Will Russia Opt to Continue the War into 2024?

I managed to open a post by the Substacker Big Serge from last August. I mistakenly assumed it was more recent because the high level take seemed current. I therefore read his comment that “I believe Russia has absolutely no interest in ending the war this year” as applying to 2023, not 2022 as written. I thought it was a bold and interesting call.

But even though Big Serge actually made no such forecast, upon reflection, this scenario is worth considering.

Mind you, this post is not intended to be a prediction but what consultants call a forcing device.

From the outset, your humble blogger maintained that Russia could win the war but lose the peace. That problem has become even more apparent as the war has progressed and more facts have come forward, such as:

The animosity of the West toward Russians

The bad faith dealing of Western leaders, as confirmed by their duplicity in using the Minsk accords as a vehicle to better prepare for war with Russia. There’s an old saying among commercial lawyers that a contract is only as good as the parties that sign it. US and European officials have made clear they see no obligation to honor agreements with Russia.

The use of Ukraine as a US/NATO proxy. Suspecting that is one thing, having it confirmed is another.

The prevalence of magical thinking among Western elites. For instance, the EU plans a tenth round of sanctions. Giving Ukraine longer-range missiles to shoot at Crimea will cause so much foment in Russia that Putin will have to sue for peace to prevent his ouster. And the never-ending projection, like the Russians suffering horrific casualties.

One concern that many Russia experts say influences its strategy is avoiding NATO escalation. Even though the alliance is revealing itself to be more resource constrained and on top of that, not well equipped for this war, that does not mean it could not work itself up to a much higher level of operation in say 24 months if it felt threatened. And the Balts and Poles keep the dial at 11, so there’s a lot of crazy angry background messaging.

And we have this overarching problem, the map that Big Serge presented:

I haven’t seen anyone come up with a viable plan for what to do about that big blue area of Western Ukraine.1 Medvedev’s map (which shows a rump Ukraine that amounts to Greater Kiev, with Poland, Romania, and Hungary gobbling up other bits) would be a great outcome for Russia. But I don’t see how that comes about, and Russia being seen as trying to engineer that would make that outcome even less likely.

In the meantime, as Alex Christaforu pointed out yesterday, just like the father figure in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who used Windex as a remedy for all ills, so to is the Collective West’s answer to every Ukraine problem more weapons. But as the press is reporting today, in the runup to a monthly NATO “what do we do now” session today, the US and Germany are having a spat over tanks. Ukraine is begging for more and recent Russia MoD “clobber lists” confirm why. Russia is reporting very few tank kills, and those are considerably outnumbered by pickup trucks and passenger cars, the sort of thing you should not see used on a battlefield.

As Brian Berletic has explained long form over many videos, the armored vehicles that the US and France have offered to send are part of a tank entourage and not a substitute for a tank. The US Abrams is too heavy, too much of a fuel hog, requires way way too much maintenance and a ton of training. The Germany Leopard 2 can only be called less unsuitable. It’s too heavy, presupposed maintenance facilities nearby, and did not perform well in Syria against mere insurgents.

The Germans are sensibly resisting giving up a tank devised for national defense to be thrown away in Ukraine. Expect them to relent and send a token number. Which leads to another favorite issue of Berletic’s: the West sending a hodge podge of equipment will create a logistical, training and staffing nightmare for Ukraine and could even make matters worse.

By contrast, a fresh and long news conference by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives an inkling of current official Russian thinking. Virtually at the start, Lavrov called out the conflict as a NATO war:

What is happening now in Ukraine is the result of many years of preparation by the United States and its satellites for the start of a global hybrid war against the Russian Federation. No one hides it. If you read unbiased Western figures, including political scientists, scientists, and politicians, you can see this for yourself. Just the other day there was an article by Professor of Columbia University J. Bremmer. He texted: “We are not in a state of cold war with Russia. We are in a “hot war” with Russia. NATO is not fighting it directly. We are fighting through Ukraine.” Quite a frank confession. This conclusion lies on the surface. It is strange that they are trying to refute it in some way. Recently, the President of Croatia Z.Milanovic said that this is a NATO war. Frankly, honestly. A few weeks ago, H. Kissinger (before his last article called for Ukraine’s admission to NATO) clearly wrote that what is happening in Ukraine is a clash, a competition between two nuclear powers for control over this territory. It’s pretty clear what we’re talking about.

Our Western partners are deceitful when they deny it and ” foam at the mouth “prove that they are not at war with Russia, but only help Ukraine cope with” aggression ” and restore its territorial integrity. The volume of support clearly indicates that the West has put a lot of money on its war against Russia. This is understandable..

Returning to the declaration of NATO and the European Union. Interesting document. The two structures have been declared the ” union of democracies against autocracies in the context of global competition.” A deliberately confrontational agenda has been proclaimed to the whole world. At the same time, Europe lost its independence. The Joint Declaration explicitly puts the Europeans in a subordinate position in relation to the North Atlantic Alliance. Contains their commitment to serve American interests in the geopolitical deterrence of Russia and China. The goal was announced (it was known to everyone, but now it is once again documented) – to achieve the global superiority of the alliance led by the Americans.

NATO is not limited to organizing the life of the European continent. Since the Madrid summit in June 2022, the global responsibility of the military bloc has been proclaimed, especially in relation to the Asia-Pacific region, which NATO calls the Indo-Pacific.

In response to the first question, which was about negotiations, security arrangements, and if the “power phase,” which I take to mean kinetic war, would end this year, Lavrov stayed close to the formula that the SMO goals would need to be achieved, and added:

In Ukraine, as in any other territory bordering the territory of the Russian Federation, there should be no military infrastructure that poses a direct threat to our country, discrimination, or persecution against our compatriots. They are citizens of the Ukrainian state by the will of fate, but they want to preserve their language, culture and traditions, and bring up their children in these traditions in full compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the free use and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities. The Russian language is specifically highlighted there. This Constitution remains in force.

That implies a big blue rump Ukraine would need to be a radically different beast, and that charitably assumes citizens will prefer to get back to a semblance of their old lives rather than invest in vendettas.2

Big Serge’s latest observations on Twitter:

Big Serge did point out that the NATO members with the biggest forces ex the US, and hence the most independence, Turkey and France, were holding back.

So where does this high-level ramble leave us? As Douglas Macgregor said, Russia had already burned through two Ukraine armed forces, the one it started out with and then the one NATO reconstituted. The West is putting together a third force, which Macgregor notes will be smaller, and he anticipates Russia will dispatch that one too.

If the West tries more stunts, as in non-strategic destruction, like shelling Crimea, expect an acceleration of Russian strategic responses, like taking out the electrical grid faster.

But how does Russia get a measure of security? Even attriting NATO militarily won’t achieve that, unless NATO does the most epically stupid thing it could, which is oust Turkey.

Here I think Big Serge was on to the end game, but it is not coming as fast as he anticipated:

Russia’s energy weapon remains the bomb in the heart of the EU. With all the “winter is coming” memes floating around, it can be easy to write this off as simply a figment of the internet. Far from it – small businesses around the EU are already closing in the face of crushing energy bills, energy intensive industrial sectors like smelting are shutting plants entirely. Europe is facing a perfect economic storm, as the Federal Reserve hikes rates, leading to a general tightening of financial conditions, energy prices explode into the stratosphere, and export markets dry up amid a global economic slowdown.

All of this is likely to tip over into a cataclysm over the winter. I would not be surprised to see a financial collapse and unemployment in the EU in excess of 30%. Given the fact that the EU is notoriously bad at solving problems of any kind, there’s a non-negligible chance more countries try to leave the EU.

The EU is getting through this winter due to luck in the form of warm weather, weak demand out of China, aggressive stockpiling of Russian gas, and cutting into muscle, in the form of capacity reductions at energy intensive European, particularly German, companies. And EU leader, largely correctly, think the green energy subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act are predatory as far as European businesses are concerned. EU leaders at Davos discussed an US-European trade war as a real risk.

The EU is reported to be considering sanctioning Russian nuclear fuel, which would result in yet more blowback since there’s no ready replacement.

Note that Lavrov refused to address the question of whether the fighting might end this year. The big reason is no one knows and Russia seems to be revising its plans in light of events. But the difficulty of ending a conflict with a completely feckless opponent, one that can’t be trusted to respect any treaty, suggests that Russia needs to attrit the West top to bottom, economically as well as militarily. A continued grind would be a way to get there.

______

1 Your truly has suggested fully de-electrifying it, since Russia is the only place that can provide the needed parts (putting in a new Western-standards systems is an impossible task). John Helmer has pumped for a massive DMZ, but that would require agreement from an agreement-incapable counterparty.

2 Colonel Macgregor has argued that Ukraine is not geographically suited to an insurgent war, but you could see IRA-type campaigns in cities in the newly “liberated “oblasts.

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191 comments

  1. Tom67

    I think things could move in a wholly unexpected direction. Something is violently slipping in Ukraine. Arestovych resigned from his posts the day before yesterday after he confirmed the Russian version of the missile strike in Dnipro. Here who the man is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oleksii_Arestovych
    One wonders why the man who until now was the head of Ukrainian war communications did this? Why is he taking the Russian side in the information war?

    Before this sensational resignation, however, he gave a long interview to a popular Ukrainian video blogger (Ramina 1.2 million subscriptions – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gvEo6cEGyY – English excerpt: https://twitter.com/ArthurM40330824/status/1615099621998567425) and attacked head-on Selenskyi’s anti-Russian domestic policy. He accuses him of turning all Russian speakers in Ukraine into enemies with his aggressive anti-Russian policy. He asks how a native Russian-speaking Ukrainian feels being deployed in Bakhmut.
    He goes on to criticize the president for raiding a church that continues to profess allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate. He calls this his “war on Christianity” Why is he doing this? Arestovych knows exactly how Russia will use these statements.
    Coincidence or not, yesterday the Ukrainian Interior Minister died in a helicopter crash along with the Prosecutor General and the head of the domestic intelligence service. According to reports in Ukrainian media, the helicopter had started burning in the air. Which leads to the assumption that it was sabotage. Strikingly, all three were in a helicopter together. Where were the security officers, who should have made sure that in wartime three such important men were not together in one aircraft? According to the offical Ukrainian newssite Strana.ua, they were on their way to Kharkov and one of the three got on board only at the last minute.

    Polish Prime Minister Duda warned in Davos of an imminent Ukrainian collapse and Scholz two days ago made Boris Pistorius defense minister. Certainly not to deliver weapons as quickly as possible. Not only is Boris Pistorius widely reckoned to be one of the most efficient politicians of the SPD , he also speaks Russian, and has spoken out against anti-Russian sanctions in the past. On behalf of Scholz, Pistorius will give just enough in weapons to Ukraine to avoid looking like an ally of the Russians. But no more.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If Arestovych is a rat leaving a sinking ship, that makes sense because due to his frequent interaction with foreign governments and the press, he’d have an information advantage.

      As for the Interior Ministry, I doubt they are irreplaceable. And one theory is that they were going after the Defense Ministry, and violated the “If you shoot at a king, you must kill him” rule.

      Someone in comments (I think based on Telegram gossip) said the Interior Ministry had started to document Defense Department weapons diversions for profit, and demanded a cut so as not to turn over the records to the getting inquisitive US. Defense Dept allegedly asked for and got one payment, then upped the price, which led to the whacking.

      Reply
      1. Tom67

        It could be Arestovych positioning for a coup. He is a well known TV personality, was a rabid nationalist in the past and might therefore be positioned as the man to find some compromise with the Russians. That the interior ministry was beheaded in one stroke fits into the picture. One could speculate that the Poles know what is afoot and therefore are banging the drums for more arms like crazy.

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      2. Greg

        Likely based on this telegram post – https://t.me/JokerDPR/320
        Excerpt of google translate – “The leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs wanted their share and began to collect data through their structural units, which are associated with intelligence and outdoors. As a result of this, they managed to obtain evidence and blackmail began. The military commanders promised a share to the police leadership and the first tranche was paid. But it was pointless and unprofitable to pay further.”

        “Joker DPR” has previously shown the results of hacks of AFU military systems, including US-provided command and control platforms which revealed the force disposition along the Donbass front in detail (https://t.me/DonbassDevushka/31663). As a source, at least sometimes on the money, but that doesn’t mean this is true.

        From what I’ve seen, this was the original source for all subsequent rumours about internal politics behind the helicopter event.

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    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      Re the helicopter crash. There is a frequent guest-writer at a pro Russia site who goes by the nom de plume “Batiushka.” He is an orthodox priest who appears to be well connected in both Ukraine and Russia. Yesterday he included the following in a post:

      “A friend who lives nearby was able to provide me with facts and pictures soon later. Putting aside the suggestion that the Eurocopter was brought down by another misaimed Ukrainian missile, the crash seems to have occurred because the pilot was flying low in fog and hit a 14-storey apartment building.”

      Reply
    3. JustTheFacts

      It would be interesting if someone who knows Ukrainian were to translate Raimina’s interview from Ukrainian, or simply transcribe it so that we can use machine translation.

      Unfortunately Youtube’s autotranslate does not work because it thinks they are speaking Russian, not Ukrainian, and therefore produces gibberish.

      Reply
        1. José Freitas

          Arestovich got “promoted” to the Mirotvorets kill-list after that interview, which is genuinely one of the funniest things in the last few weeks.

          Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s ad hominem. You need to address his analysis here, particularly since his August call was much better than the predictions of, for instance, the Institute for the Study of War, which said Ukraine would have recaptured Crimea by now.

      Reply
        1. fresno dan

          RC
          thanks for that.
          (from the link) It is safe to say that western regime media has set a very low standard for reporting on the war in Ukraine, given the extent to which the mainstream narrative is disconnected from reality. Even given these low standards, the way the ongoing battle in Bakhmut is being presented to the population is truly ludicrous.
          =================================
          It seems to me that we have just reached the point where the main stream media reporting on Ukraine is totally nothing more than US propaganda. What is most distressing is not that it is ALL propaganda, but that the propaganda is so divorced from reality. This indicates these people have no plan when it all goes tits up.

          Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    First off, I think Aurelians excellent essay linked yesterday on strategy is a must read in this context. Not least because Russia seems to have some sort of strategy (even if they aren’t sure of the endgame) while the west thinks it has one, but really doesn’t.

    I think there was a widespread assumption that Europe would crumple this winter under the strain of energy prices, but so far I don’t think this will happen. Through a mix of luck and good preparation there will be no hammer blow that will force Europe (I don’t like using the term EU here as I don’t think the EU is as much a player as people think) into backing down. In many ways this is a really bad outcome as the likely result will be a gradual kneecapping of European industrial capacity rather than a one-off blow from which it could recover once its leaders saw sense.

    My guess is that the Russians have been biding their time to see if external events would make their job easier before making any final strategic decisions. They will also of course be aware that while their economy is doing much better than Nato hoped, if there is an economic downturn meaning energy and commodity prices drop, this could hit them very hard as well. Patience is a usually a virtue in strategic planning, but there is always the danger of ‘events’ wrecking well laid plans, and there are any number of low possibility events that could backfire for Russia if they are too slow to grab the initiative. Presumably, this is part of their calculations.

    So while I think the Russians were probably hoping that a winter and spring offensive would lead to the European/US consensus breaking down and Ukraine collapsing, at this stage it looks like this won’t happen. The Ukraines third army will go the way of the first two, but it will take time to grind it down, especially as Russia has lost control of so many key river crossing points (and strategically, these really matter). It really is a matter of what is happening behind closed doors in Moscow and the psychology of the situation as to whether they grit their teeth for another year of steady attrition or whether they go for a hammer blow – presumably a series of major offensives in February and after the melting season designed to create final facts on the ground.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Even the “Europe will have energy extremis this winter” true believers conceded that Europe could get through merely based on a warm winter.

      What you miss is that Europe not having an energy crisis/continued elevated prices this winter was not the result of planning. Warm winter, significant shutdowns of industrial capacity, and Poles switching to dirty coal and all sorts of people cutting down trees were not planning.

      And two central elements of the plan such as it was were stockpiling Russian gas, which was a one-off, and buying LNG, which makes them uncompetitive. Europe will become much more so if and when the much touted Chinese recovery kicks in and they bid up energy prices.

      So I vehemently disagree that Europe is out of the woods. They did escape worst outcomes, which would have been very bad. But they have not solved any of their underlying problems. The appearance of relief is to a fair degree due not just to the aforementioned industry cutbacks, in many cases expected to be lasting but also borderline recessionary conditions. Europe is in crisis, just not an acute crisis as too eagerly predicted, but an attenuated one for which it appears to have no good answers.

      I also do not begin to comprehend your comment that Ukraine is not collapsing. Its GDP was down by over 40% before the grid strikes. Its government is funded entirely by foreigners, mainly the US. This is too big a drain to be sustainable, even though no one is admitting to that in public. From Awful Avalanche on January 8:

      Okay, enough of the ideological ramblings, let us return to the dry facts of the Zadorozhnaya piece I am reviewing. Where we left off: We saw that the population of the Ukraine is down to something like 20 million souls (best guess), that unemployment is high, the children are not going to school, and the economy is collapsing. What else could possibly go wrong?

      Notwithstanding a huge in-pouring of money from the West (which barely keeps the Ukraine afloat), the factories are shutting down, mines are closing, the harvest is poor. Already by last August, Ukraine was officially considered a Third World country, according to all metrics.

      https://awfulavalanche.wordpress.com/2023/01/08/ukraine-war-day-319-voldemar-the-nation-destroyer-concluded/

      2023 will get harder as the year goes on. And what if winter 2023-24 is not so forgiving?

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Just to clarify:

        Plenty of people were predicting a cataclysm in Europe with the economy and energy this year – there were frantic efforts all through the summer (not least patching up ailing nuclear plants and getting more wind energy into place). I’m not saying that Europe is out of the woods – I’m saying that its facing a slow motion series of reversals rather than an obvious social or economic collapse, which in many ways is worse as these are more difficult to reverse. European governments still feel confident enough to ratchet up the pressure on Russia as they see it. They may be utterly deluded, but the fact that they are still in a position to do so indicates that the political/economic pressure has not yet become unbearable (although I’ve noted a few stories indicating that senior european politicians are openly briefing that they are dreading the summer – they see the potential for real nastiness on the streets).

        As for Ukraine, clearly it is basket case, but it is still in the field fighting and raising a new army. In terms of a Clauzewitzian definition of collapse or defeat (i.e being forced to the negotiating table), this hasn’t happened yet, and it doesn’t seem to be close. It is raising a new army, it still seems to have a functional system for recruiting new soldiers and a sort of functioning government. It has neither been forced to capitulate, nor faced an internal disintegration yet. History suggests that when a regime faces collapse (such as South Vietnam in 1975) they can look relatively secure up to the point when everything falls apart. But desperately weak governments (such as Afghanistan just after the Soviets left) can still hang on for years in seemingly desperate situations. So I’m not making predictions, but so far as I can see the basic institutional structures of the country still seem intact.

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        1. Thuto

          Sheltering under the umbrella/protective shield of “western unity” for its continued survival will ultimately prove to be Ukraine’s undoing. Contrary to surface appearances, my own theory is that western unity vis a vis Ukraine is being held together by duct tape, and all it will take is the first domino falling in the form of one government in Europe being voted out of power for domestic failures directly traceable to its maniacal support for Ukraine, and the whole alliance will fold like a pack of cards. The media will spin it as something else as they pivot to other manufactured threats, and Ukraine will, unfortunately, be taken off the public radar (and very likely whatever remains of it will continue to be looted in private). The only known unknown is how far (or how near) we are from this moment of rapture

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            I’m not so sure – any country that shifts out of line (such as Hungary) have been quite efficiently put in their place. Its noticeable that no major political parties of either the left or right are significantly breaking ranks so far as I can see.

            As I alluded to above, things may change, but I don’t think it will be from direct results of the war. I was listening to an interview recently with a well connected political journalist here in Ireland who said that in private conversations senior politicians were saying that the refugee system is now unsustainable – by which he meant that tolerance in communities is running very low. I’ve heard things are much worse in the ‘front line’ countries in Europe. My suspicion is that a backlash against Ukrainian refugees, not energy prices or recession would be the catalyst for major changes. Which means of course that as usual, its the far right, not the left that gains from governmental incompetence.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Hungary has yet to approve Sweden/Finland’s NATO membership. It’s using Parliamentary approvals as a justification but many see it as foot dragging. I can’t imagine Hungary would withhold approval if Turkey were to relent.

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              1. Greg

                I’ve seen reports on Telegram that Ukraine is starting to target ethnic Hungarians for “enhanced mobilization” and removing all Hungarian flags etc from villages populated by ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia.
                If they go all out with this as they did earlier with ethnic Russians, I can see Hungary getting quite ornery with NATO despite what Turkey does.

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            2. spud

              once you lose your sovereignyty to free trade, your finished. almost all political parties fall in line and bow down to fascism. completely abandoning ethical and ideological standards, loyalty to your own people and country, completely willing to throw large portions of your country and population to the wolves, regardless of ideology,

              in fact, once those agreements kick in, almost all ideology gets thrown out the window, unless of course that ideology furthers the goal of the free traders.

              don’t take my word for it. just look at the voting records to support naziism in the west.

              so will the e.u. break apart, i doubt it till it becomes intolerable for the people. then all parties will circle the wagons and slaughter the deplorable.

              Reply
        2. Ignacio

          This Christmas I’ve seen symptoms of degradation with a small affair with smartphones and messenger services. My daughter needed a new one once the last died. She was coming back home for Christmas holidays and decided to buy here possibly cheaper compared with where she is living now.

          She prefers Apple smartphones though because these are so expensive she had bought before re-conditioned iPhones online. This time it didn’t work: the one she bought was defective. Then, she resorted to media market but the outlet was not able to guarantee the real existence of the model she bought in any of their shops: there were contradictions between the physical shops and the online service on model availability showing bad corporate communication. She finally bought it elsewhere. On her way back to Brussels she decide to send a package for herself by messenger with clothes she had bought while here. She used a long standing Spanish company called SEUR. This was two weeks ago. So far we still don’t know where the package is if it exists any more. Online searches show that this company has made a hell of a mess with all Christmas deliveries with lots of deliveries not done, lost, returned to sender, whatever. Not to mention the inability to obtain info from the company. Total disaster.

          Dunno but this suggests some stuff is not going, let’s say smoothly. Disorganization, disinformation, disaster, you name it.

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          1. PlutoniumKun

            There have certainly been some odd things happening in local shops, although its still mostly a Brexit effect here I think. Just as a small anecdote a couple of weeks ago I went to a health food store to buy some pea protein. I noticed that a pack of organic protein powder was half the price of a near identical pack of regular powder from another brand. I asked the assistant if there was a mistake. She said there wasn’t – she said the major brand was UK and had doubled its prices over the past year, but the organic was from a small company in Ireland. She added ‘between you and me, I think they aren’t paying VAT or duty as I think they source the powder in the UK’. I found the same price differential in another shop.

            Another noticeable thing here is that the January sales have been almost non-existent. This is usually either a sign of a very good Christmas season, or that shops are deliberately keeping stocks artificially low. I suspect the latter.

            Reply
          2. ambrit

            In a related note; Phyllis bought some jewelry components from an online vendor based in Madrid. She has bought from him before, as in a year or two ago, without any problems. This time, the package got ‘lost’ and then, a month past the estimated delivery date, she asked for a repeat try at delivery. Six weeks later, both mailings showed up within a week of each other. The original package had postmarks that indicated it had been routed through Germany.
            Sending the vendor a second payment, since he had replaced the original ‘out of his pocket,’ was a horror story all it’s own.
            On the subject of online sales; we have noticed a sharp increase in the charges for “shipping and handling” across all categories of e-commerce.
            The ‘blowback’ from the ongoing Ukraine Adventure is hitting the Americas now as well. Any resident in America can see that in the cost of heating fuel this winter. Add to that the misallocation of resources that the continuance of the Ukraine Adventure will create and it is now clear that, when the choice is “guns or butter,” guns have clearly won yet again.
            Stay safe.

            Reply
            1. Ignacio

              This suggests that messenger companies might be trying to switch their usual routes in search for the least expensive prices and this results in some chaos. Or a lot of it. Logistic nightmares in the making? Many FV installers in Madrid don’t have the material in their own stores so they have to go everyday to the store to buy and pick the modules, structures, cables, electric equipment etc before starting if they really find all needed. This is not very efficient.

              Reply
          3. playon

            Certainly here in the USA the postal service seems more and more degraded as time goes by. The post office in a small town near us flooded when a pipe broke back in September and the employees have been forced to sort the mail outside in the alley behind the building in freezing weather. Months later it has still not been repaired.

            Additionally since the holidays the USPS website seems to be broken for some functions. Letting the US postal service fall to pieces is apparently part of the neo-lib goal of privatizing it.

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        3. jsn

          If you think of Ukraine Armed Forces as a blond haired, blue eyed version of ISIS in Syria and internalize what “governance” meant to that US proxy there, in Syria, you can see that Ukraine has in fact collapsed.

          What is left is a foreign army fighting under a flag who’s only meaning is some kind of blinkered external “legitimacy” (in Western eyes only).

          Pockets of that kind of “governance” survive to this day in Syria. That’s the challenge for Russia’s political aims.

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            I’m not sure I’d agree with that comparison. Outside of governmental controlled areas in Syria you had a miasma of large and small groups controlling a patchwork of areas. Even ISIS had to do deals with local headmen to get anything done.

            The equivalent situation in Ukraine would be the Azov boys carving out territory, and city majors in Odessa or elsewhere essentially declaring themselves city states, and insisting that local reservists are under their command, not Kiev. We may be close to that, but I’ve not seen anything happening yet. Kiev still commands the army and police. That matters.

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            1. juno mas

              But isn’t it the US that is paying that army and police? And those funds don’t always get to the conscripts in full. Patriotism only goes so far when you’re seeing your buddies obliterated. That’s where the psychology of war will intervene: too many casualties on the battle field.

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              1. PlutoniumKun

                My point is that its irrelevant who is paying for it. For now, Kiev is still in charge of the army, police and various paramilitary groups. When units are ordered to the front line, for now they are obeying orders.

                We will know Ukraine is falling apart when local political leaders either ally with groups like Azov to form regional powerbases, or simply refuse to let local army/police units leave for the front if ordered by Kiev. In other words, they’ll adopt chunks of the army/police as either local defense units or as private armies (or some sort of hybrid). This process can occur very rapidly when men under arms decide they’d rather either defend their home village or join up with a local hardman for cash rather than do what Kiev wants them to do. Once it starts, its very hard to reverse as nobody wants to march to the front to discover everyone else has stayed at home.

                Since we haven’t (to my knowledge) seen this yet, then I don’t think Ukraine can be considered a failed state.

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                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Huh? It has been widely reported that Azov and equivalent units are stationed behind the front lines, to shoot deserters. It has also been reported that the SBU and Banderites have been suppressing protests in Odessa.

                  And i don’t see how a country that has depopulated to the degree Ukraine has, at 20 million or very generously 27 million, v. a recent claimed total of 43 million, isn’t a failed state. Its inability to fund itself and dependence on foreign funding is another indicator.

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                  1. paddy

                    the latest list of equipment for ukraine include large numbers of wheeled fighting vehicles: strikers, m1117, and European equivalents.

                    wheeled armor is useful in urban settings and for riot control.

                    the small number Bradley’s match the few Brit tanks, a very small unit capability.

                    Russian federation goals: denazify, and deny long range capability.

                    tactics: attrition, leading to fatigue….

                    next year or year after…

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                  2. PlutoniumKun

                    Azov are acting as the battlefield enforcers for Kiev (or whoever is in charge). They are not acting independently so far as I can see.

                    In 1969 North Vietnam was wholly dependent on financial, logistical and technological support from China and Russia and was suffering massive human losses as well as loss of some of its (claimed) territory. This did not make it a failed state. Egypt is, and has been entirely dependent on cash from the Gulf States to stay afloat for many years. It is still a functioning state. So (just about) is Pakistan. If you can maintain your security and institutional control over most of the country then you are definitionally still a functioning state, however screwed up everything may be. This goes back to Max Webers definition of a State having the monopoly on physical force. So far as I can see, this still applies in Ukraine (outside of areas occupied by Russia of course). I can stand corrected, but I’m not aware of any definition of failed state that would apply to Ukraine today.

                    You become a failed state when you order your army and police to do something, and they refuse. When Azov start grabbing territory or selling their services to the highest bidder, then Ukraine has failed. If the Odessa mayor insists that all soldiers in the city are under his personal command, then Ukraine has failed. When conscripts refuse orders en masse and just go home while keeping their guns, then it has failed. This is very likely to happen eventually, but I don’t think we are close to it yet.

                    Reply
                    1. square coats

                      I wouldn’t usually recommend wikipedia, but in this case the wikipedia page for “failed state” (or rather, the intro section at least, which tbh is all I read just now) matches what I basically remember from a seminar course I took in college on failed states.

                      The intro cites the Fund For Peace and lists several requirements for a state to be considered a failed state, the first point is “Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force”. I think it’s interesting that the point can be satisfied with an either or.

                      The intro also mentions that there are many different metrics for defining failed states and their like degrees of failed-ness, (which I definitely remember from my class) which aren’t all in close agreement with one another.

                      (p.s. sorry if this comment winds up posting twice)

                2. jsn

                  All good points. As a relatively undeveloped society, the Syrian populations affected had coherent tribal structures the likes of which have long gone extinct in Ukraine, as they have for most technologically and economically advanced societies.

                  So, when you take away the central government in Syria, there’s still a substrate of socio-political organization: is there in Ukraine?

                  In Ukraine, when outside military support evaporates, it appears the only socio-political structure left will be mafia which is now fully integrated as a healthy parasite on the NATO war machine tromping around under the Ukrainian flag.

                  Reply
        4. hk

          On top of unexpected European economic resilience and Ukrainian military resilience, there are also dimensions of Russian limitations and strategy.

          1. Russia has, and always had, since 1944, manpower problems. Russia would always throw more steel than blood if it has a choice, and it has been doing exactly that for last half year plus.
          Current Russian emphasis on professionals furthers the problem: all the new volunteers and activated reservists won’t be ready enough for Russian high command’s satisfaction for some time if only because military professionals simply take a long time to train. Big operations take huge manpower and Russia won’t do a “big operation” for a while yet

          2. Even if Russia gets enough power to decisively win in Ukraine, Ukraine has now become a secondary or tertiary theater, although an unusual one. Russia’s real adversary is on the Potomac. Russia’s real prizes are on the Spree and the Seine. And these are yet beyond Russia’s power–in case of the former, far beyond, except via nuclear weaponry. Ukraine, paradoxically, offers an opportunity for Russians to tactically defeat its adversaries within their power but where its “victory” is self defeating–in the sense that it will bring them no nearer to a “real” victory but deprive them of the means to inflict more serious pain on its real enemies on favorable terms.

          So I don’t think Russia has any interest in wrapping up the conflict as long as it remains in Ukraine. I think the smart move for the West is to cut Ukraine off and, even if one were a Russia hawk, and reorient the conflict to a more advantageous ground (I’d much rather give up on the conflict and seek a new path, but I am as far from real power as one can be). I’d put Macgregor, for example, in this camp. But if the Western leadership wants to keep bleeding, Russia would happily oblige.

          Reply
          1. hk

            By “prizes,” I don’t mean Russia seeks to control the cities on the Spree and the Seine, only that they would be interested in having governments who are at least neutral to Russia return to power: a new de Gaulle or Brandt, perhaps? That doesn’t seem like such farfetched idea, but not in the short term–all the more reason Russia has little or no reason to hurry the war.

            Reply
          2. LifelongLib

            Well, since it has (at least) 3x the population and 10x the GDP of Ukraine, Russia can have a lot of manpower and equipment problems and still come out ahead. The reservists are people who have already completed active service in the Russian military so the amount of training required is less than if they were building an army from scratch. IIRC Douglas Macgregor also says the reservists and new recruits are mainly being used to replace professionals in non-combat roles and that it’s those professionals who are being sent to Ukraine or adjacent areas for combat.

            Reply
            1. hk

              The second point is the big point: Russia wants to neuter NATO, by (helping) establish(ing)neutralist governments in Berlin and Paris, and demitarizing, in a sense and in medium term at least, United States. Defeating Ukraine militarily quickly does not help Russia address either of these goals. So Russia’s goals are better served by dragging out the conflict. NATO, paradoxically, should cut Ukraine off and move the fight to a potentially more advantageous ground, one that, perhaps, does not involve actual fighting.

              Reply
              1. Sergey P

                Thanks for your analyses, hk.

                I would suggest another definition of victory for Russia. Much in line with recent Aurellien’s essay.

                A victory as friendly or neutral governments in EU/US is hardly an option, at least because Russia has close to zero control on that.

                But I see Russia’s main objective as an effective “don’t mess with us” message.

                Don’t mess with us will hardly mean “we can kick your ass”, but has a better chance of meaning “it’s too costly to keep on messing”.

                Unfortunately, the collective West has over-invested in the conflict to such a degree, where it’s not clear what exactly will be “too costly”.

                Then again, if this whole narrative of Western (US first and foremost) industrial impotence proves true — then just doing what it is doing for another year might suffice for Russia. By that time, NATO countries would have to send their active duty stuff to be again destroyed or sold off in Ukraine — which then would noticeably thin out their real military capacities.

                I think, in the end the West will have to back off here. Pity it’s gonna cost so dearly to everyone.

                Reply
          3. Ignacio

            Problem is that when you have shown in such a clear way that your main objective is to remain hegemon and dictate the ROW you cannot choose the playing ground. You will have to go against any little front that someone opens and demonstrate that you are the hegemon all the time, everywhere in any field. The problem is the objective, an impossible one if you ask me. All that idiocy with the end of history and that has damaged the judgemental capacity of US officials.

            Setting impossible objectives such as remain total hegemon, be happy all the time only generates anxiety. I guess the US state department might be bathing in Prozac.

            Reply
        5. lyman alpha blob

          Ukraine may be in the field fighting, but how effectively?

          While I can only rely on various digital evidence, my impression is that the fighting is going something like what occurred in this famous scene from Cool Hand Luke with George Kennedy playing the role of Russia and Paul Newman as Ukraine. For those unfamiliar with the movie, after beating Newman to a pulp, the two later become fast friends, an outcome to be wished for in the current conflict as well.

          The only problem is someone will need to do something about the Strother Martin’s Captain, representing the US, who set the other two against each other to begin with, and sits back and watches as they slug it out with no danger to himself.

          Reply
        6. Greg

          I think it’s fair to say that the European and British leadership has, mostly through luck, succeeded in deploying their favoured strategy of kicking the can down the road.
          None of the underlying problems are resolved, but it’s probably not going to blow up this winter. That’s a win for the European and British leadership, on the terms they consider important.

          Reply
        7. kgw

          In terms of a Clauzewitzian definition of collapse or defeat (i.e being forced to the negotiating table), this hasn’t happened yet, and it doesn’t seem to be close.

          The collapsee needs to be the U.S., as “Ukraine” has no agency.

          Reply
      2. Ignacio

        A possible indicator that Ukraine is collapsing fast is what is happening to its leadership and the apparent loss of contact with reality by Zelensky as noted at The Duran.

        Reply
      3. Jalinx

        2023 will get harder as the year goes on. And what if winter 2023-24 is not so forgiving?

        That’s a big “what if” that seriously understates the success Europe, and Germany in particular, have had in terms of maintaining respectable storage levels this late into January. Way beyond the most optimistic estimates going around 3-6 months ago. It also assumes next winter will be anything short of record-breakingly warm, which, sure.

        You can attribute some of the “success” to demand destruction, but as PlutoniumKun points out, this has not resulted in anything approximating the catastrophic assumptions made this time six months ago.

        Recall last July when in a post titled “Turning the Lights Out in Europe,” you characterized Europeans as “uncivilized” for the needless death EU leadership was certain to inflict on people freezing in their homes. We were told that Europe was willing to “suffer” in order to “be right about Russia.” Six months later we’re posing hypotheticals about industrial exports taking a hit on competitiveness, while Russia is bombing the electrical grid in Ukraine with no obvious military strategy in play. Forgive me for recognizing this as an editorial pivot worth reckoning with.

        Reply
        1. Revenant

          The destruction of EU industry will accelerate.

          1) Europe filled its tanks with Russian gas and oil before its imposed sanctions on itself. That’s a one-time trick. Buying gas for winter 2023 will be a lot more expensive in the LNG market, if the supply volume is there at all.

          2) European governments put large subsidy schemes in place for citizens and businesses, which are being reduced in most countries.

          Selfish gourmand example – restaurants are closing all over London for want of staff (i.e. pay rises) and energy bills. Help for energy costs is being reduced. The brilliant local Japanese grill-your-own-food place below the apartment we use in Chelsea just closed. A hotel restaurant (in a Park Plaza!) operates only 5 days per week. etc. etc.

          As an accountant would tell you, don’t confuse a stock with a flow! Energy flow literally equals cash-flow in the long run for the economy.

          Reply
        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, my call was incorrect but many others, ranging from Michael Hudso, who lives a part of the year in Germany and has extensive German contacts, as well as the German press, among others, was warning of dire outcomes in September, for instance: https://www.dw.com/en/germany-fears-a-wave-of-insolvencies/a-63059812. There were and continue to be closures and capacity reductions in energy intensive industries. Businesses do not tend to panic and there was ample evidence of panic, to which I reacted.

          Businesses themselves were making uncharacteristic warnings of impending threats to their existence. This was a stunning contrast to their failure to weigh in at all on the sanctions war, which was recognized as destructive to German industry. That led to my incorrect reading. There was panic and desperation.

          Another factor was the very bad economic results in China in November, which some experts say led to their sudden and unexpected zero Covid reversal. We posted on a recent visible effect, that of China being reported to have an LNG glut leading to a leg down in European gas futures prices. But soft demand from China in recent months generally a boon.

          As for how Europe fares, many experts have said LNG cannot make up for the loss of Russian supply. As we pointed out. Europe had heavily stockpiled Russian gas. The warm winter meant those stocks were not yet depleted. But that day will come and Europe will face needing to adjust further, which will entail further losses of European production. Businesses are continuing to announce and implement plans to shift operations to China and other places in the cheaper energy sphere, as in Russia friendly.

          As for your last comment, Russia has very clearly articulated its approach as of Surovikin becoming theater commander in October, which is to grind Ukrainian forces. Colonel Macgregor recently pointed out that Ukraine per the use of open sources has 122,000 men killed and has 35,000 missing in action. This contrasts with open source efforts to identify Russian losses which come up Russian dead at only about 1/8 that level. Outlets like the BBC have invested a lot in that effort This is simply not sustainable and these losses are occurring despite (in terms of equipment) the West having roughly reconstituted its original weapons and equipment stocks. Alex Vershinin documented in widely-cited paper that it would take ten years for the West to reindustralize to meet Russia’s production: https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/return-industrial-warfare

          As for the grid destruction, Russia has been deliberate and has been focusing on taking out transmission, where only it can provide the replacement equipment. That is clearly strategic despite your attempts to say otherwise, since it will force Ukraine to come to Russia for reconstruction.

          Russia clearly has a strategy and it even has a name: attritional warfare. Russia, as many commentators have pointed out, is systematically setting out to destroy Ukraine’s capacity to wage war and is succeeding, even thought it is now clearly fighting NATO, as Lavrov and others have pointed out. It is also despite Ukraine having spent eight years of building layered fortifications in the Donbass, which is operationally very hard to crack but Russia has been doing that while also building substantial fortifications of its own, particularly in Zaporszhizhia.

          .

          Reply
          1. Richard

            No need for post facto justifications, Yves..

            Your critics on past timelines are like kids in the back seat asking “Are we there yet? When are we going to get there?”

            It’s easy to think through a process to its conclusion. Its harder to actually reach it. Its not unusual for things take longer than expected.

            Reply
        3. BillS

          Your comment provoked a few thoughts.

          1) The Europeans have lucked-out, so far. Winter has been mild, but we still have a month or two where we could get a cold snap that puts the energy supply under stress. Who knows what Europe will be like when 2024 rolls around.
          2) Many people are indeed suffering now, even tho’ winter is mild. Staying in an apartment with no heat when it’s 2 deg. C outside is not pleasant, because you can’t pay the bill.
          3) Europe is still using Russia as a supplier of energy..until Feb. 2023 IIRC. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what happens.
          4) Pace of European de-industrialization is picking up – from Murano glass blowers to BASF.
          5) Russia’s destruction of the the Ukrainian electrical grid makes complete sense from a military standpoint. It cripples war production, transport and communications while reducing the need to destroy the basic infrastructure of the economy (factories, railroads, commercial centers, etc.), perhaps facilitating reconstruction when the time comes.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Point 3. is critically important and shame on me for omitting it.

            Even people who have heat are incurring costs of sorts. Although the UK is not Europe, it is subject to similar conditions. Alexander Mercouris got sick staying in underheated UK hotels and remarked how many stores were shuttered in central London at Christmas, including (to his shock) in Picadilly. A reader similarly got sick visiting a relative in Berlin due to not being acclimated to 63 degree F. The boutique hotel I stay in in NYC has reset its thermostat system to make it impossible to have a not-cold-room, to the degree I make them bring up a space heater for me. Yes, anecdata but I suspect not unusual.

            Reply
            1. Stephen

              Exactly.

              My barber in London today told me that his family were smart enough to reactivate their chimney and are now using coal for heat. That works for part of the house but in his room there is no heat. So he wears multiple sweaters. One hears lots of stories to this effect.

              I believe that part (obviously not all) of the current excess deaths and general prevalence of illness in the UK right now is due to people literally not being warm because they cannot afford the bills. Of course, the media does not discuss this. Counter narrative.

              These are all anecdotes because clearly governments and their pet NGOs have no desire to fund systematic research into this.

              Reply
          2. Ignacio

            I have lowered the thermostat so much that I can disconnect the fridge (sorry for the light and bad joke, your comment is serious and well pointed).

            Reply
      4. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

        Which makes things sound like stars aligning – Due to the mild winter, Russia will likely need another winter for Europe before it throws in the towel. De-industrialization is helpful, but there’s nothing like freezing in the dark to really adjust attitudes.

        Of course, maybe all the coal and wood burning will increase global warming and give Europe more mild winters….. ;-)

        Reply
    2. Ignacio

      After reading Aurelien’s essay and Yves’, your comment and others my feeling is that it is very premature to talk about endgames, in the sense of a new political situation that is stable, let’s say for 15 years. Very much on the contrary we might be entering an unstable situation lasting many years, not necessarily the war in Ukraine, but an overly dynamic situation as Lambert likes to say, with no endgame in sight.

      For instance, the EU, it seems to me, might no longer be seen as attractive as in the past as a political end for both to enter it or to remain in some cases. Has the EU lost it’s North? What is on offer now once you realise that by entering or remaining in the organization means also NATO membership, subservience to US interests and confrontation not only against Russia but whatever comes next in the Far East? (Sorry for my Eurocentric vocabulary).

      If there are not clear objectives talking about endgames seems premature.

      Reply
    3. Robert Gray

      PK:
      > First off, I think Aurelians excellent essay linked yesterday on strategy is a must read in this context.

      I agree. And in regard to ‘in this context’ I would also like to note that, especially in the first part of the piece, e.g.,

      > [Western decision-makers lack] an understanding of what the planning and conduct of extremely serious,
      > complex and long-term military operations looks like from the highest military and political level. …
      > The framework you need is essentially a formidably intellectual one (though obviously it incorporates
      > practical limitations) and I would be very surprised if that intellectual framework is taught anywhere
      > in the West anymore.

      I kept hearing echoes of Andrei Martyanov.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        Agreed that Aurelien/David is echoing Martyanov’s constant refrain of the failure of western academies in that thread.

        The thing that confuses me, is that from what I can see a lot of the complex strategic thinking required shares many similarities with detailed process or supply chain planning.

        Those subjects are still taught in western schools, because they’re important to making money. Sure, in most cases we skip the results and chop to the bone instead of keeping buffers, but the theory is there to be used.

        So possibly while western academies don’t teach military strategy at a level needed, they do still teach the important theories but not to the right people. Which suggests that perhaps the military and politicians could pull in some out-of-context experts to help.

        Another out-of-context area that has the right understanding is in computer networking. Buffers and packet flow through a variety of systems and applications are directly analogous to the sort of complex logistical problems underpinning modern warfare at scale. Or similarly, to the problems underpinning modern energy economies.

        Reply
    4. Kouros

      Europe was well prepared for at least three times the usual price. The bleeding will continue indefinitely. How sustainable that is, for the EU countries as well as for the US?

      Reply
    5. hemeantwell

      Aurelian’s essay is weakened by a tendency to discuss cognitive restraints without reference to social coercion directed at those who formulate models that deviate from the “truths” that serve as grounds for organizing complex, high-stakes efforts. All of us here have been surprised at not only the prevalent herdthink over the past year, but also at the violence directed at those who dispute the narrative. In a way, we are witnessing a kind of ongoing challenge to the experimental models of Kahneman and Tversky, whose groundbreaking work in the 20th c was foundational in charting cognitive limitations, but whose experiments, to my knowledge, never began to take into account the sort of real world constraints on cognitive functioning we’re contending with (the usual complaint against the limited applicability of psychological and social-psychological experiments applies). To place this within the social science literature, Kahneman and Tversky seem to have ignored Schattschneider’s “mobilization of bias,” a sorta forerunner of the Overton window but one that was more explicitly oriented to an application of power to constrain the consideration of alternatives.

      One expression of these constraints would be the kind of metaphoric drift Aurelian describes and, further, the importance of metaphors as a stand-in for and block against more reality-adequate thinking. Metaphors by their very nature abstract away from reality. In the current mess there’s much to encourage a resort to metaphoric regulation of discourse when key elements of Russia’s perspective cannot be acknowledged – e.g. beyond the “West’s” agreement incapacity there’s flatout ignoring of the history of Russia’s pleas, especially since the 90s, to be included in European security arrangements. Metaphors in this sense serve an important circumscribing function in that they very roughly define “bad thinking,” with the details filled in as things regress. Within elites, they also varyingly serve both as a stand-in for explicit consensus and a way to represent disagreement, with reality kept at arm’s length. All of this means that the social-psychological and political functions of metaphors trump their reality adequacy. They serve as fetishes more than analytic tools, cattle prods more than laser pointers.

      Re Aurelian’s main example, I’m minimally familiar with the planning for Operation Barbarossa. But it seems questionable to discuss failures in its strategic perspicacity without reference to the constraints imposed by Hitler’s loathing of the Russians/Slavs/Bolsheviks, and his distrust of and ability to punish deviance within the Wehrmacht’s general staff. Under such constraints half-baked and wishful thinking thrived.

      Reply
    6. britzklieg

      No one could possibly question David’s knowledge and experience after reading his erudite and expansive essays. He brings history and an insiders knowledge of the diplomat’s dilemma. It’s when he offers short, seemingly incontrovertible caveats like (and I paraphrase here) “they may have been wrong but European leaders were still fearful of Russian aggression and asserting anything like “deception” in the Minsk accords is silly and “only happens in the movies”” which I’d call naive if he weren’t so experienced. And so I call bs instead. It’s fine to be circumspect. It’s another thing to be an apologist for the treachery which has brought the world to the point of nuclear war, again, couched in terms that ultimately aim to defend that treachery as some kind of common sense which we should understand as essentially well meaning as opposed to malign.

      He’s entitled to his opinion, of course.

      Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      Thanks, substack has a wealth of great commenters offering insights better than your university alumni magazine.

      Alas as they are “un-credentialed” from the right think tanks in DC, they are like John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness.

      I also recommend https://imetatronink.substack.com/

      Will Schryver
      @imetatronink
      Geopolitics – History, Empires, and War – Macroeconomics and Markets – Music – Photography

      Reply
      1. Greg

        One caution for Will Schryver is that he is deep in a lot of the right wing US tropes. Convinced climate change and covid are CT by “liberals”, for example. He’s also convinced that everyone in the world cares mostly about the USA and secondarily about any local issues (a common US citizen perspective).
        As long as he sticks to talking about the strategic-level in Ukraine, he’s good to read. He’s not great at detail, or outside that context. Or he’s great there too if that’s your preferred narrative I guess.

        Reply
        1. Soredemos

          That’s a reoccurring thing I’ve seen with Ukraine war skeptics. Once you’ve decided one narrative is bullshit (which the MSM version of Ukraine is), then it’s easy to assume everything is bullshit. So their brains will fall out of their heads on issues like covid.

          Reply
          1. LJ MacKay

            Or, having realized how much of the MSM (and government spokespeople) are lying about many things including Ukraine, they remain skeptical about the narratives pushed about covid and climate change. There is a lot that can be questioned about covid – its origins, the official responses, and experimental vaccines.

            Having lost trust in authorities, one searches for understanding and truth in non-official sources. Not quite the same as having “brains fall out”

            Reply
            1. Soredemos

              That’s not what I’m saying. So much of what the government does and says about covid is bullshit. But BS in the direction of downplaying how dangerous it is, as NC has abundantly demonstrated. Whereas many of ‘skeptics’ pretend it hasn’t killed a million people and is shredding our immune systems.

              And climate change is objectively real, is happening outside right now, and governments are doing effectively nothing meaningful about it.

              Reply
    2. Ignacio

      Thank you. That was interesting. The simplified introduction strikes me as an exercise that would be similar to entering the brain of Blinken and the like: keep it simple stupid! Any mistake about the “details” would have enormous consequences.

      Reply
  3. LawnDart

    The dissolution of NATO and the EU will probably not happen overnight: bureaucracy takes time to unravel.

    In ten-years time, perhaps one of the bigger problems that Russia may face is how to handle the filthy european illegals flowing across the border into the Motherland, trying to take jobs from native Russian-speakers and demanding benefits or support from the state.

    At one time, to hear the French language spoken in Moscow or Saint Petersberg was a sign of sophistication, but now it is evidence of creeping western degeneracy and how polluted these cities are becoming, filled with the rabble of unwelcome and disrespectful foriegners.

    Sadly, this is how it begins:

    Insolvency figures soar by 50% in France

    https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/insolvency-figures-soar-by-50-in-france/

    These national issues will increase in severity from 2023 and onward into the forseeable future, and will inevitably end the European Union and result in the NATO alliance reduced to a few, inconsequental satellite states that remain in the orbit of USA.

    Currently, most of the world stands against Russia, except for the 80% that doesn’t. But it seems likely that eventually Russia will gain favor and greater respect in the world as the west finds itself outnumbered and increasingly toothless.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I should have flagged that Big Serge was out over his skis on his take re speed. Libertarians and their fellow travelers have been too eager to call a EU crackup…a favorite topic for many years.

      The euro will keep the Eurozone together. It’s a big roach hotel. Look how long Brexit took in the UK with it having a lot of Euroskeptics who’d been vocal in the press for years, and no messy Euro barring their departure.

      But they could become visibly dysfunctional families.

      Reply
      1. tevhatch

        Random thoughts I’ve not had the ability and time to structure. I‘m always wondering how long the Euro will be around, vis Germany. It was priced/structured in the beginning to allow German Manufacturing to dominate EU and hollow out other state’s productive capacity, then other steps to suppress wages, etc, helped stall off the natural regression to parity, but the knifing of Russian Gas may undo all. The brilliance of Russia getting Turkey to become as gas hub is all the Turkish workers in Germany with their skills may come home, and Southern EU may become more competitive for what little manufacturing remains.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          That is not a bad thought that about those Turks. There are supposed to be at least 4 million to more than 7 million Turks living in Germany. Having them return to Türkiye would help create a boom with their acquired skills being applied to the local economy such as manufacturing, especially as their work places in Germany close down.

          Reply
          1. John k

            Turkey might be the logical place for German mfg to move to. As you note, plenty modestly paid German speaking skilled workers available and cheap Russian gas, what’s not to like? And don’t have far to go, either. Good climate, modestly priced housing, lower cost of living.

            Reply
  4. Marcus

    Interested in what you mean Yves about your earlier thought that Russia would “lose the peace” and whether the accelerating Eurasian integration, BRICS expansion and the possible emergence of a commodity-backed trading currency outside the dollar system, to which Russia is central to all makes you rethink your position.

    Reply
      1. Marcus

        I think Russia is showing that it has the military power to protect itself on its western borders (although terrorism inside its borders is something its size means it hasn’t been able to contain, nor will it likely be able to — though that is unlikely to be destabilising). And the iron curtain being brought down, this time by the West, seems to be cutting the peninsula off from the dynamic economies of the world (rather than how the USSR cut itself off from Western rising in living standards).

        Finland and Sweden joining NATO (if they eventually do) merely simplifies the situation on Russia’s western borders and seas. Once Ukraine/NATO is defeated there seems little more threat as the US must either switch to China or retreat.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          I think Russia is showing that it has the military power to protect itself

          This seems to be the point of sites I read. The Russians are showing that they have the military power and NATO etc only have the propaganda power. By this thinking the Russia strategy is to defeat Western will and not just their weapons. It’s hypersonic versus hot air and since the state at the center of it all is of no real importance to anyone, including its corrupt leadership, the fate of Ukraine is ultimately to be abandoned by its many supporters and left a hollowed out shell. This is the source of the notion that Poland may just march in and reclaim Western Ukraine with Russian acquiescence.

          Reply
        2. Stephen

          I think their biggest security worry is possibly less that the west invades Russia with a non existent army and more the potential for stationing missiles close to their territory with very limited warning time in the case of a first strike. Bearing in mind too that the US has a first use doctrine.

          The nuclear context is therefore a very big element of “securing the borders”, I believe. Zelensky stating at the Munich Security Conference that Ukraine ought to have nuclear weapons (with zero pushback from western “leaders”) seems to have been at least part of the reason for Russia’s intervention last year. Albeit not the only one.

          Finland and Sweden joining NATO is an object of fixation by western elites in their virtual reality propaganda war. I agree it makes limited real difference given that there is in reality no binding NATO collective defence anyway. But stationing US missiles in Finland clearly would be an issue for Russia.

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            Maybe it’s all meant as a distraction from what a terrible president Biden has been. After all his domestic approval ratings have gone up a bit.

            Unfortunately for him Putin’s ratings have also gone up and are back up to 80 percent (versus his 44 percent). Putin has the patriotic support for a NATO war that Biden lacks. Meanwhile in Europe thousands are marching in protest over declining living standards. So if the “moral is to the physical as three to one” who’s going to win?

            Reply
          2. Marcus

            Agree Stephen, stationing nuclear missiles minutes from Moscow is not only Russia’s big concern and a trigger for this war, but it should concern us all.

            The number of false positive nuclear attacks in the “first” Cold War when we were saved from annihilation by some brave men with some 40 odd minutes to make the right call should terrify us all when the US aim is to have them 6 minutes from Moscow. This isn’t enough time to detect an attack and respond, let alone make the kind of due consideration that kept us from Armageddon.

            This ain’t a Russian problem. It’s a global problem

            Reply
            1. digi_owl

              There was a crazy close call after USSR dissolved, involving a Norwegian research rocket. Yeltsin was supposedly sitting with the finger on the button waiting to get a bit more detail.

              And all that thanks to a simple letter informing of the date and time of launch being lost in the turmoil of post-USSR Russia.

              Reply
          3. Kouros

            I have never seen an once of doubt in articles from western media when they mention that South Korea or Japan could /should acquire nuclear weapons despite the NPT . Or that Israel has nukes and the right to them, whereas Iran is sanctioned to hell for… what?

            Reply
            1. Stephen

              Not to mention non existent WMDs as the pretext for invading Iraq back in the day! The level of sheer hypocrisy is just out of this world.

              Reply
          4. LifelongLib

            A while ago I saw a suggestion that NATO naval bases in the Ukraine could threaten Russian trade via the Black Sea, so a neutral Ukraine would have a side benefit of giving Russia control of sea lanes there.

            Reply
          5. JTMcPhee

            Swedes already said they are fine with having nuclear missiles aimed at Moscow on their territory. Putin takes note of such.

            At what point does Russian political and military structure sense the necessity and even compulsion to preserve the state by hyper-decapitating the Western weaponeers? The US seems convinced that its submarine ballistic threat coupled with Russian decency and “protection by two oceans” will keep the Russians backing into a corner as the US ratchets the beer-muscles provocation ever tighter. At some point, the other guy in the bar, an experienced pugilist, will fire off a knockout punch.

            Reply
        3. Kouros

          The first Iron Curtain was brought down by the Anglo-Americans. The shenanigans with the currency changes performed by the USUK then, which prompted population under their control to empty stores in Soviet controlled territories, given that those where still using the Reichmarks, and other many shenanigans. It was Churchill that brought it down. This time there was less cover up in the actions of the Anglo-Americans. No matter how much they blamed Putin for cutting the oil and gas, it is all in the sanctions imposed by the west.

          Reply
          1. digi_owl

            A unilateral exchange rate of 10:1 (old Reichsmark to new Deutsche Mark) on the western side. Yeah i could see some enterprising individual making use of that to get goods cheap on the eastern side of the border.

            Reply
  5. eg

    I have been expecting the short term outcome of this war to be a frozen conflict like the Koreas based on the assumption that Russia wouldn’t be interested in annexing all of Ukraine. Unfortunately I don’t know enough either about the geography of the country (in terms of what makes sense for defensible borders) nor Russia’s sense of what can be achieved or retained in order to guess where the border ends up.

    But as long as NATO keeps sending armoured vehicles and weapons I expect Russia is prepared to go right on wrecking them. The maximalist Western position that Ukraine will somehow return to its 2021 boundaries, let alone reconquer Crimea, is sheerest fantasy.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      [(in terms of what makes sense for defensible borders[

      1) at the surface level, the natural border is incorporates some/most of the Dnieper River;
      2) there is/will be Russian domestic political pressure to push to Transnistria/Moldava because of an enclave of Russians there;

      but the big consideration is that Russia’s biggest fear is that the West will deploy nuclear missiles to Eastern Europe and/or Ukraine, which can hit Moscow in <10 minutes. Air distance from Western Ukraine/Eastern Poland to Moscow is a little over 700 miles/1200 km. distance from Kyiv to Moscow is under 500 miles/800 km

      So from Russia's point of view, it likely is a balancing act between getting as much territory but not occupying territory that will be unmanageable because of a possible insurgency. (no doubt that the CIA and/or MI6 will be funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into Ukraine after any peace agreement)

      in my opinion, the likely outcome is Big Serge's certain + the "Likely" orange section in the South. Not too sure about the northern orange section—the orange is a lot of territory to move into

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Won’t that geographic boundary best be set by Russia in relation to the range of Western first-strike weapons, how fast they can attempt a decapitation of Russian leadership?

        US geopolitical junkie dopes apparently discount the Perimeter dead-hand system, now avowedly to be triggered by launch-on-warning of imminent preparations to shoot. Please to recall that system checks frequently to see if Russian command is alive, detects the evidence of nuclear attacks on Russia, and then if nobody is home any more, launches all the massive remaining Russian weapons at the fokkers in the West. All of it.

        We are ruled, here in the US, by the stupidest and most suicidal of Fokkers. Who still think they can ride out and survive the holy hell of a nuclear exchange and are grimly indifferent — “500,000 dead Iraqi children were worth it” — to the deaths of all of us mopes. A death cult, pure and simple, dressed up with fancy phony words and concepts generated by the worst of the ignorant PMC.

        Reply
  6. The Rev Kev

    Some kinda random thoughts here in trying to make sense of this all to get some sort of conclusions going. My thoughts the past few days are as to who is really pushing this war forward. Sure, you have the Neocons and one thing that they have demonstrated over the decades is their ability to attach themselves leech-like to whoever has power that can help push their agenda. But this does not explain what I can only describe as the hysteria among so many countries to defeat Russia and to have Ukraine win. They have a lot of power at the moment but not that much power. Political leaders? Yeah, nah! Too many of them are kinda gutless wonders like Macron who will swing one way or the other. They have political power but it does not explain their willingness to deindustrialise their countries and impoverish their people. Most politicians are not that reckless so somebody has to be pushing them forward and to ignore negotiations.

    So echoing a comment I made a few months ago, I think that it is the money people that are really pushing this war as destroying Russia would be a multi-trillion dollar payday for them for years to come. How much are Russia’s resources worth alone? Losing, however, would mean all those positions taken financially would be a bust that would cause them to hemorrhage funds. Also, they seem to have a psychotic reaction to losing or to being told no. These are the sort of people who are always suppose to win. These are the same sort of people that you might see at Davos which is perhaps why there has been such an emphasis on tanks and other military gear there instead of say, economic planning and the like.

    There is a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany about now and so expect an eye-watering amount of military gear promised to the Ukraine by the west. Will it make a difference? No. The military people from all these countries are against it because they are stripping military gear from the active military which the British Defense Minister admitted so sure as hell they do not want to give that all up so that it can be sent to the Ukraine for destruction. But they are being sidelined again. And when you hear Country A say that they will be sending 200 armoured vehicles, that sounds impressive. But as the Ukrainians are losing them at the rate of about a dozen or two per day, that 200 will only last about 2-3 weeks. Not so impressive then. But the fact that all this gear is being sent is a sign of sheer panic as they realize that the Ukrainians are about to lose. So whoever wants all that gear sent are not military people by profession as they would no better so perhaps financial people doing this? Just my random take here.

    Reply
    1. Michaelmas

      RK: Russia would be a multi-trillion dollar payday for them for years to come

      Russia and the Arctic, which I’ve watched the US sleeping on as climate change increasingly brings it into play and the Russians gain de facto hegemony there (or close to it). Enormous resources exist under the Arctic ocean floor.

      Reply
      1. mrsyk

        True enough, but the only “resource” that matters is methane, of which there is much more than enough to send humanity to extinction. This would seem to make the harvesting any beneficial resources rather tricky.

        Reply
        1. Michaelmas

          mrsyk: methane, of which there is much more than enough to send humanity to extinction

          True enough, which for brevity’s sake I didn’t get into. But methane is natural gas and if you think creative minds aren’t already hard at work on the project of extracting methane in a gradual, controlled way when the price is right, you have another think coming —

          In fact —

          https://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-3/methane-hydrate/mining-impacts/

          ‘Scientists recommend the mining of only methane hydrate deposits which are covered by a layer of sediment at least 100 metres thick. This amount of sediment prevents any methane bubbles which may form in the vicinity of the borehole from being released into the water …

          Japan and Korea, who are leading the way in this field, will for the time being choose shallow marine areas such as ocean basins for their activities, in order to largely preclude the risk of landslides.

          https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/09/fracking-oceanic-methane-hydrates-global-energy-landscape-bonanza/
          The World’s Next Energy Bonanza
          Even more than fracking, tapping oceanic methane hydrates could soon upend the global energy landscape.

          https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/05/energy-dense-methane-hydrate-extracted-by-japanese-chinese-researchers/
          Japan, China have extracted methane hydrate from the seafloor
          Gas hydrates difficult to extract but estimated abundance makes mining attractive.

          What could go wrong, right? (Do not @ me with a rant about this. I agree there’s abundant material here for a light, upbeat take on species extinction.)

          Also, you’re incorrect about about methane being the only resource under the Arctic seabed. Plenty of oil’s there, too.
          Why Is There So Much Oil in the Arctic?
          https://www.livescience.com/66008-why-oil-in-arctic.html

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            What does the heat death of the world look like? Before we humans relocate our elites to Planet B or Elysiums in orbit?

            Greed and stupidity precede maybe unintentional species suicide.

            Reply
      2. digi_owl

        US, sleeping? It may be sleeping on climate change domestically thanks ot the gasoline dole, but i assure you DC is very aggressive about the potential resources of a rapidly melting north pole. Their ongoing problem though is that their best claim is Alaska. Likely why Trump made an offer to outright buy Greenland from Denmark.

        Reply
        1. Michaelmas

          digi_owl: Their ongoing problem though is that their best claim is Alaska.

          When did niceties like that matter to the nation that invaded Iraq and is now trying to seize and break up Russia, in no small measure precisely for resource extraction?

          Yeah, maybe the US is belatedly, very slightly waking up to the Arctic the last couple of years. But US has absolutely been sleeping on it, compared to what they should have been doing (“should” from the smart Palmerstonian viewpoint, not a moral one) for the last two decades.

          Reply
          1. digi_owl

            I do get the impression that it is leaning hard on NATO members like Canada, Norway, Iceland and Denmark though. And has been doing so for quite some time.

            In recent year Norway for example has in practice let go of a military policy that it held since the 60s, and now has a “token” force of US Marines on Norwegian soil.

            Supposedly this is because Norway let its own military degrade too much after the 90s, and they are “only” present for training, but it still means that Norway now has a foreign military presence for the first time in 60s years.

            Reply
      3. LifelongLib

        It isn’t just resources. The melting of Arctic Ocean ice will open up new shipping lanes and may lead to a major shift in world trade. I’ve seen it suggested that some obscure Russian village could become the next Singapore.

        Reply
        1. Michaelmas

          The melting of Arctic Ocean ice will open up new shipping lanes and may lead to a major shift in world trade.

          Yup.

          Reply
        2. digi_owl

          Finlands railway has in recent years been working on plans for an extension into Norway that could turn a small town into a major container port. But i think the Ukraine mess has put those plans on ice for the time being.

          Reply
    2. HH

      The argument against the financiers being the prime movers of the Ukraine war is that their future prosperity depends on globalism, which the neocons are hell-bent on destroying. Their current “strategy” is to divide the planet into two hostile trading blocks until the “West” is victorious. This would reduce by half the markets accessible to Wall Street + City of London. America’s plutocrats created the neocon militarism monster, and they are no longer able to restrain it as it runs amok.

      Reply
    3. digi_owl

      Early quite a number of the vehicles promised were older models either mothballed or assigned to home guard units.

      Reply
  7. Thuto

    It’s clear that Ukraine will keep suckling on the western teat long after this war is concluded. One wonders whether it’s a money pit or a wormhole because we know more or less how much is going in but there’s a paucity of data about how much is being siphoned out. Any white hat hacker with this kind of illuminating information would have a very large bounty on his head indeed.

    Reply
    1. digi_owl

      I fully expect that the end result will be akin to Iraq. Once the active shooting stops, USA will offer to cover the rebuilding, as long as it is done using US contractors and supplies.

      End result is that the vast majority of airlifted USDs will turn right round and enter the offshore accounts of US companies and oligarchs.

      Reply
      1. Jams O'Donnell

        Re-build what? A desolate expanse of semi-agricultural wasteland, with no electrical infrastructure? If Russia wants to annexe all the good bits there will be little point in rebuilding the remainder. And with the dollar and the US population coming under increasing pressure, where will the will come from?

        Reply
  8. Andrey Subbotin

    I think the evolution of weapons brought us back to WW1 situation, grinding warfare where breakthroughs and cauldrons are impossible, with SAM and ATGM being the new machine gun. Russian aviation does not dare to fly more than a few kilometers beyond front lines. Russian breakthroughs in February were retracted because of high losses, and not achieving any results. That leaves us with infantry/artillery meat grinder that goes on until one side collapses.
    Ukraine will collapse when it will either run out of manpower, or West will stop supplying it with weapons, primarily artillery/munitions/small arms. Ukraine mobilization reserves are somewhere between 3 and 6 million, with about 50K-100K teenagers entering mobilization age every year. During 2022 Ukraine lost ~150K dead and maybe the same amount wounded badly enough to be no longer fit for service. So it has enough for the next few years, unless the war greatly intensifies.
    How long will western support lasts is a different question, politics are unpredictable but the expenses are comparable with Iraq war, and it went on for 10 years for a lot less reason.
    I expect one or both sides will try an armored offensive this spring (Ukraine prepares several mechanized brigades in the rear while poorly trained mobilized units are sent to front lines) that will achieve little, and then both sides will return to inconclusive infantry warfare till 2024, maybe Russia have taken Bakhmut, fighting building-by-building in Kramatorsk and still a long, long way from Kiev

    Reply
    1. LifelongLib

      I saw a 6 million reserve number for Ukraine that included men aged 18 – 49, for the year 2015. Supposedly it’s currently mobilizing men through age 60.

      Anecdotal, but I once talked to a career U.S. Army sergeant who IIRC was in his early 40s and already planning to retire because “I can’t keep up with the kids anymore”. I’ve seen other anecdotal info that age 40 is about the limit for a “ground pounder”. So I’d be surprised if the older men in the “reserve” would actually be fit for combat service. If Ukraine is mobilizing people that age it may already be getting to the end of its rope.

      Reply
    2. Greg

      I expect one or both sides will try an armored offensive this spring (Ukraine prepares several mechanized brigades in the rear while poorly trained mobilized units are sent to front lines) that will achieve little, and then both sides will return to inconclusive infantry warfare till 2024, maybe Russia have taken Bakhmut, fighting building-by-building in Kramatorsk and still a long, long way from Kiev

      I think this expectation ignores the terrain and especially the defensive structures and logistics involved. The collapse of fronts after breakthroughs leads to big leaps, so fighting looks static for a long time and then suddenly very dynamic for a short time. There is a notable lack of defensible positions between the edge of the Donbass and much closer to Kiev. This is the same dynamic we saw in Kharkiv.

      Reply
    3. Fischer's Fritz

      Ukraine leadership is certainly ruthless enough for that, but to force so many people to fight and die for so long would not only require a a totalitarian system that isn’t only absolutely ruthless, but also has immense organisational capacity.

      I doubt that Ukraine has the later to the degree that Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia had, or that it will be able to keep it up without being ever more degraded.

      Reply
    4. Michaelmas

      Andrey Subbotin: I think the evolution of weapons brought us back to WW1 situation, grinding warfare where breakthroughs and cauldrons are impossible ….That leaves us with infantry/artillery meat grinder that goes on until one side collapses.

      Drones, robots, and loitering munitions, Andrey. Drones, robots, and loitering munitions.

      So a WW1 meatgrinder-type situation is not all that’s left. Simultaneously, a no man’s land/ de fact DMZ where such weapons dominated will probably not be very humanly survivable.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Don’t forget the coming autonomous war machines, a la “Terminator.” Wonder at what point they will develop self-replication? We can bet that they will spring from and be developed by AI, which already has demonstrated the ability to escape human control. Almost too late, now, for that Butlerian Jihad…
        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vv2nJ9ekK2A

        Reply
  9. DJG, Reality Czar

    I think that it is worthwhile repeating Yves Smith’s four main observations about the Western elites (and I would apply them particularly to the U S of A, U.K., Germany, and, it seems, Sweden):

    In four parts:
    –The animosity of the West toward Russians.
    Which in the United States comes from the Cold War as well as pure ignorance of Russian culture and motives–and a kind of nightmarish hangover of Manifest Destiny.
    –The bad faith dealing of Western leaders, as confirmed by their duplicity in using the Minsk accords as a vehicle to better prepare for war with Russia.
    To generalize: U.S. and U.K. commenters have only to think of the Congress and the Parliament–the endless self-dealing and the lack of provision for the common folk.
    –The use of Ukraine as a US/NATO proxy.
    One in a long series of proxy wars sponsored by US/Nato: There’s the ongoing mess in Kosovo, too.
    –The prevalence of magical thinking among Western elites.
    Sheer ignorance. Ignorance of the kind that Buddhists warn about as leading to suffering.

    I think that these four tests can be applied elsewhere: China, Iran. The “two-state solution,” if it still exists at all. Yemen, the conveniently forgotten genocide.

    Each of these observations is also of a moral failing. These are the kind of people your grandparents would have called “not serious.” Not worth doing business with. Regardless of the elite’s seeming power.

    One greeted them at the Presbyterian church, where they were contemplating their Electedness, and moved on.

    Reply
    1. Don

      Re. DJG grandparents “not serious”, the Balinese call them “not good for the thinking” implying a danger of contagion. They apply this descriptor primarily to German and Australian tourists.

      Reply
  10. LawnDart

    Unless Uncle Sam is planning on picking up the tab for the whole party, this is is how the defanging of NATO begins; watch as the EU implodes due to fratricide.

    The money-shot:

    “…when it comes to the extraordinary state aid approved since March 2022, the two heavyweights took up almost 80% of all direct support approved by Brussels, a huge mismatch that threatens to rattle the whole single market and leave smaller and poorer member states in the dust as Berlin and Paris march ahead with their counteroffensive of subsidies.”

    I didn’t expect to see this in MSM, but here it is, with actual numbers:

    Germany & France account for most EU state aid. Here’s why it’s a concern

    The latest numbers released by the European Commission confirmed what many had for months feared: since Brussels tweaked the bloc’s state aid rules in March 2022 to cope with the economic fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine, Berlin and Paris together account for 77% of the €672 billion approved programmes.

    The changes allowed for faster and easier disbursements of subsidised loans, subsidised grants and subsidised state guarantees for companies trying to escape bankruptcy under the weight of skyrocketing energy bills, supply chain disruptions and the Kremlin’s counter-sanctions.

    https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2023/01/17/germany-france-account-for-most-eu-state-aid-heres-why-its-a-concern?utm_source=microsoft&utm_campaign=feeds_next&utm_medium=referral

    Reply
    1. LawnDart

      Related:

      The re-industrialization of Europe is more necessary than ever

      The energy crisis and inflation have made things very difficult for the European economy.

      Today’s figures do not, of course, indicate that the “death” of entire branches of European industry is imminent. Nevertheless, there is no hiding the fear that EU deindustrialization could become a reality in 10 to 15 years.

      http://en.ce.cn/main/latest/202301/13/t20230113_38345410.shtml

      Somewhere in Europe today, a band is playing “Nearer My God to Thee.”

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      That article is confused. The money is not EU money – its domestic spending, previously illegal domestic industrial support for business. If anything the smaller countries have been urging Germany and the other wealthier countries to do more of it.

      Reply
      1. Polar Socialist

        On the other hand, suddenly doing a lot of previously illegal stuff could be a sign of things not going well.

        Stuff like censorship, arming warring parties, confiscating property based on nationality or limiting people’s movement based on nationality used to be if not illegal, at least very frowned upon.

        As EU has turned into a mockery of the things it’s claiming to stand for, it’s obviously not in a healthy condition.

        Reply
  11. David

    Two points:
    First, I think we now have to consider three separate but linked (and not necessarily wholly sequential) phases
    The first is the point where Ukraine is unable to offer any further effective resistance to Russian objectives, and the Russians are able to dictate where and how the respective forces are positioned at the end of the actual fighting, by evicting the UA from areas it wants to control. I agree the red and orange parts of the map make most sense.
    The second is the phase where. the regime in Kiev (or something similar) is still in place, and NATO is still determined to continue the war in any way it can, perhaps by sporadic missile launches or sabotage operations, perhaps just by sending weapons to be deployed around Kiev, which would make more sense. This could go on for a very long time, because no NATO leader wants to be the first to raise their hands in surrender, and too many careers would go down and too many secrets would come out. Thus, a de facto Russian victory could co-exist, for a time, with a state of low-level conflict, although in practical terms NATO couldn’t do much militarily against large and well dug-in Russian force.
    The third is the (much) longer term, and here I fear we are heading for Cold War 2.0: a semi-permanent division of Europe and much of the world where economic, political and even low-level military conflict will be endemic. If you remember the 1980s, for most of that time there were very limited contacts between the two sides and a great deal of posturing and threatening. I fear we may be headed that way again, and there may be no winner of any “peace”

    Secondly, the reason I’m not too impressed with the idea of a NATO-provided “third army” is the limitations of the equipment, especially logistics. The Leopard 2, the Challenger 2 and the M1 were all designed for short (maybe one-week) very high intensity defensive battles in Germany and perhaps further West, on their own lines of supply, near their workshops and ammunition depots, and with the hope (if not necessarily the expectation) of air superiority over the battlefield, and strike missions against WP forces. They would also have worked (see Exercise Crusader 1980 which tested all this) with attack helicopters, artillery and missiles, as well as infantry, and with the option of using tactical nuclear weapons if things went badly wrong.

    Literally none of that applies here. These tanks were never intended to deploy long distances forward, still less the thousand kilometres between the Polish border and the current line of contact. They need an entire circus of fuel, ammunition, spares and maintenance vehicles with them, and would have to move with their own air defence if they were to survive very long. It’s not even clear how they would get there: these tanks are too heavy for most bridges and would chew up the roads. More to the point you can’t seriously expect to drive them across country that sort of distance. What do you do when an engine needs replacing five hundred kilometres from the destination? Would they have the vehicles and trained personnel with them to change an engine in the field? And so on.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Perhaps its just the media I’ve been watching, but even the very pro-Ukrainian military commentators I’ve read seem to have a growing awareness that sending a hodgepodge of random spare weaponry will not make much of a difference. And not least because they all have incompatible ammunition requirements. They will be death traps for the unfortunate reservists who will be given the job of getting them into battle.

      I think its become increasingly obvious that decisions have been made that this is all for window dressing. If Nato was willing to send weaponry mixes that actually could make a difference they would have done so by now.

      Reply
      1. HH

        Something similar happened after the U.S. withdrew troops from South Vietnam. Nixon and Kissinger sent a huge amount of military hardware to signal a continuing commitment, but it was just a political gesture to cover abandonment of a lost cause.

        Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think the Pentagon is terrified people will find out even the stuff that “works” doesn’t work or can’t be used without a corresponding infrastructure. What was all the money for especially the money they can’t find?

      The glory moment for the Abrams was 30 years ago in the Gulf War after a massive 3 month bombing campaign. Despite updates, they were designed to counter a Soviet invasion.

      The politicians and state department hopeful politicians or climbers want a victory, so they will shovel what they can until people forget or they can’t be blamed for being Putin-philes by their propaganda targets. They’ve reached a point where want to send weapons piece meal while operations like the Pentagon are pushing for combined arms reforms, noting how weaponry needs to work together.

      Reply
      1. Cat Burglar

        Stuff and soldiers also have to make it to the front lines, or it will not matter how much or how little NATO supplies. I keep looking for reports that the destruction of infrastructure has slowed Ukrainian resupply, but that is naturally kept out of sight, if it is happening. So indirect signs are the only way to figure it out.

        Conflict seems mainly to be happening in southeast Ukraine, the region with the longest and most vulnerable supply line. Apparently, a very large number of troops are stationed in Siversk — are they just sitting there because they cannot move, or for some other reason? There must be very large fuel and ammunition dumps someplace, and they must be very high priority targets for the the Russians, but I have seen only a few reports of ammo dumps being destroyed. All those tanks and APCs will need a steady supply of fuel coming from far away.

        Reply
      2. digi_owl

        Any uniform worth their stars know that war is all about logistics.

        Why Eisenhower championed the interstate highway system, as it made it far easier to move men and material around.

        Supposedly for every uniform out in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan, there were 3 back at base shuffling supplies around.

        Reply
    3. Ignacio

      As for today it seems the Russians have activated their troops all along the Zhaporizia (however it is written) region and according to Dima’s MS the Ukrainians have there little armoured vehicles, artillery etc. May be phase one is well underway.

      Reply
      1. Polar Socialist

        Actually Russians started already yesterday by capturing several villages. I wasn’t sure if was just a local adjustment (because Ukraine has moved troops to Bahkmut), probing attacks or an actual operation.

        Today they’ve apparently taken more villages along the 20 mile front from Kamyanske to Orikhiv and in the Telegram it’s already called “the battle of Orikhiv”. According to the latest info Russian troops are already in the suburbs of Orikhiv.

        The leader of the Russian Zaporozhye claimed that there are battles along the whole front in Zaporozhye area. He also claims that Ukrainians are already preparing to defend the city of Zaporozhe. I seriously doubt the Ukrainians would pull back without serious fight; if they lose the left bank of Dniepr it doesn’t matter what happens in Bahkmut, Avdiivka or Ugledar.

        Reply
        1. Greg

          Thanks for this.

          I’ve been wondering for the last few days if the lack of news or footage is indicative of Russian troops taking a leading role in events. They are much more tightlipped about their actions, and the Ukrainians have fairly good control over leaks when things are going badly for them.

          We always know a lot about what is going on when the Wagner PR machine is churning, by contrast.

          Reply
    4. bwilli123

      Perhaps there is no intention to use them anywhere east of Lvov, where they will defend the Polish permanent forward base.

      Reply
  12. nippersdad

    Something that I have been surprised by is the apparent resilience of the European banking system in the face of all their economic problems. We were hearing about people in Italy closing their bakeries last Summer, but are not hearing as much about the banking consequences of late.

    When is their “Lehman Moment” going to arrive? And when will it metastasize to this side of the Atlantic? The “End Game” may not be coming as fast as Big Serge expected, but are the losses quantifiable to a degree that could be parsed here? We have had some insights into how the new Republican majorities are going to handle financing of the Ukraine war, but how will a caucus devoted to drowning the government in a bathtub react to another 2008 crash type of scenario?

    This whole thing may just may end up being inundated by a tidal wave of red ink and die with a whimper as Trump stands on the sidelines saying “I told you so.”

    Reply
  13. hk

    Russia lacks, as of yet, capability to project much power far from its borders. It’s better for them to fight NATO in Ukraine than at the Fulda Gap or Nebraska. As long as NATO drags out the conflict in Ukraine rather than sue for peace, it is probably to Russians’ advantage to have the fight near their borders, in Ukraine.

    Reply
    1. Greg

      Kilo-class subs armed with a bevy of cruise missiles make for very effective power projection, if you aren’t interested in sticking around to occupy the ground. Russia has plenty of those, without using the newer fancier vehicles and weapons.

      Power projection in the age of missile warfare looks quite different, I think.

      Reply
      1. hk

        Perhaps true, but subs or missiles can’t march down the Pennsylvania Avenue (and a direct missile exchange between Washington and Moscow won’t be conventional anyways.). Ultimately, Russia needs to demilitarize United States and denazify Brussels/Paris/Berlin to actually “win.”. Defeating Ukraine does not achieve that, regardless how decisive it might be. Realistically, Russian Army cannot march to Paris–at least not yet-let alone force US surrender in North America by force of arms. So the Russian strategy would be to defeat both in Ukraine, and that requires a long term strategy.

        Reply
  14. Skip Intro

    It would be irresponsible not to speculate that the eagerness of Poland to supply both men (‘volunteers’ and ‘mercenaries’) and matériel may result in a large polish army hanging around their once and future Galician provinces, while the AFU has been ground to scrap in the east. At that point it might be convenient for Poland to just increase its help administering those territories substantially. Get Hungary on board, and the blue part of the map resolves.

    Reply
  15. Kuleshov's Experiment

    Wars end in capitulation on behalf of a popular revolution, exhausted masses whom no longer want to fight. Whether or not they still posses the industrial capacity to fight is irrelevant to the desire to fight. An indicator of this desire is the degree to which the masses have been mobilized, an unfortunate part of mobilization is Twitter.

    The SMO went a long way to NOT mobilize, at first. This style of governing has been referred to as “non-totalitarianism”, which relies on popular indifference and inertia for political stability. Attrition warfare is an extension of this non-totalitarianism — take 50 v 50 men, attrition resolves the conflict with 49 dead v 50 dead, basic same outcome as fighting with rocks — the indifference extends to all men. The delay to fully mobilize is a symptom of inertia, the system optimizes political control at the expense of popular sentiment.

    The Brezhnev era ended with a KGB broadcast of Swan Lake. The current inner circle, Patrushev, Bortnikov, and Putin, were recruited into the Andropov KGB, rampant cynicism and paranoia even by Russian standards. The circle is frozen in time — the invasion vanguard packed parade uniforms to march; no thought given as to how they would parade over the would-be tank husks and bodies littering the streets of Kyiv — indifferent to modernity itself. No doubt Swan Lake is still cued up for the inevitable.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Putin’s approval is and remains close to its highest ever level, at around 80%, even from pollsters acknowledged as not friendly to the Kremlin.

      And the Russia public can hardly be called politically indifferent. The Western press regularly takes note of active and often highly critical discussion of the war on Telegram, which Russian government officials like Medvedev and Zakharova often use.

      Russia did not mobilize because Putin hoped a show of seriousness would bring Ukraine to the negotiating table. It did and with speed, with Ukraine offering substantial concessions at Istanbul five weeks after the war began. But the UK and US made Ukraine repudiate that preliminary deal.

      Your last paragraph looks like Western projection. Russia is a generation ahead of the West in missiles, air defense, and signal jamming. Go look at its Penicillin counter-battery system and get back to me.

      Reply
    2. Fischer's Fritz

      Babbling about the poison pill of neoliberal modernity doesn’t impress anyone anymore.

      These sorts of talking points might have worked a year ago, perhaps, but everyone, especially everyone in Russia, which is the only truly important thing, knows they are ridiculous lies.

      Not only does Putin’s popularity remain high and not only is there open and critical discussion in Russian media the likes of which is unthinkable in the west, the support of ordinary Russians for the war is in fact only growing and hardening throughout the entire nation, as Gilbert Doctorow amongst others documented.

      And how could it be different?

      Russians know that Russia is not fighting for Putin.

      Russia is fighting for Russia.

      That is why support for the war effort is different from and independent off support for Putin himself.

      While contrary to propaganda there won’t be much of a difference (except probably slightly for the better where basic needs are concerned) for Ukrainians between living under Russian or Kiev control, by now there is barely anyone left in Russia who does not realize that there is no possible future in which NATO wins, where anything but slavery, genocide and the most brutal sort of colonial exploitation awaits the Russian people.

      They’ll go on fighting for how long as it takes, be it 5, 10, 20 or 30 years.

      Thankfully it is incredibly unlikely the war in Ukraine itself is going to take as long as 5 years, but conflict with the West taking 20 or so is certainly something very plausible.

      Reply
  16. Matthew G. Saroff

    I think that this misses one of the reasons that the Germans are reluctant to allow Leopard 2 tanks to the Ukraine.

    It isn’t just that the Germans are reluctant, it is that they are demanding that the US send Abrams tanks as well.

    This is not about geopolitics, this is about the reputation and sales of the Leopard 2 tank. The poor performance of Turkish Leopard 2 tanks in Syria was a major blow to the reputation and sales potential of that tank, so they want to be sure that there are pictures of destroyed M-1 tanks as well coming from the battlefield:

    The Germans recall the pictures from Syria where Leopard 2 tanks operated by the Turkish army suffered heavy casualties, a number of the tanks “brewing up.”

    This was an older model of the tank, and it was deployed poorly, but it was still a major embarrassment.

    If the Ukrainians deploy either the Leopard 2 or the Abrams against a near-peer adversary like Russia, particularly when operated by a force that lacks the training and infrastructure to operate them properly like the Ukrainians. (They will for example have to train loaders for the NATO tanks, their current inventory uses auto-loaders)

    ………

    They both have similar issues with their impact on roads and bridges, and their maintenance requirements are similar.

    This is all about merciless merchants of death being worried about the PR implications of seeing their tanks blown up on YouTube.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The post links to and mentions the poor performance of the Leopards and the demand that the US send the Abrams, so I don’t understand this comment. I did not make as much of it as you might like because neither tank is well suited to Ukraine, as the post also describes.

      Reply
    2. Don

      I think it is a lot simpler than that: the Germans do not want to supply tanks. The Americans will not supply tanks. The Germans say we will not supply German tanks unless the Americans supply American tanks. “Lets put this back on the agenda for the next meeting.”

      Reply
  17. HH

    A wild card in this analysis is the removal of the Biden administration through Ukraine-related scandals uncovered by a Congressional investigation of Hunter Biden’s record of degenerate cupidity. The knives are already out for Joe Biden, as indicated by the magical appearance of sacred classified documents improperly handled. Revelations that give Ukraine a bad odor will likely curtail economic and military support for the Zelensky regime and ultimately result in its defeat.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Biden Administration will not be removed save by his death. Not enough votes in the Senate and no one wants Harris as president. As terrible as Biden is, she’s widely recognized as much worse. And too close to 2024.

      IMHO the point of those classified records coming to light is to deter him from running in 2024. Plenty of Dems not happy about his bid. But Biden is monstrously stubborn.

      Reply
  18. XXYY

    But the difficulty of ending a conflict with a completely feckless opponent, one that can’t be trusted to respect any treaty, suggests that Russia needs to attrit the West top to bottom, economically as well as militarily.

    I continue to think that this is the central issue as far as the immediate war is concerned, as well as the larger global picture. Most human relations assume that there is some level of ability to trust the word of opponents, and that agreements between opposing sides are ultimately worth more than the paper they are printed on. Something the US has shown to a large extent since World War II, and more vividly since the 1980s, is that it is a completely untrustworthy power and does not consider any promises or treaties it makes to be binding upon itself or its successors.

    I think the reality of this finally sank home to the Russians in the early 2000s, and they have been preparing for the present conflict since then, which they realize can only be won by overwhelming force and not by negotiation.

    US pundits continue to think they can end the war any time they want by ringing a bell and going back to the negotiating table. I think the time when this was true is past, and other parties realize that nothing the US says can be believed and that any negotiations with them are a waste of time and a diversion. This state of affairs puts the whole world in a new place, and a dangerous and unpredictable one.

    Reply
  19. Boshko

    I can envision a scenario whereby the radical right wing in the new US house of reps uses its newfound power to insert leverage into the US debt ceiling negotiations: no more burning money into the bottomless pit of Ukraine. That could be one tipping point. To my knowledge the MAGA crowd has, to their credit, remained steadfastly against throwing money at foreign military adventures, proxy or not.

    Reply
  20. All Ice

    I do not believe that any cease fire negotiation between Russia and its adversaries is possible at this point in time, nor do I believe Russia will attempt anything very aggressive. I may be hallucinating, but I believe both sides are not now willing to escalate or deescalate the war much further – US/NATO is resisting UKR’s request for tanks, planes, and more air defense; Russia is constructing strong defensive positions while continually destroying UKR’s grid and infrastructure.

    According to Gen. Austin the goal of US/Nato is the degradation of Russia’s economy and war making power to the extent that it can no longer resist US/Nato in Ukraine.

    My interpretation of Lavrov is that Russia now faces an existential threat that can only be resolved militarily by doing to US/NATO what Gen. Austin wants to do to Russia, i.e. degrade US/Nato economies and war making power to the point that it no longer poses a threat to Russia.

    These are mutual unconditional surrender of my opponent goals. There is no off ramp now to a multi year moderate level war as long as NATO holds together and US/NATO money and arms continue to be supplied to UKR.

    Reply
  21. JustTheFacts

    Yves’ question about what Russia would do with the blue part of the map if it wins is indeed very hard to answer. Eradicating hatred from hearts and minds is something Christianity has been trying to do for thousands of years…

    Reeducating the Galicians by force seems unlikely to work, just as reeducating the people of the Donbas by bombing didn’t work. Particularly since Western Ukrainians seem to worship people with such tarnished histories as Bandera, and seem to hate “Moscovites”. But even when a population wants to be reeducated, like the young Germans after WWII, who revolted against their parents who they thought Nazi, the reeducation doesn’t seem to take: war-mongering Olive-Green politicians are now in power.

    Another option is ethnic cleansing. This means ejecting the enemy people, sterilizing them or killing them. (“Germany must perish!” suggested sterilization). It seems unlikely to me that Russia would stoop to the barbarity of sterilizing or killing civilians. The downside of ejecting people is that it seems to result in them reappearing 70 years later, and becoming the Victoria Nulands and Christia Freelands of the world, who agitate for yet another war against Russia.

    My guess would be that Russia would eject them, were it to win, despite knowing that this will lead to more trouble later. This would create a large no mans land between NATO and Russia, a “border region” so to speak, which is what “Ukraine” means in Russian (I am told).

    Does anyone see any alternative I have missed?

    Reply
    1. Don

      And here I thought that inculcating hatred in hearts and minds is something Christianity has been trying to do for thousands of years…

      Reply
  22. James

    One thing to note about the “big blue rump” is that the people there hate the Russians – but they hate the Russians the way you hate someone you want nothing to do with. I say this as someone who has been to Lviv and talked to the people there.

    If Russia were to absorb everything to the east, the residents of Lviv might say “good riddance” and want to get on with their lives (and of course want to join the EU). I believe that the US will want to continue the war but I am not sure they will get public opinion in western Ukraine to support that.

    Reply
  23. Greg

    The Germany Leopard 2 can only be called less unsuitable. It’s too heavy, presupposed maintenance facilities nearby, and did not perform well in Syria against mere insurgents.

    I think this point has been exaggerated by pro-Russian analysts, while still being directionally correct (disclosure: I lean Russian myself). The “insurgents” in Syria were armed by either the US or Ru, depending which faction you’re calling “insurgents” at the time. They had some very nice and up to date weapons.
    The Leopard (and Abrams) are susceptible to artillery, IEDs made from artillery shells, modern ATGMs, and even the newer RPGs. They are still a lot tougher than the Bradleys and other IFVs being offered, or the French AMX-10RC. The tanks are not susceptible to heavy MGs or autocannons, older RPGs, near misses with artillery, random grad hits, etc.

    While the US lost a bunch of Abrams in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were still the armoured fist they needed to be in most situations and the losses weren’t unreasonable. In Syria, Turkey appears to have been using Leopards without sufficient support from other combat arms, which is asking for trouble. Of course, as Brian Berletic pointed out, Ukraine is almost certain to make the same mistakes given their lack of air and artillery.

    In short, the heavy western tanks have problems, but a large number of them would still be a useful change for Ukraine and a threat to current Russian strategy.

    Reply
  24. John k

    That map:
    The northern orange oblast went 80% for the west leaning guy in 2014, imo it’s highly unlikely Russia would want to incorporate it, and similarly all of the yellow bit. Imo these and most of the blue will be de-electrified, driving most po into west Europe. I think it would be difficult to mount an insurgency thru an empty, flat land.

    Reply
    1. JustTheFacts

      Iraq is pretty flat, and pretty empty. That didn’t stop the locals making life difficult for the “coalition of the willing”.

      The insurgency would most likely be things like assassinations, car bombs targeting the authorities, blown up infrastructure, and other such things that make life difficult. Whether the land is flat or not wouldn’t make much difference.

      Reply
  25. Tom Bradford

    The Russians could easily ‘solve’ any problems that might be caused by the appearance of Western tanks etc. on the battlefields of the Donetsk by taking out the bridges over the Dnieper, especially the ones carrying railways, which would effectively ‘maroon’ them in the West. Indeed doing so a month ago would hugely have reduced Ukraine’s ability to supply the battlefront in the East with men and material. Sure bridges are difficult to destroy but the Russians have missiles designed to sink aircraft carriers!

    That the Russians haven’t done so I suggest indicates two things – first, that for the present the Russians are content to let the Ukrainians feed their military into the ‘meatgrinder’, and are probably not overly concerned about additional armour from the West which will just be ground up too. And secondly, the Russians want to have the bridges intact for their own use further down the line, which suggests to me that they at least want to have to option of projecting their military across the Dnieper into Western Ukraine in due course.

    Reply
    1. dandyandy

      All the bridges I have seen “destroyed” so far were made unusable by means of destruction of one or two parts out of fifty or seventy or hundred components of a typical bridge, which would make that structure unusable.

      Even the Antonovsky Bridge at Kherson was “destroyed” by destruction two individual spans. The replacement spans satisfying the requirement to carry 50-60-70-80-100 ton tanks, can be fabricated in a nearby facility in a matter of weeks and wheeled into position within another couple of weeks.

      Kerch bridge attack demolished a couple of spans of one line traffic and this was fixed within a few weeks.

      I suppose the point I am making is, if a party wants to bring to life a destroyed bridge it can do it reasonably quickly. The speed will depend on the party’s industrial capacity and this means Russians can do these things in weeks while Ukrainians will need months, whether or not helped by NATO. And of course for both parties, providing there are no drones or other unpleasant items raining down on the bridge builders.

      Reply
    2. Greg

      Stronger interdiction of western supply input routes is one thing I think is more likely if the west finally starts sending heavy weapons to Kyiv.

      As you say, that it hasn’t been done isn’t for lack of capability, so it must suit Russia to keep the lines intact (the common understanding being keeping supply line length imbalance and destroying NATO equipment closer to home).

      If the weapons supplied get too heavy or modern to comfortably keep kill ratios appropriate at the front, I’m sure Russia will try to strand them away from the front.

      Reply
  26. Frank Little

    It’s hard to imagine this war ending in 2023 or even 2024 based on how things look now. The conflict gets to the heart of fundamental interests on each side and both are convinced the other will be forced to blink first. Hardly a bold prediction but it seems likely that the situation will get much worse before it gets better.

    Lavrov gave an interview to the BBC last July where the interviewer questioned why Russia perceived NATO as a threat to its security, presenting NATO’s expansion as always in response to Russian actions. After contesting this framing of events Lavrov finished his response with something like “and after all, isn’t it up to us to decide what is or is not a risk to our national security?” The US justified an awful lot of its own military operations on similar grounds and the Middle East, indeed the entire world, is living through the consequences. I’ve brought this up when discussing the war with people who are not inclined to question mainstream narrative on these events and even they see the connection. The firehose of money and weapons going from the west to Ukraine will have only exacerbated these concerns, to say nothing of the political changes that will accompany incorporating new territories and mobilizing additional forces.

    On the other hand the US national security state has gotten a huge political and fiscal boost, even in spite of the difficulties in production, logistics, etc that have been so well-documented here on NC. It is a major premise in that world that the US should always have a heavy hand in all matters of European security. Much of the economic pain has been concentrated in Europe (so far at least!) and now the US weapons industry is expecting lots of orders both domestically and for the export market. I don’t mean to imply that this can go on forever or that it would be without conflict. It just seems that those within this state also view this as an existential fight to maintain US hegemony, which in that world is equivalent to a threat to the US itself.

    Last week CIA director William Burns traveled to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky and other Ukrainian intelligence officials. According to the NYT he’s taken a few trips there both right before and right after the war started. I have a hard time imagining he was there to encourage a negotiated settlement. Even if Russia succeeds militarily, the western portion will remain as much a potential problem for Russia as it would be an opportunity for the US even if Russia succeeds in wearing down the Ukrainian army. The CIA’s record shows it’s done a lot more with a lot less in terms of potential catspaws.

    It is grimly fitting that the war is currently being talked about as a “World War I-style stalemate” because that war also began as a regional conflict that eventually escalated to a level and scale of violence that few could have foreseen at the beginning. They were fighting yesterday’s wars with tomorrow’s weapons, with lots of carnage on both sides as a result. I think this conflict will be similar in that the entire post-Cold War period, especially how the US acted during its time as the only superpower, will eventually be seen as setting the stage for the larger war that followed.

    Reply
  27. ChrisPacific

    Lavrov eloquently expresses a point that has occurred to me before. If you exclude (as I do) the possibility of some individual or shadowy cabal being the source of all this rabid anti-Russian sentiment, you’re left with the theory that it’s the sum total of opinion from Western politicians, political scientists, journalists, political functionaries, think tanks, and the like – what Obama called the Blob. (Yes, I know Hillary was a big contributor, but Hillary wanted a lot of things, and they didn’t all take root like this one did).

    If you read the opinions in question, Lavrov is quite correct to say that it’s out in plain sight. The examples he quotes are by no means unusual, and arguably even at the milder end of the scale. For example, one think tank argument linked here a while back argued for the US to prepare for dismemberment of the Russian government and dissolution of Russia into civil war between competing warlords, similar to Libya. From a Russian perspective, these are not the worlds of a people with your best interests at heart.

    Reply
  28. Willow

    Time is on Russia’s side. ‘Ukraine war’ will go on at least for a few more years because Ukraine is not Russia’s end goal. If Ukraine does fall, Russia will try and find some way to extend it.

    Baltic states seem to be doing a particularly good job of emptying their larder of military resources. Another year and they should be ripe for an opportunistic move by Russia once enough sugar has been put on the table.

    UK, prime provocateur of the conflict with Russia, post-Brexit is increasingly becoming a failed state. Rest of Europe also becoming de-industrialized by energy crisis & Greens. A lot of refineries were marginal at best due to regulatory requirements. Higher energy costs are just another nail in the coffin. Making the world even more dependent on Russian refining and Chinese manufacturing.

    US drawing down military stockpiles in South Korea may prompt North Korea to turn up the heat. North Korea is the least stable nuclear state & will most likely try something stupid. Increasingly looks like US is struggling to support one (proxy) war front let alone fight two.

    Russian success in Ukraine will increase the attractiveness of Russia to India & Turkey. Simply by showing that you don’t have to be a US vassal state. Watch the wider geopolitical narrative. Global South are view the Ukraine as a ‘white colonialist’ war and G7 just a bunch of old colonialists past their prime (esp. India but also SAmerica and Africa). Global South countries are hardening their positions against the West in response to pressure. Geopolitical momentum is building in Global South’s favor, and hence Russia’s. Of particular interest is that African-Americans are also increasingly viewing Ukraine through the same lens which very bad for the Dems.

    Regarding the mild winter. If winter is simply delayed 2-3 weeks and comes back with a vengeance, psychological impact will be huge. Increasing anger & despair and hardening business pessimism about trying to keep operations going (risk -> ruin).

    Reply
    1. James

      You write:
      “[Baltic states] should be ripe for an opportunistic move by Russia once enough sugar has been put on the table”

      There is no way that Russia is going to attack a NATO state. They are having enough trouble in Ukraine and you think they want a hot war with all of NATO? Please.

      Reply
      1. Willow

        LOL Russia’s end game has always been about triggering a hot war with NATO, at the right time, that splits NATO & Europe apart. UK, Poland & Baltic States being the only countries rising to the bait. US will not come to NATO’s aid when it’s main adversary is China. Expect at some point for US to hang the UK out to dry as the primary driver of the conflict with Russia.

        Reply
        1. Fischer's Fritz

          It’s going to be Poland that is going to attack, which will put a grateful Western Europe in a position where they don’t have to come to it’s aid, because Poland will fight an aggressive war.

          Article 5 doesn’t guarantee *family blog* as David has repeatedly pointed out.

          And that is what will reveal NATO to be utterly unreliable and a sham.

          Reply
        2. square coats

          What could Russia possibly gain through a hot war with NATO? Much more evidence points to Russia simply wanting NATO to leave it alone.

          Reply
    2. Don

      How can this war last beyond the point — soon to be reached — when the USA and its allies can no longer provide the weapons and Ukraine can no longer provide the corpses?

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        They’re probably hoping that the Ukrainians go for human wave attacks. There will only be enough rifles for every second man or woman so those without rifles will be told to grab the rifle of any soldier that gets killed. Behind them in their bunkers will be the Azov guys & galls with other Punisher units who will shoot down any who try to retreat.

        Reply
  29. timbers

    I’ve read the comments and IMO most are over thinking this. Russia has the ability to end this conflict within months if she takes out the Dnipier bridges. Dima noted this but also Russia should keep intact the southern bridges if she intends to advance south west. And, the fact Russia still has not taken out the electric grid tells me she entirely not serious about fighting this war. Because if she did, it would be game over.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Leaving those bridges working though means that the Ukrainians continue to feed their formations into the eastern front for destruction. In the west they would be relatively safe and intact. Right now not only has the weapons inventory of the Ukraine been destroyed but the weapons inventory for the entire of NATO is now also being destroyed. All the new NATO weapons promised will be also destroyed which may mean a period of peace since NATO will be demilitarized in the next few months and so will be unable to go to war, either in Europe or even overseas. I note that the worse thing that you can do to an enemy in wartime is to give them hope when in fact there is none. So when it comes time, the Russians will take out the rest of the electrical grid along with telecommunications and the internet. Then, and only then, will it be game over. And not just for the Ukraine either.

      Reply
      1. timbers

        “Leaving those bridges working though means that the Ukrainians continue to feed their formations into the eastern front for destruction.” Incorrect. Leaving the bridges open means NATO – NOT UKRAINE- mercenies can continue to feed their formations into the eastern front for destruction. Meaning an eternal unending forever war. Yves has lost basic logic. Russia can end this war and protect her people and this conflict in just a few months. Just look at the map.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          There does come a time when manpower gets tapped out. The Ukrainians are already at that point which is why they are calling up young teenagers and very old men. And with this latest NATO package, they too will be tapped out. No way will any European government will send their own armies in as even they recognize the lunacy of that forlorn attempt. And all Russia has to do is hold their lines and wait for all these onslaughts so as to do what they do best. Look at the Falklands war in ’82. The Argentinians were fighting the British but at the end, they completely collapsed overnight. Probably we will see the same with the Ukraine.

          Reply
        2. Greg

          I think you’re drastically overestimating the appetite for war of the NATO country populations. Unending war is not going to last past an election in a modern western nation.

          Reply
            1. Greg

              Fair point.
              Ukraine doesn’t feel the same as the War on Terror though. Can’t explain exactly why.
              Some guesses. In the WoT, at least immediately post-9/11, there was consensus that “something must be done, someone has to pay”, and then it was carried forward through “supporting our troops”.
              In Ukraine, there are officially no “our troops” to be supported, just some loud drug addict who keeps showing up and interrupting everything to demand more tribute.
              The russophobia that started it is Democrat-biased, not consensus-based (at least outside the spook/dem blob).
              The pentagon doesn’t seem to want anything to do with Ukraine. Iraq and Afghanistan were popular with the pentagon, at least to start with.

              Reply
        3. square coats

          Garland Nixon had an analysis a couple months ago I found very apt, basically that Russia doesn’t want to do anything so extreme and sudden that it provokes a super escalated response from NATO (or from the US sans NATO). So Russia is proceeding at a controlled tempo to minimize the risk of escalation, which would ultimately be much more dangerous for her people than as things are under the present conditions.

          I do think that the longer this lasts, the more opportunities arise for NATO/US-sans-NATO to try to escalate, and as of late I’ve been really worried that the US is contemplating targeting civilians in Crimea to provoke Russia into escalating so the US can claim justification for its following “retaliatory escalation” whatever it may be. I feel like Russia is walking on a very thin tightrope, trying to manage the craziness of TPTB in the US, and I fear that defeating Ukraine militarily won’t be a sufficient condition for the safety of Russia and her people.

          Reply
  30. ed

    You assume a territorially large Ukraine will be the result after demilitarization and denazification. If the US/UK/Nato keep providing arms, including longer range missiles and more lethal ordinance, such as depleted (or live) uranium munitions, I would expect that demilitarization and denazification will be a more drawn out process, if, as one could reasonable expect, the nationalist Ukrainians (Banderists, Right Sector, Azov, etc) would continue to attack, If so, I would expect Russia to invade Odessa and provide the conditions for it to hold a referendum, secede from Ukraine and seek accession to Russia, resulting in a landlocked country, and perhaps even smaller if additional oblasts are absorbed in response to continued threats and counterattacks against what have become part of the Russian Federation itself.

    Second, the multinationals Cargill, Dupont, Bayer, etc., and giant hedge funds- e.g., Black Rock, Vanguard, etc.- are waiting in the wings to take over what will be left of Ukraine, which would probably leave the people in an austerity economy while the Ukrainian oligarchs cash out or are used as compradors who continue to benefit at the expense of the people. Black Rock is already in negotiations with the Zelensky government, the government has previously amended Ukrainian law to allow foreign ownership of land and the named multinationals and others have already received concessions to develop in Ukraine. Under those conditions the EU would be forced to accept GMO non-organic food which was also treated with poisonous
    week and vermin killers such as Rideout.

    How would this be funded= in part by loans which would enslave Ukrainians for future generations, and, perhaps, in part, by Russia’s 300 billion dollar foreign reserves that have been frozen and would be illegally expropriated and used by the West- unless the reserves were used to fund NATO’s war industry or to subsidize the EU for is industrial losses which they themselves have caused

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We never took a position regarding the territorial disposition. The “Medvedev map” we refers to contemplates much Balkanization, with what is left of Ukraine amounting to Greater Kiev.

      As for BlackRock, they appear not to have worked out that the productive assets of the country, the black soil, minerals and related manufacturing, and even the frackable gas, lie in eastern Ukraine. The blue part of the map will make for extremely poor pickings, particularly with grid reconstruction costs.

      Reply
  31. Susan the other

    Thank you for this post and entire thread. It’s the most interesting thing on the net. I was almost encouraged when Markel took the initiative to clarify the narrative. I think that was a game changer in that NATO can no longer fudge innocence. To my thinking the Prize is still Germany. If they go neutral on trade with China and return to Russian natgas we can kiss NATO goodbye. And we will need a new agreement-capable State Department all ready to hit the ground running.

    Reply

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