Further Thoughts on Russian Partial Mobilization and Next Steps

Your humble blogger is overbusy, hence you are getting a short post today. But the commentariat made many insightful observations yesterday about Putin’s announcement of Russia’s partial mobilization and the scheduling of referenda in the “liberated” regions of Ukraine.

These decisions to move ahead were made with signs of haste, which is not how the Kremlin normally operates. But the plans for partial mobilization and the referenda were likely already in place, but their launches were moved up.

The most plausible explanation was a disconnect between military priorities and political needs. Russia has been coordinating different forces: its own military, which provides intel, artillery and missiles, air power and anti-missile protection, and some infantry, but mainly in Kherson. The main infantry muscle comes from the DPR and LPR militia, with the Chechens and the Wagner Group.

Some Western commentators have taken some of Putin’s responses in Q&As to indicate that the military has very broad latitude to achieve its goals. And it’s regularly used mobility to its advantage, ceding ground and often succeeding in pulling Ukrainian troops into exposed position where they can be cut down or captured.

In the attritional, grinding combat in Donbass, this sort of back and forth didn’t have political implications. But the Kharviv pullback did. Russia had signaled it intended to hold ground there by starting to issue Russian passports (from what I can tell, it had not gone as far as it had in Kherson, where it was converting the banks to roubles. As reader Andrey Subbotin put it:

After the Kharkov towns were thrown to the wolves, the pro-Russian administrations of 4 oblasts panicked and started pushing for referendum as a guarantee that the same would not happen to them. That put Russia into a put-up-or-shut-up position. Not taking them in could have been interpreted as a preparation for some kind of managed defeat. And, fairly or not, the perception that we are losing would have killed the recruiting. Taking them in is locking Russia into a win-or-lose war with no possibility of negotiated settlement in sight.

This is consistent with the extreme quick trigger for holding the referenda (apparently September 23 to 27 per YouTubers I follow) and Putin playing up the partial mobilization via giving a big speech about it. That also paints it as a significant step domestically, which could cut both ways there. As reader Lex and others pointed out, the US engaged in partial mobilizations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but never made a big deal about it.

Another possible reason for the very tight time between the announcement of the referenda and the polling dates is to reduce the opportunity for Ukraine terrorism.

As we mentioned yesterday, one more grounds for beefing up manpower would be to conduct a winter offensive. Not only are Russian forces better equipped to fight in those conditions, but a large scale operation then would also undermine the widely-rumored Ukraine plans to assemble and train new forces for a 2023 counter-offensive. And as readers pointed out, the referenda would be helpful in converting the militia to regular Russian soldiers and getting them into a unified command structure.

Some commentators argued it would be at least three months for Russians to get the soldiers brought in via the partial mobilization up to fighting form. That would mean perhaps the partial mobilization wasn’t moved up by that. But readers pointed out that Russia has been readying other forces. Per Brian Beijer:

According to Mike’s video on YouTube last night (I earlgrey), each oblast? or county? has been calling for at 1,000 volunteers from former servicemen for at least the past month or two. Mike said that the Leningrad region’s volunteers seem ready to deploy now. He also said that if this call for voluteers is successful in every county(?), it would mean 83,000 volunteers joining the front. I’m assuming that these volunteers are in addition to the 100,000 being mobilized today. Mike also mentioned that he’s been seeing videos that show a mass deployment of troops already heading for Ukraine….although he wasn’t sure if these videos were legit or just another feint by Russia.

Dima of the Military Summary channel was exercised about the lack of any Western response to the announcement, save more verbal wet noodle lashings. He pointed out that the normal response is for at least some countries in the ‘hood to announce similar measures. Nor is there any plan as of now for a special NATO meeting. Perhaps other shoes will drop in the next few days. Or perhaps the West has conclude this mobilization means nothing in practice because Russia has such a lousy, no good armed forces:

As Lambert wonders, “So how come our brilliantly trained troops keep losing wars, and Russia’s hapless conscripts keep winning them?”

We know conscripts haven’t been sent to Ukraine (none were supposed to be; apparently 600 were dispatched by mistake and quickly pulled out when the error was discovered). So where is this persistent trash-talking of the Russian military coming from? Maybe those same dastardly Russian influencers who delivered 2016 to Trump are actually behind this campaign to make sure the West keeps badly underestimating Russia’s capabilities.

But then again, there’s always the Institute for Study of War:

And we have the question of where this all goes. Recall Medvedev’s provocative map, which among other things was to say Russia would support the dismemberment of Western Ukraine:

Below are possible end games and what they mean for the protagonists. Lambert wanted readers to say which they thought was most likely.

My personal guess is that Russia will go beyond the “landlocked” scenario and take at least Kharkiv oblast too. If they take the Black Sea coast, their constraint on taking the territory between Donbass and the Dnieper is more political than military: how receptive the locals would be to Russian (or protostate) administration. Putin said at the start of the SMO that Russia wouldn’t go where it wasn’t wanted. And I doubt Russia wants the headache and resource cost of trying to control areas with significant local opposition. But Russia is a way aways from having to make choices like that.

However, consider the latest assessment by the normally temperate Gilbert Doctorow:

The merger of the Russia-occupied Ukrainian territories with the Russian Federation will mark the end of the ‘special military operation.’… It marks the beginning of open war on Ukraine with the objective of the enemy’s unconditional capitulation. This will likely entail the removal of the civil and military leadership and, very likely, the dismemberment of Ukraine. After all, the Kremlin warned more than a year ago that the US-dictated course of NATO membership for Ukraine will result in its loss of statehood. However, these particular objectives were not declared up to now; the SMO was about defending the Donbas against genocide and about de-nazification of Ukraine, itself a rather vague concept…

Accordingly, as Russia moves from SMO to open war, we may expect massive destruction of Ukrainian civil as well as military infrastructure to fully block all movement of Western supplied arms from points of delivery in the Lvov region and other borders to the front lines. We may eventually expect bombing and destruction of Ukraine’s centers of decision-making in Kiev.

If Doctorow is correct, the widespread assumption that Russia turning up the pain dial won’t happen for at least a couple of months, until the newly mobilized forces are good to go, could be yet another underestimation of Russian planning and resolve. We’ll see in due course.

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    1. The Rev Kev

      On the news tonight they actually featured a flight map with the regular yellow arrows showing flights leaving Russia giving the impression that every plane was packed full with Russian draft dodgers instead of normal flights. It was a bizarre piece of propaganda. If any try to go through the Baltic States though, they will be all out of luck as ‘The Baltic states have ruled out the possibility of accepting Russian draft dodgers or granting them asylum after Moscow announced a partial mobilization on Wednesday.’


    2. hunkerdown

      Air traffic sounds more like liberda PMC deserting the ship than draft dodgers leaving the frying pan for the fire. Good, and let’s hope the West’s lying PMC also leaves on a jet plane, never to be heard from again.

      1. Cristobal

        I could be confused by all the racket, but I thought that reserves had been called up – that is ex-military who had done their time and returned to civilian life. At least in the US this arrangement is standard (2 years active service and somé more as reserves. They get paid, and do somé kind of refreshment camp every so often). If so, this is not a draft and the media is making a big deal out of nothing.

        1. sinbad66

          Don’t know if they do it like this any longer, but when I was active duty in the US Army (1987-94), you signed up for 8 years total (usually 2-4 years active duty, the rest in the reserves). In my case, since I did about 7 years (first enlistment was 4 years; the second 3), they asked me if I had wanted to do active reserves or IRR (Individual Ready Reserves, basically inactive reserves). After my IRR time was completed, I was officially discharged. So maybe that’s what is happening here as well. But that was pre-9/11.

          1. scott s.

            These days Army is using a lot of contracts for 2 year active duty, 2 year in the selected (drilling) reserve and remaining 4 year in IRR. Of course, when you retire you aren’t really “retired” just transferred to the Retired Reserve until you’re 60.

    3. Kouros

      The article is more nuanced than that. It is the price that spiked with tickets sold out only for the next several days. And the airlines, as good capitalist have spiked (7x) the price of the tickets…

  1. upstater

    On the NYT today:

    As Russia Retreats, a Question Lingers: Who Counts as a Collaborator?
    In towns reclaimed from Russian occupation, Ukrainian officials are working to identify — and punish — those who helped the enemy. It’s dividing some communities.

    Apparently school teachers, teaching in Russian language, are subject to prosecution. Or people that transferred bodies from shallow graves in town to the supposed “mass graves” (ie, the numbered crosses we all have seen in photos) can be prosecuted.

    One expects the CIA trained Einsatzgruppen death squads of Azov, Kraken and Svoboda are hard at work. Replicating the trade employed by the US in so many places in the past 75 years.

  2. Lex

    What the western analysis is missing is that legally it’s not possible for Russian military units to be active in foreign countries. There have obviously been workarounds in Ukraine, but it’s part of why so few regular army units are involved and the parsimonious use of manpower. That’s the big change that comes with the referenda and mobilization.

    At this point the AFU is significantly but not catastrophically degraded. The minimal force applied by Russia has had its share of failures but has done that degradation and mostly held the line. It likely would have been sufficient for the whole task except the west has gone all in and is now a direct participant in the conflict. That’s problematic but has apparently done terrible things to western military stocks (especially Eastern European stocks), which does reduce the larger threat to Russia in the short term.

    Partial mobilization means the ability to backfill rear duties in the conflict zone as well as border duties in the western military zone and along the Russian-Ukrainian border. With the referenda, regular army can be applied at large scale against a degraded AFU and with loosened rules of engagement concerning infrastructure. It’s openly telegraphed to give DC another chance to act rationally. If not, you go NATO on the degraded AFU, infrastructure and aim to give the west a crushing defeat on the battlefield of its choosing. It will be costly but could achieve encirclement of the AFU in Donbas/Kharkov as well as the capture of Odessa. And I maintain that if Odessa FAA, the US taps out.

    In this scenario we all have to hope the US doesn’t further escalate because that escalation ladder will see nukes. NATO leadership thinks it can manage and win a “limited nuclear war” and it doesn’t handle losing very well.

    1. George Vockroth

      Would like to hear more about how, NATO leadership thinks it can manage and win a “limited nuclear war”.

      1. Michaelmas

        Something obscured by the Western MSM’s focus on playing up the general threat of Putin escalating to nuclear weapons is that Putin actually said:

        “Those who are using nuclear blackmail against us should know that the wind rose (NATO symbol) can turn around.”

        There’s a quite specific threat implied in that phrasing, which gives Putin and Russia the scope of climbing another rung up the escalation ladder before actual use of nuclear weapons. As follows: –

        [1] The Kiev regime’s shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, its lies about that, and the subsequent refusal of the IAEA and the UN to acknowledge those Ukrainian lies will have hardened Russian attitudes towards the EU and the West .

        [2] There are fifteen nuclear reactors located across four power plants in Ukraine, nine of which remain in the Kiev regime’s territory.

        [3] When the coming referendums are done, the territories of Donetz and Lugansk will become officially Russian. The US-NATO will then continue its proxy war and push the Kiev regime to attack those regions, though they will then be Russia by Russian lights. At that point, the Russians will take that as an act of war, conclude the special military operation, and commence the war proper on Ukraine.

        [4] They can then do what they’ve been technically capable of doing from the beginning and what the USA canonically does when it invades a country: target and take out with missile and air strikes both the enemy’s C&C centers — currently occupied to some greater or lesser extent by the US-NATO personnel actually directing this war — and the country’s civil infrastructure of water, railroads, communications, specific bridges and roads, and its power plants and transmission lines.

        [5] In general, as Docotorow suggests, then. But among those power plants are the nine nuclear reactors. And the targeting of those could be done on days when the wind is specifically blowing east to west, towards Europe.

        [6] Not only that. Here’s a map of those reactors’ locations.

        Presumably, those reactors are built to Soviet specs and, like Zaporizhzhia, are built to standards whereby conventional attack by shelling or an aircraft crashing into them won’t crack their containment vessels (Although spent fuel pools are far more vulnerable.) A Kinzhal hypersonic missile — or a barrage of them — very likely will.

        An exclusion zone created at South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, a.k.a the Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Mykolaiv oblast, about 350 kms south of Kiev, would have the effect of focusing a few minds in the US, NATO, and the EU.

        Indeed, the Russians sent a warning three days ago.

        1. Cristobal

          Exactly. This issue too is being blown’ out of proporción to inflate the Putin madman thesis. Since very few bother to read the speech – since of course the MSM does not provide It – the public and even the políticos jump on It.

  3. HH

    We will soon find out if the U.S. Neocons will get all of us killed. Ideologues are incapable of reasoning, so they will keep escalating. The Russians are not bluffing, and they will not accept defeat in Ukraine. America is sleepwalking toward nuclear war.

  4. DJG, Reality Czar

    Interesting observation from Lambert Strether about choosing a map. I see the end of this war as the Landlocked map–Russia takes the Black Sea coast. I’m not sure if that former Romanian oblast will go to Russia. Russia might give it back to Moldova–it was part of Moldavia for centuries.

    I disagree with the esteemed Yves Smith: Kharhiv? No. It’s too much of a headache and would be a source of even more Ukrainian irredentism. We Must Have Glorious Kharkiv Back!

    The Landlocked map also is a sign of a frozen war, though. Geographically, it seems to work best, but it also leaves the remnant Ukraine as a vassal state of the U S of A. So the war would end with a DMZ–the frozen war of Korea, redux.

    Considerations in the West: NATO is the U S of A plus satellite states. Will NATO see the light and negotiate?

    Culturally, the U S of A cannot negotiate. Joe Biden wants to seem decisive. The Democrats have been whipped into war hysteria by the Hillary Clinton DieHards who have wanted the war since 2016, when man-spreading Putin dinged the (convenient) virtue of Abuelita Hillary.

    I’d dip my toe into the intelligence-agency-adjacent swamp of Heather Cox Richardson to see how long the war will last. I’m sure that the Vindmans are whispering in her ear. Her main audience is Clinton DieHards. Who is feeling braver than I am?

    The U S of A considers war an investment. So much for the Constitution and all of those fine words.

    1. Altandmain

      If Gonzola Lira is correct, many of the Ukrainian speaking citizens have already left Kharkov, which suggests that a higher percentage of the population that is remaining is Russian speaking.

    2. Ignacio

      Here you point out questions that are more important than the final look of the map. However the military advances go this doesn’t end until an agreement is reached. The big problem is that such agreement should include agreement incapable Democrat Presidents or, possibly more realistic in the geopolitical sense, a Republican. But, much more important than this would be a pan-European agreement once we get rid of the von der Leyens and the like plus anyone else that has irreversibly gone into full war against Russia. That, difficult as it looks, would be much easier to do even if some idiots have to loose face (good riddance indeed). The UK could be left apart with the US if needed.

      1. ambrit

        There is also the factor of “overage” in the territorial acquisitions department. Roughly speaking, you take more territory than you need and bargain the “excess” back for verifiable concessions. Say, the return of a centrally located oblast with mainly Ukrainian speaking citizens for a strong arms limitation treaty. The important part would be in who does the verification. Since the IAEA seems to have become an arm of the Atlanticist Cabal, someone like the Chinese will be needed to police the agreements.
        As has been said before, look not so much on the map outcome, but on the functional capabilities sphere. Such as, who will control the “other” nuclear power plants in the Rump Ukraine? And, who will control the best croplands?
        I would not at all be surprised next Spring to see Russia propose a series of plebiscites, one per oblast, to determine the political fate of the entirety of the Ukraine.

    3. ChrisRUEcon

      DJG, R. Cz.

      >Will NATO see the light and negotiate? Culturally, the U S of A cannot negotiate. Joe Biden wants to seem decisive.

      I am reminded of the penitential rite from Catholic mass: ” … for what I have done, and what I have failed to do …”

      I had a further thought – if you’re a Ukrainian who is currently against the SMO, and you see Putin basically call these referenda in order to defend those oblasts as Russian territory, are you not wondering why US/NATO don’t meet that move by adding Ukraine into NATO?! That’s strikes me as an obvious sin of omission. In other words, fight to the last Ukrainian, but we’re not going to defend you. As John Mearsheimer pointed out, Ukraine has little real strategic relevance to US/NATO, and the entire exercise of using Ukraine as a stick to poke the bear has now reached the “bridge too far” to cross.

      1. hk

        Historically (and possibly legally), territorial disputes are grounds against NATO admission, IIRC. The rationale is that NATO will not fight to support irredentism. How would that apply for Ukraine, I wonder.

        1. ChrisRUEcon

          Thx hk. Good to know, but further illuminates the chasm – why goad an opponent who has recourse to an option of which one cannot avail oneself?

          1. Polar Socialist

            That issue was the main dilemma for Ukraine with the Minsk Protocol: if they don’t accept it, they can’t access NATO because of civil war/territorial issues and if they do accept it, the eastern areas will prevent any movement towards NATO.

            That’s why Oleksiy Arestovych said in 2019 that only way for Ukraine to join NATO is to fight a war against Russia. That’s why Petro Poroshenko said 2022 that he signed the Minsk Accords only to gain time to prepare for war.

            In 2014 neither Ukraine or Russia was ready to fight it out, in 2022 they apparently thought they were.

    4. John k

      Kharkov oblast went 68% for the Russian leaning guy in 2014, 5th highest of the 9 that did so. Odessa just behind at 67%. Imo all 9 will ask for referendums when liberated. Odessa imo probably sooner, that’s strategic, ukr fires at crimea from there, plus I think nato lusts for crimea for base, once that’s gone nato might lose interest. Dnieper is a nice boundary, but in the south Russian leaning oblasts are on the west side, whereas in the north ukr leaning ones are on the eastern side, though the latter imo de-militarized.
      Likely terrorism will occur in some majority speaking oblasts, would be really difficult in minority Russian areas. They mostly went at least 2/3 to one side or 2/3 to the other.

      My fond thought is that while ukr can’t be allowed to lose before the midterms, maybe the opposite will be true afterwards. The more time between war’s ending with nato loss and 2024 maybe the better for dems. Plus eu will be colder mid-Nov, natives restless. Otoh, consequence of this loss in Europe imo will end unipolar, great frustration in dc is dangerous. And neocons are running state and defense.

    5. Kouros

      While Russia might keep only certain areas of Ukraine, this doesn’t preclude Russia knocking the teeth out of Ukrainian army, and completely neutering Ukraine’s ability to fight.

      While the current regime exponents in Kiev and the rest might run abroad, I am sure Russia will find enough people in Ukraine to conduct peace negotiations with. A big dollop of minority rights and will have Hungarians, Romanians, etc. fully on board.

    6. lambert strether

      > Frozen war

      I still say give Poland Galicia and let them undertake the pleasant tasks of dealing with the Nazis. It’s not like there’s no history there…

    7. William Verick

      In the aftermath of World War II, there was some irredentism in Silesia and the Sudetenland and in many places throughout Germany when twelve million Germans were expelled from Silesia and the Sudetenland to more western parts of Germany, their homes and land taken and given to Poland and Czechoslovakia. It didn’t make much difference then and there is little irredentism in Germany today. At least, not any that matters.

  5. Stephen

    The comments on the connection between Kharkov and the timing of these announcements are deeply insightful: Kharkov being militarily immaterial but politically a clear own goal in being able to rally civilian support. Now addressed by the announcements.

    I read the full Gilbert Doctorow article and his final reflection feels crucial:

    “ Looking beyond Ukraine’s possible loss of statehood, a Russian victory will mean more than an Afghanistan-like bloody nose for Washington. It will expose the low value of the U.S. military umbrella for EU member states and will necessarily lead to re-evaluation of Europe’s security architecture, which is what the Russians were demanding before their incursion into Ukraine was launched in February.”

    A key Russian objective has been putting in place an architecture that meets their security needs. They will win the immediate war in Ukraine but how we get a sensible European level long term settlement is very unclear. The current western leadership is incapable of an arrangement such as the Concert of Europe, or of a mutual settlement such as that put in place by the Vienna Congress. But we probably do need something like that.

    We also need America out of Europe (I hate to say that) because her current role is not helpful. We need her to be a trading partner and friend but not playing the role she currently takes. It is as much our own fault as it is hers so this needs European behaviour to change. As America loses relative power, I suspect that behaviour change will become easier. Right now, my sense is that fear of America, money flows and cultural links drive elite behaviour here. That needs to alter. It may take a couple of decades to get there and there may be a lot of unfortunate dislocation in the process. But it feels the end game. We need new leaders who get it. Where is de Gaulle when we need him?

    By the way, this is not an anti American point. I took one of my degrees at a U.S. school and spent over two decades at US centred partnerships. But American foreign policy does not reflect the true generosity and humanity of the American people. Just as British foreign policy does not either.

    1. KD

      We also need America out of Europe (I hate to say that) because her current role is not helpful.

      The mice voted to bell the cat?

      Even De Gaulle didn’t fight NATO’s presence in Europe, he just pulled out of the joint forces integrated command. France remained in NATO.

    2. Jan

      >>We also need America out of Europe

      For now it still seems Europe/EU is following the USA’s lead: europe-turns-on-china. With all the uncertainty about the economy once energy scarceness kicks in, this doesn’t feel like a good time to start messing with the relationship with China. But our EU leaders seem to think differently.

      But maybe I’m reading the wrong blogs and the EU will be fine. A Dutch podcast I listen to almost daily keeps telling me the Russian military has performed abhorrently, Putin is bypassing his generals which is a bad sign for them, morale in the Russian army is very low, and the Kharkov offensive shows what’s possible for Ukraine. Also, Russian Kilo submarines are fleeing away from Ukraine because of all the threats.

      All this makes me wonder too, how will the EU cope if (when?) blogs like NC, the Duran, Ritter, Berletic are right and the MSM are wrong?

      1. John Zelnicker

        Jan – As to your last sentence, the EU and the US will cope by trying to de-platform and censor those folks who won’t play along with the Washington Consensus.

        Any admission of errors is verboten.

        1. ambrit

          Yep. That censorship and threats of deplatforming is already going on.
          Prop-or-not was a test run. It didn’t work out, but who’s to say a new and improved model won’t be forthcoming?
          [Hmmm… Ye Internet Dragons be hungry.]

        2. José Freitas

          It will be like with Covid policies. In a year or two EVERYBODY will agree that it was foolish for Ukraine not to negotiate, that everybody knew how much stronger the Russian army was, and how stupid it was to sanction Russia like that, that it was always obvious that Europe would suffer more.

          But none of th alt-media will be rehabilitated. People who were deplatformed, fired, canceled for saying things re. Covid that are now essentially vox populi, remain deplatformed, unenployed, canceled.

    3. pjay

      – “We also need America out of Europe (I hate to say that) because her current role is not helpful. We need her to be a trading partner and friend but not playing the role she currently takes. It is as much our own fault as it is hers so this needs European behaviour to change.”

      As an outside observer in the US, I have been quite impressed (and depressed) by the steady shift in European leadership over the decades. One by one, it seems, those with some degree of sanity or independence have been picked off and replaced by pro-US/NATO lackeys. This has not happened overnight, but has been a long process that has accelerated in recent years. I am interested in your thoughts – or those of other European commenters – on how and why this has occurred in such a striking manner. I have my own ideas, but as I say, these are impressions from afar. There are obvious similarities with the capture of the Democratic Party in the US and Labour in Britain, but the costs to European citizens seems more immediate somehow.


      1. Bugs

        American-funded education grants and think tanks. It’s as simple as that. Penetrate the elites and coach them into leadership roles. The sad thing for me is that Macron was mentored by a great political thinker, Paul Ricoeur. At least that’s the story.

      2. Stephen

        I think Bugs is right. It is a combination of money driving indoctrination.

        In my youth, the left was usually pacifist. Now they seem to be vying with the right to show who can be more bellicose.


      3. synoia

        With friends who have manipulated events to their advantage only for over 75 why would Europe need enemies?

    4. hemeantwell

      Regarding the sources of EU elite fear of America, a question I’ve been raising here recently, it dawned on me that Tooze’s account in Crash of the management of the GFC can tell us a lot: the Fed’s extension of credit to the European banking system kept it afloat. The need to keep that support option available by rationalizing the US’ anti-Russian policy dictates can explain a lot of the sheer dishonesty and incoherence of EU elite behavior. The situation is very similar to the late 1940s, when a war-ravaged Russia had no expansionist aims and western Europe was heavily dependent on the US for everything from food to capital investment.

      1. Michaelmas

        Tooze’s account in Crash of the management of the GFC can tell us a lot: the Fed’s extension of credit to the European banking system kept it afloat.


        But at least as pertinent is the example of Tony Blair who took the UK into Iraq 2 in compliance with the wishes of the US and against the expressed resistance of a majority of the UK population. Blair is now personally worth $120 million.

        Treason does never prosper,
        What’s the reason?
        For if it prosper
        None dare call it treason

        – Sir John Harington (1560?–1612)

        1. hemeantwell

          Agreed, I’m sure that the slide into proper alignment with US policies is and will be well-greased. But the GFC experience is unusual in that the entire EU elite was educated to their abject dependency, in short order and in an imperative way. That must be part of their current store of quasiontological assumptions about the workings of the world. And they cannot be frank about it. Who can take marionettes seriously?

        2. eg

          If I understand correctly what I have heard Michael Hudson say about European politics is accurate, Blair is merely chief among those bought and paid for.

    5. dingusansich

      Recently, while reading about Fabian defensive strategies, I came upon the Wikipedia article on the battle of Borodino. A timely passage:

      Kutuzov understood that Barclay’s decision to retreat had been correct, but the Tsar, the Russian troops and Russia could not accept further retreat.

      In a nutshell, what we may be seeing in the aftermath of Kharkiv is one of history’s slant rhymes.

    6. Ignacio

      Atlanticism should go to hell, IMO. As we are seeing what is it about so clearly these days. The EU has been playing with common defence on paper but NATO won the bet possibly because it is less expensive for the EU if the US bears most of the military cost and the EU focuses on business others than weapons. If this is true, tells a lot about primacy of bussiness criteria always above all, including common sense. As you can see here (2018 article) much of it was about business. Weapons business of course.

    7. Skip Intro

      By this time next year, barring extreme and unforeseen escalations in peace or war, the EU will have substantially deindustrialised, and will be less able to field a powerful, modern, US-proxy army, especially with the USD-EUR exchange rate exploding, and their existing arsenal blown to scrap in the former Ukraine. They’ll be able to buy like half an F35 between them. In the end, we may well see Raytheon owning substantial chunks of EU infrastructure, claimed as collateral when they can’t repo the weapons. So everything is going according to plan.

      1. chris

        Sagaar Enjeti was mentioning the curious outcomes of euro energy decisions today. He claimed there were reports of euro corps shifting their manufacturing to the US because of the domestic energy prices they were dealing with.

        If we get lucky and have a mild winter in Europe and the UK, then we could explore what might happen if there is just the balance between commercial/industrial interests and residences to consider. Given what we have seen already, I think the end result will be a freezing, but not frozen, winter for the citizenry. They should be able to keep their housing in 50s or at least the 40s (in terms of Fahrenheit) through April. But industry… what do you do when you need to run a process that requires a certain amount of energy and you don’t have it/can’t afford it? What will the US do if Germany and France spend all their money on bailing out their companies and none towards arming Ukraine? That’s why I think even a mild winter is going to result in hard choices for people. I can’t imagine the resolve to support Ukraine withstanding cold homes, cold food, and no jobs.

        If we have a harsh winter… all bets are off. Sleepy Joe can stammer at the UN and give speeches all he wants. It won’t matter, Germany will have to start buying Russian fuel and accepting Russian demands. Once Germany does that, how will they be able to keep others from doing the same? What does the US do when the sanctions we’re enforcing hurt the allies we’re asking to spend even more resources on a war we asked them to support? What happens when our monetary policy makes the dollar too strong against the euro so it is too expensive for euro allies to buy the wat materiel we insist they purchase? If the answer is full steam ahead on everything then we really might see the end of any Atlantic consensus.

        1. Kilgore Trout

          I think yours is the best possible outcome. It would be nice if “best possible” were also “most likely”. Pray for a cold winter in Europe? So that Germany’s misleadership class comes to its senses?

        2. hk

          If the winter is harsh, our “leaders” can deliver speeches against the weather gods, impose sanctions on winter, and ban all cultural references to the season, including possibly, reducing a year to 9 months. That would teach them.

          1. José Freitas

            I am going to steal this, and use it to win Twitter for the day, it’s just too perfect, it will the most popular post there. LOL

          2. johnnyme

            You left off their true secret weapon — enforcing a cap on winter temperatures. Mother Nature must not only continue to supply winter air but must provide winter air above 0C. This cap could be increased to 10C as an additional punishment.

    8. John k

      I dont see stasis for decades. Russia successfully dismembering ukr is a clear loss for nato/us that would imo end unipolar – the whole world is watching, certainly the global south but not least eu. And locally, eu losing access to cheap energy will de-industrialize the region; this combination seems likely to bring eu to the sanctions table much sooner, imo months and not decades. Leaders will either change policies or the masses will change leaders. Le Pen might look really good in France, etc.

  6. KD

    My guess is that the RF is aiming for the Novorossiya “pyrrhic victory” at this point–all they have to do is hammer the Ukrainians, take back the rest of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, defend the borders, and then just continue attrition on the UAF. . . whether there is a peace deal or not. At some point, everyone realizes its hopeless, and Ukraine is a permanent economic basket case and runs out of conscripts. No significant issues with occupation, and Ukraine will not easily join NATO with a permanent war brewing. I know its not very dramatic, but probably serves their purposes.

    You have to presume countries like Turkey and China and India may get nervous if RF moves to fast. If Odessa remains in Ukraine, they can always use it to start another SMO, and its keeps their options open. . . and, of course, there will be separatist forces there to harass the Ukrainians.

  7. The Rev Kev

    People will be glad to hear that the European Union does not consider itself at war with Russia. In fact, EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano came out with a statement and said that ‘Of course we are not in war with Russia. We are supporting Ukraine’s legitimate, justified fight to defend its people and its territory.’ I guess that he had to say this after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez claimed that Moscow is battling not only Kiev’s forces but the whole EU in Ukraine. And of course the bellicose statements of the EU’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell haven’t been helping either. So now we know that the countries of the EU are definitely not at war with Russia. Not in the slightest. The countries of NATO however are another matter.

    It may be that the EU will use this war to centralize more power for themselves and now they are in discussion to remove the vetoes of countries in making EU decisions in relation to foreign affairs. They must mean Hungary. But of course once that precedent has been established, the power for any decision by the EU to be vetoed by a member state will be gone. And the people that will now have all this new power who no longer have to pay attention to the demands of the member States can now do whatever they like. And as they do not even have to run for office with voters, how sweet a deal is that?


  8. dingusansich

    Once again Biden’s facing down CornPop. Only he’s older and wiser now. He no longer apologizes.

    “Wiser” is sarcasm. But the rest seems a little too on the nosecone. I’m reminded of the John Ford movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. (Liberty Valance? Liberty Decorative Drapery?) The movie is fundamentally a flashback by means of which a political figure explains to journalists riding with him on a train that his career, his accomplishments, all his successes rest on a lie. Is CornPop fabulation? Reagan-esque exaggeration? Who knows. But it’s hard to deny an eerie similarity between the macho posturing of Biden as high school senior and the senior Biden today, as if he’s reliving a moment of adolescent glory, real or made up. Only now it’s not straight razors and metal chains but Switchblade drones and chain reactions, political at one end, at the other, nuclear.

    None of this is to reduce war and peace to the sclerotic idiocy of a single addled Cold Warrior. We’re seeing a conflict of elite interests and institutions that, in their adorably psychopathic ways, see opportunities and seize them. All I’m saying is it ain’t helping to have a CornPop-reenacting Tale-Gummer Joe at the apex of this pyramidal organization chart.

  9. Sibiryak

    How does this war end? Well, as I’ve said many times, I’m not a military person, but here’s one possibility:

    Russia will incorporate via referendums as much of the pro-Russian regions as they deem militarily possible and politically advisable. Absorption (in whole or part) of Odessa (likely) and Kharkov (maybe) regions cannot be ruled out.

    Russia will take as much territory as the Russian military deems necessary as a buffer zone between the new Russian border and a rump Ukraine.

    Russia will not attempt to permanently occupy anti-Russian Ukrainian regions.

    Russia will destroy as much of the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian infrastructure as deemed necessary to demilitarize Ukraine, not permanently (an impossible task?), but for long enough to buy them sufficient time to build up massive defensive forces and defensive infrastructure in the new Russian territories.

    Putin will then declare victory. A new День Победы! All of Russia will celebrate!

    There will be no negotiation for a permanent peace agreement, no recognition by Ukraine/the West of Russian gains. There will only be a cease fire, and a gradually more and more frozen conflict.

    As Tom Bradford recently argued, this scenario is not without major challenges for Russia:

    “[Russia] cannot and does not want to take the whole of Ukraine, yet if it doesn’t – or even if it does – it’s going to have to create and maintain a militarily-reinforced iron curtain along its new border against a West happy to use the Ukrainians to cause trouble there and keep up the pressure.” .

    That’s true. Russia WILL have to defend a border somewhere with a hostile, NATO-backed state on the other side. But let’s also not underestimate all the political, military and economic problems a largely destroyed rump Ukraine state will face. It’s not as if a rump Ukraine will be able to continually build up armies and throw them at Russia again and again. Yes, as in any frozen conflict there will inevitably be flare-ups and crises, but, critically, any future attacks on formerly-Ukrainian-now-Russian regions will be treated as direct attacks on Russia itself and will be responded to with massive, devastating force.

    The alternative scenario described by Doctorow –Ukraine’s dismemberment and loss of statehood following the total liquidation of its civil and military leadership—seems extreme to me, and very risky for Russia, but of course, cannot be ruled out.

    1. Kouros

      Russia doesn’t need to occupy and control the entirety of western Ukraine, just the border crossings going west…

  10. Stephen T Johnson

    Since we’re being polled on the end state Ukraine map (and let’s arbitrarily define “end state” as Christmas Day 2025 or earlier), my vote is for landlocked, with a slight chance of divided.

    It’s not out of the question that we may see some scenario like the (forced) population moves between Turkey and the Balkans post first world war, and the Dneiper certainly makes a good border, but I can’t see Russia allowing whatever rump Ukraine emerges a littoral on the black sea.

  11. HH

    EU not at war with Russia? GMAB. NATO aircraft are flying just across the Ukraine border providing detailed intelligence on anything that moves on the ground or in the sky. NATO satellite reconnaissance is fed to the Ukrainian command in a steady stream. NATO advisors are working closely with their Ukrainian counterparts and guiding their moves on the battlefield. Hundreds of armored vehicles and thousands of tons of ammunition are flowing into Ukraine from EU arsenals. The EU governments are vigorously suppressing most news from Russia and pumping out anti-Russian propaganda.

    The European elites are bought and paid for by the U.S. and they are betraying their own people by waging a de-facto proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

    1. Skip Intro

      How many divisions does the EU have? They are clearly at economic war with Russia, I don’t imagine they have the capacity to order member states to deploy troops, and I haven’t heard that they have their own army either. So it is not clear how the EU as such could be at war any more than they are at present.

  12. Scylla

    I keep thinking about Poland and Romania (less so Hungary) salivating over that Ukrainian territory, and it keeps occurring to me, that given the Russian desire to roll back NATO’s so-called eastern flank, that Russian consent to seize these territories might present a powerful incentive to those nations to re-consider their relationship with NATO. Maybe I am off my rocker, but the thought still presents itself.

    1. Bart Hansen

      Last night ‘Judy’ of the News Hour had the leader of Poland on and neglected to ask him how much Ukie territory he intended to claim.

    2. Lex

      I obviously can’t answer for the Kremlin, but if I was in it, the division of western Ukraine between Poland, Hungary and Romania would suit me just fine for several reasons. Chief among them is wanting nothing to do with trying to manage them (they were not part of the Russian empire or the USSR until 1939). Geostrategically, I’d find it beneficial in that I would want the whole black sea coast and probably up to the left bank of the Dnieper, though Kiev can remain outside of “our” control. That and letting Eastern European states carve up the east of Ukraine leaves a nearly pointless rump state of the very historical ukraine.

      Secondary benefits being that the carve up would likely cause a large amount of friction in the EU and NATO and of course the seedstock of modern Ukrainian nationalism had nothing to do with Russia or the USSR but Poland. It might end up turning the Banderite Ukrainians against their most traditional enemies and the Europeans rather than Russia.

      1. Polar Socialist

        (they were not part of the Russian empire or the USSR until 1939)

        Depends somewhat on the definition of “western” in this case. Most of the western provinces were part of Russian empire since 1795, only the most southwestern corner from north of Lviv to east of Chernivtsi was part of Austria-Hungary.

        Almost half of it being the “Hungarian” and “Romanian” parts of Ukraine, so to speak.

    3. hk

      I am curious how “popular” the idea of reclaiming, say, Lwow is in Poland. Territorial expansion generally is not that popular until it is, it seems. (i.e. people don’t think too much about it until the situation catches up, and once you have the chance to take a historical territory, you don’t want to give up….)

      1. vao

        There have been reports about the large contingent of Ukrainian refugees increasingly causing frictions with the Polish population.

        I therefore doubt that the idea of permanently integrating a sizeable chunk of Ukraine is popular with the Poles. Besides, that part of Ukraine is the one where the Banderists went on a genocidal rampage against Poles during the second half of WWII. The same OUN / Stepan Bandera are now the ideological reference of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalists, whom the Poles will find solidly entrenched in Galicia if they ever try to occupy the region.

        For all those reasons, I really doubt those rumours about Poland annexing Galicia will ever see any realization.

    4. Kouros

      Why less so Hungary?

      As for Romania, they haven’t managed to re-unite with R of Moldova for 30 years now. I really haven’t seen any salivating this past May when visited the place.

    5. elkern

      NATO’s primary excuse for arming Ukraine is the “sanctity” of Ukraine’s [maximal] borders. NATO will not allow EU countries to feast on the carrion of Ukraine’s carcass, and former Warsaw Pact countries still fear Russia too much to defy NATO. Partition of Western Ukraine ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

  13. jailbraker

    The Russian security needs are a very subjective term.
    Anyone who has taken a flight from an EU country to China flying over Russia will instantly understand why Napoleon and Hitler lost and why its a fool’s errand to make war on Russia.
    My fear is that Putin is the moderate guy in Kremlin and this thing will go nuclear as he tries to appease the dogs of war, probably by shelling of power station first where both sides blame each other.

    1. chris

      I keep thinking the easiest way to make sure you don’t have to defend a lot of territory is to put a smoking, radioactive, crater between you and your enemies. I wonder what would happen to either map if we have a radiological danger zone just outside of Kyiv? And I wonder will anyone in authority in the US, UK, or EU have enough foresight to recognize when such a thing becomes a serious threat?

      1. Michaelmas

        I wonder what would happen … if we have a radiological danger zone just outside of Kyiv?


        How about, specifically, an exclusion zone around South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, a.k.a the Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Mykolaiv oblast, 350 kms south of Kiev?

        Three days ago, the Russians sent a warning —

    1. ДжММ

      Leningrad has recovered its old name of Sankt-Peterburg. It is a federal district (not unlike Washington DC), as is Moscow.

      the province surrounding, however, retains the name Leningradskaya Oblast. While I prefer the term ‘province’ for ‘oblast’, it is not a precise translation, so one occasionally sees ‘region’ instead (even though Russia has a different administrative unit at a smaller scale which is a ‘raion’)

      So the reference here was to LenOblast. With Gatchina, Kingisepp, Sestroretsk, Vyburg and so forth. But not to Peter or its suburbs.

  14. Matthew G. Saroff

    I think that the notice of calling up reserve is primarily signaling that the scope of the Russian operation is increasing, because realistically, such a call-up would not deliver any additional troops for months.

    It may be a precursor to attacks more generally on Ukrainian infrastructure, particularly broadcast facilities, power generation, and rail facilities, particularly in the west of the country.

  15. Maxwell Johnston

    Re the partial mobilization:

    1. Interesting that VVP made his speech only after the Royal ceremonies in the UK ended. Methinks he wanted everyone to be paying close attention, without distractions. I’m also guessing that he warned his SCO counterparts at the recent meetings that this would soon be happening.

    2. The call up will not be instant (likely spread over several weeks), and I doubt they’ll be sent to the front. Most likely they’ll be dispatched to serve as garrison forces in the soon-to-be annexed new territories, or else sent to other regions of RU proper (in both cases enabling existing forces to be sent to the front).

    3. The reservists will be paid like professional troops, not conscripts. I saw reports that their employers will be required to hold their jobs open for them, and any debt payments (car, apartment, etc) will be suspended for the duration of their military service.

    4. Amusing that this decision is portrayed in the western media as a setback for VVP, whereas the USA was using reservists and national guard forces throughout its debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq….. but that was normal. I don’t think this move comes as a huge surprise to most Russians, either. There were plenty of straws in the wind for weeks beforehand.

    5. As for the map, I vote for a winter offensive that achieves the landlocked version.

    1. hk

      In other words, Russians are doing the same thing that US did wrt Iraq–that they are doing so is not too shocking since they have taken at least as many casualties (and probably a good deal more strain) than US in the Iraq war. What is really interesting is that people (including Putin himself) are making as much of this as they are.

    2. Cat Burglar

      You and Lex both pointed out that the reservists just called up may not be sent to Ukraine, but instead sent to other regions of Russia to replace already-existing trained forces that will be sent to Ukraine — an important point. The larger part of Russian forces have not seen action yet, and their relief by the new soldiers could allow greater numbers to be sent to front faster.

  16. alfia

    Re: poorly trained Russian soldiers. The following are off the cuff remarks, apologies for generalisation. The tweet doesn’t mentioned specialised military academies spread around Russia and former USSR republics (used to be called ‘Suvorov Schools’) where young boys are trained in the art of war from the age of 12 alongside standard school curriculum. These schools churn out future officers who are trained in various military disciplines like tactical analysis, etc. These schools and the highly trained officers (the product of such schools) should not be underestimated. These schools are still generously funded by the Russian state. The tweet is at best a blaze underestimation of Russian military forces.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Yeah. The general never got around to explain how those poorly trained and unmotivated Russkies managed to occupy a quarter of Ukraine against and army four times bigger and trained to NATO, nay, to even higher US standards. And they did it in a few weeks.

      There’s a strong smell of “not invented here” in what the general spouts. Because Russian system is different than US, it must be inferior. Even if Russian “military interventions” usually achieve their goals.

  17. Paul Damascene

    This excellent thread of discussions on winning and losing underplays what is just as likely to be a neocon key objective–poisoning the harvest of Russia’s gains. Forcing it to destroy Odessa in order to take it for example. It may well be that we see Ukraine load up on Odessa defense even at the expense of exposing everything from Kharkov, along the east bank of the Dneiper and up to Belarus.

    Another neocon staple will be the galvanizing ‘Pearl-Harbor’ type of event. So much loose talk of nuclear weapons–a false-flag of Russia’s first use will take us all to the brink of the annihilation the neocon death cult seems to crave. And of course turning the remaining nuclear power plants into dirty bombs poisoning Novorossiye would be a fallback along the lines of ‘poisoning the harvest’ above.

  18. Circa500BC

    Hope I can comment on my guess at Putin’s thinking despite my lack of military strategic learnedness.
    Putin must be concerned that a conniving NATO might make the jump to commit troops into Ukraine soon, or in the Spring or even 18 months from now. And Ukraine volunteer drives are in progress. So Putin’s huge bet committing 300,000 troops is a good poker move to get other players to fold. NATO states will object to any U.S./Brussels scheme of committing troops to what will be an all-out slog with a Russia military now doubling down. Ukranian potential “volunteers” will want to bail out like rats jumping off the Titanic when they hear the colossal number of troops they are supposed to kill as they charge across the fields. Lots of lifeboats/buses out of Kyiv to Lviv are running daily for those overwrought future heroes who prefer to sit in one of the many old town cafes and drink espresso.

    The bet could only work by making it now before events got ahead of Russia. Hence the quick decision.

    Putin’s 300,000 troops gamble might just foreclose the possibility of Russia fighting NATO troops; and the numbers of willing Ukraine volunteers will drop well below the planning numbers.

  19. Glen

    I will point out once again that traditional NATO “policy” from way back was that NATO would have to use tactical nukes against a invasion by the USSR. Some units deployed to the Fulda Gap had an expected combat effectiveness time measured in minutes against the expected forces heading in their direction.

    As much as times have changed, I would not expect a significant change in this aspect of NATO policy. I continue to fear that warnings from the west about the use of nuclear weapons masks the underlying projection that it is very likely that if NATO thinks it is in danger of being overwhelmed by non-nuke forces that it will resort to using tactical nukes. And at some point after that, the best way to “war game” this all out is pour lighter fluid on the map and set it on fire.

    We are already in very dangerous times, but it’s getting worse.

    1. LifelongLib

      Dunno. IIRC a lot of people at the time thought the reality was that no U.S. President would risk the survival of the United States to “save” western Europe or even our troops there, and would ultimately accept their loss rather than escalate to using nuclear weapons. I suspect this was true, but that the Soviets didn’t really want western Europe or weren’t willing to run the risk of trying to get it (probably both).

  20. Swallow

    What if the ‘mobilization’ is to make it look like NATO/Ukraine has 3 months to prepare? I suspect events outside Ukraine are changing time frames, some agitated by the West.

    Landlocked. Russia controlling two of the ‘three seas’, and a foot in the third, a strategic necessity and would be a huge political blow to West. Kharkiv and other Oblasts closer to Russia more effectively white-anted overtime.

  21. Greg

    A month ago i would have said landlocked or better. Now i think somewhere in the pyrrhic to landlocked Russian victory.

    But honestly i don’t even think i can reliably tell anymore, the Russian response to so many things recently has surprised me one way or another. I’m beginning to think that Russian infowar is better than we’ve been giving them credit for, but it is more subtle and strictly tied to military goals.

    1. hk

      I suspect that Western infowar is better at riling up people who would have been on their side to begin with. Russians seem better at getting at the fence sitters around the world. I’m not sure if one or the other is better than the ither: if the Western propaganda is good enough to get 10s of millions of Germans, say, to sacrifice 50 years’ worth of economic progress in the name of moral outrage, that’s gotta point as a “success,” although it’s not at all obvious how that is supposed to seriously harm Russia in the end.

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