The Danger of Underestimating Russia

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When I was a wee young thing on Wall Street, I would hear a warning regularly from colleagues at Lazard, about “believing your own PR”. Interesting, this phrase was not a part of the general Wall Street lexicon. It was important at Lazard because it was a top M&A boutique (this was in the days of Felix Rohatyn) and therefore made its living off managing the abnormal psychology of CEOs. Specifically, the firm’s deal flow depended on maintaining these personal relationships. Therefore Lazard partners did what they could to prevent CEO self-destruction.

Unfortunately, it’s become painfully obvious that in just the same way the West has become hoist on its Russia sanctions petard, so too has it blinded itself with its anti-Russia propaganda. The jingoism and fabrications have become so extreme and relentless that any erstwhile realist has to go to non-mainstream, or at least non-US/non-European MSM sources. And even then, if you don’t buy what Ukraine is spinning, and is being amplified uncritically in the Western media, you must be some sort of turncoat.

Admittedly, we’re seeing some signs of cracks, such as a New York Times editorial telling Team Biden that Ukraine needs to negotiate. Similarly, at the World Economic Forum, Henry Kissinger also said negotiations needed to start in the next two months, and Italy has devised a proposal and even sent it to Russia.

But there’s massive denial about facts on the ground. The militias and Russia have cleared Mariupol, control the Donetsk oblast and are very close to taking Lugansk…and with it, thousands to as many as 20,000 of Ukraine’s best fighting forces. Russia has started shelling military targets in Zaporizhzhia, a major industrial city in the Zaporizhzhia oblast, just to the west of the Donetsk oblast on the Black Sea coast.

Kissinger proposed returning to status quo ante, when Russia’s red lines as of the end of March, at the time of the last serious negotiating session in Istanbul, were much higher than that. Russia had also made clear that the longer the war went on, the more its demands would increase. Yet Italy, which is getting unhappy about the costs of the conflict, is also now seeking a settlement and apparently put forward a proposal. I have yet to see it but it’s already been rejected by former President and deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev….of all things on Telegram. Admittedly Medvedev is speaking out of school; Lavrov said the government was studying it. Nevertheless (see starting at 6:50, courtesy Alex Christoforu):

But no, it’s just pure stream of consciousness by European graphomaniacs….One has the feeling it was prepared not by diplomats but by local political analysts who have read too many provincial newspapers and use only Ukrainian fakes.

Medvedev then goes through three of the four major points and dismisses each. For instance:

3. The full autonomy of Crimea within Ukraine

This is direct boorishness toward Russia, a threat to its territorial integrity and a pretext for starting a full-fledged war. There is not and never will be a political force in Russia that would agree even to discuss the fate of Crimea. That would be a national betrayal.

There is no point in analyzing it further. This is just an attempt to save Ukraine some face….However, Ukraine does not want to negotiate at all. They chose to forget about the Russian draft peace treaty long ago. It is as if there is no such thing at all. They are counting only on the flow of money and weapons from Western countries. War until the victorious end.

In vain.

The cognitive dissonance is impressive. German chancellor Olaf Scholz and US Defense Secretary LLoyd Austin both called Russia seeking a ceasefire. You don’t do that if you are winning. But the Western media has so inflated the position of Ukraine and its supposedly invincible military that keeps kicking Russian ass that it would take a massive change in media messaging just to get the public to accept that Ukraine would have to cede territory, let alone make other concessions like neutrality.

The US and Ukraine have both proven so “agreement incapable” that Russia has likely concluded it needs to take matters into its own hands and execute rather than negotiate demilitarization and denazification. In this blogger’s humble opinion, that means at a minimum taking Odessa, since that’s another big nest of Azovities and other nasty types. And as much as Russia’s seemingly leisurely prosecution of the war has enabled the Western press to denigrate it, it’s probably the only sound way to deal with Ukraine’s bunkers in Donbass. Plus the sanctions blowback gets ever more painful as the military campaign grinds on.

Most of this will be familiar ground to regular readers. I wanted to widen the frame a bit. The Western ‘tude towards Russia, that it should be willing to go full Emily Litella “Never mind” and simply walk away from its successes so far and its underlying security concerns, seems to be rooted in US/Anglo chauvinism and persistent underestimation of Russia. If you managed to miss it yesterday, be sure to see Dimitri Orlov’s The Secret American Plan to Make Russia Great Again.

Below are two different examples of US misappraisal. The first, embedded at the end of this post, is the latest Defense Intelligence Agency Threat Estimate. We wrote about it shortly after it was presented, in early May. What seemed noteworthy then was its pointed failure to say much about Ukraine, particularly its capabilities and prospects. This seemed like damning with faint praise. We also took note of quite a few reality-challenged claims, such as Russia wanting to challenge the US and undermine American democracy.

Reader scarnoc voiced broader concerns:

It is quite frightening to me that this is a threat assessment that is used to explain things to congress-lizards and their staffers. The assessment underplays Russian conventional and strategic military capabilities. Current capabilities (particularly strategic nuclear ones) are downplayed or explained as possible future developments instead of current realities.There is a false pretense that sanctions are slowing or harming Russian military-industrial output. There is no detailed description of Russia’s very public and oft-repeated war aims, or of their medium and long term diplomatic aims, none of which have been withdrawn or changed by Moscow. The Russians still intend to push NATO back to its 90s borders, for example. If anything, those medium/long term goals have expanded.

The special relationship between Beijing and Moscow is described as a series of formal agreements instead of an informal but very close ‘friendship’ that both sides have repeatedly called ‘better than an alliance’. A relatively uninformed reader would conclude that there is space between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin that USA can exploit. Lizards and their staffers, being creatures who live primarily on TV news, are by definition uninformed, and they will draw all the wrong lessons from these parts of the report.

The section on Iran does not mention the depth of friendship and cooperation between Iran and Russia, nor the depth of Iran’s growing relationship with PRC.

There is little in this assessment that explains to the reader just how immense the Russian threat to American unipolarity is right now, today. Given how American congressional and executive leadership talks about Russia like it needs to be completely erased and destroyed, I don’t see any mechanism in front of us that will de-escalate this conflict. Russia will continue to act in accordance with it’s own power and sense of national destiny, stupid American elites will continue to discount and misunderstand that Russian power and overestimate their own power, until at some point we arrive at nuclear exchange. I really, dearly hope I am wrong. I’m putting curtains up in the bunker at this point.

Another example is Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference. This is an important speech and I urge you to watch it in full.

This event was in the time frame where Putin still harbored hopes of Russia being able to operate like a normal advanced economy and having cooperative relations with other countries. But those in the US/NATO defense community who hadn’t already taken a dislike to him already used this talk as an excuse. Putin had the temerity to speak directly as opposed to deferentially, pointed out the world was moving to multipolarity by virtue of the growing economic heft of countries like China and India, and worst of all, that the US was threatening the notion of international law by launching wars without getting UN approval. That in turn jeopardized stability since no country could feel safe. I am sure quite a few leaders year later took note of how Gadaffi was our friend until suddenly he wasn’t.

Putin also used the bully pulpit to call out NATO installing new bases closer to Russia even as Russia was honoring commitments as a provocation that reduced, not enhanced security. And he also called out how WTO/Western development programs for poor countries asked them to open their markets, particularly to subsidized agricultural goods, yet held back higher-tech goods:

On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programs to help the world’s poorest countries – and at times substantial financial resources. But – and many here know this – linked with the development of the same donor country’s companies….one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness but also reaps the profits thereof.

Ouch.

John McCain reportedly looked daggers at Putin the entire time. Apparently pointing out what should have been an obvious trajectory of events, as well as risks of the current course of US action, was seen as presumptuous. Countries like Russia are supposed to know their place. The reason Putin’s remarks stung was that they were on target. The US of 2007 wasn’t even secure enough to laugh off Putin’s observations as that of an arriviste who didn’t know enough of secret dealings to render judgement.

And the US and the West continue to act to our own detriment out of a distorted sense of amour propre.

00 Defense Intelligence Agency Threat Assessment
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128 comments

  1. alfia

    Good reality check. I wonder whether any government representatives/advisers read your blog Ives?

    1. Michael Ismoe

      One would hope. And if there are, can some anonymous Congressional staffer figure out WTF America is getting for its trillion dollar a year defense budget? The pictures of captured Ukranian weapons supplied by the NATO countries looks like a dog’s breakfast of missing parts, dead powerpacks and Viet Nam war leftovers.

      The Defense Department needs to be renamed The Pork Barrel Project. This is obscene.

      1. John Zelnicker

        As to the NATO supplied weapons, I have read that the weapons being sent by countries such as Poland are indeed old and have been sitting in storage for many years. Vietnam leftovers, indeed.

        Some of the weapons coming directly from the US such as Javelins may be newer, but most of those have been in storage for awhile. I’ve heard that Lockheed is running out of them and is ramping up production to keep supplies going to Ukraine.

        I apologize for not providing links, but I read a lot of non-MSM news outlets and blogs and don’t keep track of where I find this kind of information.

        Which is another way of saying I could be wrong.

  2. Alyosha

    Excellent summation of the geopolitical context. Thank you. This is the sort of writing to be passed around in the hope that more people will apply even a smidgen of critical thinking skills to their newsfeed. Thank you, Yves.

  3. Louis Fyne

    Then add China, same issues,

    with the added arrogant American PR that: yes, China makes a lot of stuff, but the Chinese are just uncreative automatons who can’t match Silicon Valley.

    1. Unviable Business

      Silicon Valley is all about legal arbitrage and/or investor scams. Uber is the archetypical Silicon Valley company. Every other company coming out of the US is just a variation around this leitmotif.
      Amazon – without the class warfare on their employees as well as predatory percentage towards sellers, would they be a viable business?
      Tesla – cars going up in flames because nobody demands them to build safe batteries or make Musk & management personally liable for pedestrian and drivers death due to software malfunctions.

      The US knows this and that is why their geoeconomical strategy is to stop others from progressing rather than being better than the others.

      1. digi_owl

        Yeah, Uber’s “disruption” is what soured me on US “tech”.

        They have basically taken the tech bro attitude and turned it into a business. And by that i mean the idea that doing maintenance on established tech is boring while recreating the same tech is a glorious undertaking worthy of a startup fueled to the eyebrows with VC money.

        Maybe i’m getting old and yells at clouds, but this feels like youthful hubris to me. But then i have had a long held passion for studying history, while most today seems to not care about what happened yesterday, much less a century ago.

        And if you look into tech history, you find that by now the story has repeated itself 3 time over. First it was mainframes. Then it was the home/personal computer. And now the smartphone. And as the smartphone evolves it takes on more and more of the cruft of the mainframe, much like the personal computer did.

        1. John Wright

          There was one additional side to Silicon Valley that was a long running success story.

          That was Hewlett-Packard Company.

          This company produced thousands of different products, in Silicon Valley, that did not fall under the mainframe/PC/smart phone categories..

          These products were not widely known to consumers as the products were sophisticated electronic instruments, medical instruments, scientific instruments and even surveying equipment.

          In my view, these products were vital in incubating new products and research at other companies around the world.

          Of course, HP eventually became widely known for printers and computers, but I believe the most important contribution of HP to society was in the instrumentation side of the business as instrumentation fostered academic/industrial research and spawned many other products world-wide.

          See a 1978 version of the HP product breadth at http://hparchive.com/Catalogs/HP-Catalog-1978.pdf

          1. digi_owl

            Oh the valley itself has been reincarnated multiple times over. I am mostly raging about the most recent such.

            The earliest tech being done there was radar and radio stuff for the military during WW2. And that likely laid the foundation for the later incarnations.

            But each incarnation seems to have shifted the focus from tech to product/finance.

          2. scott s.

            Where would we be without HP’s RPN calculators? Stuck with TI I guess. For me, Robert Noyce represented the true Silicon Valley.

                1. Rolf

                  Same! HP42S still works and in use since c. late 80s. RPN sequence now imprinted in my brain, hard to adjust to anything else. And HP instruments, meters, etc. were the gold standard laboratory workhorse.

                2. Basil Pesto

                  I think the RPN calculators are still made: my dad replaced his not too long afo iirc

          3. Boomhauer

            HP was a real innovator. I used the HP-41CX calculator in college in the 80s and absolutely loved it. The 1978 catalog link above was fascinating. a 1024kb memory stick was $51,200. Today, companies give away multi-gig thumb drives as advertising.

        2. GC54

          Welll, next step is supposed to be Meta so debris will be virtual if you ignore the people shambling about stumbling into walls.

      2. super extra

        Amazon – without the class warfare on their employees as well as predatory percentage towards sellers, would they be a viable business?

        Hey now don’t forget the loss leaders to secure dominant market position, or single-handedly creating “the cloud” and then forcing everyone else to go along with the concept to their financial loss and the environment’s degradation, or destroying the greater Seattle real estate market* after Boeing and Microsoft had failed to do so, or…

        Agreed with the larger point about Silicon Valley as well.

        *: this link seems to be from a builder’s association so is talking its book but there are lots of good charts and it is part of a series with more data points on rent, new builds, etc.

      3. Oh

        SillyCone valley is busy inventing warmed over apps. No real creativity. They just manipulate earnings each quarter by buying their own stock. Can’t last too long especially in this cratering stock market.

    2. hk

      Reminiscent of Emperor Qianlong’s edict to the king of England 200 years ago, except the shoe is on the other foot

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      That is why Huawei is blacklisted. Their products are so good they must be bad and cannot be allowed to infest infrastructure in the West.

      1. upstater

        And new NATO wannabes, Sweden and Finland have their national champions Ericsson and Nokia supply their expensive and lower performing 5G gear to the walled garden of NATO and 5 Eyes, with “our” backdoors. Who needs the rest of the world…

    4. PKMKII

      Which is just a copy and paste of the rhetoric about Japan in the 1980’s. Americans have a special delusion that creative advancement is some secret sauce that only they have access to.

  4. Björn Borg Geopolitics

    I think Russia needs only to play Björn Borg-tennis: it is a loser’s game with the West. You need only to get the ball over to the West side and then they will lose the ball. The Orlov piece shows that dramatically clear.

    My teacher in Corporate Finance characterized the stock-market as a Björn Borg-game: a loser’s game. You don’t win by being the best but living off the mistakes of the others.

    1. Oh

      Bjorn with his placid look when he played others will always be an inspiration. He will always be my hero! The US does not hot to retuen serve let alone hit the ball within the lines. Loser!

    2. Harry

      Nice observation. I lose money is stocks all the time. But I make money in distressed credit pretty much most of the time. Why? Well by the time I am buying distressed bonds, they are trading at less than 50c in the dollar. If there is residual value I will collect it. The error is in the bonds trading too cheap.

  5. Samuel Conner

    Thank you, Yves.

    One suspects that at some point in the not distant (and, one hopes, not likely to have escalated to nuclear exchange) future — perhaps within weeks — the U positions in the Donbass region will be so degraded that the Rs will consider it safe to begin ‘deep’ operations. Ground realities may evolve rapidly from that point on. Per the RusUkr forces visualization (assuming it approximates reality)

    https://www.uawardata.com/

    nearly all of the U units not already committed to combat are relatively lightly armed (from the descriptions, these units appear to be old-fashioned foot infantry) National Guard units or even more lightly armed, and ill-trained, “territorial defense” units. It’s hard to imagine that these can impede R heavy units once those are no longer pre-occupied with reducing the Donbass fortress. And it’s hard to imagine that any realizable amount of Western material assistance could dramatically change that. And what NATO nation would be willing (and able) to provide actual combat forces sufficient to make a difference?

    One hesitates to sound like a NYT columnist, but it’s hard for me not to think that this will be decisively over before another 6 months have elapsed.

    1. juno mas

      Once the bunkered Ukie forces are surrounded it won’t take a large group of Russian ground force to keep them in place. If the Uk’s try to move they will be pulverized by air power. Like at Mariupol, time and destiny is on the Russian side. As Yves’s suggested, the next step is likely Odessa; surround and control.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I agree, the days are coming and soon when the U army collapses in the East, and one wonders what that will do to the other units, which by all accounts were not considered to be as good. As we’ve said, the U army is running out of fuel, pretty much out of fixed wing aircraft, low on helicopters and helicopter pilots, and in the East, running out of armored vehicles (already forced to make heavy use of passenger vehicles). So yes, Russia could definitely pick up the pace and make the sort of “deep operations” that those Western talking heads won’t be able to ‘splain away.

      And I agree this won’t take six months.

      1. BananaBreakfast

        Will they want to, though? Deep operations is a fabulously effective doctrine for breaking down an enemy army, but the Russians well know that it requires a tolerance for casualties. The boots on the ground who follow up initial strikes tend to be met by lots of (underequipped, confused, and ultimately hopeless) remaining enemy troops. On the occasions when those troops don’t just give up, you have to grind out those pockets. The Russians may simply not need to do that in this war. They have no reason to hurry and what seems to be near total air and artillery superiority so they don’t need deep strikes and follow ups, they can very nearly create cauldrons just by blowing up any incoming supplies/outgoing attempts to retreat.

      2. BradN

        When that happens, Z will undoubtedly declare victory and order the Russians to surrender or face complete annihilation. Our media will fall over themselves congratulating him on his brave victory. There will be a ticker tape parade with a marching band and we will return to our blessed somnolence until summoned to do battle with the forces of evil once more.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          Z will show up in Moscow one day as a national hero. Putin will give him Russia’s highest award i.e. Hero of the Russian Federation for his help in depleting Uncle Sam’s arsenal of democracy in record time.

  6. Michael.j

    Thank you! This is an excellent analysis . I’ve always wondered how seemingly intelligent people could start such an abomination as WWI. I’m beginning to understand. We seem to be in a similar situation with an elite that is totally separated from reality and has the ability to hoist that view on the American populace.

    Zhou Enlai marveled in 1976, “Americans have no sense of history”. My take on that statement is that we do not understand causality. Our “leaders” rule by whip sawing the populace from one belief to another by relying on emotional thinking to obtain their desired goals, irrespective of their obvious stupidity.

    The real problem lies in the fact that they believe in their own delusions, which are based upon Karl Rove’s insane pronouncement that “we create reality”. This brings to mind a medieval court justifying yet another crusade to “liberate” Jerusalem, or Mayans’ decision to throw another human on the altar to stop a deadly drought.

    If this is the level of intellect controlling our resources, how are we ever to tackle the looming climate catastrophe?

    1. digi_owl

      The “we just followed orders/procedures” is perhaps not a valid defense in a war crimes trial, but it does seem to be a valid explanation for how horrible things happen with the best of intentions.

      By this i mean that both sides of a conflict build up these massive plans and procedures for what to do when a conflict starts. And then when something sets things in motion, even those that recognize the horror it will produce are powerless to stop it as everyone involved are somehow committed complete the procedure.

      the cold war avoided going hot on multiple occasions thanks to individuals in the loop having both the time and the presence of mind to go “hand on, this can’t be correct!”. Most famously perhaps being a soviet radar operator that ignored what seemed to be an incoming ICBM because he knew the radar had a known fault.

    2. c_heale

      There are lots of smart US Citizens. I think the problem stems from Bill Clinton’s hubris when the USSR collapsed. Coming from a world of grifters, he thought he could take Russia’s resources and at the same time (this is by far his greatest mistake) give American industry to China. The world would be very different had outsourcing not taken place and the 21st century would have probably been the American century.

  7. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: Many thanks for this assessment of the current situation.

    A serious question is why the U.S. of A, Ukraine, and Rump U.K. are so thoroughly irrational.

    Point 3 above about returning control of Crimea to Ukraine has fingerprints of the U.S. all over it. Even though the proposal came from Italy: (1) Draghi is much too deferential to U.S. interests, which leads me to believe that the proposal came out of his office because (2) as much as Italians like to make fun of Luigi Di Maio, the foreign-ministry staffers in Roma truly are not so incompetent as to bring up Crimea.

    Further, and I’m admitting that I’m looking in certain publications, you have plenty of Italian commentators pointing out that NATO on the offensive doesn’t serve Italian interests, that the U.S. can’t deliver on liquefied natural gas, and that Germany’s wounded economy should give Italians pause. And Yugoslavia is much discussed these days, the convenient dismantling thereof.

    Alessandro di Battista had an interview in yesterday’s Fatto Quotidiano with historian Alessandro Barbero, who talked about how, in the West, the ability to reason has fallen apart. (The paper tiger McCain being a perfect example, let alone Blurting Joe or Ambitious Pete of South Bend.) When di Battista asked Barbero if there were historic parallels for such a reign of defective thinking and irrationality, Barbero, a medievalist, said:

    Well, events are reminding me of the seventh century.

    Oh, joy, we’re back to Pope Gregory and Anglo-Saxons being sold in the slave markets of Rome.

    The reason why Putin comes off as so decisive is that he and the Russians who advise him understand strategies and tactics. The elites in Anglo-America, Land of the Special Relationship, and Ukraine, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest via Twitter, seem to have devolved into high-school cliques, name calling, panic (yes, panic), and a studied inability to understand events outside their provincialisms. And they have no intention of atoning for their mistakes.

    Saint Emily Litella, pray for us.

    1. hemeantwell

      Thanks again, Yves, for another good overview.

      One driver of NATO irrationality is the dogged and necessary refusal to acknowledge that Ukraine was trying to militarily resolve an ethnic conflict, doing so at the urging of NATO as it used the tensions to draw Russia into a showdown. After Ukraine’s rejection of MInsk II, 14,000 Donbass dead, and now after months of hard fighting, the only way to resolve these tensions is to let the Russian-speaking areas go. For NATO to allow the definition of the problem to drift in this direction, away from an arbitrary “violation of territorial integrity,” is to not only acknowledge a solution but also to motivate inspection of how NATO enhanced the problem in the first place. This can only contribute to denial in all its forms.

      It also doesn’t help that to recover rationality and adopt some variant of this solution would further undermine the NATO coalition. IMO, we tend to not give enough weight to the possibility that the NATO coalition could crack under the pressure of the massive economic downside of NATO’s sanctions strategy. We hear a lot of talk about planning for energy independence and such, but that’s TINA spam. There is, in fact, an alternative. I’d like to see more discussion of what forms of punishment are available to be used against coalition leavers. More sanctions?

    2. clarky90

      Re; ” …U.S. of A, Ukraine, and Rump U.K. are so thoroughly irrational.”

      Pod for Israel – Episode #1 The Christian Roots of the Rabbinic faith – Dr. Golan Brosh

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HjThkWSQic

      Events make more sense (to me), when we wind back to 70 AD, and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. Up until 70 AD, the Second Temple was the centre point of all of Judaism.

      Two distinct Jewish movements (New Covenents) emerged from the destruction of The Temple;
      (1) Messianic Judaism, aka Nazarenes, or Christians
      (2) and subsequently, Rabinnic Judaism

      The Hebrew geneology records were destroyed in the fires…..

      The neo-Pharisees and neo-Sadducees have been at odds with Messianic Judaism (now known as Christianity) for 2000 years. This struggle is now manifest in the Ukrainian War.

      Russian leadership is Orthodox Christian…….

      also…..
      “Did Rabbinic Judaism emerge out of Christianity?”,
      Prof. Israel Jacob Yuval
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_6Q4or2jjU&t=1102s

      1. BillS

        Thanks for that Fabrizio. I saw Barbero speak at the Maratona della Lettura in Fetre yesterday evening and two points stood out.
        1) The countries on the eastern flank of Europe have very long memories – something that the we in the West generally do not understand. However, we should never mistake “memory” for “history”.
        2) We are too ready to discount the opinions of Papa Francesco, even as non-believers. The Catholic church is easy to wave off as a corrupt institution of little relevance these days, but Francesco has been speaking out regularly on the problem of the arms trade and violent foreign policies of Western nations.

    3. Skip Intro

      It is not irrationality, it is messaging. If we assume that the sanctions, and closing Nordstream2 were the goal of the provocations and inevitable war, then the positive messaging is necessary to extend the gravy train of procurement, and lock in the change to imported LNG in the hapless EU. Reality would be irrational when you’ve got 85% of $40billion to skim.

  8. Thuto

    When you mix the pining for the halcyon days of a unipolar world with the US sitting uncontested atop it, and the pandering in the msm to a demographic of globalists and warmongers, what you get is a potentially lethal injudiciousness like the one we are witnessing here with western political elites.

  9. Principe Fabrizio Salina

    Believing your own PR. As they say in Texas, the real problems begin when you start drinking your moonshine and smoking your weed.

  10. Carolinian

    While Congress may be clueless about this and so much else I find it hard to believe that the Pentagon, with their many sources of information, think things are going Ukraine’s way. There’s that phone call as well as an eagerness to swat down any suggestion of Pentagon involvement in the conflict (they denied helping with the ship sinking for example). There have been reports of arguments between State and Defense and even Biden, in his more lucid moments, has said that US war with Russia is off the table.

    However we do have a serious problem with a Dem party that seems to believe its own bs, their media peanut gallery, and lots of holdover Repub trogs who think the Cold War is still happening. The only way to get rid of these seems to be more funerary celebrations of their blood thirsty glory at the National Cathedral. The world is changing and our leadership isn’t changing nearly fast enough.

    1. hk

      The frightening thing is that the combination of hubris and ignorance is not limited to foreign matters, but about our own country. That Trump has happened should have woken them up, both Dems and establishment Reps. Instead, they have doubled down on denying the reality in United States itself.

  11. DGL

    I appreciate the article as it succinctly covers the current situation.

    I believe Russia and China recognized the world situation with great clarity as the WOT unfolded. Putin in 2007 articulated the situation and events have proved it to be accurate.

    The new weapons announced in 2018 did not cause any lightbulbs to go off with our military/corporate elites.

    I think WWIII has started with great calculation on the part of Russia and China. They hope it will not become a nuclear war, but the determination to breakup the USA financial/colonial system is firm.

    The USA is behaving step by step with antebellum South Carolina. The richest state in the USA with some of the richest people in the world populating the elites. The SC ‘foreign policy’ was expansion of slavery and using ‘laws’ such as the Fugitive Slave Act to impose their will. As an example of original ‘originalist’ legal thinking they thought a state could nullify a Congressional law as unconstitution and passes a state law stating their right. Andrew Jackson called it treason and the backed down. Twenty eight years later they risked everything to maintain their control, power, wealth and life style.

    In the 1960’s people became aware there was plenty of material wealth that it could be shared. The counter revolution started in the 1970’s with Carter as the first foot soldier. The corporate authoritarian forces have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Any variation must be destroyed – Lybia, Honduras, Cuba, … the list is long.

    I agree with Yves, the USA has bought its own PR. Any deviance must be destroyed and all sense of proportionality, balance, and the rule of law has been lost.

    We watch with bated breath.

    1. Carolinian

      I don’t necessarily disagree with your antebellum SC analogy. But as mentioned elsewhere today I’ve been reading Piketty and he makes the point that there are many forms of slavery and exploitation and that even after the banning of chattel slavery the European powers used things like colonial corvee labor as a kind de facto slavery (not to mention the wage slavery that was so much a part of the industrial revolution). Perhaps it’s the capitalist/imperialist world itself that is “too big to be an insane asylum”–at least in its later stages.

      We still have streets and buildings named after Wade Hampton, America’s one time richest man (in slaves).

      1. JBird4049

        There are many forms of slavery and oppression, however the Southern Slavocracy wanted it all their way; perpetually expanding chattel slavery that they dreamed of putting not only in other American territories, but also Cuba, Mexico, and Central America, perhaps also Santo Domingo; because of the 3/5th clause and the massive wealth created from slavery, they thought for awhile, that they could continue to keep the Federal government under their control and push for their dreams. I also think that they also thought that maybe the abolitionists could be controlled or as was done in the South, extirpated via gun, fire, and the noose.

        That the opposition to slavery was not only strong, but also would greatly increase because of things like the Kansas–Nebraska Act that created the very lethal fighting between the pro-slavery faction {mainly from Missouri” and the abolitionists in “Bleeding Kansas”, as well the Fugitive Slave Act with its corruption, violence and gangs of kidnappers, an Act which the South had wanted, was going to push it all into war probably did not occur to them.

        The South was also losing its control of the courts and Congress because of the growing population of citizens who could vote pushing aside the advantage of the 3/5 Clause that gave the South more congressional representation, more electors for the presidency, which also help with packing the courts with slavery approving judges.

        People could see what would happen eventually, if the South kept trying to keep the system unaltered, but they would not accept even slow, multi generational change (one of the proposals was just to buy all the slaves and emancipate them. The cost would have made it a long process.) When Abraham Lincoln, an enemy of slavery, was elected, Slavocracy just took their ball and seceded.

        It is like our current kleptocratic kakistocracy, which refuses to even see what they are doing, forget about repairing anything; increasing wealth, power, influence, the right to pillage, they too, want it all; the South could have accepted just a reduction of their wealth and power, not an elimination of it, and nobody was enthused with the idea of a civil war, but they could not accept it and attempts to stop change hastened the war and the end of legal slavery by decades as well as increase whatever loss they were going to have anyways. The South went from the wealthiest to the poorest section of the country.

    2. c_heale

      I don’t think Carter was the first foot soldier. He was the first neo-liberal president. Soft on social issues, hard on economic issues.

  12. timbers

    It is refreshing to watch a nation respond to the self proclaimed The Whole World (12%) as a rational self sufficient adult with no self image problems or dependencies, simply quietly acting as the equal they are. Perhaps Russia really SHOULD consider returning Crimea. Perhaps if she offered to do so conditioned on The United States returning North America to the original owning Native American Indian tribes. Then renege on her promise to do so after America fulfills her part of the agreement.

  13. Thom Finn

    What I usually ascribe to Humanity overall, I must currently double down upon for the US & EU:
    “Playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded cylinder.”

  14. Tom Stone

    It surprises me that Germany and much of Europe decided to commit economic suicide by backing the play of a bunch of delusional mediocrities ( I’m being nice) in the Beltway.
    The US has been pursuing a Martingale strategy for decades, doubling down every time it loses.
    Russia IS the big dog in Europe and barring a Nuclear exchange it is going to “Win” in Ukraine.
    Geography and logistics dictate that outcome.
    The policies of the Hegemon ( It isn’t really the USA, although the US is the public face) are guaranteeing a horrific outcome for the Human race because Markets.
    And Stupidity, the most important force in Human affairs.

    1. digi_owl

      I fear it comes down to the European nations no longer having a functioning independent media and intelligence apparatus. Meaning that all the big media houses have had their “best” people “educated” at US universities, and consider the likes of AP and Reuters as above reproach. And their intelligence officers are NSA/NATO stooges.

      Thus all the information the leaders get have been approved by DC and Pentagon before it hits the desks in Paris, Berlin and London.

      Again and again when i check who had written some article to taken some photo from Ukraine, it is some Ukrainian freelancer supplying it via Reuters or AP. What correspondents the European press have there are hunkered down in Lviv or Kiev.

      The situation now is a far cry from when i grew up, when european media seemed to have permanent staff in all the major capitols at least and others roaming with travel expenses covered.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>The situation now is a far cry from when i grew up, when european media seemed to have permanent staff in all the major capitols at least and others roaming with travel expenses covered.

        That was true of the American media as well.

  15. The Rev Kev

    I think that there might be another factor at work countering this and that is professional military officers getting a good look at what the Russian Federation is capable off – and not liking it one bit. In 90-odd days the Russians have taken territory the size of England and Wales together and crushed what was essentially a very large, NATO-trained army. The realization is creeping in that NATO itself may not be able to take on Russia. Worse yet, weapons inventories in most of the NATO countries have been depleted to feed the Ukrainian war and so there is not much in the tank in case the Russian go any further. In fact, NATO military budgets have been run down the past thirty years as a sort of peace dividend had taken effect in Europe. So you may have people like Stoltenberg and Sorrell going all bellicose and demanding that Russia surrender but in private, they will be hearing that there is not a damn thing that they can do. Not this year. Not this decade. And if the economy of the EU/NATO start to come under serious stress, maybe not even next decade. And the US? Do they really want to test all those weapons systems in combat where any failure may effect future weapons sales? Risk having the Russians take out those deep, weapons bunkers being destroyed by Russian missiles? That is not the way that an officer gets to keep a long lucrative career.

    1. Samuel Conner

      > there is not a damn thing that they can do

      Roughly (from memory) quoting Gilbert Doctorow in an Indian media appearance not long after the beginning of the intervention,

      “the true measure of a nation’s strength is not GDP, but ‘hard power’, and Russia has it.”

      Provided we can avoid a renewed/prolonged warm war after the l’affaire U is resolved, one would think that the multipolar world toward which Russia and China are driving would not be more violent or chaotic than the unipolar world over which US has presided since the ’90s.

      If it can avoid open hostilities, perhaps competition among diverse systems would be good for the human race. Hoarding all the eggs in the neoliberal basket does not look like a good long-term strategy.

      1. Louis Fyne

        Using GDP as a measuring tool reinforces Western hubris.

        The CEO of Lockheed makes >$15 million annually in compensation. The same amount of money generously can fund 100+ of Russia’s best weapons designers, whether use PPP or nominal GDP.

        Does one CEO = 100 Russian weapon designers in terms of economic activity? (Nevermind in terms of useful military work)

        of course not, but for the GDP, they are one in the same.

        1. jrkrideau

          Lovely example. I am going to steal it. I have been thinking about the FIRE contributions to US GDP versus manufacturing but could not come up with such a striking example.

          1. Skip Intro

            Ask Michael Hudson, IIRC, he makes the point that FIRE income, rent extraction from the real economy, should be subtracted from productivity, rather than added. Not sure whether the support comes from Ricardo or Minsky.

      2. super extra

        a while back in the comments someone (can’t remember who, sorry) said that the US was like the military country club in Argentina prior to the Falklands War and I think that is a very apt description of the entire western apparatus. In fact way before the Falklands is a more relevant era, Argentina had a wild decade of oligarch rule – like neoliberal export feudalism – that led to a coup and then Peronism, which is like a latin american worker’s social justice lite that was designed by the military to replace the prior regime. (I am not a real historian, please don’t come after me for this very light summary, I am happy to accept corrections/additions!) I think this period of history probably offers a lot of parallels for the US over the next decade+. More so than WW1/2 at least

    2. redleg

      Thus the recent talk of using nuclear weapons- TPTB know that NATO (or AUKUS) cannot fight a military peer in a conventional war.

  16. Jacob Hatch

    “But the MIC-IMATT through it’s heavy investment in tools (ie: Western media) has so inflated the position of Ukraine and its supposedly invincible military that keeps kicking Russian ass that it would take a massive change counterweight in media messaging just to get the public to accept that Ukraine would have to cede territory, let alone make other concessions like neutrality. the sharks known as MIC-IMATT to surrender this huge fat whale”.

    It’s strange that it’s constantly reported and studied that sheeple known as the public and their opinions have zero impact on how the permanent state operates, but somehow they are expected to reign in war instead of being a tool of it.

    MIC-IMATT (Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank)

  17. Pookah Harvey

    In case you missed it here is Putin’s speech to the 2021 WEF.
    Essentially he reiterates FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights. Putin states:
    “This is the only way to guarantee the cost-effective development of the modern economy, in which people are perceived as the end, rather than the means.”
    It is worth a read.

    1. Louis Fyne

      yes, irony about Putin. List his domestic economic policies, Americans/westerners likely would label them as “progressive.”

      Russia has even become the world’s largest producer of non-GMO grain under Putin.

      1. pjay

        Perhaps Ro Khanna’s next essay will be on how the concept of “freedom” has been hijacked by Putin.

      2. jsn

        And sanctions have given him the power to overcome significant resistance from his Oligarchs in pursuing popular economic policies.

      3. BananaBreakfast

        Absolutely not. Putin has been an economic arch conservative, imposing austerity to such an extent that the RF runs a federal budget surplus (!) and one of the primary victims of this relentless focus on “balanced” budgets has been the previously excellent Russian healthcare system, which has been drastically underfunded the last 8 years. That’s of course leaving aside social policies towards the queer population, the constant increase in police militarization, the consolidation of a Russian ethno-state, etc. Just because NATO is bad doesn’t make all their enemies nice guys. The enemy of your enemy is not in this case your friend.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Russia had to at least run balanced budgets due it not being monetarily sovereign until sometime after 2010, probably after the 2014 sanctions. Did you miss the 1998 financial crisis? Banks collapsed despite the Russian government not having a solvency issue because the currency fell as a result of the 1997 Asia crisis and its banks had heavy dollar funding. I am told Russians so distrusted the rouble that banks offered dual currency accounts. Again, that degree of foreign currency use means the country has to not run deficits, otherwise they have a financial crisis and are under the tender supervision of the IMF. Russia paid off its IMF loan from the 1998 crisis early, in 2005.

          By contrast, the reason the Russia banking system didn’t bat an eye in the latest sanctions was that they did not rely on foreign funding.

          I agree that Russia has not adjusted its thinking to its recently found status as monetarily sovereign.

          1. BananaBreakfast

            Yeah the problem is that hasn’t changed. They’re probably going to run a surplus this year. Given the war expenses, that money is coming from somewhere. Retirement age was recently revised upward iirc, and their social safety nets have been slashed. Unemployment insurance is notoriously meagre, perhaps intentionally to keep unemployment low. Taxes are only in the very slightest sense progressive (13% up to 5m for Russian residents, 15% above 5m. Non residents get taxed more). “Putinism” so to speak is the Russian equivalent of Thatcherism or Reaganism – simultaneously using brutally individualist, market oriented logic to dismantle social obligations, while appealing to patriotism and “family values” to maintain social cohesion. The notion that Russian domestic economic policy would be considered “progressive” even in the US is just bizarre.

            1. tegnost

              do you have links?
              for instance…

              https://www.statista.com/statistics/1023237/russia-monthly-minimum-wage/
              specifically
              “Starting from 2021, the minimum wage in Russia was calculated as 42 percent of the median wage”

              This chart does not support your contention that benefits have been “slashed”
              maybe you can provide a clearer picture for me…

              Us median wage for full time workers is 56,287 says wiki,
              42% of that amount is $23,640 or 11.36/hr…. US minimum wage is $7.25

              Russian min wage is also higher in moscow and st petersburg, similar to the us

    2. Raymond Sim

      “Rich Country – Strong Army!” An old slogan that explains China better than the great bulk of what passes for analysis in this country.

  18. Brian (another one they call)

    As we watch the world turn, take note of the increasing dichotomy. The energy is gone from the holes in the US. Some is left in Canada. The leaders are concerned about this fact. They must find some nation they can steal it from, because paying in US dollars is losing its appeal due to the strings attached. Now they will do their best to turn Venezuela into Ukraine for exactly the same reasons.
    Europe has to have Russian oil for their refineries. No other option. The US needs Venezuelan oil for their refineries, no other option. The rest is just babble.
    The actholes of congress have abandoned their duty by ignoring a president that is decidering just like the idiot Boosh. They allow the pres to start wars and do not question it. Abandonment of duty in time of war.
    It is increasingly likely we are imploding and there isn’t anything that can be done, or you would think they would do it. Can you imagine a government so removed from its people that it would kill them by ordering them to take a fake vaccine, or selling all their natural gas and oil to other countries instead of keeping it in the ground. Helping a corporation destroy the baby food instead of nationalizing the industry immediately. Destroying our manufacturing base for profit.
    If I look real hard I might conclude that they are trying to kill us all because defending our pathetic little problems is just too expensive. You know, when in the course of human events……

  19. Paul Damascene

    Important line of thinking. Even those Westerners who watch Russia with comprehension persist in framing the discussion in terms of what the West is doing and will do next, as it is were the West that has and will retain the initiative.

    It is very much on point to wonder where Russia will go next as the territories in the South and East of Ukraine are consolidated.

    Rather than seeking a settlement–though Russia will certainly agree to any serious negotiation–Russia may well find itself facing a West far more incompetent and financially fragile than even hawks in Russia might have imagined.

    They have scarcely begun to retaliate in the economic war and may actually be slowing the pace of military operations as the economic blowback destabilizes and weakens the West further. Not sure where this ends, but Russia may decide now is the time not just to deNazify Ukraine but Europe, or even the collective West under the WEF.

  20. meadows

    I turned 18 in in 1971 and had to decide how to deal with the crazy war mongering of the Vietnam era. Society was in chaos. Rational, historical information about the draft and the war was difficult to find… I felt like a detective as I sleuthed my way to becoming a Conscientious Objector. It was a stiff upstream swim. Some may not remember that to become a CO one had to declare that all war was incompatible w/religious or ethical belief, not just the Vietnam War… try convincing the WW 2 vets on your draft board!

    A similar struggle besets me now as I try to ignore histrionics and find facts. The glaringly ahistorical bellicose attitude of our leaders is nuts, they want to believe their own BS. They are dumber than donkeys and they have the MSM as their personal echo chamber.

    My concern is what happens when actual reality unfolds opposite advertised reality? Can we handle the truth? That our entire military is one gigantic version of the F-35, with corruption and grifters in collusion w/those same leaders? We’re becoming Ukraine.

    I used to think our gov’t knew better but lied for nefarious aims, mainly money and power. Now I think they are a bunch of idiots actually believing their own pathology. Is there anyone sane in Washington?

    1. John R Moffett

      This is all about justifying the unjustifiable; the obscene military budget that grows every year, regardless of which half of the Uni-Party is in power. This boils down to big money being in total control of the government, and the public not screaming bloody murder about it. Until there are Vietnam era-level protests, things will continue to get worse and worse. Our leaders and their rich benefactors are psychopaths, and unless the public starts doing something about it, we are all screwed. PS. I was 18 in 1973.

      1. Polar Socialist

        There’s no tactical use of nuclear weapons, any level of use will always escalate to a global thermonuclear war.

      2. WJ

        How would the F-35 penetrate Russian airspace and where would it drop this bomb? And then what? Russia just backs down?

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      You and I were in the same spot, same year. I admire your CO effort. I was too lazy to go that route, and got lucky with the lottery.

      As for Russia’s ability to create a peer military, one the the U. S. doesn’t seem too keen on engaging directly, especially in the air, we really shouldn’t be surprised because of Russian and Putonian judo-like skills. After all, way back in 2016, Putin and Russia defeated a mighty billion-dollar campaign with a few hundred thousand bucks spent on Facebook ads.

  21. juno mas

    Yes, those facts on the ground indicate a rump state Ukrain, an ascendant Russia as a political leader in a multi-polar world, and US lifestyles in serious decline. (A summer of extreme heat, power outages, and too expensive food and fuel will be unavoidable facts on the ground.)

  22. disillusionized

    One aspect of this that isn’t given sufficient weight in the US, is the degree to which its current policy is strengthening the EU.
    There are two reasons this is a problem for the US, first it is obviously undercutting US unipolarity and second and way more problematic: the creeping realisation in the EU that, the US is perfectly happy pursuing idealistic policies that actively hurt Europe, because they pay no price for doing so.

    The unavoidable conclusion is therefore that the US must be pushed out of Europe – to paraphrase the Nato saying, the EU needs to keep the Russians down, the Americans out, and Europeans in charge.

  23. Susan the other

    Dimitri Orlov’s MRGA was better than ironic. It was true. Russia can do anything it sets its mind to. One of the points that Putin and Lavrov have made over the recent years is that it is unacceptable for one country to secure its own welfare at the expense of another country’s security and welfare – We are all secure or none of us is secure. Which puts us in an uncomfortable discipline chair. No wiggle room. For the USA “security” is cheap access to resources. The biggest one to date is petroleum. But technology is now a close second. And we are losing control of the whole setup. To the point that we no longer have an acceptable ROI for all our endeavors. Just trying to maintain some status quo is too expensive. That’s the greatest irony. But very frightening. And Orlov gives all the examples of Russia being a different animal – Russia is resourceful as well as resource rich. And so far the Russians seem to have a much better moral compass than the Americans and the British. I’m guessing that Russia called our big Ukrainian bluff. That they thought (the Russians thought) that we thought that they didn’t have the nerve to go to war over the Donbass because of NATO military threats. But it seems it is us, that we don’t have the nerve to carry out our threats. Thank god.

    1. Leroy R

      Listening to a variety of classical music radio stations (internet radios) every day, I was glad to see that Russian music, composers and performers have not been left out of the playlists on the American stations. As with international political culture, they aren’t exactly the new kid on the block.

    2. Cat Burglar

      Russia had just enough time to reconstruct an economy and military capable of resisting US hegemony (and the same period was used in Latin America to gain more independence from the US) That may end up being the most important consequence of the War On Terror policy obsession with the mideast — The Blob was unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. From their point of view, they may rue the terror war.

  24. David

    One thing that’s struck me over the years is that the Washington foreign and security policy “community” is so large, so complicated, so overlapping, so divided and so bitterly at odds with each other that it’s amazing anything on any important issue ever gets decided at all. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that there are twenty senior officials involved in policy-making on Ukraine, each with their own power-base and agenda, as opposed to perhaps 4-5 in most ofter countries. Decisions that do come out of such a labyrinthine process tend to be complex and artificial: fragile constructs with lots of footnotes and careful wording to disguise fundamental disagreements. And such decisions can anyway be quietly ignored by organisations and individuals with enough power.

    What this means in practice is that decisions that come out of Washington take very little account of the situation on the ground, or the views of allies. They can’t do, because that would add an impossible extra layer of complexity to a situation that’s bad enough already. Thus, decisions are “rational” in the sense that they represent the results of the balance of forces and the clash of egos in Washington, and are the best that the system can do. If they don’t take account of reality, that hasn’t necessarily been a problem in the past. It might be about to become one.

    1. hemeantwell

      Occasionally here someone will report the results of wargaming exercises within the US military in which Team Blue, representing either the Russians or the Chinese, will whomp Team America. Does something like learning occur? Not clear, but it undoubtedly does to the credit of the Team Blue strategists.

      Did similar strategy games take place at the State department to test out the viability of the current failing strategy? I know they have people focused on studying Russia, but are they ever given the opportunity to convey what they know in a role playing exercise? And, if that’s the case, is the team sufficiently large enough to include the expertise necessary to consider the sorts of economic transformations this mess is driving? And, if that’s the case, does putting up a good fight work to your career credit?

    2. Jacob Hatch

      “They can’t do” because that might cut off one of the insiders oxygen and there could be blowback, upsetting the dimsum cart of the 0.01% that the 1% depend on. The only thing that matters is the money, the spice must flow.

      Ray McGovern rightly puts the so called watch dog, the media, as a member of the cash chasing circus, MIC-IMATT(S).

    3. Thom Finn

      Keep in mind that Victoria Nuland was a Cheney acolyte who ran the 2014 coup in Ukraine, under Obama almost single handedly it would seem, and there is either ignorance or consensus in DC as to the resultant rise of the hard right (neo) nazis and civil war in the Donbas.

      1. Jacob Hatch

        I think you’re forgetting Hillary and Joe, Vicky was and is part of an organized crime family.

    4. Cat Burglar

      US foreign and security policy looks like an individual case of what has happened generally to the power groups in this country: they are untouchable. Their power can’t be contested, except by competing members of their class. But the power differential with less powerful groups has become so great, that they are insulated from any consequences of failure, as a group and individually. The feedback mechanism of the possibility of failure is removed, and short-termism, denial, and propaganda fantasy replaces rationality. Just like in economic policy — if the winner that takes all is insulated from the consequences, what reason is there to show enlightened self-interest? Why uphold your end of a treaty beyond the first minute it becomes a cost to you? I have not ever seen this work for individuals, and though the mills of the gods grind slowly, it doesn’t work for classes or nations either.

  25. David in Santa Cruz

    Terrific post and comments.

    They’re sniffing their own farts in DC. It’s going to be a very cold winter in Western Europe. If NATO troops respond by directly engaging the Russians, China will cut-off the USA from all manufactured goods. Riots and mass-shootings will become the backdrop for the 2024 presidential general election.

    Remind me: Why is it so important that “Ukraine” not be a neutral country?

    1. You're soaking in it!

      Could it be because it only takes a large amount of money funneled from the most corrupt country in Europe to a very small number of insiders in to create “policy”? I have no idea, but it would be reckless not to speculate etc.

      1. Felix_47

        I spent 30 years in the military and I think you hit it on the head. The UK has run an intense PR campaign and has enlisted the big names in the business. They have key K street lobbyists under their wing. The battle for the Ukraine is being fought between K street and the Capitol. Our PR firms have solidified the Europeans against the Russians despite the disastrous results to their economies and security. The PR managed to even turn the Greens in Germany into hawks. The Russians simply do not understand modern war. Modern war is fought in fancy restaurants, golf clubs and colonial looking homes in Fairfax county or Kalorama and in nice condos in the Watergate with pretty young Ivy League graduates. They should have been greasing the attorneys and PMC in Washington to prepare for this. They should have been writing big checks to the various dark money donor organizations. They should have been funding our think tanks and NGOs. They should have been funding minority scholarships and exchange programs. They should have emulated the pharma industry and gun lobby and health insurance industry. They could have allied with the oil industry and helped them lobby with cash injections. They should have been funding environmental organizations just like the oil majors do…..and get them to promote programs that will never be actualized to divert the Muppets. They should have been buying and hiring the big defense companies to help build their military infrastructure and claimed they would be a bulwark against China and that they needed the Crimea to maintain that bulwark. We might have financed their military if they had played their cards better…..just like in Iraq or AFG. The Iraq war was fought in Washington between the various think tanks and lobbyists and Afghanistan as well. Our puppet leaders were often Washington insiders……Hamid Karzai comes to mind. All this PR and influence costs a ton of money and the UK elites have it and spread it around. But Russia did not. As a result our government saw no need to negotiate the NATO issue in good faith….an issue that has been on the table for 30 years. There was nothing in it for our leaders and hangers on. There was plenty of Ukrainian money to spread around for well connected democrats though. Hunter Biden comes to mind. And there has to be a whole lot we do not know about. As far as the war is concerned it seems to me that Russia has real problems. I think the pictures of the officers and elnlisted sending back washing machines, TVs, and whatnot stolen from civilians reflects poor discipline and way underpaid troops. The atrocities, painted large in the media in Europe, the US and Ukraine, point to a fatal breakdown in troop discipline. This appears to be systemic and cannot be corrected in a few weeks or months. The obvious logistic problems like tanks running our of fuel reflect much bigger problems. Corruption in the Russian army is a huge problem just as it was in Afghanistan and Iraq for our so called allies. The US is bypassing the personnel issues by not sending troops but we are sending plenty of deadly weapons, not WW2 junk. The Russians have not gained control in the air because of the Stingers and there are enough in Ukraine to assure they never will. Taking down that transport plane full of paratroopers near Kiev was equivalent to hitting a C 17 of ours filled with 82nd airborne troops. The US (including NATO which is a very small part) spends 20 times what Russia spends on war. The US has been at war continuously for decades. I have a hard time seeing how Russia is going to have an easy time of this and many of the comments here seem to imply that. No matter how wasteful 20 times is a big multiple. And it is obvious this administration has strong links to Ukraine and that the US populace has been heavily successfully propagandized to favor this war over anything else the US does. This is Joe Biden’s chance to make history…….and build the new eternal Democratic majority united with the Repubs as they crush the Red godless hordes who target only nursery schools and maternity hospitals in Ukraine and kill and rape the civilians. And this victory will bring the US nation together and ultimately enable the democrats to crush the unruly, poorly educated, beer swilling, Fentanyl taking, racist, white trash that used to have decent jobs and lives that fill the middle of the country and voted for Trump. The Russians forgot that the US is run by salesmen, grifters, thieves and poseurs and even a TV host all of whom are cheap to purchase. And as a result a lot of good people are dying. So maybe the Ukraine is going to collapse but I suspect there will be no lasting solution at the end. I never thought I would agree with Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on the same subject at the same time.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Everything you say above about the Russian army is false and Ukraine propaganda. Russian troops have not been misappropriating Ukraine property. In fact Russia has gone to lengths to spare civilians, most recently by going more slowly in Donbass than they would have otherwise to open humanitarian corridors. Their prioritization of sparing civilians is reflected in the fact that civilian deaths are much lower than the usual ratio in war of 1:1 to military deaths.

          It was Ukraine that told its troops at the beginning of the 2014 conflict (on TV!) that they could take the property of ethnic Russians. So as they have done many times, they likely took videos of their misconduct and losses and attributed them to Russia (the latest example is the failed pontoon bridge crossing, where Russia did take some losses but Ukraine tried to create the impression it was disastrous by trying to pass off photos of their dead tanks as Russian (the latest round of vids and stills were eventually established to show a tank model that Russia never used).

          The US has not been at a war with a peer power since World War II. That means it is not optimized to respond to combined arms operations. It lost in Syria v. Russia. It took the US >4 times the time it took Russia to clear Mariupol to clear Mosul and Raqqa, similar-sized cities. Russia has 27 military systems where the US has nothing comparable. 7 of those are various hypersonic missiles. The West’s fancy toys, from Javelins to manpads to Bayraktar drones to now the M777 howitzers, have proven largely to completely ineffective in the field (the howitzers, for instance, they are firing far fewer rounds per minute than they are “supposed” to, and Russia has been able to take them out very quickly; Russian signal jamming and control of the air has reduced the Bayrakters to merely a very pricey camera, as opposed to a drone that could kill enemy equipment).

          1. Felix_47

            Thanks for the answer. I really have tried to understand the situation and with the PR onslaught it is hard. And I was at Falluja and rather than clear apartment houses filled with fighters using civilians as shields we hit everything just like Mariupol often hitting our own men inadvertently. So the style of fighting is not unknown to us but it sure does not win anyone over. And the surveillance video at a post office of Russian soldiers shipping stolen goods home to Siberia did look genuine to me which does not mean much. All that being said I agree with Chomsky and Kissinger….the consequences of smug egoistic misleadership are horrendous. We agreed not to expand NATO and that is that. And no one in their right mind should want regime change with a nuclear power. We need to work with Russia on real problems like climate change etc.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Aside from pilfering being completely at odds with directives, the Russians are in the midst of a hot conflict on all fronts in Donbass. Any men who were freed up were redeployed or rotated. The idea that they have leisure time to go off and run personal errands, let alone pilfer and on top of that, pack up large white goods well enough to be shipped long distances, is inconsistent with the state of the conflict.

              Plus administrative services have broken down in many places. There were complaints by locals about the failure of Russia to step in and run cities and towns because local people were afraid to do so, if the Ukrainians pushed Russia out (some cities have traded hands a few times before Russian forces took full control), they were at risk of being shot as collaborators.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      “Riots and mass-shootings will become the backdrop for the 2024 presidential general election.”

      It could be a tradition beginning in 2020. A little like that “The Purge,” but funded by billionaires.

  26. EGrise

    Wonderful analysis, thank you Yves.

    But I have to admit my interest was piqued by the first paragraph: I would love to know more about “managing the abnormal psychology of CEOs” and “CEO self-destruction.” Having just lived through a layoff, I feel like I saw it in action.

  27. carpenter

    I dont know if I agree.
    It looks to me that Putin lost when his blitzkrieg failed to capture Kiev.
    I expect a long protracted war financed by the West to the last ukrainian that will wear down and destroy economically Russia and eventually Putin over time. Wars can last a long time.
    As long as russian army is in ukraine they will be bleeding, especially given the highly sophisticated weapons being sent to Ukraine now.
    The more territory they capture the more exposed and stretched they will be, the worse the losses and harder to maintain captured territory over time.
    There are no good options for Putin here, I think he miscalculated.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It was not a blitzkrieg. Russia never sent remotely enough troops to take Kiev, nor is there any indication that Russia has any interest in taking Kiev. Russia’s objectives are not territorial conquest. They are to destroy Ukraine’s military capability and denazify.

      As Scott Ritter and others have explained at length, it was a fixing operation, to prevent the troops in the West from being sent to support the defense of Donbass. Russia was greatly aided by the fact that the way the US wages war is to take capitals….as if that actually subdues a country. By contrast, Russian doctrine follows Clausewitz. Clausewitz stressed that the fastest path to victory is wiping out armies, not takin cities.

      Having said that, if Ukraine really falls apart, and Poland and Hungary take pieces, Russia could take the part around Kiev. I don’t think this is such a hot idea unless Russia is certain they’ve cleaned out the Banderites. If that area is hostile, holding it would be a resource drain. But if it’s disordered and Russia can be seen as providing services and keeping people from starving and being cold, they might be tolerated.

      Your view is the result of Western projection and propaganda.

    2. Phil Garber

      There are some assumptions embedded in your scenario that you may wish to reconsider. First of all, Russia is carrying on a very economical form of warfare which consists of letting the Ukrainian army do most of the bleeding.

      Secondly, the Donbass militias together with Chechens seem to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting while the Russian army provides air and artillery cover as well as logistics support.

      Further, there is a difference between occupation and liberation, and the population of the territories which Russia has so far gained seem to view their presence as the latter. Rather than being stretched, Russian and allied forces are being consolidated and concentrated over time as the Ukrainian perimeter shrinks. The liberated (or occupied) territories are put under civil administration, people are lining up to apply for Russian citizenship etc.

      These territories using the Donbass militias as a core should be able to take care of their own internal security in the near future. Certainly there is no lack of discarded Javelines and abandoned armour available for them to use in their defense. If Russia continues along current lines and takes all of eastern and southern Ukraine through to Odessa it will be in control of a territory which had almost half of Ukraine‘s prewar population and would be more than capable of seeing off Galician revanchism.

      Economically, Russia seems to be doing much better than its opponents. Its oil revenues have increased by about a third over the previous year and thanks to Western sanctions the SMO seems to be well on the way to paying for itself.

      Each vaunted piece of western tech has seemed to disappoint and it’s not at all clear that the west can match Russia’s conventional military technology. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to see if the West continues to escalate.

  28. Charlie Sheldon

    Wonderful article. There are, it seems, a lot of people who share these views, maybe more than the MSM and Blog knows, but the ability to articulate and carry this absurdity to the masses seems weak, or repressed.

    We are, I think, shortly to reach the point where Russia has taken all the Donbass and destroyed the Ukie army and basically denazified Ukraine. It is an open question to me whether they go west to take Odessa, but I believe they will, which will lengthen things maybe through the summer. But then, at some point – assuming we are not in an ash cloud by then, and I share Yves’ concern – we will have the very very awkward situation whereby Russia states they have met the goals of the SMO as originally stated and are done, Ukraine is basically a destroyed state, Russia is rebuilding their portions, and while the sanctions may be hurting Russia they are hurting the West far more. What then for the West? How likely will it be the EU maintains sanctions on Russia if the war has been conclucdd by Russia? Or Ukraine has finally sued for some kind of peace?

    I still believe a deeper agenda in all this has been either using the SMO or leveraging the SMO to break the US dollar and financial system as many major commodities found in Russia and desperately needed by the West go over to the ruble.

    We seem to be entering a new era, one of regional autarky, one chosen by Russia (who has the oil and resources and farmland to survive) and interestingly an era in which we in the US will be fine too, as we have farmland and oil and energy also, althopugh our adjustment to a new autarky will be very hard, I think. I am not so sure about China – they don;t have the energy. Hence the China Russia axis, perhaps.

    Point being, Russia, a place I have been to and have many friends, has the advantage today or the memory of hard times, and a need to hunker down and make do. They are masters at it. We? Maybe in the 1930s we were there, but these days much has changed – in the 1930s we were a farming and heavy manufacturing nation, and today while we still farm we exported our manufacturing – and frankly we will face difficult changes in living conditions which are not going to be liked by many. High gas prices is the least of it.

    1. KD

      Based on Putin’s stated rhetoric, doesn’t Russia need to protect the ethnic Russians in Kharkiv and in the Northern areas East of the Dnieper River? Further, the City of Kiev is the birthplace of the Russian people, should it be left in the hands of Azov Battalion and a NATO-puppet regime? Haven’t the Russians claimed the Ukrainians are perpetuating a genocide?

      At minimum, if Russia still has the military capability, they will take Odessa, and that may be a minimal condition before they seriously engage in a peace negotiations. . . but zero evidence Ukraine will. But there is every reason that the Russians will keep going, until the Russians are outside of Kiev again. It is hard to win a war without taking the capital.

      I read reports about a Ukrainian counter-offensive, but no such creature has really been present on the battle field. Ritter has expressed concerns about some reconstituted UA launching a counter-offensive. If the Ukrainians actually have such a capability, or believe they will have such a capability, that will prolong the war as well.

      It has been expressed that the fight is to destroy the UA, not take territory. However, to destroy the Ukrainian Army, Russia is going to have to occupy most, if not all, of Ukraine to get at the army, and while Russian-speaking portions of the Ukraine should be amenable to Russian control, as the army goes West and North, they will encounter more and more resistance, so the costs will increase for the Russians, and they will have to move slower. I would imagine there might also be reconfiguration of populations in this process, which would draw negative international attention.

      War is about breaking the enemy’s will to fight and the Ukrainians from public statements appear to be unflappable, almost delusional (except when we consider the blank check from Uncle Sugar). Wars of attrition historically require killing off about 30% of your conscript age male population, which has got to be at least 3 million in Ukraine, so about 1 million KIA/captured will decisively win the war. Even if that is overstating Ukraine’s strength, you probably need at least 500,000 KIA/captured soldiers, and 15,000 killed or captured in Donbas is a drop in the bucket.

      This is where I suspect Ritter is wrong: Russia has drastically more males it can slaughter in this war by at least 4 to 1 than Ukraine, and so they will win the war of attrition unless NATO becomes directly involved with ground forces. However, to generate the degree of mass slaughter necessary to win a conventional war–looking at the American Civil War, WWI, WWII–it is going to be a few years, and the result will degrade Russia’s future ability to fight. Leroy Austin was pretty honest in his comments.

      This war is going to last years, unless Uncle Sugar cuts off his nephew, or the Ukrainian people get out from under the Zelensky regime. Further, given recent laws restricting press freedom and opposition political parties, it doesn’t look like they can vote their way out, so it would probably have to be a revolt coming from the armed services, which would be pretty hard to pull off given the infiltration of the armed forces with Azov and Right Sector monitors.

      IMHO projections about Russia losing interest, or regime change are totally delusional. If Putin falls, he will fall for being too soft, not too hard, and the reins of power will fall to the Ultranationalists, who will escalate the prosecution of the war.

  29. PKMKII

    The Ukraine-Russia conflict has definitely proved true the saying that Truth is the first casualty of war. In addition to the above notes, Zelensky’s recent insistence that Russia return to the pre-invasion position of its armies in order to move forward with peace talks does not strike me as the rhetoric of someone who has victory at hand. That sounds like he knows his armies are not in a good place and a peace treaty in the current conditions would require concessions to Russia that the Ukrainian citizens would not find amenable. I just hope that when this all over and settled that the conflict doesn’t set up the fascist right in Ukraine to seize power.

  30. JoeC100

    Very useful context for understanding the situation with Russia/Ukraine include:

    1. All three of Andrei Martyanov’s books

    2. This lengthly YouTube Gonzalo Lira exploration of what has driven Victoria Nuland and her neocon “team” Kagan, etc. to push the US into the insane position vs. Russia we find ourselves in – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzR—YDDIQ&t=0s. There has been multi-generational based, irrational hatred of Russia driving our nation security policy since well before the events of 2014.

    Essential, but pretty depressing information.

  31. Raymond Sim

    I spent the year I was 10 living on Wake Island. The Vietnam War was hot, and as a result I got to see and hear most of the Air Force and Navy’s inventory of aircraft up close. It was very exciting.

    In addition the island was still a heavily-scarred World War Two battlefield. School featured an annual visit from the Army EOD guys reminding us what not to touch. The lesson culminated in the detonation of a line charge set up at a suitable distance. You could feel the shock wave pass through your body.

    It left me with an abiding interest in aviation and military history, and it was actually via those interests that, well into my adulthood, I began to realize the extent to which Americans are propagandized. One of the most glaring examples was the depiction of Soviet military methods and materiel as crude, when it was quite clear that they were not. Indeed, the fact that any given device they made was unlikely to be either more or less crude than it needed to be was terrifically impressive. With ‘terrific’ applying in both its modern and older meanings.

    1. Old Sovietologist

      Yes, a masterclass post from Yves and as ever some excellent point by other commentators.

      I’m in Minsk for a week at the beginning of June so I’m hoping things don’t get too hot on the Belarus front.

  32. VietnamVet

    It is clear that both sides of the proxy WWIII believe their own propaganda and it is the exact opposite of each other. Neither side’s PR reflects reality. The most important possession is Crimea. Russia will not give it up to the Ukrainians anymore than the USA would return its San Diego Base back to the Mexican Cartels or Pearl Harbor to the Hawaiians. The Russia Federation and NATO have nuclear weapons that, if used, can destroy human civilization. The killing of billions of humans is one mistake away or inevitable if tactical nuclear weapons are ignited to avoid a defeat by either side.

    This is an ethnic war. The next weeks will tell if the Ukrainians who are fighting for home and God can hold the line in the “hell on earth” trench warfare. They won’t give up unless it is hopeless. If Odessa is seized, Ukraine becomes a failed rump state that Russia or Poland will sooner or later partition/annex. Western Ukrainians will resist occupation by either nation as they have in the past.

    This world war is the exact opposite of peace. Without a ceasefire, armistice and a DMZ between the combatants, right now, we all could be killed. Even if nuclear war is avoided, the restoration of working democratic governments and the end of the oligarchy are needed to mitigate climate change, end the plagues, and avoid famine.

    1. KD

      It looks like this will end with millions dead, the destruction of the idea of a Ukrainian nation-state, and the absorption of the area formerly know as Ukraine into Russia and Poland. It will cost the Russians a significant amount of rubbles, and it is hard to see the Russians not having to permanently lose through death and casualties combat troops in the 6 figures. On the other hand, if the Russians can eke out anything that looks like a victory, they will have succeeded in bucking both the US and NATO, and this will rebalance the security equation internationally, and the long-term effects of the conflict on their military capacity are really dependent on whether the Russians can successfully raise their birth rates. If they can get their tfr up, losing 200,000 young men won’t actually matter in 15 years. I don’t see how this outcome is averted unless NATO/US commit ground troops, and if that happens, its more likely than not the conflict will end in MAD.

      The US has about a 15 minute attention span, and Asia looks like a trip wire, and a financial crisis is not inconceivable, so it is more likely than not that events and apathy will force the US to de-escalate and turn attention elsewhere in the next 2-3 years.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t know where you get this six figure claim from. Russia took some heavy losses in the beginning due to bad intel but the West has been grossly exaggerating their casualties since then. The war would not be so popular at home (they are having to turn down large numbers of volunteers) if there were lots of body bags.

        1. KD

          To be clear: this is a projection, not an estimate of existing loses. I think the “fun” is just beginning for the Ukrainians, and as they collapse and the Russians continue de-militarization, they too will begin to grind down.

          My thinking which is crude, admittedly, if you have to kill/incapacitate 500,000 Ukrainian soldiers to break the spirit of the Ukrainians, if you assume 5 to 1 kill ratio of Ukrainians to Russians, then one would project that Russia would sustain ~100K killed/incapacitated by the conclusion. Ritter claims a 7 to 1 kill ratio at the beginning, and supposed 10 or 15 to 1 now. I think the US ran about a 4 or 5 to 1 in Vietnam, so I am making a conservative estimate. If you can run the whole operation at 10 to 1, it would be 50K.

          I would note that the Ukrainians appear to have adopted the Hitler “no retreat” policy in the Donbas, leading to their forces being encircled and ultimately destroyed in cauldrons, essentially trading lives for time. It is possible that they will continue to waste the lives of their best soldiers, but it is possible that they adapt. Also, a fortified defensive position usually requires a 3 to 1 attack ratio for success by the attacker, so fighting defensively with strategic withdrawal, I think they should be able to get closer to parity of losses.

          Perhaps you find my analysis unpersuasive, and certainly the numbers are crude, but I am trying to make the case that this is going to be a long, expensive war. As far as finality, it may be the best for the Russians long-term if they crush the Ukrainians through attrition as that will probably lead to something like Germany and Japan, rather than a conflict that just sparks up again once the West smuggles enough weapons to the Ukrainians.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            See my reply later. The army is crumbling now. This fighting spirit has become a myth now that Russia is using heavy artillery, something that it held back in the first phase. Remember that Snake Island and the Ghost Warrior were fabrications. In addition, troops from the West don’t have a strong emotional attachment to fighting for terrain all the way across the country.

            Ukraine is also out of ammo and gas. They won’t get anywhere near 500K in losses, and many will be by surrender, not death or dismemberment.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t see where you get your estimates of Russian losses from. Russia did take some comparatively heavy losses in the first 8-10 days, but that was well under 5,000 and the Russian estimates were lower. Independent experts think Russia is pretty straight up about its own troop losses, it’s the other side’s that is subject to inflation, and they reported only 1300 as of late March. Ukraine is putting out crazy big numbers for Russia that are just howlers and clearly false but are nevertheless being repeated uncritically by the captured Western press. There are absolutely no videos from Ukraine showing meaningful Russian deaths, despite Ukraine being good at faking that sort of thing.

        By contrast, there are many vides of both large scale Ukraine deaths in artillery attacks, and many surrender videos. Ukraine lost at least 1000 men in a mass surrender in Lyman on Friday, which fell a full week before Russia expected it to. Both Russia and the Lugansk republic on Friday reported that they’d gotten full control of Lugansk, which = all the Ukraine troops in Lysychansk and Sievierodonets are encircled and will be killed if they don’t surrender. That’s at least 11,000 of their best men and maybe as many as 20,000. This capture is taking place despite the Donbass having extensive and very well fortified bunkers, as in it was also the most difficult place for the Russian forces to advance and destroy the Ukraine military.

        This collapse, and it is a collapse, relatively shortly after the mass surrender at Azovstal, is going to deliver another body blow to Ukraine morale.

        Khershon oblast is already using the rouble in its banks. That says the Ukraine forces are weak to non-existent there, otherwise the locals would be afraid of reprisals. That is also starting in Zaporizhzhia oblast, where Russia has already started running its telecom (phone) system into the oblast. That says that the local support is so strong, and the Ukraine military presence is so weak, that it will take little effort to take those areas and press toward Odessa, which is defended and would take some effort to subdue.

        The military situation has deteriorated so quickly and visibly (Ukraine sources have been far more downbeat than the Western press for weeks) that there is increasing talk of a coup v. Zelensky. His Hitler-like stand and fight orders (as opposed to being willing to make tactical retreats to preserve men) and his willingness to engage in purely PR stunts to try to take targets with no strategic but PR value, at high cost to Ukraine (Snake Island, which lost >60 men and at least 3 scarce helicopters and pilots) has discredited him not only with the rank and file but even with family members of the dead, who are increasingly complaining about pointless sacrifices on social media and have even started to stage admittedly small scale protests (still a gutsy move given the SBU goons).

        1. KD

          Not an estimate of losses, a projection of how much each side would have to lose before you come close to breaking the Ukrainians, e.g. if Russia wills it, they will probably break the Ukrainians if the Ukrainians get to the 500K combat casualty level, and estimate Russian loses at the point at around 6 figures, because it might actually take 1 million Ukrainian losses, but it might take 250K as well. I am making conservative assumptions and forecasting. It takes a lot more to crush a rival in a war of attrition than many people realize, which is why wars are supposed to be short end up grinding on for years.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            The Ukraine losses are now estimated at 7 to 1 to Russian or even higher. That’s all cause, surrender, death, injury, desertion.

            Russia wants surrenders and it’s getting them. There’s no need to kill that many people. Surrenders also mean lower losses on the Russian side.

            Ukraine had “only” 210 thousand regular army. Untrained/barely trained men thrown into battle, particularly with a crumbling command structure and ammo shortages, are close to useless. Ukraine’s military is crumbling as we speak. This war goes on a max of two more months with way absent the West doing something crazy.

        2. KD

          I read an article years ago, but it is hiding that came up with the 30% of conscript age population to settle a war of attrition.

          But WWI, Germany lost 2.0 million on 65+ million population. WWII, population of 79 million, lost 3.6 million. Confederacy had losses of 490K, 5.5 million free population.

          Ukraine has about 40 million and declining. Presumably, conscript age males that can leave, have left, but you have at least 3-4 million potential combatants. I think it would take losses of 500K to 1 million to crush them, and depending on the kill ratio, a comparative number of Russian deaths to end the conflict, which I suspect is going to be in the 100 thousands by the end of the conflict–and something like 2-3 years at a minimum. So far, civilian casualties have been low, but as things drag on, the ratio is likely to climb up. I would be surprised if you don’t see well over a million total dead (military and civilian) before the Ukrainians cave.

          IMHO the war could have been prevented, and could have been resolved in the early days if the US hadn’t been uninterested in a diplomatic solution. Zelensky is ready to kill off his people, and the US is willing to bankroll it, and the Russians cannot back down. Now the die is cast, Russia’s back is against the wall, and they have to keep mowing down Ukrainian soldiers and taking control of territory until the Ukrainians break, which will require more than eventually boiling 50,000 soldiers in cauldrons in the Donbas. You have to admire the bravery of the Ukrainians–too bad its only purpose is to be a big speed bump in a geopolitical battle between the West and Russia.

        3. KD

          Here is a language map:

          http://www.monomakhos.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/map.png

          To follow through on the pledge to protect Russian speaking minorities, Russia really needs to ensure political control over areas with red patches, either directly or through new de-nazified governments that pledge to respect minority rights. The yellow patch probably belongs in Poland, although perhaps the jurisdiction of NATO should remain at the current border. The area in the SW Carpathians should return to Hungary. It doesn’t leave a lot of territory for a Ukrainian nation state.

  33. Otis B Driftwood

    Great post and comments. Allow me to add this to the “further reading” list: a December 2021 episode from the podcast Congressional Dish:

    https://congressionaldish.com/cd244-keeping-ukraine/

    Explains the seemingly inexplicable bi-partisan support for our disastrous foreign policy and delusional belief that we can force our will on the rest of the world by any means necessary.

  34. Rolf

    As others have noted above, this post is excellent. And Putin’s Munich talk is indeed worth viewing in its entirety: historically literate, direct, no nonsense. I recall being similarly impressed hearing (or rather, reading the transcript — unfortunately I’m not a Russian speaker) him speak at one of the Valdai Club meetings.

    My thanks to Yves again.

  35. Altandmain

    I think that we are nearing the end of the US as hegemony and ironically the ruling class is accelerating the decline with their own stunning mismanagement.

    There never was the need for a provocative stance toward the Russians by expanding NATO and breaking so many agreements. Nor was their the need to aid in the wholesale looting of Russia under a leader like Boris Yeltsin, which the Western world did.

    Right now the house of cards and intrigue is starting to come apart for the West. I think that the reason why is because the current crop of leaders never had to do the hard work of building the US. They inherited the nation from the precious generation already in a strong position. Their mismanagement will accelerate its decline.

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