Ukraine Is Smashed – This Is How It Will Be Repaired

Yves here. This is a persuasive forecast of what the next phase of the Ukraine war might look like and what the territorial disposition could be. Note that Helmer does not think the Russian plan is for a breakup but a reconstitution in a more federalized, or what the Brits might call devolved structure.

Many might depict a resolution of the sort Helmer sketches out as a Russian failure, but Russia never wanted to occupy or conquer Ukraine. The objectives were to make sure Ukraine would not join NATO and to demilitarize and denazify it. It was always unclear as to what the last goal might amount to. Scott Ritter has described one way it might be achieved. The neo-Nazis constitute a guesstimated 10% of the armed forces, by design well distributed across units.

As Russia surrounds various groups and it is clear their choices are to die or surrender, the incentives of the neo-Nazis are to keep fighting, since anyone with a Nazi tattoo is likely to be executed or sent to a gulag or if senior, tried for war crimes and then almost certainly executed.

So the incentives of everyone else are to kill the neo-Nazis and surrender. This sort of thing is hardly unprecedented; recall fragging in Vietnam.

Ritter thus thinks the odds are decent that the military will self-cleanse and use that as an argument for Russia winding up its operations sooner rather than later.

By John Helmer who has been the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to have directed his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

It’s a mark of civilized people that they keep and honour their old things.   When the things are broken, they put the pieces back together again.

In the 19th century rural Americans of northeast states like Pennsylvania did this with their old tablecloths, dresses, and curtains, turning the remnants into patchwork quilts. Starting several  hundred years earlier, the Japanese, having to live in an earthquake zone,  had the idea of restoring broken ceramic dishes, cups, and pots. Instead of trying to make the repairs seamless and invisible, they invented kintsugi (lead image) – this is the art of filling the fracture lines with lacquer, and making of the old thing an altogether new one.

Quite quickly, the Japanese turned cheap lacquer fillings (urushi) into gold (kintsugi) and silver (gintsugi). In this way, a frugal custom of the poor working classes turned into conspicuous consumption of the rich leisure classes.*

The Ukraine is a new thing. Depending on which region, language,  religion, class, and ideology is displayed, it’s newness and oldness are disputable. New or old, however, the civil war in the Ukrainian east since 2014, Russia’s special military operation since February 24, and the US war — currently directed by US officers in the tunnels under the Azovstal factory — to destroy Russia in a fight to the last Ukrainian mean that the country cannot be put back together again the way it was. The Ukraine will have to be repaired and the damage replaced.

Kintsugi requires gold filling for the repaired cracks (lead image). This may not be quite the Ukrainian outcome the Americans, their German and British allies are insisting on, but they must contend with the Russian plan after the battlefield operations of Phase 2 are completed.  This, according to a Moscow source who knows it, is that the Ukraine will be destroyed and preserved in that state. “They don’t need to patch it,” the source says, “they need to keep it broken.”

Colouring the map (lead image) in national colours is wishful thinking. The military manoeuvre maps published from both sides reveal tactical objectives with a lag time, but these don’t reveal strategic plans.

The Russian Defense Ministry, General Staff and their combination with President Vladimir Putin called the Stavka   have not announced what the map will look like; Putin’s most recent statement indicates they are taking their time to decide. This timing, Putin said on Tuesday, “depends on the intensity of the military operations.”   “A lot is said about the United States being ‘ready to fight against Russia to the last Ukrainian.’ This is being said there, and it is being said here, and it is true. It is the essence of the current events.”

But after the fight to the last Ukrainian,  what of the Ukraine?

“Our job,” Putin went on, “is to reach all our goals while minimizing these losses. And we will be acting smoothly and calmly, according to the initial plan of the General Headquarters [Генеральным штабом]. I have spoken about this many times. There is no need to repeat all this at the news conference.”

Putin’s map of the Ukraine? “Actions in certain areas of Ukraine [определённых регионах Украины] are only aimed at containing the enemy, strikes to destroy the military infrastructure and create conditions for more active operations on the territory of Donbass [территории Донбасса].  Meanwhile, the goal of our entire operation, I will repeat what I said in the early hours of February 24, is to help the people living in Donbass who feel inseparably linked to Russia and who have been subjected to genocide for eight years. The only question is how.”


Click on source for enlargement and operations:


The Institute for the Study of War, Washington, DC, is directed by this group of state-funded Russia warfighters.


Click on source for enlargement and locations:

For the battlefield assessments of Jacques Baud, a Swiss Army colonel with NATO staff service now working with the French Intelligence Research Centre in Paris (Cf2R), start here.   For Baud’s analysis of how the Ukraine got to this point.

A Canadian military veteran with NATO warfighting expertise analyzes the operational map this way: “I believe that the Stavka is sucking the Ukrainians in by leaving the east-west corridors open so they are none too concerned, rightly or wrongly, about the deliveries coming from the west.  The Ukrainians are being drawn into the cauldron east of the Dnieper River; this move is also fed by their deep belief in their own propaganda – ‘we chased them away from Kiev!’ ‘We’ve stopped them in Kharkov and the Donbass!’ ‘Mariupol is still resisting!’ They also believe what their US trainers and advisers have been telling them is the effectiveness of NATO weaponry and other support. The constant nonsense about Russian weakness spouted by the media and politicians in safe havens over here does them no good either. This attitude seems to suit the Russians just fine.”

“One thing is certain – the Stavka is calling up very significant reserves while the Ukrainians are scraping the bottom of the barrel domestically and internationally in order to stiffen their lines. A huge fight is certainly brewing now.  Will there be a concerted attack on Ukrainian logistics in concert with the offensive in the East? This is a strong possibility. It also appears that the Ukrainians are feeling the impact of fuel shortages due to the sea blockade and Russian strikes on all fuel depots and stocks from the western borders to eastern hubs like Dniepropetrovsk.”

“What happens when the Stavka says Go! and all those Ukrainians, foreign white supremacists, and mercenaries  get bottled up and destroyed,  despite the weapons deliveries? What happens when the  major US tactic for this war – the establishment of the proxy army flying the SS and other fascist flags — is openly and soundly defeated in this relatively short period of time – a very short period of time for a war fought by a US-led army armed to better than NATO equipment, training and  readiness standards?

“What I am seeing are Russians rehabilitating civil authority, that’s Russian authority from Kherson in the south to Sumy in the north. I don’t believe the Galicians will end up with Odesssa or Kharkov and Sumy. If and when the eastern army is destroyed, Zelensky’s regime may collapse into infighting. He may be lynched or spirited away before the Russians get there.”

A well-informed Moscow source with close contacts among the Donbass leadership expects the future map of the Ukraine to become clear once the next two major battles have been closed – the first for Kramatorsk, the second for Kharkov.


The Russian plan, according to the Donbass leadership, is to reform the Ukraine into “a loose confederation in which the controlling regions will be the eastern Russian-speaking, Orthodox regions of Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Nikolaev, Mariupol, and Odessa. They will be run by newly installed administrations and locally recruited security forces, both controlled by Russia. Dniepropetrovsk, Poltava and Kremenchuk are likely to be part of this federal alliance, which will be strong enough to win the next Ukrainian presidential election, replacing Vladimir Zelensky.”  Zelensky’s term is scheduled to end in March 2024. It is likely to end sooner.

The future for Kiev in this new federal polity is still undecided, the sources acknowledge.

According to the Donbass leadership, the future of Galicia in the west is to become “a mini-federation of competing ethnic national groups – Catholic Ukrainians, Hungarians, Slovakians, Poles, Romanians,  and others. Landlocked, without exportable resources except refugees, mercenaries, and girls, blocked by Belarus to the north and Russia to the east, the Galician gun platform which the US and Canada have created around Lvov will be stripped of its political power in Kiev. Their heavy arms, fuel stocks and command centres destroyed, they will be motivated to turn their ideologies and their personal weapons on each other. Between them and the east, this Russian plan for the demilitarization of the country will prevent the return of mass threats and NATO bases east of the Dnieper River.

The sources say this is not a plan for the breakup of the old Ukraine, nor is it a plan for the accession of Novorussia.   It is a plan “to keep the Ukraine broken”, in which the big fracture lines will be moved to the west — and kept there.

[*] To understand and appreciate the Japanese art of kintsugi, look at this.  

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  1. The Rev Kev

    The sad thing is that it never had to be this way. If the Ukraine could have been kept permanently out of NATO, then the Russians would probably have been more willing to let them join the EU. That is, if the EU really wanted the Ukraine to join. But being where it is located, it could have become the economic interface between the east and the west with goods from as far away as China being funneled through their country to the rest of Europe. The money earned by this could have finance a more economically secure country, especially if they had no need to fund a gargantuan military establishment. In addition, through the industries that they had several years ago, they could have sold high end products into the world economy. And now it looks like it is going to end up like Yugoslavia instead. If they are lucky that is. A lot of countries want it to look like a version of Afghanistan for the next twenty years.

    1. OIFVet

      Hah, a cleptocratic state as the economic interface between East and West :) I read today in establishment outlets that Zelensky told Ursula von der Layen during her tour of the staged massacre in Bucha that Ukraine required €7 billion per month from the EU, and he did not mean loans. I gotta admit, Ukies are even more shameless than I gave them credit for. Von der Layen will apparently fast track Ukraine membership in the EU. Whether Zelensky will feast on €84 billion per year remains to be seen. It would be a hoot if Ukraine gets that commitment plus membership, and then the scenario in Helmer’s article plays out. The EU might end up paying for a Russia-dependent Ukie state reconstruction. It would be a poetic justice of sorts.

      1. Irrational

        Thanks to Yves for article and additional links. Nice to see somebody finally talking about fuel shortages. Presumably equipment loss is also an issue, but when you search the intertubes all the links are about Russian losses – we sure believe our own propaganda!
        As for Ukraine joining the EU, von der Leyen can do all she wants – in the end the 27 Member States decide on new members. I also think she is playing to the gallery – the EU has had enough headaches with Romania and Bulgaria and their corruption problems. So it won”t be quick. The most fast track I can think of was the admission of Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 80es. Others welcome to weigh in.

        1. Irrational

          I should add that I think other EU countries are also corrupt – they are just better at disguising it.

          1. Bill W

            Orban doesnt really hide it. And the Polish government is not much better. Though Orban is protected because the EPP need his support to remain power. While the PiS is just a euro version of the corrupt UK conservative party.

      2. Carolinian

        The pro Russian sites have been saying that Ursula is the daughter of an SS officer—the real SS. True?

        1. vao

          There must be a confusion. The ancestors of Ursula von der Leyen in the Albrecht family do not seem to have had any member of the SS or SA, or to have played any role in national-socialist organizations.

          On her husband’s side in the von der Leyen family however, there is a Joachim Freiherr von der Leyen who had been a member of the Freikorps, the Stahlhelm, and finally the NSDAP, and had a fairly consequent middle-level role in administrating occupied territories in France, Czechoslovakia, Poland and ultimately… Ukraine (Lemberg, i.e. Lwow/Lviv to be precise). Given his function and responsibilities, he was aware of what was going on with the extermination of the Jews. Ursula is not her descendent.

        2. OIFVet

          The Aristocratic Ineptitude of Ursula Von Der Leyen:

          Von der Leyen’s family tree traces a legacy of power and brutality, incorporating not only some of Germany’s most significant Nazis but also some of Britain’s largest slave traders and, through marriage, some of the United States’ largest slave owners. Von der Leyen is descended directly from James Ladson, who owned more than 200 slaves when the Civil War broke out.

          Not the daughter of one, married into a family that contained some. Her own family was nobility as well, and included slave traders and slave holders.

          Aristocracy endures, that’s the fact, and it contains lots of unsavory legacies by direct descendence and by intermarriage. They are all second and third cousins, it seems.

    2. William Verick

      Based on what Yves wrote here, it seems more likely that western Ukraine will end up like a larger version of Gaza.

      1. Oisin

        Indeed. The article title is how Ukraine will be fixed. But I guess fixed has more than one meaning. The Russian plan as I see and the article suggests is to take Odessa. If not, Odessa will be levelled to hobble Western Ukraine. But that might be a long time away yet. Some western countries smell blood and will pour in a limitless supply of weapons. The sinking of the Moskva ship will only encourage them. So no fixing anytime soon.

    3. RobertC

      TRK — Ukraine has already joined the EU. The 600K economic migrants every year. The 4M+ wartime refugees. The forthcoming xxM post-war recovery refugees. With eight times the population of Finland, Ukraine had half the GDP. Ukraine was one of the leading nations for criminal organizations. Even got a president impeached. And I imagine a lot of countries might want to see a border fence. It’s very sad.

      PS Ukraine did this to itself RobertC March 28, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    4. Mikel

      “But being where it is located, it could have become the economic interface between the east and the west with goods from as far away as China being funneled through their country to the rest of Europe…”

      Sounds like poking Russia served it’s purpose. Those plans are on hold, to say the least.
      Notice how many countries are getting torn up between China and Europe.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      Goods from China funneled into Europe? What goods? The goods Europe currently makes for itself?
      Why? To exterminate all traces of industry throughout Europe and make Europe as poor as Youngstown, Ohio or East Saint Louis, Illinois? Who in Europe would want that? Anyone else except the Free Trade Conspirators?

  2. XXYY

    For Baud’s analysis of how the Ukraine got to this point.

    This is a really good backgrounder, by the way. Very worth reading in full.

  3. KD

    It sure sounds like a partition of Ukraine with a rump Galicia for anyone non-Russian or not willing to play ball with the Russians. It is unclear how “Ukraine” is going to get the Galicians to knuckle under or accept some Russian-dominated “federation,” especially when small arms and explosive devices will flow like water from the West. Better off just giving it to the Poles.

    1. Louis Fyne

      IMO, too much blood has been spilled on the Russia side for Russia to be satisfied with a confederated Ukraine.

      And likewise too much ultranationalist blood has been spilled on the UA side to be satisfied with a confederated Ukraine.

      And the toxic rhetoric coming from the West is only closing the window for a diplomatic solution

      My money would be on a frozen conflict with the pro-Russia areas eventually joining the Russian Federation.

      While a landlocked Ukraine becomes the next nation-building debacle for DC and Brussels

      1. vao

        Galicia is where the Ukrainian UPA, the military wing of the OUN led by Stepan Bandera, went on a genocidal rampage against Poles, massacring tens of thousands of them during the second half of WWII.

        I very much doubt that the Poles want to incorporate territories teeming with armed-to-the-teeth militias and political parties harboring as much hatred and contempt for Poles as for Russians. It is a recipe for a bloody disaster — just as in the Eastern part of Ukraine since 2014.

        1. Polar Socialist

          That indeed is one of the interesting parts of this crisis: Poland is supplying arms to the party that is more or less openly UPA instead of joining in the de-nazification to settle the old scores.

  4. edwin

    This reminds me of the division of North and South Korea. It is not in anyone’s interest except the Korean people for Korea to be joined back together. The economic powerhouse that Korea would become is potentially destabilizing to both the Americans and Chinese. It is kept in a broken state by design.

    1. Martin Oline

      I wondered where that comment went. I have noticed several comments recently that seem out of place here but have not checked on their longevity. It seems the trolls are up early in the morning. Perhaps they are writing from Europe. One of the nice things about NC is the civility.

  5. Anthony G Stegman

    Things for Ukraine will likely not go the way John Helmer thinks. The US will never allow Ukraine to be restructured in any meaningful way. Russia can never be allowed to claim any victories in Ukraine. Sanctions will be maintained on Russia, it’s foreign currency reserves will never be returned, and it will be forced to pay damages amounting to many billions of dollars. All of this is designed to keep Russia perpetually weak with the ultimate goal of Russia being partitioned and its natural resources plundered. This pressure from the capitalists will be unrelenting because capitalists have always coveted weaker nations resources as they march across the planet pillaging and plundering.

    1. juno mas

      Well, when dollar dominance (and with it its value) declines the ‘political/financial chessboard’ will transform. When imports cost more in dollars, the American lifestyle declines. Things could get ugly.

      It’s already clear that India finds Russian commodities (wheat/oil/fertilizer) more attractive than US dollars. China is currently playing it ‘safe’ on the geo-political chessboard, but it’s only a matter of time before the Sino-Russo market strengthens. What again does the US make? (Other than war.)

    2. ambrit

      However, Russia has an “ally” in China. Include what were once called the ‘Unaligned Nations,’ such as India, and you have a credible counter force to pit against the Atlantic Zone, otherwise known as Oceania.
      Russia will be content with ‘on the ground’ victories, no matter what the Western propaganda line on them is. A Ukraine that cannot be used as a springboard to launch offensives against Russia proper will be viewed as a success by Moscow.
      As for sanctions, hah, Russia has become adept a finessing those. If they need specialized advice concerning such, all they have to do is ask the Iranians.

      1. jhallc

        Or they can ask the Iraqis, who managed for a decade or so to get around the sanctions (oil embargo) placed on them. If I recall there were plenty of “capitalists” willing to help them do an end around.

    3. hemeantwell

      I agree with that understanding of US aims. But I think we’ve become too accustomed to think of the US as a hegemon that eventually gets its way. For example, whether or not Germany can be kept on board, given the damage it will suffer from sanctions blowback is an open question. Same goes for France, even with a Macron win. If you compare this situation to the onset of the Cold War, the US is in a vastly weaker position to dragoon countries into its camp. US negotiators back then would literally threaten countries with lowering the daily calorie count that American aid would provide if they didn’t, for example, support the proper attitude towards the reformation of German labor unions. Now the incentives are running in the opposite direction.

    4. Tom Pfotzer

      We’ll see, Anthony.

      Things are different than they used to be.

      The Rest of the World (RoW) knows the moves, and they’ve been preparing among themselves for decades for this very game.

      The RoW _vastly_ out-numbers us “Westerners”.

      We are geographically remote from them. They have lots more un-tapped resources than we do. And they’re not going away; they’re just getting started.

      The West, led by the U.S. and U.K., have amassed a large bow-wave in front of our foreign policy ship. All those thefts and put-downs, bare-knuckled coercions and one-sided military obliterations … each one adds to the bow-wave of resistance and resentment.


      From Wikipedia, re: Bow Wave:

      A ship with a large draft and a blunt bow will produce a large wave. (draft = how much of ship is below the surface of the water).

      The bow wave carries energy away from the ship at the expense of its kinetic energy—it slows the ship.

      Big bow wave = lots more effort to get less far.

      “The harder you try, the behinder you get”.

    5. Darthbobber

      The entire conflict is precisely about the question of whether the phrase “the US will never allow” is still the end of the matter, or whether things can happen whether the US “allows” them or not.

    6. KD

      It will not be up to America. American armed forces are not equipped to fight the Russians, and it would take at least two years before such a scenario was feasible. Second, the US doesn’t have enough combat troops to get pinned in a ground war in Europe and address other security issues in the world (like Taiwan). Further, this all assumes that the US is willing to get in a direct peer ground war with Russia, which it hasn’t indicated it will. Unless the US declares war, reinstates the draft, triples the defense budget, spends two years building up a combat effective combined arms force, and wins the war, its a pipe dream. Hell, Europe doesn’t even have the road/rail infrastructure to move tanks around. Plus, Russia says its an existential threat, so if they were losing, they would probably resort to nukes and game over.

      Sanctions, fine, who cares. Everyone will just end up cheating because they need the gas and the wheat. Good times for shell companies in Serbia.

      1. lance ringquist

        we will also need the engineers, skilled labor, and factories to compete. we cannot even make a aspirin, how can we compete with central planning and protectionism. nafta billy clinton free traded away americans wealth, might and power.

    7. Felix_47

      Agree. The US spends around a trillion per year on defense. Russia spends 60 billion or something like 8%. Victoria Nuland said we spent 5 billion on the 2014 election preparation and regime change which is remarkable since Biden and Trump spent about a billion apiece for the election last year. The fact that Blinken and Biden refuse to consider neutrality or not expanding NATO suggests that the US wants to follow the published Rand Corporation plan to destabilize and eventually replace Putin and the rest of the leadership. I would guess that making Russia non nuclear may be part of the plan. Bottom line we have better weapons, endless supplies, a brainwashed and brain dead population that appears happy to pay taxes and pay for a very big and long war that kills someone other than Americans. And the Europeans are going along. I live in Germany and there is horrifyingly little dissent. I don’t see what factors in real time are going to encourage the US government to back down. We want the Navy in Crimea. This is a US Russia war and the Ukrainians are simply tools. When I heard Blinken say that limiting NATO was not negotiable I realized the Russians would invade. With their defense budget the idea that they would roll over Europe is and was laughable and the US government knows it. This is about opening a door into Russia over a long border through which weapons and money can be shipped. And the US taxpayer has no say over it because it looks like the US has a one party state.

  6. RobertC

    Commercial interests in Ukraine RobertC March 31, 2022 at 7:08 pm

    Clinton’s expansion of NATO four decades ago and China’s economic rise while Bush drained the West’s future in the sands of the Middle East convinced Putin Russia’s future was East and he is irrevocably turning Russia and Russians and perhaps the newly independent states in the Donbass in that direction. Sanctions aren’t punishment but rather a rampart against the West’s intrusions. China has won the trifecta.

    We’re in MacKinder’s The Geographical Pivot of History territory now.

    See also Nicholas J. Spykman

  7. Susan the other

    Russia seems to be making all the historic ethnic turmoil in western Ukraine a problem for the West. As if to say, “This is what you wanted to have, isn’t it?” Without any outlet into Russia proper for their looney uprisings, all the pogroms will be in a pressure cooker flanked by Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, eastern Ukraine, and the Black Sea. A nightmare for NATO. It doesn’t sound like a very good idea to allow western Ukrainians to have access to the Black Sea. The Russians would be smarter to take Odessa now while they can. But this does look like political Kintsugi. A constant reminder of the brutal war that got them there. Not to be confused with the more spiritual wabi-sabi – a form of love for imperfection. And don’t order wabi-sabi with your sushi. Not that I ever did that ;)

    1. RobertC

      Susan — VietnamVet and I agree it’s essential Ukraine keeps Odessa and access to the Black Sea so its wheat, etc commodities can remove the starvation and refugee threat to Europe from MENA and other nations.

      Russia, Ukraine trade barbs over obstruction of wheat shipments to Egypt As Egypt’s strategic wheat reserves continue to decline, Russia and Ukraine exchanged accusations over obstructing the movement of a ship loaded with wheat and bound for Egyptian ports.

      1. Robin Kash

        Hmmm? Why wouldn’t Russia keep Odessa and make Ukraine pay for the privilege of using the port?

        1. RobertC

          Robin — make Ukraine pay for the privilege of using the port?

          That’s a good point.

          But it seems to me administering one of Ukraine’s largest cities and operating the port doesn’t match Putin’s stated objectives. Putin is able to exert good-enough control from Sevastopol in Crimea. Besides he’s gotta leave some goodies for the Ukrainians.

          1. Lex

            I think that a negotiated settlement a few weeks ago would match your projection. But now I believe we’ve reached the “we’ll show you decommunization if that’s what you want” end game. If that’s the case, “Ukraine” will be only what Stalin added in 1939.

          2. Greg

            For Odessa, I think a partition-style forced migration to engineer an ethnic majority that ensures a friendly regional govt remains in place, as outlined in the DPR’s commentary on the long term Russian plans for Ukraine (or at least what the DPR hopes they’ll be). Expect it’d be as terrible as the India/Pakistan split, but it’d get the job done as far as gerrymandering in a long term Russophilic Odessa government.

    2. deplorado

      Bulgaria received 45,000 White Guard (the Whites from the Russian Civil War against the Reds of 1919-21) refugees after the revolution of 1917, many of them restless military officers with certain ideas. They became influential and together with some fascist elements ca. 1923 they tried to coup the Bulgarian gov’t which at the time was lead by a left-leaning peasant party. That lead to months of instability and thousands of deaths in 1923.

      So there are commenters in independent Bulgarian media now that have started to ask, with all the Ukrainians pouring into the country, many of whom have means (dont even register as refugees), own properties and businesses (the Ukr ambassador to Bulgaria owns a hotel on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and reportedly closed it for refugees!) and have ties to dubious international structures — so commenters are starting to ask, are these people going to start to influence Bulgarian politics and internal affairs? I see a potential for Bulgaria becoming the dark horse launch pad of Ukr resistance in the future, with likely nothing good coming out of it for Bulgarians themselves.

      1. OIFVet

        There are Azov elements and supporters amongst the refugees in Bulgaria. The Azov flag featured prominently during the protest in front of the RU embassy last Thursday. Some of the other Ukie refugees, while no outright Azov supporters, rub me the wrong way. Entitled, snooty, a few encounters made me want to punch them in the face. I don’t see anything good happening if too many of them decide to stay here rather then keep going West.

        To me, the enigma are the Bessarabian and Tauridian Bulgarian refugees from Ukraine. Generally very poor, very scared from what I’ve seen of them here, and not eager to talk about Ukraine beside being relived to be here. I get the feeling that the war was a good pretext for many of them to get out. The Ukie language laws post-2014 affected them in particular, as they were Russian and Bulgarian speakers and sometimes subject to Ukrainization and pogroms. It seems that they are waiting to see whether Russia will take over, directly or by proxy, Odessa, Nikolayev, and Berdyansk, where most of them are concentrated, before they commit to opening up. I spent a day with a group of them in Veliko Tarnovo earlier in the week, I liked them a lot compared to the Ukies.

        The descendants of the White Army in BG are very much pro-Russian, generally. I know quite a few, they are rather fond of Putin and are cheering the war on. Many of those families had settled in and around Veliko Tarnovo, impoverished aristocrats that got by by selling some of their art and jewelry for a pittance. Theirs wasn’t an easy lot, generally.

        1. RobertC

          OIFVet — Bessarabian and Tauridian Bulgarian refugees from Ukraine

          What part of Ukraine did they come from? Were they farmers? I’m wondering how quickly Ukraine’s Western, Central and NorthEast agriculture will recover. There’s a whole lot of hungry mouths out there.

          1. OIFVet

            Bessarabia is that finger of Odessa Oblast between Romania and Moldova, mostly rural and farming. The Tauride is the the area from Nikolaev to Berdyansk, in this case they come mostly from the farming villages between Melitopol and Berdyansk. There are urban refugees from Odessa, Nikolaev, and Berdyansk, but mostly talking about village farming backgrounds. These are not the major grain producing areas, but still.

          2. RobertC

            OIFVet — I’m going to broad brush here. I’m seeing two categories of refugees:

            + majority — EU-oriented “white-color” Ukrainian speakers from urban areas that always wanted to emigrate and now that they have will not return to Ukraine unless there’s big money to be made

            + minority — place-oriented “blue-color” often Russia speakers from remote areas, often agricultural, manual labor service workers who, if living conditions permit, would to return to their homes and jobs.

            Is this about right?

            If so, the minority is the future of the productive part of Ukraine (eg, Cargill, ADM), whatever form it may take. This seems like something to watch.


            1. Felix_47

              From a perspective in Germany that is a pretty accurate characterization. This has been a huge opportunity for those who wanted to move to Germany, primarily. This is especially true because so many have relatives already here. They are not going back. And since they share a lot of cultural characteristics and family connections and are mostly families they seem a lot more welcome than southwest Asian and African single young male migrants. Our complex is filing up with new arrivals who largely come by car. Many of them have spent time here in the past on vacation and visiting family. And don’t forget Lviv was Lemberg and a german speaking city before world war 2. Roosevelt and Stalin rearranged Europe based on strategic interests, not culture.

            2. Greg

              The prospective shortage of peasant labour strikes me as a prime opportunity for Gates Foundation-style industrialisation of Ukrainian agriculture, with massive concentration of ownership and ever-larger farm sizes.

              Although being totally uninformed, perhaps this already happened and these refugees were the last gasp of small-holders.

    3. lance ringquist

      and nafta billy clinton created massive hatreds in the balkans again, its still simmering, and most likely will flare up big time again. nice job free traders.

  8. Karl

    What about the prospect of a Le Pen win in France — and the damage that does to the NATO ship? Surely the CIA is furiously working to prevent that!

    1. Martin Oline

      I believe the coming election is a crucial element in this conflict. I hope the turnout is much larger than predicted. The run-off between Macron and Le Pen will be a unique chance for some of the electorate in Europe to voice their opinion on NATO militarism and EU expansion and membership. How they will vote is anyone’s guess. The CIA told Kennedy when he took office there was a plot to kill de Gaulle. The agency apparently thought this was a good thing as they were taking no action to prevent it. Kennedy had to inform de Gaulle himself. I am sure there are similar operations underway there now.

  9. Tech Exec

    Whatever comes out of this conflict, the result will be greatly diminished Russian prestige and economy. The images of the Russian military are very, very surprising and unbecoming of a “World Power”. I would have never imagined this but it seems to be that way… the destruction of the big ship in the Black Sea. Russia is not a serious power in the world.

    1. KD

      Taking account of what has been accomplished:

      1.) Russia has been pushed into the arms of the Chinese.
      2.) India has been threatened/cajoled out of the Quad.
      3.) Saudis are seeking to drop petrodollar.
      4.) German industry suffers a competitive crisis because of energy costs, and begins de-industrializing.
      5.) America on track for stagflation and recession–hello MAGA, the sequel.
      6.) Developing world starves because of fertilizer and grain prices.

      Russia won’t be the only power “greatly diminished” in prestige and economy.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Greatly diminished prestige in the eyes of whom? US liberal goodthinker types?

      From the response of the rest of the world, most of whom are not playing ball with the US and EU, it sure looks like it’s Western prestige that’s already diminished. Could have something to do with reducing Afghanistan and large parts of the Middle east to rubble over the last few decades to promote “freedom”. Others are paying attention and have longer memories than those in the US who seem to have forgotten Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, slave markets in Libya, cholera in Yemen, etc, etc, etc.

    3. RobertC

      TE — Russia is not a serious power in the world.

      How are you measuring power these days? You need to explain your metric.

      Russia is powerful enough to accomplish Putin’s stated objectives while holding NATO at bay.

    4. Lex

      This is such a weird comment. I would like to know what’s becoming behavior of a world power? According to the Pentagon, the Moskva returned to port under her own power. Maybe you’ll have a different opinion if you branch out from Ukrainian propaganda?

    5. Anthony G Stegman

      I agree. The sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship is a huge embarrassment and one that Russia will not live down for decades. This one incident will embolden NATO to further poke the bear knowing full well that the bear is a mere cub. How could Russia ever allow a major warship to be sunk by Ukraine? Unbelievable.

      1. OIFVet

        It has not been sunk, it’s floating. We shall find out whether the Ukies had any hand in what happened, or just took credit for crew incompetence. Regardless, it does look bad for Russia. Still, let’s not forget how bad it looked for NATO 3-4 years ago when a humble Russian diesel sub stalked a Brit carrier in the Med, and then managed to slip away despite considerable anti-sub assets looking all over for it.

      2. Michaelmas

        How could Russia ever allow a major warship to be sunk by Ukraine?

        Easily. With the democratization of missile technology of every kind and at every level since the Falklands War, every capital ship on the surface is just a big target.

        Don’t get me started on the US’s Littoral Combat Ships, which have/had aluminum superstructures and would burn down to the waterline the first time a missile hit them. And this was known. See forex —

        The LTCs were a concept totally about the bucks going to the military contractors, on the basis that none of the elites’ kids would ever be serving onboard one when it got attacked.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            We should focus on having the ability to destroy the Chinese fishing fleets when they come to strip mine all the fish out of American territorial waters. We should focus on being able to destroy whatever ships China sends to defend its fleets of fishing strip-miners when they come to strip mine all the fish out of American territorial waters.

            If America becomes protectionist, we will need to be able to destroy any Chinese or other Trading Enemy Nation’s fleet of Perry’s Black Ships which comes to try to force America back onto the Free Trade Plantation.

            We shouldn’t bother worrying any more about reliving the Great Days of Naval Empire over the Western Pacific.

        1. Tom Stone

          The sinking of the Belgrano sounded the death knell of all aircraft carriers and other large surface ships.

        2. Greg

          Agreed, sinkings inevitable given the state of missile warfare.

          I think it’s suggestive that Russia seems to have sent very old vessels into the Black Sea. Large ships in a small sea is a recipe for sinkings, and I suspect the Russian admiralty considered that when they decided which ships made up the Black Sea Fleet.
          The ship that sank at port in Mariupol was also very old.

          Of course its also possible they only have very old ships available.

    6. OnceWereVirologist

      One year down the track all this talk of “loss of Russian prestige” based on this or that tactical engagement will be chaff scattered on the winds of the 24 hour news cycle. There’ll be facts on the ground and the total recorded casualties required to obtain those facts. Of course the Ukrainians and NATO will tell you that those facts on the ground will be favourable to them because they’re achieving 10 to 1 kill rates on Russian soldiers, in which case Russia certainly won’t be able to take Donbass and in fact would be lucky to hold onto Crimea. All I can say is that in the absence of any independently verifiable casualty counts, the Ukrainians are behaving more like an army losing soldiers at a 10 to 1 rate (not counterattacking on the Russian troops retreating from Kiev, not attempting a relief of Mariupol, for example) than the Russians.

  10. doug

    CIA and all the smart folks in USofA are trying to create another scene like post WW2, where everything but the USofA is more or less destroyed. They don’t care about NATO, EU, or any other country. A unipolar world is desired and worth risking all the chips . This is an all in bet on that outcome.

    1. RobertC

      doug — yeah I’m coming around to your perspective. At first I thought the conflict was existential for Putin and foreign policy for Biden. But too many people, including yourself, are saying its multi-polarity vs uni-polarity, no holds barred.

  11. Dave in Austin

    Two more data points you all may have missed about the Russian move to the south. And one prediction.

    Two days ago there was on, I think, Twitter a line of people in Kursk, Russia next to their cars on the side of a road, waving goodbye to a convoy of Russian troops heading for the front. It looked like Iowa waving goodbye to the reservists heading for Iraq. The fighting vehicles were clean and unused as were the trucks… lots of trucks. From the size, set of vehicles, and sobriety and attitude of the civilians, I took it to be a local reserve battle group made up of light attack vehicles, 800-1,000 people, heading for the front. If you don’t know about the significance of Kursk in WWII, look it up. This is a seriously patriotic part of Russia and not far from the Ukraine.

    About the same time there was a second battle group filmed heading south by a passing car camera somewhere east of Rostov. A convoy at least a mile long with wheeled fighting vehicles and many trucks. Everything was unused. It looked like more reservists called up.

    In both cases the accompanying trucks were very numerous, not like the 40 mile-long convoy that approached Kiev from the north with little in the way of logistical support. There were none of the very light recon vehicles seen in Kiev. No tanks because the treads have limited life; they are being sent, I think, by rail, thus the blowing up of the railroad bridge on the Russian side of the border two days ago. There was no bridging equipment, no rocket troops, few wreckers. These are front-line troops to be used during a breakout in open country, not in cities.

    Not a Chechen in sight; no beards, no mustaches, no teenagers. They appear to be ethnic Russians; no Asians, no people from the Caucasus. If the Russians are calling up the reserve units from the Russian heartland they mean business and they will do their best to keep the casualties low in these units.

    I report but I rarely predict, but here is my prediction.

    Helmer is predicting a small Russian surround south of Izyum. I’m predicting a big one starting further north. The Russian goal will be to open holes in the 70 mile-long front south of Kharkiv and north of Izyum. Here there is a very low density of Ukrainian troops, no ten-year old string of prepared concrete defenses in villages as is found facing the breakaway regions further south, wide open grain fields and only one set of thin forests to cross before they reach the Dneiper River 70 miles away, cutting off more than 1/2 of the Ukrainian army. The Russians will probably use massive artillery and rocket barrages against the defenders to open the gaps like they used in 1945 on the Oder in front of Berlin and we used near Saint Lo in 1944 to spring-loose Patton for the race across France.

    The spring weather will be dry and they will use the sort of fresh, largely wheeled ethnically Russian battle groups I spotted on video to advance through the gaps and head for the Dneiper River. You have not heard of the meandering Severskyi Donets river but you will soon and you will probably see the first Russian helicopter assault of the war. The population of the area is at least 50% Russian speakers and it is the home of the largest frackable natural gas reserve in Europe.

    I believe the Russian advance to the edge of Kiev was an attempt to gain a largely peaceful settlement. It failed. If I’m correct, this breakout is the end-game for the Russians. Even if the US wants to send heavy equipment and tanks to the Ukrainians, it will take weeks. By then I suspect the campaign will be finished in the south. Then the Ukrainians- and the US, the EU and NATO- will be faced with a very unpalatable set of choices at roughly the same time as the full economic impact of the sanctions, the Chinese lock-downs and the Federal Reserve moves to raise interest rates takes effect.

    Again, just my prediction. We will see. But I though I should get it on record here at NC.

    1. RobertC

      Julia Friedlander at the Atlantic Council said it was a race Opinion | The West Has Declared Financial War on Russia. Is It Prepared for the Consequences? The U.S. and Europe are using sanctions to try and stop a war that’s already underway. It’s a huge gamble.

      Ultimately, the Biden administration’s choices may prove to be a make-or-break scenario for the use of financial and economic levers in national security. Failure to forestall Russia’s aggressions — or to prevent serious ripple effects in the global economy — will signal that even the strongest of U.S. sanctions cannot direct a political or military outcome. Policymakers may need to reconsider a tool that has assumed a central role in government decision-making, but could lose its legitimacy if the current gamble fails.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      So if I read a map correctly, you are predicting not a small arrow to the south and east around Izyum, which sound like it would mainly help perfect the current cauldron.

      Your argument effectively is: those troops in that cauldron are already pinned. They are dug in and leaving exposes them to Russian shelling and capture, so they probably won’t and can’t break out. So just leave them there with enough troops to whack any meaningful numbers who try to leave, as opposed to surrender.

      Instead, you argue for a massive move straight west from between Izyum and Kharkiv to the Dnieper, threatening Kiev and the troops that are (left) there and setting up a capture of everything south of that line, to the Black Sea, with the Dnieper as the Western margin, except maybe for Kiev proper, where they’ll sit outside the city.

      Do I have that right?

    3. Ctesias

      Wouldn’t going that far west stretch the Russian army too much? Below an interesting take on the boiler operation in a youtube account called “Military Summary”. I’m in no position to know his military background. But he argues in a detailed fashion that the first phase will be a battle to cut off the main roads and compares that to a prediction presumably from British intelligence sources. Both of these predictions stay well clear east of the Dnjepr river.

  12. Jeremy Grimm

    When I look at the world, its proximaties and resources, the possible and increasingly likely future of Asia is difficult to ignore, as are the ties between Asia and Europe. There are compelling reasons for Russia and China to cooperate, and the u.s. Empire has worked to make that compulsion stronger. Russia has tremendous resources and evolving spaces where Humankind might more comfortably live in the near future. China has great human energy and its own great resources combined with the capital and know-how required to exploit them. I have long looked at the Koreas and wondered why the Trans-Siberian has not already extended into Seoul. [The novel “Dersu Ursala” tied these many threads together for me.]

    I should of course clarify what I intend by the word ‘develop’. The world is fast approaching the ‘crucible’ as it is termed in “Dune”. [I believe our popular literature and films, and art embody the Spirit and direction of our culture and times — and have the same and even greater authority as a reference that most learned academic literature.] As the crises of the world multiply, coalesce and ‘ripen’, I believe the world must ‘develop’ — in the sense that the available resources are accessed and used in the best ways possible to adapt to and mitigate the coming disasters.

    Before coming to NakedCapitalism many years ago, I was puzzled by the peculiar ways the world seemed to refuse to develop and cooperate as seemed most beneficial to Humankind. I believed in the words of the u.s. Founding Fathers, and tried to believe in the lessons of my high school civics and history classes. I admit I was very late to comprehend the Vietnam War and protests and the implications of their endings. Only my dumb luck and a high draft number in the first lottery kept me from serving the needs of tall rice or tall reeds in a Vietnamese rice paddy or swamp. For too many years I served the MIC because the money was good, the problems were interesting, and everything else was being dismantled and shipped away. I know of no atonement I could make. I do know things must change here — back in the us, back in the us, back in the ussa — and change soon. The u.s. tosses spanners into world development to hold the world back to where it stands in retrograde.

    As the world enters the ‘crucible’ I fear the u.s. will enter alone, bereft of allies, and capabilities … a nation of lepers. Tempus fugit … and grows short.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      The US has many natural allies – all of the “white” nations – UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. They will never abandon the US. Along with those nations the US captive nations such as Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korea that need US protection and so will not abandon the US either. Whether the world is uni-polar or multi-polar the US will remain an outsized power maintaining capabilities to interfere in other nations affairs wherever and whenever it wishes. Look at what the tiny nation of Israel is able to do. It can project power a long way from Tel Aviv.

      1. RobertC

        Anthony — two words: Food Security

        UK and Australia plus New Zealand — AUKUS is getting the Australian taxpayer to build piers and logistics for US and UK nuclear submarines. Australia can’t even build its UK-design Hunter-class frigates won’t meet the RAN’s needs much less enter the technology bleeding edge of nuclear submarines. And China is moving out of the first island chain Solomon Islands asserts its sovereignty – with China and the West. Priorities are shifting.

        Japan and South Korea have examined their Sea Lines of Communication (South past near-neighbor China and East to far-neighbor US) and made their choice: joining RCEP and CPTPP plus quietly buying Russian commodity and technology products.

        Germany looks to be buying pipeline NG via Nordstream II soon.

        Italy wishes it had the Chinese investment that Greece does.

        And yeah Israel is projecting power a long way from Tel Aviv, making deals with China and Russia as fast as it can because it can’t eat Arabian oil.

        PS I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did ‘It would make a cat laugh’: key moments from Paul Keating’s National Press Club appearance

  13. John k

    I think Russia recognized two oblasts as independent… doesn’t seem they would now be happy in federation with Kiev.
    10 oblasts voted, mostly heavily, for Russian leaning candidate in 2014… and after 8 years of persecution, likely more would vote that way now. Maybe these 10 might run plebiscite and petition for their own federation within an independent sovereign country.
    A split along voting lines would be a Kharkiv Odessa axis; it does not follow the river.

  14. HotFlash

    [*] To understand and appreciate the Japanese art of kintsugi, look at this.

    Oh, look at this, results from a SwissCows image search. Ukraine should be so lucky!

  15. lou strong

    I found this interesting :a blogger who translates from Russian sources writes that in the Kherson area controlled by the Russians , they are opening branches of the Sberbank, which should mean that locals could open accounts in rubles and not in hrivnia anymore.
    They are substituting ,as well, school textbooks. I read excerpts of an Ukrainian textbook translated by the same blogger, a book that became mandatory a few years ago. It was in the groove : in order to join the NATO, you have to be a good fighter and be ready to die for Ukraine, Russians are evil etc etc.
    Then , for those who don’t mind using a translator, I found an interview to a Russian soldier fighting in Mariupol.If real , it’s an interesting view of the battlefield, as much as it is an interesting view of his mentality and motivations.

  16. René

    The real disrupt between West & East began more than 20 years ago.
    Ukraine’s war could be ending in few months, perhaps in Augut or before.
    Russia wants Donbass, a non NATO Ukraine and more leadership.
    US and EU could keep the economical punishment to Russia meanwhile the economical and tecnologicall relationship among China-Russia-Irán-India will increase.
    EU don’t need that Ukraine’ war will be extended to next winter.

  17. hogalan

    There is an historical point that needs to be understood with Ukraine.
    After 1945, over 2 million Europeans moved to another country, to be within the borders of what they considered their nationality. This didn’t happen within the USSR, which remained the same geopolitical group tat it was before 1939.
    With the break up of the USSR and the creation of ‘new states’ there was still no mass movement of people (the Russian and other Soviet troops returned home, along with other staff but the general population remained in place)
    What we see in Ukraine is the same racism and nationalism that grew in Yugoslavia, where nationalists groups encouraged hatred and xenophobia but also that many Russian speakers feel they are not represented by the Ukraine government (there has been much reporting of antisemitism and general racism in Ukraine, to such an extent that the government was forced to pass anti racism legislation last year).
    There is a region know as ‘Ukraine’ or ‘the Ukraine’ but there is no history of independent government or centralized control. During the Cold War, the west complained that Ukraine had its own seat at the UN, arguing it was ‘Russian’

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