The War Situation Has Developed Not Necessarily to Ukraine’s or the West’s Advantage But They Plan to Negotiate When They’ve Turned Things Around a Bit

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Just because Russia has been slow and methodical about grinding up Ukraine’s army and materiel in Donbass does not mean that there’s reason to think Ukraine can turn its losses around with generous applications of Western funding, weapons, and hopium. And on the economic war front, even though Russia has taken a hit, it seems to be making surprisingly solid progress in adjusting, while conditions in the US and Europe look to be worsening, and at an accelerating rate.

Admittedly, the press, presumably reflecting the readings of military experts, has greatly reduced coverage of the conflict now that even generous applications of porcine maquillage can no longer hide that things are going from bad to worse for Ukraine. A very long established contact forwarded this message from a former senior US military official:

Just in from an Army Colonel in the building:
“Spoke to someone today who said that the Ukie basic training is 10 days and then off to the front. 65% casualty rates. At least double or more the losses of the Russians but you don’t hear anything about it.”

Recall that Scott Ritter, early on in his many detailed analysis, said that if one side was consistently inflicting casualties at a higher rate than the other, even at a ratio of say 1:1.2, the side with the lower losses would prevail.

Recall also that Ukraine has not made a single significant offensive since the war began. The most it has been able to achieve are small tactical gains that don’t amount to anything over time.

And more recently, its efforts have ranged from misguided to desperate. Its “offensive” near Kharkiv amounted to taking terrain where Russia didn’t have many troops to begin with and Russia pulled back. Russia has since gotten within shelling range of Kharkiv, which is a more important advance. In Kherson, the most significant of three little advances was disaster, resulting in over 200 men dead and Russia taking out a command center in Mykolaiv to boot, which killed officers and (according to Russia) even some generals. Russia let Ukraine keep two other wee spots in Kherson it captured that on a map look like they consist of 12-16 blocks with a few buildings. In other words, tactically as well as strategically unimportant.

In a post earlier this week, Moon of Alabama argued that there was evidence that Ukraine was having to resort to Kampfgruppen:

During the last years of World War II the German Wehrmacht often used Kampfgruppen (combat groups). These were a mix of remnants of mostly destroyed regular units put together under the command of one officer and often formed for a specific task. The subunits came from different command cultures and localities and would often not know each other. They were not trained to the same level. To coordinate them was difficult.

There are signs that the Ukraine is now using such a Kampfgruppen concept. Several recent reports of this or that operation or town lost or gained by Ukrainian forces named three or four involved brigades. However, when one looked at the size of those places or operations there was no way that so many full fledged units were involved.

That is another sign of a fraying and increasingly ineffective fighting force.

Some former members of the military have made even more forceful criticisms. Larry Johnson, in the early part of an interview with Eva Bartlett, contends that the Ukraine military early on revealed itself to be weak in its failure to even attempt to molest Russia’s 40km line of sitting duck tanks. Jacob Dreizen, in his first video on June 1, explains the logistical demands of various advanced weapons systems (high to daunting) and that the Pentagon has recognized that there isn’t a good reason to give more than symbolic numbers of them now. For instance, starting at 8:28:

[Discussing a videotaped altercation between Ukraine officers] If you’re a US military intelligence analyst, let’s say, in the Defense Intelligence Agency, in the DoD, you’re looking at this and you’re saying, “You know what? These guys are gone. These people are now playing in a sandbox.” To give them at this stage, some of the heaviest, most sophisticated weapons systems in the US Army arsenal just so these things can get destroyed by Russia or taken as war trophies and paraded on Red Square like it’s 1945, that’s just crazy. I mean, these guys are clearly on a steep, steep downslope. And at this late stage, to give them sophisticated weapons systems like the HIMARS, it’s like giving a grenade to a monkey.

Truth be told, Western officials and the media are increasingly acknowledging that Ukraine can’t win this war, and therefore the two sides need to negotiate a peace. But to invoke a saying I heard in Venezuela, “They have changed their minds, but they have not changed their hearts.” The US and NATO have consumed so much Ukraine Kool-Aide that they are light-year away from what a realistic settlement would have to include. And that’s because they still can’t admit to themselves that Russia is wining, and at this rate, will have taken Odessa before Zelensky will even be willing to cede Donbass. For instance, look at this key statement from Joe Biden’s New York Times op-ed earlier this week:

We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table

Why should Ukraine keep fighting and losing more men and suffering more damage? Why not sue for peace now? Biden’s unstated assumption is that if the US pumps enough air into the leaking Ukraine balloon, it will be in a better position than it is now. That can come about only by taking territory back or by inflicting huge losses on the Russian side. In what universe is that a likely outcome?

There are also complicating factors on the Russian side. One is that the Russian population regards Putin as too dovish and would much rather have the Ukraine matter be as settled as it can be via this war. That argues for taking more territory, certainly the entire Black Sea coast, probably Kharkiv and perhaps even securing the Dneiper save perhaps hard by Kiev.

A second matter is that many of the “liberated” or expecting to be liberated territories seem to want to join Russia, and not be independent friendlies or part of a Novorossiya (this may be realism as well as romanticism; they are too small to go it alone). One reason for this expectation is that at least some members of the Donbass militias are continuing to fight for the Russian cause in neighboring oblasts, here Kherson. See this June 2 segment from Patrick Lancaster:

Recall that Putin was not happy when the two breakaway republics declared independence in 2014, and he had to push them in the Minsk Accord negotiations to accept staying in Ukraine, albeit with adequate protections against further abuse.

But the Kremlin is now not saying no….although as I read it, the official statement isn’t terribly enthusiastic. From TASS dated June 3:

There is no understanding regarding the dates of possible referendums in Donbass and a number of liberated regions of Ukraine, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Friday.

“No, there is no understanding yet regarding the time frame,” he said, while answering a question about the Kremlin’s position on when possible referendums on these territories’ admission to Russia might take place.

He remarked that “this is a very important issue and as the corresponding conditions take shape, the situation in this field will get clearer”.

Of course, the coolness may instead be to manage down domestic talk of annexation. In either his February 21 or his February 24 speech (forgive me for not checking which one), Putin made a point of saying that Russia would not go where it was not wanted. He’s also repeatedly stressed that the residents of Crimea chose to join Russia. Its referendum had over 90% turnout and 83% approval.

Contrast that with this section of Gilbert Doctorow’s latest post:

I mention all of the foregoing as background to what I see now going on in Russian political life, namely open and lively discussion of whether the country should annex the territories of Ukraine newly ‘liberated’ by forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics with decisive assistance of the Russian military. By admission of President Zelensky yesterday, these territories now amount to 20% of the Ukrainian state as it was configured in 2014.

In the past several weeks, when Russia concentrated its men and materiel on the Donbas and began to score decisive victories, most notably following the taking of Mariupol and capitulation of the nationalist fighters in the Azovstal complex, leading public officials in the DPR, the LPR and the Kherson oblast have called for quick accession of their lands to the Russian Federation with or without referendums. In Moscow, politicians, including Duma members, have called for the same, claiming that a fait accompli could be achieved already in July….

To be specific, from the very beginning the number one issue for Moscow as it entered upon its military adventure in Ukraine was geopolitical: to ensure that Ukraine will never again be used as a platform to threaten Russian state security, that Ukraine will never become a NATO member. We may safely assume that internationally guaranteed and supervised neutrality of Ukraine will be part of any peace settlement. It would be nicely supported by a new reality on the ground: namely by carving out several Russia-friendly and Russia-dependent mini-states on the former territory of East and South Ukraine. At the same time this solution removes from the international political agenda many of the accusations that have been made against Russia which support the vicious sanctions now being applied to the RF at great cost to Europe and to the world at large: there will be no territorial acquisitions.

If Kiev is compelled to acknowledge the independence of these two, three or more former oblasts as demanded by their populations, that is a situation fully compatible with the United Nations Charter. In a word, a decision by the Kremlin not to annex parts of Ukraine beyond the Crimea, which has long been quietly accepted by many in Europe, would prepare the way for a gradual return of civilized relations within Europe and even, eventually, with the United States

In other words, the liberated territories may also have unrealistic expectations, but theirs will hopefully be easier to manage down than those of the US and, say, Robert Habeck.

The economic war is also not going well for the West, although it is on a different decay path. Here they shot their big wunderwaffe right away but it didn’t prostrate Russia as they assumed. We were among the few commentators to warn that the blowback would be severe….and that’s actually been worse than we anticipated in the absence of Russia imposing countersanctions, like cutting the collective West off from key materials like aluminum, tungsten, and copper. The West’s own formal and informal sanctions have done tons of damage in a setting of existing food scarcity and supply chain breakage.

And conditions in the US and Europe are only getting worse. Industrial producer prices in the EU rose 37% year to year. In the US, Lambert pointed out earlier this week that strippers, a leading economic indicator, are warning of a recession. That’s been confirmed by sagging new car sales. From Bloomberg:

Slumping US new car sales in May on continued high prices and low inventories have some analysts worried those lower-than-expected results could be a harbinger of a broader economic downturn.

Sales of new cars last month fell to 12.8 million vehicles at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, representing an 11% drop from April, according to data compiled by Wards Intelligence. That is the lowest level since December and reflects shrunken inventories amid a persistent shortage of semiconductors and near record-high vehicle prices….

“The market appears increasingly concerned about the economy, inflation, rising interest rates and a recession,” Joseph Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note to clients published Thursday.

By contrast, Russia had the highest level of electricity consumption this May compared to past years. And Russia has not yet withheld supplies of commodities but has insisted that gas be paid for via its gas for roubles scheme. But that’s also starting to change. When Putin received three calls last week from EU leaders about grain supplies, he had to disabuse them, with data, of the idea that the current wheat shortage was Russia’s fault. He did point out that Russia was having a bumper harvest and would be happy to help…if some of the economic sanctions were revoked.

Russia is also starting to engage in tit for tat. As Rev Kev pointed out yesterday:

Russia is starting to play hard ball. You don’t pay, you get nothing. I think that they call that capitalism. And I see that they are extending this into other fields now. So, ‘In April, the EU banned exports of semiconductors, machinery and other equipment worth €10 billion to Russia as part of the fifth package of sanctions.’ Russia has now said that they will be restricting the export of noble and other gases which will be subject to government approval, based on the recommendation of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. As a reminder-

‘Noble or inert gases, such as neon, argon, xenon, and others, are crucial to the semiconductor manufacturing process. Semiconductors are used to make the microchips needed to make gadgets, cars, and household appliances.’

So expect the chip shortage to get much worse.

Needless to say, most observers who don’t suffer from Putin Derangement Syndrome (and even some who do) expect food shortages and energy prices to get much worse come the fall and winter. Many in the Global South and some in Europe will go hungry.

So the Guardian get credit for admitting that Russia is winning the economic war – and Putin is no closer to withdrawing troops. However, economic editor Larry Elliott’s contains a lot of hand wringing and falsehoods, like the claim that Putin “weaponized” food. But notice that his closing section calls only for “a deal” not a rollback of sanctions. And it’s the sanctions that are hurting the collective West:

If proof were needed that sanctions are not working, then President Joe Biden’s decision to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems provides it. The hope is that modern military technology from the US will achieve what energy bans and the seizure of Russian assets have so far failed to do: force Putin to withdraw his troops.

Complete defeat for Putin on the battlefield is one way the war could end, although as things stand that doesn’t appear all that likely. There are other possible outcomes. One is that the economic blockade eventually works, with ever-tougher sanctions forcing Russia to back down. Another is a negotiated settlement.

Putin is not going to surrender unconditionally, and the potential for severe collateral damage from the economic war is obvious: falling living standards in developed countries; famine, food riots and a debt crisis in the developing world.

The atrocities committed by Russian troops mean compromising with the Kremlin is currently hard to swallow, but economic reality suggests only one thing: sooner or later a deal will be struck.

Perhaps Elliott didn’t want to stick his neck out too far by saying ending at least some of the sanctions would be necessary. But the failure to call for that means that politicians with no skin in the game like Ursuala von der Leyen will continue trying to escalate. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t working. These officials have convinced themselves that eyepoking the evil Putin will bring down Russia. They need to heed the oracle’s warning to to Croesus: that if he attacked the Persians, he would destroy a great empire. That empire was his own.

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  1. Louis Fyne

    The official Ukrainian military death toll has been proclaimed to be <5,000.

    IMO, there is absolutely zero chance that this number is remotely close given what's posted from pro-Ukrainian social media, western correspondents embedded in the UA army. And that is before considering the footage from Russia-friendly social media.

    When the war is over, IMO, there will be irrefutable evidence that the Russian estimates of Ukrainian military deaths (25,000+) was more correct all along.

    1. Lex

      The Ukrainian numbers are ridiculous. I’m beginning to believe that they get Russian MoD stats and just reverse them. Mariupol had a garrison of 8,000 on the low end and 20,000 on the high end but there have to be 4,000 POWs just from Mariupol at this point. Using the low number (from Russian MoD) still gets to >60/day KIA in just Mariupol over two months. I think we’ll learn that Russian counts have been conservative.

  2. Lex

    There’s never been a significant consideration for human life in operating the US empire, but this is extreme even for us. The carnage we’re demanding for no other purpose than Joe Biden’s inability to admit he was wrong is a staggering indictment of us. We know full well that Ukraine is sending near-retirees and kids to the front with no training and an AK to participate in an artillery war. We know that the only hope for Ukrainian troops is Russia running out of ammunition. And perhaps the worst part is that we know a time is coming where significant collapse of Ukrainian defenses will happen. When it does, literally nothing will stop Russian forces from taking as much of Ukraine as they want.

    I’d be willing to argue that our behavior in Iraq, Afghanistan (starving afghans), Yemen, etc are worse in terms of total death. But this is a level of callousness that’s different because supposedly Ukraine is our friend, because we “support” Ukraine. The real war criminals are us. Us “Putin stooges” are, apparently, the only ones who actually care about the fate of Ukrainians. I’ve spent my whole adult life disgusted with my nation’s behavior but this is worse than I imagined possible. I turned down an FSO position in 02 because I could not become a cog in the imperial machinery; looking back, my analysis of conscience was trite. It’s far worse than I understood. The town flags were still up for Memorial Day and felt nothing but shame driving past them yesterday.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Unfortunately Biden has company in Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who recall along with the US team told Zelensky in no uncertain terms that he needed to renege on Ukraine’s commitments in Istanbul, which among other things included conceding that Ukraine would not join NATO. The British Defence Ministry’s briefings have apparently been as divorced from reality as our State Department’s (the Pentagon appears to be the quiet restraining force in the US). And Habeck? He is completely willing to kill Germans this winter to punish Russia.

      1. Lex

        Indeed, London, Brussels and most of the western European capitols are gleeful participants in this horror.

      2. Michaelmas

        Yves S: Unfortunately Biden has company in Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who recall along with the US team told Zelensky in no uncertain terms that he needed to renege on Ukraine’s commitments in Istanbul, which among other things included conceding that Ukraine would not join NATO. The British Defence Ministry’s briefings have apparently been as divorced from reality as our State Department’s.

        Oh, come now. Other priorities are at play for the UK, which ‘has had the same foreign policy for at least the last five-hundred years.’

        Yes, Minister; Why the UK is (was) in the EU

        There’ll be a world after US hegemony, after all. The UK has fewer sanctions on Russia than Japan last I looked, and UK businesses like AstraZeneca are expanding operations inside Russia.

        1. Revenant

          From where I sit, we have more. Trying to save a portfolio company where a coinvestor is sanctioned in UK but not in EU but EU investors will not deal anyway, because Russia. The hysteria, it burns.

        2. Synoia

          I believe that UK’s foreign policy ont bak to William and Mary. Before that the UK had a Divorce and Cromwell problem.

          Or one could argue it went back to William the Conqueror, and the possession of a large part of France.

      3. JTMcPhee

        This sort of assumes that Biden is running things and that it’s his failing condition and constant IV drip of Hopium that drives the policies. There’s a whole lot of moving parts that all push in the direction of more more more profitable weapons deliveries, and see? the Russians are taking casualties and losing materiel and eventually that plus the sanctions that will be biting into the Commies any day now…

        There’s also a whole lot of functionaries and officers in NATO and the US military that are all wet and wooly about the chance to escalate to Armageddon level conflict. We can bet that there’s planning and action fo bring large numbers of US/NATO troops i”nto the Battlespace,” riding in like Gandalf and the Armies of the West and, of course, “The Eagles! The Eagles have come!” to turn the tide of battle and defeat the Armies of the Orcs.

        I for one am concerned that this cult will end up driving the policy and operation in the direction of face to face confrontation with the Russian/LDNR forces, using weapons that cross that boundary condition that I am sure has been carefully explained to Miley and the idiot Blinken: a rocket too far.

        The Battlespace Managers in their comfy ergonomic Battlespace-ergonomic Chairs ™ with their screens and keyboard and Death’s Head mice are demonstrably incompetent at what “real war” is. It’s an easy reach to put some B61 “dial a yield” nukes on “NATO” planes and “level the playing field” with a few air bursts over Russian forces. Or given that it’s already only minutes of flight time from NATO terrain to Russian command and control, to do a Dr. Strangelove roll of the dice and start WWIII’s nuclear phase (we are already in the prologue.)

        Cue the music:

        1. Tom Bradford

          A view that is at odds with Yves’ comment above that “(the Pentagon appears to be the quiet restraining force in the US)”. In fact, rather than “functionaries and officers in NATO and the US military that are all wet and wooly about the chance to escalate to Armageddon level conflict”, I suspect those same officers are all too aware that any direct intervention by western military in the Ukraine would only demonstrate how frail NATO’s resources actually are – I believe ‘all hat and no cattle’ is the US phrase – and are standing on the brakes of the politicians unreal, schoolboy-games enthusiasms as hard as they can.

          1. digi_owl

            Yeah, i think there is already talk about NATO running out of stockpile to ship to Ukraine.

            It is some particular irony to see Norway ship mothballed artillery pieces to Ukraine while at the same time allowing US marines to set up shop here for the first time since WW2 in a manner similar to US bases elsewhere in the world.

            Never mind that while NSM/JSMs are not to be sent to Ukraine, we can happily sell them to any other NATO member that can then pass them on.

    2. Ignacio

      This. How rare is to find these days comments as sensible as this one. We put upfront domestically things like vague “values” as to turn our vision away of the reality in Ukraine and scaled up the wording to levels that now make it too difficult to do sensible things like rolling back previous decisions as Yves has stated. It is very Shakespearean to use the power of language to introduce an imaginary of hate or jealousy as in Othello that might lead to irreversible actions. Scaling down the Russophobia that has been planted looks now difficult and now matter how the leadership reacts in face of the reality the scent of irreversibility suggests long lasting impacts not necessarily good for the “West” and particularly for the EU that risks turning a hen house and has already sacrificed much of its credibility. It is a pity, IMO.

      1. podcastkid

        Before they go into arguments for negotiation it seems like some heavy weights out there feel the need to preface the discussion with evil Putin stuff/narrative. I’ve been pretty surprised. If they didn’t do this, how close to professional doom would they come??

        Seems like we need a neat, tidy, bare bones list of provocations; doubt there’s one at Wikipedia, ha! Even when it’s a short list, sources invariably leave out one. I came up with ten the other day. I may have forgotten to include the SWIFT thing (sanctioning Russian Central Bank, right?). The last two were speculation [when it comes to biology, no one wants to talk about some things; but, like I say, they were only we’ll-never-know speculation]. I’m in a string of working days, otherwise I’d paste my list. Have to be pretty unswerving on when to hit the hay.

      2. darren price

        It’s a very disconcerting feeling realizing that the obviously false and misleading words (or “narratives”) put out for public consumption by our dear leaders and their media sycophants are in fact taken very seriously by them. It’s one thing to have relatively sober and competent minds in charge who knowingly put out propaganda and PR designed to put the best possible spin on their actions or to counter “enemy” claims. But when the propaganda and wishful thinking is taken as objective truth and comes first while reality is constructed around it….well that’s just nuts.

        But this is what is happening. When their fantastic narratives collapse, instead of a sober reassessment of the facts they double down on the original fantasy or construct a new, equally incoherent narrative to replace the first one and hope this time it all works out.

        So they’ve “decided” on 2022.02.24 that Russia is going to lose the war in Ukraine and have built a massive fantasy around that narrative. Not only that, they’ve also “decided” the USA and its vassals in Europe will forever prevail as the hegemonic global empire while Russia and China are to be dismembered Yugoslavia-style or starved into submission à la 1990s Iraq and then absorbed into the greater western reich. What if this doesn’t work out as expected? Oh it has to because that’s what has been “decided.” This is truly the kind of “thinking” that presages a global war… a war where one side is led by clowns and fabulists.

        Absurdities abound everywhere, like the German “Green” Party in full-on hawk mode and okay with a dangerous proxy war against Russia and US nukes stationed on German soil while peace negotiations are rejected as “appeasement” and nuclear power is deemed too dangerous even as climate change steadily worsens and other energy options still fall short.

        The “beyond parody and satire” era continues. Dog help us all.

        1. podcastkid

          Here’s the list I mentioned up there on the third…

          1) bad faith gaslighting “talks” after failure to implement Minsk

          2) escalated shelling of east by west Feb 16th

          3) Russia retakes Crimea after illegal ’14 coup (Nuland had bragged about the money spent to do this coup); later suddenly Zelensky says they aim to take it back

          4) the sanctions piled on and on and on, and to be quite honest I can’t even remember what crazy ones were put in place just prior to the days in February (serious talk of making Russia unable to deal with S.W.I.F.T.?)

          5) Aegis Ashore

          6) Black Sea rediculousness

          7) Obvious foreign utilization of old native extremist movements to promote hatred of Russia

          8) CRAZY remarks from a head of state calling Putin a killer

          9) This occurred to me a week or more ago…Russian hacking of NATO plans Russia has not revealed yet, nor of course NATO (weird NATO strategies…just one eg, something to do with the labs???). Just speculation on my part.

          10) more speculation – maybe they’re actually worried that if Aegis came to Ukraine, spaced out MICIMATT would at some near future date switch out the SAMs with Cruise missiles, and then actually launch one or a few? Same as 5, but if NATO only destroyed one city to begin some looney bargaining process, and at that moment the whole NATO outlay became hacked…Russian deciders might nevertheless opt to respond by hitting 10 of our cities. A decision they themselves would not like, since the whole world might then be too messed up for oligarchs to escape to any Timbuktus.

          The whole history of Ukr forces aggression on Donbass I gather is mostly…unknown [guy on The Duran…I’m sure hawks won’t trust…has gone into it a little].

          Seems like I totally missed this link until today.

    3. Malik

      Very well said. I’ve commented on several blogs that even if you don’t stand for Ukraine, what is happening is imho one of the worse war crimes of the 21st century. Putting aside culpability for a moment, we first witnesses this blatant racism in media coverage and treatment of war victims at the war’s outset, now we see what it’s really all about it’s disregard for the sanctity of human life. There’s no rational thinker on this planet who didn’t think Russia wouldn’t win from the get go let alone it’s clearly winning now controlling 20% of Ukraine at present, and counting. The collateral damage, raging inflation, possible depression in parts of the world, human migration, starvation, political unrest including more war, are inestimable and unforeseen they will reverberate for decades.

      West leadership and media scribes are are not human, they’re psychopaths. There’s no other explanation for it. Where are all of the cheerleaders for Ukraine now? They too should hang their hands in shame for rooting on urging escalation for a unnecessarily war that is escalated even more as I write this when the winner of the conflict is Russia even the even stops right now. But Russia is chewing and grinding these poor defenseless people down hour by the hour as promises of weapons dry up and more importantly are meaningless.

      You bastards don’t stand for Ukraine. You stand for a psychopathic blood lust and thirst for power that is unspeakable.

    4. truly

      If we are going to do any finger pointing, yes, Biden deserves it. But history is not going to look kindly on HRC and her Russia Russia Russia crowd. Maddow, MSNBC, et al. They set the table.

      1. lance ringquist

        don’t forget, it was nafta billy clinton that broke the promise and ran nato right up to russia doorstep, then illegally dismantled yugoslavia under false charges, a traditional ally of russia.

      2. foghorn longhorn

        Yes indeed.
        If not for trump, this shlt show would have started 4 years earlier.

    5. WG

      Yep. It is all about weakening Russia. If Ukranians die at a 5-1 ratio it still means Russia’s military is weakened. I don’t think it is arguable that this is what the thinking is in the WH and think tanks that push policy.

    6. berit

      Thank you, Lex, for your totally honest, piercing comment. I’ve shared it on my fb-page, as the clearest, most trenchant, I think, of all the exellent remarks on this exellent NC post.
      I’m deeply ashamed too, of the ignorance and Russia-phobia of cowardly politicians in the Norwegian Parliament, voting Friday by a huge majority to let our longtime ally, the “nearest and dearest” it seems, develop several US bases in Norway, being called a Putin-stooge for calling attention to undisputed historical facts that may or should explain why Russian leaders draw red lines and speak of existensial threats and fears.
      I worked in New York during the Cuban missile crisis in 1963 and remember the screeming headlines and the dread that led some Scandinavians to flee back home. This – to me – were the same kind of emotional shock waves felt in the office and the streets when JFK was assasinated, watching Ruby shoot Oswald on the telly in real time, as he was walked into the packed Dallas police station. CIA assets both of them, I’ve come to think. US-NATO and the West is in for a steep decline if not the end, as the cruel business of war now unfolds again in Europe, disregarding all and every opinion from persons not totally succumbing to the massive anti-Russian propaganda. We are doing this to ourselves, with US-supported Nazis this time around, with our own NATO-puppet Jens Stoltenberg in front of his pack. It’s maddening and reason for us all to feel deep shame. I’m ashamed and sad.

      1. Mikeyjoe

        Russia has one-eight of the Earth’s landmass. The Kremlin has forcibly annexed land from Georgia and is now trying to annex Ukraine’s land. This has nothing to do with democratization of the Ukraine or denazification. Using NATO as a reason is just an excuse. Putin and the Kremilin are just attempting their version of Empire building.

  3. jackiebass63

    Putin could crush the Ukrainian army any time he wanted to. On the other side the West will continue the war as long as it benefits their arms sales. Once it ends it won’t be long before a new war breaks out somewhere. War is a racket not unlike organized crime.


    1. jsn

      All of our political and economic feedback mechanisms have been short circuited since around the turn of the century, politics by GWOT, economics by GFC, leaving a Capitalist imperial war machine system in charge of the money spigot.

      TINA had been a more or less closed, global Neoliberal system until Ukraine pushed everyone who wasn’t fully integrated to no longer just going along to avoid assault by the system. Food and fertilizer cut too close to the bone presenting a choice that implied an “Alternative.” I can’t decide if we’re in the Andropov or Chernenko phase of collapse, but our rulers are captured by a worldview no longer aligned with reality at a moment their decisions are systematically making all the real problems worse, and worse specifically because of the way their worldview re-frames information from the world outside the sanctified ideology.

      The Soviet ideology, however screwed up, saw “the worker” as it’s core justification, so it ended without murdering all its workers. Neoliberalism sees “profit” as it’s core justification and as the pandemic and Ukraine have amply indicated our elites are perfectly happy to make those ideologically sanctified profits from “mass casualty event” wherever they can entrepreneurially create them.

      1. podcastkid

        There needs to be a venn diagram of disaster capitalism’s cornucopia of exploitations.

        Re-framing the info generates enough incompetence (warp it around to go with centrist orthodoxy). So, yes, I still think “entrepreneurially” can account for Covid deaths… inadvertent. There’s not enough info to make one strongly believe a release was intentional. But, if this one was, it would be a stretch to imagine a China motive. In my opinion.

        Back to sleep, the list I mentioned above to come later.

    2. Nikkikat

      Yes, Jackiebass63, these deluded idiots will just find a new war. After all the US economy is a house of cards. The last 3 or 4 Presidents did nothing but sell weapons. We don’t have anything else to sell. Of course there is the China game that they have been ratcheting up and there are troops back in Somalia again.
      They will undoubtedly start something there in Africa. New boogie men to invent.

      1. Deak

        I had seen snippets about the USA increasing troop deployments in somalia but will admit I hadn’t followed it closely nor even been aware they had been there in the first place. What is the supposed justification for military action in Somalia? The evergreen ‘peace keeping’?

    3. BeansToast

      “Putin could crush the Ukrainian army any time he wanted to.”

      By saying that, you seem to be saying that Putin prefers the current situation, which is really quite a statement. Do you have any evidence for that? The current situation really doesn’t seem like a great choice, if Putin could have just won on the first day.

  4. Samuel Conner

    The thought occurs that the slow pace of R operations, which has allowed the West to fool itself into thinking that U has a chance and that supplying weapons and logistical support could help to defeat R, has 2nd-order effects that have enhanced R state security.

    The depletion of Western stockpiles of small high-ish tech weapon systems, such as man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, reduces the combat-readiness of Western conventional forces and makes a conventional war with R less likely.

    Whatever one thinks of the morality of the intervention, I think that one has to admire the way that R has been able to protect its interests in the face of the hostility of a large array of nations.

    Autarky is less efficient than global integration, but boy is it more robust.

    1. sinbad66

      Autarky is less efficient than global integration, but boy is it more robust.

      And this is where the US and the EU miscalculated.

      They assumed that they could somehow “break” Russia with their sanctions, but overlooked the fact that the sanctions going back to 2015 actually helped Russia prepare for what’s going on now. They also overlooked that they needed more from Russia (especially the EU) than they really needed from us. And Russia will play the ‘two can play that game’. Better hope they don’t play for keeps because their hand is a lot stronger now…

    2. Lex

      And the stocks of Soviet equipment held by all the former Warsaw Pact members must be significantly degraded by now too. Those were the forces that were supposed to contribute the most in terms of manpower and material in a NATO war with Russia. I don’t buy the “but this just allows them to rearm with modern, western equipment” because I don’t see a path where that can be done in any reasonable time frame or at a realistic cost. The Anglos helped disarm their strongest allies in Europe.

      1. Polar Socialist

        If it is of any help, Soviet Union never gave the best tanks or fighters to her allies. After all, the Polish T-72 tanks are the same stock that got mauled in Desert Storm so horribly. Obsolete already 30 years ago. While the Mig-29’s have the same performance than their Russian counterparts, they don’t have nowhere equal sensor or weapon systems.

        So whether the East European countries had been threatened from the east or the west, those weapons from 40-50 years ago would not have made any difference. They do fill their place in parades, training grounds and PowerPoints, though.

        1. Safety First

          Two minor clarifications.

          One – to be fair, the Iraqi T-72s (and other marks) performed so poorly because the Americans had complete and uncontested dominance in the air, and the Iraqis did not have adequate ground-based air defences. If memory serves, roughly half the vehicle kills in Iraq were from aircraft (fixed and rotary wing), which is one, kind of insane, and two, means that it does not matter if your tanks are the best in the world, you’re still getting fried the moment you duck out of cover. Incidentally, a fair measure of US tank losses in that war were from US aircraft as well…

          Two – one big, huge difference to keep in mind is that the Russians spent the last ~15 years doing massive upgrades to their Cold War era vehicle models. Fire control systems, sensors, comms, defences, even engines or weapons in some instances. Much of the Warsaw Pact inventory – at least some of which had actually been quite on par with the Russian versions back in the 1980s, and I specifically mean the stuff that GDR had – since 1991 basically just sat there, sometimes without even basic maintenance, never mind expensive upgrades.

          Although interestingly enough, the Poles, back in the mid-1990s, also started on a modernisation programme for their T-72s…which, apparently, did not get very far, and in the end they just gave up. Partly because the Germans gave them some Leopard 2s from stocks. And now the Americans just told them to order 250 Abramses, and order Abramses they did, at a staggering $19 million a pop, which is something like four times the cost of a modernised T-90…

          1. Polar Socialist

            …or 80 times the cost of a modernized T-72B3M. Which is probably the main reason there aren’t already more T-90 around today. I know T-72 isn’t the best tank in the world, but somehow it’s good enough platform for the production to survive both T-80 and T-90.

            Regarding the Polish tanks in the desert, my point was merely that the tanks that Poland gave up were second rate (no thermal sights, first generation composite ceramic armor, inaccurate fire on the move due to oscillations of the barrel etc) already 30 years ago. Other than that I agree with what you said.

    3. Louis Fyne

      Russia isn’t just robust, it is anti-fragile!….it gets stronger the more stresses are put upon it.

      Paging Nassim Taleb, I haven’t checked his Twitter in a while, but supposedly people say that Taleb hasn’t been coping with the war well

    4. JTMcPhee

      What definition of “efficiency” are you using? Is globalism as the “Combined West” seeks to enforce “efficient” at anything other than wealth concentration, large scale immiseration, destruction of the living planet?

      Autarky can also be bad, Russia has a backlog and plans for some serious damage to the environment, but I would have more comfort with people of the apparent caliber of Lavrov and even Putin running things than any of the creatures that hold power in what jokingly was once called “the Free World.”

    5. marku52

      I believe the lead time for a Stinger is now 36 months.

      “Hey quit sending those things out! We might need them here!”

  5. marcel

    I am still wondering what the next steps are.
    I think we can agree that Lvov or Kiev will never be Russian, whatever happens in the South of the East. That implies that Russia will never be secure at its western border, while it started the SMO for this specific reason (a.o.).
    We also have the word of Lavrov, not known to lie or exagerate, that this war is to put an end to the unipolar world.
    So this seems very much a war between US and vassals against Russia, and Russia ‘has won’ the battle in Ukraine. And then my question is, where will the next battle take shape ? In Africa over food, in Europe over energy, in Asia for whatever boils over ?
    And knowing that Ukraine is just the most recent (I won’t say first, imo Georgia 2008 was the first) battle in this war, and that more will come, what would peace look like ?
    I thought we’d see a billion dead by mid-century due to climate change, but the deads may come earlier (and climate change is still due as well).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Gonzalo Lira may be too optimistic as far as implications for Russia are concerned, but he was very early to call that Poland has long had designs on Galacia and would do something about it if things broke their way. Zelensky is already selling out what it left of Ukraine sovereignity to Poland in a big way, one assumes to save his hide, since the EU really does not want EU members enlarging their borders and Poland is an established bad actor that got out of its doghouse due to the war.

      Part 2 of the Lira thesis (which he did articulate separately) is that Ukraine will become Poland’s, not Russsia’s quagmire. The heart of the neo-Nazis is Lvov. They will not tolerate loss of independence to Poland. So they’ll stage an insurgency to get it back.

      1. Bad Midas

        There is more to the Poland-story. Poland has been under attack from EU for some reason. It doesn’t really matter what exactly. So like US gave EU all the refugees from MENA as a gift* maybe Germany and EU has given Poland a lot of Ukrainians as a gift* but are themselves preparing to heed Zelenskys call of handing out his homeland to foreign interests.

        * “When is a gift not a gift?” Baron Harkkonen, The Dune.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I did allude to that by saying the EU had seen Poland as a bad actor but now they’re out of the doghouse by being on the border to Ukraine and hence a de facto first responder. I forget the details but it’s basically over Poland defying EU rules, such as ECJ rulings.

          What you are suggesting, while intellectually appealing, is chess level scheming when these guys on their best days only play checkers.

          1. albrt

            I don’t think US elites are capable of planning in any meaningful sense, but I do think they are capable of saying “so what’s the downside? A million people die, Europe is plunged into darkness, oil companies have profiteering opportunities and Ukraine ends up as part of Poland? I can live with that.”

          2. Bad Midas

            Yes, I know… I would deem even checkers as too advanced too for our misleadership: you have to move diagonally and jump. Whack-a-mole is their game. I just try to find a bit of hope that we are not run by a bunch of fools that cannot understand the basic cause-effect relationship… Also, I found the idea that Poland got played as great political comedy. Had a good laugh at the thought.

          3. berit

            “Poland as a bad actor” is basically about the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, democracy, human rights, separation of powers and the duty of EU-memberstates to adher to EU law. Polish politicians wanted to set a new national law above EU-law, controlling the judiciary, criticized and censored by top European politicans and administrators, the Venice Commission of the European Council, the chair of the EU Commission and then the EU Court of Justice, which 27th of October last year sentenced Poland to fines of 1 million euros a day till the matter is resolved according to EU law, not done, as far as I know… Complicated!
            And now the war, the Ukrainian refugee crisis and Poland and Zelensky designs for cooperation and bordercrossing …

      2. hemeantwell

        I’d missed that from Lira, thanks for bringing it up.
        Far right nationalists must be dizzy with failure at the prospect of losing territory to the Poles who, in their imaginary, they rightfully butchered during WW2 and in the immediate postwar period. Their political cred must be in a tailspin. Hopefully planning resistance to Polish designs will take some steam out of the program to build up new units to be sent off to the east.

    2. Polar Socialist

      Security is a process, not a state, as they say in IT world. Splitting Ukraine into multiple parts and controlling most of those parts (either as subjects of Russian Federation or semi-independent protectorates) will leave only a stub the size of a Baltic country with an economy worse than Moldova and consisting of multiple ethnicities not getting along that well.

      Of course any peace deal will also include international (not The World) guarantees – with possible controls – for the neutrality of the stub. So it will kick this can down the road for several decades. Again.

      Considering that people of Kherson or Zaporizzja were not pro-Russia (even if they speak Russian), but are already turning around to support annexation because, well, Ukraine is being Ukraine and cutting electricity, water, banking, internet, mobile, pensions and salaries from people in occupied areas forcing Russia to take care of all those. So people are getting better pensions, better salaries, cheaper products and (at least somewhat) less corruption from the occupiers and most of all, are exposed to Russian media and Russian internet.

      If one reads the Michael Hudson interview on this site (or Pedro Gonzales article in IM1776), one would think that in a few years if what’s left of Ukraine is democratic, it will want to join Russian Federation, too.

      1. Pookah Harvey

        “Considering that people of Kherson or Zaporizzja were not pro-Russia”
        The results of the 2010 election does not show this. It pitted Yanukovych (who rejected a pending EU association agreement, choosing instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia) against Tymoshenko (who supported Ukraine’s integration into the European Union and strongly opposed the membership of Ukraine in the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union). The election map shows Yanukovich winning in all the eastern and southern oblasts. This map may be a good indicator of where an independent or autonomous region will be negotiated.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Yanukovych wasn’t pro-Russia, he was milking both sides for good deals. He was also balancing internally between the West Ukrainian ethnostate-fanatics (for whom Russia is the main enemy) and East Ukrainian were-actually-not-Ukrainians (from whom Russia is the home) blocks.

          Which was pretty much where the Russian-speaking but Ukrainian-identifying central Ukrainians were. Until the project for the new Ukrainian century since 2014 exposed them to both repression and propaganda to turn them proper Ukrainians who hate Russia. Until Ukraine left them on their own as traitors to the cause. Apparently best form of detox.

    3. Louis Fyne

      After the war ends, presumably Russia gaining the crescent from Odessa to Kharkiv, then it will be fortress Russia.

      All Russia has to do is sit and wait while the EU implodes.

      No point in expanding the war into western Ukraine or even Poland…why? If Russia takes that territory, it has to feed the occupied and deal with a permanent insurgency. But of course as the West projects its own imperial values/thinking onto the Russian way of war, the West naturally presumes that Russia will imperially expand into Poland or western Ukraine.

      The EU is so wrecked by its morbid banking sector, EU still hasn’t assimilated properly the Refugee Wave I, now it has to deal with Refugee Wave II, and EU economic sanctions are disappearing barring a complete ouster of the current pro-Brussels governments.

      The West has painted itself into a corner and faces a lost decade of growth and stability.

    4. Safety First

      I disagree about Kiev. It fits Russia’s domestic politics and the professed (quasi-nationalist) ideology of the present regime far, far too neatly to just let it be left dangling out there, especially if they end up taking most of the areas around it (which should be the minimum goal, so long as Ukraine continues to fight).

      Now, we can speculate as to how this feat might actually be accomplished. In this sense, I think how they handle Kharkov or Odessa, whichever comes first, is going to give us a very big indicator as to how Moscow is thinking about this as opposed to any hypotheses, however rational or seemingly valid, we might come up with at present.

      As for your question of where next – my bet is that the White House hasn’t thought of it yet, and the default option once it is both realised and recognised that Ukraine is done (whenever that happens) would be to, in order: a) see if either Georgia or Moldova is interested in reigniting those frozen conflicts; b) try another go at regime change in Belarus; and c) go down the list of the Central Asian states and see which one can be usefully employed. Option (a) is eh, 50/50, and probably Moldova moreso than Georgia as the latter has already waved a white flag of sorts; option (b) is unlikely to work, but is a good money sink for State and the CIA; and option (c) runs into the problem that China is just as if not more interested in keeping the Central Asian states neutral-ish than the Russians would be. Although on the other hand, US corps do own 75%-80% of Khazakhstan’s oil and gas sector, so maybe there is something to do there, potentially.

      1. hk

        I don’t know if “Moldova” wants to reignite the conflict: it’s too poor and too small. “Greater Romania” might, ie if the conflict reignites, it will almost certainly be the end of Moldova. Of course, even Romania is too small to try something on its own. Will they try to profit by tagging along with NATO like they did with Nazis in 1941?

  6. flora

    “they plan to negotiate when they’ve turned things around a bit”

    Or, as some coders say, “get it done, fix it later.” / oy.

  7. rkka

    “ Part 2 of the Lira thesis (which he did articulate separately) is that Ukraine will become Poland’s, not Russsia’s quagmire. The heart of the neo-Nazis is Lvov. They will not tolerate loss of independence to Poland. So they’ll stage an insurgency to get it back.”

    So what was old will be new again. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, home to Bandera & Shushkevich, got its start as a terrorist group/insurgency against Poland in the 1920s.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, and this leads to a further thought: Lira worked this idea out after a bit of exposure to Ukraine. Surely the Russians, who know far more about Ukraine’s Nazis than they care to, would also be familiar with their, erm, antipathy for Poles. Think they might be doing some info ops in Poland to stoke the Polish hunger for Galacia?

      1. José Freitas

        It’s difficult or chancy to ascribe actual planning to so many different, interlocking things and events that may shape the future order of Ukraine, but if even a tenth of what we think would benefit Russians in this sort of things was actually planned by them… well, I stand in AWE!

        1. Lex

          Agreed. IMO, we define “plan” differently than the Russians do. Russian planning is more a matter of putting together option menus for all the contingencies they can think of and placing that within the context of their goals (likely broken into short, medium and long term goals). Specific plans are determined by events.

          Lots of comment sections go on about “We want NATO back to 1997 borders” and assume that the “plan” is to do so militarily and immediately. I assume Russia has such a military “plan” but it’s extraordinarily flexible and patient. I also assume that their preferred plan is for the SMO in Ukraine to open cracks in NATO – success! Russia will be patient and allow NATO to self-destruct unless it feels immediately threatened by a NATO action.

          1. jsn

            Right, whereas in the West, a “plan” is how you need to organize reality to match the spread sheet, or distort it to match the Power Point.

            No one here gets a raise or promotion until that happens.

            The school of hard knocks has been re-educating the Russians since the Soviet collapse about managing realities, and more importantly, how to identify them.

      2. Safety First

        The rhetoric I’ve heard so far emanating from popular Russian “pro-war” channels has been – we’ve crushed the nationalist guerillas in the 1940s, we can do it again. So whether one views this as a mistaken belief or not, it does not appear that L’vov is off the table at this point. As well, recall that Western Ukraine has a bunch of other nationalities, e.g. Hungarians, Roma, etc., who wouldn’t exactly be happy with a Ukrainian nationalist insurgency.

        Me, personally, I’d draw a line from Transnistria up to Belarus and stop there, but I am afraid the Kremlin still hasn’t bothered to ask me for my opinion.

        What does bother me is that the talk about Poland annexing Western Ukraine is coming from the highest levels of the Kremlin. It’s almost like when Biden spent a few months yelling that a Russian attack is imminent while secretly hoping it would actually happen. So who knows…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I am pretty sure Putin knows better than to go there re Lvov. But if he’s assassinated, my understanding is the candidates in line are a ton more hawkish.

          The problem is Poland is down to 200 tanks, having already given 200 to Ukraine.

          Gonzalo Lira has been pointing to a lot of emerging crazy facts, like a law in Ukraine (I don’t think passed but being fast tracked) so that Polish citizens can run for office in Ukraine and become judges. So the groundwork is being laid for a friendly takeover, with Polish troops positioned as a peacekeeping force.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Lira’s second vid today (wish he’d cite sources) claims Poland now backing off peacekeeping idea at least for now-ish. Russia had said any entering foreign troops would be taken out and US does not want a Russia-NATO conflict., so Lira asserts the US called the dogs off. Plus Poles spending a lot of money on Ukraine with refugees alone and are casting about for handouts.

          2. LawnDart

            But if he’s assassinated, my understanding is the candidates in line are a ton more hawkish.

            That’s what the Putin-haters seem to miss, is that Putin appears to have kept the Russian hard-liners in check (mostly ex-communists and hardcore nationalists), the ones who want to strike USA (with nukes– use ’em or lose ’em) before USA strikes Russia.

            “It’s time to destroy American bases” — Russian senator warns that helping Ukraine with missile systems could provoke a war with the United States

            Russian Senator Franz Klintsevich said that the four long-range multiple launch rocket systems HIMARS that the United States is sending to Ukraine can ” threaten our people on our territory.” The politician refused to believe Kiev’s promises to Joe Biden that these weapons would not be used outside of Ukraine. In a televised speech on Russia’s state TV channel, Senator Klintsevich said that Ukraine and the United States will perceive the lack of a response from Russia as “weakness”, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to start “destroying American bases”.


            1. LawnDart

              The State Duma proposed a nuclear strike on the United States

              A deputy proposed to deliver a warning strike with Russian nuclear weapons at the US test site in NevadaState Duma from United Russia Evgeny Fedorov. He made such an initiative on the air of the Youtube channel “National Course”

              In his opinion, such a step is necessary, since the Americans do not understand the language of negotiations, and are confident of their impunity, planning aggressive actions to move NATO weapons to the Russian borders.


              1. LawnDart

                A condition for a Russian strike on the United States has been named

                Moscow may take such a step when transferring MLRS systems to Ukraine.

                If the United States decides to supply Kiev with weapons capable of reaching targets on the territory of the Russian Federation, the country will be forced to strike at American territory to prevent deliveries. This was stated by military political analyst Alexander Perendzhiev.


                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Can you parse the Russian for “American territory” in this release? The language is “to prevent deliveries”. That to me means the relevant bases or transit facilities. US bases on foreign soil actually are not “American territory”.

                  1. LawnDart

                    Yves, got it:

                    Re; Military political analyst Perendzhiev allowed a strike on the territory of the United States during the transfer of MLRS to Ukraine

                    [From Lenta, original source was NewsRambler]

                    According to the political scientist, it is no longer a question of destroying weapons when they enter the territory of Ukraine: strikes can be delivered even in the process of forming supplies in the United States.


                    My original thoughts were that he viewed US bases as territories (which some may), but I didn’t realize that he too was speaking of bombing USA itself– my mistake.

                    “We have submarines near the United States, and appropriate monitoring is being conducted. Therefore, we warn that such shipments may indeed be hit when they are loaded or delivered by sea. They can hit both warships and the territory itself, because these weapons pose a direct danger to Russia. Moreover, I think this position is held not only by Ryabkov, but also by the top leadership of Russia, ” the political scientist is sure.

                  2. Safety First

                    Rescue Rangers – away…

                    …couldn’t resist.

                    Ok, the term “American territory” as employed here implies Continental US. Specifically, hitting the shipments before they are loaded onto…whatever is supposed to transport them over to Europe. Submarines are mentioned as a possible platform. There is also talk about shooting down US transport aircraft over “neutral” airspace, now this term is a lot more nebulous – but at the very least the Atlantic. Mind you, this is just a private individual speculating, not an official statement from any political figures. And ought not be treated as such.

                    Anticipating the question – I checked the guy’s bio. DoB 1967. Studied to be a construction specialist (“sewers and water pipes”), then switched to psychology (!!), joined the army, where from 1991 until 2009 he did stupendously rear-area stuff (construction detachment, “officer in charge of cultural events”, and so on). Towards the end of his military days (2007), did an MsC in PoliSci (thesis theme was counterterrorism policy), then joined a uni in Moscow where he teaches PoliSci and Sociology classes to this day. While writing “over 200 articles”, which apparently stroked enough of the army’s ego for them to give him a medal in 2020.

                    Is this just some guy on the street? No. Is this some guy whose sentiment is shared by no-one in the military? No. Is this someone we should take overly seriously? Not for now…

                    …however, and this is the key: if Putin is seen to be losing the war in some key respect, this, I personally believe, is when you have the highest danger of a coup slash what have you to bring in someone more hawkish to “finish the job”. Incidentally, not for the first time in modern Russian history. That is when guys like this “analyst” are going to come crawling out of every woodwork, methinks…

  8. Hatuxka

    It’s clear that a major motivating factor driving this desperate western information offensive while continuing a lost shooting war is the west’s brand as the exceptional guiding economic and democratic force in the world, and examples and enforcers of justice and humanitarian values and the masters of the universe, while demonstrably being corrupt, undemocratic, inhumane and economically exploitive. They fear having their sophisticated military armaments paraded in Red Square as trophies of war. War they prolonged and worsened.

  9. LadyXoc

    I see a straight line from the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over the Donbass region, to Russiagate, to the current morass in Ukraine. There has been a decades-long project to occupy Ukraine by the US (see US agribusiness purchases of land there, other US business meddling). I see Lira’s point that it is in western countries’ interests to weaken Ukraine and maintain a corrupt dysfunctional government, so that its assets can be more easily stripped. These are the death throes of empire as Lavrov has rightly said that this is the end of the unipolar order. The US-MIC is not going quietly into that good night. More disaster capitalism, where chaos is seen as a ladder. I hate it here.

  10. DJG, Reality Czar

    Now I know that Yves Smith wouldn’t have written this if YS didn’t have an answer to the questions, but I want to highlight this paragraph:

    Why should Ukraine keep fighting and losing more men and suffering more damage? Why not sue for peace now? Biden’s unstated assumption is that if the US pumps enough air into the leaking Ukraine balloon, it will be in a better position than it is now. That can come about only by taking territory back or by inflicting huge losses on the Russian side. In what universe is that a likely outcome?

    The two questions, it seems to me, are indications of the absolute / deliberate lack of strategy among the U.S. and U.K. elites. If one cannot loot it, then there is no strategy. Maybe a Powerpoint presentation suffices.

    The following first and second sentences are tactics, which are terrible. Is this a recognition that civilian control over war is inherently flawed? I certainly don’t want to go back to the “politicians lost Vietnam” quagmire, but fantasizing that more rockets will take back territory and cause the Russians to fold is bloody, useless, and incompetent.

    My only quibble with the article is on the fate of the Donbass republics, which seem suddenly to be multiplying. Let’s not forget the reports that Mariupol and surrounding area want to leave Ukraine, too.

    Russia might be better off with a mini-state on its border, something small and buffered like Luxembourg, but a sizable country with some ten million people, a major agricultural producer, and industrial nation, with Black Sea ports, yet still vulnerable to the tender mercies of the Kyivocrats? It’s a recipe for another war. Better for Joe Biden and his claque to turn grandma’s picture to the wall and accept annexation.

    (And after reading the OSCE reports on what the central government was complicit in and allowed in the eastern regions, I don’t see these republics returning readily or willingly.)

    Maybe Biden can get Odessa to remain in Ukraine. Which is no small prize. Then we can all applaud his statesmanship.

    Many thanks for the reminder that the oracle of Delphi was wonderfully accurate and insightful. (I have great respect for Plutarach, who was a priest there.)

    And, finally, once Poland makes a mess in Ukraine and a grab for territory, will we be subjected to Polexit, with lots of melodrama, and huffing-and-puffing, and references to “Poland is the Christ on the cross of Europe”? As the Polish government makes its way out the door, having exploited the EU for what it wanted (money and guarantees of independence)…

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      “Maybe Biden can get Odessa to remain in Ukraine. Which is no small prize. Then we can all applaud his statesmanship.”

      Why would anyone (apart from Biden and the war party) want that. If the Odessa Oblast, perhaps with Mykolaiv and Kherson becomes an independent pro-Russian state, that would surely be the optimum outcome. Biden has no past, present or credible future claim to ‘statesmanship’.

    2. hk

      I’d heard someone suggest that the Polish seizure of Teschen in cooperation with Germany while Czechoslovakia was being dismembered was what pushed the Soviets towards an understanding with the Germans–the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact–since they reckoned that the Poles would be the vanguard of the German invasion (as they were Napoleon’s) rather than serve as a useful buffer state. While this was not to be the case, I do wonder if it was indeed crazy for Russians to expect some cooperation between Germany and Poland beyond Teschen, against Russia. The willingness of the Poles to antagonize every one of their neighbors for short term gains back then may yet come to surface again, as, after all, Lwow figures a lot more to the Poles than Teschen or Danzig, or even Posen, I’d imagine.

    3. Andrew Watts

      Wars aren’t famous for fostering a sense of moderation or rationality until the last possible drop of blood is spilled. Which is to say nothing of the sense of revanchism in the aftermath of a defeat. Zelensky might not be able to stop the war even if he wanted to. Kiev is going to have to make huge concessions that radicals or nationalists would find unacceptable.

    4. Sibiryak

      DJG, Reality Czar: …the Donbass republics, which seem suddenly to be multiplying. Let’s not forget the reports that Mariupol and surrounding area want to leave Ukraine, too.

      Mariupol is in the Donetsk Oblast and thus now under the administration of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

  11. Mark Gisleson

    Thank you for the analysis and links on Ukraine. If our world gets turned anymore upside down than it already is, I may start using words like “mass formation.”

  12. Garden Breads

    The Donbass republics have options other than fully joining the Russian Federation They could possibly join the nation state of Russia and Belarus which has an EU level of integration. Belarus has tried to stay neutral but recent actions of Ukraine and Poland may push them to a closer non-military relation to the Donbass republics. A status like that of Belarus would provide the republics most of the benefits of annexation by the Russian federation. But this would stay within the UN charter and would be difficult for European countries to object in good faith.

    A less likely lower level of integration would be joining the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union) which approximates the EU of 20 years ago, because the other members would have to agree. Joining the NATO equivalent CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) is even less likely since members such as Kazakhstan currently would not want to provide a military guarantee to the new republics. However these memberships could eventually follow.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “In good faith.”” Now don’t be looking for that from USEUNATO any time soon. “Not agreement capable.”

  13. hk

    One reason Russia would not have been too eager to annex the Russophone parts of Ukraine would have been that it would leave the rump Ukraine too hostile to Russia. For good or ill, that bridge may well have been crossed already, barring a sudden regime change in Kiev. But that also leaves the endgame murky: if the Zelensky regime can maintain itself in power with western support, (a big if, admittedly) they have little interest in seeking peace with Moscow, regardless of the amount of Ukrainian blood spilled (since it’s the Western support, not the Ukrainian people, that really keeps them in power). Western governments, even if they wanted to (and it is not clear that they do yet) will have trouble cutting loose the leeches in Kiev if only because they already talked too much. Needing to conquer the “rest” of Ukraine or protracting the war indefinitely does place the Russians in a dilemma–although it does the same to everyone else, except the Kiev regime, possibly. It seems to me that, regardless of how the fighting goes, the endgame remains extremely murky.

  14. Boomheist

    Great overview. Here’s something I just posted over on MoAlabama which seems linkled to the subject matter here as well: 95

    You might say that since WW2 ended and the UN was formed the overall Guiding Belief among “civilized, educated” people was that we would, over time, merge into a connected, bound worldwide system, and so we did with trade agreements, the container shipping industry (which enabled the offshoring of consumer goods manufacturing). The EU formed. Davos began to happen. All was Good, and of course the underlying premise behind all this was the endless and continued co0ntinuationn of the primacy of the dollar-dominated capitalist system.

    I think what is happening, and remains unmentioned by nearly everyone, is we are shifting to something else – a bloc-based system. I think Russia and China and India saw how things were going and they created the Shanghai Cooperative Organization in I believe the late 1990s. This was noticed by the West but generally ignored. The Belt and Road initiative, heavy Chonese investment in Africa and South America, all steps to build a different network of trade flows and methods. All happening, for decades, and ignored by the West because the West has been bewitched by their power, wealth, and sense of smartness and entitlement.

    As mentioned above in some comments, but not emphasized, the truth here is that Russia is basically self-sufficient – Russia has energy, minerals, agricultural land, a strong scientific community, a powerful military and nuclear weapons. Russia can survive perfectly well if totally isolated. This is the root of Putin’s power and I believe the basis of his SMO. On one level the SMO has limited objectives, all being met over time, but on another it seems the SMO is also being used as a lever to see if Russia and maybe China, too, can pry the economic system away from the dollar. The truth is, as mentioned above many times, as each month passes the pain and impact of the sanctions on Europe and the East only grows, and grows. At the same time Russia gets stronger, more centered in its isolation, despite all the articles claiming Putin is about to expire and fail.

    If we are in a new bloc-based system, and I think we are, then Russia is in a powerful, powerful position. China? Much of China’s wealth depends on US consumers buying shit built there. China has little energy available and must import fuel. China may also have a food problem especially if the Three Gorges dam collapses (rumors persist of cracks). Europe? Europe also lacks energy, though Europe may be able top grow its food, but Europe needs minerals from Russia and elsewhere. This tells me that the Europe bloc and the China bloc needs alliance with another bloc with energy and minerals (true for India too – energy and food growing ability). The United States? The US has energy, food capacity, and many minerals, and surely the US and Canada and Mexico could form a self sufficient bloc although there would be a huge downward adjustment in life style for Americans especially to get there, unlike Russia which is already there anyway.

    All of this to say, in the grand picture, Russia is in maybe the strongest position of any nation or bloc on the earth right now, but nobody sees that. NATO and the US have exhausted their weapons wasting them in Ukraine and thus leaving themselves open to Russia simply advancing into the rest of Europe if Russia so chooses. I don’t think Russia will do that. I think instead they will meet their terms for the SMO, continue to let the West swing on their stupid sanctions, and watch as the dollar declines and a new currency system emerges. I have said, from the start of this thing, in the end the Russians have a memory and experience of suffering, still raw within their population, which will now strengthen them for the lean times to come. This may also be the case for China (cultural revolution memory) but as for Europe and the US?

    It is going to be a sobering awakening, I fear….

    1. Mel

      It seems very plausible to me that Russia would leave the rest of Europe mostly alone. Four years ago, Patrick Armstrong published WHY MOSCOW’S FOREIGN PHILOSOPHY IS “WESTPHALIAN”.
      The burden of it is that Russia, as the Soviet Union, has already tried being the guiding light to lead humanity to a world socialist civilisation. It didn’t work, and brought only trouble and expense, and made them no friends. They learned then that they have to deal with others in a better way.

  15. Matthew G. Saroff

    Scott Ritter’s observation on casualty ratios is not supported by the history.

    As a historical counterpoint, in the Winter War, Soviet casualties were 5 times (not a typo) that of the Finns, in the US Civil War, Union casualties were about 1½ times that of the Confederacy.

    1. BeansToast

      Also the Vietnam war, in which the winning side suffered casualties at somewhere between two and three times the rate of the losing side.

      Also WWII in general, and in specific the front between Germany and the USSR, in which the USSR suffered so many more casualties.

      Basically, on this one, Ritter’s talking nonsense.

  16. Andrew Watts

    It’s probably a bit premature to forecast where Russian forces will go in the next phase. A westward advance from the Donbass that ends in Dnipro in the short term is possible. However there’s a limit to what offensive action can be immediately undertaken. Which is why the most likely outcome after the battle will be a significant pause. Both sides will need to re-equip and organize their forces for another phase of the war. Disingenuous peace talks full of mutual recriminations is a perfect cover for that ongoing military activity. At the very least I hope an armistice is a possibility.

    Ukraine always had an uphill battle in any war against Russia and there’s no guarantee that it’ll stop here. The last thing anybody in Moscow wants is an end to the current conflict which flares up again in another decade. It’s the reason why I thought Ukraine being partitioned or being reduced to a rump state in the western part of the country was a possibility days before the war started. Putin’s threats in his pre-war speeches only served to underline this point and I don’t think many people in the West took it seriously at that time.

    If anything how the war has unfolded will likely convince Russia to keep going. The Western powers are doing exactly what they feared by pouring massive amounts of weaponry that poses a direct threat to their territory. You could say that the war made this development a self-fufilling prophecy, but I wouldn’t agree as there wern’t guarantees that NATO or western countries wouldn’t have done this anyway. The original introduction of “lethal aid” only served to heighten tension and brought us to the current moment.

    The only difference is that the western bloc didn’t anticipate what would happen if their schemes failed. Overall I think they got everything they wanted except for being unable to determine the outcome. In terms of the security environment the situation has drastically changed and not for the better. The toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube any time soon and would only be accompanied by a reduction in tension around the world.

    1. elkern

      The thing which “The West” has won through the war in Ukraine is Unity, at least regarding policies that matter most to the Banksters. The Propaganda War in the USA has succeeded; opposing voices are ignored or de-platformed. The threat posed by Trump has been de-fused; Trump’s “friendship” with Putin has been used to push/pull the veterans in his camp back into the “normal” GOP. The GOP has stayed focused on Culture War issues, and (uncharacteristically!) hasn’t bothered to attack Biden (much) for being “weak” on Russia. There is no real internal political resistance to Biden’s actions on Ukraine; he’s doing what The Borg want, maybe holding back just enough to avoid WWIII (so far). Liberal Democrats – not just Clintonistas, but most “Progressives”, and certainly the Wokists – are totally on-board with the demonization of Putin. US Public Opinion is firmly behind – or, likely, out in front of – the idea of supporting Ukraine against Russia.

      The only problem with this finely manufactured “unity” is that Reality doesn’t agree.

      Americans are convinced that Ukraine is Free, Democratic, Liberal, Beautiful, etc – and also that they are winning. That’s gonna make it hard to sell the idea – or rather, the reality – of a negotiated settlement. That’s when the GOP will pounce: they will claim that “Ukraine won the War, but Biden lost the Peace”…

  17. KD

    Diplomacy is not going to resolve the issue. Ukraine has not, as yet, even offered to return Crimea to Russia. The West is hopped up on propaganda that “Russia is losing” which raises the expectations of the public as far as what the West/Ukraine gets out of a diplomatic settlement. The reality on the ground dictates a much more meager settlement which would result in political damage in the West, especially given the economic hardships manufactured as a result of sanctions. Any attainable diplomatic solution at this point would doom Biden, and perhaps a gaggle of Europols as well. Actual “Success” for the West at this point is any non-MAD outcome, and even that is not necessarily possible with the unending escalations and provocations coming from US/NATO.

    The Russians need to not only destroy Ukraine’s army, but Ukraine’s capacity to reformulate an army (say 500,000 KIA/captured/incapacitated) and probably occupy 2/3rds of the land mass, before it ends similar to their 5 year war in Syria. It is going to end not because Ukraine agrees to peace, but because Ukraine cannot field an army anymore, and cannot summon further will to fight. The probable result is the end of Ukraine, and the emergence of a polyglot of small nations under various spheres of influence, like a map of Syria today.

    Russia didn’t want Donbas because Ukraine is an economic basket case, and they don’t want to have to pay for economic life support, even in Donbas. Unfortunately for them, they are going to have follow the “break it, pay for it” principle before its over.

  18. Zap Rowsdower

    The special operation is 100 days old and is no closer to Rus-sifying Ukraine nor disarming her. But, man, Putin sure does want those sanctions lifted, even though it is allegedly the West that is suffering. Not Ukraine? (Sidebar. Never go to war against a cardinal direction. You might be overwhelmed by the breadth of the coalition.) The sixth round of sanctions indicates a steady ratcheting of pressure which has become Russia’s principal concern. Putin could demand anything in exchange for the grain he stole, but he wants sanctions lifted.

    Russia is producing one million barrels of oil less per day, and even at this reduced output, Russia is running out of ocean to ship what is produced. Russia might be forgoing sales of 3 million barrels per day. No worries, Russia sent a moldy yam in tiny spectacles to plead with the Saudis to save the Russian war chest. What Russia can offer in exchange, I do not know. Syrian campaign burnt down that bridge. And Russia could not live up to the previous OPEC+ agreement, so…

    The one thing that would indicate a Russian surge would be a substantial influx of contract infantry to fully compliment the armor, BTR’s chock-full of MOUT-capable pros. Raising that is an internal them-problem. Short of that, we’ll be jib-jabbing on day 300.

    1. KD

      Have you seen this article:

      Who would have thought that if you decrease supply of “spice”, prices would go up and you could profit on less volume.

      But you are no doubt correct on the war, as Russia ran out of missiles, artillery shells and tanks 14 days into the campaign, per the Western media. They are just throwing sticks and stones at the Ukrainians right now, per the Kagans.

      However, assuming they still have ammunition and tanks left after 14 days in March when they ran out, they will continue to take territory and grind the Ukrainians until the Ukranian army is either too young to shave or requires a walker, like they did in Syria.

    2. JustTheFacts

      I’d say people queuing in Kherson to obtain a Russian Passport should count as “Russifying”. It’s unsurprising Ukrainians are losing good will when they freeze the bank accounts of those in conquered territories, and cut their electricity and communications.

      I’m surprised that with a 65% casualty rate, the Ukrainian government hasn’t lost more good will in the West of Ukraine, but perhaps the fact they send soldiers to the front, and don’t rotate them home accounts for this… their loved ones don’t know whether they’re still on the front or dead.

      As to the sanctions, actually the rest of the world, including African states, want them gone. How can they pay for wheat if the banks they use have been disconnected from SWIFT? Russia seems to want to elp prevent a famine by setting up a similar scheme as gas-for-rubles to help their African customers. Of course the Western narrative is that the evil Ruskies are preventing ships from leaving Ukraine. The international maritime organization disagrees.

  19. David

    I always tell people to pay very very close attention to the verbal formulas used by governments, both for what they say, and what they don’t, and how they compare with previous ones. Let’s parse Biden:

    “We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”

    Now, notice several things. First, notice tenses. “We have moved” is not the same as “we are”, let alone, “we will.” In other other words, that’s it. The sentence contains no promises about the future. Likewise, “so it can fight” refers to the current situation. Again, the assumption is, that’s it. What has been sent is “significant,” rather than “massive” or “unprecedented” or another word that would imply that the US is really, really deeply involved. Choice of words like that suggests a slight move towards a more flexible position. And this is “fight”. Note the absence of words like “succeed” or “win.”

    But the key is the phrase “be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.” This is the strongest possible position. Not a “strong” position, or a “dominating” position. Reading between the lines, it will actually be a weak position, but the hope is that somehow by feeding in more weapons, that position will be less weak than it would otherwise have been. But why negotiate anyway? After all, if someone invades your country, and you’re winning the war against them, why should you negotiate at all? Why don’t you just drive them out? Bear in mind that there isn’t “a negotiating table” at the moment: it’s just an American hypothesis that there will be. It’s not obvious to me that this war is going to end in a negotiated settlement at all, except in the 1945 sense. The only reason to mention negotiating now, is actually to send a message to the Ukrainians that the US no longer thinks they can win, and wants them to start thinking about what to give up. It’s also a message to the Russians that the US is doing this, although whether the Russians are actually listening is questionable.

    So the sentence actually means “We have poured equipment into Ukraine, but it’s clear it isn’t working and they are stuffed. But we hope that our deliveries mean the war will go on long enough that the Russians will get fed up and agree to negotiations, and the Ukrainians will have a slightly less weak hand than would otherwise have been the case.”

    If that were not the case, then Biden’s op-ed would have said something like “We are moving quickly to send Ukraine massive amounts of weaponry and ammunition, so it can build on its previous successes and drive the Russian invader from its territory, thus forcing Russia to come to the negotiating table on their terms.”

    See the difference?

    1. marku52

      Yes, I think the change in tone is very noticeable. Whether UKR listens is another matter entirely.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Mr. Zelensky made it know earlier that when The West says publicly that “everyone can join NATO if they want to”, behind closed doors they add “…except Ukraine”, so we can assume the message has been delivered in plain language to Kiev. This is aimed at the general public in The West for managing the expectations.

        1. David

          It’s a bit more complex than that, I think. A private message is one thing: a public message means, firstly that the Ukrainian government can’t pretend it hasn’t been told, or try to forget it, secondly that any Ukrainian who reads the media and knows how to interpret it gets the message, so boxing the government in, thirdly that the US government is on public record as having changed its message, and can’t go into reverse again easily, and fourthly that the rest of the world (including especially European governments) knows that the message has been changed. The practical problem with sending messages directly is that they are of necessity delivered to a small number of people, and may be ignored, disputed or subject to different interpretations. It all depends who got the message, and if that person was able to absorb and distribute it.

    2. NN Cassandra

      I doubt that whoever wrote that thing was calibrating his words to precisely match some publicly unspoken/hidden reality that can’t be contradicted in writting, and is consciously steering away from terms like “massive”, or even has any idea what the plan, if we generously assume there is any, is or isn’t and thus can use only past tense and not future.

      1. David

        This wasn’t written by « a person. » such texts go through innumerable drafts discussed between many different actors and the result depends on the relative power and influence of the actors. Often you can see traces of these arguments in the final text. Eventually you get a text that everyone can accept. That’s how it works.

  20. Expat2Uruguay

    I often see this reference to starvation in the global South, but I wonder what’s really meant by that term. In one place I read that there were fears that starvation in the global South would send refugees to Europe. That doesn’t sound like it includes South America to me.

    Is the food situation going to be bad in South america? The countries here grow a lot of their own food, so unless they export to other countries, I don’t see how their populations are going to starve. One of the most frustrating things about living in South America is how this large population and landmass is essentially ignored by the rest of the world, especially the US and the UK. When they talk of the global south, what I think they really mean is africa, but they don’t want to get black lives matter sentiment riled up so they use the term global South.

    It would be great if there was more clarification on what is meant when people talk about the global South, but of course I would be foolish to expect anyone to pay attention to the other global South here in the West… It is all so imprecise! Does the global South include Australia and New zealand? Central America and the caribbean, how are they accounted for?

    (I do understand that there could be sovereign debt crisises in South America).

    1. Polar Socialist

      Global South is what used to be the “third world” in the 50s and 60s and “developing countries” in the 70s and 80s. At least approximately.

      So China is in Global South, but Australia and New Zealand are not.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Argentina and Uruguay are the two countries most self sufficient in food, which I think means they export the most calories per capita. But at least for Uruguay, countries outside Latin America seem to be its biggest food export destination:

      The top exports of Uruguay are Frozen Bovine Meat ($1.26B), Sulfate Chemical Woodpulp ($1.18B), Rice ($475M), Concentrated Milk ($470M), and Soybeans ($363M), exporting mostly to China ($1.79B), Brazil ($1.02B), United States ($558M), Netherlands ($387M), and Argentina ($361M).

  21. forigner

    Re: Gonazlo Lira-Poland vs Nazis
    I think he does not understand the role of Poland. Poland has advanced to be a direct client of the US, bypassing the EU in some respect. They are the new Kapo in town, the employers of the nazis, meaning the US is going to finance and manage them through Poland, if they are not already. It is by that design that polish nationals can now hold positions in the Ukrainian goverment. The Azovites, if they want their salaries, they have to love the Pols. The current polish leadership is extremely reactionary and hate the Russians with a passion, but most importantly, the US/NATO/EU war with Russia gives them tremendous leverage within the EU and NATO, close to a mini Turkiye. So, Poland will have a big say in who advances or get in to the power structure of what remains as Ukraine. Unless, the Germans and the French put down their foot, I do not see that happening.

  22. XXYY

    Quoted in the Guardian:

    If proof were needed that sanctions are not working, then President Joe Biden’s decision to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems provides it. The hope is that modern military technology from the US will achieve what energy bans and the seizure of Russian assets have so far failed to do: force Putin to withdraw his troops.

    One of the fascinating takeaways of the Ukraine war has been the extremely poor performance NATO and US trained troops and weapons vis-a-vis Russian troops and weapons. The US has been patting itself on the back since World War II about its world-beating military industrial complex. This self-congratulation is in turn used to justify spending a trillion dollars a year on the Pentagon and on military contractors, and as part of the sales pitch for overseas sales of US weapons.

    We are now finding out, along with everyone else on Earth, that the US military has no clothes. The US has had eight peaceful years to assemble the Ukrainian Army, train them, provide them with choice weapons, and build fortifications and infrastructure for them in the Ukraine. After all this, they seem to be getting beaten like a mule every single day by a smaller Russian force, and will likely collapse entirely in the next month or two.

    Hard to imagine the long-term ramifications of this embarrassment and discrediting of the US military. Perhaps it will lead to some long-needed introspection and house cleaning.

    1. KD

      US 300 million people
      Russia 145 million people

      I would guess that US population skews younger, so at least 2-1 male conscript age population relative to Russia, and economically 21 trillion to 1.48 trillion, 15 to 1. If America spends 7 percent of GDP on defense, it amounts to basically the Russian economy. Further, American superiority is based on air power, and although Russians have an air force and good air defense, at some point America vs. Russia would result in American’s obtaining air superiority. You can see why the Russians would be doomed without 6000 nukes, and why they are so paranoid about NATO expansion, because they are toast in a protracted conventional war with the Americans alone, not to mention if you add in the Europeans.

      As far as Ukraine vs. Russia, you can look at materials at the beginning of the war:

      Russia is 10 to 1 in planes, 5 to 1 in armored vehicles, 20 to 1 in helicopters, and Ukraine had basically no navy. The Ukrainians have actually fought admirably given the Russian advantages, and resupply from the West is a problem because they have not been trained on NATO systems, using old Soviet technology. I was convinced they would collapse in the first week. But you can see why they are doomed, especially since the Russia destroyed most of that material in the first few weeks, and Western assistance actually making it to troops on the front line is much less than touted in newspapers. Most of Ukraine lacks the kind of topography that you would need for insurgency.

      That being said, the US is over-rated in the sense that no country in the world spends more for less, and you can suspect that Ukrainian morale, defending their homeland against a foreign invader, is probably higher than some US serviceman shooting goatherders in a sandbox. However, nations would be fools to believe that American forces are not capable.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You are missing that Russia does not use planes for long distance strikes. It uses precision missiles. Russia has 27 weapons systems for which the US has nothing comparable, and 7 of those are various hypersonic missiles. Russia has the best offensive and defensive missile systems. Russia has also been able to defeat many of our wunderwaffen thought its ability to jam electronics, such as GPS.

      2. tegnost

        according to this chart median male age of males in the us is 36.8 and in russia 36.6

        according to this us military spending is 3.5 % of gdp while russia is 4.1 % of gdp

        That’s just your basic premise so everything that follows it is suspect, and leaves aside the notion that the US upper class do absolutely not allow their kids to enlist, they also are not going to endorse this “conscription” thing…send the trumpsters over there so we don’t have to fight them here is more like it.
        Your numbers are bad.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          regarding conscription in the usa…i just don’t see that happening.
          the aristocracy is free to attempt it, for sure…but it ain’t gonna fly out in the hinterlands.
          given, i’ve been a hermit of late with wife, and all…but i still get off-farm…and talk to and especially listen to others talking.
          zero about the bad rushins…all about gas prices, supply chains, cost of healthcare and all such meat and potatoes.
          every gas pump in our one little town has a sticker of biden leeringly pointing at the gas price, saying “I Did That!!”
          they try for a draft, i won’t be the only one saying ‘hell no…you can’t have my kids’.

          this ain’t 2002.
          from where i sit, the only cohort invested in this war are the PMC types…including the armchair PMC like my mom, drunk on msnbc koolaide.

          now, if…as was mentioned somewhere…russia lobs a missile into nevada or newport news or wherever the ships to Ukraine are loaded…that’ll be different…it’ll be post 911, with all and sundry mobbing the recruiters to get in on the action.
          this scenario is exactly why russia is unlikely to do anything of the sort.

          1. Pat

            I am not even sure that Russia lobbing a missile will do it, at least not in the numbers they would need. We are twenty years on from 9/11 and a lot of the innocence from that time has been lost. Too many came home from the Middle East knowing the official story was riddled with holes. The children of those that were willing to sign up then may think twice and the children of those that just kept business as usual were never going to be first in line. Personally I think mass sign ups will only happen if foreign troops are amassed on the Mexican or Canadian border.

            This was a miscalculation on the part of those in charge. It was a miscalculation strategically for foreign policy AND it was a miscalculation politically. With the exception of a few loud mouth liberals who brunch, Americans want their government concerned with conditions in their neighborhoods, all those meat and potatoes issues. They want good jobs, healthcare, affordable and available food, housing and supplies. The government of messaging went look at the monkey, and the masses went f*ck the monkey look at the problems here.

      3. Pat

        America may have a lot of very expensive but largely ineffective equipment, but what they don’t have is more important. There is a reason why when Afghanistan and Iraq became quagmires that the vaunted US could not exit they resorted to stopgapping the troops. This, along with the unprecedented use of the National Guard in foreign wars meant that America did not have to “conscript” to deal with their little problem of not enough troops.
        If you think for a moment that this stupidity, and it is stupidity, will survive the reinstatement of the draft in America I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The minute that Karen Junior or PMC the third face being sent to the frontlines in Ukraine or Taiwan is the end for the PNAC/neoliberal war mongers and their supporters in DC no matter how much money is thought to be in it. Our misadventures will continue only as long as it holds little real cost for the majority of Americans. Despite all the “thank you for your service” posturing, the military is with few exceptions only for the poor and unexceptionable. It is not meant to inconvenience people who matter…or think they do.

      4. Deak

        Whilst I think you’re absolutely right in the context of a war of Russian expansion that takes them far feom their borders and stretches their supply lines, I don’t know if that analysis holds for a war at Russia’s borders. While America has bigger and fancier toys and a nominal economic edge it would have to deal with the logistic challenges of resupplying lost equipment and troops in an eastern European theatre, and the apparent long lead time for production of munitions supplied to Ukraine suggests that would be no easy ask. Even ignoring the challenges of resupply the usa would need to engage in some serious planning to bring sufficient numbers for an initial attack to bear so far from its borders, and the international negotiations required would give Russia a suffient lead time to avoid it. Thankfully it seems unlikely that a conflict like this will happen in the near term as the American brains trust (such as it is) seems to believe it can recreate a soviet union in Afghanistan situation, regardless of prevailing evidence. With that said it is still food for thought given he usa will face similar logistical challenges in the event of a war with China that it seems intent on ginning up

  23. voislav

    Noble gasses are already in short supply in the US. Neon prices have increased more than 10-fold and suppliers are not taking any new orders for this year. It’s going to be an interesting dynamic, China has been investing heavily into semiconductors, their chips are not as advanced as the high end TSMC, Samsung or Intel ones, but they are more than sufficient for industrial applications. I wonder if Chinese companies will reap benefits from preferential access to semiconductors, while US and European companies are scrambling.

    1. George

      I think you can count on it as China and Taiwan were miffed by Trump telling them who they can and cannot sell chips to because their equipment was US made.
      Do you see the belligerence here?

      Because the machines you use to manufacture chips were sold to you by us, we have the right to tell you who you can sell the end product to.

      So, the work around is to build their own machines and afford themselves the novel independence from US sanctions via chip manufacturing. And alas a chip shortage is born.

      Similar logic has been applied to solar panel manufacturing to the point we are now, wait for it, experiencing panel shortages in the US which reportedly has perplexed Biden.

      1. JustTheFacts

        The machines to manufacture the most advanced chips are Dutch (ASML) and German (Zeiss), not American. TSMC provided help in their development (Taiwan). They require noble gasses, of which Ukraine was a major supplier, and Russia still is. Shame about those sanctions and counter-sanctions…

  24. Big River Bandido

    In addition to all the outstanding and informative content both in this piece and in the comments…

    thank you, Yves, for that masterful, subtle, snarky headline. Perhaps many people won’t recognize the original context, but it fits the current situation so well it gave me a belly laugh. What can I say? Sad times we live in.

  25. Skippy

    I stated not long ago about how bloody minded the Russians can be when they decide its on ….

    Its not a parade for the MSM like the first Gulf War with big screen TV in Bars, Restaurants, where the cheer goes up for watching the Empire kick ass and take names whilst everyone enjoys themselves getting on with life so those that get in the way get the treatment.

    Russia is adapting, methodical, grinding this out and it has not even deployed many of its systems, all whilst being critical of not going Fallujah on sites, not just civilian casualties, but historical sites. This really puts off the Atlantic’s to no end because of their belief Bernays can always win the day e.g. trying more than any thing else to re-frame the conflict when past PR goes splat. Wow how that must effect the minds at home – oh yeah going postal …. and lab monkeys for covid evolutionary potential …

    LMMAO at another month of this will all bring …

  26. Mikel

    “to give them at this stage, some of the heaviest, most sophisticated weapons systems in the US Army arsenal just so these things can get destroyed by Russia or taken as war trophies and paraded on Red Square like it’s 1945, that’s just crazy…”

    Well, they have to give something to the Russians so that they Russians can develop counter weapons and then they have the long running “got to keep up with the Russians” when they have their hands out for more budget.

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