Yves here. The latest John Helmer post, which uses a Ukrainian fabrication about Russia putting out feelers for negotationa, as its point of departure, and therefore has the potential to give readers a bit more of a puzzle to work through than they expected.
In previous posts, Helmer has talked up the possibility of a very large demilitarized zone as a major piece in the resolution of the Ukraine conflict. I had a great deal of difficulty with this idea, since a demilitarized zone is agreed by the combatants and policed, sometime by independent parties, as with the United Nations buffer zone in Cyprus.
A negotiated end to the Ukraine war is inconceivable. The US will never accept a resolution that has Russia taking territory from the pre-2014 boundaries of Ukraine. Even if many powerful people in Germany quietly want the war to be over, the hyper aggressive Balts and Poles seem to have more sway. Similarly, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen similarly can think only of more punishments for Russia.
So unless there is an unexpected series of disasters on the Russian side, Russia will continue until it has prostrated Ukraine. No one know what Russia will do when that happens, and I strongly suspect that Russia’s end game is event dependent. But it seems highly likely that it would have Ukraine sign a treaty (because Russia like formalities and for the sake of appearances before the Global South) which the West would attempt to denounce because Ukraine signed it under duress…which is what having lost a war amounts to.
I have argued Russia could impose a demilitarized zone in the form of a very big deelectrified no-man’s land….open to squtters and survivalists but not much more.
Helmer’s piece starts from a bizarre premise that Ukraine is trying to sell….that Russia is making the rounds of European capitals to get them on board an armistice now. Huh? When Russia is winning, and that before it has put its newly mobilized forces to work in a serious way? That would be a fast track to a coup of the current Russian leadership for it to be replaced by uber-hawks. Helmer’s contacts depict this bizarre Ukraine story as an effort for Ukraine to get in front of US and NATO officials for an armistice. I still can’t fathom why trying to pin this idea on Russia is at all helpful or will reduce Russian resolve one iota.
However, the piece works through the current state of Western wishful thinking versus Russia’s hardened position. And it also contains some informative data on the poor prospects for western Ukraine.
As an aside, there has been considerable speculation about the apparent demotion of Sergei Surovikin to deputy theater commander. I found this take from Rybar interesting:
On the appointment of a new commander of the NMD The sum does not change from a change in the places of the terms: this is the only thing that can be said about the appointment of Gerasimov as commander of the United Group of Troops (Forces). The Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces has been appointed to replace Sergei Surovikin, who now holds the position of Deputy.
As a result, on account of Surovikin, strikes on the energy system of Ukraine, which did not lead to its complete collapse, the decision to regroup on the left bank of the Dnieper, the problems of the mobilized, the tragedy near Makeevka and the debut of “musicians” in Soledar and Bakhmut. Agree, a list of achievements that is controversial in the eyes of the layman, which will now be credited to the “Armageddon General”.
(special clarification: Rybar’s editors highly appreciate Surovikin’s actions. He had a difficult time, and the lion’s share of his efforts will remain behind the scenes if he is now sent to secondary roles)
The Makeevka attack may have played into this decision in a major way, since it was a multi-level failure (having so many soldiers together within shelling distance…in Donetsk, which Ukraine was already shelling regularly, plus the discipline failure of not maintaining strict adherence to soldiers not being allowed to carry or use cell phones). But this write-up intimates that some may have been unhappy that Surovikin hadn’t taken the grid destruction further. But I can’t imagine that he had that much discretion, that operations outside the line of contact would be subject to more political oversight. Readers?
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
A leading Ukrainian government official has admitted that a demilitarized zone (lead image, left) to divide the battlefield, protect the Russian east of the country from the US and NATO long-range assault, and partition Ukraine is in negotiation.
“’We are currently being offered the Korean scenario,” Alexei Danilov (lead image, right) announced on January 8. Danilov, a native of Lugansk, is the deputy chairman of the National Security and Defence Council, and second in rank to President Vladimir Zelensky. “[This is] the so-called conditional ’38th parallel’”, he told local reporters. “Here are Ukrainians, but there Ukrainians are not like that. The Russians will now invent anything. I know for sure that one of the options they can offer us is the ’38th parallel’”. Danilov claimed one of the sources for the proposal is Dmitry Kozak. Officially, he is a deputy head of the presidential staff. In 2020-21 he was the Kremlin’s chief negotiator on the Minsk accords with the Kiev regime and in the Normandy format with Germany and France; for Kozak’s detailed record of those negotiations, read this.
Danilov now says Kozak “meets with former politicians in Europe and conveys through them the message that the Russians are ready to make concessions in order to fix the current status quo and force Ukraine to a truce.” Danilov did not say that he, Zelensky and the Ukrainian-US general staff have rejected the idea. Instead, he claimed the Korean DMZ has proven to be a mistake: “Danilov said that during a recent meeting, Korean representatives noted that establishing the division of the Korean peninsula into two parts along the 38th parallel was a mistake as the concessions made in the 1950s after the end of the war between North Korea and South Korea are currently leading to problems.” It is unclear what meeting Danilov was referring to, if any. US press reporting has identified the mistake of Vice President Kamala Harris last September in misnaming the “Republic of North Korea”.
Moscow sources suspect Danilov is attempting to relieve the pressure now growing on the Ukrainian generals from the US and the NATO command to consider an armistice before the Russians launch their anticipated general winter offensive. By exposing and trying to sandbag the Americans, Danilov’s remark is a signal that the real US assessment is that a much bigger loss of military capacity, territory and viable economy will be the outcome of the Russian offensive – unless the Ukrainians buy time with a ceasefire and protracted armistice talks to commence.
The reaction of the Stavka to that has been President Vladmir Putin’s explicit condemnation of the buying-time tactic after former German chancellor Angela Merkel revealed it last month, and ex-French President Francois Hollande repeated it on December 28. “The West lied to us about peace,” Putin said in his New Year address on December 31, “while preparing for aggression, and today, they no longer hesitate to openly admit it and to cynically use Ukraine and its people as a means to weaken and divide Russia. We have never allowed anyone to do this and we will not allow it now.”
Putin also confirmed the message with a Korean gloss. “Russian servicemen, militiamen and volunteers are now fighting for their homeland, for truth and justice, for reliable guarantees of peace and Russia’s security.” The narrow 4-kilometre depth and short 240-km length of the Korean DMZ are not, Putin implied, “reliable guarantees of security.”
Danilov’s disclosure has been altogether missed by the mainstream western media, by the alternative media, and by US think-tankers claiming to favour negotiations.
Moscow sources believe Danilov’s signal indicates anxiety in Kiev, not only at the collapse of their front at Soledar and Bakhmut, but at the prospect of the following Russian offensive striking simultaneously north from Sumy to Kharkov and Poltava; in the centre around the E50 highway into Dniepropetrovsk; and in the south to blockade Odessa.
“I have not seen a serious discussion in Moscow about a DMZ at all,” according to a Moscow source and Donbass sources. They believe Danilov is reporting what the Americans are telling Kiev.
“Kozak has been de-activated in Moscow since last July”, according to another source. “That’s why it makes all the more sense [for the Ukrainians] to refer to him and not to genuine negotiators, not to a credible Russian figure. Danilov is attempting to refuse a proposal from a non-person. He and Zelensky are putting the Pentagon at that level – in other words, they are sending a message to [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken, [Deputy Secretary Wendy] Sherman and [Under Secretary Victoria] Nuland, or whoever the Ukrainians think will save them from the US military pressure now.”
The Russian sources note there has been no other public acknowledgement of the change in US thinking; they interpret press reporting of promises of US armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), German and British tank deliveries to mean the reverse of the appearances. “Time will have run out for the delivery of the Strykers and Bradleys, Leopards and Challengers in the east. So these press promises of delivery are for the last-ditch fortification of the western lines defending the regime between Lvov and Kiev. That’s between Zhitomyr and Vinnitsa, then Rivne and Chernopil.
Left to right, in desert operations against an unarmed opponent, the US Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles; the British Challenger main battle tank.
A North American veteran source urges patience. “The Bradleys may be rushed, so the question now is whether everything the Ukrainians throw into their fight west of the Artemovsk-Soledar- Seversk line to Dniepropetrovsk, including the press-ganging of civilians in Kharkov city, is just a rearguard action to hold up the Russians and create time for the reinforcements to arrive.”
A Canadian military source says that Ontario-made Strykers “have already been delivered to the eastern lines. They know the danger of a breakthrough and are determined to at least stall it. They cannot do that without AFVs.” Russian sources published sighting one on December 31. A Canadian press reporter took a week before acknowledging that 39 Canadian APVs had been delivered, most of them to “rear-area units for training and familiarization”, and then, after they were revealed in the local media, “in thick mud at an unidentified section of the Ukrainian front.”
A veteran of NATO tank operations in Afghanistan adds: “By necessity, the tanks come later. It takes much longer to train their crews, let alone maintenance cells. Setting up the logistics will be much harder too. In Afghanistan it took a lot to support tanks – even just a squadron of them.”
A Moscow source adds strategy: “The Pentagon might want to fend off a general Russian operation with a DMZ but the Ukrainians, the Germans and the State Department want to see the rearguard action because they believe they can exact a heavy loss of life on the Russians. I’m convinced they don’t want a DMZ until the Russians fight their way to the borders of the regions they have already incorporated. Their perception is that the Russians will be too weak to take any more. They won’t mind another meat-grinder like Bakhmut. It’s not their children dying. At worst, the Ukrainians think a DMZ would be inside or at the limit of the Russian zone. That would free them to start preparing for the next big war in a few years.”
The consensus of the Russians sources is: “These are all lose-lose propositions for us and that is why we have not heard this being discussed seriously. What’s needed is Ukrainian capitulation. This is why most Russians see armistice as a Russian surrender because it means none of the stated goals of the operation has been achieved. More than at Minsk in 2015, the Ukraine will be re-armed and prepared for the next big fight.”
Danilov’s disclosure puts into quite different context Putin’s Orthodox Christmas trucebetween January 6 and 7. “Upon consideration of the address from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill,” the president said, “I instruct the Defence Minister of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire along the entire line of contact in Ukraine from 12.00 on January 6, 2023 to 24.00 on January 7, 2023. As a large number of Orthodox Christians reside in the area of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire to allow them to attend church services on Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas Day.” For the text of Kirill’s message, which avoided a recommendation of this kind, click to read.
Left: President Putin at the Annunciation Cathedral, Moscow, January 7. Right: Patriarch Kirill II’s Christmas message.
In retrospect, the truce was dismissed by Kiev, and the Russian side recorded numerous violations, including the movement of heavy artillery into range of Lugansk and Donetsk region targets. “Pigs have no faith”, Dmitry Medvedev, the ex-president and now deputy head of the Security Council, responded. “and no innate sense of gratitude. They understand only brute force.”
Following the fall of Soledar on the evening of January 10, there are signs that the Ukrainian General Staff will not continue following the orders from either Washington or Zelensky and Danilov to continue the meat-grinder defence of the eastern front, at least not until a “second line of defence” can be formed, according to the leak.
Date stamp indicates: 21:19 Tuesday, January 10, 2023.
The evidence of the battlefield map is that the Russian General Staff has decided to leave open the corridors for NATO troops and arms to be resupplied from Poland, and to let Ukrainian refugees leave. However, the rail and road junctions, warehouses, vehicle lagers, electric grid units, and fuel and other storages are being hit repeatedly, west and east of Kiev.
UKRAINE MAP – BATTLEFIELD TARGETS AFTER THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE
When Russian and western analysts map the economic and military capabilities of the Ukrainian territory which would lie to the west of the Dnieper River demilitarized zone (UMZ) it becomes clear the rump state will have lost the capacity to feed itself; and will lack the river or sea ports to export corn, wheat, sunflower products or rapeseed without Russian and Turkish agreement. Lacking seaports and airfields, the western Ukrainian territory, without the farms, mines and smelters to produce food or metals for trade, will be reduced to a gun platform dependent on imported cash and arms for the state’s sole remaining export – permanent war against Russia.
To date, US, Canadian, German, and British politicians have been emphatic that they have the parliament votes and will neutralize domestic opposition to their whatever-the-cost war policy.
Russian sources add there is no evidence that in planning the conversion of the special military operation to the general military operation, the Kremlin, the Stavka, and the General Staff are not taking this into account. What this means, said one source, is that the de-Nazification objective of February 24, 2022, is now practically impossible. “The DMZ is impossible for us because it will leave the Ukrainian nazis to keep rearming, exactly as Merkel and Hollande have said. This means there can be no demilitarized zone – there must be Ukrainian capitulation and surrender.”
A NATO source speculates about the mentality of his counterparts in Washington: “The DMZ needs to be big and deep no matter what the structure of the forces that create and maintain it. The question that looms larger in my mind is how to get the US and NATO to understand that continuing to push their Ukrainian checker will come at a cost on the checkerboard they aren’t prepared to pay?”
The evidence from the daily reports of the Polish Border Guard confirms the Russian strategy is to leave the corridor open for the exit of Ukrainian civilians and then strike after the incoming foreign troops and their equipment are deployed at their rear assembly areas.
The highlighted figures for Ukrainian movement to Poland indicate refugees responding to the Russian electric war and the onset of winter. The corresponding, highlighted figures of movement from Poland to the Ukraine include Polish and other foreign troops moving under civilian shield.
Moscow sources comment. “The Russians will not tolerate half-measures. Not like the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, not like Yeltsin in Serbia. Not like Nord Stream or the Crimean Bridge. Not now. Read Putin’s lips.” This is a reference to Putin’s speech to the enlarged Defence Ministry and military staffs on December 21. “We will not repeat the mistakes of the past, when we harmed our economy to boost our defence capabilities, regardless of whether it was warranted or not. We are not going to militarise our country or militarise the economy, primarily because we have no need to do it at the current level of development and with the structure of the economy that we have. Again – we do not intend to, and we will not do things we do not really need, to the detriment of our people and the economy, the social sphere. We will improve the Russian Armed Forces and the entire military component. We will do it calmly, routinely and consistently, without haste. We will attain our objectives to strengthen our defence capability in general as well as meeting the goals of the special military operation”.
“The big part of the NATO equation,” comments the North American veteran, “ought to be the Russian message – ‘keep on coming. You will all be destroyed.”