Russia has not pushed back the front line in Donetsk proper, if you go just a bit south, they’ve blown through the Ukrainian checkpoints and have penetrated at least 50 km in. They are in the process of encircling the Ukrainians on the south and it appears on the north too. No point in expending a lot of resources on a contested battle line if you can run around it and cut them off from Kiev and resupply/support from the west.

    2. timbers

      This seems to be SF seeIng improvement of the concern it expressed in the early post: “On the one hand, the seventh day of the conflict demonstrated a certain tiredness of the advancing Russian troops. On the other hand, the Russian command seems to have taken into account the mistakes of the past days and the Russian offensive became a full-scale army operation rather than a cavalry special operation on the enemy’s rear. The morale and technical condition of the most combat-ready units of the Ukrainian military is deteriorating. Both Ukrainian servicemen and fighters of nationalist battalions in all eastern and southeastern parts of the front are surrendering.”

    3. timbers

      Now seeing chatter on pro Russia blogs to affect of “turn coat South Front.” Liked SF during Syrian conflict. Don’t know what to make of it all. Time will tell.

    4. Skippy

      Its not necessary to completely encircle the area when its open territory targeted by grid square eliminators and dominate air cover. Any medium or large movement of forces would be annihilated out in the open without damage to civilians or infrastructure.

      I would suggest that the zealots in the south will remain dug in and bloody the Russians with a hope that something will occur to create international outrage because they don’t have much else going for them.

      So at this moment all Russia has to do is probe the defenses to ascertain where and what threats lay ahead and how to handle them or not. I can not find where any of the Ukie forces are in control of anything other than respond to Russian actions from a static position.

  15. CG

    Re: Warning

    Sorry if the double post is an issue, but on the point of the lack of preparation from Ukraine. According to the Washington Post ( during the war scare period in late Jan/early Feb., it was primarily the US and UK and elements of the Ukrainian national security apparatus that were convinced by the intelligence they had that a Russian invasion was imminent. By contrast, Zelensky and a number of others in and around his government were fairly unconvinced and continental allies such as Germany and France were skeptical of anything beyond the existence of the build up of troops. At the very least, I would suggest that this indicates that there was something very sensitive and convincing that the US and Britain, and likely the rest of the Five Eyes, had managed to gain possession of that convinced them an invasion was indeed imminent but that was not shared with our other allies or with the Ukrainians.

    Additionally, there is the question of how Anglo-American intelligence managed this coup as, as this piece by Scott Ritter documents (, American intelligence gathering in Russia had been utterly wrecked by Russian counterintelligence in the 2010s. Not only was the means by which the CIA communicated with its assets globally compromised in that era and had to be revamped, but also the Russians were fairly adept at identify CIA personnel in Russia and expelling them, as well as a large number of recruited assets being discovered and prosecuted by the Russians. Add onto that the fact that for the past three decades we’ve viewed Russia generally as a lower priority to concerns such as the War on Terror, and in intelligence specifically, and I am left to deeply wonder how the US came into possession of what appears to be one of the greatest intelligence goldmines at least in recent history.

    If I had to guess, might I not suggest this raises the question of whether or not, at a high level, there’s less than total enthusiasm among the Russian elites for this operation. And that potentially, someone decently high up in the Russian government may have been leaking this to the US in order to attempt to avert this from happening. And that as a consequence of this being a very sensitive source, while the Anglo nations were more than convinced of the veracity of this, we decided against sharing it with non-Five Eyes nations in order to limit the risk of exposure as much as possible.

    1. meadows

      Perhaps. But isn’t it more likely that The Blob knew of an imminent attack because The Blob was doing everything possible to goad Russia into attacking? Knowing Russian threats were quite clear…. that no NATO/Western concessions meant war.

      The Blob imagines Ukraine will be Russia’s new Afghanistan. They engineered it to happen.

      Likewise, Keep Zelenski in the dark! More chaos.

    2. sinbad66

      This from Reuters/Yahoo:

      I had always wondered why the Russians went in when they really didn’t have to. But once I heard that Zelenskyy wanted to revive Ukraine’s nuclear program (and had the capability of doing it) and no one in the West had said boo, then it all made sense. Bad enough the possibilities of offensive weapons on their doorstep, but nukes? The Russians figured they had seen and heard enough and pulled the trigger.

    3. jimmy cc

      putin has a mole problem.

      the Russians as a group dont appear real enthusiastic about the war.

    4. PlutoniumKun

      Your theory is interesting. I’ve been trying to think of why it is that the US/UK were so adamant that there would be an invasion and were then proven right – contrary to the predictions of nearly everyone else, including some very well clued in reporters and commentators. Plus, it should be said, most of us BTLer amateur strategists here.

      I’m inclined to think that it was less good intelligence and more an educated guess combined with a political judgement that it was better to shout about it as a certainty, as that way it is a win-win. If the invasion didn’t happen, they could claim that Putin climbed down due to Nato pressure – if he did invade they could claim prescience.

      Of course, this doesn’t preclude that there are some powerful disgruntled people in Russia now. A lot of wealthy connected Russians stand to lose a lot of money over this, and plenty of mid-rank people who may have been involved in the planning might have had all sorts of reasons to have misgivings.

      1. LadyXoc

        I have read that Russia invaded because Operation Z (invasion by Ukraine military of the Donbass) was scheduled for next day. This explains timing. I think source was Pepe Escobar. US Natsec would have know about this too, giving them a head’s up on the imminent invasion.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        And it wasn’t that hard to make an educated guess about an attack since the Russians were saying for a really long time that there would be consequences if their red line was crossed, and the US did nothing to step back from the line.

        There was a really interesting tidbit in one of the videos linked here several days ago where several people including Scott Ritter were interviewed. One of the interviewees noted that Ukraine significantly increased shelling in the Donbas region on Feb 17th. Not sure how he knew that, but if true, I thought that was important, since the US had previously predicted the 16th as a date certain for the attack.

        My speculation is that Putin may not have attacked at all, but when the 16th passed with no attack, the increased shelling was a US-approved deliberate provocation to make the predictions come true – they went right over that red line Thelma and Louise style.

        After all, after getting out of Afghanistan, something was desperately needed to justify continued spending by the US military at the levels to which they’d become accustomed. And now, kaching! At least until the convertible hits the bottom of the ravine.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Not sure how he knew that, but if true,

          OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has personnel, cameras and audio recorders all around the “line of contact” to count every single explosion or shot. And the explosions went up from the normal 20-50 a day to 1200-1500 a day. Almost all on the area of the self-declared republics.
          That’s why they started the huge evacuation effort of kids and elderly people to Russia.
          Oddly enough, US and UK pulled their monitoring personnel from the mission right when the shelling intensified.

          Here are the OSCE SMM reports

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          17th was the day Zelensky said he wanted to become a nuclear power with Kamala Harris right behind him. Wonder if the shelling started after that remark.

          1. Science Officer Smirnoff

            I’ve seen this line several places.

            Of course, it is among a (strong) leader’s qualities that (he) knows mouthing-off when it’s spoken.

            LBJ threatened N Vietnam with terrible retribution if it abused American POWs. Retaliation that would have been crazy-excess. For one Ho-Chi-Minh probably knew better.

    5. Tor User

      It seems pretty clear that while Zelensky was acting unconvinced, his military was doing things to make as much as possible survive a opening Russian strike.

      In this case, while the Russians sat on the border, intelligence gathering was helped by the Russians using unencrypted analog radios, in some cases all the way up to brigade level. While the Russian’s were not likely given out their plans that way, what they where doing gave their capabilities away.

      Then with allies like the guy running Belarus, who knows who he showed his maps to earlier in February.

      Finally, it is possible someone in Russia with some knowledge of the possible plans might have thought it not a good idea and passed along some information.

      It appears that there is not much enthusiasm among some of the Russian elites for this operation. A few have already come out and said as much.

      1. K.k

        It seemed to me that the Russians were in talks with Zelensky and other factions inside Ukraine as well as the foreign powers for months. Amassing troops on the border and preparing mobilization for war was them showing they were serious about wanting a resolution. The US/NATO , Ukrainians ultimately decided to call the bluff and decided to f around and find out. Perhaps leading up to the invasion the Russians were working on buying off as many military people, oligarchs, mafia families to come to their side. Despite the previous 8 years the Russians may have felt they had deep enough historical and present ties with a significant portion of the Ukrainian oligarchs, mafia, state institutions, they could reach some sort of compromise through diplomacy backed by threat of military invasion. That may explain why the Russians were so adamant they were not going to invade the country, they may have thought that the threat of invasion would bring Ukraine to heel. I guess the balance of power inside Ukraine was not in favor of the Russians. The ultra nationalist , fascist factions backed by the liberal “democracies” had gained too much traction. Zelenskys government seems to have ignored that war is continuation of politics by special means, while some of his military people may have understood it.
        Just some simplistic speculation on my part, probably a misreading of the circumstances.

    6. Kouros

      Gilbert Doctorow claims that the US were fed by the Russians via an Estonian link that they will be invading. The boy started crying wolf until nobody believed him. And then they pounced.

  16. voislav

    I think that Bosnian scenario is the most likely for Ukraine. Russians are clearly looking to encircle the bulk of the Ukrainian army east of Dnieper and once that is complete the war will be effectively over. For all the heroism of the common people, Ukrainian army has been strangely lethargic and is sleep-walking this conflict. Whether initial strikes destroyed the command and control capability or internal issues with pro-Russian officers, they’ve made no effort to counter the Russian advance in the south, which is closing the noose on them.

    So will get a peace treaty where Ukraine is setup up as a federal state of 2 or maybe 3 entities, where pro-Russian faction will hold the majority in one and have veto power over major decisions (joining NATO, etc.). Military will be split regionally as well, ensuing that no side can use it to overthrow the government. Strategic sites like nuclear plants and Black Sea bases will be under control of the pro-Russian entity, ensuring that they cannot be used against Russia.

    That way Russia gets what it wants, a permanent influence over Ukrainian politics, while avoiding the burden of occupying the territory. Eastern and Southern Ukraine will also be in favour as they’ve been clamoring for more self-government for years. US/EU get to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

  17. britzklieg

    Won’t the economic sanctions hurt Putin’s oligarch enemies too? Where will they put their money if not back in the USA?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Read Treasure Islands. Even in the secrecy jurisdiction in the US sphere of influence, the Caymans, you can set up companies where the ownership can’t be traced.

      Similarly, the New York Times did a big expose on condos in the Time Warner Center in NYC that were held by absentee corporate owners. It was super impressive reporting. They were only able to find the real owners of a decided minority of apartments, on the order of 20% and none Russian, when odds are high some did have Russian owners.

      1. Bill Carson

        I like the fact that the international community is seizing the assets of billionaires. It sets a very good precedent.

      2. britzklieg

        I just re-read my comment. I must be high. How did I type USA when I meant Russia?
        Thanks for the response Yves, as it was very clarifying anyway. I am out of my league here but assumed the oligarchs would have to repatriate their filthy lucre and hence, hurt the west form whence those accounts are moved. If they can effectively hide it anywhere then I guess it’s a moot point.

  18. steven

    Maybe I’ve been swilling too much Russian propaganda but I am really tired of the brain-dead coverage of Ukraine in Western media. But if you start with the 26 million dead from WWII, add the rapid encirclement by NATO and stationing of first-strike weapons (ridiculously termed missile-defense systems) in what used to be buffer states for Russia and the West’s (read U.S.), U.S. shredding of arms control treaties and its repeated refusal to listen when told enough was too much, I don’t see where Putin had a lot of choice – especially since the reputed US superiority in weapons technology has been revealed as little more than a conduit for cash infusions to ‘private sector’ firms that can no longer compete in world markets because they have ‘financialized’ themselves out of business.

    1. Greg

      The ban on gas exports is not as bad as it sounds. This article clears that up a bit – it’s not ru gas transiting to western europe, it’s the export of gas from ua that was mostly going to eastern europe.

      The ban is not related to the ongoing transit of Russian gas via Ukraine to Europe.

      Exports together with re-exports of gas from Ukraine to European countries amounted to 178 million cu m in January, GTSOU said last month.

      Exports to Hungary amounted to 155 million cu m, to Slovakia 14.1 million cu m, to Poland 0.7 million cu m, and to Romania 8.3 million cu m.

  19. ks

    Thanks so much for embedding the speeches. I had the 21st up in a tab and found it had become unavailable the next day. Eventually found them elsewhere, but was never sure I had accurate transcripts.

    1. Wukchumni

      Lots of Nazi this-Nazi that, from Lavrov

      The youngest soldier to have fought in the Wehrmacht is in their 90’s (as are any other combatants) and in no way am I sticking up for goose-steppers, but you wonder how long society will be able to utilize anything Nazi, to justify their actions?

      When the last soldier involved in the conflict dies in 2038 and living memory gives way to history, will it still be like this?


      A few months ago I asked my 14 & 17 year old nephews if they knew what Nazis are, and they both shook their head to & fro-they had no idea. In their defense though, the 3rd Reich had been gone almost the length of an average lifespan by the time they were born.

      1. You're soaking in it!

        And yet, 14 and 17 year olds living East of the Azores might tend to have more than no idea. Especially since they can very likely point to examples in their own neighborhoods, family histories, and history classes, which are still a thing outside of Our Great Nation.

      2. Paul Beard

        A few years ago, I can’t remember just when, one of the current ‘nazis’ put his picture up on social media of him wearing grandads original nazi uniform. He was quoted on our local media in Hungary as upholding family values.

      3. Kouros

        The meaning of neo-nazi is this:

        ultra nationalist, libertarian capitalist, white supremacist, and especially Russophobe.

        Wehrmacht, when started the invasion in Russia, got its orders that the Russian population should be enslaved and/or killed. Not the SS, the Wehrmacht.

        So Lavrov is on point.

        1. JBird4049

          Actually, the plan was to murder all, but a very few Slavs to be used as uneducated slaves, from all of Poland onward to as far as the Urals, certainly most of Ukraine and Belarus. This is why seeing Neo-nazi Ukrainians is funny (amusing, strange, baffling, confusing, odd?) to me as their grandparents would likely have been ethnically cleansed or murdered by the Germans, if the Wehrmacht had been able to stay in the area for another few years; the Holocaust was still in its planned early days when it ended with the Jews given the greatest priority.

      4. lyman alpha blob

        When the Ukrainian military openly sports Nazi insignia, as they did on NBC television just a week or so ago, it does tend to bring back memories.

      5. Yves Smith Post author

        They often use Nazi imagery on top of everything else and many are descended from Nazis. Look at Chrystia Freeland, the upscale version of this type. She is rabidly anti Russian. When she was an editor at the Toronto Globe & Mail and John Helmer was the Russia business correspondent, she’s apparently regularly edit his stories to say the near polar opposite of what he’d submitted.

        1. Kouros

          The Lima Group Lady, ready to strangulate the Venezuelan quest for some more reasonable redistribution of the natural wealth of that country…

      6. Raymond Sim

        Ukrainian Nazism never died, it went underground. It might seem improbable, but the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church having been forced to do so as well, culturally conservative Galicians were living hidden lives anyway.

      7. drumlin woodchuckles

        As several others have commented, the Banderazi and Azovazi leadership understand the goals and styles they are teaching and raising their followers in. And they use for emblems symbols which are as close to the Nazi Swastika as possible while retaining some sort of implausible deniability as regards not being actual Nazi Swastikas.

        What they are is Nassi Swasikas. Like this bunch of emblems for the Azov Battalion.;_ylt=A2KLfR0hQyVifJUAnLlXNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANBMDYzNF8xBHNlYwNzYw–?p=azov+battalion+emblem&fr=sfp

        If the Russian forces are able to find and exterminate in individual detail every single Azov Battalion member and supporter without killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of Ukranormals along the way, Europe will be better off. Better off without a new Ukranazi Party-State existing in Europe.

  20. RobertC

    As we’ve pointed out, Russia has held back from economic retaliation, such as seizing Western assets in Russia, choking commodities supplies, and violating patents.

    I am very heartened by this. I’m sure Chancellor Scholz wants Wolfsburg auto workers back in the factories so this offers a path to negotiations. If Germany leads, France will follow. And big businesses in the US will find a way. Brexit UK is a lost cause.

    bwilli123 at today’s Links provided this Indian diplomat’s assessment similar to mine

    The political, economic and security costs to Europe in a prolonged confrontation with Russia are much higher for Europe than for the US, as the locus of conflict is on European soil and not the US.

    This too gives me hope Germany and France will find a path for negotiations in spite of US interference.

  21. meadows

    “We’ve become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy. I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards to the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
    Jimmy Carter

    Presidents are in actuality not leaders “for the people”, but CFOs for their oligarchs… the Oligarch’s residence is of no importance. Many have multiple citizenships or ones of convenience.
    Maybe this Ukraine/Russia/Nato idiocy is not actually about nation-states but billionaires protecting their fiefdoms – and their CFOs.

    At least in the 1950’s, some state-sanctioned murder was about bananas. Now the billionaires and their mayhems are opaque, bigger, more dangerous to all of us.

    1. LifelongLib

      If we think of presidents and congress members as “leaders”, democracy is already in trouble. They’re public servants who’ve been temporarily delegated limited authority to deal with issues that are too big or complicated for ordinary citizens to handle.

    2. Ashburn

      Reminds me of a quote from Bashar al-Assad:
      “We don’t usually expect presidents in the American elections, we only expect CEOs; because you have a board, this board is made of the lobbies and the big corporates like banks and armaments and oil, etc. So, what you have is a CEO, and this CEO doesn’t have the right or the authority to review; he has to implement. And that’s what happened to Trump when he became president after the elections.”

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, Carter began the Free Trade and Deregulation process which Reagan extended and Clinton finalized in order to turn America into the Garden of Oligarchy Delights which he now finds dismaying.

      So Carter deserves his share of the credit for this outcome, along with Reagan and Clinton.

  22. Grayce

    When are you styling Kyiv and when is it Kiev? So far, it seems Kiev is a Russian name, while Kyiv is Ukrainian. Do exonyms [a name given to something by an outsider] and endonyms [a name used by an insider] matter? Do they show respect for one side or another? So goes diplomacy.

    1. Raymond Sim

      That’s why I always say “Moskva”, “Vien”, “Paree”, and “Seeyoodahd Mehiko”.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Interesting thing about ” Me HEE-ko ” . . . . that is the Spanish pronunciation. I wonder what the Mexican Indian pronunciation would be?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Kiev is the name that has been historically used in the West for generations. Go look at any map.

      Since when do Americans call Milan “Milano”?

  23. Raymond Sim

    If the US invaded Alberta, how hard would it for our door-kickers to search out the Ukrainian Nazis there and exterminate them and their simps? They’re probably all on the CIA’s Christmas list, but even without that?

    The Russian forces in the east of Ukraine are in an analagous position, with the added element that the Russian-speaking populations there (The distinction between ‘Russian-speaking’ and ‘ethnic Russian’ is important, often overlooked, and may been irrevocably changed by Maidan.) have every reason to fear the consequences of Russian failure.

    I think it’s very likely the Russians’ first order of business will be to crush the Nazis, slaughtering them in their thousands in as humiliating a way as possible. In the cauldrons certainly – but very probably throughout Ukraine. In my opinion they’ve been telegraphing this for years, and Putin’s war announcement was astonishingly blunt about it.

    Ukraine has never been capable of representational self-governance, one of the most important reasons for this is that the Nazis have a genuine and sizeable consitiuency, and always use any political power they acquire in service to their agenda of violent subversion of democracy. For Nazis the extension of anything like what we would call democractic rights to non-Nazis is evil, and political violence is not merely acceptable but a positive force. The ugly paradox is that a peaceable democratic Ukraine, if possible at all, can only come to pass if the Nazis are undemocratically suppressed, something most likely requiring a great deal of violence.

    Russia is in a position to supply all necessary violence, and also has the power (Sanctions? Psshh) to tell Ukraine “No Nazis or no economy.”

    I have very little sense of what the political landscape of the oblasts currently constituting Ukraine will look like in ten years time, but something akin to Finlandization seems very plausible. It’s worth reflecting on how fiercely the Finns resisted the Soviets, and, if you’re not aware, checking out how prevalent Naziesque sentiments were and are among Finns.

    1. Kouros

      Russian desire is to have Ukraine like Canada is for the US, an absolute non-menace. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander, eh?

    2. juliania

      The Russian objective is to have the Nazi element brought to trial much as were tried the perpetrators of war crimes at Nuremberg. There were crimes committed at the Maidan and at Odessa. Putin has said that they know the names of those who committed them. And now there will be added crimes against civilians if they are not released through the corridors provided by the Russians from the cities which are now surrounded.

      I remember Putin congratulating the Ukranian army for not creating bloody conflicts when Crimea blockaded itself against the north. He is no doubt reaching out to such elements even now. We should also remember that even more than the US, Ukraine’s economy has been in bad shape BEFORE all this started. And finally, please remember Chechnya.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The Russians may not have the luxury of giving them trials. If the Russians cannot establish the kind of order which would let them take named persons alive for trial at leisure, Russia may have to settle for exterminating them . . . . each of them, all of them, every single one.

  24. David

    Just a couple of miscellaneous points.
    Demilitarising Ukraine means effectively rendering useless (not necessarily destroying) major items of military equipment. At one extreme, you can destroy automatic rifles by putting the barrels in a hand-turned machine, as was done after some conflicts in Africa. At the other extreme, at end of the Cold War, tanks were disabled by a single carefully-placed plastic explosive charge, before being towed off for scrap. Aircraft and helicopters can be rendered useless fairly easily. That said, I doubt if the Russians are worried about small arms as such: indeed, the more there are, the more unstable the country will be. And finally, you can make air bases unusable by trashing the runways with explosives, and even booby-trap them to prevent repair.

    Denazification is really two things. The people the Russians are principally interested in are the leaders, and I would assume that, as a matter of course the Russians have had SVR/GRU teams in Ukraine for a while, identifying and tracking them. Once the area is secure, they can be picked up and taken out by helicopter. For the rest, there’s some indication that extreme nationalist militias aren’t all ready to fight to the death when they’re out of food and completely surrounded. I expect the Russians will do their usual thing, and those who surrender first will get the best treatment, especially if they are a useful source of intelligence.

    Assuming that those two things are accomplished, the Russians believe that they can turn back the clock to before 2014, and leave the country. At that point, it becomes extremely difficult,, if not impossible, for the West to continue with sanctions, especially when westerners are being hurt. Sanctions normally have an objective, and if the war is over and the Russians have left, there’s no objective. Biden will just have to like it, unless he really believes that he can mobilise his own country, and everybody else’s, for a suicidal economic war. And there’s no point in the West funding militia groups or mercenaries, because they won’t have any targets.

  25. RobertC

    Time to look at a map of SouthEast Asia, especially China-India border and associated watersheds. TheHill is reporting we are considering sanctioning India under CAATSA.
    Biden weighing sanctions on India over Russian military stockpiles
    Biden looks to be forcing historically-nonaligned India to choose sides and recent actions by India indicate it might not make the “right” choice. If China and India can come to an accommodation, and there are more reasons they can than can’t, then “Putin’s war” is leading a seismic shift to multilateralism. I’m hopeful.

    1. Tony Wright

      Hindu Nationalism meets state controlled Han Chinese ethnic cleansing.
      Hardly a rosy prospect.

      1. RobertC

        Xi and Modi have four critical things in common:

        1. They have 1.4B people to feed.
        2. They are not self-sufficient in feeding those people.
        3. They have nuclear weapons.
        4. They have neighbors in common with nuclear weapons.

        The adjustments in commodity flows resulting from “Putin’s war” may well focus cooperation on those things.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Particularly as was repeatedly mentioned, fertilizer. There’s already a global shortage and Russian supply is absolutely critical to India.

  26. jimmy cc

    The war isn’t going well for Russia.

    it appears a fair number of russian troops are abandoning equipment.

    it appears someone high up in the russian military is working against the plan.

    it is still too early to tell, but i would expect this to not be over anytime soon.

    Putin isnt Russia. we will see. I’ve been wrong before.

      1. Après-moi

        Yes, this is western disinformation. Russian army consists of highly trained professionals, not conscripts. Be a bit skeptical of the favored narrative.

    1. judy2shoes

      @jimmy cc

      Everything you have stated is nothing more than your opinion (with the exception that Putin isn’t Russia), and you apparently have decided that it should stand on its own merits rather than being backed up with links to support it. Not a good look.

      1. jimmy cc

        Pure speculation on my part, as ‘facts’ are hard to come by.

        Before the war, I speculated that Ukrainians more likely than not would not put up a fight. I was wrong then, could be wrong now.

        How it ‘looks’ to anyone here is irrelevant.

    2. Tor User

      Yes, some Russian troops are abandoning equipment. Plenty of videos of that. But is that even 1% of the Russian equipment in the Ukraine? I doubt it.

      There are reports that some higher up in the Russian security services have sent along some information. Hard to know if that is true. It is clear that there are those in Russia who are not keen on this.

      As to it not being over anytime soon. I agree.

    3. Polar Socialist

      What I’m wondering at the moment is what is the Ukrainians game? They still have 40-65 thousand men, for the 8th day, waiting to be completely cut off – and still bombarding the city of Donetsk for no practical purpose at all (well, except for the fact that by Tuesday half the civilian casualties in Ukraine, according to UNHRC, were in Donetsk)!

      Elsewhere in Eastern Ukraine the armed forces and militias are mostly hiding in the cities, and don’t seem to react in any way or form to the Russian/LDNR advances. That could be a sign that the C&C has mostly broken down, though. Or maybe the Russian combat units have so big advantage in firepower the Ukrainians just can’t confront them in a direct battle.

      Meanwhile there’s +50 thousand uncommitted men in the Western Ukraine not doing much of anything but being targets for Russian attack planes. They could be deployed to help Kiev or Odessa (which is totally open on the land side), but so far nothing. Are they afraid that Hungary or Poland would come in and take a piece if they leave the West undefended or what?

      What are the Ukrainians trying to accomplish?

      1. jimmy cc

        Probably lying low for the coming insurgency would be my guess.

        Maybe they are not interested in fighting either. The Russians I know all have relatives in both Ukraine and Russia. There are many ties that bind on both sides.

      2. Tor User

        Command and Control is certainly working at some level. In addition the US is providing real time intelligence. I don’t know how far the US can push that intelligence down to multiple units in the field.

        It is puzzling about the Eastern Ukraine units. Maybe they have thinned them out?

        Before this started the Ukrainian military said one of the goals was to have a very large number of small stay behind units. Let the tanks go by and take out the softer vehicles?

        In western Ukraine there are quite a few active duty units plus a number of reserve units stationed there. By this point I would guess all the reservists have been called to duty? Then all those with prior military experience. We’ve have also seen plenty of videos of those with no military experience joining the Territorial Defense Forces.

      3. Stephen T Johnson

        I think the situation for the UAF in the Donbass is fairly simple. They’re dug into fortified field positions developed over the time they’ve been there (Many arrived last April, but there’ve been troops there since shortly after the coup).
        Withdrawal will be over open prairie, under constant attack, and facing a real dilemma of where to attempt to flee to – look at the routes, they pretty much all suck.
        The Russian and LDNR forces are in no rush to close the pocket, it seems, as they have bigger fish to fry, but dollars to donuts they will soon enough.

      4. WJ

        Might as well ask what is the US trying to accomplish.

        Not convinced Zelensky is really in control. He has handlers.

  27. britzklieg

    it’s surreal to imagine that, when push comes to shove, the west might prefer a bright light ending (engulfed in a democracy which no one will survive) to multi-lateralism.
    mein fuhrer, I can walk again.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Or at least that is what the Paperclip Nazi Western Leaders may prefer.

      And also the Rapturanian Armageddonites, for their own Christ-Shall-Return reasons.

  28. Andrew Watts

    What Moscow is doing is neither stupid, or crazy, rather it’s rational if you consider the developing post-invasion environment. The Russian military has increased their strategic depth by invading Ukraine and/or denying it to NATO. This development seems to be completely lost on the media, including the Generals, who’ve offer their “expert” opinions on the war. All the talk about Putin’s mental state is a way of telling us they’re afraid of a war with Russia without telling us they’re afraid of such a war.

    The Kremlin probably views this as necessary because they accept the fact that Russia is a shadow of the Soviet Union. Putin has repeatedly stated that he believes there might be a war with NATO. No matter how paranoid I find that attitude, because I doubt that NATO will attack Russia and vice versa, the mere possibility of that outcome has triggered this extreme reaction alongside the failure of diplomacy.

    Part of being above the battle is realizing how stupid your own government is acting which directly contributed to this unnecessary war. How hard would it have been to sign an agreement that specified that Ukraine/Georgia could only ascend to NATO at the same time as Russia? Or maybe the inclusion of strict limits on the types of weapon systems and the number of troops deployed in Eastern Europe?

    Once again, there is either collective security for all. or no country will have any security whatsoever.

    1. David

      Putin and his circle are the inheritors of Soviet paranoia about an attack from the West. When the archives were opened in the 90s, it became evident that this paranoia was widespread and absolutely genuine, something that the West had never accepted during the Cold War. When the first visits were made to Red Army installations in Germany in, I think, 1991, we were astonished to find that the main units of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany were on two hours notice to move, permanently. The tanks were bombed up and ready to go. Moscow had decided that that was all the warning they might have. East German officers I subsequently talked to said that they always had to inform their unit where they were when away, and were forbidden to be more than two hours away at any time. Whether these fears were reasonable isn’t the point: the fact is they were genuine, and such fears don’t change quickly. After all, in ten years, fifteen years ….

      1. Après-moi

        Not sure paranoia is the right term… if one’s cushy perch were attacked by Mongols (from the east), Swedes and Teutonic tribes from the west (repeatedly, until Peter I finally gave them a bloody nose, buying the Baltics in the process), Ottomans (from the south, over a period of centuries), Frenchies (with the biggest army up to that point), Crimean war, and then the Germans (leaving a deep psychic wound, not to mention physical destruction) – one might just conclude that the appropriate response would be “we’ve learned from experience and factual events.”
        A fear of war is in the Russian DNA.

      2. Pookah Harvey

        One aspect that seems to be missing from the history of the current Ukraine situation is that Russia was interested in joining NATO but constantly rebuffed.
        In 1990, as the Cold War drew to a close, President Mikhail Gorbachev proposed the Soviet Union join NATO. At the time, Gorbachev was negotiating German reunification with the then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. “You say that NATO is not directed against us that it is simply a security structure that is adapting to new realities. Therefore, we propose to join NATO.”
        In 1991 Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the new Russian state, wrote to NATO, reiterating Gorbachev’s proposal. He called NATO membership a “long-term political aim” of Russia.

        In 2001 at his first major Kremlin news conference Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country should be allowed to join NATO.

        All these entreaties were rebuffed.
        Meanwhile Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia have joined.

        You might have the right to a little paranoia if you seem to be treated as an enemy.
        I originally found the Putin story , a 2001 AP article from the Deseret News a few days ago. I just went back to it and found it had been deleted. Looked for another article on Putin’s first press conference and could find absolutely no Western coverage of it.
        Luckily a thread had copied the entire article..

        1. Polar Socialist

          Soviet Union was also willing to join NATO in the early 50’s. What a different world we could be living in…

    2. Tor User

      I suspect that almost all other Eastern European counties are all thinking they are very happy they are in NATO, with it’s collective security and please America, station some US troops here!

      I am waiting to see what Finland and Sweden say about the latest Russian letter demanding security guarantees.

      The Russian activities in the Ukraine have certainly moved public opinion towards joining NATO in those two countries.

  29. Bill

    According to CNN Zelensky asked again for a no-fly zone. “I asked President Biden, and Scholz and Macron…and I said, if you can’t provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when?” What doesn’t he get about the catastrophic risk that would entail?

    ‘European Council president: No-fly zone over Ukraine is “one step too far”‘ So, it’s OK to step out to the very edge, but don’t step out into the abyss. Just don’t lose your balance.

    1. Anon

      He is quite literally pleading for his life, to those who have staked it. His performances are so effective because they are morbidly authentic, forget nationalism, this is utterly personal for him.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Looks like the West has not provided adequate assurances of safe passage for him.

        Mubarak had been our guy for decades yet we didn’t get him out after Arab Spring:

        The permanent residence of the Egyptian ambassador was in my apartment building in NYC. Even though top diplomats are famously self-contained, you could tell he was nervous and sad during that period. Then he and his family were gone and a new guy was in.

  30. Matthew G. Saroff

    I do not think that the endgame is a puppet regime in Kiev.

    I think that the end game is that the Ukraine will be broken up into a half dozen or so separate states, with one remaining hostile to Russia and eager to join NATO.

    This is a mirror image what happened in the former Yugoslavia, except that there is no ongoing genocide going on in the Ukraine right now, which makes a difference.

    1. Polar Socialist

      There has been a slow burning civil war, with thousands of dead civilians for the last 8 years. Given that all the killed and wounded civilians have been citizens of Luhansk or Donbass regions, and absolute majority in the self-declared republics, it could match some definition of genocide.
      There has also been a habit for certain government forces of cutting energy, heat of fresh water from time to time (or in Crimea’s case, totally) just for the fun of it (if on their side) or by artillery fire (if on the other side of the “contact line”) from civilians in self-declared republics.

      1. Soredemos

        It’s worth noting that as of right now Ukrainian units are *still* bombarding the Donbass, and killing civilians (who are then cynically added to the death tolls reported in the media, with the implication being that everyone is a victim of the Russian invasion). This despite being encircled and having had no resupply for days. They aren’t attempting to breakout to the west, instead they’re holding their posts and continuing to lob shells at a side that has already won.

        I’m increasingly inclined to believe the Russian claims that the Donbass front is largely made up of openly Nazi formations. These guys are just cruel, vindictive thugs.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t think they can break out to the West. Too many open fields. If the Russians have any helicopters in the area, they could shoot them like prey.

          But I agree with your general proposition. They look intent to keep shooting till they run out of ammo.

          1. Soredemos

            Heavy equipment couldn’t escape to the west, but people on foot stand a decent chance of doing it. It’s very hard to hunt down every single person in a vast landscape.

  31. marku52

    Interesting the lack of support “the West” is getting in trying to sanction Russia. Yes, the 5 eyes are all on board, but of course not China, India wavers, Turkey ambivalent, Israel not much at all. They remember Ukrainians helping massacre Jews in WWII, and there are those very real Nazis there today. Saudi Arabia refuses to pump more oil, tells Joe to pound sand. And the non-white parts of the world, South American and all of Africa AFAIK aren’t agreeing at all.

    Some of this is the inherent racism. “Hey, US/NATO has been bombing/droning us for decades, and you ignore it. The west sees some white people cowering in a basement and totally loses its sh*t”

    Good article on this topic in the LAT.

  32. Michaelmas

    Heh. The human comedy ….

    ‘Ukraine plans to issue NFT collection to fund armed forces’

    ‘Ukraine plans to become the first developed country to issue its own collection of non-fungible tokens, as it looks to capitalise on a flood of crypto donations to back its war against Russia.

    ‘Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister, announced the plan in a tweet on Thursday and said Kyiv would reveal details of its NFTs soon.

    ‘The move is the latest sign of the Ukrainian government embracing digital assets as a way to fund its armed forces in their battle, and comes after it raised more than $270mn in “war bonds”. Since the conflict began, the official Ukraine Twitter account has appealed for donations in cryptocurrency, publicly posting addresses for people to make transfers to in bitcoin, ethereum, solana and polkadot ….’

    And so on.

  33. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

    “Denazify also seems like a tall order even though the hard core Nazis are estimated to represent a maximum of 2% of the population. . . . In other words, even before you get to the question of how to identify and round up the neoNazis, . . . ”

    It is a “tall order”, because that line of thinking is somewhat internally iconsistent with the known facts and is likely a fragment of a larger disinformation campaign that is being conducted by the Russian state (and other actors) and its various intelligence agencies, along with certain prominent intellectuals, because ultranationalist elements are thoroughly and intricately entangled with both the oligarch economic machinery and political machinery of both Russia and Ukraine. That is a trivial observation that is easily supported with minimal effort.

    Further, and noting very carefully, a calculated and deliberate application of a “strategy of tension” has deeply defined historical roots; where, ” this power does not hesitate to use terrorism, both that of the opposition which it allows to develop, indeed manipulates, and that of the state so often disguised in order for it to be attributed to the subversive forces of opposition.”

    And where, for example, “The fact that many far-right fighters were serving in the military shortly before the conflict began also supports the supposition that the radical nationalists’ activities on Ukrainian territory were coordinated with the Russian secret services. . . . By taking part in the war against Ukraine, Russian far-right activists have become popular among much of the population at home. Men like Milchakov, who used to be little known outside a small band of neo-Nazis, are now prominent public figures. . . . Russia’s use of right-wing radicals on the side of the “separatists” in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces was more important militarily and politically than the involvement of Ukrainian far-right activists in the anti-terrorist operation.”

    “The Far Right in the Conflict between Russia and Ukraine”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? There are only 2% neoNazis/ultrarightsts in the legislature and that appears to be up from the older base level in the population due to them getting 15% of positions in the administration after the Maidan coup and much more aggressive propagandizing and recruiting after 2014.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I’m not going to claim that there aren’t bad actors on both sides here, but that paper is pretty biased and tries to present a very false equivalency.

      The author speaks of the Azov battalion (and other right wing Ukrainian groups) at length, and if I read everything correctly, does not once mention the clear and open actual German Nazi symbolism used by that group. And yet when discussing right wing groups on the Russian side, goes right to this –

      “In this, the actions of the young Russian Federation bore an uncanny resemblance to Germany after the First World War and this partly lay behind the spread of a “Weimar Russia” metaphor.”

      Sounds like something Tony Blinken would have ghostwritten for himself.

      1. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

        Information, disinformation, intelligence and counter-intelligence operations, PR, and plain old propaganda are still the means justifying the ends that represent the desired ideological manipulation and control of hearts and minds. When the softer forms of ideological control and persuasion become unworkable and no longer function as desired, brute force often becomes the default human option. That appears to be the historical norm in all human societies. If that is indeed the case, then, it is also possible that:

        “The manipulation of far-right groups by political and commercial interests is a cause for serious concern. As we have seen, the manipulation and financing of these groups at the local level can cause them to mature into a professionalized shadow industry, from which various actors, including those in power, may contract violent “services” at their whim. Demand for professional far-right thuggery feeds a vicious cycle of further radicalization and violence. . . .

        It should also be acknowledged that Russia is not the only influential international actor with a stake in this game. Far right-groups in Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia speak openly about the inspiration and other forms of support that they draw from movements in the United States and Europe. In some cases, this support is quite public.”

        Therefore, it may also be possible that:

        “This is all the more ironic since the self‐​proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” have always been a magnet for Russian ultranationalists and outright neo-fascists—starting with Pavel Gubarev, who began the separatist uprising in Donetsk March 2014 by briefly proclaiming himself the “People’s Governor” and hoisting a Russian flag over the city government building. Photos quickly surfaced showing Gubarev in the uniform of the militant group Russian National Unity, whose emblem bears an unmistakable resemblance to the swastika. The group’s leader, Aleksandr Barkashov, was also in close contact with the Donetsk rebels, vowing to help them fight “the vicious Kiev junta.” ”

        Finally, it is the apparent nature of this particular fog to not only render the visible, ‘invisible’, but it also seems to have the power to create fantastical illusions and strong delusions as demanded by both the particular set and setting and the needs of the audience.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Cato is a dubious source on domestic matters and they have zero expertise in foreign affairs.

          But geopolitics do create odd bedfellows. I was at an INET event when Soros was interviewed by the descendant of a prominent Ukrainian Nazi collaborator and rabid anti-Russian Chrystia Freeland. Her maternal grandfather Mikhail Chomiak was a German Army PR man, spy against other Ukrainians, wanted war criminal by the Poles, and for a reason still secret, unacceptable for residence and passport in the US.

          This was maybe 2017, in Paris. Watching the interview was the price of getting a lovely dinner at the Paris Opera. The attendees at that INET were heavily European.

          Freeland and Soros tried depicting the Russians as neo-Nazis.

          In the corridor and dinner chatter afterwards, it was clear the guests regarded that claim as so obviously false as to call into questions other statements made re Ukraine.

          1. Harold

            He was a PR man during the regime of Hans Frank (aka the “Butcher of Poland”), the Nazi Governor General of Poland at the time of the death camps who was tried and sentenced to death by hanging in Nuremberg in October 1946.

  34. YY

    Ukraine is Biden’s Pearl Harbor (or Harbour). The trouble is Biden is no Roosevelt. The bigger issue is that Roosevelt was no Roosevelt either.
    Just a very non-serious posting, but construction of first argument can be interesting, though full of holes.

  35. Oledeadmeat

    I have to be contrary on this point. Russia has already effectively lost.

    200,000 troops, more than 1/2 one year untrained conscripts, cannot occupy and pacify a nation of 40 million people. Doesn’t compare to Chechnya, which has less than 2 million.

    Look at logistics and morale. Logistics: Russia units keep running out of food and fuel. Morale: one year conscripts were barely in uniform before being thrown into this at the end of a big exercise. Not adequately prepped. By contrast, the Ukraine was preparing and expanding their defenses for the past eight years. Lots of motivated reservists.

    The first day saw Russian special force seize an airport near Kyiv, but they lost it before reinforcements could reach them. Putin was attempting a coup de main and it failed. Now he faces a war of attrition he can’t afford and his public does not like. So far he has managed to seize only one major city. That big column on Google maps heading toward the capitol? Bogged down in mud and out of gas. It’s been there 3 days now, stuck.

    Penetration doesn’t equal control. After 8 days, Ukraine air defenses are still active where we all would have expected them utterly suppressed days ago. Supply convoys are getting ambushed every day before they can get to the troops.

    City fighting favors defense. Brute artillery attacks inflict lots of civilian casualties but doesn’t destroy dug in troops.

    So long as Ukrainians are willing to resist, this is a war of attrition that kills untrained conscripts by the score, and Russia is not what the Soviet Union was. It doesn’t have enough troops to feed into the grinder to make this sausage.

    1. tegnost

      I thought Russia invaded with 160,000 troops and Ukraine has a bit over 200,000, can you provide a citation for this number of troops and how do you know 1/2 are conscripted rookie rooskies?

      1. Oledeadmeat

        Pentagon had estimated 180k Russian troops surrounding Ukraine during the buildup. Some Chechnya have been added to the mix, I chose 200k as a convenient round up in Russia’s favor.

        The conscription figure for the Russian army may run as high as 70%, per a recent Washington Post article. I am not certain of the precise figure. My source was a webcast from’s Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay, pre-invasion. Link here:

        1. Polar Socialist

          In that 180k estimation is included things like the 40k separatists militiamen and 25k sailors of Black Sea Fleet.

          Most plausible estimations of the current deployment inside Ukraine I’ve seen are around 60-80k Russians (including the 10k Chechens) and 40k separatists.

          You may be confusing contract soldiers with conscripts. 70-80% of the Russian army is nowadays contracted professionals. Russian MOD has stated several times that no conscripts or cadets have been deployed in Ukraine, only contract soldiers. Russian law makes it illegal to use conscripts in combat missions.

          Of course, there are many ways for the military to put pressure on young men to sign a contract (towards the end of their conscription), but why open that can of worms when you have enough professionals for the task? On the other hand, having known many a young men (and having been a conscript myself, albeit for different army), I can easily imagine that if the unit you’ve trained with for almost a year is going to war, you would feel obliged/eager to go with it even without any pressure and ask to be signed up.

          1. Oledeadmeat

            Fair points, I would note that in December the US was reporting a surge in troop presence around Ukraine – and there the 175K figure, up from a previous 100K, is mentioned:


            Discussion of Russian conscripts and contracts are circulating, ex:
   – you need to use google translate.

            “Alena’s son (name changed at the request of the heroine) was hastily transported from the military base of Naro-Fominsk to another base 25 kilometers from the border with Ukraine towards Belgorod a week ago: “They asked at will, I said“ Son, don’t go, ”and he says : “Everyone will leave. Am I going to sweep the bridgehead here alone?’”

            Yesterday, the son called Alena twice from other people’s phones. He said that phones and military cards were taken away from him and other soldiers, and “a new batch of children” was brought to the military unit. He gave his power bank to two of them, and in return they let him call from their phone.”

      2. Oledeadmeat

        Doing further digging that number may be high. One source says every year 250k are conscripted, which is not even half of total troop count. So I can not be certain of the figure. That said, NYT is reporting their presence, and Pentagon is suggesting that they are sabotaging and abandoning vehicles as they run out of food. Will look further and see what I can find.

        1. Oledeadmeat

          Mea culpa, I was wrong on the conscription figure. Call it 30% of all troops.

          Still, Putin went for a quick win and did not get it. Ukraine has proven tougher than expected and is unifying behind a Jewish comedian. And Russia is on a path to pariah status. Whatever land Putin temporarily holds won’t make up for all the losses already incurred in less than 2 weeks of war. Where can he find a real victory now?

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Gilbert Doctorow and Scott Ritter, both experts, and the bizarre figure Russell Bentley*, broadcasting from Donetsk, disagree with your claim. Are you a mind reader and know what the Russians expected?

            For starters, Russia has committed only a small portion of its forces, well less than half, some estimate only 20%.

            Second, Russia’s priority, as Doctorow and Ritter stress, is to minimize civilian deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure. That means among other things no US style “bomb the shit out of everything and roll in” approach. It’s simply astonishing to assert the Russians were betting on speed when their own order of battle would constrain their ability to use force.

            Third, despite having to constrain operations, the Russians have taken terrain faster than we did in the Iraq War. We are only a week in. A “quick win” in a country as big as France would never happen in a week. The Saker and others report Russia is going to examine progress at Day 10 and adjust plans….and the Day 10 review was expected meaning they didn’t anticipate a total victory by then, that even if they controlled the country, they’d still have serious mopping-up operations.


            * Bentley is a Texan who has been fighting with the separatists. He gives unabashedly pro-Russia coverage, but also gives the impression of being factual, as in he differentiates between what he has seen himself v. is getting via reports from other Russian/Russian aligned forces. He also disagrees with both Western and Russian claims. The weird part is comments on YouTube insist he is a CIA asset. It was only in his Day 5 report that he said he was seeing new soldiers for the first time, so the Russians before that were all regulars.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Bentley has peen putting out interviews since the early days of the fighting. “Rolling Stone” labels him as a Putin Propagandist but “Rolling Stone” works for the establishment these days-


              There is another American on the front lines called Patrick Lancaster who also has a YouTube channel and has been mentioned in comments-


              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Bentley is hugely and unabashedly biased. He’d be a better propagandist if he were less rah rah. However, he weirdly does not seem to be making factually false claims. He was interviewed Day 5 and was told, “There are claims that the line in Donbass hasn’t changed and the Ukrainians are shelling the separatists and there are claims the Russians and separatists are well into Ukrainian territory. Which is right?” Bentley explained both were true. The line was still holding in Donetsk, the Ukrainians were still shelling, but only some, while south of town, the Russians and separatists had advanced will into Ukrainian territory, at least 50 lm on the road he went on.

            2. Oledeadmeat

              Observations re: politics, logistics and morale

              1- Switzerland abandons neutrality for the first time ever.
              2- Europe reacts with harder sanctions than anyone I am aware foresaw, and they did it rapidly.
              3- Ukraine now suddenly on the path EU membership.
              4- Europe has long memories of nations being invaded, this invasion has provoked an emotional response in the public and the politicians are reacting to it in Ukraine’s favor. This equals money, guns and volunteers going to the Ukraine for the fight. Ex: Biden asks for $10 billion for Ukraine. Germany (!) sends weapons.
              5- Two weeks ago Zelensky was a non-entity. Now, he has bumbled into striking the right tone both within his nation and internationally. Regardless of his actual character, the Jewish defender of Kyiv protecting his home inspires the world and makes Putin’s war to deNazify the Ukraine look like so much feeble garbage.

              1- Good twitter thread of observations of Russian maintenance starts here: – essentially, Russian army, thru corruption and/or neglect, will have a big problem keeping troops supplied.
              2- The bogged convoy is a logistical one – supply trucks. Its supplies aren’t reaching the front. And twitter is flooded with images of abandoned Russian equipment and even farmers hauling it off with their tractors. Note that this largely applies to efforts in the north. In the south along the coast is where Russia has had success – if they had set a limited objective of a land connection to the Crimea and stop at that they may have been able to call it a win. Now I’m not sure Putin can settle for that.
              3- Russia can’t commit its whole army because it has more borders than the Ukraine to worry about. Mobilizing reservists would be easier if there was a threat to the homeland, but to go into Ukraine, Russia will have a hard time getting them in play because….

              1- Ukraine is winning the morale/propaganda war. Nations, and the citizens of those nations, are largely uniting in goodwill toward the Ukraine and against Russia. How many voted in Russia’s favor at the UN? Notably, China abstained.
              2- Masterstroke – captured Russian soldier on video surrounded by Ukrainian citizens feeding him and letting him call his mother and tell her he’s OK has gone viral.
              3- Russian troop radios are not encrypted (!!!!!) This site even has the frequencies so anyone in Europe can listen in:
              3- Good article here on capturing Russian equipment and validating all the videos flooding the internet. Note also the allegations of the use of artillery on civilians and civilian targets:
              4- This is the first European war in the age of social media – thousands of cell phones are uploading information to the web and the world. It’s largely going to feeding the narrative Ukraine wants to tell.

              As for referencing the Iraq war how well did that work out for us? And we had much, much deeper pockets than Russia has. You need cash to win and Russia is going to feel a hard pinch in the pocketbook.

              Lastly, e.g. civilian targeting – they avoided that during the attempted coup de main, but they will be unable to continue that. Ukraine is clearly gearing up for urban warfare, and already Russian strikes on apartments, schools and hospitals are showing up on the web.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                You provide no links or evidence whatsoever supporting your assertions. And that is with a considerable majority of what has been presented as “evidence” on Twitter being shown to be fabricated or taken out of context. It’s hit the point where Lambert, who has tracked down too many falsifications, now assumes it’s all bogus unless someone in the frame is holding a newspaper with a current date on it.

                Remember the sailors who said “Fuck you” and were supposedly all killed? Even BBC admits they are all alive. The girl who heroically stood up to the nasty Rooskie soldirs? Even I recognized that clip, it was a Palestinian girl to Israelis.

                The bulk of Ukrainian forces are tied up in Donbass and are effectively encircled. They can’t help Kiev and they can’t even retreat to the West. They’ll be taken out by air.

                All of these claims about Russian running out of stuff are inconsistent with Russia capturing Mariupol, capturing another nuclear reactor site, having cordoned off Odessa and about to move on it, and having largely encircled Kiev.

                Tell me how many battalions the Swiss have. And with the US having forced Swiss bankers to disclose holders, no one who cares about secrecy has dough there any more. Cooperative Swiss will not discomfit any Russian oligarchs.

                As far as the idea of joining the EU, Scott Ritter pointed out late yesterday that the current Ukraine government is dead. It’s going to be reconstituted by Russia.

            3. Oledeadmeat

              Lambert links to this report:

              “Russian forces fully encircled Mariupol as of March 2 and are conducting a deliberate campaign to destroy critical civilian infrastructure and residential areas in a likely attempt to force the city to surrender.” – That is precisely a “bomb the shit out of everything approach” – that is what urban warfare results in.

              Also of note: “These failures of basic operational art—long a strong suit of the Soviet military and heavily studied at Russian military academies—remain inexplicable as does the Russian military’s failure to gain air superiority or at least to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. The Russian conventional military continues to underperform badly, although it may still wear down and defeat the conventional Ukrainian military by sheer force of numbers and brutality.”

              Lambert, also in today’s links, adds a WSJ article that reports on the Russian attempt for a quick win that failed as the war opened.

              Ukraine likely will not win. On their own hook they can’t force the Russians out, but a protracted struggle can and likely will end in something closer to an Afghanistan pullout.

              1. Polar Socialist

                From two sides Mariupol is encircled by Ukrainians from Donetsk Republic that have family and relatives in the city (it’s the second biggest in Donetsk). They are not going to “bomb the shit out” of their own city inhabited by their own people.

                Today the first civilians were able to evacuate from the city trough a humanitarian corridor after two days of negotiations. At least from the East the DNR militia seems to be only 5 miles from the city center. To them this is the final phase of 8 years of war, they can wait a few days more.

              2. Yves Smith Post author

                Lambert provides many accounts to give readers a chance to read the full spectrum of coverage and reach their own conclusions.

                Scott Ritter reports Mariupol fell in an hour.

                Tellingly, the ONLY media accounts of the Macron-Putin call are based on the Kremlin press release. The French failure to provide its own readout and recount what Macron had to say is unheard of.

                Lambert provides a large number of links on Urkaine, as I do. Providing a link is not a statement that it is definitive.

                Please tell me how much could have been destroyed in an hour of shelling, even if it actually happened.

                The board is composed entirely of neocons. It is hard to imagine their “reporting” does not reflect that slant.

              3. Anon

                You must be new around here. Took me a while to figure out, that NC is about critique, not alignment. Yves, Scofield and Lambert are human, so they have their bugaboos, but their portrayal of reality, and precisely this method of juxtaposing what is actually happening, with the words that are amazingly coming out of the Horses’ mouths… leading one to feel a harsh dissonance in their coverage… well, without a healthy dose of cynicism prior to coming to this site, one may well overlook its purpose, and think like oledeadmeat. Kind of poetic.

  36. Risteard

    The aims Putin laid out are about his force over all. He also provided dozens of things for us to duscuss, even argue over in his spiels.

    Thing is, the stated aims are sand in our faces.

    Putin doesn’t care what we think or do.

    He has one aim, to make money. That’s what props him up, and his friends in Middle East. This isn’t statecraft whatsoever. They have no ideology, just shared opportunism.

    He, or his sucessors, will restart flavours of the same as often as he likes from now on. Only energy independence in the West, especially Europe, can save us from progressively enriching them and continuing the heist. Ukraine is just being made an example of. Hunting neonazis will serve his various ends admirably. He would eat babies if it paid better. I think this is a very common type of invasion, certainly on the steppes. However when the ‘West’ faced down other invasions, it was related to lines or embargoes that hadn’t worked – Iraq, Japan, Nazi Germany, even Korea. This just isn’t that kind of invasion, even when it later nibbles Moldova or a breakaway piece of a Baltic Republic. It’s a whole new way to sell energy for cash.

    Sure, it seems grand to discuss and analyse it all, but let’s see it for what it is. A shakedown. A new business model. No hairsplitting of any kind is appropriate.

    1. tegnost

      He has one aim, to make money. That’s what props him up, and his friends in Middle East. This isn’t statecraft whatsoever. They have no ideology, just shared opportunism.

      As an person who has toiled in the US for many decades under scoundrels who can’t ever possibly have enough money (Bezos and Gates are just 2 of many more)
      statements like this one are hilarious.
      And no, Putin is not the richest person in the world

  37. Pat

    Caught part of an interview with an ICC official on France 24. I believe plan B of the get Russia plan is now fully active. War Crimes! Since this is very much in the Zeitgeist, I kept watching.
    My name one of those items that cannot be said about the United States cynicism was firing on all burners regarding the few minutes spent on destruction of civilian buildings and civilian targets. They were going to be more concerned and vigilant as the fighting increasingly moved into more urban areas. But then it broke off in a partially unexpected direction, a brief mention of sexual assault, but then a longer more rambling but pointed comment regarding concerns of assaults on children. I guess since they can’t get them for throwing babies out of incubators, they are going for child rapists. It was all speculation of the worst possible kind.

    I do have to say that after banning the cats and disabled athletes, and firing the conductor I finally enjoyed something – the seizing of the oligarchs yacht. Of course that was short lived as I realized it would be a cold day in Hades before they seized Bezos’ new giant toy or the Ellison floating money hole no matter how often we invade other nations.

    The system is so gamed.

  38. Charles 2

    Active nuclear reactors in Ukraine are all Pressurized water (VVER in local vernacular). These can’t be used to make fissile material (plutonium) for bombs, so saying that Russia is securing nuclear power plants for security purpose is not accurate. They just want to be able to cut power to recalcitrant populace.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      VVER are very similar to western PWR/LWR reactors (the most common type).

      PWR reactors do produce Plutonium as a waste product, but generally in such small quantities that it has little military utility – plus it requires a lot of processing. it is also reactor grade, not weapons grade (although theoretically can still be made into a weapon). In the ‘breeding’ process, plutonium is produced from U-238, but so far as I know, most then gets burned up in the process.

      Doing a quick search (caution, when I went into some Russian sites I got hit with weird warnings about Trojan viruses) there is a report from 2020 that the Russian energy agency is promoting the use of uranium/plutonium mixed fuel for VVER reactors. I’ve no idea if this has been sold to Ukraine, but I doubt it. But it’s not impossible that they have the Russian version of MOX (a uranium/plutonium mixed fuel) on site.

      Unless there is something in that complex that we don’t know about, I think the motive of the Russians is to secure it as a power supply and little to do with nuclear weapons, so I don’t have a problem with that comment.

      It can’t be ruled out though that the Ukrainians could have been up to something on that site. My guess though is that if the Russians really thought there was something crucial there it would have been taken by air assault on day one.

      Explainer from the International Atomic Energy Agency here:

    1. PlutoniumKun

      They are not ‘old, old tanks’. They are BMP armoured assault vehicles for the most part, with some anti-aircraft variants. They are older variants but still highly effective and in use all over the world (the original BMP-1 is still manufactured in Romania and has plenty of customers).

      Arguably, they are better at urban type warfare than western equivalents. They will be used for moving troops around in contested areas. The gun based anti-aircraft vehicles are of minimal use against modern combat aircraft, but are a very cost effective means of taking down drones. They are also very useful in urban warfare because they have a higher shooting angle than tanks, which means they can shoot at ambushers on high buildings. The Russians learned in the first Chechen war that this was a very good secondary use for them.

      Using older vehicles actually makes sense in a conflict like in Ukraine. They are perfectly capable of providing protection for the majority of weapons likely to be used against them, but they are also to a degree disposable. The Russians will keep their precious modern equipment in reserve for when its needed.

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      Comments are fascinating. Most are seemingly convinced that in just a week of fighting the Ukrainians have caused such horrendous casualties that the Russians are now being forced to send in even the most obsolete gear from the Far East. Twitter users certainly have a very high opinion of the superhuman capabilities of the Ukrainian Army versus the subhuman incompetence of the Russian.

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