Biden Keeps Up Tough Talk on Ukraine Despite Evidence of Failure

On the one hand, it’s progress of sorts that it’s no longer verboten to talk about peace in the context of the war in Ukraine. Recall that when Kissinger tried to revive the idea of a negotiated end to the conflict after the UK (not doubt with US backing) scuppered the talks in Istanbul, the prevailing reaction was of revulsion. Russia must be comprehensively defeated!

And recall that Kissinger’s proposed terms were ones Russia would never accept, yet they were deemed unacceptably generous.

But even though peace is no longer a four letter word, for most commentators, it’s become a new way to fantasize about Russian rout. Putin needs an off ramp. The systematic demolition of Ukraine’s grid is a desperate last ditch measure, proving that Russia’s military is failing on the battlefield. The Russian public is revolting against the conscription. Ukraine troops are advancing.

It was not entirely surprising to see Biden, in a press conference yesterday with Emmanuel Macron, willing only to entertain a peace with Russia that amounts to capitulation. But major press outlets like the Financial Times presented Biden’s position as a softening….because he is now willing to talk to Putin, albeit with the precondition that Putin be the instigator, as in come to the West seeking, meaning needing, peace.1 The transcript of the germane section of the Q&A, courtesy Yahoo:

INTERPRETER: We hear that you will be talking to President Putin any time soon. What is your approach? And as the Ukrainian War seems to be at a turning point, do you feel realistic that President Zelensky is putting a condition to open negotiations that is the return of Crimea to Ukraine?

JOE BIDEN: Look, there’s one way for this war to end, the rational way, Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very heavy price for failing to do it. But he’s inflicting incredible, incredible carnage on the civilian population of Ukraine, bombing nurseries, hospitals, children’s homes. It’s sick what he’s doing. But the fact of the matter is, I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin is– let me choose my words very carefully. I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact, there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind. He hasn’t done that yet.

In the meantime, I think it’s absolutely critical what [? Emmanuel ?] said. We must support Ukrainian people. The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension. Imagine, I’m trying to occupy that country for the next 2,5, 10, 20 years– if they could– if they could. He’s miscalculated every single thing he initially calculated. He thought he’d be greeted with open arms by the Russian speaking portions of the Ukrainian population. Go back and read his speech when he invaded– when I said they were going to invade, and they did when we said they were. Go back and read the speech he made. He talked about him with needing to be another Peter the Great. He talked about the need for the people of Kyiv as the mother load of Russian identity in the beginning, et cetera, et cetera.

He just miscalculated across the board. And so the question is what is his decision– how does he get himself out of the circumstance he’s in? I’m prepared if he’s willing to talk to find out what he’s willing to do. But I’ll only do it in consultation with my data allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.

It is a certainty that these remarks are not posturing, that Biden believes what he says. He sees Russia as needing to exit a war it is losing, as defeat for Ukraine being impossible. He also decries the pain suffered by civilians of Ukraine, a theme that will resonate far more with Europeans than with Serbians, Yemenis, and other civilians on the wrong side of US regime change efforts.

And it’s clear these views are still widely held. For instance, if you read the comments on the Financial Times’ Joe Biden says he is prepared to speak to Putin about ending Ukraine war, those who dare suggest that Ukraine can’t win are attacked as Russian puppets. For instance:

irritated by almost everything
Biden stabbing Ukraine in the back, throwing away a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring Russia to its knees, Epic incompetence.

There in nothing to talk about, except to debate if Putler goes to The Hague or to Guantanamo.

Sadly, Biden’s hopeful words on Ukraine are mere words. The US has no incentive to end this war. Russia is cornered and losing, while the war ensures Europe will seek out long term contracts for American energy and weapons. If Europe had real leaders they could stand up to America’s belligerents and find a peace deal.

“If Europe had real leaders they could stand up to America’s belligerents and find a peace deal.”
— No. If Europe had real leaders they would stand up to Russia’s belligerence and force a peace deal by giving the Ukrainian Army all the tools it needs to finish the job..

It nevertheless is correct to point out that Biden’s faux accommodative stance is at odds with Kiev. From RIA Novosti, via Aftershock (original here):

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov, during a speech at the Kiev Security Forum, called for the destruction of Russia.

“They just need to be destroyed so that they, as a country, cease to exist within the borders in which they now exist,” he said.

In addition, Danilov called the Russians “barbarians” and possible negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv “unworthy.”

Mind you, these Financial Times readers are presumably in the money biz, and the ones who are investors have incentives to be reality-based for the sake of their portfolios. But even the few prepared to entertain a settlement were at most willing to allow Russia to keep Crimea. And there was no cognizance that Western weapons stocks were being drained (France just said it can’t send any more materiel), that Russia can massively outproduce the entire West and it would take at least ten years of reindustrializing to catch up, and that Russia is a generation ahead of the West in missiles and air defense systems.

The (to media eyes) limited action on the ground due to General Mud and Russia engaging only in continuing pre-existing initiatives as its reservists complete training and then are dispatched to units gives the Ukraine. General Shoigu just announced that all the reservist training had finished but the implication seems to be they were still being moved into their assignments. That seems to conform to Scott Ritter’s estimate of mid-December as being the earliest “all good to go” date if Surovkin wasn’t forced to launch prematurely. Depending on the game plan, General Weather could push things back sooner. Douglas Macgregor said it took two full weeks of all day temperatures below freezing for ground to freeze. In Zaporizhszhia, that phase won’t have begun even as of mid-December. From

Even though the Western press won’t acknowledge it, Russia is gaining ground. According to Alexander Mercouris, 40% of Ukraine is still out of power a week after the last strike (I don’t know if by area or by population). Temperatures falling will result in higher demand for power which will further stress the grid. Russia may well hold off on additional strikes for a bit to see how much more goes kaput on its own.

The Kherson retreat has turned out to be a Ukraine trap. Continued shelling of the city has made it sufficiently uninhabitable that civilians are being evacuated. More important, Russia took out the railroads that Ukraine would have used to redeploy those troops east to support other operations. As Dima described on Military Summary, the only viable transport route now is to go way north, then east, a hugely time-consuming trek (and one that may allow for additional Russian strikes).

Russia is also gaining momentum in what has long seemed like the “watching paint dry” pace of pushing Ukraine forces out of Donbass. Russia is in the process of taking the linchpin city of Bakhmut, whose importance is confirmed by desperate Ukraine efforts to send in reinforcements.2 Even so, the normally hopelessly downbeat site Rybar has been talking about Ukraine defense lines collapsing around Bakhmut. Some commentators have said there are as many as 30,000 Ukraine troops committed to Bakhmut and environs. In an upside scenario for Russia, many would surrender or be captured. But regardless, Russia capturing Bakhmut would be seen in Russia as a significant win and would bolster morale.

Alexander Mercouris pointed out that there is much chatter, based on satellite images, of activity at Russian airbases that looks like preparation for a big bombing campaign. It could be the expected killer blow against the electrical grid. Mercouris has been a fan of the idea of taking out Dnieper bridges and trapping Ukraine troops in the east. It could be to assault the Ukraine troops near Bakhmut if the numbers are indeed on the high side. Or it could be a big deception. Regardless, it confirms that Russia has attack capacity it has yet to deploy.

And topping it off was the damaging admission by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, working from a prepared script, that 100,000 Ukraine soldiers had died in action. Various not-really-credible efforts to walk that back quickly followed, starting with trying to depict the total as deaths plus casualties. But the Russian practice of using massive artillery fire and drone strikes before sending in ground troops means it can inflict greatly disproportionate manpower costs.3

Yet von der Leyen, completely ignoring the implication of the horrific Ukraine losses, continues to act as if the West has the upper hand. She is still scheming to come up with a legal foundation for seizing Russia’s frozen assets, and is now keen to launch a European kangaroo war crimes courts, on the peculiar assumption that the Hague isn’t up to the task. Her flailing about looks like an effort to pretend Europe is still in control of its destiny.

Even though it is clear that there’s no peace to be had in Ukraine any time soon, the endgame remains a big problem for Russia. We said from the outset Russia could win the war but lose the peace. It is well on its way to achieving what seemed to be an impossibly ambitious goal, that of demilitarizing Ukraine. But what about denazification? About what happens to likely to be very poor and sullen western Ukraine? About rebuilding the “liberated” areas and perhaps providing electrical grid supplies to the rest of Ukraine?

I doubt it is the solution Russia wants, but a Western Ukraine with no power would come to resemble the Unorganized Territory of Maine, whose 14,500 square miles has a population of roughly 9,000 (Lambert calls them “Men in the Woods” or following the locals, “Beardos”.) That low a population density can’t constitute a military threat. That amounts to a scorched earth solution that would greatly reduce risks to Russia as well as amount to explicitly renouncing reconstruction of those regions. It sounds like a terrible remedy. But what alternatives are there that would meet Russia’s security needs, particularly when faced with an agreement-incapable West?

1 If memory serve me correctly, the last time Biden was willing to talk to Putin, Biden stipulated that imprisoned basketball star Brittany Greiner be the first agenda item.

2 Dima at Military Summary had a good update that focuses considerably on Bakhmut and nearby areas. It is a bit micro if you haven’t been map-watching but still has a number of higher-level points. One issue he does not mention is the next line to be contested, and the last to be surmounted to clear Donbass, the Slaviansk-Kramatorsk front, is generally believed to be much less well fortified than than the area around Bakhmut and the fortified lines opposite Donetsk city.

3 Yours truly believe that this factor (plus it being consistent with the Russian estimate of 60,000 dead as of September) also implies that the normal assumption of one dead to three wounded does not hold. The pounding by artillery both dispatches more soldiers and makes it hard to get the wounded to medical facilities where they can be stabilized and hopefully saved. So I guesstimate that the wounded total at most 100,000, which is still a very bad number.

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  1. Stephen

    I tend to look at comments sections too, and on any mainstream media site they are invariably depressing. I do wonder though how many are genuine comments versus the extent to which “intelligence” operatives write them. I have no evidence of that and in the past I would always have thought that such things would never happen. But these days I am more suspicious of our governments. Would put nothing past them.

    The overall level of cognitive dissonance across the west, and the general failure to question or seek evidence for these propaganda statements that “Putin is losing” and the use of these childish labels such as “Putler” is becoming increasingly tiresome and scary.

    The related inability to hold up a mirror, as you just have in this article by referring to Yemen and Serbia emphasizes the cognitive dissonance even more, as does the talk of war crimes tribunals. The latter always makes me think of Admiral Nimitz’s honourable intervention to the Nuremberg prosecutors with respect to Admirals Donitz and Raeder. This was to the effect that he had carried out precisely the same unrestricted submarine warfare that they were to be indicted for. If we use the standards of the Ukraine conflict as a benchmark then the list of modern day western war criminals would be long indeed.

    Agree fully that Russia has no incentive right now to negotiate. This seems to be underlined too by their postponement of the New START talks. Playing the US / collective west at its own game, it seems.

    1. Andrey Subotin

      During WW2 Germany mobilized 40% of its male population, and unlike Ukraine it had to produce its own arms. Apply that ratio to Ukraine, which currenly has 30 million population (disproportionally male as men of fighting age cannot legally emigrate) and you end with a pool of 6 million to mobilize from. In comparison to that, 200k or 300k per year losses is not something that can cripple Ukrainian military

      1. The Rev Kev

        As Albert Einstein once said, ‘In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.’ You are assuming that all those men are actually there. How are they to be equipped with everything from uniforms to basic weapons? How will you be able to train them to a point where they are not a casualty waiting to happen. Where will their ammo come from? Where can you find the tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry to back them up with? And the ammo that they shoot as well? The west is tapped out you know. And how do you support them with logistics where the train lines aren’t working and fuel for trucks is scarce? Where will you find the officers and NCOs that will help actually turn them into some sort of formation? I could go on but I think that you get the point.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Right. One significant impediment is Russia has successfully targeted training camps in Ukraine. Much harder to train new recruits. And as we are seeing, other countries that have volunteered to help can only take comparatively small numbers at a time, and then train them only a month, which is widely seen as inadequate.

          1. Polar Socialist

            I recall seeing a comment allegedly by Ukrainian troops that their training in Lithuania had nothing to do with the current war but was only to check all the right boxes for someone to get the slice of that huge help package.

            Sounded plausible to me.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Available evidence contradicts your claims. First, about 10 million are in the “liberated” oblasts + Kharkiv, where a lot of the population fled to Russia.

        Second, despite the formal prohibition against men of mobilization age leaving the country, there is considerable evidence they have, in very large numbers, to the degree that Ukraine asked Poland to send them back. Colonel Smithers has also seen rich Ukrainian men lording about in London.

        Third, #2 is indirectly confirmed by increasing dependence on mercenaries. Russia has reported hearing radio chatter from units where based on language use (Polish, Romanian, and English) as many as 70% were mercenaries. Similarly, 1,200 Poles are reported to have died fighting in Ukraine.

        1. José Freitas

          I think Ukrainian losses are way worse than your article assumes. When those Ukrainian documents leaked early this summer, they ALREADY mentioned 100k dead, but they also said the number of MIA was impossible to estimate (“no one is counting”), and could amount to an extra 50k. And months have passed, since then. Recently, I saw an article detailing the discovery of over 30 kia as an example of how large numbers of casualties remain to be discovered in the field. Russia is also holding 1000s of prisoners, possibly as many as 20k.

          I think it is possible Ukraine has suffered as many as 200k killed and captured losses.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I don’t disagree that the real #s are likely to be worse, but even these are plenty bad. 100,000 dead plus a bare minimum of 100,000 wounded is over 1/3 of the initial forces were (going from memory) about 260,000 which included cop-types who weren’t really good for fighting but keeping order (like checkpoints) and 310,000 reservists. And most people would see the 100,000 estimate of wounded as way low in light of 100,000 dead.

          2. Polar Socialist

            The current official Russian estimate of Ukrainian casualties is 137,000. I’m not sure if that’s the “irrevocably lost” or just plain dead, though.

            Concerning the grim math of killed to wounded ratio, the 1:3 is to my understanding the lower limit. Earlier in this conflict when there had been information released it has usually been 1:4 or 1:5 on both sides.

            Now, also traditionally minor wounds (returned to duty within 72 hours) are at least 50% of the wounded (Shoigu claimed 90%), so that 1:5 is not actually as horrible it may seem.

            Mercouris (if I’m not mistaken) keeps making the point that Ukraine had another mobilization wave of 100,000 to replace losses, not create new units.

            So there are good reasons to assume that the Ukrainian irrevocable (KIA, hospitalized, MIA, POW) losses are in the range of 200-250k by now.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              In Iraq, the US got the killed to wounded ratio down (as in fewer deaths) due to 1. contending with an enemy that relied mainly on mines, machine guns, and grenades, and 2. being able to get the wounded care generally pronto (field hospitals not far off, ability often to evacuate the wounded in helicopters).

              I don’t see the basis here for assuming more favorable outcomes than WWII (the 1:3 ratio) and potentially much worse. Did you seen the recent video of Russia attacking a small group of Ukraine forces trying to advance using trenches? I gather the footage was about 2 months old but compiled recently. It shows devastating firepower v. the Ukraine forces. No one survived.

              As indicated, I recall being shocked when Shoigu announced (in Sept?) Ukraine dead at 60,000 and wounded at 50,000. I assume they had a basis for presenting a ratio that would be so wildly at odds with conventional assumptions.

              Mind you, I am not saying the number of dead is necessarily that high relative to total casualties. But given the overwhelming use of artillery and the likely difficulty of evacuating the wounded to get adequate care, it’s worth keeping in mind as a possibility.

              1. Irrational

                I thought I saw or read somewhere (Mercouris, Ritter, Johnson?) that 320,000-350,000 mothers are looking for missing sons. If possible to verify, that would seem to me the more reliable figures for KIA and MIA – assuming that they allow the hospitalised cases to contact their family.

              2. Peter

                Dima at Military Summary mentions frequently that the numbers of causalities reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense don’t include the number Ukranian losses inflicted by the Wagner group. The Wagner group doesn’t report numbers, but they are the ones clearing a lot of the cities. That might also be why the Russian reported numbers of Ukranian losses appear low.

              3. Maxine

                Well, it could be that they presented all the Ukrainian loses they were able to count. For accurate estimates, Ukrainian files and military data would be need, as many die anyway from the front lines in hospitals and the such. Though, it wouldn’t be surprising is data (even the ones only offically in the highest circles) would be skewd, seeing that Ukrainian officals need their own set of lies to convince themselves they are still winning

          3. Skip Intro

            I agree. U.V.d.L. said 100k ‘officers’, Telegram claims a third of AFU forces are officers, and estimates the real number more like 300k. That said, the conscript army, like Facebook, may be manned by phantoms who exist only in stats and perhaps payroll lists.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Yes, that is accurate. However, David thinks that may have been a translation issue and most others are similarly assuming she meant all soldiers. German apparently uses nomenclature that does not distinguish as clearly between officers and regular soldiers.

              1. Skip Intro

                And probably more interesting/important is the message she was trying to send, and to whom she was sending it. I find it implausible that it was somehow an error, or considered open knowledge.

              2. Malcovic29

                Ich wüsste nicht welche “Nomenclature” dass sein konnte. “Soldaten” und “Offiziere”. Das sind zwei verschiedene Begriffe. Wie auf Englisch.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Thank you. A reader claimed otherwise. He said von der Leyen might have been thinking in more than one language. But my impression separately was that her remarks were scripted.

        2. Polar Donkey

          I know of a guy here in Memphis, mid 50’s, his son was a mercenary in Ukraine. Died almost 4 months ago. Only got remains back about 2 weeks ago. The father’s circle of friends are realizing this is a real war and the Russians don’t seem close to losing. This situation is being replayed in other areas around the US and westerner countries.

          I had also read a report that Wagner group has a retired US Marine general commanding a battalion of non-Russian mercenaries in Ukraine. That sure isn’t going to be getting on westerner news reports.

          1. Louis Fyne

            The dad is lucky to get remains.

            Saw a Ukrainian video of a Ukrainian unit going through the remnants of a UA armored personnel carrier, the guy was literally picking random limbs from multiple bodies left-and-right. All the parts went into one body bag with no real effort to look for dog tags or segregate the body parts.

            I doubt that a mortuary unit will use DNA analysis.

            I can see how the UA military can claim X KIA and X*Y MIA—to them that APC only had 1 or 2 dead, everyone else inside is MIA (though they are clearly dead).

          2. ChrisPacific

            Yeah, there are occasional stories here about people who decide to enlist as mercenaries. Most of the time they turn into a story about the family trying to recover the remains. Anecdotally it seems like an extraordinarily deadly theater.

        3. Andrey Subbotin

          If you are saying that the population of rump Ukraine is only 20 million, this is an extraordinary claim. All the estimates I saw were around 30 million give or take, the most pessimistic I could find said 25. As a very approximate estimate using Wikipedia numbers:
          * prewar Ukraine population was estimated as 41 mil, excluding Crimea but including Donbass
          * Russia partially occupies Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblast with total prewar population of ~9mil. Let’s say 7 mil out of 9 are on Russian side.
          * Total number of refugees in Russia and EU is often quoted as ~8 mil, many of them likely from Russian side of those four warzone oblasts. Let’s say 6 mil out of 8 are from Ukrainian side
          * that gives us 41-7-6=28 mil remaining population. Yes, this is very, very approximate

          However even if we accept your estimates and limit mobilization pool estimate to, say, 3 million, the larger point stands – Ukraine isn’t going to fold after losing 100, 200, 300 thousands when it has millions more in the queue.

          Equipment losses are another subject, and I don’t make any argument there. But every time people start saying that Ukraine lost X thousands and the end is near, I want to cry – no!! not in the next 5 years at least.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You are not up on the state of battle. The Ukraine force in Kherson before the Russian pullout (and Ukraine had a lot of men there) was already unable to mount assaults at more than company level force, and this is before Russia has put its newly mobilized men to work.

            Ukraine is so short of men that it has been eating its seed corn. It has been sending its military trainers to the front lines. It would not be doing that it if had no trouble with recruitment/force levels.

          2. John k

            Regarding the numbers:
            The 2014 election was won by the Russian leaning guy, so at least 50% of the voting pop leans that way, say 15-mil. The Ukrainians that have so far moved west seem likely the west leaning ones, 500k apparently in Germany, far more in Poland… maybe 5-mil? Leaving 10 mil in what are now unlivable cities. More will go. And Yves gives reasons to think there are few manpower options left.
            Mercenaries have maybe not done well? So maybe few more coming?
            Training new recruits in other countries might be difficult too, they don’t have to do it. They likely have a good idea of their prospects if they take the heroic option… and their families might not be supportive even if they want to go back.
            Winter might be very difficult in eu, with refugees wearing out their welcome, but a nightmare in Ukraine.
            Once Russia breaks thru the defensive line there won’t be much organized resistance.

      3. Unseld

        Overall male population? What? From babies to frail old men? How can anyone take this no. seriously? Come on. Relevant, of course, is the no. of men capable of being a soldier.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Anyone can fire a gun. The issue is what happens when you have to be outside everyday and haul everything you need around. The gun show types are not going to be much use if the have to do something other than fire from a front porch.

          2. Michael Fiorillo

            By the time Yamamoto said that, Japan had already lost the war. It would be likewise in Ukraine, even if internal Ukrainian politics stood for it.

      4. Stephen

        I disagree. For just nine months of fighting these casualties are at World War run rates. Not Eastern Front levels perhaps but certainly Western Front.

        For comparison, per figures quoted in a book by Alan Allport the British Army in the whole of WW2 from 1939 to 1945 suffered 146k deaths (not the whole story of British deaths of course) and in WW1 from 1914 to 1918 673k (a much greater proportion of total deaths). That was from a bigger population pool than modern day Ukraine, the sons of the elites typically did not abscond but served and there were no German minorities who fought for the other side. It was clear too from the WW1 experience that similar casualty rates would not be accepted in WW2 and Britain’s war strategy was expressly designed to avoid that. As another comparison, the US incurred circa 60k military deaths in the Vietnam War and all subsequent US overseas wars have also been engineered to avoid anything like that death toll for America.

        It beggars belief that a modern day European country such as Ukraine can operate with such death rates for long. Whatever the theoretical calculations about available manpower suggest. Certainly, the UK could not tolerate such casualties today. Additionally, it is very clear that the west is running out of weapons too. Ukraine fires more shells in a couple of days (still less than Russia fires) than western war industries produce in a month.

        The fact that the casualty figures in Ukraine are such political dynamite and such a secret sums it all up. During WW1 British newspapers actually published casualty lists with names up to late 1917, stopped only by the desire to conserve paper, and even then still available in official HMSO publications. You could count them if you wished. Why are the Ukrainian figures so secret if the will to fight is so strong and if the manpower reserves are so immense?

        1. Louis Fyne

          —It beggars belief that a modern day European country such as Ukraine can operate with such death rates for long. —

          The domestic UA propaganda machine (and selective information blackout) is that strong.

          It seems UA will tolerate losing 1 son per family. You’ll see the real revolt when families lose multiple members per family.

          1. Tet Vet

            “It seems UA will tolerate losing 1 son per family. You’ll see the real revolt when families lose multiple members per family.”-
            I think you are correct that the end will only occur when the sentiment turns against the current regime. I wonder fs it might be more like when those men with arms realize that there is a much less chance they will die if they turn their weapons on their leaders rather than on the evil Russians.

          2. Brian Wilder

            are there many Ukrainian families with multiple males in a single generation?

            Ukraine has been in a demographic free fall since the collapse of the Soviet Union — admittedly more intensely so in the de-industrializing East. The truly prime military age is roughly 20-25 and there are very, very few males that age in Ukraine — less than 1 million out of a nominal 42 million total population. (I say “nominal” because in present circumstances there cannot be any where near that many people in Ukraine.) The demographics dictate that the AFU must be composed primarily of men in their 30’s and 40’s born in the Soviet Union whose primary family role today is as husbands and (maybe) fathers or single. something to consider

        2. Tom Bradford

          In WW1 the initial aim of two armies trying to push the other backwards resulted in a rugby scrum where neither side could make progress, which froze into the fixed line of trenches which gave the artillery of both sides the opportunity to fire on an enemy concentrated in a very small area and the appallingly high casualty rate on both sides. As Stephen correctly points out that, at least in the west, never came about in WW2, probably because the Allies advancing from Normandy were too strong for the Wehrmacht to bring their advance to a standstill along the entire front and stalemate it into a WW1 situation.

          Anyone following Military Summery Channel et al will have seen the maps for the last six months of the conflict in Ukraine have been very much a WW1 situation with neither side able to push the other out of the way. The Ukrainians always had the numbers to keep the trenches manned, feeding bodies into the ‘meatgrinder’, but were massively outgunned by the Russians and never had the artillery power to inflict the same in return. Brutally, this also suited the Russians in their objective of ‘demilitarising’ Ukraine. Now, though, with the Russian conscription solving the manpower imbalance and the Ukrainian artillery decimated and low on ammunition the WW1 situation that suited the Russians is ending and the war will be over, at least militarily. What the Russians can and will do with that victory remains to be seen.

          1. upstater

            >Russian conscription solving the manpower imbalance

            Assuming you meant “mobilization” and not “conscription”.

            The US mobilized reserves and had stop loss orders for Iraq 2. Reservists trained UAF for years in western Ukraine and are now deployed in Europe doing the same.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            The part that needs revising is that Russia has been incrementally gaining ground in Donbass, at a slow pace, partly to reduce manpower costs, but partly because this is the only efficient way to go about cracking layered fortifications that use a lot of trenches. This is siege warfare.

      5. Adam1

        1) Assuming what is defined as a sustainable loss just by statistics is how the US won the Vietnam War (or maybe not).
        2) Do you realize what you are saying?!?! In comparison, the US Civil War was fought by a nation of about 30 million people. Between 600k and 800k casualties over 4 years – 175k per year. And you think the Ukraine can sustain a casualty rate of 25-75% higher per year indefinitely. US President Lincoln’s greatest fear once the war started was how to keep it politically sustainable. By 1863 Union forces were deployed against draft rioters (Union citizens) in NYC. And this was in a nation much more geographically dispersed in population than the Ukraine, with no telephones, no TV and no Internet.

      6. Raymond Sim

        Good grief. During World War II Germany was most certainly not capable of arming and supplying itself, nor of meeting its needs for manpower. Where in the world did you get such an idea?

    2. Ignacio

      Yep, I think that we are too far from any meaningful negotiation possibility as both sides are still very far apart, nobody really wanting negotiation but capitulation of the other. Ukraine is, regretfully, in a path for more and more destruction and suffering with nothing in the horizon to help. Yesterday, Dima at Military Summary was speculating on the possibility of four 4 West Ukraine provinces integrated in Poland, another province on Hungary and a 6th in Romania.

      I watched today a train passing in front of my house in Madrid loaded with tanks (light ones, think of AMF or something like that) and It is very likely this will be heading to Ukraine or to replace others that are being sent or were sent before. I had never seen a train loaded with tanks before.

      We are too far away to any real attempt on negotiation. Though the game can change fast anytime i think negotiation probabilities are very, very low in the near future. In the West the suffering in Ukraine is being denied or sweetened on purpose.

    3. Bart Hansen

      After many looks at the Washington Post commenters, I conclude that the U.S. has its own Internet Research Agency that pumps out hundreds of anti-Putin posts for each article on the Ukraine.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There are various troll army outfits such as the one in the UK, but until 2012, we basically banned outfits like Voice of America from operating in the US. We are simply getting the propaganda we only directed abroad now. It’s why the news seems really crazy. Putin is a secret zombie about to die from his eight bout with cancer just this week. Xi is about to be toppled. And so forth. With less newsrooms, this stuff simply gets repeated because it’s all there is.

        My guess is the VoA writing rooms are just directly sending stories to pool reporters now.

        2002 was bad, but everything has just gone nuts. I think it’s because the msm is getting stories straight from VoA. The VoA stuff was always nuts.

    4. Boomheist

      Yesterday I was at the Y in the sauna and this relatively young guy was talking about how he bought 5,000 worth of shares in one of the defense companies and six weeks later sold it for 50,000.

      That about sums up everything a lot of people need to know about this war.

  2. Gregorio

    “JOE BIDEN: Look, there’s one way for this war to end, the rational way, Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very heavy price for failing to do it. But he’s inflicting incredible, incredible carnage on the civilian population of Ukraine, bombing nurseries, hospitals, children’s homes. It’s sick what he’s doing.” This is rich, coming from the guy who voted for the war in Iraq which killed 15,000 people, including 5000 civilians in the first week.

    1. nippersdad

      Not to mention what he has done domestically. The guy who bragged about a crime bill that did “everything but hang people for jaywalking” is hardly the one to expect consideration for the populace from.

      The man is just trash.

    2. Questa Nota

      He is consistent in believing what he says. Never mind that he doesn’t seem to remember from one day to the next, and that he reads talking points off index cards. Too much of what passes for political discourse is just appeasement of the current squeaky wheel, then on to the next news cycle after the public has forgotten, too.

  3. Lex

    Must be terrifying for old Joe, this was going to be his legacy: the defeat of Russia and Putin. Now it’s all smoldering ruins in Eastern Ukraine and smells of burning flesh. He desperately needs Putin to just give up and let him win. The grind of this quagmire is too much to sustain for very long and every day it continues increases the odds of a catastrophic collapse of either the Ukrainian military, the Ukrainian state or both. The American public isn’t very smart and can pretty easily be mislead, but the one thing it can’t stand is a loser. Joe’s already got Afghanistan (actual details are immaterial in public perception), if he loses in Ukraine while claiming to be winning right up to the end his only legacy will be as a loser. He’ll have to bow out of running again or be called a loser to his face for a whole campaign. This is all secondary to the horror on the ground in Ukraine in reality but I guarantee that it is the primary consideration in Joe Biden’s mind.

  4. The Rev Kev

    I think that this post answers one question. Any idea that there might be any sort of US negotiated peace is now out of the question. If Biden truly believes that Russia is losing, that the Russian army is being defeated, that Putin has miscalculated with every decision and is looking for an off-ramp, then being the sort of person he is he will try to screw Russia bad and force all sorts of treaty conditions on them – like getting out of Crimea because after all, Biden is winning. That is why he said that he will only start negotiating when Russia pulls its forces out of the Ukraine first. And why right now he is pushing through Congress another $37 billion to ensure a Russian defeat. I would not be surprised to learn that as another treaty provision, that Russia will be forced to allow that $300 billion in seized assets to be given up and turned over to the Ukraine to pay for reconstruction. Probably with contracts going to the Biden-von der Leyen Construction Company of course.

    But the main reason I believe that this is so is because he wants the war to go on as long as possible. Last I heard, about $105 billion had been invested in Project Ukraine. Does anybody know where all that money went? Look at the involvement of FTX in the Ukraine to see that it is a huge washing machine as Alex Christoforou points out. Money goes in to be washed and ends up in all sorts of pockets. And all those missing weapons are just gravy. And look at the other benefits. The EU is being de-industrialized so will not be able to compete against US corporations, European corporations are moving to the US which helps their bottom line. Most of the European countries are now toeing the White house’s line as the US is the only one keeping Europe afloat at the moment. Now so long as the Russian Army is not rude enough to blow up the whole thing by defeating the Ukrainians, this could be kept going as long as Project Afghanistan was.

    1. nippersdad

      I don’t see how they could get anything like the kind of mileage out of Ukraine that they did from Afghanistan. Reports this Winter coming out of Europe are going to be appalling, and the Eurocentric viewpoint goes both ways; we may not see the damage to the Third World countries we specialize in destabilizing, but the lens on Europe will magnify the misery there.

      Both MacGregor and Ritter have been saying that once the EU populace determine that this has been a mistake, the United States will be blamed and they will turn to Russia. The only question for them is whether or not Russia will accept their overtures to return to the fold. If they go BRICS, Biden will be the guy who will be linked to it in the history books, and that will be quite the legacy for him.

      1. Irrational

        Not so sure about the first sentence in your second para. People are super-brainwashed here in Europe and press coverage unrelenting Putin, Putin, Putin. It will be very hard to smash delusions like this.

      2. dandyandy

        There is no way how any voting people in Europe including U.K. will suddenly turn away from (Ukraine = freedom and democracy) message being pumped relentlessly into their cranial cavities. Maybe if there is say 5 years of (no-gas-no-electricity-no-tictoc = lots of burglaries and street robberies) kind of discomfort, maybe then some would start scratching their heads.

        Watching BBC last night tells me how deeply the public is anaesthetised. It is just horrible. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist type of brainwashing is in full swing. Paul Pot would have been mighty pleased.

        1. nippersdad

          The picture that both you and Irrational paint is just horrible. I had high hopes for the protests that one reads about in France, Germany and elsewhere, but you think they will go nowhere? I am still having a hard time understanding why Europe could not see how all of the sanctions on Russia would end up in blowback, It was clear to me in March that the US could not provide the LNG that would be required to sustain an entire continent, but that answers a lot of questions.

        2. nippersdad

          Something you might be interested in. Apparently Scholtz made a speech and subsequent call to the Kremlin in which he asked to return relations to the status quo ante. It is discussed on The Duran here at the 21 minute mark. Needless to say Putin slapped him down.

          Why would Scholtz do that were he not worried about the end game? If anything Britain appears worse off than Germany insofar as they are not yet importing Russian gas under the radar as is happening in the EU.

          I don’t question the amount of propaganda that the public is being exposed to right now, but crowds can be fickle. I wonder how powerful it will be in the face of what is to come.

        3. John k

          Well, I read that a majority of Germans want to end sanctions, along with a large minority on French/Italians. And we haven’t been thru the first winter, and eu will be uncomfortably aware next winter will be much worse on account of little or no Russian gas. And Europeans aren’t stupid, they will realize the sanctions are killing them, not Russia. However, I don’t see why Russia would relent when eu has any sanctions, and maybe not with any country with nato bases. In that case one winter likely wouldn’t be enough to get, say Germany, to make the offer putin can’t refuse.

  5. Thomas Wallace

    The US political class is a victim of its own info war. It seems to be the usual propaganda delivered by the same, but now hollowed out MSM. Augmented by social media. With a heavy dose of the National Security Lobby, who have been pushing their Ukraine project for generations. Everyone has already gotten paid.
    The info war can be walked back to some extent. After all, its not the US or NATO that are at war. Ukraine, with Western support punched well above its weight. And nobody ever cared very much about the place, except for the feel good story. As long as it lasted.
    The info war narrative needs to be plausibility, and will be shaped as necessary. Virtually any set of facts can support the stated US goals of claiming that Russia has been weakened and NATO strengthened.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Regarding political class, I saw today a claim (via G. Doctorow) that 100 members of State Duma volunteered during the partial mobilization and are already in Donbass. Also many members of regional administration have volunteered (I know of at least one mayor of a Siberian city, a veteran paratrooper and the son of the Crimean governor). The deputy head of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast lost her son (captain in the regular army) in Ukraine and is leading the national mothers support organization now.

      It seems that the Russian political class is taking this war somewhat more personally than is generally expected.

  6. kam

    Bringing Macron to a State Dinner smacks of desperation. France is on the outs with Italy and Germany.
    So divide and conquer? Or Macron tagged as the U.S. stooge inside the European quagmire.
    For the sake of American political grift inside Ukraine, Europe is lost.

    1. David

      Not really. Any visiting Head of State would get this treatment. Macron asked for the visit, and he’s trying to strengthen his hand in Europe, as well as to play the traditional independent role vis-a-vis the US. Macron has actually taken a more moderate line than many of his European colleagues, and I think he’s preparing for the day when France will have its own role in any settlement, above and beyond that of the EU. This has happened a number of times before and, though neither the French or the US talk about it, there are links and consultations below the surface that are far more extensive than most people realise.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Macron is also the only European leader to talk regularly to Putin, to the degree it reportedly annoys Putin, since Macron has no concrete proposals, plus France still had its own nukes.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I heard a little while ago that Macron told Biden that he was going to be ringing Putin when he got back. But then the Kremlin spoke up and said that Macron was not on their list of people scheduled to ring and talk to Putin. Ouch!

          1. Stephen

            If his calls with Putin are anything like that conference call that he and Sunak had with Zelensky (Macron pointedly not wearing a jacket while Sunak did) then I can see why Putin’s diary did not have an available space. I would not want to participate in such an excruciating experience either.

            Europe can only achieve a breakthrough towards peace in this conflict if it is prepared to stand up to and disagree with the US / the Biden White House. Perhaps Macron is doing that behind the scenes but there is only limited evidence of it in public forums.

            1. Irrational

              Scholz supposedly called Putin and says he must pull out of Ukraine first (links are behind paywalls). Good luck with that.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Re Macron at that dinner. The news last night pointed out that the cheeses served there were American and not French. A petty way to make a point? The way that this made its way into the media makes me think so.

    2. ian

      My read on this is that it was a way of introducing the idea of talking to Russia without it looking like too much of a climb down.

  7. balu

    Regarding the endgame, do not forget there is the role model of the German Democratic Republic, where they managed a somewhat hostile population of aprox 17 Mio people.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Pinochet-era Chile would be a good model too. I can easily see the entire West look the other way as rump Ukraine turns into a police state.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Chile is reasonably isolated. Skipping town isnt an easy option, so everyone becomes a cop. Lambert’s Maine example may be extreme, but there is nothing in the Ukraine that is particularly attractive especially with Turkey returning to its rightful place. It’s between blocs, and Euro problems mean there isn’t going to be widespread economic support for the Kiev rump state. Due to the lack of isolation, it’s much easier for people to leave.

        I sort of see it returning to a time outside the nation-state we are familiar with as I don’t see Kiev being able to run much by the Spring. Biden just attacked the Team Blue base. He’s become the dumb Carter. The US won’t be there because will be stumbling around justifying his years of inaction. He was saved by under 30’s, but climate change among other items is out there. Biden has already announced he’s most concerned about issues that does resonate with under 30’s.

        I’ll note Turkey’s youth are officially being educated at the same rate as German youth. Zelensky’s vows to be silicon valley/Israel 2 are being fulfilled by other countries. In Caraces, they are at risk of dying of laughter. The Ukraine already destroyed Soviet industry. It had everything it needed, and now it’s worse than ever. They don’t even know what lines will look like or what kind of relocation will occur.

        Libya will be a more likely outcome. Any money will be spent on toys or stolen. The currency is junk. My guess is regional governments will gain more power and start issuing arrests warrants as deals aren’t lived up too and everyone accuses each other of stealing.

  8. Victor Sciamarelli

    Henry Kissinger also said, “To be an enemy of the US is dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.” Putin knows where he stands, but Zelensky doesn’t seem to know that in every case the actions of the US serve US power and privilege; nothing less.
    For Biden, Putin’s invasion is proof that he and the Russian elite are totalitarian maniacs. Whereas, Israel’s two invasions and 15-year occupation of Lebanon were easily justified and needed our support.
    Zelensky should consider Kissinger’s remark and think more thoroughly about what his friendship means before the US gets what it wants by wrecking his country.

    1. John k

      Too late… but maybe not too late to save his skin.
      You have to be smart to be a comedian, not necessary for pres. Is he smart enough to know when times up? To say, he’s going to israel to get more arms/money, and not go back?

  9. TimH

    Per the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court… USA and Russia have stated that they are not bound and won’t ratify. So surely the Hague has no business here?

    …is now keen to launch a European kangaroo war crimes courts, on the peculiar assumption that the Hague isn’t up to the task.

    1. Stephen

      I think this mirrors the MIC and comments that the objective is a long war.

      There is also an international legal and judicial complex. Think of how long these “investigations” and “trials” will take and the legal fees that will be incurred. Awesome business opportunity. Funded by EU taxpayers. It’s a no brainer that they are keen to launch this. Getting in quickly before another court decides to…..

    2. David

      Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the Rome Statute (here’s a list), and the US signed but never ratified, so it’s hard to see how the ICC could become involved unless the Security Council makes a reference, which I presume the Russians will block. How an EU court could have jurisdiction is hard to imagine unless Ukraine gives it to them. The problem is that geographical jurisdiction means that any court would be bound to investigate all allegations of crimes, whoever committed them. So the Russians could take investigators on a tour of the Donbas, and hand over all the evidence they have on Ukrainian atrocities. And for what it’s worth, western political and military leaders could be on the hook if they “knew or should have known” as the phrase has it, that crimes were likely to be committed with weapons they supplied or units they trained. I suspect enthusiasm for this will die out once somebody explains this.

  10. nippersdad

    Joe Biden: “The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension. ”

    I can well believe that Joe thinks that, but then he has never been very imaginative. That compounded by senescence and the information bubble of the company he keeps, he may be in for some surprises come Christmas. That may ultimately not be such a bad thing, however, if it serves to discredit the PNAC crowd once and for all. I saw yesterday that the air defenses in the Middle East are being sent to Ukraine; we may just now be seeing the event horizon of the black hole that our empire is going to be sucked into.

    The trillions of dollars lost to good causes and misery inflicted upon the innocent for their aspirations is shocking to contemplate. I can’t say that I will be sorry to see them go.

    1. XXYY

      That may ultimately not be such a bad thing, however, if it serves to discredit the PNAC crowd once and for all.

      Seriously. How many complete fiascoes, debacles, disasters and flops can a small group of monomaniacs engineer before other people stop taking their calls? I realize US politics are a place where the scum rises to the top, but still, after $50 trillion wasted and millions dead, there must be some kind of limit.

      At the very least, one would hope that the march of time would do something to shuffle these guys off the stage. May it happen quickly.

  11. David in Santa Cruz

    All this focus in Comments on armchair soldiering and the corrupt and mendacious codger in the White House misses Yves’ Very Important Point: President Putin completely miscalculated the End Game.

    He’s now admitted as such in his apology to the conscripts’ mothers. He mistakenly believed that the French and the Germans could shape a diplomatic solution to the post-USSR borders mess under the “Normandy Format” and that the Americans would have to accept it. Unfortunately for President Putin, the 2022 French and German elections weakened Macron and eliminated Merkel’s cautious CDU-CSU government and replaced them with the certifiably insane Greens in coalition with the non-entity Scholz.

    The Special Military Operation was clearly intended to force people to the negotiating table. It failed to do so and resulted in a messy retreat which exposed many “Ukrainians” to harm as collaborators. Today the situation is one of total war.

    No good will come of that, only suffering.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Yes, February 2022 Putin pinned his end game on a naive, nostalgic, Soviet-era view of a pan-Slavic world in which prodigal son Ukraine would just come back to Russia out of ethno-fidelity.

      Lots of pointless death and suffering until a political equilibrium is reached, which will not be kind to Ukrainians who are unable to emigrate.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Well, according to the last presidential election in Ukraine, many Ukrainians were quite ok with nostalgic, Soviet-era pan-Slavic world. According to the first president, Kravchuk, it was the Galicians who enforced their idea of Ukraine on everyone else.

        With some external help, I believe. Against warnings by almost everyone.

      2. David in Santa Cruz

        I don’t see evidence that President Putin was operating under any nostalgic illusions of “pan-Slavic” “ethno-fidelity” but rather was expecting a realpolitik recognition of Crimea as “Russian” and that the Galician Nazis threats to the Russian minority in the eastern regions needed to be mediated better than the multi-ethnic mess in Yugoslavia has been. I think that the Russian leaders were sincere about transforming “Ukraine” into a neutral federation mediated by France and Germany.

        Along with mis-calculating the political change wrought by the 2022 French and German elections Putin appears to have misunderstood Biden’s commitment to stay bought by the Euromaidan coup-backer oligarchs, who were committed to a military campaign in the east in order to prove themselves “worthy” of EU membership and all the goodies that were going to rain-down as a result.

        I think that the pointless death and suffering were inevitable after 2014. I firmly believe that Putin was trying to prevent it. He might have succeeded but he failed to fully comprehend that Biden, Johnson, Macron were “bought” and that the Germans have lost their minds.

        This doesn’t end well for quite literally millions of people.

        1. Stephen

          I agree.

          The issue for Russia is only partially about Ukraine, of course.

          The wider perspective is to how to address their security concerns and prevent / alleviate constant US / NATO attempts to plot colour revolutions and site missiles in their neighbouring states.

          Putin / the Russian leadership have clearly not wanted war but have ended up in a position where he has been left with little other choice. It is a tragedy and one that the west pretty much created.

          1. Tom Bradford

            I agree too. I think Putin expected the Europeans and US to respond rationally, the former by accepting the need for the ‘Russianess’ of the Eastern Provinces to be recognised and protected(*) through a degree of partial independence, and never thought the US would be willing to burn $billions into a matter of so little actual relevance to it. His big mistake was to assume he was dealing with adults.

            (* I read today that “The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council is suggesting a ban on all Russian-affiliated religious groups in the interest of “spiritual independence,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.”)

    2. Don

      I’m not convinced that Putin and the Russian leadership “completely miscalculated the end game.” I think that they miscalculated how difficult it would be to get there. (How many have not done that?)

      The end game is close upon us now, and it looks pretty much like the end game Putin might have envisioned.

    3. Polar Socialist

      I went to check the transcript and he is indeed apologizing to a mother from Luhansk why Russia did not act in 2014, when her son died.

      So he did indeed miscalculate – 8 years ago. SMO became reality when he and the whole Russian leadership re-evaluated the situation and the end game The West has in mind.

      Not saying that a war isn’t always a miscalculation, though. They never work out as expected.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I guess too that Putin and the Russian leadership never believed that the countries of the EU would willingly destroy themselves in an attempt to destroy Russia. That they would abandon Russian energy that underpinned their entire prosperity. At the beginning of this year, that would have been crazy talk that.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I do not think Russia entering Donbass in 2014 would have worked any better. Recall the screeching about Putin being a Hitler in the making by wanting territorial acquisition v. Crimea. If Russia had sent regular forces into Donbass, Russia might have succeeded militarily due to the lack of current preparation (extensive fortifications, Ukraine being well armed). But the West would likely have tried the shock and awe sanctions when Russia was less of an autarky. And without as clear a demonstration of US/NATO using Ukraine as a proxy, Russia would have gotten little support from the rest of the world.

        Now perhaps Russia could have provided a ton more wink and nod support. Putin at the time was not keen about looking like he was helping the separatists. But Russia could have had a policy of allowing soldiers extended leaves to help relatives in Donbass and quietly provided some arms too. And perhaps hiring merc too to give a veneer of deniability.

  12. Roger A

    Analysis of the situation in Ukraine, both political and military, needs to take serious account of the country’s diminishing electricity transmission network. Russia has been steadily disabling the transformers which power this network and Ukraine has very limited means to repair or replace them. There are two reasons for Russia to target the network: 1. Disabling of military transport and resupply. Ukraine’ railroads are powered by electricity, while the wider railway gauge the country shares with Russia, compared to Europe, means that diesel-powered locomotive supply from the West cannot help. 2. Humanitarian. Russia’s strikes against electricity transformers of course create much civilian discomfort and no doubt hamper medical services and emergencies, but it is easily the most effective means to limit civilian casualties and physical destruction, and to limit military casulaties. The BBC, of all places, has published a lengthy analysis on Dec 1 asking: ‘Is attacking Ukraine’s power grid a war crime?’. Its answer (I paraphrase) is ‘no’.

    As to civilian suffering, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR) reports on Nov 28: “From 1 to 27 November 2022, OHCHR recorded 636 civilian casualties… 152 killed and 484 injured. Of those, 125 killed and 411 injured in regions or parts of regions under Government control; and 27 killed and 73 injured in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions joined to the Russian Federation.” 125 civilians killed in Kyiv-controlled Ukraine during the first 28 days of November. Tragic, but hardly the ‘shock and awe’ of the imperialist militaries in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan, notwithstanding Western media efforts to create such imaging.

  13. XXYY

    But what alternatives are there that would meet Russia’s security needs, particularly when faced with an agreement-incapable West?

    It’s a very good question to ask. It’s clear that there isn’t going to be any kind of negotiated solution to the Ukraine war, given the fact that there is no one for Russia to negotiate with that can be trusted to keep an agreement. In fact, given the history of Ukraine since 2014, a child could see that any “negotiating” period is simply going to be used by the West as a much-needed pause to re-arm Ukraine in preparation for future attacks.

    In some sense then, this war is going to continue until Russia feels like it’s safe to stop fighting. Given the unrelenting efforts by NATO and the US to inflame hatred of Russia and threaten them, not to mention sending in $100 billion worth of weapons to attack them, it’s hard to see this happening anytime soon.

    There is also the factor that, the longer this war goes on, the more Russia’s military seems ascendant, and the more the Western military seems like a paper tiger and a joke. Economically, the West seems to be fading if not collapsing, whereas Russia seems to be holding up well. In other words, Russia’s standing in the world will have changed drastically in a year or two as this war drags on. They may take the opportunity to reassess their original goals in view of the changed circumstances, as any major power would when things are going much better than expected.

    I’m not sure where things are going to end up, but I’m confident that it isn’t a place that the Western powers are going to like.

  14. dandyandy

    I sincerely apologise to Yves and the commentariat for the ghastly vision, but I wonder what kind of call to arms performance the trio of Biden-Leyden-Stoltenberg would deliver if they had to say freestyle it in front of a nonCNN-nonBBC-nonFT type of real world non-lobotimised audience.

    The show would definitely be sellable on the cable channels. Dumb and dumber on steroids.

  15. Karl

    I suspect no one has thought much about the end-game. Certainly the US didn’t before it invaded Iraq, and probably didn’t think much about it until Saddam’s statue toppled. I suspect that the requisite foresight comes more naturally for Putin and can penetrate through the fog of war more deeply than our consistently flummoxed national intelligence apparatus and the White House. I suspect, as well, that Xi can see the endgame for our conflict over Taiwan better than we do.

    Here’s the thing: Russia has experience dealing with “sullen populations.” The brutal suppression of the insurgency in Chechnya may be a useful example of how Russia will deal with sullenness.

    The Ukrainians were very sullen during the Stalin famines. Russia’s methods are different from ours.

    Avoidance of the kind of brutality (particularly the denazification) in store for Ukraine should now be uppermost in the thinking of any leaders of the EU, NATO and the US who have any interest in the future of Ukraine. My guess is, if they aren’t preparing well, they’ll have lots of nazi refugees on their hands. What then?

    My guess is that Yves may be right–Russia may win the battle but lose the war. But the West is sure to lose the war as well–and possibly suffer even worse consequences. Is our vaunted DOD and National Intelligence gaming this out? I doubt it.

    Or they are doing “what if” games involving NATO first use of nukes. That’s what scares me the most. It’s the only trump card they can play, imho.

  16. Tom Stone

    I think Biden believes what he is saying, which is sad but not surprising.
    However, the fact that so many people believe the propaganda is somewhat surprising to me.
    The US government and the MSM have lied to me and everyone else about EVERY EFFING WAR since I was a small child.
    I’m 69 years old.

    I don’t see that Putin had any choice about starting the SMO when he did, Yves mentioned the change in tone between his speeches of the 23rd and 24th of February 2022 at the time and later disclosures that UAF was poised to attack the independent Republics within days forced his hand.
    Based on what has come out about UKE treatment pf Russian prisoners and the bombardment of Donetsk with cluster munitions I expect that the ethnic Russians in Donetsk and Lugansk would have been treated with a degree of brutality matching anything that occurred in the 20th Century.

    1. Screwball

      However, the fact that so many people believe the propaganda is somewhat surprising to me.
      The US government and the MSM have lied to me and everyone else about EVERY EFFING WAR since I was a small child.
      I’m 69 years old.

      I’m 66 and I couldn’t agree more. I made the mistake week ago to finally voice my opinion to some PMC friends. Frankly, I am getting sick of all this and tired of biting my tongue. 20 years ago an old guy who I respected greatly told me one day “you know what’s the best thing about getting old? You can say what you want cause you don’t give a ****.” He’s right and I did – finally.

      It told them Ukraine is not winning the war, and will not. I told them this is utter insanity and we need to find a way to end it. Then to dig a bigger hole, I asked them when was the last time there was an attempt for the parties to sit down an negotiate a solution? I remember when it was called “detente.”

      You might not want to be so crazy – boy did I stir up a hornets nest. They went nuts. How dare me question the administration, NATO, and Ukraine. Of course they didn’t have an answer to when the last time was we tried – until this (Biden’s words we are talking about) – now I am the dummy. See, we told you – yada, yada, yada. So this counts (Biden’s doing all he can), even if it’s a week after I asked them. It got worse.

      Eventually I was told I have no idea because I’m reading all the wrong stuff – you know – all the Right/Trumpie sites who spread disinformation. And the best part – If I’m not listening to the MSM I have no clue what I’m talking about.

      Orwell would be proud.

      1. jrkrideau

        How dare me question the administration, NATO, and Ukraine.

        This is one of the totally bewildering things about the USA to an outside observer. US citizens claim they need firearms to defend themselves against a perfidious government and tell each other that they cannot trust the government. Then, at a drop of the hat, they embrace any cockeyed set of lies the government feeds them about foreign affairs. Why?

        1. Karl

          Erich From remarked in the Insane Society (late ’50’s) a very noticeable trait in American society: the strong desire to conform, to fit in. This may take different forms in different regions (particularly North vs. South, Urban vs. Rural) but conformism is still very deep.

          Conformism is enforced by constant hectoring should you dare express an outlier view or are not PC (offend someone by improper use of pronouns, etc.).

          Screwball experienced this, but will, someday, perhaps enjoy vindication and say “I told you so.”

      2. Acacia

        I’ve had a similar distasteful experience with PMC friends, and didn’t gain much more ground. I did notice, though, that a couple of points worked to silence them.

        First, when they started bloviating about Ukraine winning through this or that tactical advance made against the Russians, I mentioned General Yamamoto with a comment by Kouros:

        “Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians [who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war] have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

        While one can contemplate Russia occupying Kiev and dictating peace terms, the idea that Moscow, or Russia could be occupied and having terms dictated to it by Ukraine is ridiculous.

        To this, they of course had no answer. Next, I got them to concede that the conflict in Ukraine is a proxy war, and asked why they thought it was ethically acceptable to support such a war (because PMC types will say that war is “wrong” but that we should be sending more weapons to the Ukraine). I further asked why they didn’t previously care about Yugoslavia, Yemen, the civil war in the Ukraine, or any of the other wars/conflicts launched by the US Empire, but now suddenly they really care about the Ukraine, punctuating this with: “…because the mass media told you what to think about the Ukraine?” That also prompted silence.

        The main issue I see is that most PMC types haven’t been paying attention (because, of course, they are laser-focused on their own careers). They know nothing really about the history of the conflict, the Maidan, the coup, they didn’t know or care about the civil war, the dishonesty about the Minsk accords, or how many people have been killed in the Eastern oblasts between 2014 and 2022, the Budapest memorandum or Zelensky saying they would develop nuclear weapons. In this way, they are easily swayed by Empire propaganda.

        The next time this comes up with PMC friends, my inclination is to go Socratic and ask my interlocutors what they think about any of these things (e.g., “what do you think about Ukraine’s implementation of the Minsk agreements?”), and when they balk, ask if they remember the year when each happened. They won’t, of course, and it will become clear that they haven’t done their homework but nevertheless think they can pontificate. It should be possible to ask them why, if they don’t know the history, they are taking such a strong stand.

      3. eg

        I am experiencing similar difficulties with many in my own circles. For now I’m mostly just keeping my mouth shut, though I have seeded discussions with enough dissent from the establishment narrative that they know I’m not onboard with it. There are a few individuals with whom I am able to share more freely my actual interpretation.

        Recently cracks may be beginning to show in the monolithic drumbeat of “Ukraine Glorious Victory!” — I anticipate the opportunity to speak more freely in the coming months …

  17. Olivier

    It’s a bit misleading to refer to Shoigu as “General Shoigu” since while he does have the title he is much more a politician and bureaucrat than an army man.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Indeed, it seems that he even avoided conscription by getting a student deferment. He did do a career as en engineer before going into politics, though. Even his title (or rank) is not from military, but from Russian Rescue Corps (civil defense) which he headed since 1991.
      For a bureaucrat he’s was quite popular because of his rather public personal leadership approach to emergency situations – apparently going beyond mere photo ops.

  18. The Heretic SJ

    Even if Putin’s army would able to over run all of the Ukraine, he would not be able to keep the peace; Ukrainian Ethnic anger has been reawakened and the remaining populace will provide support and hiding places for any Uko-Nazis or Western trained ‘Freedom Fighters’ that could infiltrate Ukraines western borders. An exposure of the malefeasance of the Ukrainian and American leadership plus the equivalent of a Marshall might be able to heal relations; but the Russians will alway have to fighting a Counter Insurgency war, thus there will be no peace within which to rebuild. The only viable option is a Mongol solution in Persia, but without the mass killing of the civilians. Putin/Surovkin will have to continue to do what they are doing, ‘nudge emigration’ out of the Ukraine via the destruction of water and electric infrastructure, and maintain this darkness over the whole west land of the Ukraine for generations to come. The only Ukrainian communities to remain will have to live like the Amish. The Russians will have to drone patrol the borders and denude any forests along the border..… anything that leaves the Ukraine is fine; anyone that drives or walks in will be blasted.

    It will be an ugly reality, borne on the Sad Wings of Destiny.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It no longer takes an army. As indicated, in an extreme form, Russia could largely depopulate huge swathes of Ukraine. Take the infrastructure out and use drones to mind the comparatively few prepper types who tried to live in survivalist mode. I am not saying they would do that but modern technology and dependence of most people on modern amenities greatly change the equation.

  19. WillD

    Biden clearly has a huge problem with reality. His reality bears no resemblance to the one on the other side of the Atlantic – a problem many Americans also seem to have. He has conjured up a fantasy in which he is right and Putin is wrong, in which Putin will eventually come to ‘his senses’ and capitulate.

    He is wrong on every count, not just factually. He interprets the events to-date in a pre-programmed way, according to the script that says Russia is weak, chaotic, disorganised, evil, etc, and that it has an inferior military and weaponry, and is running out of missiles, ammunition and troops. It’s like an old Soviet-era set piece, which might have been true then, but certainly isn’t now.

    He is the one that has miscalculated – very badly, not Putin. But he, and his regime, are incapable of adjusting their mindsets. They can’t change the channel, they can’t receive a different program.

    If you reversed the roles he describes for himself and Putin, then he’d be much closer to the truth. He’s the one who is paying a heavy price, he is the one who has miscalculated badly, his proxies (Ukraine) are the ones targeting civilians, and he (the West) is looking for a way out.

  20. Glen

    Here’s hoping that the separations of powers will allow Congress to thoroughly investigate any chicanery involved by individuals in the American government to ensure that they are not abusing their positions in government to profit or have an abusive agenda with regard to the war in Ukraine which is not in the best interests of the American people.

    Checks and balances – use them or lose them.

  21. Victor Moses

    Leadership necessitates an ability to see further into the future than those you lead. The Ukrainian leadership is terrible and unless they suffer directly from the Russian onslaught and are replaced with more realistic people, this will be a grinding war that ends in another frozen conflict with little in the way of a clear settlement.

  22. HH

    Ukraine will not be the Suez moment for U.S. militarism, but that episode is coming, probably in losing a fight with China. British politicians are still running on the fumes of empire, but it is all theater now. The U.S. will do the same – huff and puff, and have military flyovers and parades, but the era of bullying and ravaging the world with impunity will end. I hope I live to see it.

  23. Erelis

    When the combined West admits Ukrainian defeat, then the deep state war mongers will push US/NATO to either occupy Western Ukraine or to directly attack the Russian military. One narrative since the beginning of the conflict in Feb. is that the Russian military is totally corrupt and incompetent. Elites and prols believe in that propaganda. Send in some of our boys to whoop some Russian butt returning in time for the dinner bell at the local Burger King franchise.

    Let Western propaganda push that Ukraine is winning the war until it is too late for any direct action and with that the possibility avoiding events going nuclear.

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