Russia’s Campaign in Ukraine: Nearing an Inflection Point?

Notice how the amount of Western reporting on Ukraine has fallen off dramatically? That’s because the war is going well for Russia and its allies.

Russia is continuing its steady and systematic grind through Donbass. However, Russia has also picked up the pace of its shelling, has moved some of its best equipment into Ukraine, presumably pre-positioning, and just had the head of its Ministry of Defense, Sergey Shoigu, visit key commanders in Donbass. Not only did Shoigu state that Russia would put an end to the Ukraine shelling of civilian targets in Donetsk, but also “gave the necessary instructions for further buildup of the troops actions in all operational directions.” In concert, Russia has moved its most advanced armor to the front lines en masse (see here at 42:45)

Part of this effort to stop the Ukraine shelling of civilians is recent and large uptick in Russian ballistic missile attacks. Jacob Dreizen (please filter out the Trumpian views for the comments on weaponry) describes starting at 14:10 of his latest video how the Ukrainians are so low on artillery that they are forced to use it strategically and are sending off 1-2 big salvos a day, targeting Russian ammo dumps behind the lines, with some effect. However, other Russia-friendly sources have claimed that Ukraine has been using Western munitions, including the HIMARS, to shell civilians in Donbass. Per Dreizen, Ukraine uses their Tochka-U’s to tie up Russian missile defenses and then send some HIMARS and a few get through.

Russia, which had stopped the active use of the Tochka-U’s to deploy the more advanced Iskanders, has pulled its Tochka-U’s out of mothballs to respond, at least tripling its ballistic missile capability. Dreizen says that Russia used to fire 3-4 Iskanders daily and in the last 2-4 days is now sending off 10 Tochka-U’s a day plus the Iskanders. Per Dreizen:

‘Alright, America, you’re sending these HIMARS. We’re still gonna beat you. We have ten times as much stuff as you can possibly send to the Ukraine.’…..What’s gonna happen to the HIMARS is they’re gonna get destroyed just like the howitzers were destroyed.

Military Summary also confirms a shift in Russian priorities (see at 6:30), with reduced shelling in Donbass and a big increase in Mykolaiv and near Kharkiv.

In parallel, Russia also blew up a meeting between some senior Ukraine military officers and foreign weapons dealers, with total dead estimated in the hundreds. While many observers would contend that the arms merchants are not combatants and deliberately killing them amounts to a war crime, the Russian position is presumably otherwise, since they are taking credit for this kill. From RIA Novosti, via machine translation:

The strike of Kalibr high-precision sea-based missiles on the House of Officers in Vinnitsa destroyed the participants of the meeting of the command of the Ukrainian Air Force with representatives of foreign arms suppliers, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

“On July 14, high-precision sea-based Caliber missiles struck the building of the garrison House of Officers in the city of Vinnytsia. At the time of the strike, a meeting of the command of the Ukrainian Air Force with representatives of foreign arms suppliers was held at this military facility on the transfer of the next batch of aircraft, weapons, weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as organizing the repair of the Ukrainian aviation fleet,” the report says.

This action may also be a sighting shot against CIA and NATO operations in Ukraine. It also may be to give the West a taste of what might happen if they are so reckless as to let Ukraine get some of those 300km range HIMARS missiles that Ukraine has been begging for. There have been quite a few reports on the Ukraine innertubes demonstrating the government’s lust to take out the Kerch Bridge that connects Crimea to Russia. They’ve made clear they want the longer-range missiles to do so (the US so far has given Ukraine only the 70km missiles precisely because they don’t trust Ukraine not to hit targets in Russia). I am highly confident that Russia has a very clear idea of the sort of missile hell it would unleash were that to occur.

In the last few days, the Russian Security Council also met and issued an unusually uncommunicative summary.

To step back and put this in context, keep in mind that commentators keep focusing on Russian progress in terms of capturing territory, when that is not Russia’s primary goal. It is to destroy Ukraine’s ability to wage war. Thus while some Western accounts have fixated on the idea that Russia has or hasn’t taken Bakhmut, Russia is more interested in getting fire or actual control of key roads and railroads to deny resupply and better yet, encircle troops so they can capture them or at worse, lead them to flee, abandoning materiel.

Accounts in the last few days indicate that Russia is destroying Ukraine units and soldiers at an accelerating pace, with some credible experts putting daily deaths at the end of last week at well over 1000. Even if that pace of destruction is not maintained, it points to a fighting force that is crumbling.

Russia forces took control of all of Lugansk on July 3, taking Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk faster than even Russia-favoring commentators had forecast. Russia has now been moving forces so as to achieve the final goal in taking Donetsk, that of capturing Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Once that is done, Russia will have freed the Donbass.

On the Ukraine side, the body language is the polar opposite. Zelensky has launched a purge, accusing officials right and left of collaboration with Russia. This could be somewhat or very much true, since a coup attempt is long overdue and the rebels would likely be more willing to consider a deal with Russia. However, Zelensky could also be searching for scapegoats, since it’s been clear for some time that the long-promised August and/or Kherson counter-offensives are na ga happen. Aside from the fact that Ukraine has yet to stage an offensive where it recaptured and held territory and it’s now reduced to having to conscript old men and women to refill its depleted army, Russia has such command over Ukraine that it’s impossible to train a sizable force and not have it subjected to Russian missile attack.

Speculation among Western sources that read Russian or have good Russian contacts (see the Larry Johnson-Andrei Martyanov-Alexander Mercouris roundtable, hosted by Gonzalo Lira, as an example) is that Russia will pause after it has secured Donbass and will deliver its conditions for a peace to Ukraine. These are certain to be unacceptable since the bare minimum ask will be conceding the loss of Donbass and Crimea (and let us not forget neutrality and denazification too). The West of course will flatly reject it. That’s fine by Russia since it would not trust any deal with Ukraine or the West as far as it could throw it.

The point of this offer at the point of securing the first objective of the Special Military Operation is to play to China, India, the global South, and secondarily to the more cautious and war-averse members of the Russian citizenry, that Russia going beyond the narrowest implementation of the SMO was not due to Russia wanting to take more territory, but being forced to do so to achieve its additional goals of demilitarization and denazificaition. If Ukraine and its allies won’t do so voluntarily, Russia will by force.

The Military Summary channel has observed that once Russia secures Donbass, there are no major lines of defense to the west until the Dnieper. That may also explain the claim he made in his latest report (at 12:50), that Zelensky told the troops in Donass that the US told him if they lose the so-called Zaluzny defense line (Kramatorsk and Sloviansk are on this line) that it would be considered to be the total collapse of Ukraine forces and no more Western support would be forthcoming. I doubt that politically that the US can totally abandon Ukraine but they can certainly send only eyewash, and more importantly, stop funding the Ukraine government, which has become a money pit.

tThe remaining major troop concentration is around Kiev. The question is what Russia does next.

My belief is still that Russia will give priority to taking Odessa unless there are logistical considerations that argue against that. The Ukraine military is so close to collapse that Russian forces going to Odessa sooner rather than later is a real possibility. It’s the psychologically most important target for the Russian people, and economically more valuable than Kiev. The West would recognize that Russia getting control of what was Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast as an enormous loss.

I suspect what Russia decides to do with or about Ukraine to the west of the Dnieper is event dependent. However, the West has decided to tie itself even more tightly to the Ukraine albatross. I had said to Lambert that it was not impossible for Russia to have decisively won (as in taken Odessa) by sometime in October, but even with the Western forces clearly unable to rout Russia, that Europe and the US would keep its citizens cold and hungry this winter just to spite Russia.

It’s already official. From TASS:

The EU will not withdraw the sanctions, imposed on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, if Moscow and Kiev sign peace treaty on Russia’s terms, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung, published Sunday.

“The part of the new reality is that the EU has also consolidated. It has reacted to the Russian aggression quite unanimously and imposed unprecedentedly harsh sanctions,” Scholz said. “We knew it from the start that we will potentially have to keep these sanctions for a long time.”

“And it is also clear that not a single one of these sanctions will be withdrawn in case of peace, dictated by Russia,” he continued. “There is no other path for an agreement with Ukraine for Russia than the one that could be accepted by the Ukrainians.”

It does not seem to occur to Sholtz that even Ukrainians who are not that keen about Russia would choose having Russian or Russian-lite rule over the West’s plan of fighting to the last Ukrainian. It also seems likely that Russia will hold referendums, again to legitimate its actions in the court of non-collective-West opinion. But of course those will be deemed to be bogus even if the most reputable independent observers say otherwise.

So this is not going to end well for the West. But you knew that already if you were paying attention.

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  1. Cocomaan

    The silence in western media on Ukraine is super noticeable. I was just saying to my wife that they will need a new Current Thing soon to replace the various Current Things that have captured the cycle and then fallen off. Maybe a coup attempt against Z will be the thing to do it.

    Meanwhile you have blogs like Noahpinion saying today that Ukraine may be one of the successes of the Biden administration. What? How?

      1. Cocomaan

        It seems that way. As funemployed says below “success” means something different to the chattering classes.

        As wrong as Noah is on a lot of things he’s widely read. Lots of Beltway types read his newsletters.

      2. Random Thoughts From A Crazed Mind

        When he asserted the death of MMT, I tweeted the joke: “What do you call an economist with a prediction? WRONG. I got blocked.

        1. Skippy

          Years ago past poster Philip P. and others used to pick apart his micro arguments, everyone got banned. He went from being given[tm] that perch to spread the good news about micro to being a “youth thought leader” in the Liberal [Krugmanite] tradition [free markets with pangs of guilt].

      3. digi_owl

        From the outset the media twisted the special operation into a general invasion of Ukraine, if not the whole of Europe. As such, anything short of that can be presented as a “success” by them.

        Ever since the election of Trump, the neolibs have been painting Putin as some great satan for costing them a female president.

        Thus this whole event has been one of perception magement, making it seem as if Putin gets his comeuppance no matter how much they need to twist the truth.

        Off late it feels like the world has become one large school yard, with cliques forming around the “popular ones” that will smear each other, and those that do not play along, endlessly.

        Emperors new clothes, writ large…

        1. Kay

          Remember that ‘Putin’s Price Increase’ was triggered by Joe Biden’s
          generously volunteering the American people for energy, food and economic sanctions, for “as long as it takes.”

          And that was on top of the jump up from $2.38 a gallon at the end of the Trump Administration.

          We are the new Iranians, Venezuelans and Cubans.

          Senile corn husk popcorn fart.

    1. funemployed

      The Democrats understand “success” and “failure” exclusively in terms of public relations. Did the Ukraine sales pitch keep the public from meddling? Yes = success. Are the midterms gonna be a bloodbath? Yes, because Biden isn’t a good salesman like Obama was (he was too, whatever his failures outside the realm of perception management). Biden bad at PR = not success :(

      Determining policy is outside of the purview of Institutional Democrats. Their employers do that. Democrats are hired to implement those policies without totally destroying their own credibility with voters.

      Noah aint lyin. They are fundamentally salespeople and Ukraine sales have the best numbers of late.

      1. Cocomaan

        Agreed 100%. You’d think these people would have an ounce of self reflection but I’m so old I remember people talking about the success of the Iraq war.

        1. John Wright

          The architects of these wars are never wrong.

          Robert Kagan, the husband of Biden’s Ukrainian policy architect, Victoria Nuland, has that the USA military interventions fail because Americans lack commitment.

          Perhaps there are some overwhelmingly good reasons that “Americans lack commitment” because Americans simply want to live their lives..

          Biden deserves nothing but scorn for launching the Ukrainian action.

          I remember reading a report that “Putin despises Nuland” before Biden brought her into his administration.

          Biden (or his people) brought her in anyway, probably accurately telegraphing his upcoming Russia policy to Putin/Russia..

          1. Cristobal

            I guess we can infer that Kagan and his crew ARE committed? If only that were so — to the psychiatric hospital!

          2. Stephen

            So Kagan and Co think that the primary purpose of the American people is to fight Neo Con wars.

            That’s definitely an interesting reading of the Constitution!

            1. chris

              It’s shocking to see how he describes the current state of affairs as war and what the American people need to be committed to given that no one in congress has declared war on Russia. But I suppose such things are silly formalities to the likes of Kagan.

              How weird is it that Biden’s FTC and NLRB are firing on all cylinders but his state department has doubled down on the crazy from past administrations? I wish the people pulling the strings could at least pretend to work towards a common goal.

              1. Jeff H

                I’ve been of the opinion that our foreign policy has been dominated by madmen and fools since before I was born (the year we stopped bombing the snot out of Korea) It has been consistently arrogant, domineering , and deluded. As though the whole world should realize that we are supreme and not to be questioned.

                The minor positives of the FTC and NLRB can easily be defeated in their efforts but even if they succeed the effect will not be of much benefit.

                1. goldhoarder

                  Why? I think Assange first stated the fact that Afghanistan wasn’t so much a war as it was a gigantic money laundering operation. Winning meant staying and keeping the money flowing. Ukraine can be seen in the same way.

        2. .human

          You mean the first one, of course, where we looked the other way when Kuwait was stealing their oil while we stopped them from throwing babies out of incubators /s

      2. Altandmain

        Obama despite his oratory skills took heavy losses in the 2010 and 2014 midterms.

        His Presidency set the stage for Trump.

        It shows the limits of public speaking. A politician actually has to deliver materially better living conditions in order to retain the support of the public.

        The Democratic Establishment is owned by the rich. They would never work to do that. There won’t be anything on the scale of the New Deal or any major movement towards social democracy.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          His pitch and tone and cadences are superior to his peers (a low bar to exceed), but the content of his speeches is often painfully banal, and I wish I had a dollar for every time his weasel-morality response to some entirely predictable and preventable awful event was, “That’s not who we are.”

          Oh yes it is, Barry, yes it is, and with absolutely no help from you.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Our Jerri was in his class at law school. She said in every class he was in, he was notorious for weighing in late in the session, and making an articulate-seeming “Water is wet” statement. She said no woman would ever have gotten away with that, the prof would have beaten her up.

            Oh, and that Obama was patronizing towards women in his remarks, would sometimes refer to what a woman had said previously and mangle her name and/or her argument.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Mangle her name and/or argument on malicious purpose, or because he was too dumm to realize it or know better?

            2. William Verick

              One thing to keep in mind about Obama at Harvard is what was happening at Harvard Law School at the time — a giant struggle of the conservative faculty and alumnae to put down the Critical Legal Studies movement, that was close to gaining a faculty majority at the Law School. Obama, as was his wont, waxed eloquent, using progressive sounding tones, to support the conservative faculty and alumnae, and to help put down Critical Legal Studies. Sounding like Frederick Douglas, but acting to support Mondale-ism. According to Obama’s biographer, David Garrow, this is a pattern Obama repeated often in the Illinois Legislature, in the Senate and as President.

        2. ian

          The thing about Obama’s speeches was that 10 min after one, I never remembered a single word – they were unpersuasive and like verbal cotton candy.
          He reminded me of the quote of Cato’s : “When Cicero spoke, men marvelled. When Caesar spoke, men marched”.

    2. Lawrence Ip

      Don’t worry, when the U.S Federal Reserve raises rates by 75 – 100 basis points the market will not like it at all, particulary if it’s a 100 point raise, which is not priced in and becoming more likely by the day (CME Group’s FOMC Meeting Countdown). Yep, the inflation story will take the stage. The macro picture is not looking pretty at all right now with LNG turned off from Europe for the next week or so (with the probabilty of the tap not being turned back on) which doesn’t bode well for commodilties as BASF’s Luwigschafen is one of the largest suppliers globally of stuff that goes into so many of the products consumers use worldwide, with the current U.S administration only enabling Putin’s agenda, and that Cocomaan is just the tip of the iceberg.

      1. John Zelnicker

        Lawrence – Both of your links go to the same URL about the CME Group.

        Did you mean to use a different one for the BASF link?

    3. Samuel Conner

      > one of the successes of the Biden administration.

      Perhaps he was writing in comparative terms. Compared to the handling of the pandemic, the crisis in Eastern Europe has been managed in a way that, so far, has cost relatively few American lives.

      JRB satisfied the center and right of his constituency without, so far, triggering a nuclear war. What is not to like? /s

    4. Mikel

      “The silence in western media on Ukraine is super noticeable.”

      Indeed. I’ve picked the NY Times as the bellweather.
      Months ago on their site, everyday the big stories at the top of the page had to do with Russia/Ukraine.

      Today, for example, it’s stories about the heat in Britain, fires, and Amtrak routes in the USA.

      1. anon y'mouse

        having it recede from the public’s consciousness only helps them, regardless of how it’s turning out on the ground.

        it can become just another Forever War, another Afghanistan where people die far away and where we send money and weapons.

        added bonus for “them”, American soldiers are not (officially) coming home dead!

        this still looks like a win-win for the MIC. next round of weapons developments will obtain full funding, profit secured.

        and hell, “we” have never cared about distant peasants dying for “our” cause.

    5. fresno dan

      I think the media doesn’t cover Ukraine for the same reason Afghanistan wasn’t covered – no interest. I think Iraq got covered because of the video game coverage of explosions. Back to Ukraine, there are far more legitimate reasons NOT to be involved. Only in the bizzaro land of twitter do people argue to be involved in Ukraine. Now, I think it is unfortunate that there isn’t interest, so that there could be what I believe would be an anti war consensus – we are antagonizing a nuclear power over a country for which we have no vital interests (as they used to say). As someone who came of age during the Vietnam “police action” it is just amazing to me, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan, the passive response to more military adventurism. Incredible.

  2. PaulW

    Yves, the article ends rather abrupt mid-sentence. I am very curious about how it would have continued :-)

  3. mrsyk

    Tick tock, heating season nears. How long before Europe breaks with 5-eyes? NATO or the EU, which falls apart first?

    1. nippersdad

      IEarlGrey was saying that there is a story up in Germany about breaking up NATO over the US’s overreach and how it has hurt Europe. He is dismissive, but the reference starts at the 7:25 mark.

      I don’t really know how you could fake a quote by someone in the Bundestag. So the drums of change are starting to beat out in the German jungle despite whatever Scholtz might have to say about it.

      1. Polar Socialist

        This is, I believe, the interview in Global Times he referred to. I don’t think Sevim Dagdelen’s opinions are popular enough in Germany, although to me they do make sense. At least more sense that World War 3.

        1. nippersdad

          Isn’t this like the third time we have heard something like this? It doesn’t sound like they are being effectively squelched if they are making it into the kinds of news we hear about, so it just sounds like there is a rumble in the German Zeitgeist.

          1. chris

            That rumble will become a roar if Nord Stream 1 doesn’t come back online this week. If that turbine stays MIA or the Russians decline to resume shipment, Germany is screwed. If that happens, we’ll get to see what kind of chaos the EU is prepared to handle when it occurs in their most powerful member state.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Russia not turning on Nord Stream 1 is complete projection. It’s the sort of thing the West would do if they could. Russia is playing to China, India and the Global South to show it’s the good guy and a reliable partner.

              The most they might do, just to have fun gaslighting the West, is delay reopening for a short bit, because technical reasons that might actually be true.

              1. nippersdad

                It must be tedious always having to be the adult in the room. Even Caesar’s Wife got a day off occasionally.

                Surely a hole could be found, or made.

    2. Tamerlan

      Definitely EU will fall apart first. NATO won’t, as it holds a firm grip on all the main EU governments and will not fall apart unless a major war breaks out in Europe. What we will likely see is an impoverished Europe giving up the living standards of its population to turn more an more into a US/NATO military outpost. Once Europe loses its status as an economic powerhouse, EU will become superfluous and may fall apart or will just survive as a phantom entity, only to be engulfed by NATO.

  4. timbers

    About killing Western arms merchants at the Officers Club, some suggest the message of Russia to US might be: If you provide coordinates to Ukraine for Himars that kill Russians, than you are war with Russia. If you are at war with Russia, then Americans will get killed.

    1. The Rev Kev

      There might be more to add to that line of thought which sounds reasonable. I heard that the US is sending a handful of 300-kilometer HIMARS rockets to Poland to be sent into the Ukraine. If the Ukrainians try to use them to hit Crimea or the Kersh Bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland, then it will be game on. For the Russians that is a bright red line which might lead them to target any American in the Ukraine. So maybe that explains the travel advisory put out by the US Embassy the recently.

        1. Paul Jurczak

          Or cancel mid terms all together… As much as I dislike both parties, I would rather avoid the nuclear option.

          1. chris

            I thought the nuclear option was firing Biden, Trump, and Hillary on a rocket aimed at the sun?

            Wishful thinking I guess…

      1. John Zelnicker

        Rev – I also heard about the US sending HIMARS with 300km missiles to the warzone, but it was to Estonia. Not sure how many.

        I think it was in this Alexander Mercouris video from yesterday: (50:59)

        He also discusses Russia’s latest formal offer to negotiate a peace agreement, that, as Yves says, the West will reject out of hand.

      2. Old Sovietologist

        It’s been clear for sometime that if the Ukrainians hit Crimea it would be the equivalent of hitting Moscow and the gloves are off as far as Kiev and Lemberg are concerned.

        Louis Fyne has mentioned the US Embassy urging its citizens to leave Ukraine and you can now understand why.

        1. jhallc

          Desperate times… call for desperate measures Which has me worried what the Ukrainians might try to do.

          1. Old Sovietologist

            We are entering a very dangerous phase of the conflict.

            If the US does sent those long range missiles to Ukraine and they target the Kerch Bridge then Russia will see it as the US effectively declaring war on Russia.

            Dust off your copies of the cold war nuclear preparedness handbooks.

        2. JTMcPhee

          My bet is that the Russians see as equivalent to Crimea and Kerch Bridge more likely to be NATO HQ and EU buildings. And of course there’s the stated, repeatedly stated, reminder that Russian missiles with conventional warheads can reach out and touch the Pentagon, Langley etc.

          I also would bet that the HIMARS systems are being operated and targeted by US people. They are not as simple to operate as a game console. Wonder if the designated targetees of the US persuasion, sitting comfortably at the operating stations of the HIMARS targeting equipment, have particular personal affinity for the Ukrainian “cause” — would make sense, and would thus involve appropriate karmic resolution if they got dismantled by Russian weapons.

          And always beating in the background are the drums of global thermonuclear war, calling stupid effing humans to hit themselves in the head with hammers…

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I agree completely with your comment about the HIMARS. The US has been trying to claim utter nonsense about how quickly the Ukrainians are learning. As either Scott Ritter and/or Jacob Dreizen explained, they take a lot of training, IIRC on the order of months, for both the team that operates the HIMARS and the team that runs the logistical tail.

            1. hk

              Curious if there has been a big uptick in “accidents” leading to deaths and serious injuries for US military (or, indeed, other NATO countries lately.). Given what we know about the value of long term professional soldiers today (draftees are useless b/c a couple of years is minimum it takes for soldiers to know what they are doing given modern military requirements, etc) that Ukrainian recruits can learn anything in weeks or days is absurd.

    2. Louis Fyne

      The horse already left that barn—Russia is already fighting the entire US-NATO intelligence gathering system as it is an open secret that US satellite and intelligence airplane assets are feeding targeting data to Kyiv.

      IMO, Russia has zero qualms if any American contractor gets killed as collateral damage, because the US has no useable rung on the escalation ladder besides open war.

  5. Librarian Guy

    Thank you, Yves, for an outstanding summary of the current state of play in Russia’s progress. Yesterday I checked in at Brian Berletic’s The New Atlas, & he did a similar wrap-up, also went into detail about how the few HIMARS the Ukies get are not the expected “Wunderwaffen” (“wonder weapon” per Andrei Martynov) that the Ukraine victory fantasists imagined would “turn the tide”, they are just big missile launchers put on the back of ordinary trucks which are not even armored and easily taken out– . . .as to Cocomaan’s question above (never having read “Noahpinion” except maybe one past moronic tweet in passing, not being interested in reading more), I can only revert to Mencken’s statement that nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public (it’s a Neolib world now, so guess the word “public” hasn’t applied in decades, probably American consumer is the current term.) . . . I myself have probably had a bridge burned with a close family member recently, we were on the phone and this person started to parrot Nuland propaganda to me verbatim. This uninformed Lib imagines they are well-informed, & when I disagreed & pointed out that they were aligning their position (the Ukraines should fight to the last man as per John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who the subject would claim to despise), I was instantly met with rage, he began shrieking at me over the phone that obviously “you love Vladimir Putin”, how dare I agree with Trump that NATO shouldn’t exist, he was sure “you’ll be quoting Hitler any second”!! I couldn’t get a word in edgewise as he shrieked on an on for 90 seconds, so I just hung up. These people are 100% hypnotized by propaganda, they are akin to the doomsday cult in the famous study that gave away all their property and waited for Earth’s destruction, & when it didn’t happen, then “recalculated” the data and realized the actual date was 6 months away, started waiting again . . . I’ll probably never speak to this family member again, although his wife is somewhat saner and may try to talk him down. He is very black/white politically; he lost his job and profession in 2017 when he threatened to kill a co-worker who was a Trumpist. The Trump guy was fired as well, they both had it coming. Ironically he had just gotten a less lucrative job and re-entered the job market in the last 2 weeks, but I expect he’ll have similar interactions at work, soak/rinse/repeat. Some people never learn, & facts don’t much matter. And these people are easily managed by the Media-political elites to follow the script even to their own impoverishment and misery.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      New Atlas is very good but I sometimes miss checking in. So much of the high quality commentary by people who are somewhat or very fluent in Russian and/or military savvy is on YouTube or Rumble. Even at 1.25 or 1.5x, it’s a way less efficient way of getting information than reading.

      1. Librarian Guy

        Agreed!! I like New Atlas, Alexander Mercouris is always very thorough, young Jason Hinkle is usually excellent (he recently got banned for a week and demonitized by YouTube). Gonzalo Lira is usually a good synthesizer of other sources. (I have my caveats about Lira’s past far right career, & he does occasionally surprise in a negative way; recently in the last minute of a solid piece he went into a non-sequiter about how the West would lose because it allows dirty queers to “groom” youth, DeSantis verbal diarrhea; it surprised me because Lira seems to be solidly anti-Nazi, but I guess he does believe violence against sexual “deviants” is good; still, I’ll continue to watch him.) Redacted with Clayton Morris and his wife Natali is often good, though sometimes they also veer off into idiocy, endorsing “Austrian economics” while claiming to be “progressive”– evidently some of his past investors are unhappy as well). Aaron Mate is courageous and smart; also his colleagues Max Blumenthal of the Gray Zone and Ben Norton of Multipolarista. I already cited Martyanov, very well versed in military issues (certainly not my forte). . . . Many others as well, even Jimmy Dore for a lighter, comedic take on the Empire’s foolishness and the folks that are behind Zelensky.

        1. KILTDOWNMAN

          Pleasure to have a fellow ‘ surfer ‘ analyse the several commentators I also go to – and to add ones I had not encountered . My partner is bored of me stating that there is nothing to counter the MSNBC CNN BBC CBC accounts she , immersed in them , believes . We ‘ Putin lovers ‘ have to scrape the Google for the accounts we think are more reflective of reality .

      2. Martin Oline

        I was surprised to find this morning that Rybar is available on YouTube. Their summaries are very short, almost too fast, but for those constrained for time it is a good source. Like many sources on that platform, their presence today does not mean they will be around tomorrow.

        1. marcel

          Their summaries are fit into 2’20″videos (I think that’s a Twitter constraint), hence the impression they are “too fast”, but you can play them back at .75 speed to get a decent overview.

      3. Carolinian

        Way off topic but I very much agree. Writing and language are about efficiency of communication. If our intellectual landscape seems to be deteriorating perhaps we should blame it on our hypervisual era. Photography, art, movies as a medium are about seeing. Writing is about thinking. This is why–speaking as a movie person–you need a good script to make a good movie. Eye candy is for kidz.

        So buck up all you English majors. There is a place for you, putting pen to paper.

        1. GramSci

          Yea, but eye candy is an expen$ive barrier to entry, which is another reason for the billionaires hype it.

    2. Deak

      Holy moly, that’s incredible (and not in a good way). If you don’t mind me asking, is that level of opprobrium for ‘the other side’ common in the US at the moment or is your family member leaning a bit to the extreme fringe?

      1. ambrit

        He is not exagerating. I have seen such ‘Hyper Patriotism’ on the street here in the Half Horse Town.
        Check out the bumper stickers on cars and especially trucks when driving along. People will put their ‘real’ psyches on display that way and “laugh it off” somehow as ‘unserious’ if it is in the form of said bumper stickers. Full display with plausible deniability. Perfect for an information befuddled culture.

        1. Deak

          Thanks Ambrit. I must say I am a little surprised more disillusionment and anger with politicians / their parties hasn’t set in, even amongst those who closely identify with them given the state of the world and their ongoing ‘successes’

  6. Louis Fyne

    Yes, something is brewing.

    US gave an advisory for all Americans to leave Ukraine last week.

    There are reports in social media that all US embassy functions have been moved to Lviv, but I can’t find a news report on it.

    Poland is closing a border crossing for two weeks. Who wants to bet that it is because the Poles are preparing for an even bigger influx of refugees?

    Also not reported in western news, roving units of UA police arresting males who are draft dodgers and issuing summons for conscription. UA is literally running out of men.

    The Ukrainians admitted to the western news that up to 500 are killed every day. Assuming 500 is the lower bound of UA death, that is a horrific rate of casualties.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The US warning is weirdly under the radar. Only on the us.usembassy site, not the State Dept. site. So did the Ukraine embassy do this unilaterally? Americans going to Ukraine would normally look at the State website.

    2. amechania

      A temporary border closure has often led to a permanent border closure.

      One border crossing closed can easily become many.

      9.1 million refugees already. 6 million east and 3 million west.

      “Poland blocks hundreds of migrants at Belarus border”
      from November 2021.

      The nationalist right is strong in Poland.

      1. Stephen

        My understanding is that there is increasing resentment of Ukrainian refugees across the western countries where there are a lot of them.

        It is not being reported in mainstream corporate media because it is counter narrative but various snippets and anecdotes are starting to appear.

        This very much includes Poland, which of course has taken the most. The Polish Ukraine love affair seems very much a top down elite driven exercise. Underneath the surface this has not been historically a marriage made in heaven.

        I fear that a Pandora’s box of ethnic tensions in Eastern Europe in being awoken. Anglo American meddling has a lot to answer for.

        1. hk

          Given the history of Polish-Ukrainian relationship between the two World Wars (inclusive) and the role played by the World War 2 mythification of Ukrainian nationhood in forming today’s Ukrainian government (and fomenting the war in the first place), I’ve been pretty shocked that nothing major has blown up between Poland and Ukraine so far. I doubt it will last for too long, though.

  7. Lex

    As usual, an excellent summary of the situation. I was of the opinion that phase II and III would be fully phased and a pause with opening to negotiate after the liberation of Donetsk. I’m not so sure anymore, and Shoigu’s statements make me less sure. It was and is my opinion that phase III will be about the south and go to Odessa for both geostratetic reasons and protecting the Black Sea fleet. Phase II may be going slower than hoped and I don’t see the kremlin wanting to wait out the delaying tactics of a negotiation.

    I’ve got no proof of this, just a gut feeling from chatter and context. But against the grain of the experts I’m seeing the continuation of the current pace in Donbas and a simultaneous offensive in the south. Realistically, while that will put more pressure on the personnel of the AFR it will put exponentially more pressure on the AFU. The current pace may be partly that the AFU can focus 90% of its energy on Donbas. Trying to supply two active fronts may be too much. I also think the kremlin would be foolish to negotiate before Odessa is in hand or at least essentially encircled.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t think Russia has any intention of negotiating. Putin virtually said as much on July 7:

      Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try. We have already heard a lot about the West wanting to fight us ”to the last Ukrainian.“ This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but that seems to be where it is going. But everyone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.

      At the same time, we are not rejecting peace talks, but those who are rejecting them should know that the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.

      Russia knows that the US, which is driving this train, is not agreement capable.

      The YouTuber Russia watchers think, and I agree, that Putin will offer Russia’s terms after Russia has taken all of Donbass. The West will reject them because they will (among other things) require territorial concessions. Expect over-the-top ire.

      So Russia will continue to prosecute the war until it has prostrated Ukraine.

      1. nippersdad

        What was most interesting to me about Mercouris’ post was what happens after the peace proposal is rejected. IIRC, he was saying that what may happen is for there to be referenda in the Donbass republics and for them to be folded into the Russian Federation such that ANYTHING which lands there can be described as an attack on the homeland. At which point they ramp up the other ninety percent of their army and declare war officially. Speculation for sure, but interesting nonetheless as this seemed to be concurrent with reports that Russia is nationalizing their MIC for more efficient production of war materiel.

        The other interesting speculation of his was the potential for Biden’s agreements with Israel and Saudi Arabia that could lead to us being embroiled in an Iran fiasco. A potential three front war with opponents that we have never won a war game against. Whatever Bidens’ other talents may be, writing checks we cannot cash has to be near the top.

        1. Librarian Guy

          Chris Hedges has pointed out that flailing empires often go all in and over-extend, then crash and burn disastrously. Highbrow that he is, he usually uses the example of Athens’ naval based supremacy in classical Greece. The US/EU Neocon-Neocolonial “alliance” already has far more on its plate than it can handle. To open another front in either Iran or in China (the ultimate hegemonic “rival” of course) would be unbelievable ignorance and folly. Having taught WWI and II to students at the High School level years ago, sadly I don’t think that the current TPTB are any smarter than to stumble blindly into such a dead end, with consequent carnage that is almost unimaginable (fingers crossed of course that it wouldn’t escalate to nuke exchanges.)

          1. nippersdad

            I am actually heartened at recent events; we have been exposed as a paper tiger. That RUSI article that was discussed last week* was pretty dispositive, as is the article today in Links about the state of recruitment.

            The neocons at State will not be able to overcome the Pentagon’s flat refusal to go along with any of that. Unless the Kagan clan has a couple hundred thousand friends with tanks it will never happen. The military knows better than anyone the condition of our military, and none of them will want their newly built mansions in Alexandria to go up in smoke because of hypersonic missiles against which they have no defense. Coming up with a draft for fat kids armed with three weeks worth of weapons that don’t work would be the ultimate embarrassment, and if they can avoid that they will.

            One of the few things we can still afford these days is hot air. I think Biden and the State Department are full of it.


            1. synoia

              Hmmmm – I wonder how much the members of the Blob tell each other the truth about their respective organizations

              Never in public, never with a superior within earshot, never near a rival for the next promotion.

              Possibly mumbled to a drink in their hand in private at home.

            2. XXYY

              I actually feel the same way at times. The trump/biden presidencies seem to have been devoted to revealing to the world that the US Empire is a complete joke and a paper tiger. I claim this has the potential to be a good thing since it will ultimately disempower the US neocon clan which has made the world such a misery since World War II.

              The US military industrial complex has also been revealed as a farce, making extremely expensive weapons that are only good when fighting third world armies, if that. Much of the US’s wealth has been poured into this sector for 60 or 70 years, and reducing or eliminating it might open the door towards repurposing our vast wealth to take care of the many problems facing the country internally.

        2. KD

          Clearly no one has ever lost money betting on the stupidity and incompetence of the Biden Administration, but a war with Iran would mean missile strikes on the Saudi Oil Fields. Good luck with that, not to mention the geography of Iran viz. opportunities for insurgency, and how do you logistically supply an army without getting your ships sunk?

          War with Iran isn’t going to happen, unless the West has gone from stupid to outright suicidal. Plus, Iran is now claiming they have nukes. Do you Tel Aviv wants to find out if its true?

          1. jonboinAR

            —-War with Iran isn’t going to happen, unless the West has gone from stupid to outright suicidal.—-
            Among folks who presumably have some kind of influence, there has for awhile been pretty casual talk about going to war with Russia. Frankly, for the first time in my life I’m terrified at the state of current affairs. People seem to be losing any good sense to the point of making me wonder about demonic spirits and crazy stuff like that.

            1. ambrit

              You are not alone in the “crazy stuff” worry. Phyl’s more “fervent” friends and family have slowly gravitated towards neo-millennialism. There is a fairly large “underground” community that seriously is expecting “The End” to come about due to the machinations of ‘Real’ Demonic Globalists.
              Sometimes, when I see just how deranged the so called “adults” are speaking and acting, I wonder if I should get some Holy Water and a few Mnar Stones, just for safety’s sake.

      2. Lex

        Oh I agree on that, but if Russia offers negotiations after Donetsk is liberated it will have to allow time for them to fail. That’s what the west will demand to make time for regrouping Ukrainian forces. The west will also delay and be problematic. I think it was the plan but may not be anymore.

        1. Louis Fyne

          there is nothing left for Ukraine to regroup.

          The professional core of the UA military are dead, wounded, or diluted w/so many hastily trained conscripts that they are operationally worthless.

          All Zelensky has reliably remaining are the SBU (internal police) units, with the ultranationalist units as wild cards.

          Which is why I imagine Russia would be fine w/one week of negotiations. Such pause would give the Russian military to rotate-deploy its forces too.

          1. Old Sovietologist

            We are coming to the point where the Russians will offer a deal to end the conflict. It would be wise for the Europeans to accept it. However, they won’t.

            The European govts have maybe a month to walk down or face a catastrophe this autumn and winter.

          2. Lex

            But they’re fine for building defensive positions along a line that isn’t under constant bombardment and doing those sorts of things inside population centers. The AFU haven’t collapsed yet, even though they probably should have. Lot’s of reasons, and it’s also possible that a pause would precipitate the collapse of the AFU when people have time to think a bit, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for Russia to offer any significant pauses. Any pause become unpredictable. Right now Russian and Allied forces can pause and rotate individually.

        2. redleg

          Don’t mistake a pause for a cease fire. Units can rotate in and out, train, perform maintenance, etc. while the artillery continues to fire at targets of opportunity such as training areas, command and control centres, and supply depots. This is what I’d expect to happen.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          There will be no negotiations. There will be immediate rejection. Russia is not playing this game. Russia will offer a take it or lose it deal and the West will say no. The West cannot accept the optics of agreeing (or even substantially agreeing, even assuming Russia were willing to negotiate) to Russian terms.

          The only possible alternative, which I see as extremely unlikely, is what happened in March: negotiations proceed with no ceasefire. Russia is not going to let the West jerk its chain yet again.

          If there is any operational pause, it will be because Russia wants one.

          The West will not accept territorial concessions. And there are no forces to regroup. Ukraine kept sending what was left of its good fighting forces to the east. There’s close to no command structure left. You can’t fight a war with newly conscripted old men and women.

      3. jsn

        “Russia knows that the US, which is driving this train, is not agreement capable.”

        This strikes me as the driver of Russian strategy. The US has functionally annexed the EU and 5 Eyes, first by extending Central Banking to them in 2008, which is the mirror image of the Sanctions Russia is “suffering” under, then by precipitating this war. At the same time, it’s “not agreement capable” so the Russian strategy has to be to decouple whatever it can from the US system, which appears to be working quite well outside Europe and 5 Eyes.

        In Europe, the target would have to be the EU: the unaccountable supranational bureaucracy apparently being administered by the US at the extreme expense of the EU member states. So, let 30 Brexits flourish and however long that takes the Russians can work on their goals along their border. One can only pray someone at the Pentagon can keep the nuts away from the button for that long.

    2. Polar Socialist

      Until reading this excellent summary by Yves I was also inclined to think Odessa direction would be next after Donbass is cleared. But reading once again about how Russia is first and foremost trying to demilitarize Ukraine, it occurred to me that Russia will next advance towards whichever location Ukraine is most likely to defend with everything it has left and thus continue the slow, relatively secure, grinding of Ukrainian manpower to dust.

      And I believe that object would be Kiev, even if Odessa is way more important city for the future of Ukraine. Because of previous PR, because of Ukrainian identity issues and because how the West defines victory, Ukraine would be psychologically forced to defend Kiev to the last available warm body.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Kiev is a sprawling city of 3 million. IMHO that argues for taking it only after all other forces in the east and south have been eliminated, and more importantly, Ukraine’s materiel has been further reduced.

        I don’t know how well defended Odessa is now (I understand it does have some bunkers) but given the importance of the port, I think Ukraine would have to move at least some of its remaining forces there to try to hold it. And Odessa as a historically Russian city will be easier to take by virtue of having a lot of support among the locals.

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          Odessa was the scene of the massacre in the burning building a year or two after the Maidan coup, and thus conquering it is probably high on Russia’s To Do list.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I suspect they know the perpetrators of the massacre. They could be handed over. Despite it all, the Russians have avoided certain targets. Without Odessa, Ukraine is going to be a disaster as its natural trading partner is Russia outside of the Black Sea. The Russians could have sped the process so to speak. My gut is the rumors that appeared everywhere is largely based on expectations the government in Kiev will sit down.

            The other issue is so much of the fighting is being done by separatist forces. The Russian military won’t have the same kind of support moving into the rest of the Ukraine they have now regardless of the dialect of the locals.

        2. Greg

          From what I’ve listened to, I think Odessa is more likely for a host of reasons, including securing the coastline and preventing long range attacks on ships or Crimea, connecting up Transnistria, and being a hotbed of Nazi’s during 2014 and since (the last being the narrative reason).

          However if they do go Kyiv, it would make sense for it to be via an attempted encirclement and siege rather than bringing in half a million troops from Russia. They have the AA to stop the US pulling a Berlin airlift equivalent.
          The larger a city gets, the harder it gets to take it by force. However it also becomes easier and easier to take it by siege – 3m is a lot of mouths.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Agree with the idea of encirclement. Kiev has much more symbolic than actual value. Russia could drive its government out pronto by destroying “decision center” buildings.

        3. Polar Socialist

          I don’t disagree, I’m quite confident that when the peace comes, Odessa becomes a Russian city and Kiev will remain Ukrainian. What I’m guessing, at the moment, is that threatening Kiev would be more likely to force the decisive battle than threatening Odessa. Mainly because Ukraine doesn’t seem to follow any military logic but everything is about appearances and PR.

          Also the news about pro-Russian purges in Odessa region and Ukrainians giving up pressure in Nikolaev region could indicate they are expecting the next blow to fall there and starting to prepare for it.

          And yet, I can appreciate the argument that after Donbass it could be time to switch from demilitarization to ensuring the facts on the ground support Russia’s claim to the whole Black Sea coast in the final peace negotiations.

          Just to reiterate, I don’t propose Russians actually taking Kiev, just making a plausible attempt to keep Zelensky feeding his troops and machines to the Ba’al Hammon personified in the Russian firepower.

        4. redleg

          Moving armies are particularly vulnerable to artillery and airstrikes. If (when) UA starts redeploying they will get hit hard. The Russians OTOH seem to be able to redeploy entire divisions without drawing fire.

          Given this, would the Russians dare to feint at Kiev again, then assault Odessa? If I were in change this is exactly what Is do. It’s a catch 22 for Ukraine. If they choose to defend one, they lose the other; if they try to defend both their army is divided.

        5. BradN

          Yves is correct.
          Strategically a feint to Kiev, followed by an assault on Odessa, would be fatal for the remaining Ukrainian forces.
          They could not afford to ignore either attack but would end up having to shuttle soldiers and equipment back and forth between the cities, leaving them highly vulnerable in the process.
          I believe it is accurate that the Russian goal is to attack the military, not the cities.
          It appears as though the Ukrainian side is in complete disarray.
          We appear to have arrived at the point where the capture of Odessa is inevitable and only the date remains subject to the betting pool.

        6. Sibiryak

          Yves, I agree with your points about Kiev vs. Odessa. Taking Odessa is surely a far greater priority, if not an absolute necessity.

          However, there seems to be general, if tentative, agreement among many of the Russian commentators I read/watch that Odessa is in fact fairly well-defended, and that since the Russians would like to avoid another bloody, destructive Mariupol-type scenario, they may delay a full-scale assault on the city to the last possible moment.

          Just yesterday, for example, popular military analyst Yuri Podolyaka (Юрий Подоляка) was asked on the pro-government show “Time Will Tell” (“Время Покажет”) what was going to be next after the Donbass. Podolyaka replied “the southern Kharkov region.” When asked about Odessa, he said that would probably have to wait until next year.

      2. nippersdad

        I was thinking that, as Eastern and Southern Ukraine provide the vast majority of their GDP, loss of their access to the Black Sea would be more important than a capital which has cleared out to Lvov once already, and looks to be doing so again soon.

        The capture of Kiev would be great for the PR war, but Russia has yet to even enter that one, instead concentrating on grinding down Ukrainian forces where they find them. An offensive on Mykolaev would draw forces from Kiev in a heartbeat, because without the Black Sea they just have nothing left but the gentle mercies of an agreement incapable West with other problems.

        I think your first instincts were correct: after the fall of the Donbass, Odessa and environs will prolly be their next target. Bonus points from the Russian perspective would be the lack of long supply lines from Crimea. That area is just crying out for conquest..

      3. Lex

        No, it’s still Odessa. The Ukrainians are pretty heavily massed along the southern front and have threatened a counter offensive in the area. No other city has the potential to put the sort of pressure on Russia that Odessa can. It is also the last thing the US/UK may salvage from Ukraine that’s worth anything. They were building naval infrastructure before the conflict. You can bet that if it remains Ukrainian there will be open and obvious placement of NATO assets there the minute hostilities cease. And then Russia has problems going back to Odessa. The Ukrainians are periodically lobbing shells at offshore drilling platforms from the Odessa coast. And without going to Odessa the Crimean land bridge is threatened.

        I’d almost be willing to guarantee that if Odessa falls, the US/UK will abandon Ukraine.

        1. Martin Oline

          These are good arguments in favor of going towards Odessa, especially the presence of a large number of forces in the south. These would be an attractive target for the Russian military. I would not be surprised to see a move on Kharkiv and the Kharkiv oblast. It adjoins Russia and its capture would help to ensure the security of the border.

          1. Karl

            Also, with capture of Odessa comes Tranistria…. thus causing more consternation in the EU (Romania) if US remains stubborn?

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            I think Kharkiv is a feint/fixing operation. Very near Russia, significant ethnic Russian population. No particular reason to make it a high priority. It will fall to them in due course.

      4. Skip Intro

        I think way to achieve that demilitarization has been clearly defined by Zelensky. They will put everything into holding the Kramatorsk line, so the Russians just need to hold that line and draw troops into the grinder, again. That frees them to move in the south, since this statement implies that the impending big southern offensive from Ukraine is no longer planned.

        While I’m here, let’s keep all an eye on Al Tanf too.

        1. Old Sovietologist

          If the Ukrainians target the Kerch Bridge then Al Tanf will be worth watching.

          1. The Rev Kev

            The Russians recently bombed the Jihadists in Al Tanf. But that time they gave the Americans troops a warning first.

      5. PlutoniumKun

        Another key strategic node is Dnipro and I think there is an argument that it could be an appropriate next goal.

        It looks like a tough nut to crack, but if the Russians took it (including the western side of the river), then all of the southern cities become essentially undefendable – the Russians could cut off all supplies at will. It also would make Poltava and Kharkiv less tenable as stand alone cities. Plus, it allows the Russians to consolidate the railway network in the east, which seems to be a key strategic consideration. It would also make an ideal base for connecting up with Transnistria. One consideration for the Russians will be to avoid protracted urban warfare – taking a strategic node like Dnipro, even at the expense of mass destruction and casualties may be seen as worth it if it increases the chances of a city like Odessa deciding to surrender without a fight.

        I would suspect that the breakaway republics will be arguing for strategic depth in order to prevent a future rump Ukraine getting any funny ideas, and this means firm control of the Dneiper and major tributaries, and a border from Dnipro to Kharkiv.

        I don’t envy the Ukrainian high command. Russia now has a smorgasbord of possible options for concentrating their forces to attack, while Ukraine is faced with diminished forces but an impossibly long line of defense to hold.

  8. Adrian D

    Yes the Ukraine coverage has been moved down the pages of the Western media, but there are plenty still plugging away in the Think-Tank & social space. The Institute for the Study of War and the like are still heralding the destruction of the Russia ammo dumps as a game changer. My particular favourite is Phillips O’Brien of St Andrews University (@phillipspobrien) whose twitter feed reads like an exercise in confirmation bias in this respect (lots of ISW, RAND, Pentagon & Kyiv Independent assessments). His Sunday update marked the recent uptake in Russian shelling, but highlighted that this wasn’t (yet) back up to it’s peak levels – of course this was a sign of Russia runnout of steam and that ‘we’ should definitely keep on until the Autumn.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Right, you increase shelling when you are running out. Since when?

      I can’t find it due to the state of search, but a couple of months ago, a not that long retired Russian general said that Russia has stockpiled artillery and missiles to last for three years of full on war, and Ukraine was not that.

      If the Russians are occasionally husbanding their supplies, I suspect it’s to prevent or minimize drawing on those 3 year reserves. If I were them and in control of the pacing, it would be ideal to run the SMO in line with current production (which in fairness Russia has ramped up).

      1. Adrian D.

        @Yves Absolutely right – it’s ludicrous, but there are plenty of analysts out there promoting that kind of thikng. The Simon Tisdale Guardian piece in today’s Links is just another one. Putin is, apparently weaponising everything, Europe is under seige and the only answer is NATO intervention. This won’t lead to nuclear war because it just won’t.

        And now we should encourage, organise and equip our troops to go and fight over there too because that won’t escalate things either:

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, both.

          If you thought Tisdall, still dining on being held by Argentina during the Falklands war, is nuts, you should listen to Tory MPs Toby Ellwood (77th Brigade reservist lieutenant colonel and pet cat killer) and Tom “TNT” Tugendhat (not to be confused with pugilist Tony TNT Tubbs), both of whom want NATO to deploy in Ukraine and take the fight to Russia inside Russia and fight Russia now before Russia integrates with China. Neither rules out a war on two fronts, if that is required, but both want Russia knocked out now.

          After the Tory leadership debates, perhaps WW3 is the best relief we can hope for.

          @ Adrian: Have you noticed how few, if any, retired British soldiers are ever on the UK airwaves to comment? Their stances and explanations are not what the MSM wants to hear, so we hear from Wall Street’s Shagger Petraeus and Stavros Stavridis.

  9. lambert strether

    While sitting in the dark, cold, and hungry: “I just hope Ukraine is doing ok,” said no European voter ever.

    Of course, if the war were not by proxy, and was explicitly against the Slavic Beasts, perhaps sacrificing would be worth it. So I guess there’s upside potential.

    1. nippersdad

      I understand that exploding ordinance is very warming. Ukraine may become the vogue European hotspot for extended vacays this Winter.

      It’s not like they will have anything else to do but watch Jack Frost make patterns on the dining room table.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Lambert.

      Your first sentence may well be true, but you should try living in Buckinghamshire. There are people who say it and try the emotional blackmail. They tend to be from nearby Oxford, which is a bit like California to the rest of the Thames valley.

      From time to time, the Tory local authority channels its inner Bette Midler and exhorts us to think of Ukrainians. Having gone out of their way to attract Ukrainian refugees, often for Brexit related PR reasons, and even sent scarce ambulances with supplies to Ukraine, they are now having to let some jump the queue for social housing as relations have broken down with host families and the council is anxious to avoid embarrassment.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Thank you, Colonel. Somehow I wouldn’t be too worried about those Ukrainian refugees as sentiment is starting to turn about all those people from what I see in different countries. When the war is over local authorities, whose budgets will be getting crunched by then, will turn to these people and ask ‘What? Are you still here? The war is over now so I think that you can all go home now. Cheerio.’

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Rev.

          Perhaps. My only quibble with what you say is that the refugees look like most Britons and how that affects perceptions… If they looked like people from points south and east, you would probably be correct.

        2. Bart Hansen

          And like what England faced after WWI, the refugees, being mostly women and children, will go home and begin asking “Where are all the men?”

          Yes, there are fish that don’t need bicycles, but men will be handy for rebuilding both the land and the species.

  10. The Rev Kev

    The Battle of Popasna. That is when it finally turned for Russia in the Donbass and they have been on a roll ever since. I think that when the Russians finally get to take Kramatorsk, then it is all over as far as the Ukrainian army is concerned no matter how hard they fight. That is really on the last line of fortifications and I believe that the US has said that if that towns falls, so does all those western military supplies. I am going to guess and say that the Russians probably want to wrap the war up before the winter months set in but what does that mean?

    Liberation of all of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic’s territory – with the later already done. And probably Kharkiv as well. And finally the entire Black Sea coastline leading all the way to Transnistria which will include the city of Odessa which was once the third biggest city in Russia. At this point there is zero trust between Russia and the west. This being the case, they will need to take the entire coastline to protect their bases in Sevastapol as before the war the British were going to build two missile boat bases to threaten the Crimea. And Russia will have to go all the way to Transnistria as sooner or later, NATO will threaten this isolated piece of territory as they have done to Kaliningrad and Svalbard. Not because they should but out of revenge and spite.

    There has been an absence of sweeping movements in this war but that was deliberate. The Russians wanted the Ukrainians to send the best of their army into the contact line at the end of their supply lines. You take out the army and then all the territory falls to you afterwards. But that phase is about at an end and I see that the Ukrainians have even thrown some of their ultra-nationalist formations into the fray. One called the Kraken will have to fight as earlier in the war they tortured and killed Russian prisoners so for them, surrender is not an option. Some of those idiots even tried to transfer to regular army formations but were denied permission.

    So with scraping the bottom of the barrel and having to send in old guys and young women with minimal training, soon it will be mostly over. And the screaming and wailing in the west about the Russians winning will be epic – and a good time to lay low. But at heart the west won’t care. This would have been for them just one bunch of Slavs killing another. And they will not see a problem with that line of thought. Just my take here.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, at the end of the latest Military Summary report they discuss how the Kraken didn’t want to fight in Kharkiv because they knew the Russians would kill them rather than take them as POWs. So they refused orders and demanded to be reassigned. He says special forces were sent in, 6 were shot, and the rest were sent to the zero link in Siversk.

      Also re Russia going what could be argued to be slowly: they were dealing with the heaviest, layered bunkers outside North Korea. Donbass is a lot like the Ruhr: a lot of small and mid-sized cities supporting manufacturing plants.

  11. David

    As regards the attack on the Officers’ Club, the issue not of combatant status (because that really just affects PoW status or not) but whether the target was a military one, which is clearly was.

    More generally, I think the problem here is the inability of western commentators to understand what a long-term strategy actually looks like, and what it would consist of. It’s analogous to the obsession of political journalists with opinion polls as they change from day to day. Even some of the senior military who pundit are guilty of this: they may have learnt the theoretical interrelationship between the strategic, operational and tactical levels of conflict at Staff College, but the fact is that since 1945 no western military officers have actually practiced all these levels, and since 1989 they have more or less stopped training to do so. To that you can add the end of any long-term economic and political strategic planning a generation ago. So western observers simply don’t understand what’s going on, because they don’t have the intellectual foundations to do so. It’s like being in a country whose alphabet you can’t read, and trying to work out what the signs mean from watching peoples’ behaviour.

    The only decision that Moscow has to make is whether operations are going broadly in the right direction and broadly according to the timetable envisaged. If so, then they’ll continue with military operations according to the timetable they have fixed, and which only they really know. In Russian thinking, the political takes primacy over the military, which is to say that there are no purely military objectives. If they can reach the end-state without more fighting, or with less fighting than anticipated, they will be happy to do so. I suspect they will take stock when they have cleared the Donbas, depending on the degree of attrition they have inflicted on the UA. At that point, if I’m reading the map correctly, there will be no obstacle to them driving as far West as they want, because the UA will simply not have the forces to set up a continuous defensive line anywhere. Indeed, if the attrition rate continues, and if the UA can’t get more ammunition, then it will cease to exist as an effective fighting force, and the Russians will be able to advance as they like. If I were them, this is actually the policy I would be using, because it enables the Russian forces to stand off and destroy the enemy by indirect fire, without risking their own personnel.

    As regards Scholz’s statement, I think that if you read it carefully, it actually says the opposite of what it appears to. Consider:

    “And it is also clear that not a single one of these sanctions will be withdrawn in case of peace, dictated by Russia,” he continued. “There is no other path for an agreement with Ukraine for Russia than the one that could be accepted by the Ukrainians.”

    In other words, all of these sanctions can be withdrawn if the Ukrainians accept peace proposals of any sort. All that is necessary is that there should be something that looks like a negotiation, rather than the imposition of a settlement by fiat. At that point, the EU can wash its hands of the problem, explaining that the terms were actually accepted by the Ukrainian side, and lift the sanctions. As I’ve been saying for some time, a western /Ukrainian victory has already been decided in advance, the only question left is a presentational one. Kiev will therefore make demands for things (like a limit to the Russian area of control) which the Russians have no problem with and weren’t going to ask for anyway, but which can be presented as Russia concessions. So western arms deliveries and political backing foil dastardly Russian plan to conquer half Europe. Victory. And it will be the Ukrainian government that signs.

    It’s always tricky when statements are translated into and out of several languages, but note the phrase “could be accepted by the Ukrainians.” Now in English this doesn’t say by any particular Ukrainians. Scholz could have said “by the (or “a” ) democratically-elected government, or “by the Ukrainian people,” but he didn’t. Again, “could”, especially in diplomatic English can mean many things. It might mean “could possibly be accepted by (some) Ukrainians”, it might mean “is likely to be accepted”, it might mean “is our idea of what ought to be accepted,” or probably several other things. In other words, almost any negotiated outcome could be made to look acceptable, if it’s the only way of getting the EU off the hook on which it has impaled itself.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I agree, particularly with the bit that if the Ukraine army has effectively collapsed by the time Donbass is cleared, Russia can go pretty much anywhere. That’s my reason for thinking of Odessa next rather than say Kharkiv. Odessa is the highest value real estate qua real estate when Russia has reduced Ukraine’s fighting power so that it can make geography a targeting priority.

    2. Michaelmas

      David: In other words, almost any negotiated outcome could be made to look acceptable, if it’s the only way of getting the EU off the hook on which it has impaled itself.

      It isn’t just a matter of the EU, though. It’ll be the US empire’s second giant military failure in less than a year, after the pullout from Afghanistan (presumably carried out to re-align resources for taking on Russia). The problem there, as you say, is ….

      western observers simply don’t understand what’s going on, because they don’t have the intellectual foundations to do so.

      And what’s happened among other things that US’s Dunning-Kruger policymakers don’t have the intellectual equipment to get their heads around is that the Russians have effectively carried out a minor RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs).

      How minor or major it’ll turn out to be in the long run the future historians will determine. Still, US policymakers are still bleating about imposing ‘no-fly zones’ when such tactics in 2022 in Ukraine against Russia are as militarily plausible as cavalry charges, given the profusion of Russia’s missiles that can now target pretty much anything in the air and on the ground, at effectively any range necessary.

      In this context, manned aircraft — and tanks on the battlefield, increasingly — no longer constitute an offensive assets, but vastly expensive targets (along with the highly-trained crews necessary to man such high-ticket weapons platforms).

      This applies to the Russians too, to some extent, so they’ve been sparing in their use of conventional air power, given Ukrainian-NATO-US missile capability. Historically, though, the Russians were the first to use rockets on the battlefield with the Katyushas deployed against the Nazis in WWII; they were the first to put a satellite and a man in orbit on top of rocket launchers; they developed the Sunburn/Moskit carrier killer by the early 1970s; Russian launchers carried US astronauts to the ISS in the years when the US launch industry died with the shuttle program; and Russians rockets have overwhelming operational preponderance now —

      Simultaneously, Americans have been flocking to see Tom Cruise’s Maverick: Top Gun and apparently believe that fantasy is some kind of vaguely realistic representation of US military power. It’s a situation comparable to the ignorance of military reality of the WWI generals (re. the effects of the machine gun) and the French aristocracy (re. the long bow) before Agincourt .

      The march of US folly will continue some ways further, I’m afraid.

      1. David

        Well, I was commenting specifically on what Scholz said. The US doesn’t have a lot of leverage now, and will just have to accept the outcome.
        I think there’s an important distinction between “negotiations,” which are not on the table any more, and “an agreement.” What Putin has said, I think, is that Russia is not prepared to engage in classic negotiations where both sides make compromises. It’s too late for that. A settlement will be imposed on Ukraine, as it was on Germany in 1945, although for presentational reasons, it might be made to look a little bit less like total surrender than it really is.

        1. Michaelmas

          The US doesn’t have a lot of leverage now, and will just have to accept the outcome.

          I don’t think the US has the intellectual capability to understand that.

          Granted, what politicians and bureaucrats say for public consumption can be one thing, and what they understand privately is another. Granted, too, there remain people at the Pentagon and at places like RAND who do grasp the reality.

          Maybe the best that can happen is that the Republicans get in in November and turn the page by blaming it all on Biden. “Who lost the Ukraine?” etc.

          1. Karl

            ‘I don’t think the US has the intellectual capability to understand [its lack of leverage].”

            Biden does seem to represent this country well, or at least its leadership class (degraded intellectual capacity and cognitive function).

            The D’s say they “believe” in diversity. Maybe in theory. In practice you don’t see it where it’s needed most: diversity of viewpoint. What we see instead is profound collective cognitive bias due to sameness. The “experts” around Biden, Lindsay Graham, et. al. are affluent educated people schooled in American exceptionalism and neoliberal globalism. Plus they’ve been breathing the recycled air of the D.C. bubble too long.

            Unfortunately, to understand cognitive bias and its dangers, you need cognitive function!

      2. lyman alpha blob

        Just saw that movie (wanted to go to a drive-in and it, paired with the execrable Minions, was the only option). I was a little surprised that they never named the actual enemy – just some entity that was enriching too much uranium for Uncle Sugar’s comfort, which could have been construed as Iran (never been there but I’m assuming the Zagros range has some snow-capped peaks).

        The other thing that struck me was that in the movie, one of the military brass admits that the US has lost technological superiority. I’m assuming filming was finished before the Russian attack and since the real Russian military has since largely shown that movie admiral to be speaking the truth, I’m kind of surprised that part escaped the cutting room floor.

        Normally I’d never watch a movie like this, but I have to say it was pretty entertaining and quite the adrenaline rush if you can overlook the jingoism. Too bad we can’t spend so many billions on tech for peaceful purposes. Just look at the images produced by the JWST, which has performed almost miraculously for $10 billion, compared to what’s been spent on F-35s that largely don’t work –

        1. Tom Bradford

          one of the military brass admits that the US has lost technological superiority.

          Possibly left in to soften the US audience up for the necessity of a few more $billions being spent to level the playing field against the dastardly enemy-of-the-day, which is spending all its money on its military and palaces for its leaders rather than the health, education and well-being of its citizens!

    3. KD

      I think Washington is pulling the strings, and Washington intends to fight to the last Ukrainian, and as much as Germany wants a peace, Washington isn’t done bleeding the Ukrainians white. Further, Biden can’t appear soft on the Russians so don’t be surprised if the NATO military advisers appear officially. . . not that it will change the outcome, but it will get the Dems through the mid-terms without a total military disaster.

      This is going to be a long war, and the Ukranians probably need another 400,000 casualties before they crack. There are no mass desertions, there is no civil unrest in Kiev, the Ukrainian Army has turned a corner, but they are not sufficiently degraded yet. Its going to be another Vietnam, except this time it will actually matter for the Russians and Europe.

      On the other hand, I feel like the nuclear threat is lower than before. Russia will win conventionally, and the U.S. and Europe would rather lose than blow the world up. Who in D.C. cares about Ukraine and the Baltics anyways, assuming they can even find them on a map?

    4. Old Sovietologist

      I had a few days in Bavaria and the German Minister of the Interior and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution was “warning” against radical demonstrations in autumn by ‘right-wing’ and ‘lateral thinkers’. I wasn’t sure what he meant by lateral thinkers.

      I think Scholz is happy impaling himself on the hook.

      I really think they have swallowed their own propaganda and they believe a Ukraine’s victory is realistic and there is no alternative to the announced autumn sanctions and the victory of Ukraine…

      “Freeze for freedom” that’s Scholz

      1. Skip Intro

        They have a derogatory term for ideological non-conformists: Querdenker, which is more like cross or perpendicular thinker. It lumps together antivax, anti-NATO, or whatever other pesky questioners they need to quickly marginalize. Like telling your MSNBC audience they are QAnon followers, or trumpists, or flat earthers. That may be the original term.

    5. XXYY

      Any time the subject of negotiations comes up in connection with the Ukraine war, we have to remember the fact that Russia no longer thinks the US and the West are agreement capable.

      Negotiations are only a practical way forward if you trust the other side to honor whatever agreement is negotiated. I think the Russians realized in the early 2000s that the US was completely untrustworthy and only saw negotiations as a cynical way to buy time until the later abrogation of the “treaty”. US leaders are fairly blatant about this, and routinely decide that honoring a solemnly negotiated treaty is no longer in their interest, and just go ahead and do whatever they want. Don’t take my word for it: Ask the Native Americans among many others.

      What is one to do when facing such an opponent? Certainly there is no point in negotiating. The only realistic approach is the threat of overwhelming force, which I think is what the Russians have been working on for most of this century, with impressive results.

      This is a fairly dangerous state of affairs, but US leaders have brought it on themselves. They are now in a situation where they have little control over events or outcomes, whether they like it or not.

    6. M

      Your comments were succinct and, I think, as accurate an assessment as I think we can make given the information we have available. I also agree with your reading of Scholz’s statement. He gave himself and the EU wiggle room to concur with any agreement that Ukraine might eventually conclude with Russia, and thereby justification to lift sanctions on Russia. Whether and to what extent the EU may pressure Ukraine to negotiate, and if or when these things come to pass remains to be seen, but I think it indicates Scholz’s (and we may assume, other’s) growing unease with the direction in which things are going.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Unfortunately, even if Scholtz meant to allow wriggle room, he has been consistently and successfully outflanked by uber hawks Habeck and von der Leyen. They will do everything in their power to keep the sanctions going. Von der Leyen is now working on a 7th round of EU sanctions, and is even trying the nutter idea of including gas in it, but the Czech Republic has already rejected that.

  12. Tom Stone

    When Armies fall apart it happens quickly and Ukraine is on its last legs.
    I expect Odessa to be taken by mid September at the latest.
    And Scholz is either owned outright or too stupid to understand what’s happening…
    Unusually for me, I don’t attribute his latest statements to stupidity.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Zelensky is firing traitors. A collapsed army can sober people up. At that point, economic activity will cease. Plenty of Kiev’s officialdom won’t be able to bug out. Without Odessa, Ukraine is going to be a bigger dump than it is for at least a decade and not going to be part of the EU. Maybe, they will make a trade deal with the UK, right?

      I don’t know how precise Scholtz is (this isn’t a German joke) or what language he has used recently, but he used “acceptable to Ukrainians” and “not dictated by Russia”. Unless, he’s a word salad type, he left room to drive some kind of land ark through. If “peace” comes because Russia occupies the whole Ukraine and installs a government, that might be “dictated” but if Zelensky’s helicopter crashes from carrying too much cash and a caretaker government negotiates in good faith, the sanctions can be lifted, tada!

      The language in the article is devoid of demands about territory or the greatest leader since Obama, Zelensky.

      1. Karl

        RE: Zelensky’s helicopter.

        If it doesn’t crash: supposedly he owns a mansion somewhere in the U.S. You’ll know the end is near when you see the moving van out front and lots of people coming and going making ready for his arrival.

        Presumably he’s got his CIA quick-exit checklist, and his emergency get-away bag already packed.

        1. hk

          Is he valuable enough (alive) for CIA to extract? He seems to be troublesome enough that, if I were in charge, I’d just have him become a martyr for PR (how exactly that happens, no one needs to know).

      2. ChrisPacific

        It’s also possible for a peace to be both dictated by Russia and acceptable to Ukraine (at least, more acceptable than the alternatives). That’s pretty much the definition of a negotiated surrender, for example.

        I think ‘acceptable to Ukraine’ is code for ‘acceptable to the West’ but you are correct that it would be possible to retroactively interpret it differently if it became convenient to do so.

      3. The Rev Kev

        Russian Spokesman Maria Zakharova was stirring Zelensky and was saying that these dismissals were “effective de-Nazification” on Zelensky’s part.

  13. Brian (another one they call)

    Kharkiv would fall on its own from the weight of running a city. No hurry siege, just stop the flow of materiel. No shooting required except in defense.
    Dima (Military Summary) made a statement about HIMARS in his 7-17 program that was indicative of the collapse of the UK on front lines. He rarely states anything that isn’t backed up by his sources, and he said he sees that the UK rocket brigades are selling the HIMARS systems to the Russians, and that they have provided 2 so far. Earlier reports said the French mobile howitzers had been sold as well.
    If the enemy is so inclined, the appearance of cooperation for the future may involve less war and more cooperation. Nato non functionaries must be losing their minds.

  14. Jour de Lenteur

    The House of Officers is an historic concert hall in the city center of Vinnytsia. An inflection point would suggest this campaign against civilians will be different than the previous five months. The V-2 rocket campaign against London would also turn out to be an inflection point, similar in strategy.

    1. juno mas

      Well, those officers weren’t singing happy songs in that concert hall. And those civilians adjacent to the hall should have realized that Ukraine has been using civilians as human shields often. Will you be in Ukraine to help turn the tide (inflection point)?

    2. The Rev Kev

      Some of the names of “civilians” reportedly killed in that strike on that historic concert hall that has a fighter jet on display out the front-

      -Acting Chief of Armament of the Logistics Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel Dmitry Burdyko.

      -The head of the Military-Scientific Department of the headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Puzyrenko.

      -The head of the Armament and Logistics Service of the Ukrainian Air Force, Colonel Oleg Makarchuk.

      Western names not revealed of course.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      David above corrected me and said the meeting was a legitimate military target, so the fact that nominal civilians were there falls into the category of collateral damage.

      1. M

        I agree. If civilians place themselves in harm’s way by choosing (that’s the operative word, ‘choosing’) to be present at a site which is a legitimate military target, that is not a war crime. I’m not even sure I would call it collateral damage. The civilians present were there to provide assistance to the Ukrainian military.

    1. Martin Oline

      This is a very interesting analysis. Thank you for providing the link. It reminds me of a story I read somewhere . . .

      “I’ll learn ya!” Brer Biden yelled. He took a swing at the cute little Tar Baby and his paw got stuck in the tar.

      “Lemme go or I’ll hit you again,” shouted Brer Biden. The Tar Baby, she said nothing.

      “Fine! Be that way,” said Brer Biden, swinging at the Tar Baby with his free paw. Now both his paws were stuck in the tar, and Brer Putin danced with glee behind the bushes.

      “I’m gonna kick the stuffin’ out of you,” Brer Biden said and pounced on the Tar Baby with both feet. They sank deep into the Tar Baby. Brer Biden was so furious he head-butted the cute little creature until he was completely covered with tar and unable to move.

      Brer Putin leapt out of the bushes and strolled over to Brer Biden. “Well, well, what have we here?” he asked, grinning an evil grin.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t buy it. This is attributing way too much design. Wars are very uncertain affairs and Putin did NOT want to launch the SMO. He was visibly pissed in his speech of February 24.

      First, one of Russia’s design objectives was not to engage in general mobilization or even use its very best troops. It wanted this campaign to use second tier professional soldiers and not conscripts. It so far has also made heavy use of the battle hardened DPR and LPR militias, who have continued to perform well. That alone and a desire not to overtax them (as in have regular rotations) v. the challenge of the heavy bunkering all over Donbass would lead to a measured operation.

      Second the West has a different doctrine and keeps getting upset that Russia is not doing things Western style. This is almost comical. But once Russia had air superiority and had taken out command centers, and had fixed Ukraine’s forces around Kiev and Odessa, it limited Ukraine’s degrees of freedom and how many forces they could bring to bear on Donbass. So they were and remain in complete control of the pacing.

      Third, Russia likely did not anticipate the degree to which the West would throw more weapons at Ukraine. That on the one hand has somewhat extended the timetable in Donbass, but has had the happy and unintended side effect of showing how limited and old NATO stockpiles were and thinning them a lot.

  15. fringe element

    Comments about the macro picture in Europe looking shaky made me think this link might be useful. Credit to TAC for linking to this site this morning.

    It is a tolerably deep dive into EU banking economics and honestly, I don’t understand economics well enough to follow most of it. Even so, I thought it might be interesting to people like Yves and Colonel Smithers who do have profession-level grasp of these things.

    I did follow it enough to get the impression that the breakup of the EU, sooner rather than later, is inevitable.

  16. hk

    SBU purge caught me by a bit of surprise. Perhaps a coup against Z is not that far off, after all.

    1. hk

      PS. My hunch is that the coup could easily be a German or French operation as much as a Russian one, though …

    2. Louis Fyne

      SBU purge may be punishment for an intel/counter-intel failure.

      See the recent RU claim that it struck a mèeting behind UA Air Force officers and arms dealers in Vinn8tysia.

      Perhaps the Russian claims re. the strike are true and damage was so severe that heads had to roll?

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      SBU purge may be necessary for all of the weapons sales. It’s now even getting notice in the MSM. I’ve seen reports of howitzers, Javelins, manpads, and recently a HIMARS sold on the black market.

  17. Egidijus

    So what’s a deal on the table now? West thinks more of a frozen conflict like Korean War but that’s just another wishful thinking. Russia’s terms and goals were not shaken and, on the contrary, their establishment and population got more confidence in winning the war now so why they should stop?

    Of course, nobody cares about further dying Ukrainians as winter in Europe and elections in the USA are coming.

    1. hk

      My (probably delusional but one could hope) thinking is that it could be somewhat more like Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, with Ukrainian army troops storming the presidential palace, dragging out Z, and declare peace with Russia, followed by Scholz declaring he’d respect the wishes of the Ukrainian people. That would make western pundits’ heads spin.

      1. Massinissa

        I was under the impression that much of the army are military hardliners though. I don’t see what you propose as being very likely.

        1. hk

          A consistent theme in the reports coming out of the region was that the army general staff was being overridden by the ultranationalist politicians–e.g. the army wanted to pull out of dangerously exposed sectors, but Z and his people insisted that they stand and fight, and so forth. But at the same time, you are right, that, over the past decade, the Ukrainian army has increasingly staffed its high ranks with regime loyalists, i.e. people who at least buy into the nationalist myths after the less than energetic performance by the regular army early on in the Donbass. I kinda threw up the comment so that people who are more knowledgeable bout the current dynamics involving the Ukrainian army and security services vis-a-vis politicians and ultranationalists, including the paramilitary forces would chime in.

  18. Roland

    Although I have studied the history of wars for a very long time, I venture no comment on the course of operations because I cannot become properly informed.

    A few things, however, are clear:

    1. Neither RF nor UKR are giving up. There have been no routs, no mass surrenders, no riots in the capitals. The picture, even without detail, is generally one of high commitment on both sides.

    2. Mood among almost all NATO govs favours escalation. In most NATO countries, there is no major opposition party which openly demands peace. Put it this way: when Erdogan’s the dove, what do you think that means?

    3. Nothing suggests that powerful third parties are likely to tangibly intervene, nor is there any sign of collective action by the myriad neutral countries adversely affected by the war.

    Therefore, I expect this war to be long, costly, and increasingly dangerous. If that seems incredible, remember that war is often a showcase for the Sunk Costs Fallacy. War can be studied rationally, but it is seldom really fought that way.

    As far as civilian hardship in the West is concerned, it is difficult to see how it will result in an actual political change. If R’s win Congress, so what? A poltroon like Trudeau could beat the truckers. Draghi seemingly can’t even resign properly. The new Tory leader might have nicer hair, but harmony won’t go past their coiffeur.

    Hardship in the 3rd World means little. If Sri Lankans topple the gov’t, will that restore the sanctioned imports? If the dictator Sisi were forced to stop building his new vanity town, would that bring peace to Europe, or even feed the Cairenes?

    1. voteforno6

      Maybe…clearly Russia is winning. Yet, I don’t know what the endgame will actually be. I’m sure that Russia has a desired outcome, and has made contingency plans, but they’re not the only ones who get to decide that. How will we know when the war is actually over, in that it’s accepted by everyone involved as being over. Wars are a lot harder to end than they are to start. I wonder if we’re in for many years of a partition like with the Koreas, except with more shooting.

    2. tegnost

      3. Nothing suggests that powerful third parties are likely to tangibly intervene


      Therefore, I expect this war to be long, costly, and increasingly dangerous.

      This is exactly the plan of those “powerful third parties” that supposedly are not going to “tangibly intervene”
      Hardship in the 3rd world is an afterthought. Hardship in the general population (high gas prices, the rents too high, etc…) is how the rich get richer, which is of course an unalterable law of nature…
      Goldman seems to be having a stellar/pandemic/war so obviously that explains the “pop” in crude oil as it certainly means there is more to harvest in the land of moneypox.

      1. Roland

        If that’s their plan, then their gov’ts are as out-of-touch as those in the West.

        This war is dangerous to everybody. The only general interest is a ceasefire, stat.

    3. David

      Given the kind of war this is (high-intensity armoured, artillery, missile and airpower) and the specific announced aims (control of the Donbas and destruction of Ukrainian military capability) there is a practical limit to how long the war can continue. Fairly soon now, the UA will have no serious heavy combat capability left, and the fighting will be over. If you have a King and two Pawns, and I have a King, a Queen, two Rooks, two Bishops and some Pawns, then at some point I am going to win, as you run out of pieces and options. Of course, most conflicts continue in some attenuated form after a settlement, because there are always bitter-enders, but it will probably be limited to things like car bombs, attempted assassinations, and, most probably, vicious infighting among the defeated parties.

      1. Roland

        I don’t have any accurate orders-of-battle, so how can I comment on attrition rates?

        One thing I’m pretty sure of is that nobody’s still following their Plan A. Should we speculate how far down the Unicode this damned war will go?

        We’re already in the five digits, and we’re heading for six. Do you want seven? Maybe NATO wants eight, and they can’t wait?

        Victory is crap. We need to end the war, with the boringest bunch of jaw-jaw since vertebrates ever flapped lips.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Huh? Russia has a clear and consistent order of battle, so I have no idea what you are talking about. And since Ukraine has not mounted a successful counter-offensive since 2014, its order of battle does no matter much.

          And the BBC 2x enlisted a large group of independent journalists across Russia to find how many Russian soldiers had died. They were very disappointed to find only 4000 as of about a month ago. Experts agree that Russia incurred its highest death and casualty rate early on in the war and its much lower now, although Military Summary did say there was an uptick in the last week as Ukraine took to turning its abandoned tanks into traps (as in putting signaling devices in them and then attacking them when moved). I am sure Russia has figured a way around that.

          1. Roland

            UKR order of battle is important if I want to evaluate the wastage of their forces. Did David know what pieces remain on the board, or what will arrive?

            Frankly I doubt if RF is publicizing their true strength and dispositions, nor do I trust Western analysts’ versions of such.

            That’s why I confined myself to the most elementary observations: neither side has given up, no third parties seem able or willing to help make a peace, deaths & costs & dangers mount for the whole world, and everybody’s main plans have already gone awry.

            Now the entire war becomes a Circus of Sunk Costs and Strange Beasts, whose ringmasters, each trying to conceal their own fear, carry on and on, before a numbed audience.

            The general interest is simply: ceasefire, roundtable talks, resume trade.

            Everything else is a downspiral. I don’t conceal my fear. Why wouldn’t you fear a war which has major powers clashing over their vital interests? That’s as dangerous as it gets.

    4. hemeantwell

      Thanks to Yves and all of the commenters for your thoughts.
      All that I would add is to apply the takeaway from Chorley’s Armies and the Art of Revolution: as goes the army, so goes the revolution. The UKA is having to shoot its most fanatical troops to get them into the frontlines. They are having to forcibly draft women and the aged and throw them into combat without proper training. There a probably numerous networks devoted to helping people escape military service. Opposition parties have been suppressed and leaders arrested, but there are no concentration camps that I’m aware of. A war-ending coup would draw on substantial latent support.

    5. John k

      There’s little overt movement yet in eu to cut the losses, but German industry is acutely aware of what happens without Russian gas. And already a major German supplier is taking gas from storage now when they should be adding to it for winter.
      I doubt the masses will wait for feb to begin marching, unlike their leaders they haven’t been bought by the empire and they can see what’s coming.
      The most loyal to us eu country is no longer voting in eu affairs. Imo the us is in the process of losing the eu, which will join Asia. Slowly at first…
      The whole world will be 5 eyes + Japan.

    6. kareninca

      “Neither RF nor UKR are giving up. There have been no routs, no mass surrenders, no riots in the capitals. The picture, even without detail, is generally one of high commitment on both sides.”

      I wonder if the lack of routs/mass surrenders/riots means that many of the Ukrainian men who didn’t want to fight, managed to get out of the country, hide out, or switch sides, quickly and quietly. And this could be ongoing. I think we wouldn’t be told if that were the case; it would be hard to detect. That would mean that the remaining ones are high committed, it is true.

    7. Karl

      2. Mood among almost all NATO govs favours escalation.

      Ummm….I refer back to the caveat in your first sentence:

      I cannot become properly informed

      The fact is that all we know is what these EU leaders say publicly. Do you put much faith in that? They are reputedly, behind the scenes, quite divided. As the economic impact of the sanctions grows, this will be even more apparent. Europe seems headed for recession (as is the U.S.). Orban is becoming increasingly vocal, and my guess is he is saying publicly what many are saying privately.

      Then there is the mood of the U.S. government. The WAPO, in its editorial shortly after Congress passed the $45B aid package, warned Ukraine (and Congress/Biden) that getting another installment of aid will be much more difficult. When Ukraine runs out of this aid, it may be too close to the November mid-terms to get Congress to vote more.

      And then there is the military situation–clearly unfavorable to Ukraine right now.

      I would not put much faith in EU/US resolve for very practical economic, political and military reasons.

      1. Roland

        It sounds like we’re both hoping for better sense being shown along the backchannels. Or do we entertain a blind faith in gods, or angels, or bond vigilantes? And some pantheon that would be, anyway!

        Here in Canada, Trudeau has a minority government. He holds power only by grace of the NDP, which is a party traditionally dovish. But Canada’s involvement in the war deepens, and not one voice can be heard in Parliament against it. Therefore no electoral shift in Canada could pull us out.

        Same goes in the USA. If R’s win Congress, so what? Are they running on a peace platform? No!

        Look at UK. It’s better-haired Tory, or Starmtrooper. No peace!

        Germany? Who’s demanding peace? Old emotions overbear the present interest, and there’s no Brandt to make a break.

        France? Macron’s blown hot and cold on the war, but long gone is even the mild dissent shown by the likes of Chirac. Macron’s not pacific, he’s just useless.

        Scandinavia, meanwhile, forms an imbecile queue to join NATO. Blame Tegnell and long covid?

        Erdogan’s the only dove in NATO. But he’s isolated, he’s Muslim, and he’s the Turk. European leaders probably spend more time looking at old Delacroix paintings (you know the one, to do with some sporadic island or another) then they spend studying current affairs.

        You don’t need strong leadership to get into war. Mighty powers often go butt-backwards into big wars. Once you’re in, then the logic of sunk costs takes over. Nobody wants to be the one who lost the war. Is there anything our sophisticated elites do better than crying TINA?

        When I look at what-is-right-in-front-of-me, it looks real bad. I know that such an abstract wouldn’t please my thesis advisor, but I don’t care.

    8. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? There has been large scale departure out of Ukraine, and reports from three months ago that it heavily favored conscription aged men. Poland about a month ago was solicited and apparently was cooperating in rounding them up and sending them back to Ukraine. There were reports as of two-three weeks ago of the authorities in western Ukraine basically grabbing young men after church. This got church leaders vocally upset.

      And as of about six weeks ago, there were mothers protesting in Kiev. Which is remarkable given that Ukraine has fascist goons that have severely beaten and even killed politicians.

      You assume Ukraine is a functioning democracy, a fact not in evidence. Did you miss that Zelensky has outlawed all opposition parties, even incarcerating some of their leaders, and has been heavily censoring the press. It’s fabulously corrupt and has brutal enforcers too.

      When Ukraine’s army collapses, which is coming soon, the West despite all its barking lacks the manpower and materiel to keep the fight going.

  19. Michael Ismoe

    Anyone heard from Scott Ritter recently? If you don’t think that the ruling class has learned something about censorship and propaganda over the last four months, you aren’t giving them much credit.

    1. RobertC

      LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) – Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has declared force majeure on gas supplies to Europe to at least one major customer, according to a letter from Gazprom that will add to European fears of fuel shortages.

      Dated July 14 and seen by Reuters on Monday, the legal force of the letter is to shield Gazprom from compensation payments for disrupted supplies, but risks escalating tensions between Russia and the West over the invasion of Ukraine that Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

      It said the force majeure clause, invoked to lift a business from contractual obligations because of factors beyond its control, was retroactively effective from deliveries starting from June 14.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I think this is going to be made to mean something that it does not mean.

        This is one customer, so very targeted and it looks like Gazprom is already in a row with that customer. It had halted deliveries to some customers over stolen Gazprom Germania assets.

        Austria said it was going to steal some Gazprom assets, so it could be about that instead.

  20. juno mas

    So this is not going to end well for the West. But you knew that already if you were paying attention.

    Yes, this is going to hit home. And you need to prepare your home for both intermittent and longer shortages of electricity, fuel, potable water, food, medicine, and cell phone access (as a short list).

    NC (and Commenters) have discussed these issues (some in detail) over the years. Do Not Tary. You are watching the historical “Waterloo” in real time.

    1. Karl

      Yes, I do believe we are indeed living through a “Waterloo” moment: a very big moment in history.

      Waterloo was followed by a big power conference (Congress of Vienna) that brought together some great diplomats–Castlereagh, Talleyrand and Metternich.

      A new security architecture for the world is what should follow this “Waterloo” moment, but this requires comparable intellects with vision. Good luck with that!

      1. nippersdad

        First will have to come Europe, for which there is a draft treaty on the table already drafted by Russia prior to their SMO. By the time that comes up there may not be much to talk about. I suspect we will be too busy licking our wounds to even wonder why we never received an invitation to the one for the rest of the world.

  21. orlbucfan

    Sending young folks (except Nazis) into the radioactive area known as Chernobyl finished me off. There are no winners, just a bunch of bloodthirsty stupid nuts. I hope Russia delivers the knockout punch, takes what it wants, and makes peace. I am sick and tired of the shadow of nuclear war, and imbeciles like Kagan and Nuland with their itchy fingers too close to the red button. BTW, I skipped the Tom Cruise PR.

  22. RobertC

    Summarizing what I’ve said since February:

    1. This is a joint Putin-Xi economic operation to weaken the Atlantic Alliance
    2. The Ukraine conflict is a cat’s paw for that operation
    3. Putin’s Ukraine objectives are historical for Russia and the Russian people and he will achieve these objectives
    4. Xi will allow Putin to take as much of Ukraine as he wants but nothing more (Transnistria, Belarus, etc are marginalia)
    5. Xi (and Putin) want to (and will) focus on Mackinder’s Heartland, Spykman’s Rimland, et al in preparation for rapid climate change
    6. Quietus for the Ukraine conflict and any reduction of sanctions will be Europe’s economic decision, Germany being the leader and the EU being a hinderance

    The destruction of livelihoods and the failure to address humanity’s oncoming crises is unfortunate and the US is largely to blame.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, this was NOT a “joint Putinp-Xi operation”. That is serious Making Shit Up.

      First, Russia did this all on his own. Putin at most gave Xi a heads up at the Olympics that things might get stoopid with the US/NATO. But even then Russia appears not to have decided to act until mid-Feb, when the shelling in Donbass picked up big time.

      Second, the economic part was 100% Western blowback, not even remotely initiated by Russia.

      Third, Xi has no say about the Russian operation. None. Russia is sovereign and has the best ground forces in the world. Xi also needs Russia to keep its back if the US escalates in Taiwan to the degree that China thinks it has to invade or blockade.

      1. RobertC

        I was summarizing what I’ve said since February into short bullet points and as a result packed too much policy into too few words. Mea culpa.

        Otherwise I’ve pretty much summarized what other analysts besides myself have already said in a longer form.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Do not continue to Make Shit Up. I am all over Russia reporting, including running some sites in Russian through translation and making a point of paying attention to commentators who are fluent in Russian and trying to discount for bias. I have yet to see anyone claim “This is a joint Putin-Xi economic operation to weaken the Atlantic Alliance” because it is ludicrously false. The West launched the sanctions, since you appear to have missed that. The EU is about to start on round 7.

          I’ve put you in moderation over this. You are accumulating more troll points by doubling down. You can’t afford to. You need to shape up and not try to use this comments section to advance your demonstrably inaccurate personal opinion.

          1. KD

            Not to Make Shit Up, but I have no doubt that China is carefully watching the situation and preparing to deal with Western economic sanctions, and if the US/NATO is foolish enough to get NATO directly pinned down into some defense of Ukraine, it would create a great opportunity to liberate Taiwan from the pernicious splinterists and the demonic foreigners backing them. Then you would see what a real Great Reset looks like.

            What some people have forgotten is that although wars can make nations weaker, they also can make nations stronger. NATO doesn’t have the man power, the ammunition, or sufficient training/operational capability to win against Russia. Some people should have just stuck with id pol and left geopolitics to the “lateral thinkers”.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Even though China likes to bluster, I think if they act it will be only because the US has escalated. Having Pelosi visit after Biden promised to Xi in a phone call earlier this year that he respected the one China policy and would stop sending “wrong understandings” by having various ex and current officials visit Taiwan is proof of what the Russians have long said, the US is not agreement capable and is out to destabilize competing powers.

              There are already job categories where pay on mainland China is better than in Taiwan. In ten more years, that will be true of more lines of work. That’s all China needs to have enough brain drain from Taiwan to weaken its hostility to more political integration. But the US had made clear it’s going to provoke via Taiwan. So like the SMO, the US will wind up eating the breakfast it cooked.

              1. KD

                “only because the US has escalated” . . . and what can we expect from the brain trust known as the Neo-Cons, the Liberal Internationalists, or the Blob except escalation. “America will lose all credibility, especially after Afghanistan and Ukraine, if we don’t stand strongly behind our friends in Taiwan.” “if we don’t stand up to China for their human rights violations of the Uyghurs, it is the same as Chamberlain’s appeasemetn of Hitler.” Just waiting for Ben Shapiro video.

              2. KD

                To put it differently, China knows that the US will never allow a peaceful reintegration of Taiwan, anymore than the Russians would hand over Sverstopol to NATO, so wisdom would be to strike when the enemy is weakest, rather than wait for the enemy to strike when you are weakest.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  That is the current US. If the integration happened gradually due to economic opportunity and eroded Taiwanese opposition over twenty years…pray tell? Remember that a similarly unthinkable trend is well advanced in the US: younger Jews being uninterested in and even somewhat hostile to Israel. Peter Beinart wrote about it first IIRC in 2004.

                  The biggest trade flows are always between close neighbors. See as of 2021:

                  mainland China: US$126.2 billion (28.2% of Taiwan’s total exports)
                  United States: $65.9 billion (14.7%)
                  Hong Kong: $63.1 billion (14.1%)
                  Japan: $29.3 billion (6.5%)
                  Singapore: $25.8 billion (5.8%)
                  South Korea: $20.2 billion (4.5%)


                  China is already 3x as important a trade partner than the US. This disparity will increase as China gets richer.

                  That site does not have import data. This is 2020 and the US is a tad more important as an import partner relative to China:

                  The most common import partners for Chinese Taipei are China ($60.7B), Japan ($42.7B), United States ($28.9B), South Korea ($17.4B), and Singapore ($11.1B).


                  Like Ukraine, this is a fight Taiwan can never win and is not in its interest.

  23. marcel

    I think Russia will pause after it liberates all of Donbass – but only in Ukraine.
    As Yves said, the (not-Nato) world is watching, and Russia has no good legal argument to go to Odessa, Kiev or wherever without taking blame for naked agression and invasion.
    So they will sit, rebuild more of Donbass, try to talk, and wait.
    The occupied Oblasts may try to organize themselves, have a referendum, and ask to be integrated into the Russian Federation à la Crimea, or not yet.
    Ukraine/Nato may try to shoot more civilians, as they do today, and that would give Russia a ‘self-defense’ reason to continue battle.
    But they might just sit back, and watch Europe being engulfed by an energy crisis and US being overwhelmed by its own decay.
    I think they might just turn the pain dial one notch up by brokering something in the Middle East. Peace in Syria, an agreement between Saudi Arabia/Iran/Turkey, US being kicked out of Syria by SDF, that kind of stuff (Irak seems a hopeless basket case by its own make,much like Lebanon).

    Anyhow, a short joke on climate, politics, or whatever:, while I feel like WWI all over again.

    1. Darthbobber

      Months ago they were willing to go the outskirts of Kiev and camp out there for awhile. And NOW they’re going to be more concerned about justifications than they were then?

      Plus they can count on the Ukraine to keep launching pretend offensives from the Nikolaev/Odessa direction, which provides all the justification needed to preempt all that by eliminating the threat from that quarter.

    2. KD

      Once Donbass votes to become part of the RF, if Ukraine does anything against Donbass, or if they appear to be preparing to invade Donbass, there will be a declaration of war, Russia will mobilize, and stomp Ukraine. The Ukrainians already shelled Belgorod, so it won’t take much more.

      That will be the peace offer, gives us all the territory we took, become neutral, end sanctions, and it will be DOA. Refusal will be provocation for declaration of war and mobilization.

  24. Steven

    Unusually for me, I don’t attribute his latest statements to stupidity.

    Is it really that simple, i.e. that US and European leadership is just some combination of on the take and stupid? Then there is the rest of us, who either don’t understand what’s happening and where it will lead or don’t believe there is anything we can do about it.

    What is the 1%’s game?

    1. Jen

      I work for one of the US’ premier universities (except we can’t call it that because our alumni are fanatically attached to their undergrad years, thus we are, and ever shall be a college), and a bastion of the 1%. My observation from this particular ivory tower is that the 1% don’t have anything approximating a game. The strive for their own personal advancement, but they have no interest in a larger strategy, or a clue as to how to execute on it.

    2. Tom Stone

      Their game?
      More power, more money,more…
      Because there isn’t enough, ever.
      They are trying to fill the hole in their souls from the outside.

  25. Mike

    Yves wrote a very informed and logical summary of the situation in Ukraine. The Russians will not quit this conflict until they are successful or until everyone loses. This is a no-win conflict for the people of Ukraine and the West. The Ukrainian leadership may make out though. Usually kleptocrats are the first to leave the sinking ship with bags of cash to purchase their villas in exotic locations. Zelensky and his cronies are definitely that type of leadership. Obama had Ukraine mostly right in 2015 (except for the coup in 2014) but senile (and always wrong) Biden has been taken in by the neocons. Let’s hope this debacle ends before the nuclear countries blow us all to smithereens.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Usually kleptocrats are the first to leave the sinking ship with bags of cash to purchase their villas in exotic locations.

      I can’t wait for Zelensky’s gig at MSNBC.

      1. Randall Flagg

        And commentary columns in the NYT, Washington Post and NPR round table appearances

  26. Susan the other

    The Russians taking Odessa sounds right to me. I certainly would. It’s completely justified. It will prevent future insurrections being supplied from the Black Sea. All of the simultaneous “news” is interesting as well. Germany saying “never surrender” – as in “Do not give land (he Donbass) to Russia” Is interesting. It goes beyond Germany’s need for Russian oil/gas because Russia is quite willing to supply Germany – so it indicates that the EU was toying with the idea (still is?) that the EU should just bulldoze its way to Georgia or wherever and take the oil. I could be too suspicious, but the Caspian is still the prize in terms of energy. Israel is also interested in Caspian oil. So it all makes more sense of Lavrov’s very subtle reference to Venezuela. And, right on cue, Biden’s proclamation that we will wildcat the Caribbean beginning now. I sort of see the masks coming off, the party’s over. And Russia has defended her interests very efficiently. I’m thinking this coming peace treaty, however it reads, should make oil a part of the peace just to prevent any future misadventures.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > The Russians taking Odessa sounds right to me. I certainly would. It’s completely justified. It will prevent future insurrections being supplied from the Black Sea.

      Russia taking Odessa will also — and to my mind this is the most important thing, though maybe not to Russia — send an unequivocal signal* to United States voters that The Blob lost its war in Ukraine. It really is time to kill the national security facehugger with fire and I can’t see another way.** It would be nice if Russia took Odessa before the midterms.

      NOTE * Taking Kiev would (would have) sent the same signal, but I don’t think that’s a possibility.

      ** Even this might not work, since Putin is a demon figure, and one can imagine the hysterical doubling down by liberal Democrats.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I have become quite convinced that the west will win the war with Putin, whatever happens.

        At some stage, Russia will cease combat activities, and whatever line they choose will be declared a victory for Nato. ‘We stopped him taking all of Ukraine’. ‘we stopped him at the German border’. ‘We stopped him taking more than Lithuania and Ukraine and nobody cared about those countries anyway’, etc. etc.

        I would once have said that people would see through this, but these days, I’m not so sure.

        1. jonboinAR

          I don’t know. I could imagine Russia, after they take Odessa, as well as western populations might be content for NATO to “win” the war. I.e., no one will care how they spin it, so long as they end it.

        2. Daniil Adamov

          I think both sides will declare victory eventually, regardless of the actual outcome. The sooner, the better.

          I must add that “denazification and demilitarization” are surprisingly flexible concepts if they can be interpreted as merely eliminating some unspecified quantity of “Nazis” and soldiers, as if both groups could not simply be replenished afterwards…

  27. Old Sovietologist

    “But they might just sit back, and watch Europe being engulfed by an energy crisis and US being overwhelmed by its own decay”.

    It’s something I would do if i was the Russians. Just turn up the pain dial ever so slowly.

  28. Old Sovietologist

    In winter, Putin will be able to use his most powerful weapon: shutting down the gas lines. He knows, of course, that support for Ukraine dwindles when people can’t heat their homes and their wallets empty.

    The majority of the Russian population is behind Putin, and there is no sign of war weariness, probably also because Putin has so far refrained from calling for general mobilization. Should the war continue for more months or years, Russia will have an advantage over Western countries because its people are willing to make greater sacrifices than Germans or French.

    Putin knows Germany’s weaknesses and he will exploit them mercilessly. The national self-image of the Germans is fed by economic efficiency and a life of prosperity. As soon as what the Germans have become accustomed to is called into question, support for Ukraine will dwindle.

    1. begob

      I can’t see Russia cutting off supply: it doesn’t make for good business in the future, it is a direct attack on the target population, and it would require a state of war between Russia and the target state.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The EU (as in von der Leyen and Habeck) has declared it wants to be done with Russian gas by the winter. But a lot of member states are not on board:

        But some like Germany are still trying to not buy any/much so the self sanctions will do plenty of damage. Remember Poland and Bulgaria have already stopped buying Russian gas….and expect the rest of the EU to back fill them.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      “support for Ukraine dwindles when people can’t heat their homes and their wallets empty.”

      This (and variants on this) is probably the most scientifically interesting thesis about this campaign for me so far. Personally, I am not convinced it is going to be so easy. Ideology/morality/politics/values, call it what you will, often trumps rational economic considerations, both on elite and population levels. I think Europe’s population will prove much harder to move on this issue than many current “Russophiles” assume (same deal as with Western sanctions invariably backfiring as a political weapon, really). I may be proven wrong, though.

      A more viable approach might be to bank on the currently-dominant wings of European elites seeking a deal, because while support for Ukraine might not dwindle, support for them probably will.

  29. Stephen

    Thank you. As usual, a very insightful article and the comments also add to one’s understanding.

    I share an anecdote: my taxi driver from Surrey to Gatwick this morning was Bulgarian, albeit in the U.K. for two decades. As I expected of his nationality, he strongly supports Russia and opened up after I mentioned that I sympathise with her (not the same thing as supporting war, of course) and think the west provoked this. I suggested that very few English people think like me. He totally disagreed. Said that he has recently had many people in his car who are horrified by our war mongering and inept government. Especially recently. He also thinks the next move will be towards Odessa to create a landlocked state.

    More substantively, I fear you are spot on that western elites will use a cold and hungry winter as their projection for inability to do anything meaningful to stop Russia. They originally introduced sanctions to create misery in Russia so as to create regime change there. The failure of sanctions to do that has inspired them instead to twist logic to believe that maybe creating misery here will lead all of us to rise up and create the desired regime change in Russia!

    The slight error in this cunning plan is that regime change in the west might be the outcome and it still does nothing against Russia. Only a group of people who have lost their senses and are in the grip of a mass formation could think like this. The lack of a cognitively functional President to see the big picture is a major gap. The “strategy” does increasingly resemble the knight in Monty Python. It is beyond parody.

    With respect to people who do have a proper “strategy” I came across an interesting article: Natylie Baldwin argues that that the whole situation was an intentional Russian trap. I think this is a little too Machiavellian and Putin has certainly provided the west with off ramps at many stages. But she seriously has a point! It is 100% consistent with how this is going.

    Russia is historically good at long, attritional wars. Suits her geopolitical situation. Germany for sure is not suited to long, attritional warfare. That goes right back to the days of Prussia and the rapid way of making war that they created. For Germany, this whole thing is lose lose. Even more than for the rest of the west.

      1. Louis Fyne

        No. at most Germany can muster the equipment and personnel to send a couple of thousand soldiers to war today.

        And who was an ex-head of the German Ministry of Defence?

        why the EU’s Ursula von der Leyden.

    1. Louis Fyne

      I don’t think that Russians had a “Great Game” strategm that lured NATO into a 2022 trap.

      (Hanlon’s razor: don’t confuse the product of idiocy with malice. Conversely don’t confuse the product of discipline and hard-work with omnipotence or omniscience).

      But I would be happy to be wrong and read it Putin’s or Lavrov’s book if they ever decided to spill the beans.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Any grand strategy that assumes your opponents will do stupid things is not worth the paper its written on (as Germany and Japan found out to their cost in the 20th Century).

        But if your opponent does behave stupidly, then as Napoleon would say, don’t interrupt them. I think this is the phase of conflict we are in now, and it will continue until some adults wrest control from the neocons and the likes of Van Leyden. I actually have some hope for Biden in that he has shown a ruthlessly pragmatic streak in the past (notably with Afghanistan) and he seems to be one of the few in Washington who understands – in his lucid moments anyway – that the US has no fundamental strategic interest in Ukraine and that the US cannot be pulled into a land war in Europe.

        There are I think some signs that the Germans and most of the EU (but maybe not most Eastern Europeans) are beginning to see that they’ve lost their Ukraine gamble and are seeking a face saving way out. But the wheels of decision making grind so slowly, it may be too late for them to find an exit – the structures in Europe (Nato and the EU) are not designed for rapid strategic decision making. This may be Europes undoing.

        1. Ignacio

          I don’t have any trust on Biden. Senility might be playing here a hand and it changes a lot the perspective. My guess is that contrary to Obama, Biden doesn’t give a sh&t on legacy, neither in a second term. So far, pragmatism seems to have abandoned Biden.

        2. SocalJimObjects

          Biden’s pragmatism: if you cover up Hunter’s shenanigans, then you can name your price. And of course we’ll return the 300 B or whatever that we stole from you. Best 300 B ever.

        3. Daniil Adamov

          “as Germany and Japan found out to their cost in the 20th Century”

          I’m not sure what you are referring to (well, WW2, presumably, but which assumptions?).

          1. PlutoniumKun

            The Germans (along with most of the European and Asian far right and a significant number of communists) were convinced in the 1930’s that democracies were fundamentally weak and not capable of maintaining a long term war of attrition – they would only have to defeat existing standing armies to win a war. They were also convinced by the Winter War that the Soviet army was a paper tiger with no real leadership – to be fair, this was a view widely shared. It wasn’t until around 1943 that Germany realized it was in a war of attrition that it had not prepared for and could not win.

            The entire Japanese war strategy was based on the notion that if they took the Philippines and Singapore, the western response would be to immediately get together one huge naval armada to seize them back, and this could be destroyed in a single great battle. When it became apparent that the US and Britain was not going to play this game, they changed to a strategy of militarizing a ring of islands around the Pacific on the assumption that the US would grind itself to a halt trying to take every single one. The US simply bypassed all those that were not strategically important.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      As you can see above (someone else linked to that article) I very much disagree.

      First, Putin absolutely did not want this war.

      Second, early on it did not go well. Ukraine did inflict some meaningful casualties on the IIRC five big Russian probes into Ukraine, even though they did succeed in getting Ukraine to the negotiating table fast and making big concessions…..which the US and UK forced Zelensky to repudiate. There was also a lot of upset and uncertainty in Russia over the economic sanctions (Gilbert Doctorow showed that in his recap of some Russian political TV shows).

      Third, Russia did not expect the severity of Western sanctions, that Russia was actually better prepared than anyone dared hope, nor that they would blow back on the West so badly. All of this wound up to be what I regularly call “What looks like bad luck actually turns out to be good luck.”

      Fourth, and again in the category of “What looks like bad luck actually turns out to be good luck,” the West tried arming Ukraine to an unprecedented degree. Russia had no reason to expect that. Nor did it have reason to think the Western cupboards were so thinly stocked and would be depleted so quickly.

      1. Stephen

        I actually agree too that Putin did not want this war and this is not the outcome of some master plan that has been a decade brewing. .

        Forgive English understatement and irony in my comments on the article. Two years at a US university and two decades working at US centric partnerships did not remove that tendency…..

        What has happened is purely an outcome of strange circumstances. I remember too the genuine shock that Russia had after sanctions were enacted. My recollection is that it took over a week to figure out a way forward and they clearly were wrong footed.

        My suspicion would still be though that some form of extreme game planned scenario might have been close to what has happened militarily. Including some level of supply of western arms (given we were already training the Ukrainian army), although not to anything like this extent and not with such self defeating western sanctions!

        But that scenario was probably in the 5% outlier area and no one in the Kremlin expected it to be the out turn. Their intended outcome was a rapid negotiation or regime collapse after various demonstrations and feints. They would have got that too without the west preventing it. Russia no doubt wrongly assumed western rationality in their core scenarios. They also might have assumed that Ukrainian leaders cared about Ukrainian lives. How wrong they were about that too, it seems.

        The related comment to the point about unexpected luck is that as in all war (and business, I believe…) you do not need to have the perfect strategy. It just needs to be less imperfect than the other side. Right now, Russia seems to be in that position. No one could have forecast this level of western stupidity.

  30. Lex

    Just another thank you to Yves for the detailed and though provoking summary, as well as all the comments that keep provoking more thought.

  31. David in Santa Cruz

    Terrific post and comments. As an old fart addicted to the written word I can’t/won’t watch YouTube rambling. Thanks for summarizing!

    I’d just like to add that President Putin was quite clear at the beginning of the Special Military Operation that one of its objectives was to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Odessa Trade Unions House fire. I don’t see how that can happen without occupying Odessa.

    I’d also add that today’s Failing NYTimes briefly juxtaposed reporting on Zelenskyy’s purge of “collaborationists” and their “fellow travelers” with a piece on a small propaganda event in Bucha. I’m still convinced that the Bucha massacres were perpetrated by the SBU against “collaborators” after the brief Russian occupation.

    The U.S. remains “agreement incapable” and the real question is whether the core EU nations of Germany, France, and Italy will be picked-off from the “North Atlantic Alliance” due to their need for Russian gas and oil, and then pivot into to multipolar trade alliances with BRICS+. If that happens, the unipolar U.S. will be left in dire straits when it comes to all sort of consumer goods — and the 2020 street disturbances will look like a walk in the park…

    1. Daniil Adamov

      I don’t see how that, or any other of our stated objectives outside of maybe defending the Donbass, could be accomplished without occupying all of Ukraine. Although of course we would have to call it something other than an occupation.

  32. Matthew G. Saroff

    I think that Russia will do more than just take Odessa. I think that they will take the entire Black Sea Coast.

    BTW, there have been reports of Poland looking to get influence/control over sections of Western Ukraine (Galicia) though some sort of “Peacekeeping” arrangement.

    Anyone have information on that?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It might and Russia would probably favor that (makes the Banderites, which were Pole killers before they were Russian and Jew killers) Poland’s problem in Lvov, their big base, but IMHO NATO and the US would be mighty unhappy. And Poland already gave half its tanks to Ukraine and ran down other weapons, so I doubt it’s all that well prepared.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            IIRC the Banderites were mostly Pole killers. At least that was their main lasting accomplishment, that Ukraine no longer has a Polish minority to concern itself with, the way it has Hungarians.

        2. Louis Fyne

          Poland has a population <40 million.

          Depending how you define Galicia, that's 2 to 5 million people to occupy.

          Occupying a foreign land w/10% of the people of your homeland approaches the ratio of the US occupation of Iraq in 2003.

          the ultranationalistic genie is out of the bottle, i doubt that 100% of Galicia would welcome Poles as liberators.

  33. TomC

    Great News for a struggling planet. Power and domination legitimize the suffering of those on all sides.

    The Godfather security racket works on the global scale. Engineer dependencies for leg-breaking.

    When we’ve exhausted Nature and ourselves enough, the UAP operating entities will declare Humans out of control, wasting the biologic resources of the planet whose harvest has been critical to Space Nation trade for millennia.

    They will stage a “domestic violence” intervention. It may be disguised as a rescue technology that is to solve problems but locks Humanity into a particular trading block. Humanity will be the workforce to pay in labor, the costs of the stabilizing rescue. Aliens will be next level Economic Hit-men.

    There’s no UN-like indigenous rights training to help Humans avoid a self-serving takeover by a collective group. Consent is required, but that can be manufactured.

    Sci-Fi? Search “Allies of Humanity”

    Sound a bit Russia-Ukraine?

    “As below, so above” is the Hermetic heuristic.

    Scale-wise, often accurate.

  34. caucus99percenter

    The Green-adjacent Berlin daily, which still fancies itself as ideologically Left on the strength of its automaton-like advocacy for all things id-pol, is playing up the Vinnytsia rocket attack as its lead story today — portraying it as a straight-up terror attack on civilians. Among the victims: three children (photo of casket).!5865542/

    Translation aid:

    No mention of weapons dealers or any other hint of the presence of a legitimate military target.

    Well, the left-Green milieu in Germany now has been totally captured by the U.S. “Blob”. It’s the darnedest thing. I really should rescind my membership in the co-op that owns and publishes

    1. Lambert Strether

      Because Google appears to be our friend, it’s really not hard to find out that the “Officers Club” really is an institution run by the military. Just the place where I’d hold a meeting with arms dealers. I don’t like it when civilians are killed, but the United States hasn’t been notably concerned with that in all the other wars it has sought, planned for, and executed, so why start now?

      1. caucus99percenter

        Re the war, entirely one-sided Zelensky-friendly propaganda presentations are now the only thing allowed in German media. Anything else gets one ostracized and labelled as a tool of the Kremlin.

        The latest target is Hermann L. Gremliza’s monthly magazine konkret, a part of the German left since 1974. A score of authors previously published in konkret have signed an open letter attacking it as pro-Putin and featuring too many points critical of current policy that match those raised by right-wing populists.!5865414/

  35. cosmiccretin

    It’s difficult, I think, not to see the American polity as being in the grip of a malignant cancer which has by now metastasised throughout the most vital parts of its anatomy and which therefore has become ineradicable, before long to result in a prolonged and painful death.

    This forum, and some others, testify to the fact that there’s no shortage of Americans keenly aware that their country’s governance has gone completely off the rails. I suspect that (expressed in less fancy language no doubt) that feeling may be widespread among a substantial proportion of the American public regardless of party affiliation – or none.

    Yet the principle seat of the malady – Washington as a whole and the neocons specifically – goes rampaging on nevertheless, seemingly immune from being called to account for its crimes and completely unimpeded in going on compounding them.

    That is deeply mystifying to us helpless spectators in countries which have parliamentary systems (however inadequate). It’s not that we ourselves are wiser but more that we somehow expect that a nation having the pretensions to greatness that the USA has entertained since WW II would also produce institutions and leaders coming somewhere closer to matching – in wisdom, or perhaps just in plain common sense – the demands that such ambitions impose.

    Very unreasonable of us, I guess.

  36. mikeyoe

    What is :Western media?” Does that include everything from FOX, CNN, BBC, CBC, DW, France 24, etc?
    Just asking. :-)

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