Russia’s Campaign in Ukraine and the West’s Response: The End of the Beginning?

While it’s impossible to predict how the war in Ukraine, which is now undeniably a proxy war between the US/NATO and Russia, will wind up, some boundary conditions for both the military and economic battle are emerging. And their implications do not look too good for the West.

Let’s make a couple of overarching observations:

Russia has to and will win the immediate military contest. Russia cannot tolerate an armed and hostile bordering country any more than the US would accept China sending troops and weapons to Canada. Russia wants a neutral Ukraine. If the only way the West will accept that is by prostrating Ukraine, so be it. Note that Russia launched its invasion with clearly stated objectives of demilitarizaton and denazification which most assuredly did not amount to conquering or occupying Ukraine. Putin also said something to the effect of “We won’t stay where we aren’t wanted” which did signal a willingness to entertain Crimea-type referenda, using the precedent the US set in Kosovo.

The US and many European countries have taken such extreme positions about the Russian invasion that it’s hard to see how they back down if [when] Russia wins. Had they not turned the dial up to 11, they would have had an easy out in depicting the Russian “failure” to take the western part of Ukraine, which Russia seems highly unlikely to attempt, as a Russian loss and a way for the US and Europe to save face.

But by having bought their own propaganda about the fundamental evil of Putin and all things Russian, including cats and Russia losing the war, the US and NATO will have no where to go when the Ukraine military collapses, which is inevitable. The Western press, by virtue of laziness and/or capture, keeps projecting a US style approach onto Russia, when by now they should know better. Russia is prosecuting a methodical grinding up of Ukraine’s military capacity and by quite a lot of measures is doing very well. Looking at territorial acquisition was and is the wrong way to assess progress.

Mind you, the West will try to look like is is Doing Something, like saber-rattling, admitting Finland and Sweden to NATO, and making promised to arm Europe. The latter project will take years and is unlike to amount to much in the light of Europe’s own deteriorating economic situation.

The US had already made clear it was not going to give up on its economic sanctions of Russia, even when its “Russia is losing” story seemed more plausible than it does now. The US justification for again looting Russia (the hoped-for outcome) even if it were defeated in Ukraine, was that it would be necessary to force the overthrow of Putin and/or the breakup of Russia (a pet idea of Zbigniew Brzezinski).

So if Russia achieves its objectives in the next month or two (mind you, cleaning up operations can have a long tail) and the Western press can’t finesse that the Ukraine military is kaput, the PR fallback might be that the Western sanctions are eating at the foundations of the Russian economy and it won’t be too long before it collapses.

The wee problem with relying on the economic barrage to succeed where a military one failed is that the sanctions and sanctions blowback/countersanctions are shaping up to be trench warfare. As Michael Hudson and others have explained, Europe and the US are more fragile than they appear. Unequal societies dependent on the labor of lowly workers who are already economically stressed are vulnerable to political upheaval when they are hit with additional fuel and food price shocks.

Russia will suffer too, but it is in a completely different position than the West. First, it was on its way to being an autarky. Second, it was warned that sanctions were coming, both directly and by how the US has gone after Iran. Its handling of the financial sanctions shows Russia had made some preparations on the banking front; we’ll see in the coming months if it made adequate provisions on the real economy front. Third, many reports from Russia confirm that Russians on a widespread regard the continued advance of NATO into Ukraine as an existential threat and will accept necessary sacrifices. Fourth, Russia came through the crucible of its 1990s collapse and was still able to regroup and recover. It seems very unlikely that Russian lifespans and living standards will fall as far as they did then. And this time, Europe will be taking body blows, so even though Russia’s absolute economic conditions will fall, its relative position might not.

Let’s look at some recent developments and see how they fit in.

The Weakening Condition of the Ukraine Armed Forces

The battle for Mariupol is not the war, but Russia has taken control of the city save technically for the remaining Ukraine forces holed up in the Azovstal factory, which the Russian Ministry of Defense recently estimated as at most 2100. Keep in mind that even though it seems as if the Mariupol clearing operation has gone on for a while, it took ten months to subdue Mosul, which had a roughly similar number of defenders (the MoD recently put the former Ukraine forces in Mariupol at 8,100 when earlier estimates by other parties were much higher; the ISIS forces holding Mosul have been pegged at anywhere between 3,000 and 12,000).

The Azovstal factory forces were clearly doomed, cut off from food, water, and fresh weapons. Russia repeatedly promised their survival if they surrendered. Russian sources claim that radio chatter revealed soldiers asking for permission to turn themselves over to Russia but Kiev refused and ordered commanders to shoot any deserters or even anyone who mentioned surrender. The Ukraine government has not commented on these accounts.

However, my understanding is both Ukraine and Russia have effectively confirmed the authenticity of the video below. The only dispute is who the speaker is. Both sides put him in the same unit; Russia also claims he is a member of the Azov Battalion:

Although this is a grim picture, it’s more or less where all the units in Donbass are headed if they don’t surrender or escape. There are numerous videos showing Ukraine soldiers using passenger vehicles. That means they are pretty much out of tanks and military vehicles.

Note this odd video Jerri flagged a few days ago in Links (sorry we can’t embed it):

This is from the Illych factory in Mariupol, another of the Azov Battalion last stands, which the Chechens captured last week.

One wonders, or maybe not, why so many Hummers are sitting around. The arms-savvy likely know that the Hummer was a failed experiment. It was a Jeep on steroids, which a higher wheelbase and independent suspension so it could handle even rougher terrain. But like the Jeep, it was not clad. In the Middle East, they kept being blown up by mines, to the degree that the Pentagon had to be persuaded to retrofit their bottoms. History Hit drily comments that Hummers were not well suited for urban combat. They made for easy targets.

The ones in the factory do look dusty, as if they were put in service. But how did they get there in the first place? Were they US castoffs that Ukraine concluded weren’t fit for purpose for them either?

The plural of anecdote is not data, but this segment is even more puzzling:


What are three tanks doing sitting around, particularly since the only one you can see well looks way too clean, as if it has been little used? Perhaps PlutonimKun had the answer:

The Ukie tanks will never go one on one with Russian tanks for a simple reason – their ammunition is out of date and can’t penetrate modern Russian armour. This is a very well known limitation of their standard gun. Nato can’t help as it doesn’t make armour piercing shells of the right calibre for the Ukie tanks.

Let’s widen the lens. The Ukraine army is pretty much out of gas. We linked to a Ukraine business site saying more than a week ago that only 1/3 of the gas stations were open. As Louis Frye confirmed:

UA no longer has any functional refineries…supplies have to be trucked in from somewhere. No diesel, no mechanized warfare.

and those tanker trucks in transit are impossible to hide and make easy targets

The West Can’t Resupply Ukraine

Louis Frye pointed out that getting more fuel in is practically impossible. The same problem applies to any large weapons systems: they’d need to be moved in on train and Russia could take them out en route, assuming Russia didn’t get them earlier. Russia has been having a good run of taking out weapons as soon as they get to depots in Lvov. This account is from Nightvision at the Saker, so take it with a large dose of salt as to how much in materiel was actually destroyed. But as you can see from the magnitude of the blasts, the missiles look to have hit something or things that were pretty explosive:

A stockpile of American, German and British anti-tank missiles was destroyed at a military depot in Lvov. According to our source in the SBU, the attack on the logistics base in Lvov was a complete surprise. Several tens of tons of various anti-tank weapons were destroyed at the facility, including German PanzerFausts, British NLAWs and American Javelins. It was expected that these funds should be enough for a month of active hostilities against Russian troops. According to our source, the plant was carried out secretly on commercial and civilian vehicles. Therefore, an investigation is now underway as to why the Russians were able to figure out all three storage sites.

Note the “our source in the SBU” isn’t crazy; Scott Ritter said it’s well infiltrated by Russia.

Bitchute is a bit triumphalist: Awesome Angle Of Russian Kalibers Rocking NATO Weapons Storage In Lyvov

Even if you discount these examples, it’s clear that Ukraine has become a black hole for weapons. Pentagon sources recently admitted to Bloomberg and CNN that Ukraine is consuming weapons in a week that the US thought would last a month.

Some of that appears to be because our wonder weapons aren’t working so well in the field. Russian tanks typically appear able to withstand several Javelin hits before needing repair. Russia appears often able to jam Switchblade drones.

Other gaps result from Ukraine mainly using Russian weaponry and the West not having the right sized shells.

Yet another problem is Russia has taken out most Ukraine repair factories, so damaged tanks and trucks have to go to the Czech Republic for a fix-up.

And that’s before getting to the high odds that many of the weapons shipments are being diverted and sold on the black market. Again from Louis Frye:

Modern western weapons are produced at a snail’s pace. In less than two months Ukraine has used up years’ worth of arms production via

1. destruction-capture by RU whether by air or ground,
2. UA forces using more weapons than western planners assumed (fighting the last war, RU ain’t the Taliban or Republican Guard);
3. UA social media rumours-accusations that certain local authorities, particularly in western UA, are hoarding-skimming weapons shipments meant for the frontlines

#3 is how you turn UA into Libya or 1980’s Lebanon and have Z thrown out in a coup and have UA run by overt ultranationalists.

Louis Frye indirectly raises another point: who is being attritted here? The West’s assumption was that they’d quickly deplete Russia’s warmaking capacity. But it’s the US/NATO cupboards that are being drained. Now the West defenders argue that they are giving up old Soviet stuff that Ukraine can use. That’s true only to a point. They’ve also sent in Javelins, manpads, and Switchblades, to not much effect.

By contrast, Russia is picking up the tempo in Donbass, but still sticking to Russian doctrine of chewing pieces out of enemy cauldrons and grinding them down. Over the last week, they’ve been advancing slowly, it appears with the main intent to get Ukraine units to try to attack, which is leading to very bad outcomes for them. I read a report which I cannot locate again, citing the Pentagon, which indicated that Russia had just markedly increased the number of battalion tactical groups in the Izyum area, presumably as part of the program to whittle down and finish off the cauldron.

Given the West’s intent to keep Ukraine fighting to the last Ukrainian, the eventual collapse of this cauldron may still not lead to a cessation of resistance. Lambert and I have been of the view that Alexander Mercourius put forth yesterday: if Ukraine won’t then accept terms, the next logical area to target is the Black Sea coast.

Ukraine Is Running Out of Fighting Men

Weapons are not of much use if you don’t have enough troops to use them. Weeks ago, Gonzalo Lira said his Ukraine contacts were reporting massive flights of young men to the border to escape being conscripted (men 18 to 65 were being required to serve). A Forbes story found by OnceWereVirologist provided indirect confirmation, by depicting the desperate-sounding calling up of taxi drivers, ump, tank reservists, as heroic.

Who Will Suffer More in the Sanctions War?

Due to the hour and the length of this post, I am sorry to give this point short shrift and most certainly will elaborate in future offerings.

The West clearly did not anticipate that Russia would weather the initial financial shock and awe of the sanctions. It is still assuming that Russia will be hit hard for the real economy effects, which will take longer to manifest. But the failure to game out Russia not imploding as expected means they are now suffering unanticipated blowback.

The next level of US/EU hopium is that Russia will start suffering badly by the fall, well before winter cold and higher energy demand starts imposing a high political and human cost.

But it is not clear that the West is not just as exposed to downside risk before the winter. Biden has been sending some of the US strategic petroleum reserve releases to Europe. That drawdown is expected to end by October, when the US fantasizes that it will be able to produce and deliver enough LNG to largely compensate for the loss of Russian fuel. That’s possible but far from probable. The US and Europe are getting an energy break now due to Chinese Covid lockdowns, so we don’t have an accurate picture as how stressed energy supply would be under normal spring/summer conditions.

Germany is expecting very large food price increases soon. That is going to be destabilizing, to put it mildly. High food and energy prices may also eat into the current warm welcome for Ukraine refugees, who compete for housing stock, food, energy, and place other demands on government.

Another wild card is the impact of hunger and starvation outside Europe, which is likely to come into play before the winter. Famine leads to migration. Where will hungry people from the Middle East and Africa go? They are sure to try to come to Europe. What happens next is over my pay grade.

And the euro is already looking wobbly. From Bloomberg in The ECB Must Act Soon to Avoid a Currency Crisis (hat tip furzy):

The remorseless strength of the U.S. dollar as the global haven is starting to cause problems — and not just in emerging markets…The eurozone, however, is where the most discomfort is felt because it is exacerbating inflation, in part because imports become more expensive. The common currency anchors the European Project so a precipitous drop risks becoming existential for continental unity in a way that yen weakness doesn’t.

The euro has declined steadily for the past year from above 1.22 per dollar to within close range of the 1.0640 low of March 2020, when the pandemic first hit. A test of parity to the dollar later this year is no longer a low-probability risk. A currency crisis of confidence is the last thing the European Central Bank needs. It already faces an almost impossible choice between counteracting soaring imported inflation or risking a renewed recession. But doing nothing is rapidly ceasing to be an option.

Imported inflation is exacerbated by the war in Ukraine because much of Europe’s energy purchases are priced in dollars. A weaker euro just magnifies the short-term problem.

The author argues for a 50 basis point rate increase to defend the euro. At super low rate levels, interest rate increases have a disproportionately large impact on asset prices, particularly bonds.

The bigger point is that Europe has another economic plate spinning on the top of a pole that is in danger of crashing. And the cure will cause damage of its own.

In other words, the US and Europe may still be able to muddle through the fall into the winter, but their economic course is more fraught than most experts and pols appear to recognize.

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  1. ambrit

    Abandoned tanks that look like they are in pristine condition suggests that the former users ran out of fuel and or ammunition for them. I read in a comment recently that the Ukrainian tanks lacked shells capable of ‘defeating’ Russian armour. In such a situation, one would avoid armour versus armour engagements, or, in other words, hide.
    I can see the Russians blockading the Azovstal plant and waiting the defenders out. With no prospects of relief from without, a limited force could do that. The rest can be redeployed to the Donbass Front.
    I’m wondering what the Russian ideas concerning the de facto partitioning of the Ukraine are. At this stage of the dysfunction, where diplomacy has been abandoned, ‘de facto’ partition is the most probable course.
    A final uneasy status similar to the North Korea versus South Korea ‘modus vivendi’ is probable. The “war” will never ‘officially’ end.

    1. Oh

      I have a feeling (just guessng) that bit by bit the Russians will take over the cities that border the Black Sea and eventually take the rest of Ukraine. That’s the only way to ensure no encroachment of the neo-liberals and neo-nazis to the Russian border. NATO and the US will be fiddling with Biden, er Brandon leading the orchestra.

    2. Greg

      The main way tanks are dying in Ukraine appears to be from artillery, rocket, and air strikes. ATGMs are playing a part, but with the problems Yves mentions. There has been little or no tank vs tank fighting in the footage that has leaked or been released so far.

      This makes sense! Tanks in urban combat are best used as support for the more agile light skinned vehicles and infantry. They’re there to be machine gun walls that can take out sniper nests safely.

  2. Louis Fyne

    The situtation w/the UA equipment in Mariupol look like an allegory for the whole UA military…..looks like they have been cannibalized for parts. and no diesel, even if parts were in supply.

    Gasoline is better to smuggle than diesel as military vehicles are fuel hogs. And civilian vehicles don’t stick out as much as military ones. There have been UA posted social media of UA military in pick-up trucks just like a Chad technicals.

    given that there are no functional UA refineries and a general breakdown of the UA economy, it is a reasonable assumption that RU intel treats any multi-vehicle group of “civilian” vehicles as suspicious.

    From 2015 the Donbas line of contact has turned into the 2nd most fortified area, besides the Korean DMZ. There has been little movement so far because the RU are bombarding the snot of out well entrenched defenders who have been isolated since the early days of the war.

    Same playbook as the Azozstal plant, bombing them, deny resupply. Only send in infantry when the odds are well stacked in their favor.

    1. OnceWereVirologist

      And now the West is giving them heavy weapons in NATO calibres, doubling the logistical load if they want to use them in the east. 155 mm howitzer shells weigh more than 40 kg each and have to be moved in quantity if the weapons are to be of much use. I suspect that in the end it would be wiser to keep the NATO equipment in reserve in the west, rather than divide whatever resupply and refuel capability they have in the Donbass between two different ammunition and spare parts supply chains.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Like this kind?

        The M198 howitzer weighs 15,760 pounds (in both traveling and firing configuration), and is 35.75 feet long in firing configuration (40 feet in traveling configuration and 24 feet in stowed configuration). The cannon itself has 45 degrees of lateral traverse and can be elevated between 72 and -5 degrees.

        I don’t see how those get to the east in any but not trivial #s w/o being destroyed. Given how Russia seems to have well placed snoops in the west, they may still be taken out when they get to storage areas. Russia seems to be very good at following weapons deliveries and then hitting the cache, witness two big strikes in Lvov in the past week. So meaningful numbers might not even get into the west.

          1. Soredemos

            Won’t make a difference, even if any of them reached the frontline and the logistics were quickly figured out.

            As far as I can tell the common western perception, pushed by our media, is that Ukraine is holding out* because of the generous flow of portable weapons systems. But I’ve seen little evidence that many of these systems have even really reached the fighting. What is being used (and, frequently, not used, and instead abandon to be captured by Russian troops and Donbass militia) are the stockpiles Ukraine already had when the war started.

            On top of that, man-portable weapons are meant to be supplements. They’re useful, sometimes extremely useful, but they’re meant to augment an infantry units capabilities, not to be the main anti-armor or anti-air system. The primary defense is always supposed to be heavy weapons systems, of which Ukraine has precious little left. NATO can dump as many portable missile and rocket launchers into Ukraine as it wants, but what Ukraine needs are heavy vehicles and vehicle drawn systems. And I don’t think *any* of those that have been donated (‘donated’; watch as Ukraine ultimately has to pay the bill for all that gear) so far have reached the fighting. The heavy stuff can only be transported by rail; it’s super obvious and super vulnerable. Slovakia donated an S-300 AA system, which was then quickly destroyed by Russia.

            And even if any of that stuff did reach the fighting, Ukraine needs a vast amount of it. Seventy-five artillery units or a hundred old Soviet tanks donated by the Czechs are drops in the bucket.

            *Ukraine isn’t holding out. They’re getting their asses kicked. They’ve only lasted this long because Russia has been deliberately fighting with one or even both hands tied behind its back. I suspect things are going to go a lot more quickly in the Donbass cauldrons as Russia seems to be steadily taking the gloves off. They’re increasingly unleashing their fearsome artillery capabilities now that fighting is moving to the open steppe.

      2. Revenant

        Here’s something else to chew on. I was going to send it in to Yves or Lambert by email bit this post might be more fertile ground.

        Other UK NC’s may have noticed a traffic disruption on the M4 over Easter. Not the usual holiday jams but a fireworks depot exploding, it said.

        I certainly noticed and thought: odd place for a fireworks depot. In the UK, the remaining companies (high end display pyrotechnics) are in Kimbolton in the Lincolnshire fens Retail fireworks all come from China. And nobody buys fireworks at Easter, in the UK we only set them off on Nov 5th.

        It seems most unlikely there is a fireworks depot full at Easter in densely populated SE England right, next to major defence bases and the Aldermaston nuclear weapons plant. Nobody would grant an explosives licence next to such a site!

        Yet apparently it was “possible fireworks amd pyrotechnics” in a barn. Right next to RAF Welford, Europe’s largest munitions store. And apparently the fire brigade and other responders still have the scene closed off three days later.

        The chatter in comments (see Mirror article) and on Moon of Alabama is that the proxy war on arming the Ukraine may have arrived in the Home Counties….

      3. redleg

        The powder is separate from the shell. While the powder bags weigh less they take up more volume, so double the number of trucks or train cars to transport 155mm ammo. The same applies to 152mm and 122mm Soviet standard systems. Moving artillery around takes a lot of trucks (or horses), which in turn presents an inviting target.

        Changing weapons systems is a much more daunting task than a layperson would think. Each artillery system has specific powder loads for getting a specific shell-fuse combination to land at a specific range at a particular angle and maximum elevation. Changing around weapons systems (155mm, 152mm, 122mm, 120mm, 105mm, 4.2″, 82mm, 81mm, etc.) is far more complex than swapping an AK-47 for an M-16. It requires having the right database to calculate the shell, fuse, charge, and gun angle to hit the target at a particular range (database being digital or old-school charts). It requires familiarity with the weapon to enable rapid movement and to avoid accidents (e.g. how far does it recoil?). All of this requires practice on each system, for the gun bunnies and fire direction control. Practice requires fuel, ammo, transportation, and forward observers that are needed at the front.
        I don’t see how sending NATO heavy weaponry helps the Ukraine military at this point, when they lack the time and physical resources necessary to train with these systems. That begs the question, are the NATO weapons coming complete with crews?

        1. Exile

          My wild guess is this equipment is planning to be used in a massive Spring counter offensive using a combined Kiev-NATO-etc Army of around 350,000.

          6-9 months is enough time to train this new Army. One can guess that NATO forces and Kiev forces are already training in Poland etc

      4. Anthony G Stegman

        I think these announcements of howitzer shipments to Ukraine and the like are more for domestic political consumption than for any real military impact. Biden needs to be seen by his political rivals as being aggressive towards Russia and doing everything possible to help the blond hair and blue eyed Ukrainians.

    2. Skip Intro

      I assumed that they were trying to sneak out by using civilian vehicles, but looking at the hummers, it may be that they needed to get good mileage from dwindling fuel.

    3. Cat Burglar

      I have been reading reports on artillery to find out if depleted uranium munitions are being used, but so far have not found any. As readers may know, it is depleted, but still radioactive to a significant degree.

      1. Greg

        Don’t DU rounds mostly get used in direct fire jobs like tanks? Would expect more white phosphorus on the anti-infantry anti-light skinned vehicle jobs we’re seeing in Ukraine, and HE is fine for top down hits on tanks.

        1. redleg

          Yes, direct fire weapons use DU, not artillery, unless of course they’ve invented some expensive new DU munition since I’ve departed the Army where I was an artillery officer.

          The top and bottom of a tank have the weakest armor. A large HE round can theoretically kill a modern tank, but usually not. However, the concussion can take out a track or a road wheel, demolish the optical equipment, damage gun barrels, damage the engine, take out electronics, etc. which makes the tank combat ineffective. If the hatches are open, tanks and tank crews are vulnerable to artillery and even snipers.

          OTOH, lesser armored vehicles (BMPs, BRDMs, etc.) are vulnerable to most artillery fire.

          1. Greg

            Thanks chief, I appreciate your obvious expertise in your comments (as opposed to we armchair idiots).

  3. PlutoniumKun

    The obvious military question is what is the situation with Ukraines front line reserves. If they’ve been used up already, then its all over bar the shouting. Even well equipped newly trained units will be no match for battle hardened Russians. But likely they still have substantial numbers of professional soldiers in the main cities just outside the combat area – presumably the cities on the crossing points of the Dnieper and Odessa. The question is whether they can bring them to combat in a meaningful way if the main Army in the south-west collapses.

    Even when an army is under collapse, if there is sufficient morale, it can still do an enormous amount of damage. The Battle of Hurtgen Forest near the end of WWII being a case in point – the Germans inflicted what by any standards was a huge defeat on a larger US force at a time when the war was all but over. An utterly pointless waste of life.

    1. Louis Fyne

      there are several pro-UA social media accounts that accuse Zelensky of dramatically undercounting UA war deaths and denying death benefits to survivors.

      There are (unverified of course) video-photos from UA social media that show off some people who look 16-18 in military training.

      Anecdotes from RU-friendly social media tell of interogations of UA soldiers who say that they were led by new, sloppily trained junior officers.

      It’s Afghan Army 2021 the sequel. Everything will look fine until everything collapses at once.

    2. Louis Fyne

      when the war is over and real unbiased evidence comes out, my prediction is that UA military losses will be horrific, particularly for such a short war. Daily death rates that we haven’t seen since WWII or Korea.

      While RU losses will be in the ballpark of their public briefings.

      If UA was holding their own, we would be more evidence trickling out on social media IMO

    3. CG

      The best that I can tell, reading between the lines of Western reporting, is that the situation for the regular, pre-war Ukrainian military can’t possibly be good. When you have the government trying to turn as many civilians as possible into franc-tireurs by handing out small arms and RPGs like candy and legalizing attacks on Russian military personnel, bans on military age men leaving the country, along with various reports of Ukrainians in uniform and being sent into combat with virtually no training (the one that most comes to mind at the moment is a picture of several teenagers being sent somewhere at least under arms with supposedly only three days of training, as if that was something other than murdering them), while that might not register to the average person, it does indicate that the Ukrainian position from day 1 must have been viewed by the Ukrainian government as desperate enough to justify acting like it was Berlin in May 1945 from day 1 of the current war.

      Frankly, I’m left wondering in all this to what degree we are seeing Ukrainian overperformance at the tactical and operation level vs. staggering Russian underperformance at the strategic level. Everything I’ve heard does give me the impression that the Russians quite literally believed that “they would be welcomed as liberators” as plan A. And that a lot of the issues we’re seeing stem from the Russian leadership truly believing that and planning and acting accordingly. They’re still succeeding in mauling the Ukrainians, and they are adjusting their campaign to the actual reality of the conflict, but any victory they win is going to be a lot uglier than it would have been with an accurate assessment of the political situation in Ukraine.

      And let’s not forget that likely a reason why Western weapons are not being fully accounted for is the their diversion to Gladio style stay behind forces. Meaning even if Russia wins the conventional war, they’ll just get to fully live out the Iraqi Freedom experience of having to deal with a hell of an insurgency. Although unlike the US, their neither as wealthy or powerful as we are and this will be right on their border.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, the “we would be greeted as liberators” is a US fabrication. The Russians had intel for something less naive: that in certain cities in the East with substantial ethnic Russian populations, mayors would agree to let troops pass through. The proof that this was not crazy is that several mayors did agree but were promptly executed by the SBU. So they did have an “if things break our way” plan but that was not their only plan.

        They corrected for that within the first week. You need to listen to Scott Ritter. He has explained how Russia has been engaged in classic maneuver warfare, and has very successfully defined the battlefield to their liking. They have been in control of the tempo and the focus of fighting from very early on.

        Their only arguable major strategic “mistake” was not taking out the power and cell phones and Internet day one, as the US would have done. They did that so as not to put Ukraine civilians in more discomfort than necessary. But that has allowed Zelensky to continue to get major media attention around the world.

        The other “mistake’ which is not exactly strategic, is being unprepared for the ferocity of the Western propaganda war. I’m not sure what they could have done to counter it, since any way of Russia communicating to Western audiences has almost entirely been shut down. You can’t even get to Russian government sites without using a VPN. But the tactical issue related to that is the degree to which Ukraine has been using civilians as human shields, and then trying to depict Russia as engaging in war crimes when they try to hit military targets that Ukraine has put in residential neighborhoods, or being scapegoated for Ukraine shelling of residential neighborhoods (as appears to have happened on a widespread basis in Mariupol, perhaps based on the view that the locals were Russia friendlies; one senior officer who surrendered from the Illych factory said one of the reasons he surrendered is that the community was hostile, which I took to mean he his troops had no hope of escaping).

        Regarding strategy, you appear not to understand how Russians wage war. Classic Russian doctrine, back to WWI, is the opposite of the flashy German/US focus on seizing lots of territory and trying to capture cities. The Russians are fixated on destroying Ukraine’s military. They have been systematically taking out their fuel and weapons depots, their repair spots, troop training and gathering spots, their airbases and fixed wing planes. They don’t hurry, they have no need to hurry. Going slower allows them to starve Ukraine troops of materiel and food and enables them to be killed or captured at lower cost to Russian forces and equipment.

        1. Steve H.

          > unprepared for the ferocity of the Western propaganda war.


          A massive attack against Russia has also been unleashed in cyberspace. An unprecedented information campaign has been launched through global social networks and all Western media outlets, whose impartiality and independence have proved to be a mere myth. Access to information is being restricted and people are being crammed full of all sorts of fake stories, propaganda, and fabrication, or simply put, snake oil. It even got to the point where American social media companies said straight out that it was possible to post calls for the murder of Russian nationals.

          The problem, again, is that many of these people are, essentially, over there in their minds and not here with our people and with Russia.

          But any nation, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth, spit them onto the pavement.

          * * *

          I’ll suggest that the propaganda war is something like Air Supremacy; it’s subject to failure from a relatively low level of exclusion. I’ll speculate Russia is prepared to set up a Great Western Firewall. Robb distinguishes Virtuals from Tangibles, and notes that Virtuals ‘didn’t show up’ in Afghanistan. Virtuals are ‘over there in their minds’ and are identified as traitors.

          Setting up the firewall both allows internal cohesion, and isolates the swarm pathology to the West. In ‘Hypernormalization’ “Vladislav Surkov uses ideas from art to turn Russian politics into a bewildering piece of theatre.” [wiki] Rather than suppression, a cacophony is created that undercuts timely evaluation. The West now has “the worst informational environment ever.” And “Vladislav Surkov is reportedly arrested“.

          I had read reports in recent years that Glazyev was out of favor. Sure looks like he was working in the background to create the financial firewall. His opinion of the West: “Disappointingly, monetary authorities of Russia are still a part of the Washington paradigm and play by the rules of the dollar-based system, even after Russian foreign exchange reserves were captured by the west.”

          Surkov out, Glazyev in. May I also point out that to date there has been no concerted cyberattack on the West.

          I recognize my views are unusual: the nearest I’ve seen is from this post, breadcrumbed from Schneier.

          1. ChrisPacific

            I’ll suggest that the propaganda war is something like Air Supremacy; it’s subject to failure from a relatively low level of exclusion. I’ll speculate Russia is prepared to set up a Great Western Firewall.

            For evidence on the limits of what propaganda wars can accomplish, we need look no further than North Korea. Yes, they were forced to set up a firewall like you describe, and it resulted in a rather odd and pathological society in the longer term, but nonetheless it seems quite stable and has lasted for several generations now. The US has been screeching about how evil they are for decades now, without much noticeable effect except to keep them isolated.

        2. CG

          First off, I’m not sure how someone would come to the conclusion that it’s characterized by more or less painting colors on a map. It’s more or less 101 level for military planning that the goal of war, as Clausewitz put it, that “Since of the three objectives named, it is the fighting forces that assure the safety of the country, the natural sequence would be to destroy them first, and then subdue the country. Having achieved these two goals and exploiting our own position of strength, we can bring the enemy to the peace table”. In other words, I fail to see how the understanding of war possessed by Western militaries differs from the above course of action of first destroying an enemy force and then occupying a country in order to secure a favorable settlement.

          If anything, it is the Russians that appear to have gone with a strategy of painting the map, and doing so in an utterly haphazard way. The Russians have, especially in the north of Ukraine, more or less lunged at Kiev from Russia and Belarus. They never truly succeeded in establishing security in their rear areas and were thus forced to withdraw from the Kiev area as a consequence. This isn’t strictly speaking as catastrophic defeat as the Western press have portrayed it as, again the Russians are adapting to the situation on the ground, but it sure as hell isn’t a victory.

          And while I previously did agree with Ritter’s view, that the Russians were fixing Ukrainian forces in and around Kiev to free up their ability to maneuver in more critical areas, as John Dolan pointed out in a recent episode of his podcast the sheer size of the Russian efforts around Kiev make that questionable. In order to fix Ukrainian forces in Kiev, you would only need to credibly threaten an attack on Kiev, more or less have Russian and Belarussian forces making demonstrations on their side of the border (or create the appearance of such). You wouldn’t need to do a full scale assault on Kiev that never actually went anywhere.

          Given how the Russian’s conducted their operation around Kiev, I’d say it’s far more likely that plan A was to seize Kiev as a coup de main within the first several days of the war. When that didn’t work, plan B was to besiege Kiev. And when the Russians saw various issues with plan B, they cut their losses and withdrew across the border. This is not to argue for Russian incompetence, but instead the opposite. That at the relevant levels, they had planned for multiple contingencies and, when none of the plans they had devised worked, were willing to avoid more or less throwing good money after bad.

          Although, given that it took around a month for the Russians to name an overall commander and reports that one reason the Ukrainian government disbelieved that an invasion was imminent was due to a lack of communication between Russian forces, I still remain unconvinced that at the strategic level this was a well thought out campaign. Given also that American intelligence claims that the decision to invade was made at most about a month prior to the invasion, my sense of things is that this was an operation mostly thrown together on the fly, with the same type of overly optimistic assumptions made in Iraqi Freedom, with a substantial amount of improvisation at fairly high levels in the Russian military. That appears to be changing now, but the issue is that it really should never have gotten to that point in the first place.

          Finally, as to the response of ethnically Russian Ukrainians, I can’t help but be struck that in cities in eastern Ukraine, such as Kherson, with substantial numbers of ethnic Russians, the people who were protesting Maidan in 2014 and raising Russian flags at the time, we have seen so far peaceful protests against the Russian invasion. I think it’s fairly likely that if Russian forces had entered into this area in 2014, they would have been received warmly, but that is not the case now. Any Russian objective that requires at least the acquiescence of the local population thus, to my mind, seems questionable at best without substantial backing of the post war authorities by Russia. And the West has every incentive to run the playbook we’ve run in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. of sapping Russian strength as much as possible through sending as many weapons and supplies as possible across the western borders of Ukraine so that they can end up in the hands of outright neo-Nazis who will use them to kill Russians.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            This is Making Shit Up. Russia DID fix Ukraine forces around Kiev. You can sit there and tell your stories but they did not go east in any way whatsoever to help in Donbass, which was Russia’s Phase 1/Phase 2 objective and always their top priority. As Ritter pointed out, Russia engaged in enough of the way of attacks near Kieve that they took tactical looses. You also seem to forget what now looks like the greatest headfake evah, the 40 KM lines of what were assumed to be tanks but may have included a lot of trucks that was a threat v. Kiev.

            This operation was widely taken as a Russian intent to take Kiev to the degree that the press banged on about the Russian failure to do so was proof that they were losing. And now you are engaging in revisionist history, big time.

            They also fixed forces around Odessa.

            Russia has taken Mariupol, a contested city with a defense force of similar size to Mosul, in 1/5 the time. Russia has destroyed a very large portion of the military capability of a NATO armed and trained country the size of France in less than two months, with its B team and fielding an army merely of comparable size to the Ukraine active service forces, not the usual much larger military force needed for a successful invasion. And you’ve managed to cook up elaborate stories to tell yourself that the Russians don’t know what they are doing? Seriously? Despite Ukraine resistance being depicted as fierce?

            Your claims about Khershon are also Making Shit Up, unsubstantiated by links, and look to be repetition of Ukraine propaganda. Khershon is not Kiev 2014 yet you bizarrely conflate the two.

            1. Kouros

              And the most important thing, beside fixing Ukraine forces in place, was destroying Ukrainian air force, naval force, ammunition and fuel depots as well as anything else related with military equipment…

            2. Tom Bradford

              This is Making Shit Up

              I think this is a harsh assessment. The success of the Normandy Landings and push into France from there in WW2 was largely made possible through getting the Germans to keep their main strength including their Panzas in the Pas-de-Calais to face was what Hitler believed to be an intended invasion across the Strait of Dover, based entirely on the Allied deceptive fiction of a non-existent army in Eastern England preparing to do just that. Had the Russians merely intended a feint at Kiev just to fix Ukrainian forces in the north I’d propose they could have done that in much the same way, rather than actually committing substantial forces to real battles in an attempt to encircle the city as they did.

              On the other hand they clearly didn’t commit sufficient forces to actually take and hold a city the size of Kiev – tho’ the famous 40km convoy may well have been an attempt to disguise this fact. I suspect the Russians did initially think the Ukrainians would put up less resistance than has happened – perhaps in the belief that the Ukrainians at the top would accept reality and take the sensible option of not destroying their country – and would seize the threat to Kiev as a justification for coming to the negotiating table.

              Thus the Russian pull-back from Kiev was a defeat in the sense that it failed to achieve its objective, but that objective was never military. It was a ‘strategic retreat.’

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                No, as Scott Ritter has repeatedly explained and at length, and other military experts like Jacques Baud point out and we have reiterated, there was no Russian intent to take Kiev. The big reason is the main Russian objective is to destroy Ukraine military capability, and not contest cities, which is a much harder way to prosecute a war.

                And as Ritter explained, you don’t deploy a mere 40,000 troops to take a city of 3 million, even more so with Kiev having a lot of sprawl for a city of that size. It was strictly a pinning operation. The Germans sent in 500,000 for the 1941 Battle of Kiev, when the population was clearly lower.

              2. redleg

                If you look at the numbers, Russia not only didn’t commit enough forces to take Kiev, they didn’t commit enough forces to take on the Ukrainian army. The standard is 3 attackers for every defender. The overall ratio is backwards, given the available numbers: 220k Russians vs. 600k Ukrainians. That alone says the Russians didn’t expect to assault or siege Kiev.

                One telltale sign that Ukraine is losing is that Russia has been able to redeploy their forces at will, moving them into and then out of the Kiev area without taking significant losses, while Ukrainian forces have been unable to do the same.

      2. Trisha

        Russia going to have to deal with a hell of an insurgency? Nonsense. The regions the Russians will liberate and/or annex, i.e. eastern and southern Ukraine, are ethnically related to, speak the same language as, and are sympathetic with Russia, none of which was the case in Iraq.

        I’m predicting that the areas Russia will not annex, such as most of central and western Ukraine, will simply be turned into a de-militarized wasteland and handed over to the EU to “rebuild.” Russian intelligence services are more than up to the task to infiltrate and reduce terrorist threats from this direction, as they have been already doing for a long time, and there are plenty of sympathetic folks even in these regions to help them.

          1. Alyosha

            Not only the terrain but many of the US issues with insurgencies (and the Soviets in Afghanistan) were/are related to language/culture divides. Counter insurgency is fundamentally an issue of trust. Building trust across language barriers is tough, even tougher if you insert a third person translator who needs to be trusted by both parties using the translator. I’m not sure the US policy makers understand that every Russian soldier can communicate directly with every Ukrainian civilian. Which is weird, but US incompetence has proved to be staggering.

            1. MK

              Spot On! The language and shared history (thousands of years) makes this absolutely 100% NOT anything the US/NATO has dealt with since WWII.
              Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Syria, et al.

              1. Wobblie

                The lands east of the Dniper became part of Russia in the late 1600’s about 350 years ago—not thousand. Expect the creation of a Federated state of Novorusyia to be declared on Victory Day, encompassing the Oblasts east of the Dniper. A Polish, Romanian, Slovakian “humanitarian” occupation of the lands in Western Ukraine that Stalin stole after (or during WWII. The sliver of land between the Dniper and the pre-WWIII borders will be the “insurgency” battle space.

                1. GM

                  The lands east of the Dniper became part of Russia in the late 1600’s about 350 years ago—not thousand

                  It doesn’t meant the language and history were not shared.

                  And Novorossya in particular may not have been “Russian” until the late 18th century, but it sure wasn’t Ukrainian either. It was a largely empty steppe that was only really settled once it became part of the Russian Empire.

                  Crimea had substantial population but that is a separate story

                  1. Soredemos

                    A common talking point among Ukrainian ultranationalists and their useful idiots is that Ukrainans are the real or original Russians. And there’s actually a certain amount of truth to this, but not in the way that the Banderites think.

                    Russian civilization started in Kiev (actually it really started in Novgorod, but let’s be generous and say Kiev), with the Kievan Rus/Ruthenians. But over time Kiev ceased being the main center of political power, and the centers of Russian civilization moved north and east, particularly to Novgorod and Moscow. The Kievan Rus became just that: Russians from Kiev; far from the only Russians, and their leaders merely one set of Princes among many. Eventually Moscow came to dominate, and starting with Ivan IV its Princes proclaimed themselves to be Tsars of all Russians.

                    Eventually the region around Kiev came to be known as Malorossiya, which is literally translated as Little Russia, but actually means something like Core or Central Russia. The term was a calque of the Greek Micro Graecia, a term that referred to Greece proper and only came into existence, and only made any sense, in the context of a Magna Graecia, ie Greek colonies in Italy. The Kievan Rus at no point defined themselves as Ukrainians. They always defined themselves as Russians from Kiev, just as Belarusians defined themselves as White Russians (white here doesn’t have anything to do with skin color; it probably just meant Christianized).

                    On top of all of that, the modern state of Ukraine lays claim to a lot of territory that the Kievan Rus never really had much, if any, claim to. In the west was Galicia, which was part of Poland for most of its history. In the south and east was sparsely populated steppe, known historically as the Wild Fields, which was mostly inhabited by various tribes of horsemen (the word ‘Ukraine’ probably comes from a Polish term that basically means borderlands). Crimea and the Donbass (Donets Basin) regions became Russian (as in Moscovite) colonies in the 18th century, and this is the period in which most of the major cities of Ukraine were founded. None of these Novorossiyan colonists defined themselves as Ukrainians either.

                    Ukraine only took its current shape in 1922, with the later addition of Crimea when it was gifted to the Ukrainian SSR by Khrushchev in 1954. It is a mutant country, a bunch of ethnically and linguistically diverse regions welded together as part of a rather arbitrary political arrangement. Only a small part of it around Kiev can make any claim to having any kind of historical ‘Ukrainian’ identity (and even then, not really).

                    1. kriptid

                      Based on the background you have on this topic, it might also be interesting to listen to Putin’s speech in the moments preceding the Russian offensive, if you haven’t already.

                      He speaks of the decisions by the former Soviet leaders to integrate the Russian-speaking regions of Crimea/Donbas into the Ukrainian Soviet as what they were: massively stupid bureaucratic decisions that had little regard for the history, or future, of the people in these regions.

                      It took 100 years, but that boneheaded decision is finally paying its rotten dividend.

              2. José Freitas

                You can see this even in videos that show Ukrainians protesting and being angry at Russian soldiers, and the way Russian soldiers treat those dissenting Ukrainians. The dynamics are totally different, 100% of these videos I saw would have ended with all the civilians dead if the scene had been Kabul or Baghdad.

                1. Shura

                  I did not see a single Ukrainian protesting Russian presence. that is a hollow tale. There must be some nationalists who are opposed to Russia. as always opposition does exist everywhere, but in this Russian incursion all I see people welcoming Russian s

          2. GM

            Kherson and Melitopol have been Russian for a month and a half now.

            We have not seen any signs of an insurgency aside form a few pro-Russian individuals have been murdered, but presumably that will be sorted out as the clean up.

            No IEDs on roads, no random attacks against Russian military, the flags were changed, the ruble was introduced, and it looks like life has gradually been returning to normal.

            I do suspect things would be rather different when they get to Ivano-Frankovsk, but they might never get there anyway.

            1. Polar Socialist

              Apparently the Kherson Oblast south of Dnepr is doing relatively well; the irrigation system (part of Crimean channel) destroyed by Ukraine is back in operation, Russia is buying the agricultural products (with rubles), pensions are being paid (regardless of self-declared ethnicity) according to Russian statutes (so much bigger).
              The harts and minds seem to be coming over, even after many felt being betrayed by Russia in 2014, and even now have been careful with showing their loyalties in case the Kyiv regime returns with a vengeance.

              1. Polar Socialist

                Adding something I just read: the representative of Crimean Tatars, Eyvaz Umerov, claiming to speak also for Tatars in Kherson and Zaporizzya oblasts, is asking for creation of new Taurida oblast on the area of the three regions for the Tatars – as a federated subject of Russia.

  4. rrennel

    I may be repeating Yves’ message, but I feel a need to comment. We are indeed heading into war again without an exit strategy. Defeat of Russia by Ukraine forces, even with massive US/Nato military weapons is infeasible without regime change in Russia, which is also highly unlikely. The use of Poland as a staging area for weapons shipments and the arming of other nations on the Russian border is a provocation that I fear will not be tolerated for long. I also fear the US and its [current] allies are unprepared to respond to the use of WMD. Matt Taibbi recently reminded his readers of a 1979 essay by Woody Allen where he observed:
    “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” We seemed to have evaded the choice in 1979 (although some may argue we choose the path to despair and utter hopelessness) but we now are back at the crossroads.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Looking around at the rest of the planet, and the behavior of the vast majority of people as worse than locusts, eating the seed crop and turning up the flames, I’d venture that our collective grubby grasping consumptive competitive negative-sum insanity has us firmly committed (except for a tiny set of outliers trying to “do better”) to that “extinction” branch of the fork in that road.

      Gaia, we never knew you…

      1. JBird4049

        >>>and the behavior of the vast majority of people as worse than locusts, eating the seed crop and turning up the flames,

        Maybe, particularly for Americans, but it seems to me that most efforts, particularly by Americans as well, to make our economies less damaging, maybe even beneficial or Gaia friendly, have been undercut, blocked, and even just destroyed; the elites want short term Profit! more than the long term survival of everyone.

    2. redleg

      Stop with the “if Russia uses WMD” nonsense. The Russians haven’t even destroyed the power grid, so they’re not going to use chemical weapons.
      If WMD are used, any targets of Russian nukes won’t be in Ukraine.

      1. rrennel

        I find it ironic that JTMcPhee is more pessimistic than I am while redleg is many times more optimistic. Regarding WMD/chemical weapons, I wasn’t the one to suggest the prospect. I don’t know if Putin is more or less mad (crazy) than Trump or whether he has a bigger and more powerful Nuclear Button. I’m just impressed at his determination to execute on his stated goal – to control the future of Ukraine – in spite of the “West’s” complacency.

        1. redleg

          I’m actually the most pessimistic- I don’t see how this ends without Armageddon. The only way out of that result is to let Russia finish their operation from here. The US media is screaming for war, and the Russophobia is at a level that doing nothing is an incredibly unlikely outcome. There isn’t any room left for negotiation, only escalation. I have to hope that Biden continues to resist the pressure.

          The very first US missile, actual or perceived, that gets launched starts the nuclear holocaust. This is a razors edge we’re on right now: one slip and its all over.

    3. Michael Fiorillo

      Or, as Little Carmine Lupertazzi tells Tony in The Sopranos, “You’re at the precipice of a major crossroads.”

  5. Poul

    Ukrainian tanks can kill Russian tanks as can be seen from this combat footage from east of Kiev. Plus the Ukrainians have captured quite a few T-72’s & T-80’s. Not enough in a war of attrition but they can bite.

    Munition will become an issue for the Ukrainians as Bill Roggio points out both Soviet-era but also of Western-make

    The US have handed over 1/3 of their Javelin stock to Ukraine

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      First, Ukraine has no gas so possessing tanks is not very helpful even if true.

      Second, Ukraine has repeatedly been caught out presenting their own tanks as Russian, both supposed kills and captures. Ukraine tanks are of the same general type as Russian so laypeople usually cannot tell the difference.

      Gonzalo Lira showed this quite a few times in Ukraine propaganda videos. The grill detail on Russian tanks is the key distinction, and if that part is shown, you can readily see that “Russian” tanks are nearly always not.

      Third, Ukraine has also been regularly caught out recycling old footage from Donbass skirmishes as current.

      1. Synoia

        If I remember correctly the UK Chieftan tanks Consumed 15 gallons per mile.

        In addition the tip to tail ratio of Modern armies is between 10 to 1 to 15 to one. That translates to needing 10 to 15 support personnel for every fighting solder.

      2. Poul

        How do you know that their military stores are depleted? As for the lost Russian tanks. Absolutely happened.

        They ran their supply lines along their front line which is utter folly (the Sumy-Kiev axis). And they paid for that.

        Long term the Ukrainians need to shift to Western eqiupment but they can train their reserves for that.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You accepted our site Policies as a condition of commenting. Your comment is in violation of them. Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. Failure to adhere to our Policies results in termination of your commenting privileges.

          You volunteer no evidence to support your contention. It’s just an empty handwave.

          By contrast, we’ve cited experts who’ve reviewed the videos showing claimed Russian tank kills. Overwhelmingly, they were Ukie tanks, footage from other campaigns falsely claimed as the current ones, or as reader pointed out here, didn’t even show what they were claimed to show!

          As for Ukraine having badly deleted stores, Bloomberg and CNN said so, as a comment on Zelensky continuing to screech for weapons.

          Here is a compilation of Ukraine equipment and manpower lossed by a former American Marine as of the 12th. Russia has stepped up its tempo of operations since then.

          No military person I have read thinks any meaningful number of men can be trained in time for Ukraine to prevail, separate from the problem that Russia is destroying materiel at Lvov, as in just inside the Western border, and there are very few remaining routes to move equipment in. So Russia can take any out that manages to get further into the country.

          As Scott Ritter has said, he has yet to see anyone articulate a theory as to how Ukraine can win. Your second handwave falls well short of that standard.

          I trust you will find your happiness elsewhere on the Internet.

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      It’s not really clear that a Russian tank was killed in that video. The majority of the Russian vehicles are some kind of APC or IFV. There’s a close-up on a tank and a jump cut to a burning vehicle but you can’t really tell what the burning vehicle is. Most likely one of the APCs. Needless to say any APC is not going to hold up well against fire from a tank’s main gun.

      1. Tor User

        Agree with it being unclear what is being hit in the video.

        But the Ukrainian tank rounds form the T-64BM and T-64BV-2017 can penetrate the Russian tanks armor. Yes, the Russian sabot rounds are better than what Ukraine has. The Ukrainian tanks have to be closer.

        But all the other criticism concerning fuel and supplies are problems that have to be over come to get closer. And when Ukraine manages those issues, then the Russian certainly can hit them from the air.

    3. Safety First

      Let’s briefly examine that Twitter video you linked for a moment. In it we see: a) a column of wheeled APCs with some tank support (two in the lead, and more interspersed), and most of the fire exchange is with said APCs; b) Ukrainian tank and other weapons delivering flanking fire (underscore that, we’ll get back to it); c) after about 1:10 mark, when the camera angle changes, an artillery barrage that basically misses the column; and d) one, count it, one, wheeled APC burning (the Ukrainian tank is actually shown to miss a point-blank flanking shot at 0:44).

      This is not very good evidence for the statement: “Ukrainian tanks can kill Russian tanks”. Although here I am going to do a slight bit of an about face (a…semi-about demi-face?!).

      In principle, ANY armoured vehicle can kill ANY OTHER armoured vehicle. Especially if you swap the word “kill” for – “render combat-incapable for the duration of the encounter”, e.g. by immobilising it. What matters are the tactical circumstance necessary so to do, and whether these can be easily created. If you have inferior armour/gun/whatever but can gain position (flanking, high ground, etc.); or you can fix the enemy while your artillery/air/ATGMs is brought down on them; or you are able to target the tracks and gun barrels to stop it from advancing or firing on your positions in the next 15 minutes while you regroup; then you can win, at least potentially. Incidentally, this is exactly how American and Russian tankers circa 1943-1944 were dealing with Germans driving much more up-armoured and up-gunned models – when they could manage it, which was not always. The Germans weren’t slouches either in this regard.

      You will notice that in that Twitter video, the Ukrainian tank isn’t even flanking – it’s sitting behind a house in such a way so that it could shoot into the rear hemisphere of any Russian vehicle moving from left to right on that road, while covering its own left flank from return fire. From this angle, it could most certainly take out a Russian tank, if the opportunity had presented itself, but again, the video only shows one destroyed APC so the Russians clearly must have responded to the situation in some fashion.

      Now – I will submit that the true picture of armoured warfare and losses in Ukraine remains very murky. Both sides have made considerable claims, but documented losses are much harder to substantiate at this point. Still, we can make at least two statements. First, based on the awards citations regularly published by the Russian Ministry of Defence, tank battles are still occurring, at least on a small scale. Because every few days there is some tank commander that gets cited for encountering Ukrainian armour (as in, tanks, not IFVs) and destroying 2-3-4 of them with no losses. Circumstantially, this also suggests that, at least some of the time, the Russians are able to dictate the tactical terms to the Ukrainians, which is where their equipment inferiority can get exposed.

      Second, at scale, it appears that thus far in the campaign it is the Russians, and not the Ukrainians, that are taking ground – or, in the case of the “demi-ring” around Kiev, choosing when to relinquish it. [Recall that the Ukranian forces moved into those areas at least a day after the Russians had left.] Now, this raises the question of who is more likely to capture whose vehicles. Certainly the Ukrainians are unlikely so to do if they are retreating, or if the Russians are withdrawing without being actively pushed out. Which means if there are any captured T-72s or T-80s, these would be…where? Ambushes on rear-area columns? A tactical reverse somewhere that the Russians did not quickly recover from (because presumably in that instance they would only abandon a tank that had become immobilised, which also means the Ukrainians shouldn’t be able to move it anyplace very quickly)? Are we going to suggest that the Russians withdrew from around Kiev on their own terms and yet abandoned a slew of military vehicles they could not somehow evacuate or else simply blow up?

      In other words, until and unless indisputable visual evidence appears, it seems unlikely that more than a handful of Russian armour were captured; but it IS likely that some amount of Ukrainian tanks, suffering from lack of fuel or whatnot, were abandoned to the advancing Russians, which fact the LDNR press office loves to post about, though again, thus far I’ve only seen social media photos of maybe a dozen distinct vehicles.

      Ok, rant mode disengaged…

      1. Greg

        In the first week or two, when the russian forces were moving quickly in many areas of the country and not pausing to secure territory behind them, there were many, many definitely russian vehicles that were abandoned and later hauled away by ukrainian forces/tractors (right model, right markings, right place and time).
        That makes sense to me given the type of maneuvering the russian forces were doing at that time. Someone else here commented at the time that modern tank doctrine abandons/cannibalises busted vehicles and moves on to maintain momentum, leaving the rear to pick them up and take them to repair (which only works if the rear is secure).
        In the last few weeks, we have seen hardly any abandoned russian vehicles, and it’s likely what we are seeing is rehashed imagery of earlier stuff. This also makes sense, because they’re no longer rushing through unsecured territory. And in a managed withdrawal, you wouldn’t leave anything behind unless it was totally trashed.

        So i’m sort of disagreeing, sort of agreeing with the thrust of your comment. More capture earlier, definitely less now. And we have seen at least some captured vehicles recovered from depots once they were overrun by russian forces (in the north east).

    1. JEHR

      From Prof. Scott Newton’s essay:

      “This has clearly added to the Kremlin’s fears that a Ukrainian state aligned with the West would have significant implications for Russia. The main fear being that Ukraine might become actively hostile and seek to re-open divisive and potentially bloody issues which would otherwise appear to have been buried.”

      One of the fears not mentioned in this essay is the Holodomor.

      1. Soredemos

        There was no Holodomor, in terms of an intentional famine directed at Ukraine. What there was as a series of famines across all the agricultural regions of the Soviet Union in the early to mid 1930s. Ukraine wasn’t even the worst hit; Kazakhstan was. The idea that there was a deliberate genocidal famine in Ukraine was entirely cooked up years after the fact by Nazi collaborator Ukrainian expats and ultranationalists.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Even then, when the Holodomor was brought to a Ukrainian court recently, the court found as guilty mostly Ukrainian communists, and one particular Georgian. I believe of the 7-8 indicted persons only two were Russian. It takes some creativity to pull an anti-Russian narrative out of that.

          It has been the norm for the last 30 years in many countries of the former Soviet Union to blame Russians for things mostly or often perpetrated by locals. When historians – or courts of law – point out that “nah, we mostly did it to ourselves”, it generally doesn’t get much air time in the media.

        2. José Freitas

          But from the point of view of Ukrainians today, who have been propagandized for years (and let’s admit that millions of ukrainians died of famine, and the situation was ambiguous) the “perception” of the Holodomor is probably an important factor on the side of the Ukrainians.

        3. Martin Davis

          Yes, a Soviet not a specifically Ukrainian crisis. Bad weather causes falls in yields/output, but not necessarily famines. The latter are the result of maldistribution and lack of government aid. All this was covered by Sen some time ago. Imperial China before its decline was the poster child for traditional forms of amelioration, the British in India and Ireland the classic examples of criminal neglect. The Soviet famine followed on the heels of collectivisation, so the famine may well have been exacerbated by this aspect of Stalin’s ‘industrialisation at any cost’ policy. I think Sen’s point, that ultimately it is government that is responsible for food security, is the issue here. The government was Soviet, not Russian.

  6. The Rev Kev

    If Putin is not worried about mopping up the last Azov remnants in Mariupol, it may be because he is seeing how far he is ahead. If he sends in the Chechens into the tunnel complex, there will be enormous casualties on both sides. And more than likely, that Azov unit would murder the civilians they are holding and then claim for propaganda purposes that the Russians did it. And you know who the west would believe. So he will let them stew and have the surrounding forces plink off any that can be seen while they slowly restrict where those Azov forces can move. Time is on his side and Putin does not seem to be the sort to waste Russian lives unnecessarily.

    The more important objective is that Ukrainian army in the east. Not only are the best Ukrainian army units there but they were to be the invasion force for the third invasion of the Donbass. They have to go and if they are in bunkers, that means that they have lost the power of maneuver. More to the point, it means that the Russians can bring in their famous artillery. It has been made plain by the Russians that they have two choices – surrender or die. There is no relief force on the way nor will NATO be able to intervene. It will not be like Rorke’s Drift but more like Isandlwana. After that army has been eliminated, then the two Donbass Republics will be able to secure their entire territory and secure it. Before the war, they had lost two thirds of it and were pinned hard against the Russian border. End result? I think that we will see a partition of the Ukraine and that the Ukraine will lose it’s Black Sea coastline. And it never had to be this way.

    And the west? They shot their wad and have little left that they can do. Sure they can pump in weapons but sooner or later as the front lines falls into its eventual shape, the average Ukrainian will see that it is game over. Not that this will stop the extremists/police/national guard from purifying their side of the border with their program of arrests, torture and murders. But that side of the border will be for the EU to deal with soon enough.

    1. Alyosha

      I’ve walked many, many miles of industrial tunnels. Even without designed bunkers, and even if they are shallow utility/conveyor tunnels, it’s just not worth it. It’s not as dark in that sort of tunnel as say down in a hard rock mine, but it’s more dark than any above grade building. Most of them will have just enough passage for a person or two with the walls lined by steam piping, wires, etc. Conveyor tunnels usually have a human’s width on either side of the belt and utilities in the upper corners. These places are are fairly dangerous when everything’s just right. A grenade in an industrial tunnel is going to turn it into a mess of shredded pipes.

      Avostal is big enough that there may be shallow cart tunnels. It’s a huge place and in the big sites in the US there are accommodations for clear travel by peddle tricycle or electric carts that may go below grade to bypass a work area.

      Someone at the Saker pointed out how difficult multistory deep bunkers would be given the water table soil of the area. I would still assume areas that are 2-3 stories below grade since rail delivered coal and iron ore is usually dumped from bottom release cars and then run to distribution height via conveyor. I’m also familiar with the power consumption requirements for keeping a well below grade mining structure (without water table issues) dry and ventilated. There’s no way emergency generators are keeping a super deep avostal bunker system operational. Plus all the videos show a brick walls. That indicates shallow depth. Anything of real depth would require poured concrete and nobody’s going to put brick fascia on a tunnel/bunker wall.

      1. Susan the other

        Interesting. Makes me wonder where Abramstein8 was actually filmed. The plea for help was probably accurate – the Banderites are SOL. But, more importantly, there are mercenaries in that hole that nobody (NATO) wants to let see the light of day. There was simultaneous news yesterday-ish that Erdogan is considering an offer from NATO to send a rescue ship across the Black Sea and ferry the unfortunate Azov Battalion back to Turkey. And Russia just stopped attacking them for no explained reason. Betcha they “escape” – Why not? It is such a brutal, bloody mess nobody wants to do it anymore. I’m sadistically amused that the Azov Brigade wound up looking like the Proud Boys with bloody noses. That’s good enough for me.

        1. Greg

          Wargonzo footage from the outer buildings of azovstal have a fairly consistent poured concrete with green paint to shoulder height and cream above decor.
          Maybe the brickwork is from the nearby Illych steel plant that fell earlier?

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Rev.

      There was some Twitter tomfoolery when Chechens were first deployed about them, being Muslims, harassing women, putting gays to the sword, vandalising pubs etc.

      There are National Guard units deployed from other areas of Russia, including Tuva (whence defence minister Sergei Shoigu comes), Kalmykia (whence Lenin originates), Buryatia and even volunteers from Azerbaijan and Angola. There’s an online video of a lusophone Angolan volunteer rapping to a guitar like instrument played by a Siberian.

    3. lambert strether

      Seal everything shutband come back in a month. If Azov wants to send out their civilians, they can.

    1. JBird4049

      As Yves Smith says, you need a VPN just to get to a Russian site. Our internet is starting to look like it has its own Great Firewall of China, the Western edition.

  7. David

    One of the reasons that the “Ukraine is winning” narrative is still (just) holding up, is that nobody in a position of responsibility or influence wants to consider the real consequences of a Russian victory – which will, of course, go much wider than just Ukraine.

    As you say, the West made an unforced political error right at the start, in pushing the volume up to 11, and effectively painted itself into a corner. It’s unclear exactly why this happened, but at least three things seem to have been operating. One was genuine shock and surprise, as the house of cards they had built over several decades started to fall apart. A second was the confident predictions that the Russians would fail: how much of this was wishful thinking, how much inability to face facts, how much bad analysis, how much excessive trust in the Ukrainians, and how much the escalation effect, as one government felt it had at least to equal, if not exceed, the condemnations of another, historians of the future will have to sort out. But it’s clear that, to the extent that western leaders believed the attack would fail, and that the war would be unpopular, they must have felt that amping up the volume would have no adverse consequences. It’s like Syria, but on a much larger scale. A third is the fear engendered by the capabilities the Russians have been demonstrating, and the low-key practical response of the US. It’s not that Europeans ever naively imagined that the US was going to “defend” them. Rather, the hope was that in any political crisis in Europe, first with the Soviet Union and then with Russia, the US would necessarily be an actor, and this would give the Russians pause. But it’s clear that the Russians had already allowed for the (lack of) US response in their planning. In addition, I think that western elites have been genuinely shocked at how little high-intensity warfare capability the NATO countries actually have, and to some extent all this shouting is aimed at keeping up their collective morale. Most of our leaders are of a generation that grew up with the belief that if you want something badly enough, you can manifest it.

    This is why it’s wrong to see the Europeans as passively following American orders. For a start, the major European powers (notably the French and the UK) have been investing heavily in Ukraine for a long time, and this is a significant and long-term defeat for them. In addition, their leaders are beginning to understand that the results of this chaos are going to include a hostile and distrustful Russia on the frontiers of the EU, and with a military capability that exceeds now anything the Europeans could collectively generate in less than ten years.

    Get out of that. But how? I suspect we are in for a period of epic sulking, a bit like that after the Communist victory in China. But that won’t solve any practical problems, and I also suspect we shall see the slow disintegration of EU solidarity as countries like Spain and Portugal ask exactly why they should continue to sacrifice their economies to make political points against a large country, far away, with which they have no quarrel.

    1. meadows

      “Most of our leaders are of a generation that grew up with the belief that if you want something badly enough, you can manifest it.”

      And there you have it, believing your own propaganda. Belief systems and ideological positions, like zombies, seem to be alive but are the Walking Dead. When Russia calls the US dominated west “the empire of lies” they mean it literally. Not just lying to others but lying to itself, the way a sociopath can sincerely believe in his own delusions while justifying the manipulation of his fellow humans.

      When reality forces itself eventually into the awareness of the deep sociopathy, will there be a gnashing and rending, or more of a “gee, we were bamboozled, no biggie”

      When the majority of citizens awaken to the extent of our gov’t program of nonstop false advertising that we also have to pay and pay to buy, I don’t anticipate the no biggie response.

      1. lance ringquist

        for a generations of left leaders who came up out of WWII, the dim wits signed onto the 4th Reich,

        in america in the 1930’s, FDR and his team and truman, they that knew central planning worked really good if its the hands of the right people. that is why both FDR and truman whipped the markets in shape enough to fight fascism and imperialism.

        they made markets respond to the needs of the nation, not to the needs of the profit mongers.

        the cold warriors of old knew that central planning worked, and did everything in their power to hide it from the average westerners, even making sure markets stayed under the boot heel of government, and investment flowed internally creating a vast middle class.

        this scenario held till the vietnam war started to bleed america dry. by the time carter came along, the 1930’s through 1970 type of policy, was replaced by the likes of alfred the great khan, and paul volker.

        i remember my father saying carter was a military man, doesn’t he know the power of government, will evidentially not.

        then the people who took over the democrat party in 1992, only saw the central planners as failures. they never understood that gorby and yeltsin were not central planners, but worshipers of the wealthy.

        when the second in command under gorby was handed agriculture gorby thought he would be discredited, instead the soviet union was harvesting vast quantities of grain, so much so, that as gorby imported it, it was stated where is it going to go, we have no storage capabilities left.

        not only did the dim wit gorby ignored it, but so did the likes of nafta billy clinton, gene sperling, and other towering intellectual midgets.

        so since 1993 markets rule, as sperling said so often, no one will want to upset the apple cart, and nafta billy made that very clear to the world when he pounded yugoslavia into rubble.

        then the towering intellectual midgets free traded away our 200 plus years of industry for short term gains for a few, and replaced industry with coding and financial manipulation.

        during the second year of operation barbarossa, german generals reported that the first year soviet tank shells bounded off the german panzers, the second year it was announced that soviet tank shells were piercing german armor, and panzer tank shells were bouncing off the the new soviet armor, that is how fast the central planners respond, and under severe war time conditions.

        hitler was caught dumbfounded, and put germanys industries on a crash course for new weapons technology, to late though as we saw they never really caught up.

        this is where america stands today, to stupid and greedy to understand we cannot respond, and are using technolgy that is basically 30 years old.

        nafta billy clinton free traded our technology and industry away.

        hypersonic missiles compared to the patriots, looks like a 1953 V.W. in a drag race with a modern corvette.

        1. JBird4049

          It is interesting to see just how fast all the militaries of the Second World War changed (and how more drastic the changes were in the First World War only a little slower). All the militaries at the end could have beaten all the ones from the beginning just from the changes in tactics and equipment in only four to seven years depending on when they entered the war. If you don’t believe that drastic society wide change can happen in four or five years, just look at Europe during the Great War. At the beginning, it was still a hopeful society dreaming about the future and the French cavalry was almost identical to Napoleon’s a century earlier. At the end, it was a shattered world, no longer as hopeful, much darker in feeling and the military now had tanks and airplanes with uniforms and equipment that could be used today.

          We are always told that we don’t have the money, resources, or time to do X, and yet, building or rebuilding, often from scratch and under active attack, while trying to get replacements for resources blocked or destroyed was normal. New technology, weapons, tactics, training, entire factories rebuilt or moved… all normal. War or something similar unlocks everything in individuals and societies.

          It shows to me how unserious, foolish, and unafraid the members of our ruling class is. How wedded they are to profitably doing the same old, same old. If nothing else, it is easier to not do the mentally and emotionally hard work needed for such drastic changes.

          President Abraham Lincoln once said (paraphrasing here from memory) that we must disenthrall ourselves from the past and think anew to meet the new challenges. Yes, he was talking about his war and its aftermath, but it can be applied to today’s challenges. We just have to be willing.

        2. Copeland

          >1953 V.W. in a drag race with a modern corvette

          Shouldn’t that be a 1953 Corvette in a drag race with a modern Bugatti Chiron?

          1. lance ringquist

            no, my parents owned a 1953 v.w. bug, top speed was about 45 m.p.h. it took a while to get to that speed, and it helped if the grad was sloped downwards.

    2. Thuto

      Re: slow disintegration of EU solidarity:

      One by one the wagons circling Ukraine will start to break formation as domestic problems refocus politicians minds on surviving the backlash from unfolding economic crises at home (brought on by sanctions blowback). True to form, Zelensky will dial up the emotional blackmailing rhetoric, the US will decry how “some of our European allies are acquiescing to Putin” and the propaganda apparatus will regroup for one final assault before the fog of war lifts for good. I think Macron is fortunate this election came so early in the cycle (I.e. before the true scale of the economic effects of EU miscalculation are felt) and will probably survive by the skin of his teeth, but those politicians watching this who have to contest elections later on in the crucible of an EU wide economic downturn will be reluctant to fritter away political capital that could be invested into winning an election on a lost Ukrainian cause.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘the crucible of an EU wide economic downturn’

        You could almost say that the EU has boxed itself into its own economic ‘cauldron’. The UK, Poland and the Baltic States will fight to stay inside it while I figure that the eastern European countries may be the first to look for the exit.

    3. Carolinian

      epic sulking

      “Who lost Ukraine?” Joe Biden obviously. He thought Russia Russia Russia could rescue the Dems politically, and when reality sets in the Dem situation may be far worse. There is the possibility that the establishment will decide that Biden himself will be the fall guy. Certainly he deserves to be.

        1. Irrational

          Second that and agree with the analysis. Ukrainians are not voters in EU countries and our dear leaders will try to save their skin.
          Went into work today (as opposed to working from home) and it seems everyone has bought into the MSM propaganda. I held my tongue.

    4. Susan the other

      Sounds accurate. The EU needs the resources of Ukraine – from energy to wheat. “We are in for a period of Epic Sulking.” Yes. That might explain Janet Yellen’s behavior yesterday when she up and walked out on a Russian speaker at a sort-of-secret G-20 meeting. Hopes have been dashed. I’d like to know more about all those sneaky Ministers of Various Treasuries and what they are up to. Janet might have been seriously miffed that Russia can still get dollars (Doctorow yesterday) via Germany in exchange for oil. And I doubt Germany is the only leaky bank.

    5. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, David.

      I first came to deal with European and American bureaucrats and politicians in the mid noughties, working on trade and regulatory matters, and had some doubt about their understanding of many issues. I wondered what “stress test” would expose them. 2008, Brexit and covid appeared not to be severe enough to knock some sense into them. One wonders if this crisis will do the trick, especially as a foreign policy failure develops into an economic disaster. One hopes and prays so.

      There was some brief recognition with the setting up of the G20 in 2009 that things had to change and the world become multipolar, but that opportunity was wasted and things went back to business as usual.

      From time to time, Yves has remarked that David, Anonymous 2 and I have commented about the capacity, or lack thereof, of the British civil service to cope with Brexit. What we say is just a variation on a theme. In this instance, it’s the “crapification” of the foreign and security policy apparatus in the UK, and elsewhere in the west, over the past thirty years. The “Arabists” were hounded out of the Foreign Office* and State Department* by Blair and George Bush II, if not earlier. *Not the only foreign policy players in London and Washington. Bootlickers prosper in Whitehall, Washington and the armed forces. It happened with Brexit as Europeanists were hounded out. At the moment, there are few, if any, real Russia (and India) specialists in Whitehall. There’s no one around to tell the Emperor he has no clothes or the courage to say so even if the person has the expertise.

      David mentions an epic sulk. This month, the heads of Deutsche Bank, BASF, Bosch and the labour movement and the PM of Bavaria have warned of the cost of this war in Germany. After Bucha, that has become much more difficult. No employer wants to be singled / called out like Renault, Le Roy Merlin and Auchan were by Zelensky in his speech to the French National Assembly, and threatened with “I stand with Ukraine” consumer and other boycotts. The feeling at former employers like DB, HSBC (who had clients like TNK BP, Rosneft, Rosbank, Lukoil, Gazprom, Norilsk Nickel, VTB, Sberbank, Russian Railways, Vimpelcom and Yum Brands) and Barclays that this sulk is here already and will last years and be complicated by the emotional response fed by I stand with Ukraine types on social media.

      Finally, the UK and Argentina commemorate the Falklands war this month. That was perhaps the last time the British state was able to mobilise on all fronts. It was professionals, not ideologues, and people who had an idea of public service and knowledge of the world and its complexities who saved Thatcher and her ideologues from the ignominy they richly deserved. The likes of David are, sadly, no longer in Whitehall.

      1. Thuto

        Thank you CS

        I say upthread that Zelensky is going to dial up his tantrums and name calling as the fog of war lifts and the truth in its raw, unvarnished form starts to leak out of Ukraine (that would be Ukraine the battlefield not the Ministry of Communication/Propaganda buildings in Kiev). I also think corporate executives and politicians mired in the fight for survival brought on by an economic crisis will either have to muster the courage to tell him the collapse of European companies and the EU economy in general is too high a price to pay to be in his and his swarm of “I stand with Ukraine” types good graces or prepare to be fired and voted out of office by company boards and citizens. Hungary has weathered the storm of Kiev and Warwar’s insults and I think others will find similar resolve when economies start going into freefall. Sadly I suspect this means we haven’t seen the last of Kiev’s false flags to create a base for the final propaganda push I mention in my previous comment.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Thuto.

          Firstly, I hope your loved ones and you are safe and well and not affected by the floods.

          I think things will have to get worse before they get better.

          1. Thuto

            Thank you CS.

            Thankfully, we are in a different province to where the flooding occured but It’s been heartbreaking to watch the devastation. Thanks again for your concern.

      2. Michaelmas

        Colonel Smithers: One wonders if this crisis will do the trick, especially as a foreign policy failure develops into an economic disaster. One hopes and prays so.

        Don’t, because your prayers will be wasted. The relevant elites would first have to admit they were wrong about something and, as David comments further down this thread, you might more profitably “open a book on which government will fall first.”

      3. Ben Oldfield

        The UK civil service is a faded shadow of it’s self. Pay has been fixed for many years and an increase in pay is only available by changing jobs. High fliers spend less than one year before moving on. This results a lack of experienced incumbents and no experts. As the Tories despise experts this suits them very well.

      4. José Freitas

        I note though (read it yesterday, don’t have the link here) that Ikea is apparently reopening its shops in Russia after “sorting through some logistical and legal issues” (I suspect more local suppliers).

    6. ChrisPacific

      I’m beginning to wonder if the whole thing has turned into something of a runaway train that’s beyond the control of any single person. Certainly after years of Russiagate and Putin being blamed for every evil under the sun, the media environment and electorate was primed for just this kind of apocalyptic good-versus-evil narrative, and the propaganda campaign from Ukraine has fed into it perfectly.

      We’ve seen attempts from actors like Biden and the Pentagon to dial it down which have received little to no airtime, and have been generally drowned out by the avalanche of ignorance from Senators and the like who ought to know better. It turns out that when you spend years portraying Putin as the ultimate enemy of America and making up fantastical stories about him, and then he does something prior-confirming like invade Ukraine, the media environment can easily spiral out of control.

      Controlling the message is something Demcrats are very good at, and if they had been prepared to invest enough political capital then I’m sure they could have made the invasion into a different story. But doing so would risk exposing Russiagate and Putin-phobia as a cynical sham that was manufactured purely to discredit Trump. Most of them are not military experts (if you read their social media feeds, that’s putting it mildly) and likely believe all the propaganda that’s coming out of Ukraine. I’m sure a lot of them still think Russia can still be defeated in a relatively short timeframe and that there’s still no need to change tactics. Most of them aren’t even self-aware enough to realize that Russiagate was a hoax. The Pentagon clearing its throat and saying that the situation is less clear than it appears and that maybe all this Eye of Sauron stuff is unhelpful for an eventual resolution seems to be having about as much effect as a fart in a hurricane (and when the Pentagon is the voice of reason in a situation, you know things are bad).

      1. caucus99percenter

        What floors me is watching the German Greens become the most hawkish (pro-war, Russia-blaming, Russiagate-believing) major party in German politics — with the right-wing populist AfD tying with, or even overtaking, the Left party (Die Linke) as the least hawkish.

  8. Fred1

    Regretfully the military resolution of the current fighting will not solve the underlying political issues. There will be a new Line of Contact much further to the west. It will be heavily militarized on both sides with “provocations” of some sort occurring regularly. Historians will label this current round of fighting as the Second Russo-Ukrainian War. There will be a Third, and a Fourth, ect.

    Because of the butchery and destruction and resulting hatred, there will be no chance of a political resolution. Minsk II was close enough, if formally embraced, to have avoided this. In fact, it’s amazing how close the parties were with that framework. But now, no way.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, you have this dead wrong.

      You are missing that Russia is systematically destroying the war making capability of Ukraine. That is why Putin chose the option of the bigger war when presented with just clearing Donbass or invading on a broader basis to achieve a lasting solution.

      Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe and extremely poor. As indicated above, many of its military age men have no interest in serving and have fled. The few non-captured observers regard the Russian MoD accounts of materiel and troop captures as pretty accurate. As of last week, the MoD reported over 23,000 Ukraine soldiers as “irretrievably lost” which is taken to mean dead, badly injured, or in Russian hands. Since Russia had nearly 4000 POWs as of then, that number did not sound crazy.

      That’s about 10% of Ukraine’s active forces. In 50 days. And Russia was criticized for going “softly softly” at the outset and is turning up the tempo of fighting.

      Ukraine has no refineries left, no factories to repair military equipment, and is well on its way to having no military transport vehicles or tanks left. Pray tell how they can create a new line of contact, or any meaningful new offensive operation?

      1. Oisin

        Was Ukraine ever on the offensive? I’m not sure losing 10% of your army and having tonnes of arms coming in from the west is going to demilitarise Ukraine. What you end up is with 90% with battle experience and lots of motivation. They will eventually get some fuel.
        A few more months of conflict at a lower level and we will be watching round 3 in another 5 yrs. The border for conflict must be doubled compared to the 2014 stalemate.

        I can only imagine how happy the weapon manufacturers are with the current situation.

        In the meantime Germany can happily get its gas fix from Russia and oil from KSA. If only they had stuck with nuclear…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There are 40,000 to 60,000 in that caldron. So that gets you to 1/3 or more. And that does not include surrenders (Russia encouraged surrender, if you gave up your arms and had no neoNazi tats, you could go home) and desertions.

          And that’s before adding in that command and control structures have been destroyed, so the army is functioning only as isolated units, not an effective fighting force.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Too bad not all the parties were honorable about their commitment to the Minsk protocols, the real parties in interest including the War Party and the Secret State and the institutionalized NATO structure. Any more, given globalization, and a set of ethics in which “anything goes” and “everything is everything,” and careerist efforts by nihilists who sadly have mastered the art of rising to the top of power structures both overt and covert, and the power of individual hatreds and revanchism, there’s not a snowball’s chance of achieving any kind of commensal outcome.

      The Russian system of systems has a lot of ugly in it, but the wisdom of moving toward autarky and maintaining a muscular infrastructure sure will get a lot of longing looks from people in the nominal “West.” I just fear the Gotterdammerung penchant and tendency and idiocy of the people in “the West,” the ones who curse themselves and, involuntarily, the rest of us, with “let ‘er rip” and entertain notions of “victory” in a nuclear war.

      The Russians, not wanting the West to survive a Western first strike (there’s darkness in Russia, too, but also a healthier brand of realism as I see it) have a “Samson option” in place- anticipating Western insanity, their nuclear arsenal has a dead-man switch that will autonomously launch everything in the event of a “decapitation” strike (the wet dream of the f&cking shLtheads that drive the US and NATO “policy” bus).

      I recall reading that the US/NATO has discarded the one somewhat effective “other idiocy” of Mutual Assured Destruction, which was, incredibly, the “stabilizing force” that kept the Cold War from getting Hot. Now there’s a new “flexibility” set of games being gamed out. Now the idiots have added “escalate to de-escalate” to their crayon box:

      And the NATO expansion, that “defensive alliance,” is intended to put decapitation weapons of mass destruction on the Russian border with “flight times” of only a couple of minutes to Russia’s command and control targets, which would guarantee the Dead Hand would activate, scorching the northern hemisphere and who knows what else.

      The idiots who rule us here in the “West” are playing an unconscionable game of “chicken” with the our puny lives and the whole planet, and for what/ Their ego-driven self-pleasuring games? Bragging rights?

      And no guarantees that Russian doomsday tech is any less subject to Murphy’s Law than the crap that the US and NATO’s “best and brightest” and MIC have fielded…

      1. Alex Cox

        US war-fighting plans call for early air superiority, which involves knocking out all the enemy’s airfields and missiles. This would automatically trigger the Russian Perimeter, or “Dead Hand” system.

        But not to worry! Right now NATO is going full speed ahead with live fire, infantry and tank exercises in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, almost as if there was no war a couple of hundred miles away. What, as Lambert asks, could possibly go wrong?

      2. lance ringquist

        you have to remember, under free trade whats mine is mine, and whats yours is mine also, and there will be no discussions about this period.

        because of free trade, we have 1000’s of oligarch billionaires who care little of their home country.

        free trade, currency unions, investment treaties, etc. means that the oligarchs have trillions stashed away all over the world, and have private property all over the world. so why should they care if the west gets incinerated, they will simply be gone somewhere else by that time.

        there is a reason why the founders of america warned about entanglements, and it was not just military. they included tariffs, excise taxes, duties, the regulation of commerce inside, and out side of our borders, taxes, and all legislation required too carry out their duties.

        and of course keynes, make most of your own stuff, and never let finance go off shore.

  9. Louis Fyne

    it should also be noted that (not saying this as an insult), UA is fighting the Russian army’s B-team. Russia’s best and most modern units are still in reserve, presumably to deter and respond to a NATO intervention. And having the latest battle tank has zero value in the streets of Mariupol

    UA is fighting a mix of A-team Russian special forces, Russian internal paramilitary units and Russian army units using older equipment.

    1. tegnost

      my entirely civilian take is that Russia has held back some of their capabilities on the one hand, while at the same time NATO aligned (oh come on, it’s the good ol’ USA) forces are using Ukraine as a probing action trying to get intel on what Russia can do with it’s weapon systems as they saw in Syria that Russia has some of that whiz bang the US/NATO feels is their own domain/strong point.
      As an aside I’ve always seen starlink as something no sensible country would want hovering over their heads like the sword of damocles, heck,I don’t even want it over my own head, so destruction of that would seem to me as imperative…YMMV…

        1. Greg

          Unlikely, sadly. Couldn’t be done without revealing functional antisatellite weapons to NATO. Similar to how the S400 isn’t in Ukraine.

  10. Vikas Saini

    Thanks, Yves for an excellent summary. Multiple examples of tight coupling in a complex system — but instead of triggering psychological collapse, it has given results (albeit perhaps brittle) unfavorable to US/NATO .

    Doctorow has a new post reporting on the chatter on Russian talk shows. It looks like the failure (and erroneous anticipation) of financial chaos in Russia has allowed the majority of the population to stand with Putin instead of wanting to overthrow him. And of course, our geniuses don’t seem to understand that a real hard core Russian nationalist could come to power, something Steve Cohen used to point out routinely.

    The occasional peeks we get into internal Russian debates, as recently reported by Helmer, do show there is a faction that is ready and willing for a more violent confrontation. Putin seems relatively cautious by those standards.

    And nobody in the West, at least publicly, seems to be willing to acknowledge that the military situation globally is “not necessarily to our advantage”. While Putin has been bulking up his armed forces since 2014, I think he was waiting for the deployment of hypersonics before he dared cross the Rubicon…

  11. Dr. John Carpenter

    Thank you for this. I’ve read a few other commenters here pointing out what you read about the war here vs the MSM is so different, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were talking two different conflicts. Myself, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills sometimes when I hear from people around me what’s going on (meaning what cable is telling them.) But NC shows the sources. It’s really hard for me to believe the mainstream “anonymous officials” and the same people who have a record of lying us into conflicts. So a huge thanks for that.

    I’m really fascinated with your second observation, which relates to the compliment above. The West seemed to have decided to sell this in a way that just doesn’t seem to have any basis in reality. While I understand they were not going to announce Ukraine is going to get creamed, it seems to me much of the official reporting is pure fantasy.

    I’m really curious as to how the West backs out of this. Curious and a little concerned, I should say. To be fair, as this marches on, it seems people around me are losing interest. Maybe that’s what they’re counting on. It almost feels to me like that would be the best case, that they just declare Mission Accomplished and hope no one asks too many questions.

    Good summary though. These are interesting times, for sure.

      1. Pat

        I think you are being generous. The flags will start quietly disappearing by the end of next month at the latest, and be completely gone before October.
        I hope you are wrong about Taiwan being the replacement object of “support”, but logic and intelligent analysis of a situation are not the hallmarks of that group.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          i reckon there’ll be some “urgent” thing closer to home that we must all drop everything and pay rapt attention to.
          some proud boy idiocy, prolly…or maybe mexico/AMLO does something unexpected and rational(for their interests) that the Machine cannot tolerate…
          whatever…there will be a new shiny object, fer sure.
          on the radio in the car,(mostly npr), i’m hearing a lot more about abortion…wendy davis is making a lot of noise in challenging the idiotic texas abortion vigilante law, for instance.
          i’ve noticed that gas prices have settled down(dsl is still right at $5)…and i doubt the SPR release could really have that much of an effect, save psychologically…so i suspise that efforts are being made to keep the economic blowback from hegemonic incompetence at bay, for now.
          if that fails…and a big economic crisis comes a callin in usa…well…there’s yer distraction,lol.
          i haven’t been anywhere but gas stations and hospitals in weeks…so i have no idea what the shelves look like…but shortages seem baked in, from my understanding.
          i asked rancher neighbor if he’s considered letting all this winter wheat grow up and go to seed(he uses it for winter grazing)…he says, “i’d love to harvest it…but there ain’t no combines…and no parts for the ancient combines around here”.
          so i expect a Just In Time Crisis…and maybe even some 100 year flood type Labor event(one can hope,lol)…that shocks the system, as well as the Blue Checks(‘git ta wirk, peasant!..i need my whole grain toast..”)
          of course, there’s always the real possibility of Biden being put into a home for the addled, and the first woman of color assuming command…perhaps the blue checks could put a rainbow bong on their accounts to replace the ukie flags….

      2. Louis Fyne

        Well seeing how “Free Tibet” died out a long time ago, the Taiwanese should find their own solution. Don’t count on the West, it is as fickle as a cat and has the self-awareness of a doorknob.

        either detente with Beijing or militarize every able bodied adult beyond even the Israelis

        1. Susan the other

          PBS’s The Rise of the Nazis covering the failed invasion of Russia was most interesting. They went for Moscow in mid-1941 and were clocked by Stalin’s “tanks.” There was a little reenactment of Hitler bemoaning how his intelligence underestimated Stalin’s ability to produce tens of thousands of tanks in time to push the Germans back. So, I’m mind boggled that we (the US) managed to transport tens of thousands of tanks across the Pacific Ocean and then across Siberia secretly – because, clearly, if Hitler really didn’t know about the tanks coming from the USA those shipments couldn’t have crossed continental Europe without being noticed. Good thing we’ve got satellites now – it could prevent the worst miscalculations.

          1. ambrit

            If I remember correctly, one big contributor to Russia’s success in the War was the supply of trucks built in the Ford built auto plants in Moscow and Gorky.
            The truck that the Russians really liked from America was the Studebaker.
            The “Lend Lease” tanks were shipped to Russia mainly via the Arctic Route to Murmansk and Archangel. From there, it’s a train ride south to Moscow.
            I was surprised at how much of the Russian tank force defending Moscow in 1941 was ‘Lend Lease.’

          2. Bart Hansen

            Speaking of PBS and Nazis, last night The News Hour had william browder on to pitch for his new Putin hating book. I left the room so cannot comment on his current views of Putin.

            What a shame that Interpol would not hold him when nabbed some years ago.

            1. Brunches with Cats

              When I saw the teaser for the Browder interview, I was surprised anyone still took that nut job seriously. PBS maybe would have ignored him if the networks weren’t looking under every unturned pebble for more slime to pile on Putin. I wasn’t going to watch at all, but reproached myself for refusing to listen to other points of view that might challenge my beliefs, etc. ad nauseam. The moral superiority got me through about 40 seconds, after which I switched to the fashion channel.

          3. Chris A

            Russia famously mov3d factories east of Ural mountains before war, or once in started. They out produced Germany and US in tanks and artillery. Russian tanks were also much better than anything we produced.
            Data available on wkipedia

            1. lance ringquist

              yep, lend lease was important, but only about 10% of what the soviets used. at least its what i read.

              the soviets just out produced, and out innovated the central european fascist countries.

    1. super extra

      The West seemed to have decided to sell this in a way that just doesn’t seem to have any basis in reality…I’m really curious as to how the West backs out of this.

      I’ve been wondering how they were planning to pivot out of this disaster since the first few days and I still think the most likely is they’ll attempt to do an Iron Curtain 2.0 (you can see the splintering of the internet and the cyberwarfare that blocks russian media in the west as the primary manifestation so far) that allows them to spin it to the domestic populations that it was a victory of some form and all the suffering is for the domestics’ own good. I don’t know how long that could last but it could hold up for years if Russia is also serious about cutting themselves off from the west and is able to sell it to their domestics as a security win.

    2. jsn

      This is how “the West” intends to deal with it’s failure. We’ll be trying to drop our own iron curtain around our satrapies to prevent exposure to external realities.

      IMHO it won’t work, because we’ve degraded all our operational capability beyond sustainable minimums.

      How those minimums of operational capability degrade will define how the west collapses and where political structures arise to maintain or recreate capabilities will define the western future.

      1. ACPAL

        Here’s an alternative to the West collapsing. This war has the capability of ruining Europe’s economies and the Euro itself. After the war Russia will still have all the sanctions and be weakened. In the meantime the US is sending politicians to Taiwan as irritants/sacrificial lambs/tripwires such that should any harm come to them (and, if necessary, it will) this will start a war pitting Taiwan, Japan, Australia, and other regional allies against China weakening all of them.

        With such a global war the US will be able to a) lend them dollars saving the dollar as the reserve currency, b) assert more political/economic control over a weakened world, and c) rebuild its own economy by manufacturing and selling weapons.

        While this doesn’t follow Ritter’s or any of the other predictions the events to date do not preclude such a scenario. After all the US’s goal is to rule the world and this is one way to do it.

        1. jsn

          This assumes operational capabilities not in evidence. The US can’t supply war material at the rate UA consumes it, didn’t have the capability to anticipate this and certainly has no prayer of supplying an entirely new theatre.

          It also assumes other satraps are as docile as the EU. Demographics suggest otherwise.

          COVID and climate, meanwhile, amble unperturbed along their US policy enabled path, rotting the US from the ground up while the head rot is on full display globally.

        2. Elsie

          This is what I worry about. Could this whole mess the West is in right now not be collapse, but instead could it be the beginning of its Augustan phase. The Roman Republic nearly destroyed itself by pauperizing it’s citizens and by picking fights with Persia. In the end though one of the Roman equivalent of the modern West’s oligarchs sized complete power and turned the republic into an autocracy that survived 1400 more years in one form or another.

          America still has tremendous power. And, with a competent caesar America could channel that potential and lead the West to a few more centuries of domination.

          1. GC54

            Not with climate change looming, until it occupies Canada. Then discovers no top soil in the Great (formerly) White North.

    3. Lee

      “To be fair, as this marches on, it seems people around me are losing interest. Maybe that’s what they’re counting on.”

      I suspect that we will have the economic consequences of the conflict involving increased prices and shortages of grain, fuel, and various other key resources along with all the unpleasant ramifications thereof to remind us for quite some time.

    4. Keith Newman

      @Dr. John Carpenter: 9:36am
      You raise the interesting question of how the West backs out of its Ukraine propaganda following its defeat. I don’t see that as a significant problem.
      Any story at all, no matter how absurd and contradictory, will be accepted by a sufficient number of people that there will be no problem. Granted a few skeptics will raise questions but they will be ignored by the media and the whole issue will melt away as the public just moves on.
      The Skripal affair in the UK a few years ago demonstrated my point. A commenter at the time wondered if the whole affair wasn’t actually an experiment to see how silly a story could be and still be believed by the public. At the time I thought this was an exaggeration but now I believe it too.
      The Skripal story woven by the UK authorities was literally ridiculous and had to constantly be adjusted to bypass inconvenient facts that emerged. For example: the extremely deadly poison only gave food poisoning symptoms, the head of the hospital treating the Skripals denied the presence of nerve gas, and my favourite (as a science fiction fan) recourse by the alleged Russian agents to time travel. Etc.
      My conclusion: if the West wants to back out of its Ukraine nonsense it will have no problem doing so. I’m not saying it will back out soon. The story will be maintained as long as Western strategists find the story useful. Then it will be discarded without consequences.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “We will know our program of disinformation has succeeded when nothing the American pubic believes is true.” Former head of the CIA and all-around rotten human William Casey, on the nature of the beast.

        The Mighty Wurlitzer owns us, or “pwns” us in the recently defunct meme. Amazing how effing stupid we humans are, on the grand scale as well as piecemeal. Sh!t in our own nests, and like the Russian peasant offered a wish by the genie he freed, but with the proviso that the genie would give twice what the peasant wished for to his neighbor, asked the genie to make him blind in one eye… I guess thinking maybe that in his little bit of a local peasant domain, that one-eyed peasant would then be king…

        The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity: we’re all in there swinging for the fences…

    5. juno mas

      There will be no “Mission Accomplished” grandstanding after Russia has accomplished its military goals. It will consolidate its valuable natural resources, distribute it only to “friends”. The “West” (meaning the US) will likely see even greater inflation (gas/food) and quite possibly increased political instability. Regime Change is certainly coming Home! Get Ready!

    6. David

      Well, apart from the epic sulk I mentioned above, the only reasonably coherent message I can think of is to present Ukraine in 2022 rather like Poland in 1939: brave struggle against overwhelming odds. Except of course we can be pleased with ourselves because “this time we helped them.”

      This gets you a certain distance, but the logical consequence of identifying Putin as Hitler (as Stalin was Hitler, as Nasser was Hitler, as Ho Chi Minh was Hitler as … oh forget it, too many to count) is rearmament and a willingness to go to war. This is impossible, economically, socially and politically. For the Europeans it would mean the return of conscription, and the reconstruction of a largely destroyed infrastructure of training areas, administration and barracks. Increasing the defence budget is actually the easy bit: it’s much more difficult to find effective ways of spending it. The US would need to deploy a couple of armoured divisions and an incalculable amount of anti-air and anti-missile defence assets in Western Europe, probably mostly in Poland and Rumania.

      At some point, the contradictions in this approach are going to become so blatant that they will be noticed. We might open a book on which government will fall first.

    7. Brooklin Bridge

      In the heat of the Ukraine mania USA, propaganda wise, I was dumbfounded by people, literally out of breath in their condemnation of Putin and Russia, dredging up Hillary being defeated by Trump due to Putin and Russian hacking. Russia-Gate simply won’t die and emerges from the muck utterly impervious to rational thought.

      I don’t think there is any class barrier to the power of this propaganda. It boozes the bigwigs and small fry alike and I suspect also has captured the decision makers as was touched upon in a recent NC post on “swarming”? The swarm? Sounds about right.

  12. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Armchair strategist devil’s advocate here.
    If the Ukrainians holed up in Mariupol, armed only with weapons available three weeks ago, managed to get Putin to back down, what will they be able to do with the influx of modern munitions?
    I don’t know many NCers are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, but the Viet Cong, a citizen army, and their People’s Army of North Vietnam allies, were fighting against the US-supported Army of the Republic of Vietnam,
    Half a century ago, Just before Christmas, B52s dropped 20,000 TONS!!!! of bombs on Hanoi.
    The VC were fighting against the most powerful nation on earth with the world’s most advanced weapon systems. All they had were AK47s, some Russian SAMs, punji sticks AND a fierce commitment to their homeland (a quality that Kissinger, McNamara, etc. were never able to create a metric for). Versus hundreds of thousands conscript troops who wanted to be anywhere in the world but “in country”.
    Do I discern any parallels here?
    Let us see how all this tamasha turns out.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Are you getting high early in the day? Russia has not backed down. Did you not look at the vid? The Ukraine leader of the last forces in the Azov factory said they’d be dead in hours, at most days.

      The Russians offered ONLY one more 4 hour surrender window to the holdouts in teh Azovstal factory based on the last minute claim that there were civilians there. The MoD basically said they didn’t buy it but at this point a minor delay makes no difference in the outcome.

      The most optimistic interpretation is that the speaker was exaggerating how bad things were in the hopes of getting Chechens to come in with their guards down and be killed.

      But the fact is they are out of food and water. The lack of water will kill them all in at most a week. Russia would like to capture some soldiers alive for the purpose of the war crimes trials but there’s no point in losing Russian men if they make it impossible to get anyone out alive.

      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        28 minutes ago, BBC reported

        Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops to seal off Ukrainian defenders inside the besieged port city of Mariupol.
        Mr Putin told forces to abandon plans to storm the sprawling Azovstal steel works there, where Ukraine is still resisting the invaders.

        That’s why I’m an amchair strategist devil’s advocate. Sounds like a backdown to me.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Since when is letting them all die a backdown? This is again entirely your projection.

          The Russians never never never never announced a plan to storm the factory. This is a BBC fabrication that you’ve swallowed wholesale.

          They have been debating what to do, flood it, bomb, it, clear it. They did bomb the northern section the day before yesterday, that’s where the Chechens went in and found the tanks.

          Did you bother looking at diagrams of the factory? It’s eight stories below ground and designed to survive a nuclear attack. It’s a massive plant.

          There are rumors that there may be evidence of very bad Azov Battalion conduct in the lowest levels, from biolab research (which seems crazy to me) to close to medieval detention/torture rooms. That would argue against the low risk option of flooding the place. It could destroy evidence that would be very useful in the war crimes trials.

          So Putin has decided to take the most efficient course, as in not waste bombs or even man hours. This has the added advantage of keeping Russian hands completely clean regarding the likely bullshit claims that there are civilians there. The Russians cannot be depicted as responsible for their deaths, It will unambiguously be the result of the captives refusing to accept repeated Russian offers to surrender.

          Let them all die since that it what they want. Go in in a week or two and collect corpses. The problem is many will have putrified and be not recognizable so it will be a nasty job, but not any danger to troops.. But other evidence will be preserved.

          1. juno mas

            Well, I imagine the Azov Battalion has been directed to destroy as much “evidence” as possible. So all that will be around in a week is that stinky mess of “civilians” (likely those foreign advisors that failed to be extracted) and the battalion.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The troop leaders already have their hands full preventing desertions. And that place is huge and underground. I assume Russia has cut power to the plant.

          2. vao

            The Russians cannot be depicted as responsible for their deaths, It will unambiguously be the result of the captives refusing to accept repeated Russian offers to surrender.

            This depends very much on how the outcome is presented in the West.

            About an hour ago, I heard a report on the radio (in Europe) about the situation on the Azovstal plant.

            Apart from the fact that Russia renouncing to attack the plant was qualified as a setback (the Ukrainian defense proving too tough a nut to crack), the issue of civilians was presented thus (paraphrasing): their fate looks dire, as Russia has rejected the requests from the Ukrainian defenders to provide a humanitarian corridor to evacuate 1000 civilians and 500 wounded trapped in the plant. These figures cannot be independently verified.

            No mention whatsoever of Russia making offers to surrender and opening evacuation corridors.

            1. Polar Socialist

              According to Donbass Telegram channels there have been humanitarian corridors almost every day, and +20 civilians indeed have evacuated trough them.

              Kadyrov is now saying that Russians are in control of the Azovstal administrative building, so they seem to be making progress above ground.

          3. Michaelmas

            Yves Smith: The problem is many will have putrified and be not recognizable so it will be a nasty job, but not any danger to troops.. But other evidence will be preserved.

            It’s 2022. DNA sequencing of, forex, any bodies in NATO instructor-type uniforms may reveal more than you’d expect, though the Russians might then have to do follow-up undercover work overseas.

            It’s amazing what we can now figure out sometimes from DNA remains of Paleolithic or Neolithic-era individuals from 10,000-20,000 years. So this is blue-sky speculation, but my guess is that identification of specific contemporary individuals by beginning with comparisons of their remains’ alleles with the International HapMap —


            –is doable and might reveal interesting things. Whether the Russians will consider it worthwhile is another question.

            1. Polar Socialist

              Donetsk officials claim that they are taking DNA samples (with other records) of all dead Ukrainian soldiers before burying them, so that when all this is over the families can claim them and bury them properly.

      2. anon in so cal

        There is discussion of this in a video posted in comment 36 on MoA’s April 20 link.
        “In the Azovstahl dungeons, the guards are Azov commissars.”
        It agrees with what you have stated although, fwiw, it does suggest they may have food and a few days of water.

    2. OnceWereVirologist

      It’s true that a fierce commitment to the homeland goes a long way and I admit that I thought for a while that the street protest in Kherson which led to tear-gassing and shots fired in the air might be indicative of trouble ahead for the Russians. But since then, I haven’t heard any stories of protests, workers’ strikes, or attacks on Russian supply lines in the occupied south. It is true that some pro-Russian Ukrainians seem to have been assassinated in Kherson and Zaporizhe provinces but terror attacks like that on civilians look more indicative of weakness than strength in the stay-behind Ukrainian resistance. In short, as long as we’re talking about the south and east of Ukraine, I’m not sure how much fierce commitment to the homeland really exists.

    3. tegnost

      Do I discern any parallels here?

      Well, one parallel is the effectiveness of Russian SAM’s…

  13. Louis Fyne

    in a just world, there would be mass outrage….

    when the dust settles, tens of thousands dead, millions of wrecked lives…

    all for a political resolution worse than what was possible on feb 1

  14. orlbucfan

    There are no winners in war. I avoid the loud, screaming boob tube propaganda by walking out of the room. I hope the Russians hurry up and win, though I still don’t understand the malevolent stupidity of both sides sending troops into Chernobyl.

    1. marcel

      I think we’ll have to wait for the historians to clean up things, but somebody (Martianov?) listed a whole bunch of parallel objectives for Phase 1:

      a. maneuver warfare to pin down Ukranian troops in the East and in Kiev (with a ‘need for speed’, hence anything broken down, out of gas or whatever is just abandoned)

      b. lots of quick movements to get as much physical evidence from as many biolabs as possible (have you seen the reports on ‘forbdden’ experiments in a psychiatric ward, with the medical staff unaware of the ongoing experiments)

      c. more quick movements to occupy the nuclear power plants. I suppose there were two objectives: avoiding them being blown up by Azov or its ilk to spite the rest of the world, and looking for proof of/avoiding Ukranian capability of making nuclear weapons. Just an assumption, as they only occupied 2 of the 6 nuclear power plants.

      d. a bit of dare-devil stuff like attacking Gostomel airport or smaller towns, just for the possibility that Zelensky might surrender (or else, it would pin down troops as in a. above).

      I think they got what they wanted for b. and c. and left Kiev and surroundings (a. and d.) to end Phase 1. I can’t prove any of these points, and there were probably other objectives, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

    2. redleg

      Ukranian forces to secure the power plant (and monitor Russian logistics coming from Belarus).
      Russian forces to secure the nuclear fuel (and the supply route across the marshes).
      Neither side would benefit from assaulting the other at the moment.

      Chernobyl sits on high ground in an otherwise vast marsh. It would be a militarily important place even without the power plant.

  15. bold'un

    On a more optimistic note, Putin could withdraw leaving a Swiss-style constitution for Ukraine: multi-lingual, strong local governments, weak central government, a part-time militia…
    Just maybe also Ukraine could become a financial center where East and West debtors and creditors can settle their payments, ahem, without too many questions being asked, crypto-whatever.
    And finally, going back further in Swiss history, Ukrainian fighters on both sides could become mercenaries for conflicts anywhere on the globe… even Switzerland had a civil war in the mid-19th Century.

    1. GM

      Under such a scenario they will be fighting again within a decade but there will be even less of a pro-Russian sentiment inside Ukraine after the war.

      The only way this war finishes with a favorable outcome for the Russians is with an end of Ukrainian statehood except perhaps for some rump state in the western parts where it might be too much trouble to control directly but it also not much of a threat (problem is there are a couple of nuclear power plants in there that do need to be either put under direct control). Even better from a Russian perspective would be to give it to the Polish, if they are foolish enough to take it, as that will simultaneously destabilize them and erase Ukraine completely off the map.

      It isn’t simply the NATO alignment that is the problem here, it is that a whole generation has now been raised in Ukraine with militantly anti-Russian understanding of the world. You just can’t afford tens of millions of what is really your own people to be turned against you like that. Where does that end if it succeeds there? From the point of view of the Russians, the West’s wet dream has for centuries been to to do a divide-and-conquer against the Russian world, break it up into smaller pieces, then loot those pieces much more easily than if they had to deal with a strong centralized power (which might play ball as in the Yeltsin years, but that is an unstable arrangement because someone else can always take power and not play ball, which is what happened). The break up of the USSR was a huge step in that direction, and we saw how trillions of real wealth were transferred from the East to the West — this is why the West had some prosperous decades after that instead of continuing on the decay trajectory of the 1970s and early 1980s. But the RSFSR still remained whole so attempts to break it up further continued (that’s why the Chechen wars were so important).

      A thoroughly anti-Russian pro-Western Ukraine threatens to ignite that fire once again.

      So at this point you have to not just “denazify” and “demilitarize” but also “de-Ukrainize”.

      It’s hard to see how it goes well for the Russians in any other way.

      This is why you see that one of the first things they are doing in Kherson and Melitopol is to start switching the curriculum in schools to the Russian one. And Ukrainian symbols are being removed one by one from public spaces.

      P.S. The interesting thing is that Kherson is actually the most pro-Ukrainian city in the whole south and east of Ukraine, so if things go well there with that program, that may mean they will go well much further west than initially thought.

    2. hemeantwell

      Your suggestion has the ring of one of the Soviet proposals for reorganizing Germany after WW2: bring back Weimar with a weakened executive. Went out the window because at that point in the developing mess the French were opposed to a unified Germany and the US and Brits were afraid that unification would allow the Soviets to influence German internal affairs country-wide.

  16. Matthew G. Saroff

    Bitchute does have an embed option. You click on share to clipboard, and offers you the option of copying the link, or the embed code.

    I tested it out on my blog, and it works.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I went to the share options. I got a share code that was useless multiple times but finally by accident got it to display a window with an embed code. Hope I can do that again.

    1. tegnost

      I’m still waiting for experts to show competence that isn’t just shilling for wall st.
      Follow the money…

      1. ambrit

        I’m wondering since when has ‘DailyKos’ been a ‘trusted source of unbiased news?’ Any “experts” they would produce would automatically be suspect.
        I saw DK described the other day as “The Psycopath’s Playhouse.”

    2. Pat

      Daily Kos bought both that Obama couldn’t do diddly because of the bad Republicans, that they wanted a public option, AND Russia! Russia! Russia! (When it was quite obvious that Clinton’s arrogance and incompetence cost her the election.) IOW most of the time those writing articles acceptable to Markos couldn’t find their rear on a sunny day.

      Markos and Daily Kos are fully owned by the Democratic leadership that brought us Biden. And right now that administration desperately needs the Ukrainians to bog down the Russians and their sanction program not to split the world economy any further. Unfortunately the war is not going well for them on either of those fronts.

    3. Zephyrum

      The most common media business model these days is telling people what they want to hear. That doesn’t work everywhere, but it’s very successful in the US due to the credulous population. Your linked article is a prime example. It provides no evidence, no background, no analysis, no logic, nor anything but the cotton candy of feeding wishful thinking. Too soon its readers will find themselves dissatisfied and seek more sweet confirmation of their beliefs. And the media industry stands ready to provide it.

    4. doug

      I read DK for amusement, but never for news. That entire story has zero sources. I was unaware anyone thought it to be a news site. Wowsers, I am behind the times.

      1. RobertC

        Pakalolo is an (the only?) exception. Presents the environmental story well with a minimum of intrusion.

    5. wendigo

      Certainly will not get hard hitting analysis like this on NC.

      “Meanwhile,Ukraine is building and modernizing its armed forces, and before long will have the offensive capability to seriously contest its lost territory – including territory it lost in 2014”

    6. Soredemos

      DK recently assured as Russia had no strength left to attempt to form cauldrons around the Donbass front, so forgive me if I don’t put any stock in anything DK claims.

  17. Dave in Austin

    As usual, a good synopsis from Yves. A few comments:

    Gas and diesel are not interchangeable. This situation is mid-1944 Germany. The Ukrainian refineries are out of commission; the tank farms have been destroyed; the transport system is damaged and all they have left are tanker trucks with risk-averse civilian drivers. But as in 1944, the local supplies can be stretched and use limited. So both sides find it necessary to use commandeered cars which use gas while the Ukrainians save the diesel for the heavy tanks and fighting vehicles. That means that in defensive warfare the Ukrainian tanks are useful but the idea of transporting fresh Ukrainian tank units long-distances to the Donetsk front is a non-starter.

    Avovstel. The relaxed Chechen in the referenced video are in the heavy machinery fabrication facility. I used to work in one. Overhead 100-ton gantries, few if any tunnels and little cover. This is not the Azovstel steel plant where the Azov and Ukrainians are underground. The Putin “seal them up” announcement suggests to me that recent POWs are saying “There are 3,000 guys down there”, more than expected, and maybe there are also cowering civilians. But there is no artillery, mortars or rockets, so the surrounded troops pose no threat to the recently occupied city.

    Putin’s plan seems to be 1) seal them off with second line troops so the Chechens can be deployed further north, 2) don’t flood them out and cause a huge number of deaths, 3) encourage direct negotiations on smaller issues like wounded soldier evacuations, civilian evacuations and possibly even evacuation and internment of both Ukrainian and Azov soldiers in a neutral state (Turkey. I’m talking about you). It will be very hard for Zelinskyy to refuse direct negotiations on evacuations. The families of the soldiers involved want them to live and food and water will soon run out. This is how sieges end.

    My prediction is still that the recent Russian advances south from Izrum are designed to pin the Ukrainian units in place and the real attack will come next Tuesday or Wednesday after Russian Easter. I will be launched 25 miles north of Izrum and be aimed west toward the Dneiper River and avoid fighting inside the cities on the river like Dnipro. We will know in five days if my prediction is correct.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The MoD estimated a max of 2,100 in the factory. I think Putin thinks no point wasting missiles or manpower (booby traps are probably a much bigger risk given the guys in there have to be weak by now and low on/out of ammo) when they can’t live much longer if the Russians just wait.

      I will admit I have completely discounted the notion that it is possible to get anyone to put down arms. It’s no cost to Russia to play this one out. They are trading time for less human/material cost, which is also the trade they are making in how they are presently prosecuting the war. If anyone surrenders, that’s a PR win.

      This is admittedly from the Russian side, since Ukraine is saying nada, but there have been accounts of many radio intercepts. The claim which sounds credible is most want to surrender but there are enough Azov Battalion types in charge who are not letting that happen. This is currently based on the claimed “no surrender” orders from Kiev, plus not hard to imagine that they Azov types believe the best possible future for them in Russia is breaking rocks in a gulag, so better to not surrender and not let anyone else surrender. The was a photo of a soldier that the leaders supposedly shot because he had one of the pamphlets Russia had been dropping on how to escape (they show routes out). This could be staged, just a random dead guy with the pamphlet near/on him (although totally plausible he was shot), but I assume it was circulated among the troops there, to the extent they can receive images, and also outside pour decourager les autres.

  18. digi_owl

    whenever the mention of troops on US borders, i find myself thinking about Russia simply musing about sending troops to Venezuela was enough to sent DC into a near rage.

    It seems ever so often that while the technology of the nation has advanced massively, the political thinking has not changed at all since the days of Monroe.

    1. ambrit

      I’d say that Monroe is head and shoulders above the present crop of mediocrities that populate the American Government today. He, at least, confined himself to America’s own ‘back yard.’ Today’s bunch want the whole World. Well, sorry to tell you boys and girls, but the World has other ideas.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        The United states must control the entire world. Its entire reason for being depends on this and has been the goal since the nation’s founding. Failure to control the entire world will lead to the collapse of the United States. This is why the powers that be will never give up the fight for “full spectrum dominance”. They will never back down. The wars will rage on.

  19. Anthony G Stegman

    It’s important to remember that things are never as bad as they appear, nor are they as good as they appear. This most certainly applies to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Nobody wins these kind of conflicts. The only question is who will be the bigger loser.

  20. Charlie Sheldon

    A great and thoughtful summary of the situation, Yves, extremely well done (as always). I often tell friends that if you only have one news source in your life go to NC for a full and comprehensive list of the real news of the day. As regards what happens now in Ukraine, I think there is always the risk of some blunder or intentional blunder triggering a nuclear exchange of some kind. Always. And I fear this exchange will start from the West as they figure out they have backed themselves into a corner they cannot flee. I think two things are going to happen fairly soon. One, Russia will essentially win the ground battles and declare objectives met, probably by the end of May, though maybe there will be some further weeks of surrounded and cut off Ukrainian armies left to either surrender or starve. But, two, and in my view equally important, it is sinking in to the Germans and surely other European countries that this worldwide economic war being staged by the US will fall heaviest on them, and very soon. Germany cannot live without Russian oil and gas. There is no way the US can get replacement LNG to Germany. Fuel prices and then food shortages will cause governments to fall. The first domino in this may well be France, if Macron loses.

    The Russians know how to suffer. Suffering is in their DNA, after more than two centuries of being invaded again and again. Furthermore, whenever the Russians have tried to join Europe they have been denied, and nowhere is this more obvious than right now with this enormous flood of anti-Russian hysteria and anti-Slav dehuminization. Some times I wonder if the anti-Russian hatred, apparently always just beneath the surface, is an outgrowth of the Mongol invasions ten centuries ago. Anyway, Russia will survive these sanctions, I think, better than Europe and the United States. They have oil, gas, land for growing food, technological expertise, a huge land mass, and nuclear weapons. They have China as a possible greater trade partner.

    I think this whole Ukrainian thing is being used as a play to get off the dollar, with a new Eurasian financial and currency sector overseeing natural resources, and being done in such a way that Europe and the US must come apart because Europe cannot live without Russian energy. And it does seem that the West has not left itself any way to climb down from an all out effort to destroy Russia rather than accept that Putin’s original demands were reasonable and should have been accepted back in December.

  21. GM

    Modern western weapons are produced at a snail’s pace. In less than two months Ukraine has used up years’ worth of arms production via

    There is the famous quip about WW4 being fought with sticks and stones, but it would be quite amusing if it turns out that real shooting wars between major powers these days will, if it does not go nuclear, eventually degenerate into the “Toyota war” in Chad from the 1980s and the countless other such conflicts since then — random bands of combatants riding around in civilian vehicles with small arms.

    Because all of the fancy hi-tech gets blown up in the early phases of the wars and it’s so complex and expensive that nobody can replenish it faster than it gets destroyed (and that is assuming the supply chains are not broken down completely, which they likely will be).

    If we are to bet on who will last longer, that bet is on the Russians, and especially on the Chines.

    Turns out that a real economy that makes stuff matters more that fake numbers on screens.

    BTW, I have now had this conversation multiple times with highly educated people in the sciences and engineering. And the argument always comes up — “But Russia has a GDP smaller than Benelux, they stand no chance”. People are really so delusional about how the world works that they don’t grasp the distinction between “GDP”, i.e. random numbers on screens, and actual wealth and real economy. And these are people in STEM, i.e. the ones who should be looking at the world in physical terms, but they are not, they are thoroughly brainwashed into a financialized worldview. You explain to them that wars are fought with weapons, fuel, food and other physical supplies, not with bags of cash and certainly not with numbers of screens, and all you get is blank stares.

    The West is too far gone to be saved at this point…

    1. RobertC

      “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

      Dwight D. Eisenhower

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      A simpler way to shut them up might be to get them to look at PPP measures of Russia’s economy. It’s #6, just a smidge smaller than Germany.

    3. XXYY

      Noam Chomsky used to invariably make the point that highly educated people (the PMC on NC!) are much more indoctrinated than their less educated brethren. They spend their formative years being shaped by colleges and other institutions, get most of their information from the mainstream media (also staffed by the PMC), and don’t have very much real world experience in their lives beyond driving to work and sitting in a cubicle.

      This seems counterintuitive, but it doesn’t take long talking to people to see that he’s right.

      1. GM

        He is right.

        There is another issue that I don’t think anyone has properly articulated, which is that very few people in STEM actually care about science and knowledge.

        The objective is to gain credentials, then monetize those credentials. Real intellectual curiosity is nearly non-existent.

        The pandemic revealed that in all its ugliness — once you have been witness to the spectacle of super famous figures in the biomedical fields being no better informed about the subject than the NYT journos who write the opinion shaping propaganda pieces (because the latter are the only source of “information” for the former, who never showed any interest in learning anything of substance about the problem and just wanted it to not bother them), you simply cannot unsee it.

        Then of course the exercise was repeated with Ukraine, but there the problem was compounded on top of pre-existing deep ignorance. You might have seen those exercises where random Americans are asked to locate various countries on map, including Ukraine, and most fail miserably. Well, I can assure you that it isn’t just random Americans that struggle with that.

        If anyone doesn’t believe me, let’s recall that this happened just before the war started:

        MOSCOW, February 10. /TASS/. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss refused to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over the Voronezh and Rostov Regions at talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, a source close to the negotiations told TASS.

        After Truss’ statements urging Moscow to move its forces, located on Russia’s soil, away from the border with Ukraine, Lavrov asked his British counterpart if she recognized Russia’s sovereignty over the Voronezh and Rostov Regions.

        According to the source, Truss insisted that the UK would never recognize Russia’s sovereignty over these regions.

        Away from the cameras, Truss allegedly confused the Russian regions of Voronezh and Rostov with Ukrainian territory when Lavrov asked her whether she recognised Russia’s sovereignty over them. She repeatedly told Lavrov that the UK would never recognise Moscow’s claim, until the British ambassador was forced to step in to correct her, the Russian business daily Kommersant reported.

        Truss partly confirmed the account in an interview with Russian press: “It seemed to me that Minister Lavrov was talking about a part of Ukraine. I have clearly indicated that these regions [Rostov and Voronezh] are part of sovereign Russia,” she said, according to the British embassy in Moscow.

        The episode follows a previous taunt by Russia last week when the foreign secretary was taken to task over her comment that “we are supplying and offering extra support to our Baltic allies across the Black Sea”. The Baltic Sea and the Black Sea – where Ukraine sits on the coast – are on opposite sides of Europe.

        That’s what we’re dealing with…

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’m glad you pointed this out. I know a few people (including some relatives) who are very high level in STEM fields – top of the 1% in terms of degrees and jobs. I’m regularly shocked at how deeply ignorant they are about many matters outside their particular expertise, and, to make it worse, how little they know about how little they know. Its not just a matter of being over specialized, years back one high profile academic I know quite bluntly told me that there were subjects he preferred not to explore, because this would raise difficult questions about his Universities policy, and that would be bad for his position and career (the latter part was implied, the first part he stated bluntly).

          I find in my occasional chats with the mostly east European baristas and waitresses in my local cafe that those young woman are quite literally more informed and have more intelligent things to say. I don’t mean that in a patronizing way, I am perfectly serious. Their life experiences along with a pretty good basic education has led them to be better critical thinkers.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you.

            I know what PK means.

            Further to credentialism, I was often invited to LSE during the financial crisis and its aftermath to discuss what happened, the official reaction and consequences. I was a bank lobbyist at the time.

            What struck me was the number of students from the masters in international relations course*, many of whom had been or intended to become assistants to politicians (in London, DC and Brussels) and work in the civil service (“special advisers” in Whitehall, if not proper civil servants) and later politics, lacking any curiosity. The course was just a box to be ticked on their career path. To be fair, LSE had recently appointed a head who intended to run it as a business and began to hire celebrity academics. As PK said, they know little about how little they know.

            When the going is good, these types are little more than an annoyance. In London, they spend more time at the Red Lion or Blue Boar in the Westminster village, gossiping with hacks and fighting over whose desk is nearest the minister and plotting matters horizontal. When crises like covid and Ukraine come around, they are a liability.

            The hacks are no better. One can see where how the bloviating media and wannabes come about.

            *The daughters of Shevardnadze and Lavrov studied there / that. The former is a serious individual.

        2. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, GM.

          Truss was imposed on her Norfolk constituency. Local activists did not want her. She calls them the “turnip Taliban”. It was the same with Matt Hancock in neighbouring Suffolk and Rishi Sunak in Yorkshire. There were better candidates, but London HQ imposed its / these A listers even though they failed to impress at the interviews.

          Truss was a Liberal at Oxford and spoke against the monarchy at a Liberal conference in the mid 1990s. Her parents are left wing and campaign against nuclear weapons. She was not selected for the Liberals in advance of the 1997 elections, in part as she was anti EU, and flounced out of their school for potential candidates. Truss joined the Tories and, as the Cameroons took over and “detoxified” the brand, she softened her anti EU stance. She’s now pro Brexit. One of her potential rivals for the leadership is her former beau and co-author, Kwasi Kwarteng.

          One wonders where the UK would be if none had made it to the Commons.

  22. hemeantwell

    I’ve been looking into the literature on the development of the Cold War. One thing that comes across is that the mainstream authors – and here I’ll use John Gaddis as an exemplar – have difficulty developing a clear account because they are so intent on refuting the “Marxist” argument, as introduced into US historiography by William Appleman Williams, that saw an expansionist drive for markets as guiding US foreign policy. Instead the Gaddis mob is more inclined, in a Wilsonian fashion, to give causal force the superiority of the capitalist democracy package, which tends to make their writings sound like an evangelical chronicle. Writers such as Melvyn Leffler and Bruce Cumings who don’t have that axe to grind make respectful fun of them. But their arguments, I suspect, have likely never been taken seriously by the people that matter, US foreign policy planners, aka the Borg.

    It’s not hard to see at least one upshot of this: when the US invaded Iraq, the wonders of capitalist democracy were supposed to powerfully attract defeated Iraqis to this crusade, irrespective of how they would concretely fare as subordinates in an economic order run by the US bloc. It seems to me quite possible that the expansionist project spearheaded by NATO, aimed at picking up the remaining marbles after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is understood by the Borg in similar terms. And so the success of the ideological education that’s summarized in Gaddisian writing leaves the Borg relatively blind to the possibility that the prevailing response of Russian society, top to bottom, would be to see this as an existential conflict.

    On a related tack, I’ll throw in this from to a 1999 review essay by Leffler in the American Historical Review, “The Cold War: What Do “We Now Know.” Leffler covers a wide range of writers, but he zeroes in on Gaddis. He’s devastating:

    [He’s mocking Gaddis’ “Now We Know” book title] We now do know that, during the war, Nazi armies destroyed over 1,700 cities and towns and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets. They ransacked the countryside, destroying tens of thousands of collective farms and machine and tractor stations. The Germans demolished over 31,000 industrial enterprises, 1,100 coal pits, and 3,000 oil wells. They stole or slaughtered 17 million head of cattle, 20 million hogs, 27 million sheep and goats, and 7 million horses. The suffering was horrendous. Twenty-seven million people inside the Soviet Union perished during the conflict, many as a result of Stalin’s foolish actions and barbarities but even more from Nazi atrocities and battlefield casualties. The legacy of the Great Patriotic War has been an enduring part of the nation’s memory. Did it affect Soviet foreign policy? Did it shape the Kremlin’s perception of its postwar security requirements?

    In Gaddis’s volume, Soviet losses during World War II arc mentioned in a sentence and then passed over. Interestingly, he argues that Pearl Harbor had a lasting impact on U.S. national security policy. At Pearl Harbor, 2,400 Americans died. During the entirety of World War II, 425,000 American servicemen were killed. It is interesting that, for Gaddis, the Japanese attack left an indelible imprint on postwar American conceptions of national security, but the war apparently had little impact on the Kremlin. [my emphases]

    I think you can see how much Leffler is holding back with his repeated use of “interesting.” Gaddis’ minimization is extraordinarily partisan, narcissistic and literally stupefying as a guide to interpreting Russian behavior. It likely reflects the Borgian intellectual milieu and contributes to their dismissal of Russia’s repeated bids to restructure European security arrangements.

    1. David

      I think it’s true that all large and complex political systems have strong normative tendencies. If they are geographically or politically isolated, this tendency is exacerbated. During the Cold War, it was fairly clear to me that western political and military leaders had little if any idea of what really animated the Soviet Union. I am fond of saying that, whilst there was an enormous amount of effort devoted to studying the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, in the end, we knew everything except that which was really important. Between the warmongers telling us that the Soviets were coming tomorrow and the pacifists telling us that the Soviets were “just like us”, I think we misunderstood everything of any real importance. What makes it worrying is that the Soviets were in exactly the same position: they completely misunderstood the West. I remember once reading through some East German records of Warsaw Pact military meetings that became available after the fall of the Wall, and it was terrifying. I’m still surprised that we didn’t all end up radioactive crisps.

      After the end of the Cold War, it was thought, especially in Washington, that history had shown that there was, in fact, only one political system, and one economic system, and that it was liberal democracy. Those states that had not yet adopted it would doubtless do so. That states might not do so was impossible to believe. Thus, individuals who thought like us were regarded as representative of their communities, whereas individuals who thought differently from us by definition could not be. The complex, confusing and multi-faceted story of NATO expansion turned out as it did largely because of this. Central European states, whose political and economic systems had been completely destroyed, and which in any case were regarded as having been imposed by a foreign power, looked westwards for help, and much of their leadership saw western Europe as an inspiration (this was in the early 90s, remember). Inevitably, western decision-makers saw these countries’ adoption of liberal democratic values as inevitable, and so did much of the elite in those countries themselves. It’s only relatively recently, in the face of economic failure particularly, that electorates in some of these countries started to push back. But if you have a strongly normative system, it’s hard to see why anyone (Russia in the current case) could genuinely think differently.

      1. GM

        Central European states, whose political and economic systems had been completely destroyed, and which in any case were regarded as having been imposed by a foreign power, looked westwards for help, and much of their leadership saw western Europe as an inspiration

        It is important to understand what that inspiration was for.

        The fundamental contradiction of the Soviet system was that the nomenklatura had control over fantastic real wealth but did not have the official right to live better than the common worker. And in fact did not live better for a long time, and even later on it wasn’t enough — privileged people did gain access to luxury goods from the West in the last couple decades of the USSR, but there were limits to that (you had to keep appearances after all, as there were serious punishments for crossing certain lines even in the 1980s). They also could not pass that control over resources to their progeny, which was a huge problem on its own.

        Once economic ties were established between East and West that contradiction became really glaring. Imagine being one of those Soviet officials signing the original gas and oil export deals — you go to the West, they wine you and dine you in various fancy mansions, drive you around in limousines, etc. the people you negotiate with are all very wealthy. And you negotiate with them as an equal, signing deals worth many billions. But then you go back to Moscow where, if you are lucky, you live in one of the Stalinkas (the nicer relatively roomy apartments built in the 1930s in more central areas of cities), and if you are not, you at best have a 2-bedroom dingy flat in a non-descript Khrushchyovka, quite possibly something even smaller.

        That starts to gnaw on people over time and the question “why can’t I enjoy the same level of consumption as those people” begins to weigh on them. Even more so under the pressure from their wives and children, who are generally even more materialistically oriented. The argument “You can’t live in a mansion, drive a Ferrari and have a yacht in order for your fellow citizens to have free housing and healthcare and high-quality education” didn’t go well with these people, if it was ever considered.

        So that is what the “inspiration” was for — the Western system provided both opportunity and ideological justification for uncontrolled looting. Pure greed ruled the day.

        In effect the years 1989-1991 were the second phase of the neoliberal revolution — it started in the West in the 1970s, then a certain layers in the Soviet bureaucracy saw that and decided “Hey, that sounds good, we should do it here too”, and the rest is history. The 1980s were in a way a lot more similar on both sides of the curtain than people realize.

        Now notice what the turning point was — it was once extensive direct contacts between East and West were established. The Devil has to have access to you in order to successfully tempt you. So separating as completely as possible from the West would not have been a bad idea back then, and it might still be beneficial now.

        That realization is starting to slowly creep into the public subconscious, we will see how far it goes.

    2. Grebo

      Bill Clinton (or was it GW Bush?) went to VE Day commemorations in Moscow and thanked the Russians for helping America beat the Nazis.

  23. worldblee

    Great article. NC has been one of the most rational sites on the internet for this whole war. I do have one question about this text:

    “That drawdown is expected to end by October, when the US fantasizes that it will be able to produce and deliver enough LNG to largely compensate for the loss of Russian fuel. That’s possible but far from probable.”

    Is this statement meant to apply to supplying LNG to Europe or to replace US energy reserves? If it’s for Europe, my understanding is that regardless of how much LNG the US can produce, a) there aren’t enough ships to get significant quantities to Europe and b) there aren’t enough LNG terminals to offload, particularly in Germany. I don’t believe there’s any substitute energy available to replace Russia’s sanctioned fuels, and even if there were, there isn’t a way to ship it to European industry and consumers.

    But again, fantastic article and that was my only point of confusion.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      From what I have read at OilPrice (danger of relying on one source, I just don’t have time to go beyond it and the financial press), the Biden Admin plan was for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve release to help contain US gas price increases for the six months through Oct, and then increased shale gas production would make up for lost Russian supply in the US. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve release was never sold as meant even at the margin to help Europe, but the falloff in gas/oil demand due to China’s lockdown may have given the US some slack.

      OilPrice cast doubt on the ability of the US to ramp up shale output all that much due to shortages of fracking sand, tubing, copper, and certain equipment.

    2. Louis Fyne

      can’t remember if it was discussed on this website, or not…

      but there is 0% odds that the US can make up the EU’s energy deficit within 12 months. Literally zero.

      How can such totally detached from thermodynamics reassurances can be made in public without any challenge?

      Our Establishment and media lives in a world of unchallenged “truthiness”.

      And much as the 2021 Afghan Army showed that everything was a fraud, the eventual collapse of the UA military and economy and revelation of true UA military dead will reveal that the UA narrative was a total fraud.

      And IMO, the DC Democratic Party is going to implode from inflation and war blowback. Sadly as there is no real heir to Bernie…the post 2022 Dem. Party will be a fiefdom of squabbling ID politics camps while the GOP sweep the board outside of the core blue states

  24. XXYY

    Louis Frye indirectly raises another point: who is being attritted here? The West’s assumption was that they’d quickly deplete Russia’s warmaking capacity. But it’s the US/NATO cupboards that are being drained.

    I was reading that Russian armaments factories have been running three shifts for a long time, perhaps years, as part of the process of restoring the Russian military and weapons base. Since the Russians are building weapons to win wars, not to generate maximum CEO compensation, their designs are inexpensive and easy to manufacture. The Russian General Staff is also famously good at military planning and logistics. I saw a video of a giant Russian train carrying military vehicles into the Ukraine earlier this week. The thing was probably a mile long. I assume this is going on pretty constantly.

    Meanwhile, the US sent six (!) F-35 fighters to Europe, which I guess was all they can spare or perhaps is the number that are working at the moment.

    If this war comes down to sheer weight of weaponry and the ability to get it in place, the US/NATO will lose badly, I’m afraid.

      1. wilroncanada

        Britain probably has a few mosquitoes it can pull out of war museums, but they’ve probably lost their bite.

      2. Louis Fyne

        A-10 is a great plane…if your side has air supremacy. otherwise a death sentence for the pilot

        1. PlutoniumKun

          One of the unfold stories of the first Iraq War was that while few A-10’s were shot down, they were very badly beaten up by Iraqi air defenses, and many airframes had to be scrapped during and after the war. The attrition rate (in terms of having to be sent home for a rebuild) was very high compared to other aircraft. Plus, they had a habit of shooting at the British Army by accident. In terms of tanks killed, F-16’s launching weapons at a distance were more successful. This is the primary reason why the USAF has been trying to kill them off for decades, but politics has prevented it. They are no different from the ground attack weapons of WWII (all sides), which were excellent for making your ground troops feel better about life and scaring the enemy, but absolutely useless when it came to actually busting tanks.

          The Soviets never rated the A-10, they never believed that they’d be able to deliver a killer blow to many tanks in a really hot war environment. They didn’t develop any specific counter weapon or strategy, they believed their mobile SAM’s were more than sufficient.

  25. kemerd

    I never doubted the military outcome but have huge reservations on the economic team of Putin. It appears they think they can win the economic battle with neoliberalism which in my opinion is the only avenue they might lose. I believe the western thinking of economic warfare has its merits as long as Russia keeps subscribed to neoliberalism

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Rev.

      There are hundreds in Buckinghamshire. They get free public transport, school supplies, mobile phones etc. and accommodation in well to do villages in the Chiltern Hills, but none of the adults wants to work on the farms where there’s a shortage of labour. There’s gratitude for you.

  26. Paul Jonker-Hoffren

    Thank you for this post. I posted a link on Twitter yesterday about the possibility that US weapons end up in the wrong hands and immediately colleagues (!!) started attacking me for not coming up with a solution to the war. Some point out that I suggest that is apparently OK that Russian neonazis get those weapons. It is really impossible here in Finland to talk reasonable about this war, even as articles such as this NC piece are well-researched and fact-based. But Finland has a lot of latent Russophobia (which is understandable given the history – apart from the continuation war), so that is another way to inject poison into any attempt to talk about any of this.

    Even the argument about weapons/ammunition incompatibility is brushed aside, as is the support for the neonazis in the Ukrainian army…

    I do wonder though – stocks of weapons decline but NATO is probably not sending their “standard” weapons that they would use themselves?

    1. Paul Jonker-Hoffren

      I apologize for not adding something substantive. I do not mind if this has to be deleted. I am just tremendously frustrated with the MSM narrative here in Finland. There are so many people that actually express the Russian army should be defeated! The posts at NC are so informative. They give me a sense of grounding, but I do worry about when the war ends and everyone’s view has to be calibrated anew.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I think its always very valuable to hear voices from different countries.

        It has surprised – and shocked me a little – to see how powerful the anti-Russian feelings have been around much of Europe. Just from casual conversations with Polish and German people I’ve met over the past few weeks, its obvious that it has gone out of hand – it is potentially triggering policies which are not even vaguely logical. Even if you strongly oppose the Russian invasion, there are sensible pragmatic reasons for trying to tone down the rhetoric (as Noam Chomsky pointed out, and got massacred online for it).

        I think it is strongly mediated by history. Finland of course, along with the Baltic States, have very good reasons historical for being suspicious of Russia. I think the story may be a little different in other countries such as in the Balkans or Hungary.

        Europe needs to find some intelligent pragmatists fast.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Finland of course, along with the Baltic States, have very good reasons historical for being suspicious of Russia

          I’m currently reading a book on how Russian Empire basically created Finland as a nation. Before 1812 Finland was mere eastern part of Sweden, used mostly as buffer zone against Russia (or against Sweden, depending) and source of cannon fodder for Sweden’s wars.
          In 1812 Finland was “elevated” to an autonomous Grand Duchy, which was actually developed as an example to other regions of Russia. Finland was given it’s own currency, it’s own laws, Finnish was made into official language, infrastructure (railroads and channels) were heavily subsidized and Finns did not have to fight for Russia in it’s many wars.

          The big narrative, although not very popular in Finland is that when Finland has geed relations with it’s eastern neighbor it does quite well. And when the relations sour, Finland usually has to fight a war.

          The biggest narrative, not talked about anywhere else but in scientific literature is that the very birth of Russia is basically slavicisation of multiple Fenno-Ugric tribes for the last 1200 years. A process still going on.

          Ok, the last one may be also part of the most extreme Ukrainian ethno-slavicism holding Russians as lesser slavs due to admixture of Finnic peoples.

        2. Paul Jonker-Hoffren

          I fully agree. And for me personally this very twisted, because some of the people of the village I come from in the Netherlands moved to Russia to build St. Petersburg. So I do feel this historical connection with the Russia that wanted to force itself to be modern.

          The Finnish intelligence agency is on this (obviously) but it seems many rich Russians have bought patches of land in Finland. It seems many in Finland are now convinced these will be used as beach-heads for an invasion of Finland (you know, dropping parachutists on private property which also has conveniently a helipad). I don’t think that is logical at all, but this is one of the narratives. This is a thing that has been in the news from 2010 at least. See here: and here: (both not so recent, but in English so you get the idea)

          The current discussion about NATO is an absolute minefield (pun intended). It is very much about the defense part (“Finland will be under the NATO nuclear umbrella”) and much less about the impact on Finland’s foreign policy. As you know, Finland has a reputation for peace negotiating in difficult conflicts, on top of hosting some important international conferences on “neutral” ground (CSCE in Helsinki, 1975) – Martti Ahtisaari got a Nobel for this and the current Foreign Minister also earned his dues in this field. None of that will be possible once Finland joins NATO.

          On the other hand, at my university the deans had to send a note, that everyone is entitled to a safe, discrimination free working environment. Because I work from home, I can’t really tell, but apparently there have been nasty harassments of Russian colleagues and exchange students. Finland has its share of labour market discrimination of Russians (and other minorities) but still in general, very few problems as Russians are hard workers.

          Finland is my adopted homeland, and I really feel there is now a major change going on. And: imagine, a young, female PM of the labour party, together with mostly left-leaning coalition partners could take Finland to NATO. The liberals and conservatives will not get over this.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, Paul.

            I work for a Dutch bank and have noticed. It is the same at Germany’s leading bank, where I was until a year ago.

            The German bank has pragmatists, but the CEO is associated with the CDU and feels he can’t say much after Bucha. The bank’s reputation has been mud for years.

          2. Susan the other

            The push to continue to expand NATO feels almost reactionary at this point. Just a week ago Lavrov (? Putin) said bluntly that if Finland joined NATO Russia would destroy their entire country. And, of course Tony Blinkin acted like the Russians were a bunch of bumpkins when he refused to acknowledge a limit to NATO, saying that it is in NATO’s charter that anybody can join, etc. Except, of course, Russia. The (Russian) principle that no country’s interests can be allowed to diminish those of another is not part of NATO-Think. This looks to be being set up to be a cause for war because it creates two immovable forces in a stand off. Imo, NATO is clearly the aggressor and they have made their aggression part of their constitution/treaty. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for NATO to reconstrue its charter to reflect modern reality. Which still seems to be that only sovereign nations can enter into binding agreements… but if sovereignty is undermined then, theoretically, no treaties can be made, and etc. But I’m not holding my breath.

            1. Paul Jonker-Hoffren

              I agree. And think: Russia was at least until 2006 a member if Partnership for Peace. Even within that framework it could have been possible to work out some kind of shared security architecture. Now we have this and all my childhood nightmares about nuclear war come back (I was 6 in 1985).
              I really don’t know how to roll these policies back.

  27. YY

    The one worry about lack of diesel is that it is the same fuel for the tanks as is for the tractors. With the start of planting and the farm cycle, there will be requirement for fuel for farming not just absence of war related explosions. It would appear that the current year will not be all that great for harvest, significant short fall will have direct consequences in food related social unrest in Mid-East & North Africa. NATO, of course does not give a shit.

  28. Elmore James

    Perhaps the truth of Putin’s real goals is coming out?

    KYIV/MARIUPOL (Reuters) -Moscow wants to take full control over southern Ukraine, a Russian general said on Friday, a statement Ukraine said gave the lie to Russia’s previous assertions that it had no territorial ambitions.

    Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to a breakaway, Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west.

    That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean pushing hundreds of miles west beyond current lines, past the major Ukrainian cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.

    Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and liberate its population from people it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s invasion an unjustified war of aggression.

    “They stopped hiding it,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Twitter. Russia had “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”

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