The Ukrainian Demilitarized Zone – “Negotiations” Start at a Dead End

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.

Source: https://t.me/rezident_ua/15861
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.

Source: https://www.fas.usda.gov

Source: https://farmpolicynews.illinois.edu/
A Closer Look at Ukrainian Corn and Wheat Exports

Source: https://ipad.fas.usda.gov/

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.

Source: https://twitter.com/Straz_Graniczna
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.”

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72 comments

  1. Ignacio

    IMO, this is one of the most informative pieces by Helmer I have read here, and these are usually quite informative. He opens doors for thinking that are widely shut in the West. No need to agree or disagree but to have new insights. On the border stats my caveat is that we would need to have more background. For instance, what is (or was) the usual daily basis movement. I suspect that many of the numbers there surely correspond to daily or weekly commutes and the refugees/military movements are hidden inside those.

    Reply
  2. Martino Dolfini

    Larry Johnson gives an interesting and full-of-sense interpretation of the change in russian military hierarchy:

    Yes, Chief of General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov was named the commander of the Joint Group of Forces and Sergei Surovikin named Commander-in-Chief of Aerospace Forces General of the Army. This was not a command shake up because of unhappiness with Surovikin’s performance over the last three months. Just the opposite — I believe it signals that Russia is setting the table for a major escalation in its operations to eliminate the Ukrainian military threat.

    Letting Surovikin focus on the “Aerospace Forces” means that Russian air and space operations are likely to kick into overdrive. Until now, the Russian Air Force has played a minimal role in the battles during the last 11 months. Putting Gerasimov in charge of the Joint Group of Forces is a clear signal that the command task going forward is going to be more complex and comprehensive.
    Just the opposite — I believe it signals that Russia is setting the table for a major escalation in its operations to eliminate the Ukrainian military threat.

    https://sonar21.com/in-ukraine-theres-something-happening-there/

    Martino, Italy

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As much as I like Johnson, he is almost reflexively pro-Russian. I can understand wanting to push back against using this reshuffle as a justification for yet more bogus Western messaging like the Financial Times story, Russia demotes ‘General Armageddon’ after battlefield failures. But this IMHO Johnson goes too far in the other direction.

      This was meant to be seen as demotion. They gave him a lower rank in the same title structure. They could have left him with the same title and still done some restructuring of roles to make it look prettier.

      Dima at Military Summary, suggested (and remember Dima unlike Johnson is fluent in Russian) said there were reports that amounted to Surovikin getting too big for his britches and too often speaking directly to Putin. That might have been OK if everything was going super well and it was mainly reporting in, but not so well tolerated in the case of running into a lot of bumps.

      Mercouris pointed out other evidence of power struggles, like Wagner Group head Prigozhin trying to take sole credit for taking Soledar, with the MoD then making statements that pointed out Russian army groups had roles too. Similarly, General Lapin, who was demoted basically on false charges presented by Prigozhin and Kadyrov, has been restored, and Mercouris believes, to a role where he could exact a bit of revenge on Prigozhin.

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      1. Stephen

        The in fighting sounds par for the course in these things, and totally believable.

        Most histories of Operation Overlord highlight the Anglo American infighting, which as far as I can tell was not so much worse than the infighting within each country’s army! But just received a lot more attention from historians. The start of WWI for the British was similarly marked by Sir John French scheming to get rid of Horace Smith Dorrien and then Douglas Haig scheming to get rid of French. At the same time, Sir Henry Wilson was allegedly scheming against pretty much everyone else. One sometimes wonders when reading the histories how anyone in senior roles ever focused on fighting the enemy.

        Of course, most of the western media and defence commentary will not contextualise any of these command changes against such benchmarks but will see it as evidence of “Putin’s war not going to plan” and so forth. We certainly cannot read that much into it, I believe.

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      2. Polar Socialist

        For what it’s worth the Vzglyad newspaper sees this more as the SMO entering a new phase, where the decisions have to be made on a higher level to ensure proper collaboration of all services.

        Surovikin as the commander in Ukraine could only command Air Forces outside the operational area. Everything else had to go trough Gerasimov, whether it be collaborating with Black Sea fleet or issues of logistics from outside of SMO.

        So the experts in Vzglyad seem to think this is about removing as much red tape and friction in the high command as possible more than anything else. The roles they (the experts) assign for the generals are: Kim as a brilliant, experienced (4 wars) operational thinker, Surovikin as a strong willed implementer and Salyukov as someone who makes the whole mechanism work.

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          1. Raymond Sim

            Putin’s gotten a lot of mileage out of slapping bureaucrats and oligarchs around. Generals would seem to be a natural group to extend the treatment to.

            Using a planned reorganization to diss Surovkin enough so people notice, without infliciting official consequences strikes me as Putin’s style.

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      3. JoeC100

        Andrei Martyanov’s blog covers this topic today. He clearly is rather well positioned to comment on this shift. He sees it as quite sensible given the expansion of the war and certainly not negative re: Surovikin.

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        1. Offtrail

          Martyanov is also reflexively pro-Russian, of course. He is too full of bravado as well. His designation of Ukraine as “404” misses the point. Ukraine may historically have been part of Russia, but it is clear that many Ukrainians believe passionately that Ukraine exists. Their conviction of that is not likely to go away, and remains long term the biggest barrier to a lasting peace.

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          1. Kouros

            He is pro Russian but he tries to anchor himself in reality.

            As for Martyanov calling Ukraine 404, it is just the flip coin of Ukrainians wanting to deny ethnic Russians in Ukraine any rights (other than to move, die, or become Russian hating Ukrainians). But in his case, Russia has the ability to make Ukraine a 404… Peace will come only on Russian terms and with some major border readjustments, to reflect ethnical divisions. And then Ukrainians can keep their country…. if they can…

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            1. Offtrail

              What you just described is not making Ukraine a 404. In any case, what Martyanov says is that Ukraine IS a 404, that it does not really exist. He’s wrong.

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              1. Polar Socialist

                It’s not Martyanov’s term, even if he uses it. I think it’s been used since 2014 or so to point out that Ukrainian state as a legitimate representative of it’s population doesn’t exists anymore.
                I’ve never seen it used in the sense that Ukraine as an idea or a country doesn’t exist but more as a slur referring to the rampant corruption and/or illegitimate, unconstitutional government completely beholden to external powers.

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          2. giandavide

            “ukraine” cannot realistically exist after this war. it’s on the route to become a crossover of Afghanistan and somaliland.

            Reply
      4. kemerd

        My interpretation is that Russia decided to increase the scope of the operations of theatre and don’t want to do this officially hence mandatory demotion of Surovikin, why they announce with this publicity is thought unclear to me

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        1. TimmyB

          I find it difficult to look at this as a demotion for Surovikin when the new overall commander is the highest ranking Russian general and was his boss. To me, it indicates Surovikin was never going to command the entire army once the hundreds of thousands of additional troops were added.

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        1. Ludus57

          Thank you for reminding us of this.
          Mr Martyanov helps us to remember that it is natural before major offensives for the Russians to give the leadership in theatre to their highest officers. For proof of this, just look a Zukov’s record in WWII.
          In the current circumstances in Ukraine, it would not be unreasonable to agree with some commentators that the Russians are preparing for major action, based on the evidence of General Gerasimov’s move.

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          1. giandavide

            a thing that maryanov underlined often is that the wargonzos and rybar guys are war reporters, and as such they lack a strategic perspective. their perspective is purely tactical cause when you’re too close to a thing you see better the surface but you don’t see well the whole object. honestly i don’t understand why russian military don’t censor them. i think it’s cause russians aren’t good with propaganda. by the way, how rybar could know the effects of this rearrangements in the use of nuclear triads? they got no idea

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    2. RockTime

      Completely agree with Larry Johnson and believe the interpretation about Surovikin’s “demotion” is extremely simplistic.

      One of the best analysts in Russia, Rostislav Ischenko, explains that the just-announced new command structure is a response and a signal to NATO that their preparations to send Poles to get slaughtered in the Uki-stan are fully anticipated and the Russian Military Command structure is now revamped in preparation for an “expanded” theater of war: Uki-land + Berlarus + the 3Balts + Poland (Germany / 4th Reich next?).

      Duda’s yesterday’s visit to the Uki-land seems to be the last step before Poles jump into a suicide mission on the orders of their S&M Master (the Yanks). Ischenko believes they will not do this without posing a challenge to Russia (together with the local midgets – the 3balts) in Kaliningrad. Hence, once they do that, this automatically means an expansion of the war from 1 Theater (Ukistan) to 3-4 Theaters, including Baltics and Poland. Hence the Command Structure of the Russian Military is now fully prepared for this scenario.

      As for Surovikin, he will continue commanding the Ukistan theater, with 2 other deputies ready to undertake the new fronts. Gerasimov was Surovikin’s boss before and will continue to be the commanding officer in the new situation. But now Gerasimov and two other deputies will get busy too smashing the European Nazis across several more theaters.

      If Poles are dumb enough to do what the Yanks are pushing them to do and jump off head first from the cliff to that concrete slab down below, by 2025 there will be no Ukraine, no Poland, and no 3balts. It will all be Russian Federation.

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      1. bwilli123

        If Russia needs to show that NATO is ineffectual then one way to do this is to crush an over eager NATO member that oversteps the mark, and then dare the remainder of NATO to do something about it.
        If the Poles crossed the Ukrainian border (and Russia responded) under what circumstances would the remaining NATO states join the fray to defend them? Only if Poland itself had been attacked first?
        Would greater NATO be quite so keen if they thought Poland was being provocative, or deliberately expansionist?
        And if the Russians crossed the Polish border would Germany be there to defend Poland?
        If not, then NATO certainly has no point.

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  3. voislav

    It seems to me that the command reshuffle is not a demotion for Surovikin, rather an addition of a command layer above him. So Surovikin will remain in command in Donbas, but Russia will be deploying other force groupings that require a larger, theater-level command.

    We see indications that Russian troops are concentrating again in Belarus as far west as Vitebsk and opposite northeastern Ukraine, Sumy and Chernigov regions. Also, it’s been reported that most of the Black Sea Fleet, including their whole amphibious force, has left Novorossiysk and is deploying forward.

    So it seems like Russia is preparing for a major operation soon and has realigned the command structure to prepare for it.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, he had a reduction in title and is now one step lower in the hierarchy relative to Putin too. The title structure could have made the optics look better, as in preserve appearances that nothing had really happened but even that was not done.

      Any your argument makes the point. Putting another layer in a chain of command between any officer and the top boss IS a demotion. There’s no other way to read it.

      I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I don’t understand the insistence on denying the obvious. There is likely to be a lot going on that we don’t know and may never know. For instance, Putin may be embarrassed that he gave Surovikin an award and the Makeevka disaster occurred within days. That was inexcusable and reflected several command discipline failures. I’m not sure what Rybar’s “the debut of ‘musicians’ in Soledar and Bakhmut” is about but that’s clearly another set of issues and seems to be recent.

      There may be other issues behind the scenes, like Putin found out that certain things he had been told were on track with respect to getting the mobilized forces ready and in place for combat ops were not in fact true. Putin is the kind of manager who would much rather be told bad news sooner rather than later.

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      1. voislav

        I believe the “musicians” are the Wagners, their Telegram handle is @orchestra (or something close to that). Fair point about Surovikin, it would be more accurate to say that his command assignment hasn’t changed, because Gerasimov was definitely inserted into the command chain above him.

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      2. nippersdad

        “I’m not sure what Rybar’s “the debut of ‘musicians’ in Soledar and Bakhmut” is about but that’s clearly another set of issues and seems to be recent.”

        I took that to be a reference to the Wagner and Mozart groups, though there is nothing particularly new about either of them.

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        1. Yves Smith Post author

          See my comment above about Prighozin and Lapin and the MoD. The MoD looks to be Not Happy about Prighozin taking credit for operations that depended a ton on MoD support. It may also be that the MoD is Not Happy about Prighozin not playing as well as he might with regular units, and that was something Surovkin was expected to manage.

          Aha, by happenstance I found TASS politely pushing back v. Prighozin trying to hog the limelight:

          In the early hours on Wednesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russia’s Wagner private military company, said that the city of Soledar was taken under control by the PMC’s units. On Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported that Russian troops blocked Soledar in the north and south and clashes in the city were underway.

          https://tass.com/politics/1561505

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          1. nippersdad

            I saw the Mercouris discussion of that. While it was understandable that their version of the French Foreign Legion and the virtually ungovernable Chechen forces were thrown into a mix along with the Donetsk/Lugansk militias and regular Russian forces early on, it is likely that the increasing emphasis on professional military structures to match their enhanced military manufacturing capacities is going to have an effect upon the power of less manageable groups going forward.

            IIRC, a few days ago Mercouris was talking about Prighozin having to essentially beg for munitions; something that he was surprised by. The Russians have already incorporated the Donbass militias into the Russian army, so perhaps this could foreshadow further reorganizations that do not include Wagner, and Prighozin is acting out.

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            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I’m not sure I heard Mercouris the same way you did re munitions. I thought Mercouris said a military budgeting cycle was coming and Prigozhin was lobbying (awfully publicly) for his share.

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              1. nippersdad

                Given how high profile he has been throughout the SMO, why would he have have to lobby for anything, publicly or otherwise? Surely he has a little red phone on his desk?

                That just sounded off to me.

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                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Prigozhin is not part of the government. He does not have buddies who wander around the corridors of the MoD or Kremlin. Anyone will tell you that proximity is very important in dealing with bureaucracies. That is why lobbyists get big bucks.

                  I infer Prigozhin had a contract that gave the Wagners exclusive right to some ops unless they were fired for poor performance. They do not play nicely with others, unlike the Chechens and the militias in Mariupol. So all the chest-thumping and PR looks to me to preserve/expand his share of the pie as the SMO widens and the integration of the newly mobilized forces will greatly reduce the importance of the Wagners.

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                  1. nippersdad

                    You are very likely right. I had just gotten the impression that Wagner was more or less an adjunct to the Russian CIA, and as such had better connections than you appear to believe they have.

                    Reply
                    1. Polar Socialist

                      My understanding is that Wagner is fighting where it is fighting because it was founded in Popasna in 2014, as a militia group under Dimitri Utkin, whose nom de guerre was Wagner.

                      When the war flamed up again, they returned to their home turf as pro bono, as one might say.

                      What the Wagner Group can do that the Russian Army can not, is recruit people with criminal records, which has been somewhat handy in these times. The first batch of “former criminals” were already released after six months of service in “storm groups”. Many signed a new contract, and the rest have now a clear criminal record, so the army can recruit them, too.

                  2. Anne Neveson

                    Here is an article from yesterday’s Military Review, the most widely read publication among current and retired military circles in Russia, entitled “Dancing With a Sledgehammer to the Music of Wagner,” that addresses this very question, i.e., the role of Prigozhin & Wagner in relation to the regular army and also the larger polity. The English translation is from their website, and the many comments are equally interesting: https://en.topwar.ru/208268-tancy-s-kuvaldoj-pod-muzyku-vagnera.html

                    Reply
                    1. Yves Smith Post author

                      Aha, thanks for such a good find! Real information much better than gossip and speculation. Must turn in but will read with great interest soon.

            2. The Rev Kev

              I doubt that the Wagner Group will be incorporated into the Russian Army as they are far more valuable in sending to places like Africa where they will not have the limitations that Russian troops would. And it seems that some African nations are happy to see them in contrast to say French troops who only seem to make things worse.

              Reply
            3. Kouros

              Donbas militias were begging for long time to be incorporated in Russian Military structures. It’s salaries, benefits, pensions. Putin was asked this question some time ago from one of the mothers of living and dead soldiers… and he gave a thorough answer.

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          2. Lex

            Prigozhin was pretty loud during the Soledar operation that “only Wagner” was performing the assault. I could see some pushback against Wagner from the state. At this point it appears to be at 50,000 members and is essentially an army corp with its own air wing, armor and artillery.

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      3. TimmyB

        Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov is the head of the General Staff and the highest ranking officer of the Russian Armed Forces. He has held that position since 2012 when he was appointed by Putin. He is also a first deputy Secretary of Defense.

        The point is no additional layer exists between Surovikin and Putin. General Surovikin reports to General Garasimov, who reports to Defense Minister Shoygu, who reports to Putin. That’s the chain of command last month and it’s still the chain of command today.

        Garasimov commands the Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force. Placing him in charge “reflects the broader scope of tasks” and the need for “closer coordination” between all branches of the Russian armed forces, according the the Russian government. I believe these are the reasons the highest ranking military officer in the Russian armed forces was placed in charge of the operation and this change isn’t a “demotion’ of Surovikin.

        Reply
  4. Alan Roxdale

    But it seems highly likely that it would have Ukraine sign a treaty

    Anyone attempting it would be airstriked before reaching the negotiations. The war in Ukraine is not ending until at least the current US government changes, and probably not until a following government simply becomes tired of it. Vietnam went on for over a decade. Neither morality nor pragmatism enter into it. I am willing to bet that even the European ultras will be calling for peace before then.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please no ill informed hysterics.

      The US having built up Zelensky now is stuck with him. And Russia is not going to let foreign aircraft into Ukraine. That would put the West directly at war with Russia, something it has been seeking to avoid. This would breach the dam for Russia taking out every NATO airbase in Europe, which Douglas Macgregor has said Russia could do in less than 90 minutes. Put it another way, if NATO wants to be comprehensively defeated, this would give Russia the justification. And China and the Global South would support it.

      If anyone would take out Zelensky, it will be Azov/Right Sector types.

      If the US sees the big Z as about to sign a deal they oppose, their best play is to spirit him out to run a government in exile and leave no one legit-looking to sign a surrender with Russia.

      Reply
      1. Jams O'Donnell

        But if Zelensky is gone, even to gov. in exile, it’s surely expecting too much to think that no-one, especially in the lawless neo-Nazi Ukraine, will not step up to replace him? The position seems tailor made for a new Adolf Banderas. Unless of course the position would obviously lead to taking the blame for everything. Maybe a very dumb Nazi masochist?

        OK, I’ve argued myself into agreeing with you.

        Reply
  5. nippersdad

    IIRC, Surovikin was commander of the Russian airforce at one time. With the enlargement of the special operation to a general one, maybe he is just going to specialize in what he does best? Viewed that way this is not really so much a demotion as recognition of the enlargement/long term nature of the war and putting people into a framework that recognizes their specialties.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please do not misinform readers. The Russian campaign is still a special military operation. From TASS, 2 hours ago:

      Gerasimov’s appointment due to broader scope of objectives in Ukraine operation — Kremlin
      Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu made new appointments in the military command of the special military operation in Ukraine on Wednesday

      https://tass.com/defense/1561415

      Reply
      1. nippersdad

        What gave you the impression that I was trying to misinform readers? While the names may not have changed, the governance structure has been enlarged to reflect the upcoming offensives to the degree that they have reinstituted historic former Soviet and Czarist committees on both military and civilian affairs to carry it all forward. That is reflected in both the title of the article you mention and in the text:

        “The commentary [on Gerasimov’s appointment] was given by the Defense Ministry yesterday: it is linked with the expansion of the scope of objectives that will be addressed. I have nothing to add to this,” the Russian presidential spokesman told reporters.”

        Whatever it may be called, I’m just trying to reflect reality on the ground.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You said “With the enlargement of the special operation to a general one”.

          Purin is very insistent this is still a SMO. When he did the partial mobilization in October, he was pointed in saying this was still an SMO and other officials hew to that framing. Changing the command structure to reflect the greater number of troops now being close to ready to go does not change Putin’s aims.

          Terms like “general operation” suggest Russia is going to commit more resources. Putin has also been very insistent in his recent speeches that Russia is not going to a war economy, that civilian activities and living standards do not need to and will not suffer to prosecute the SMO. Due to the hour I don’t have time to find it but Putin was explicit on this matter.

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          1. nippersdad

            I read that speech as well. However this is designated, it is clear that he is taking steps to enlarge his military operation in Ukraine, and it is equally clear that he feels like he has to defend from threats elsewhere along his borders. He is in it for the long term and acting accordingly. In that speech he said that he could do so without making the mistakes of the past, and the West is going to aid him in the effort by demilitarizing and bankrupting itself. His initial objectives have not changed, but he now recognizes that the field of operation has gotten exponentially larger (Russia against the Collective West in Ukraine, not just Ukraine itself) and that his military and civilian infrastructures to address them must increase in size to reflect that. That is a general operation that has to take into account things like the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO, further color revolutions on his borders and sabotage of infrastructures like the Nordstream pipelines.

            Your post stated his objectives perfectly when you quoted Putin, himself:

            “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”.

            Not to be difficult, but I think that some of this nearly obsolete terminology is obscuring the sea changes that Russia and its allies are presently undergoing in terms of the “SMO’s” relative geopolitical consequence.

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            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I should not have bothered bringing up Surovkin. Moon of Alabama depicts this restructuring as not consequential.

              It is the Western press that keeps depicting Russia as desperately “conscripting: more men, and the Russian economy as being on a war footing. Putin says otherwise. Mercouris bothered debunking a Bloomberg article that attempted to depict Russia’s manufacturing increase as being due totally due to military production….based on no actual data…when import substitution and a pickup in construction are clearly important.

              In other words, you are amplifying Western propaganda, whether intentionally or not. Putin called up more forces. Now that they are trained and ready to go, it’s become apparent that some role and personnel changes at the top are desirable. This does not amount to a meaningful change from what Putin set in motion with the partial mobilization. You are trying to argue otherwise.

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              1. nippersdad

                We are watching the same stuff. I respectfully disagree with your assessment that I am seeking to project Western propaganda. I am just looking at what is happening.

                When Putin says he can achieve his objectives in a war of attrition against the Collective West I believe him. I also believe that he can do so without putting his nation on a total war footing. The stats that Mercouris discussed reflect that.

                I have been anti-war since we were filling trenches with dead Nicaraguans in the Eighties, and this present overreach by neocons in Ukraine is something I have been looking forward to since we invaded Afghanistan. This, IMHO, is a comeuppance that is long overdue, and I find it interesting that you could see it any other way from my commentary.

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  6. The Rev Kev

    This is really starting to sound like the western powers are indulging in the “rock soup” method of eventually getting some sort of NATO group into the Ukraine itself in spite of a fast growing resistance to this idea by the people in the west. And when I heard that Gerasimov was moving over to direct command of the theater, this started to sound ominous to me. Obviously the eastern front has fractured badly with the loss of Soledar and with the soon fall of Bakhmut. It may be at that point that the Russians will seek to break up that Ukrainian line which stretches for what, about a thousand kilometers? Like the Russians several months ago, they do not have the men or equipment to man the entire line properly and far too much of their reserves have been wasted in Soledar and Bakhmut. I heard that the Russians destroyed 17 battalions of Ukrainians in Soledar alone which is huge.

    The west suddenly being willing to send in main battle tanks as well as other vehicles and self-propelled artillery indicates that they have realized that they are now in the endgame and will soon lose. I think that Putin recognizes that the west is panicking and people that are panicking are liable to do all sorts of stupid stuff. So sending in Gerasimov as theater commander is the Russians hedging their bets on how far the west is willing to escalate matters. The west will thus not be facing just a fighting general but the Russian Chief of General Staff General of the Army which will give NATO planners serious pause. NATO will be facing the Big Boss.

    And as the west has said that there will be no negotiated peace but they will spend the next ten years training up another Ukrainian military to continue the war, the Russians can now only settle on a total defeat of the Ukraine itself. They may not want (or need) to go to Galicia as that region is a lost cause but they are not going to leave the Ukraine in a position where NATO trained assassins and saboteurs will be constantly slipping across the border to terrorize the people in those liberated regions from having any peace. And for certain the Russians will have a lot of rebuilding to do as they are doing right now in Mariupol so want this war finished and done in spite of what the west wants. So it is crunch time coming up. A year ago it might have seemed a bright idea to attack Russia to break it up but to quote Admiral Yamamoto ‘I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.’

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Gerasimov as a hedge seems like a sound assessment.

      And the restructuring puts a General staff officer on the same level as the air and ground force commanders. General Staff is usually in the sanity check/force preservation/logistics/long game business, so interesting that General Staff was elevated.

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      1. The Rev Kev

        My assumption was also that in case things got really bad with NATO, that the Russians would now have the command structure needed to handle them in place and ready to go. I can only imagine what the NATO command structure would look like but chaotic might be a word I might choose to describe it as.

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        1. Stephen

          That sounds insightful to me, and broadly consistent with Larry Johnson’s take.

          Gerasimov presumably also has the internal clout needed to bring the Wagners and so forth into line.

          I am no expert but I also believe from history that Russian military doctrine follows classical Prussian / German practice. This is that a Chief of Staff functions far more as a surrogate commander in chief anyway than in the American / Anglo oriented armies, which were also very late historically to create General Staffs. So that would also mitigate the idea that this is driven by creating a demotion or sidelining of Surovikin. Even if that is one interpretation.

          Reply
    2. Jack

      I agree with you that placing Gerasimov in overall command was possibly a “back off” move by Putin because of the uncertainty of what NATO might do. But I also think it is the Russians increasing their emphasis on the SMO and what is going to occur in the next months. Monn of Alabama had this to say; “Neither was Surovkin pushed aside or demoted nor was Gerasimov promoted to a new job. Surovkin will continue to run the theater force in Ukraine. This move did not change command responsibilities but lifted the importance of the whole operation by making it the highest military commander’s priority.” What came to my mind when reading about all of this recent activity, the Mayakov barracks debacle, the Wagner group spats, etc. was an image of Putin saying, “Ok, I want the head guy in charge (Gerasimov) and I want the SMO to go forward posthaste. No more fooling around and no more bad optics.”

      Reply
  7. ChrisFromGA

    I’m more and more convinced that Merkel and Hollande’s confessional was a deliberate attempt to stop the war or at least end it sooner. It removed the last shred of credibility of the MIC war monger’s “agreement capability” and revealed their treachery for all to see.

    Perhaps I am naive, but another phony truce that allows Ukraine to re-arm and re-populate (probably with mostly foreign mercs, imported from the CIA training camps in Syria) would merely extend this senseless slaughter another 10 years, and I want to think that there is some shred of decency left somewhere in European leadership.

    Reply
  8. Stephen

    Very informative article, thanks.

    The conflict in Ukraine is clearly one dimension of a much broader conflict between Russia and the collective west. For Russia this will only stop when the western will and / or ability to fight (or rather find people to fight for it) has been denuded.

    Even after the on the ground fight ends in Ukraine then Russia will still be at war because the west will (unless unable to do so) carry on with arming more mercenary or crazy Russophobic proxies, plotting more regime changes and figuring out closer places to put missiles. Irrespective of Ukraine itself.

    Reply
    1. John k

      Certainly possible.
      But the willingness to be a proxy to poke the bear might decline after Ukraine destruction. And interest in joining nato, which will be seen as how to goad Russia into invading and destroying your country. Granted those the us has bought might stay bought, but seems likely their pop will turn to those more interested in peaceful trade.
      And row will similarly become more interested in joining eastern trade alliances, as Pozsar seems to suggest. Eventually this might pressure the dollar and us enormous trade deficit. Hopefully a shift towards balanced trade forces us to shift away from foreign adventures and focus on internal problems.

      Reply
  9. hk

    I don’t think Surovikin has been “demoted.” Gerasimov was/is the chief of general staff. Russians send the chief of general staff to battlefield command when the situation is of paramount importance: to be honest, my thought was this is Zhukov being assigned to take charge of the Soviet offensive against Berlin. I think this is actually another sign that something huge is coming, something that the top general ought to be in charge of because of both it’s scope and symbolism.

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  10. David

    Good article by Helmer. For what it’s worth I don’t think Suvorikin has been demoted so much that his relative importance has declined, in the context of a much larger operation. I see this as another indication that there will be large-scale developments quite soon. An equivalent would be that Eisenhower was placed in command of all allied forces in North Africa for Operation Torch, in 1942, absorbing British and French land and sea command structures already in place. I have the feeling this is the big one.

    For the rest, I think there’s a lot of confusion, both deliberate and accidental about the “DMZ” idea. I can see three separate issues here

    – there will be a line along which the Russians decide to stop. It’s very unlikely to include the whole of Ukraine, and there will be a need to impose and establish the line, secure it, but also allow some transit back and forth. There’ll almost certainly have to be some formal links between the RF and the UA, to deal with cease-fire violations, repatriation of prisoners etc. I think this is more or less certain to happen.

    – there could theoretically be a line of disengagement, with international observers, logging cease-fire violations and other things. I think that’s pretty unlikely.

    – there could be a proper DMZ, under the control of neither state, again with international observers as in Korea. I see no advantage for the Russians at all here. The Korea example was very special: two massive forces confronting each other, neither could win an easy military victory, so an armistice was sought while peace terms were theoretically being sorted out. Meanwhile, there is only a very small military presence in the zone made up of non-aligned nations (I had lunch with a Swiss General once) but the area just outside the DMZ is a massive fortified camp on both sides, and the DMZ itself is no kind of barrier of protection.

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  11. Polar Socialist

    I started digging into this “Combined Forces Groups” of Russian Armed Forces, since that’s what the troops fighting in SMO are fighting under and what Gerasimov is now commanding.

    Turns out that there’s one “CFG of Counterterrorist Operations in Northern Caucasus” and other “CFG of Russian Bases and Armenian Forces”. First one is commanded by director of Russian National Guards, General of the Army Viktor Zolotov, and the second is commanded by Commander-in-Chief of Armenian Armed Forces, Major General Andranik Makaryan.

    Going by this, it seems that SMO has so far been of a slightly lesser status than other similar commands. Since they tend to be commanded by the top dude of the business.

    Reply
  12. Willow

    Russia’s main goal is the breaking up of Europe/NATO. Ukraine is only a means to that end. Any Russian ‘negotiation’ with or about Ukraine would have as its primary objective to create irreparable political conflict within Europe/NATO. Helmer’s ‘demilitarized zone’ doesn’t achieve this. A demilitarized zone west of Zhytomyr, all to the way to the Europe border, with Russia takes everything to the East, may create enough humiliation for NATO for EU/NATO to break apart. Or for some in NATO (Poland) to over-step.

    Agree with The Rev Kev, Gerasimov reshuffle is more about hedging risk of escalation and putting in place a command structure to handle potential expansion in the theatre of war. Which suggests a major in-theatre escalation is coming. Whole Surovkin issue could be deliberate obfuscation to mask this. Always possibility Makeevka was ‘allowed’ to happen to create a supposed reason for these changes to take place.

    Reply
  13. A

    Russia should not accept any western foothold – exclave of NATO inside the country UA. No matter what. buffer zone or not, doesn’t matter.

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  14. Savita

    I hope this is not off topic. This comment is more angled towards readers of posts on Ukraine and Russia

    Readers will probably be familiar with the book 33 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Really quite an astonishing compilation of historical scenarios used to demonstrate each of the 33 laws defined by Greene.

    Robert Greene has a most recent book ‘The 33 Strategies of War.’ Using historical anecdotes of particular individuals within particular conflicts, and anchoring them firmly as context for present day and universally applicable scenarios.
    It’s a fascinating and compelling text and would definitely be of great interest to any NC reader attuned to the comments on an article about Russia and Ukraine.

    Reply
  15. John k

    It does seem a buffer zone that allows the west a place to rebuild a force in Galicia would be a non-starter for Russia. This means Russia must take all of Ukraine, with the west half de-electrified and unlivable, including Kiev and maybe Lviv, too.
    Seems russia would only mention negotiations now as a sop to row, but there isn’t anybody to negotiate with, as Merkel/Hollande usefully pointed out.
    there is a concern Poland might invade (perhaps z invites them)… would Russia attack Poland, or just poles in Ukraine? Hopefully the latter.
    Seems the us is pivoting to China, which I see as a good thing. Maybe we shrug, say we did what we could, then say the really bad actor is China. Msm jumps on that – another war, what’s not to like? And voters forget another loss by 2024.

    Reply
    1. Karl

      Agree. Also, I don’t think Putin has the political space at home to settle for anything short of removing the Ukraine-NATO thorn completely once and for all. All the way to Lviv/Transnistria.

      I saw the big Zelensky welcome in DC as a swan song. “Here’s another $40 Billion, God knows we tried our best….”

      As you say, the MSM will move on to other things. Ukraine will be forgotten, partly because there will be no upside to reporting to the American audience on the shiny new transformers, hospitals, rail links etc. provided by Russia.

      Yes, the neocons will move on to China/Taiwan/Iran/N.Korea and all the other threats. They’ll still be around, and MIC budgets will keep increasing. And, the US and EU will still be China’s biggest trading partners by far. The EU will start importing Russian energy/fertilizer/foodstuffs again. The big loser will be NATO.

      Reply
  16. Lex

    Late to this but that means I got to digest the whole comment section a bit too.

    I’m not seeing a demotion of Surovkin exactly but a consolidation of the Russian military in the context of both Ukraine and the understanding that it is Russia vs. NATO. I base this partly on their being no real agitation against Surovkin either and Gerasimov was always his superior. Though we should assume that there are always politics in organizational changes like this.

    Those likely do include Prigozhin and Wagner. He was probably a little too loud and repetitious about how it was “only Wagner” in Soledar. Social media stunts in the salt mines were probably ill-considered. Given that Wagner is now more of an army corps with (reportedly) 50k fighters, armor, artillery and even an air wing, the regular military establishment and even political leaders have to consider the danger of a group like that. The flip side of that is that if they want to contain Wagner, then they’ll probably have to start taking some chances even at the cost of soldiers’ lives. Simply because Wagner does and it has succeeded.

    I’m still skeptical of a DMZ, though I can see one being necessary sometime after a partition. Moreover, lots of Ukraine may not be heavily repopulated just based on Ukrainian demographics and Russia’s lack of need for space. So a DMZ of sorts may occur quite naturally. I’m also skeptical of a big offensive by Russia; I think they’re keeping their powder dry because the US insists on continual escalation. I’d guess (and I’ve been mostly wrong!) at a push from the south. It would secure strategic depth for Crimea, pressure the Donbas front, and allow a turn west. These are territories that have to be liberated. Kharkov to Kiev aren’t as important, but a Ukrainian offensive into Russia in the north does have to be defended against because that’s the kind of PR victory the west craves. Hence defensive structures and forces in Belarus, which also serve as defensive posturing for any crazy ideas Poland gets.

    Reply
    1. hk

      The sense I got (Not sure if this was a comment by Mercouris that I heard in passing as well) is that the whole talk about “armistice” and “DMZ” is actually targeted at certain actors in the West. There may be some feelers from the factions wanting to wind down the conflict about possible peace deal in which Ukraine cedes territory “temporarily” to be used as DMZ. I’d figure that Ukrainian gov’t is publicly telling them no, betting that their more warlike rivals in Western gov’ts will keep the stuff flowing in to Ukraine as long as they keep up the war.

      I have no idea what to make of Wagner now: I used to think it’s really a front organization for Russian gov’t to “unofficially” intervene in trouble spots. Now, it’s become a serious military force kinda outside the usual military command structure. I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable with something like that if I were Russian political leadership (and certainly not if I were part of the military leadership.)

      Reply
  17. Viscaelpaviscaelvi

    My idea of the demilitarized zone is marked by the map inset in the first pic, which is the one that Helmer used in the first article about this subject posted in NC. The very concept of a DMZ along those lines seems to me unrealistic for two reasons: think of Odessa losing all of its hinterland; and then, why occupy 90-odd% of the coast and not link properly to Transnistria?

    The only DMZ that makes sense to me, both geographically and politically, is Western Ukraine.

    Reply
  18. Savita

    In the spirit of a comment by Rev Kev.

    Maybe there was a misunderstanding via interpreter
    When Ukraine talks about a ‘DMZ’ they really meant ‘TMZ’

    You know, we gotta keep the entertainment flowing says Z

    Reply
  19. anon in so cal

    So, between Dec 28 and Jan 9, approx 140,000 troops have entered Ukraine from Poland?

    I cannot find that tweet by Straż Graniczna. Maybe it was deleted.

    Reply
  20. Roland

    SMO ? It’s a war: thousands of people have been killed or maimed, millions have fled their homes, billions of dollars’ worth of human labour have been squandered.

    Euphemisms are lies.

    I have little patience with American imperialistic and militaristic lying. Why should I tolerate Russia’s?

    When the USA invaded Iraq, I saw numerous articles and “thought pieces” in the media, written in a knowing manner, which said that Iraq had never really been a country anyway, and therefore, presumably, was something that could be freely disposed of by foreigners.

    It disgusts me to find commentators here who refer to Ukrainian statehood in the same fashion. Don’t they realize that most of the countries in the world, if subjected to a strict test of authenticity, would fail that test? Those failures would include Russia itself. My own country, Canada, would score among the lowest. Is it not obvious that all such dismissals of other sovereigns and states are but spurious justification for the invader?

    Proof of the lie is that until the current regime seized power in Ukraine, Russia fully acknowledged Ukrainian sovereignty and borders. Even in the Soviet era, Ukraine was acknowledged as a republic, and had its own seat at the United Nations.

    I might be objectively pro-Russian within the overall geopolitical context, but that doesn’t make their self-serving lies any more truthful, or any less self-serving. My Canadian goverment already gives me more than my fill of falsehood. I don’t need to take Russian crap, too.

    SMO? Crap. It’s a war, so that’s what I call it. And it’s a very dangerous war, that will result in many millions of deaths, unless one or more of the main participants backs down. However, if the commitment levels remain as high as they are now, then escalation is inevitable, and it approaches certainty that action will involve nuclear weapons in some way.

    What happens in a war has little to do with the intentions at outset. If you think it’s too hard to make a peace today, then just wait until it has continued for awhile longer. You see it again and again in human conflict: sunk costs punk rational interests. It’s happening to the leaders of our world, right now.

    Reply

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