Has Russia Already Pwnd Ukraine?

The people who can destroy a thing, they control it.

― Frank Herbert, Dune

As we’ll outline below, most commentators may have missed a key implication of Russia’s surgical destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid. Russia appears to be the only country that could put it back together in anything less than many years. That means if Ukraine is to be anything other than an underpopulated wasteland, Russia will be a key, arguably the central player in its reconstruction.

It’s still not clear, however, that even this source of leverage will induce the West to get over itself and eventually come to some kind of terms.

Politicians, the press, analysts and commentators have tended to focus on two, or arguably three, elements of the conflict in Ukraine: the kinetic war, the economic war (which ironically has become primarily Western sanctions blowback, and the related informational war, as in how the first two are being presented to various constituencies.

At the danger of getting way out over my skis, it seems the bigger implications fo the intensified Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electrical grid are not well understood, laregly due to the poor quality of substantive coverage. Alexander Mercouris has cited John Helmer as doing the far and away the best job, and so I am relying heavily on his reporting.

As Helmer reported, Russia early on was either taking out very specific capabilities (like the electrical transformers necessary for operating its largely electrical trains, reducing Ukraine to using only its comparatively small number of diesel engines on those routes) including destroying some of its generating capacity.1 However, per Helmer, since the big surge of persistent attacks in the wake of the Kerch Bridge bombing, Russia appears to be vivisecting the grid. Russia appears to be leaving generating capacity in place and instead destroying transmission lines, line junctions, and transformers. On the latest round major attacks, in response to Ukraine’s attack on the Sevastopol naval base,2 Russia started cutting connections from major hydropower sources to the rest of Ukraine. We provided sighting from Rybar on October 31, starting with:

This morning, the RF Armed Forces launched massive strikes on substations that transmit electricity from hydroelectric power plants to the power grid. The intermediate goal is to deprive the enemy of the opportunity to compensate for the energy deficit.

One of the strikes was carried out on an open switchgear (ORU) of the Kaniv hydroelectric power station in the Cherkasy region .

The hydroelectric power station is located on the middle reaches of the Dnieper, helps to compensate for the energy shortage in the Kiev region , and at the same time has the ability to transfer the generated electricity to the east of the country through the switchgear of the Kremenchug hydroelectric power station .

And Helmer noted that day, the 31st, that Ukraine had already spelled out how Russia was targeting Ukraine’s power system:

In a press interview on October 14, the chief executive of the DTEK power utility, Maxim Timchenko, said: “These strikes are not aimed at generating facilities to prevent us from producing electricity but at connection systems tied to the Ukrainian energy system. They hit open switchgears, transformers, switches, so that a station that can produce electricity cannot be connected to the unified power system. That is, the key targets are Ukrenergo transformer high-voltage substations and power distribution equipment at thermal power plants.”

Those long distance lines and the transformers on them are used only in Russia, some of the former Soviet Union countries and it seems Nigeria. They run on 330 kV.

The most efficient way to restore the grid (and remember no rebuild will be terribly efficient) would be to get the needed equipment from Russia. Consider these remarks from an October 19 Helmer post:


Only the Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Russia  operate 330kV transmission lines This is making it increasingly difficult to replace the damage.
Source: https://www.entsoe.eu/data/map/....

By sustaining the attacks with low-cost drones, the North American source comments, “it is unlikely that the Ukrainian utility crews, certainly exhausted now and terrified from working around the clock to effect repairs, using what must be dwindling stocks of spares, will be able to keep up.  Where will Ukrainian utilities like DTEK, find in-time spares for 330kV gear that is unique to Russia and the CIS countries? Furthermore, will 1000MVA, 750kV-330kV autotransformers, with all their required metering, control and protection relays, breakers, etc.,  fall out of the sky like the Russian, Iranian, or Turkish drones do? The answers to those questions are nowhere and no.”

It is over my pay grade to know whether and if so, how readily, the West can supply any components that are not unique to the old Soviet system. However, the long distance lines and the components that interface with them seem to be a non-trivial problem. The West is faced with either building that capability afresh, or alternatively construction some sort of customized step up or down transformers so that Soviet gear can connect to Western gear. I can’t imagine it would take less than three years to design that equipment, devise the machines to make it in scale, and then get it up and running at industrial production volumes.

The crude layperson accounts indicate that the effect of cutting connections across the Ukraine grid was initially to greatly complicate load-balancing, and in the more recent assaults, to balkanize the system. Those area that are near power sources and still have intact connections to them might not suffer too badly, but other parts of Ukraine could already be in a state of having little to no power.

My understanding is the only factories that could make the needed electrical gear in Ukraine are already war casualties; this is indirectly confirmed by official Ukraine bleating. From Media Center Ukraine on October 26:

Ukraine is looking in Europe for equipment required to restore operation of energy infrastructure facilities that were destroyed or damaged by russians. Oleksandr Kharchenko, Director at the Energy Industry Research Center, made this statement..,

“We are engaged in an active dialogue with European power engineers in all areas: both with manufacturers of relevant equipment, and with operator companies that may have certain provisions at times. Not all equipment has reserves, and many items are custom-built. This is a long process: it takes from six months to a year and a half to produce certain cutting-edge transformers,” Oleksandr Kharchenko said.

The official Western response to the Russian electrical grid attacks has been to promise more and better air defense systems. Unfortunately, here the US and NATO are short in supply and arguably in effectiveness. The old Soviet Buks are generally seen as at least on a par with anything the West could supply. US doctrine has long focused on regional wars with non-peer enemies, and has basically assumed the Western forces would quickly establish air supremacy. That isn’t remotely the case here. The weapon system that would be most effective against Russian cruise missiles is the Patriot, but those are so limited that the US had to take some from other Middle Eastern “partners” to meet a request for more from Saudi Arabia. In keeping, Andrei Martyanov explained yesterday why sending NASAMS “won’t make a difference.

Now an offsetting consideration is that the widespread loss/erraticness of electricity may set off so much addition damage that rebuilding Ukraine becomes a monster task and the electrical part of it, even though important, may not be a key driver because the lower-level damage becomes extensive and severe. From an October 10 post, launched just before the punishing post-Kerch Bridge assaults:

The western military source again: “War is war, whether you want to use terms like hybrid war or proxy war. It means destroying the enemy’s capacity to make war. Shutting off the power in the rump Ukrainian state will do just that to the Ukrainians. If they then start to flee for refuge to Poland and Germany, this will be a disaster unparalleled in recent European history. Just the attendant collapse in telecommunications will make the place a madhouse. You can well imagine the rest. Already there are queues for water in Nikolaev, and who knows where else. How does queueing for water, if there is any, in temperatures of minus-20C to minus-40C sound? This won’t be like the blackouts from US sanctions and attacks in Cuba or Venezuela – there they didn’t have to worry about freezing to death, the pipes bursting, or irreparable damage being done to billions of dollars’ worth of pumping, electrical, and other equipment due to freezing.”

“How many people realize that a sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) circuit breaker, commonly used in electrical substations, requires an electric heating blanket to be functional in sub-zero weather? Most westerners don’t. They are common in high voltage substations which ultimately feed the grid lines with power. In the Ukrainian case, I suspect there is a mixture of those and older style oil circuit breakers (OCB), along with oil-filled large power transformers (LPT), which are essential to electrical distribution. And guess where most of the oil comes from to fill these devices?”

“I suspect that most of Zelensky’s officials and officials in the supporting EU governments have persuaded themselves with their own propaganda. They aren’t daring to think through these questions, any more than they care to understand that the housing of the pumps delivering their water and treating their sewage will freeze and split apart if they are not heated via electrical means. Even if the gas is on — and it won’t be — electricity is needed to ignite, then control, furnaces. How many of these officials understand the long lead times, compounded by manufacturing shutdowns due to high energy costs, which you must have to replace and restore everything?”

In his broadcast yesterday, Alexander Mercouris pointed out, as Helmer had early on, the likelihood of a massive humanitarian crisis and refugee flood. Non or minimally operating sewage systems, particularly in urban areas, run the risk of outbreaks of dysentery and cholera (and Covid, which we know is also transmitted by feces). Mercouris speculated conditions are on the way to reaching to the point that Ukrainian official would need to evacuate some cities. But where would those people go? Why would conditions be that much better anywhere else in Ukraine, even assuming they could be housed?

Jacob Dreizin has predicted that after the midterms, the Beltway political classes will turn to depicting Russia as engaged in genocide in Ukraine and will go for yet more escalation, say by declaring a no-fly zone in part of Ukraine. Personally, if the Republicans rout the Democrats, or merely score a very solid win, the pros will be busy digesting the realignment and then will be off on their holidays (although they might still pass the big Ukraine funding package that has been in the works).

Mercouris by contrast took the West to be under-reporting the severe damage done by the attacks on the electric system and saw that as significant. IMHO that is in part due to the lack of adequate (any!) military response. The US and NATO do not like having to admit they can’t even begin to defend Ukraine from these systematic attacks.

But Mercouris speculated that the West does not want to admit a humanitarian crisis is in progress. He didn’t fully tease this out, but it’s not hard to see that European governments do not want to tell their citizens until they really really have to….that they need to take in and support more Ukraine refugees. In a cold and hungry winter, having Ukraine citizens getting official support when natives are going hungry will be profoundly unpopular. So they look to be in “kick the can” mode.

Mercouris ventured that the comparative quietness about this escalating disaster meant that some were starting to realize the necessity of coming to terms with Russia. I wish that were the case. But the US is very much driving this bus and its distance insulates it from any immediate effect of human tragedy in Ukraine.3


1 Note the biggest loss of generating capacity was Russia capturing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which Russia was going to use to supply Russia-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.

2 Confirmed by Putin in an interview at Sochi, see Alex Christaforu starting at 12:22.

3 Cynics might think having Ukraine made substantially uninhabitable, not due to the usual US puliverization of cities, but Russia achieving a similar result though its electrical tear-down, is an outcome the US would welcome. If the US can’t score a clean win, wouldn’t a perma insurgency in a failed state next door be almost as good?

While the Victoria Nuland crowd might believe in such an outcome, Ukraine is not Afghanistan. Afghanistan is poor, with many people living tribal/close to the land lifestyles. While joining an insurgency risks life and limb, it does not entail a huge drop in day-to-day living standards too. By contrast, even though Ukraine was poor by European standards, most people enjoy modern trappings like indoor plumbing, heat, getting food at grocery stores and restaurants and the Internet. Living in Ukraine with say only intermittent use of a diesel generator, maybe a big supply of US MREs, and enduring the nasty Ukraine winter sounds like a difficult recruitment project, when the alternative is (say) working at a hotel desk in London.

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  1. John R Moffett

    I am wondering if the media spin on the war is going to change after the Nov. election in the US. Lots of the bluster seems to be an attempt to keep people onboard before and during the election. If things go poorly for the Blue Team, I expect they have some type of fallback plan that might even include lifting some sanctions. But if Russia keeps chipping away at the electrical grid as winter approaches, Ukraine won’t have much choice but to sue for peace, or really fall apart. It will be very interesting to see if the media tone changes after the election. If the media onslaught continues unabated after the election, then it means the West really is willing to completely throw Ukraine under the bus.

  2. Donald

    If the press starts talking about genocide, they will have a point. The US as you say has also attacked civilian infrastructure— aside from sanctions on Iran and Venezuela it did so with bombing in Gulf War 1 and with sanctions after the war and the result was probably tens to hundreds of thousands of deaths. (The higher numbers often cited are disputed, but it has to have killed a great many.

    It is genocidal no matter who does it. I suppose the Western presss and governments won’t say this openly just yet because it conflicts with the propaganda claim that the Ukranians are winning.

    1. Ignacio

      Yet you can argue it is a concerted genocide. In one side Russians doing what they do to win the war and in the other the West fighting to the last Ukrainian. If one is really worried by the humanitarian debacle she/he should be ready to abandon the “we good they bad” narrative and go for a solution. Let’s stop pretending we are defending Ukrainians when we all know we want the destruction of the gas stat… errr… Russia. It failed, stop it. Now.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, Russia is not setting out to kill Ukrainians. Russia has very much avoided killing Ukrainians up to now. If Russia wanted to kill a lot of Ukrainians, it is well with their capabilities to turn Kiev into a moonscape.

      Putin has made clear that ethnic Ukrainians in the “liberated” areas are welcome and are to be treated properly.

      And the US has taken out electrical grids far more extensively and faster, see the Iraq War. Are you about to charge the US with genocide in Iraq? In the first Gulf War, Madeline Albright took the position that half a million dead Iraqi children was not too high a price to pay.

      Did you protest the Iraq War? If you didn’t, and haven’t at least raised some concerns about the US role in supporting other exercises in human devastation, like Yemen, you remarks on Russia look a lot like the sort of white person special pleading that has quietly united the Global South against the US and NATO in this conflict.

      1. synoia

        This article is focused on elect power distribution.

        To add to the misery of the planet, I would add a significant increase in hunger and starvation, because lack of electricy must reduce the amount the of food the Ukraine can produce and export in the next few years.

        1. Lex

          The bulk of Ukrainian food production is in the east of the country. The west has significantly poorer soils. In fact, most of the grain that’s been exported through Odessa in the grain deal is livestock feed. But perhaps more importantly, the pattern of electrical destruction is actually targeted in the way that the US military pretends to achieve. There will be problems with replacing substation equipment on a short timeline, but it’s orders of magnitude faster than destruction of generation capacity.

      2. Donald

        Regarding your third and fourth paragraphs, I have spent most of my adult life attacking US foreign policy in exactly the terms you demand. I spent years ranting about Yemen to people in real life and online and wrote letters to my congressman. I called the US and Saudi actions genocidal. I used to write blog posts at another blog saying this–I wrote something exactly on those lines near the beginning of the Ukraine War denouncing the utter hypocrisy of the West in criticizing Russia when Obama, Trump, and Biden supported the barbaric war and the blockade in Yemen which together have killed 400,000 people. As Chomsky has said, every American President in my lifetime is a war criminal. I am perfectly aware the the Global South sees Western hypocrisy on this issue and completely agree with them.

        As for Iraq, I have often pointed out an article by Barton Gellman in the Washington Post in the early 90’s (I now forget the year) which documented how the US struck at Iraqi infrastructure in the first Gulf War, which caused tens of thousands of children to die, with the sanctions adding to the toll in following years. In fact, I just referred to that in my earlier post.

        And yes, I would say that America’s actions in many cases are genocidal. BIden should be in jail for his role in pushing for the Iraq invasion. Tony Blinken gave the Saudis the green light to begin bombing Yemen. He told Ilhan Omar last year that Israel and the US have the judicial systems necessary to ensure that our own crimes (meaning war crimes) could be prosecuted, a claim that is so absurd it should have been a front page story, except that this thinking is perfectly normal in the US. Our elites are in some sense sociopaths. I honestly don’t understand the mindset–does Blinken really believe the stuff he says?

        So all of this is true. The US and its allies don’t have a leg to stand on in denouncing Russia and the US is cynically fighting to the last Ukranian.

        It still means that Russia is now targeting civilian infrastructure and your own article shows the effects are likely to be horrifying. Yes, they could do worse if they wanted. Israel defenders often say they could flatten Gaza if they wanted. US defenders say the same about our various wars. Few countries ever commit the worst possible crime they are capable of committing. Russia spent months not attacking civilian infrastructure and that was good. Now they have changed their minds. This is terrible. Millions of people are going to suffer.

        1. reprobate

          Well, good for you for being more consistent than a lot of people.

          But Russia has been telling the US since 2008 that Ukraine joining NATO was an existential threat. It was the US that overrode Germany and France and had NATO extended the invitation to join NATO to Ukraine and Georgia despite France and Germany objecting.

          The US since 2014 has been training and arming Ukraine like a NATO member. The US was involved in stirring up the Maidan protests. Scott Ritter has said it’s got the best NATO army. The US (and maybe also neoNazi goon enforcers we’ve been supporting in Ukraine) was responsible for the Minsk Accords not being implemented. I believe former president Porsoshenko recently said they were never intended to go live, they were just a stalling device to allow Ukraine to arm.

          Russia tried negotiating again in 2021. A breaking point was Biden telling Putin he was no longer going to adhere to his promise to put more missiles into Ukraine on December 31.

          Honestly, the Russian response even now is restrained. They’ve hit the grid in escalating steps. But Ukraine keeps attacking Russian territory and ever time, Russia retailiates. As Helmer points out, Russia has left the trains out of Ukraine to the west running. So Ukrainian civilians can leave.

        2. spud farmer

          Thanks for sharing this. Your defense of your position is airtight and your moral compass appears to be in fine working order. It’s understandable that after decades of US and US sponsored wars that since 1945 have killed millions the tear jerking over Ukraine from the PMC and western mediasphere and the accompanying sermons about evil Russia and bad bad Putin are hard to listen to and impossible to take at face value. Hearing “serious people” of influence essentially advocating for nuclear war against Russia in order to “save” that bastion of democracy and freedom, Ukraine, is a mind blowingly dangerous new low in western delusion and moral grandstanding.

          But (there’s always a but) in a major war where the military power of the belligerents, in this case Russia and the USA (with a NATO fig leaf), are closely matched it’s important to take a step back and contemplate the implications when such a war escalates and how all sides involved can easily end up committing “genocide” by default that wipes out millions of lives, causes massive suffering and could even end life on earth as we know it. Regardless of who started it, Ukraine is a Goliath vs Goliath fight and the dynamics are very different from a Goliath vs David fight where an overwhelmingly powerful military is unleashed on an opponent who can barely muster a helicopter.

          It’s all find and good to take a bloodless “objective” view of the war and the surrounding politics and call out hypocrisy and so forth but when the stakes are this high I think we also have a duty to think about how this war can be ended before it spirals out of control. If only to keep our own humanity and to remind ourselves of what is truly important. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a warlike mindset that inadvertently contributes to fueling a conflict that is on the brink of becoming a “life-altering event” for all of humanity.

        3. anon in so cal

          Russia is fighting a defensive war, an existential war. The survival of the Russian nation-state hinges on Russia prevailing. Russia has to do whatever it needs to do to ensure that the US cannot continue to use Ukraine as a battering ram to massacre civilians in Donbas and to attack and asset-strip Russia itself.

          So far, Russia has deliberately constrained its SMO–at the expense of its own military and at the expense of a faster victory—to spare civilians. As the US, UK, NATO, EU escalate, so must Russia up its game. That is what is now doing. The US and NATO are driving this, not Russia. The genocidal agents are the US and NATO.

    3. David

      I’m sure the Press will be talking about genocide (I think they have already) but they won’t have a point. Genocide requires intent: in this case to destroy the Ukrainian people in whole or in part, and the acts which constitute it (set out in Article II of the 1948 Convention ) are quite limited in scope.

      1. Greg

        Thanks for the link and explanation. I’m sure Putin has exactly the same written boundaries in mind when he orders controlled escalation, it would fit with his lawyerly approach to foreign policy.

    4. John R Moffett

      To call what is happening in Ukraine genocide only works if you are talking about US/NATO fighting to the last Ukrainian. This war would have been over in March if the US had not nixed the peace agreement. The US started this war, the US has forced continuation of this war, and the Ukrainian people are the ones suffering the most (with EU people coming in second, and Russia coming in 3rd in terms of hurt). The US economy is completely dependent on the war machine now, and that is why we need endless wars. But this is the first war where the other side actually can fight back. Normally the US only attacks poorly armed countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. When going after Russia, the US is so chicken shit that they will only do it by proxy. Hence, the US really is fighting to the last Ukrainian.

    5. Anthony G Stegman

      One ought to be careful with using the term “genocide”. The word has a specific legal meaning. Not everything that happens in war is genocide. The native Americans suffered genocidal policies by the US government. It is not clear that sanctions and the targeting of civilian infrastructure can legally be described as genocide. Perhaps war crimes instead. The US media loves to throw the word genocide around when describing what US adversaries are doing, but it never uses the word to describe what the US and its allies are doing.

    6. David in Santa Cruz

      I’m late to the party as I often am, but wouldn’t the 2014-2022 policy of the Euromaidan Coup government to ban the Russian language from public life and to shell the millions Russian-speaking civilian non-combatant citizens of the Donbass into emigrating to the Russian Federation qualify as a “genocide?”

      Isn’t the justification for the February 2022 SMO the prevention of that genocide? The Russian military appears to have done a meaningful job of avoiding the targeting and killing of civilians and seem to have kept a lid on retaliation by the local Russian-speaking Donbass militias.

      The ability of the “Ukrainians” to pursue this genocide would have petered-out long ago but for Biden, Blinken, Austin, Johnson, and Truss’ cynical and murderous determination to “fight to the last Ukrainian.” Russia has recognized the necessity of degrading the war-making power of the coup government but they have taken care to maintain corridors for civilians to flee to the EU.

  3. Patrick Donnelly

    This applies to more than just the Ukraine.

    Some other ex USSR Republics are now very willing to have closer co-operation with the Rus.

    Those who thought the USA would help them snub Russia may change policies. This is a glaring example of poor strategy by NATO.

    The possibility of suckering the USA into another arms and Special Forces drain, say in the Caucasus, also exists.

    What about Syria? Will USA be forced to leave?


  4. Stephen

    Reminds me of when I lived in Ithaca, NY and the standard lease agreement stipulated that the heating needed to be at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid pipe bursts. Had never seen that type of clause being needed in wet but temperate England! Ukraine seems to have similarly cold winter weather to western NY so the prospect of being without heat there during winter is just unfathomable. The Russians have clearly thought through their strategy here.

    Your final paragraph makes perfect sense too. Underneath the rhetoric of the politicos, “support” in most of Europe for this war feels no more than skin deep. So it explains why they are in no hurry to face or share bad news that will create problems back home. Truss rushing to subsidize energy costs in the UK summed up popular recognition of the fragility of popular support if there is any real, attributable suffering at home. So far, much of this such as the food price inflation has been blamed on other causes or Russian aggression. A fresh refugee wave clearly cannot be explained away so easily, and the initial popular enthusiasm to help seems to be over.

    As various alternative commentators (including I think this site) stressed from early on, Russia has the strategic initiative and the dominant escalation path in this conflict. Our politicians seem so imbued with ideology that they choose not to grasp this, nor to act on it.

  5. Alan Roxdale

    I suspect that most of Zelensky’s officials and officials in the supporting EU governments have persuaded themselves with their own propaganda.

    I think propaganda — and the ability to hide behind propaganda — is the only serious explanation for the complete lack of seriousness in how the western political class has responded to this war.

    In the meantime, ordinary Ukrainians suffer, die, and are all but told there will be no respite. A whole country to be ritually sacrificed on some disgusting “geopolitical” altar. I expect that there will indeed be millions more refugees, and after the hand they have played in all this, it is the duty of western countries to accommodate them(especially the US, which is disgracefully shirking this burden). There are plenty of hotels and holidays that can be forgone, and rationing that can be implemented. Small prices to pay after braying for more blood in Ukraine like a pack of football hooligans.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for making this point. I have a writing bias towards being clinical (as in the power dynamics generally determine outcomes) but the US approach of using Ukraine and its hapless citizens to try to break Russia, and inflicting devastation on them instead, with no concern about when and whether there will be an end, is deplorable. Of course, we’ve also done this all over the Middle East with far less media attention. I was in Australia during the Iraq War, and I do have to give their journos credit for covering the horrible conditions in the country, like food shortages, 4 hours of electricity on a good day in Bagdad, hospitals being looted, middle class flight.

      1. norm de plume

        ‘I do have to give their journos credit for covering the horrible condition in the country’

        Such journalists no longer exist in the Oz MSM. If horrible conditions in Ukraine are highlighted the US is never included in the culprits – quite the opposite. The journalism and the facts are being ‘fixed around the policy’.

          1. Bsn

            This is interesting. I did a quick search via Brave this a.m. regarding Tet Vet’s comment and 8-10 articles showed up saying that Biden was taking the money from the “wall fund” and using it elsewhere. Here’s an example from NBC: “The projects authorized by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas include installing drainage to prevent flooding, mitigating soil erosion, completing roads used by Border Patrol agents, demobilizing construction and equipment storage sites and discarding unused materials.”

            I knew there was a bit more to the story. Oh, our good ol’ MSM.

    2. hunkerdown

      Imaginary friends exist to displace accountability. All this infantile moral humbug of “sacrifice” is going to fall onto the shoulders of the working class. The blame needs to be placed on the shoulders of the middle classes generating all this affective pollution, and all “sacrifice” needs to be forced onto their shoulders. If that will not be the case, then morality discourse is just an excuse to maintain unmerited class positions and is better suppressed than aired.

      1. ChrisRUEcon


        #RussiaGate is the foundation that permitted this house of folly to be built in a post cold war world. The vilification of Putin as the personification of Russia post-2016 negated the chance for any meaningful dialogue, and serves as righteous indignation and moral impetus for legions of sh**-libs.

  6. ambrit

    Add to this the vision of a competently managed civil society in the recently re-acquired Russian ethinc zones of the former Ukraine. If the Russians can ‘stand up’ a functioning Donbass quickly, the propaganda value in dealings with the Global South for the emerging Eurasian Bloc will be immense.
    I can well imagine strategists in the Kremlin working out the “soft power” requirements of the war in the Ukraine. Just leaving the electric generating capacity intact alone is evidence of a long range plan being unfolded. [Once the Kremlin figured out just how badly “Agreement Incapable” the West really was, the strategic plans have to have shifted into a long range focus.]

    1. Jack

      Of course there is no way to verify this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some factory or two in Russia isn’t already churning out the transformer and switching equipment needed to repair the electrical system in Ukraine. That is once the war is over. I agree with you that there is a long range plan. One other point. This systematic destruction over all of Ukraine makes me think that Russia plans on invading the whole country. They might not keep it, but I can see no way now that Russia will stop at the Dnieper river and leave a Ukraine rump state intact.

      1. eg

        I’m not sure the whole thing is worth having. I could see them leaving a wrecked, landlocked rump for the West to deal with.

        1. fairleft

          Rump will be demoralized and de-populated, on the less industrialized, relatively poor farmland part of Ukraine. Poor economic prospects, so I think most refugees won’t return. Plan might be to slowly re-populate with Russians or with Ukrainians sympathetic toward a balanced Russian/Ukrainian state.

          1. jsn

            Whatever rump the West gets will be ag.

            ADM and Cargill robots are the Oligarchies plan.

            Getting the peasants to expropriate themselves right now.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, the good ag areas are east of the Dnieper. That is also where the frackable gas is. I doubt Russia will let that go if the war persists, as appears likely.

      2. truly

        Jack, I was contemplating the same thing. Ru having semis loaded with replacement equipment ready to go into use. Knowing the old Soviet habit of redundancy, there may be warehouses full of spare equipment. And Ru could be targeting specific equipment that they know they have in stock and ready to deliver the moment a white flag goes up.
        What a brilliant strategy going forward. Ru rebuilds Uk electrical infrastructure with American dollars paying for it. Candidates (in the New Uk) run for office with the pitch “I am the candidate best suited to work with Ru to turn your heat back on.” I wonder how you say “Marshall Plan” in Russian.

        1. Korual

          “We can supply you with electricity.” would be a winning slogan in any referendum that may or may not take place in some oblasts next year.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country. Otherwise the country will remain a small-peasant country, and we must clearly realize that. We are weaker than capitalism, not only on the world scale, but also within the country. That is common knowledge. We have realized it, and we shall see to it that the economic basis is transformed from a small-peasant basis into a large-scale industrial basis. Only when the country has been electrified, and industry, agriculture and transport have been placed on the technical basis of modern large-scale industry, only then shall we be fully victorious.

            Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, December 22, 1920.

            Sorry, couldn’t resist.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Soviet Russia was the only country to go from a peasant state to an industrial power in a generation. That completely freaked the West out. It said that central planning could mobilize and direct resources better than a free enterprise system. That sadly led to economists getting a seat at the policy, initially to help our system compete better, but then also to evangelize.

              Having said that, some recent studies have conclude central planning did work well for the first generation or two. But then middle level apparatchiks messed things up, like setting super permissive production targets, hiding inventories and playing games with numbers and actual output so they would look good and had better chances of rising in the system.

              1. Polar Socialist

                I haven’t really studied the issue, so any and all caveats do apply, but I think that count Witte’s very ambitious industrialization program since 1890’s using “state capitalism” became sort of template for the 5-year plans.

                Which were more successful because, I think, they focused more on the infrastructure and equally importantly, was not about to create a powerful class to threaten the power of autocratic ruler – it was to empower the class that had taken power.

                I also assume that the new infrastructure released a huge backlog of Russian entrepreneurship and resource exploitation that would have carried any economy fast forward. It’s just that most systems could not have been able to achieve the enormous task of building the base. No short-term money in it.

  7. RabidGandhi

    …it’s not hard to see that European governments do not want to tell their citizens until they really really have to….that they need to take in and support more Ukraine refugees.

    Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister n° 2, Yolanda Díaz, was on the tube this morning talking about the latest inflation/unemployment stats. To make excuses put them in context, she said twice ‘we are at war’.

    I need not point out that this outrageous claim went absolutely unquestioned by the interviewer, and in fact I doubt it will get any echo even from the most rabid opposition: it is not a question, it is already a baked-in assumption: Spain is at war with Russia.

    This is to say, at least in the parts of the EU farthest away from Ukraine, the citizens have already been duly indoctrinated that their country is at war, so be prepared to make the corresponding sacrifices. That said, as we already saw with the previous refugee crisis, the pain is never distributed evenly.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      This expressed sentiment shows how deranged the EU ruling class has become. If they want to be at war, they’d better be careful. Russia has lots of very potent long range missiles. If I was Spanish, I’d want to stick to tourism.

      1. norm de plume

        This expressed sentiment shows how deranged the EU ruling class has become.

        Deranged, maybe. Propagandised, perhaps. Or co-opted, bribed, threatened, blackmailed – also perhaps.

        None of these are mutually exclusive. The US may be a hedgehog strategically but it is a fox on the tactical level. Whatever it takes.

    2. cosmiccretin

      ” this outrageous claim…”

      Josep Borell in an interview he gave to the Spanish newspaper El Pais on 11/08/22 – speaking as he purports to for the entire EU – declared “We are at war” (in the English translation).

  8. The Rev Kev

    The Russian Federation may have been playing it far smarter than credited for. Consider. When the whole Ukrainian project goes belly up, what happens then? Likely old Joe will just walk away from the whole thing and wash his hands of that country like was done in Afghanistan. But this won’t be true of the EU who will find that the Ukraine has become their own personal tar baby requiring ongoing support which will be a drain of their resources. They have already committed themselves to rebuilding that country after the war though I would expect it to be another Iraq where not much gets rebuilt but a number of corporations and politicians and make money hand over fist. There is a track record here.

    So where does Russia fit in here? Simple. They could have gone the classic way and destroyed Ukrainian cities, electricity grids (including power generation plants), dams, hospitals, sewerage plants, etc. But they did not and from day one a major war aim was not to do this to the civilian population as they regard them as a brother nation. So instead they are surgically attacking material gear that may make the population miserable but not typically kill them. And many can flee to the west where it will be the EU that will have to take care of them so bonus points. It will be the EU that will have to fix the country up and has been pointed out in this post, there is only one source that they can get replacement gear from. It is either that or replacing the entire electrical grid of the country with western gear while the Ukraine sits in the dark waiting for who knows how many years.

    1. Skip Intro

      Meanwhile the RF can, with relative ease, capture and reconnect and rebuild increasing bites of territory, offering a counterexample to the welcome received by the refugees in neighboring countries.

    2. Brunches with Cats

      > I would expect it to be another Iraq where not much gets rebuilt but a number of corporations and politicians and make money hand over fist.

      I’ve left several comments to this effect in the past, although I see it as primarily driven by the USG, which a few years back hired Ernst & Young to create a plan for direct foreign investment in Ukraine. I mentioned the website in a response to one of your earlier comments, on the Helmer post; here’s the link:
      To get the full implications of this program, one needs to spend an hour or two clicking through many layers — at least, I did. Haven’t been there recently, but last time I visited, there was a lot of info on who’s there already.

      As annoying as Z might be at times for Blinken Nuland & Blob, he has done the dirty for them by shepherding legislation on selling off state assets, making it harder for oligarchs to edge out foreigners in snapping up said assets, opening up the ag land market to foreigners (currently limited to leasing or joint ventures with Ukrainian majority shareholders, but subject to change in just over a year), and I forget what else, off the top of my head. IIRC, the IMF made these actions conditions for receiving more bailout money.

      In any case, I believe you are absolutely right, and further, I believe it’s one of the main reasons, if not THE main one, that the USG insists there be no negotiating with Russia. The longer the war drags on and the more damage that’s done, the more postwar grift “reconstruction” will be available for US contractors. Iraq was just the dress rehearsal (not original, but can’t remember who wrote it).

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        I’d like to see US investors trying to claim their assets back from Russia once the war is over. I imagine Putin et al have had enough by now of these types.

        1. Brunches with Cats

          The more-interesting question, IMO, is what will happen to the companies that currently have operations in both Ukraine and Russia. Cargill, for example, controls 51% of a grain shipping facility at a port near Odessa — close enough that we’d probably just call it Odessa. So what happens if the Russians advance that far? Would Cargill fold that facility into its Russian operations? And then what would happen to the 49% owned by the Ukrainian partners — one of whom did an internship at USAID and claims to be personal friends with Zelensky?

          I wonder how many Western multinationals in similar circumstances never pulled out of Russia at all, or sold their share of a joint venture under terms allowing them to return when conditions allow. I haven’t researched it (and don’t have time in the next few weeks to do so), but think this info could be a useful addition to Ukraine war analysts’ tool boxes. Besides Cargill, we know that the other three of the Big Four US grain companies are in both Ukraine and Russia, as is German ag/pharma giant Bayer (parent of the Company Formerly Known As Monsanto). As I wrote yesterday, you can bet that these guys are in on the backroom deals being made — which I have a sneaking suspicion bear little resemblance to the “official narrative.”

          1. Polar Socialist

            There are already a few examples of Ukrainian owned (by oligarchs) companies being “nationalized” in Donbass and Crimea lately.

            Unfortunately I haven’t had time to look deeper into which companies and why those companies, but I gather it has to do with getting them back to operation (one of them was a cement factory?) ASAP. The other factor may be the decades of complaints by the eastern Ukrainians that the oligarchs only loot existing assets from eastern Ukraine, never invest there.

            When the truck bomb damaged the Crimean bridge, Crimean governor actually said that “let Kiev have this moments, it’s the first time since 1991 they actually did something to the infrastructure here!”.

      2. norm de plume

        and I forget what else, off the top of my head

        Well for starters, he has helpfully destroyed trade unions and worker’s rights and protections, taking his country back to Industrial Revolution-era labour conditions.

        Just in case that proves inadequate, he has also covered the political angle and outlawed opposition parties and politicians. As an aside, the poor Ukie working class can probably forget about any class solidarity emanating from labour outfits in the West.

        (I should mention that I had another twit-link which showed an opposition pollie being beaten and humiliated by pro-govt thugs in uniform… this was no longer available. Instead I was treated to a photo of a dog on a chair, with the message: Looks like this page doesn’t exist. Here’s a picture of a poodle sitting in a chair for your trouble)

        And being nothing if not thorough he has also ensured that the canker of independent journalism cannot take root, to despoil the flower (turd-blossom?) of untrammelled capital.

        No stone unturned.

        He is probably underpaid, when you add it all up.

        1. Brunches with Cats

          > He is probably underpaid, when you add it all up.

          You’re probably right — even though I take it as a given that what we know about is only a fraction of his actual “salary.”

          Lobbying link is interesting, thanks. Another rabbit hole I’ve wanted to dive into, but haven’t had time. As for Z’s connection with Benya,* their friendly relationship is long over, a casualty of legislation the IMF forced on Zelensky that hit K’s bottom line. Then in July, Z stripped K of his Ukrainian citizenship. Whether it stuck, dunno. Haven’t had time to look for an update, but IIRC, it’s pretty much been open war from that point on.

          * A nickname for Kolomoisky, referring to a Jewish gang leader in Odessa in the 1920s in a short story by Russian writer Isaac Babel. It was made into a silent film in 1926, available on YouTube. The machine translation is execrable, but you can catch the drift. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0182781/

  9. Chas

    The assumption is Ukrainian refugees will head for western European countries. But if I were a cold Ukrainian without electricity I think I would head for Russia, where there’s plenty of gas, oil, and electricity. Also fellow slavs may be more welcoming than the Europeans.

    1. nippersdad

      That may be our neocons worst fear; the natural division of Slavs, leaving them with the dross. I am seeing a lot of squealing about “illegally moving people into Russia”, but one never hears that from reports in the Donbass, Zaporizhia or Kherson regions.

      As long as they can say that Ukraine is united they can get away with failing to mention that the country is ruled by a minority of Nazis from up near the Polish border. Once those are all they are left with it is going to start getting difficult to justify the lengths we have gone to support them.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Not all of them will be welcome. So a coupla days ago this Ukrainian girl made a short video to Russian women hoping that their loved ones return to them – in garbage bags and the video went down from there. But wouldn’t you know it. This same girl turned up at the border trying to enter the Zaporozhye region but when her name was checked, she was turned away because of her video. She was then informed that if she snuck into there, that she would be charged with Article 282 to do with extremism. So back she had to go with artillery fire in the distance-

      https://www.bitchute.com/video/YNAr3NjkUqyR/ (29 secs)

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The comments below say it wasn’t the same woman as in the video with the garbage bag idea. I can’t tell because the lighting is so different. But the woman in the nasty vid looks to have a wider nose at the bottom and more of an overbite.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I looked at that original video and thought it hard to tell as her face is in so close and her hair is pulled back. But when I look even closer, the girl in the close up video has a less developed chin than the girl at the border point so yeah, probably two different girls. Still, the implications from that border video is that the Russians are keeping tabs who they do and do not want to let in – especially with so many Ukrainian saboteurs – so they must be compiling a real-time list of unwanted people.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            The girl turned away at the border did not appear to try to deny the charge or express surprise, so she may have been involved in some anti-Russian activities, just not the vid the Bitchuters jumped on.

          2. Lambert Strether

            > the girl in the close up video has a less developed chin

            Tools like Instagram can algorithmically alter faces to be “prettier” (for whatever the conventional standard of beauty is).

  10. digi_owl

    In the end Russia is not out to break Ukraine in the way USA was out to break Iraq.

    It may well be that the blob is incapable of seeing Putin et al as anything other than themselves, and thus see any speech or press release as nothing more than bafflespeak and bald faced lies.

    1. Lex

      The US establishment only knows projection. It’s so ingrained at this point that it’s subconscious. And it leads to significant mistakes, like assuming that Russia would approach Ukraine the way the US would if in Russia’s position.

  11. nippersdad

    It is surprising that there are not replacement components laying all over, in places like Moldova and other former Soviet satellite states. They have managed to keep sixty year old tanks working, and they prolly have similar electrical grids.

    It looks like Ukraine may go the electronic route, rather than try and replace things like oil transformers.* They had already started to do that in Mykolaev back in July, but we can see how that has worked out there for the moment. I wonder how much of that Siemens equipment could even be made in Germany right now, or if China will be willing to do it for them after the recent performance of their obstreperous government.

    Ukraine and Europe have surely reaped the whirlwind. When the recriminations start, I would not want to be on the list of people who opposed the implementation of Minsk II. Speaking of which, I did not realize that Matt Duss was also a Ukrainian American like Nuland, et al. That answers a lot of questions.

    * https://interfax.com/newsroom/top-stories/81710/

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘I wonder how much of that Siemens equipment could even be made in Germany right now’

      That is an astute point that. I would imagine that manufacturing that Siemens equipment would be an energy-intensive process but does Germany have the power available to do so anymore?

    2. Lex

      Most of that equipment isn’t just kept laying around in spare stock, because most of it never fails if it has decent preventative maintenance. Major power generation equipment regularly exceeds its designed lifespan by decades. When old plants are taken off line, much of the critical equipment gets auctioned off to still operating plants because nobody has made the equipment in 30+ years. Even for substation gear, failures usually only impact tertiary pieces, so the main component is repaired with much less than replacement. But rarely do those “normal” failures come from high explosives so all the protections built into the main equipment that are easier to replace aren’t helpful in this situation.

      1. nippersdad

        Aaaah, that explains a lot. One gets so used to the idea of planned obsolescence that it is now hard to imagine anything that never fails with proper maintenance. It was already impressive what a beating their electrical grid could take before starting to fail, the point Mercouris always makes about Soviet infrastructure being over engineered seems well founded.

        If only Texas’ or California’s energy grid was as well planned as theirs……

      2. redleg

        With this in mind, consider what an EMP attack on North America would do to the power grid. Most of these large components going ‘poof’ simultaneously would leave the US effectively powerless (in every meaning of the word) for years.

    3. hunkerdown

      Bad take. Circuit breakers are not a replacement for transformers. The vacuum circuit breakers are provided to replace the most-potent-greenhouse-gas-ever SF6 circuit breakers, which were described in the post as inoperable below freezing without heating support. (I imagine they didn’t play up the idea of SF6-containing switchgear blowing up, so as not to upset the delicate sensibilities of the Greens.)

      Supposing the EU had a long-term plan to rebuild the 330kV area into the EU+ grid, there wouldn’t have been an “economic need” to keep many 330kV spares around.

  12. PlutoniumKun

    I suppose you could call it the Mexico/North Korea strategy vis a vis their larger neighbours. ‘Mess with us too much and you end up with 10 million refugees on your doorstep’.

    Europe is under enormous strain dealing with the refugees that have already moved. Even here in distant island Ireland I am constantly hearing grumbles from people in small towns and villages (the Irish government is mostly housing them in run-down rural hotels as a cheap and cheap(ish) solution that also keeps lots of local businesspeople happy, if not the locals).

    The key problem of course is that European leaders are like those deaf aunts who no matter how loudly you yell in their ear that they have parked their wheelchair on your foot, they still think you are asking about the weather.

    The one thing it does demonstrate for now I think is that if Russia had territorial ambitions beyond the Donbass/Lugansk and coastal region, those are shelved for now. They are throwing the baby back into the wests hands to deal with. I wonder too if this changes Poland’s calculations over western Ukraine.

  13. YY

    Russia had the ability to do what it has done in the past two weeks on day one of the SMO. There are too few in the West asking as to why it has taken so long. Russia has shown itself to be extremely methodical and patient in dealing with the situation. Most countries have spare heavy electrical equipment only on basis of natural weather related destruction, not war. So it would appear that Russia is working on basis of both defeating Ukraine and the pain of having to reconstruct the society. The strange thing is that one would expect Ukranians to notice that power, water, transport, internet were intact for months on end, and there was a very significant message in that situation being deliberately allowed.

    1. digi_owl

      Oh, they probably noticed. But then there was the corpses on display in the weeks after Russia withdrew from certain places. Snitches gets stiches, as the saying goes. Or in this case, collaborators gets a 9MM to the back of the head.

  14. Andrey Subbotin

    Since 2014 US/UK were grooming Ukraine to be their attack dog that will at some point fight with Russia, maim it and die. This is what is happening now. Since February knockout blow failed, and any peace attempts were and will be blocked by US/UK for as long as Ukraine has some utility, war will continue until Ukraine will run out of mobilisable men. We are speaking about 1-2 million Ukrainian and 300-500 thousand Russian casualties.

    Till the defeat under Kharkov Russia apparently hoped to wiggle out of this scenario, so it tried to preserve Ukrainian goodwill and sign some kind of more-or-less-white peace. Now it accepted the possibility (looks like not yet the inevitability) that it might have to fight out the war to the bitter end.

    Given that Ukraine does not have to fund itself, and does not have to produce its own arms, I do not expect this air campaign to be decisive. It is only enough to have enough diesel trains running to move munitions from Polish border to front lines to support war effort. Everything else is only a problem for Ukrainian civilians. This was probably the last attempt to force peace negotiations, and it is failing because it is not Ukraine’s decision to make.

    I do not think US/UK are interested in any kind of Ukrainian rebuilding – they would actually like a giant ruin separating Russia and EU and weakening both. They will take care that any cities surrendered to Russia are ruined by enough city fighting and their population displaced, Mariupol style. EU will suffer from refugees, but they lost their chance to have a say when they refused to support Minsk 2. Amazing how both EU and Ukraine were indoctrinated into this self-harm cult.

    It is a bleak future for everybody but US, but this is how it looks to me… luckily I am probably too old to be mobilized

    1. Tom Stone

      It’s a bleak future for more than 99% of Americans as well.
      The number of people who made these decisions is tiny, if you add all the key decision makers to those that significantly benefit from this situation you are talking about fewer than 100,000 out of 338,000,000 Americans.

    2. Jams O'Donnell

      Russia has gone out of its way to avoid both Ukranian civilian casualties and losses to its own troops. Your assessment seems fat too high. The Ukraine too, can only fight as long as it has willing and able bodies to do so. Once winter comes and conditions get much more severe, there will be a huge exodus to EU countries from all levels of Ukranian society.

      And the US will not escape. Russia and China are now committed irrevocably to de-dollarisation, and the non-wester orbit countries will eagerly join them. The dollar hegemony will fail within the next twenty years, while oil prices, to the west anyway, will rise. Plus China will within a matter of a few years be the leader in nano-chip technology despite all the US can do. And the Chinese have long memories of who oppressed them – past and present.

      Have no doubt – the US will fall with the EU.

  15. David

    If you credit the Russians with a longer-range plan that goes beyond victory in Ukraine, which most of us do, then there are (at least) two other dimensions to this missile campaign, both of which are based on the fact that there is no effective defence against these attacks, and that they could be stopped and then renewed at any point.

    Most obviously, it’s going to change the nature of the crisis, into one that European governments have to deal with practically, as opposed to hyperventilating about and sending arms. Population movements are likely to be massive and uncoordinated, and western politicians will simply not be able to ignore them. I foresee panic meetings in Brussels towards Christmas, and informal refugee camps springing up in Poland. This might well be the point where the European public’s tolerance finally snaps, and people start demanding why they have to house and feed hundreds of thousands of refuges when the problem could be solved if the war was brought to an end. It won’t be lost on the more intelligence members of the public, I think, that European bellicosity has contributed directly to this situation. In the longer term the Russians will have succeeded in destabilising the EU as well or, to be more precise, preparing a trap that the EU jumped into.

    More importantly for the longer term, this is also a message to European states that “we can do this to you as well.” There is nor effective defence against many of these weapons, and in any event, you can’t have anti-missile defences around every electricity substation in Europe. The Russians don’t have to do anything, or say anything: just let the realisation sink in. European infrastructure is pretty much defenceless against missile attack, and the defences that do exist are predicated on strikes against military and political targets. What the Russians have shown is that in a complex modern society, there are vulnerabilities everywhere, and life can be brought to a halt quickly. As a number of us have pointed out, the Russians have escalation dominance. NATO forces in Europe (including those of the US) are small and ineffective and far away, and this is unlikely to change any time soon. I don’t know how long it will be before realisation sinks in.

    Curiously, the least-noticed consequence of this campaign is that the predictions of some of the earliest strategic bombing advocates have now come true. As well as the school that believed you could create panic by indiscriminate attacks, there was another school which believed in very precisely targeted attacks on critical infrastructure. For generations afterwards, munitions were not precise enough, and aircraft were too vulnerable. Now, that’s changing fast and the West has chosen not to invest in these technologies.

    1. Samuel Conner

      > predictions of some of the earliest strategic bombing advocates have now come true.

      I read some time ago (in a book the title of which I have forgotten, but I think it was published in the late ’90s or early to mid ’00s) that the terminal decline of WWII German war industry began when the Allied bombing campaign targeted the rail transport network for the purpose of interfering with coal deliveries to the thermal power plants. As electricity production declined, industrial output also declined.

    2. Tom Stone

      The Cult of Douhet is still alive and well at the Pentagon, that’s where the whole “Shock and Awe” Strategy came from.
      Evil bastards.
      Russia’s campaign has been a textbook example of the “Appropriate Escalation of Force” in self defense terms.
      Which is impressive as hell given the circumstances and which has caused Russia’s “Soft Power” to grow almost exponentially.
      And it was clear Ukraine was Pwned when that convoy spent a week camped outside of Kiev without being molested.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      The point that the EU will recognize, if it hasn’t already, that Russia could do this to them is important. Although so far that is not deterring Finland from the scary bad idea of parking nukes on Russia’s border.

      1. Science Officer Smirnoff

        What has become of NATO in this scenario?

        Deterrence is the key word indeed!

        Asymmetric warfare is still war.

      2. cosmiccretin

        Would that you, Yves, could dissuade these poor deluded souls from taking the path towards annihilation! They certainly refuse to listen to me – and the local paper has cancelled me, as a Putin stooge.

        A small handful of them are my relations by marriage. Lovely people all of them. It makes me very sad – at times desperate – to think what they have let themselves in for.

        And for what?

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Russia’s message to Europe “we can do this to you as well” also contains a corollary inference generally applicable to the strategy and tactics of asymmetric warfare.

  16. Samuel Conner

    > Russia appears to be the only country that could put it back together in anything less than many years.

    I’ve wondered about this since the first days of the strikes on U electrical infrastructure. Russia doesn’t do JIT inventory management of its munitions stockpiles. Perhaps they, similarly, have deep inventories of key components needed to maintain/repair their electricity distribution infrastructure in the event of conflict with potential adversaries.

    “We broke it; we’ll fix it — in exchange for peace” might be attractive as the humanitarian disaster unfolds.

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      > Russia appears to be the only country that could put it back together in anything less than many years.

      Assuming the fat chance the USA would seek to restore parts of the Ukraine grid they may be able to make progress by using 230KV equipment, which is a common voltage level used in the North American grids. The transmission line MW capacities would be reduced by about a third but as an interim measure for a few years it should be doable. I don’t off hand see why the frequency difference (i.e. 50Hz in Europe vs 60 Hz on the west side of the Atlantic) should be an issue, but someone with more insight into transformer and circuit breaker design might have something to say on the matter.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        The US is already struggling to send weapons to the Ukraine – sending probably non-existent or non-stockpiled and definitely non-Ukr. standard grid components might be a bridge too far. Especially as much of this capacity has probably gone to China.

      2. marku52

        The eddy current and hysteresis losses will go up proportional to the higher frequency, but the iron will be worked less hard. There is a reason aircraft power runs at 400Hz. The iron is smaller

        Probably a wash. But the loss in capacity is proportional to the voltage difference too. About a third of lost capacity

        Just a guess from an EE, but not a magnetics engineer.

      3. Acacia

        Not a professional engineer here, but my understanding is that assuming the same voltage, if a transformer designed for 60 Hz is operated at 50 Hz, the internal flux (and thus current) increases (per Faraday’s Law). If this amount exceeds the rated flux density of the transformer, it will cause overheating and, eventually, burn-out. It may be possible to add an external current limiter on the input, but that will increase the overall impedance and it is beyond my pay grade to say how that would play in a power grid.

        Iraq has been mentioned several times, and while Iraq is not Ukraine, remember how optimistic the US media were about postwar Iraq and “building democracy” after the campaign of shock and awe? Even today, over a decade later, Iraq is evidently still plagued by power outages.

  17. ddt

    No long term worries for Ukraine. Elon Musk will come in and set up a new electric grid with his super-wow batteries just like in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think you need a /sarc tag.

      Puerto Rico has three million people. Kiev alone has three million people. Ukraine total had 44 million before the war.

      Puerto has 3 data centers (as in energy hogs). Ukraine has 50.

      Ukraine has, or at least had, energy intensive industries like steel foundries. Please tell me how much heavy industry Puerto Rico has.

  18. nippersdad

    Further to the BadFaith podcast about Russia in links the other day, Joe Cirincione is apparently not having a good reaction:


    I thought that Briahna Joy Gray was very restrained in that interview, she could have knocked him out of the park by just going into the litany of provocations prior to the SMO, but even working within his framing he is not happy with the result. I wonder if we are not seeing the beginning of a sea change in public perceptions on the war in Ukraine.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, there was an edge of panic and hysteria in Cirincione’s voice during that interview, though perhaps it was due to him being challenged by Briahna, who did a super job of exposing him and his fellow #McResistance imbeciles.

      1. nippersdad

        Yes, she is very good. If I have one criticism of her style, though, it would be that she is far too polite. She did an interview a while back with Cenk Uyger that made me want to slap him for her.

    2. Librarian Guy

      She wildly outclassed him, he is the very dictionary definition of a clueless, entitled PMC $hitLib, just utterly unaware of anyone or anything (probably 97% of the actual world) that is not in his little Boho Boozhie David Brooks’ Bubble . . . when he started mewling about the Russians “kidnapping” innocent Ukranian “babies” to turn into savage Ivans, I wanted to puke!! NO awareness of what the US has done in Latin America for nigh on 2 centuries, and if anyone told him he’d refuse to believe it. QAnon is not the slickest of the mind-control cults out there, and the Cirncione type can also be seen in the Lawyers Guns and Money “woke” blog that goes on and on about old redlining of poor non-whites, etc. that they Know their establishment buddies will never remedy or pay a dime of reparations for!! Alongside posts glorifying ‘Elensky, Kamala and exulting over the imminent “Ukranian victory”, speculations that Putin is about to die, yadda yadda yadda . . . I blame Obama, until he was installed as the MIC-Finance Lord and Master there was a tiny bit of anti-Imperialist “left” input into the Demo party, but that is simply not allowed now, & evidently never will be as the Dems make themselves utterly irrelevant on every level but fund-raising from the bleating self-righteous faux Libs.

  19. Michael Ismoe

    Poor Yves. So deluded. You obviously haven’t been reading the mainstream press. Just where do you get this information? I’m pretty sure that it’s just a matter of time before Paul Pelosi is released from the hospital and he forms the “Hammer Battalion” a group of mercenaries who only wield hammers to beat back invaders. Get with the program, please.

    Ukraine ‘will push Russia back to pre-invasion borders by New Year

    Zelenskiy says Putin grain U-turn shows ‘failure of Russian aggression

    As Ukraine war drags into ninth month, Russia’s woes worsen

    With Western Weapons, Ukraine Is Turning the Tables in an Artillery War

    1. fairleft

      Amazing. Unhealthy delusions are what the media is offering these days. People need to refuse but I know that’s hard for most ‘non-political’ people.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        I’m guessing that there is some truth to these stories. Russia seems very eager to sell grain, ammonia, and other products. It is also eager to sell oil and gas. And Russia likely is acquiring munitions from Iran and North Korea as its own stocks are nearly depleted. It remains to be seen how effective the long awaited Ukraine offensive will be. That will be an important indicator of how the war is really going. For now there is lots of happy talk on both sides.

        1. Soredemos

          Russia isn’t running out of anything. https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/return-industrial-warfare/

          The North Korea story line in particular make less than no sense, since Russia and NK share a border and rail lines. Yet the current Western narrative is that they’re transporting ammo through some indirect route through the Mideast and Africa. Literally why? It doesn’t pass the smell test. The Biden administration is simply making it up.

          Russia is getting suicide drones from Iran in exchange for jets, that claim is true. Is this because of a lack of Russian domestic production capability, or is it to strengthen ties with Iran?

        2. Art_DogCT

          There is no substantiated basis to claim that Russia’s “own [munitions] stocks are nearly depleted”. Russian materiel reserves for this or that weapon system have been claimed to be ‘nearly depleted’ every few months or weeks since mid-March, with no evidence of any battlefront reality to back up those claims. (I hear echoes of how often the US claimed they killed one or another jihadi/insurgent leader, only to be demonstrably alive a few weeks/months later.) Invoking leading Official Enemies Iran and DPRK and implying that their collaboration with Russia is both ‘malign’ and indicative only of Russia’s military failure is suspect. Why wouldn’t they collaborate against the West? The West certainly collaborates against them.

          The Russians have always wanted to sell grain, oil, etc, and do so – to anyone not participating in US/NATO’s sanction regime (itself a massive self-owned disaster for the West). The immediate project of the SMO is but one part of the larger and longer-term development toward the multipolar order being crafted through the SCO, BRICS+ and similar venues. As I see it, the only depletion is happening in in the West, a comprehensive depletion in many senses in addition to the military.

          I think the Russians realized years ago that the battle against the hegemon would break out sooner or later, in one place or another. How many years exactly, I don’t know. Discounting the Russian depletion narrative as fantasy/projection, it seems to me that the resources deployed in the SMO would have required several years to plan and produce. The Russians have known this war would come, just not until fairly recently that Ukraine was the designated hitter. They have known they would need resources on hand to confront all of US/NATO, if the expected state/state conflict expanded. I’d wager the Russians have put considerable resources into stockpiling military necessities against the day US/NATO must be schooled about what ‘red lines’ mean.

          The nations of the world are well used to how they have been and are treated by the ‘rules based international order’. Russia’s public diplomacy is very much pitched to the Global South, as has been their conduct of the SMO (gradual escalation from purely military targets to mixed-use targets, very carefully targeted with a long view on post-truce reconstruction, for example). The careful procedural, legalistic steps taken, internally and internationally, up to and including conducting the SMO have been presented publicly and coherently by Putin, Lavrov, Shoigu, et. al. People outside the ‘West’ notice these things, and compare to how the West conducts itself. To coin a phrase, a better world’s in birth.

          Mr. Stegman, you may be proved right in time, but for right now you appear to only regurgitate Blob talking points, points themselves without evidence or argument. Poor Blob, so upset that the reality they wanted differs so much from the reality they’ve got.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          Russia is not “eager” to sell grain. It had a bumper harvest and is “eager” only to defuse the West trying to make out as if Russia is responsible for scarce fertilizer and a shortfall of wheat exports.

          It also looks like you did not pay close attention to the last two Ukraine offensives. Kharkiv ex Kharkiv city is sparsely populated, even more so since the war started. The opposite of Donbass, which is like the Ruhr, small towns and cities next to manufacturing operations, separated typically by 2-3 km. Russia accordingly had very few troops in Kharkiv and pulled out with virtually no losses. Oh, and an orderly retreat is harder than an advance. So Kharviv proved nothing about Ukraine competence and fighting capacity, save the ability to find a weak but even then strategically non-important target.

          Kherson was a disaster. Hospitals all over southern Ukraine overflowing with wounded. That was even reported in the Washington Post. Kherson is much more indicative of what happens to Ukraine when Russia puts up a fight.

    2. Old Sovietologist

      There seem to be conflicting reports about what is happening in Kherson are the Russians going to retreat or are they going to turn the city into the biggest military base the world?

      From a military point of view, the abandonment of Kherson can probably be explained. Difficulties in supplying the grouping, the possibility of encircling troops on the right bank and there’s certainly a logic to saving combat-ready units.

      However, modern military conflicts are not only battles on the front line. It is also politics and the psyche of the opposing sides.

      If the Russian Army does leave Kherson the Dems gets a flip for the mid-terms. They can say ” it’s not in vain that we support Ukraine”. The military-industrial lobby gets to say arms supplies are working.

      In Europe, a departure from Kherson will be perceived in exactly the same way, and it will be sold to Europeans in the media in exactly the same vein. Look our assistance to Ukraine is working, we still have to be patient. Yes there’s no gas and it’s cold but we can win.

      The Ukrainians will promote it as the “mother of all victories” Zelensky will come, they might even tempt Ursula in for for the occasion.

      As for Moscow if a retreat from Kherson does takes place it will have to carefully explained to the Russian people as to why its happening,

      1. marku52

        I think General Mud has closed off that possibility, as least as far as the US midterms are concerned. That mud looks awful

      2. Ignacio

        In Kherson there is the possibility that all the region or at least the West bank might become inundated if some things happen. Mercouris speculates that Russian military might be taking decisions just in case such event comes true. In any case, according to its latest video Russia has no plan to retreat Kherson as much of the West press claims.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        You are way way way behind. Russia is not abandoning Kherson. They have moved in a shit ton of troops and are fortifying west of the Dnieper.

        The latest speculation as to why Russia has gotten insistent about civilians evacuating is not (just) their exposure to shelling. It is

        1. Easy to find saboteurs/terrorists if civilians are gone and

        2. Russia may blow some Dnieper bridges that sit atop dams to trap the Ukraine forces on the east side. Doing that would cause flooding, but not as severe as if the Anotonovsky Dam were blown up.

        Update: If you were reacting to the Ukraine propaganda du jour about Kherson, that’s debunked by Alexander Mercouris at the top of his latest vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlUI9g5t1is

  20. Boomheist

    Unfortunately it seems that, even if somehow by some miracle a cease fire occurred at the end of THIS WEEK, there will still be before Ukraine and Europe a damn cold winter without enough gas for heat nor enough electricity in Ukraine to prevent the many problems outlined by Yves above. So, the US and NATO will scream genocide. This is guaranteed. I am sure the Russians thought long and hard before taking out the grid, because that is a step that guarantees human suffering for those “brother” Slavs the Ukrainians are. Surely the Russians knew they will be accused of genocide. But, at the same time, I suspect they – the Russians – also knew that nothing else would get the West’s attention, nothing else but, in the end, a freezing local populace and millions of refugees incoming. I do think, actually, that maybe the Russians have been even more clever than that: maybe they thought, and prepared for, a wave of brother Slavs coming into Russia, leaving only the Azovs and Nazis and Bandertites to head for Europe. The level of hubris, stupidity, complacency, and idiocy demonstrated by Blinklen, Biden, and war-drunk Neocons is breathtaking. I wonder how many middle of the road voters are going to choose to vote Republican even though they loathe MAGA-land and all Republican policies, simply because it is only some in MAGA-land who are speaking the truth about what has been happening in Ukraine – Tucker Carlson, etc. Those 30 “Progressive” Democrats who wrote a letter then pulled it back within 24 hours showed everyone how bipartisan hypocrisy is. There once was a strong and vibrant anti-war movement in the West, in the US. How many millions went into the streets before Iraq? But that was, now, a generation ago (!!!!!!) and here we are.

    1. Bsn

      Good call. By saying “prepared for, a wave of brother Slavs coming into Russia, leaving only the Azovs and Nazis and Bandertites to head for Europe” – I agree. Remember the videos of Azov boys removing their T-shirts and showing their Nazi tattoos? The serious Nazis in Ukraine will have trouble hiding their sentiments (social media posts, et al) when trying to enter Russia. It’ll take generations of anti-Russian propaganda, fostered on the children in Ukraine, to dissipate in the minds and hearts of “average” Ukrainians.

    2. NoFreeWill

      Well, the response to one of the largest global protests ever and massive US protests was really nothing at all, Iraq went on just the same, so it’s not surprising anti-war activists are in short supply. Of course in the Vietnam days the draft and the strength of the left made it totally different, and even then arguably all the protesting did little to end the war. Without an effective threat to power, which non-violent protests by themselves are not, these tactics have been increasingly countered by media distortion, new police tactics, and total lack of accountability of government to people.

      1. Bsn

        Yes, protesting alone is not effective. Since the powers that be have no heart, hitting them there is useless. They only feel pain in their wallet so strikes, and in your example, draft resistance, are a much stronger tack.

    3. Mike Elwin

      Our anti-war movements opposed specific wars because of their intent, esp the US’s intent. What you apparently want is pacifism, which opposes all wars, even WWII. It has played very small parts in our anti-war organizing, though people here seem to be advocating it when they call for negotiating with Putin.

      1. hunkerdown

        Is there a special term for it when one’s sole exception to pacifism is to purge the noble classes that make up stupid self-identities and infantile beefs and try to tell me how to feel?

  21. Matthew G. Saroff

    The USA has eschewed a meaningful integrated air defense system for decades ever.

    The mode employed by the US military is the establishment of air superiority or air supremacy in order to prevent air strikes.

    As capable as something like the Patriot (might) be, they were designed as a last ditch defense for the army when the air force is too busy.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      They are not ‘capable’ compared to Russian systems, as the Saudi’s found out a while ago, and Erdogan has shown by voting with his wallet. In general, Russian and Chinese arms are a generation ahead of US ones. See many articles in ‘Military Watch’ magazine for a relatively unbiased account of this.

      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        The point I was making was not that the Russians and Chinese are ahead in the race to make capable IADS, but that the wild blue yonder boys have aggressively and successfully stopped efforts by the US to even enter the race for a capable IADS.

        1. David

          Yes, and not just the US. All western states have essentially the same doctrine of gaining air superiority first in a conflict, which is fine until you come up against an opponent who doesn’t use aircraft for that purpose, but rather very large numbers of highly capable missiles. They can shoot vastly more relatively cheap missiles than you can deploy highly expensive aircraft. There is no answer to this problem, without a massive and unprecedented investment in systems that NATO for the most part doesn’t possess, and even then in small numbers. That would take … a decade, maybe, as a crash programme?

          The reality is that Russia is able to hit with great precision individual targets in large parts of Europe, more or less at will, and there is nothing much Europe can do about it. NATO’s air forces would quickly be used up in trying to find and destroy the missile launchers, many of which are mobile, and there seems to be little effective defence against the missiles themselves. And NATO has nothing to retaliate with. At some point, this is going to register with European politicians, and even more with European publics.

  22. Tet Vet

    “No matter how cynical you become, it is impossible to keep up” – Lily Tomlin

    It appears to me that getting this thing to end is going to require a “Hail Mary” type play. I wonder what the real reason for this so-called inspection team finally now showing up to provide “accountability” for all of the equipment we have sent over there. Why do we suddenly wish to document what we already know all too well? My speculation: The inspection team will provide evidence to be placed in the record that we have been foolish to trust and ultimately deceived by the Ukrainians who made literally no effort to monitor the distribution of the equipment. What has happened is the vast majority of our aid has been used to fatten the coffers of the corrupt leadership, including Zelensky. Thus, when the Republicans take over, they will be in a position to blame the former majority and Biden for breaking the trust that they gave the Democrats with their bi-partisan support of supplying aid to Ukraine. Yes, the Republicans will be “Shocked! Shocked to find gambling at Ricks”. Then they will be able to claim that they always had reservations but it was their patriotic duty to go along with the majority for the good of the nation. How am I doing Lily?

    1. Tet Vet

      When I wrote this, I hadn’t read Yves comment about Casablanca in the post about the IMF and the accountability issue. Had I, I would have given her a hat tip.

    2. Teejay

      Tet Vet: ” What has happened is the vast majority of our aid has been used to fatten the coffers of […] Zelensky.” Vast majority?
      in Zelensky’s pocket? Receipts. Where are they?

    3. Dida

      Forgive me for noticing, but yours is a particularly rosy scenario, which conveys wishful thinking rather than cynicism.

      Alex Mercouris speculates that the ‘inspection’ is a pious lie intended to allow the US the insertion of American military personnel directly into the war, and thus represents a dangerous escalation.

      We’re still on the road to Doomsday. Which shouldn’t surprise us. It looks like American capitalism has no exit solution for its systemic crisis other than WWIII.

  23. Anthony G Stegman

    I won’t be surprised to see a series of attacks on Russia soil in the coming days and weeks as things become more desperate in Ukraine. It has been shown repeatedly that Russia’s border is not entirely secure. Some bombs going off in Moscow will brighten the holiday season for the Biden administration.

  24. XXYY

    Regarding the idea of the US resupplying Ukraine with key electrical grid parts, I remember reading that US utilities are having extreme difficulties supplying their own grids with transformers and other parts, and that these parts have very long lead times which are not compatible with need.

    Decades of infrastructure underfunding have left the US with a serious hangover, which it is going to have difficulty addressing. There is certainly not going to be either the will or the equipment to fix the infrastructure of another country.

  25. Soredemos

    Not really related in any substantive way, but if anyone was curious, ‘pwned’ is pronounced ‘owned’. It’s now quite dated internet video game slang, from circa 2000 if not earlier. It came about because O and P are right beside each other on the keyboard, and it was common for people to mistype in their hast midgame.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I was going to use “owned” but Lambert preferred “pwned” because is has the connotation of decisively winning in a game. Also looks like “pawn”.

    2. hunkerdown

      UNIX sysadmins and hackers infosec enthusiasts were using it in the late 1990s (personal communications, several of them). Gamers ruin everything.

  26. Raymond Sim

    I don’t see how the Russian leadership can expect to achieve a stable outcome that removes the threats they cite as their casus smo without seizing control of quite a lot more territory. Hence I’m anticipating there’s a big offensive in the offing. The dislocations, destruction and death from that will make the wrecking of the electrical grid yesterday’s news.

    Something possibly related: How badly has SARS-2 degraded the strength of Russian ground forces? The commentators I’m aware of who aren’t Putinophobes tend to be Covid minimizers, and I wouldn’t expect them to pick up on any problems. And it’s not a topic our official organs are likely to broach. I saw a chart of excess deaths per capita for various countries and Russia looked terrible. Putin’s domestic policy instincts tend to be neoliberal-esque, and what I’ve read of the handling of the pandemic there sounded pretty bad.

      1. Raymond Sim

        I’ll see if I can find it again. It was something I came across while looking for info about RSV, Metapneumovirus, etc in other countries. My short-term memory deficit strikes again.

        1. Raymond Sim

          I think the chart I saw was a screencap from an earlier version of this article:


          I’m not familiar with pandemi-ic.com. I’ve seen the article’s author Philip Schellekens retweeted quite a bit, and in fact it was seeing some of his tweets that set me off wanting to know more about what’s going on in the rest of the world. Schellekens says:

          The excess death estimates are the mid-points of the intervals produced by The Economist, where we recognize that the margin of uncertainty around them is higher for the poorer countries.

          I was not aware The Economist was generating such data. Could establishment attitudes be shifting? My past s.o.p. would be to mentally cancel Schellekens

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