Ukraine, Russia, China, and Dealing With Crazy People

While it’s been a while since yours truly has posted on the war in Ukraine and our determination to mix things up with China, we seem to be in an intermediate phase of sorts. Major country leaders in the West remain focused on the conflict. The Collective West is trying hard at the G20 to muscle more countries in line, after an embarrassing fail in a similar exercise with Global South invitees to the Munich Security Conference. Biden and then Janet Yellen went for Kiev photo ops with Zelensky. That Biden trip, which made the Administration neglect of the East Palestine toxic train blast more galling, gave Republicans, most of all Trump, an easy win.

But there are more signs of anxiety and erratic behavior by key players. While the structure of the system looks the same, more and more energy is being pumped into it. Either it will be released somehow, say by an aggressor de-escalating, or the pressure will keep rising until we have a state change. And state changes means the system becomes chaotic. The September 2008 financial crisis was an example.

While we won’t dwell on China escalation today, the over-the-top, paranoid response to Commies under the bed peregrinating balloons looks like big-time displacement activity. We are in no position to whack China so we’ll whip ourselves in a frenzy over something we can (eventually) destroy.

Then the US and its NATO stooges went into effrontery overdrive at the Chinese presenting a high-minded napkin doodle and overselling it as a peace plan. Mind you, there were cool-headed ways of saying China has no nexus to this conflict save via its burgeoning friendship with Russia, and the latter means it can’t pretend to be a fair minded interlocutor.

Instead, the ham-handed outrage made the West look anti-peace, as opposed to anti China trying to play nicer hegemon. And then we have the conveniently-timed reheating of the lab leak theory on shoddy “new” evidence, and the House launching a “cut China down to size” committee.

The most charitable interpretation is China demonization is being readied as the next shiny object to divert attention from the coming Ukraine defeat, which will be very hard to ‘splain away. But there are competing interests at the top, with the Atlanticists very much committed to breaking Russia, not caring what the effect might be on the China project.

While arms makers theoretically make out no matter what, they can’t deliver quickly enough to make a difference in Ukraine, and they run the risk of having Russia demonstrate that our super-pricey, over-fussy weapons aren’t very effective in combat. So even more demand for hardware is not necessarily a boon. To fight an industrial war, we need lots of comparatively low tech munitions that they don’t regard as lucrative enough to interest them.

Mind you, the fact that principals are trying to increase pressure does not mean that they will succeed. Propaganda and optics and arm-twisting off and on allies only goes so far. A realistic trajectory for the Ukraine conflict is Western support will fizzle out as the Russian campaign continues to drain Western weapons stocks.

In keeping with that possibility, recall all of the drama of the buildup to the “anniversary” of the launch of the Special Military Operation last week. Western pundits and the press blathered on about how Russia was going to launch its over-anticipated offensive, even though Russia has insisted that it does not have a timetable for this campaign. Oh, and Putin’s overdue State of the Unions speech was not on the date when Russian forces moved into Donbass, but when Putin announced Russia was recognizing the breakaway republics.

Biden tried to upstage Putin with his trip to Kiev and then a speech in Warsaw. But Putin refused to play to demands of warmongers by stating that Russia was not going to full militarization. He delivered an otherwise informationally dense and long talk, treating his zinger, the suspension of Russia’s participation in the START treaty, as almost an afterthought at the end.

Not only did Russia not meet escalation expectations last week, Ukraine didn’t either. Zelensky had promised a big speech for the anniversary of the invasion, and Ukraine boosters expected something more, if not an offensive, at least a stunt, as in a headlines-getting jab that made Ukraine look like it was on the front foot even if in the end it would not affect outcomes. The Kerch Bridge bombing and the misuse of the grain corridor to attack the Sebastopol naval base are examples.

And there’s evidence that Ukraine is closer to the end of its rope than the press would have you believe. Brian Berletic has been relentlessly chronicling how US weapons deliveries to Ukraine have been falling, to the degree that the US has stopped putting numbers on many items. The commitment that Biden made in his Kiev trip was meager. Dima at Military Summary pointed out that Ukraine shelling has fallen markedly in the last week, suggesting Ukraine is forced to ration ammo. Dima has also been pointing out that the daily Russian “clobber lists” have almost no tank kills on them, contrary to earlier in the war, and instead mainly features destroyed armored and too often, passenger vehicles. That suggests that either Ukraine is hoarding its remaining tanks for its long-touted counter-offensive, or is really pretty much out of them. Big Serge, in a new piece, mentioned (as Dima has) rumors of a few of the Polish Leopard tanks having been deployed to Bakhmut. If true, Big Serge argues that would be proof that Ukraine is unable to accumulate reserves for a later offensive.

To use the new Big Serge piece as a point of departure, I have to differ with one of his high level points. He contends the Russians have been slow to launch their big offensive because they are having to make a very large reorganization from a military optimized for fighting small wars to one able to engage in a large scale, protracted conflict (Douglas Macgregor recently said Russia is now planning for an up to 30 month war).

It may very well be true that Russia is finding the process of changing its military organization to be time-consuming, but Big Serge, like many others, particularly those from military backgrounds, seem impatient for Russia to launch a big attack. Again, remember Russia has repeatedly disavowed having a timetable. The one thing they have promised, per General Sergey Surovkin, is to wage a grinding war, for among other reasons, to preserve Russian lives. This isn’t just politically sound; Russia also has comparatively few professional troops and needs to risk them only when the potential payoff is high.

Yours truly has opined that Russia’s moves are going to be even more reactive to events than one might normally expect in a war. Part of that is due to Russia facing layered opposition: its immediate combatant is Ukraine, but as we all know, it is fighting the Collective West. Russia is pressing and testing the West across all lines of combat: military, economic, geopolitical. For instance, it is too often simply not admitted that Russia controls Ukraine’s future. Only Russia can restore Ukraine’s grid; the West cannot begin to afford a rebuild. Russia does not need to point that out; it will come into play in due course.

So I hazard that the principles guiding Russia’s actions in the near-term in Ukraine are:

Paraphrasing Napoleon: “Don’t get in your enemy’s way when he is making a mistake”

Don’t make sudden moves around crazy people

As Big Serge and others have pointed out, Ukraine’s strategy, such as it is, is close to ideal for Russia. Admittedly, Russia is in the midst of the difficult process of cracking Ukraine’s extensive fortifications without wasting Russian lives. That is why Russia is faced with the embarrassment of Ukraine still being able to shell civilians in Donetsk.

But thanks to the partial mobilization, Russia has hardened its positions all along the very long line of contact, which is also comparatively easy to keep supplied. Due to Ukraine’s need to maintain coalition support (mentioned as a major objective by Alex Vershinin in a late December 2022; Big Serge expands upon this idea), Ukraine is desperate to maintain the appearance of success. As many have pointed out, that translates into a refusal to make tactical retreats (save trivially) to preserve men and materiel. Worse, as we see particularly in Bakhmut, Ukraine keeps pouring forces and weapons into doomed positions.

So why, at least for now, should Russia do anything more than let Ukraine keep breaking its military on the shoals of Russians at the line of contact, and also keep pressing on as many potentially exploitable targets to force Ukraine to keep those positions defended and limit their ability to redeploy forces?

As frustrating as it is for war-watchers, Russia could keep the meat-grinder approach going until the Ukraine forces really do start collapsing, as in run out of ammo, are unable to send in reinforcements, and show other signs of serious inability to execute. Mind you, Russia still has a lot to do just to accomplish its immediate goal of clearing the Donbass and forces stationed close enough to shell it. Russia has also vowed to take all of the oblasts that voted to join the Russian Federation, so “liberating” the rest of Zaporzhizia would seem to be high on the list (the timing of Kherson would seem to be more up in the air due if nothing else to Kherson City being in an undesirable location).

The dealing with crazy people part also argues for making the war as boring as possible, and a slow grind serves that end too. The way to give the West an off ramp is to provide them the space to move the war off the front pages and then rationalize the abandonment of Ukraine (via greatly reduced support).

Putin’s biggest obstacle here would seem to be domestic hawks, who seem to get share of mind out of proportion to their numbers due to being both highly vocal and very good sources of day-to-day information on Telegram. Putin seems at least for the moment to have persuaded most Russians that not pursuing a war-time economy is the soundest long-term approach and I suspect he’ll continue to prevail in that debate. As long at the Russia public isn’t demanding a faster resolution of the conflict, the Russian leadership ought to have a fairly free hand with pacing.

Ukraine, despite being weakened, still has agency. And the US, with the Nord Stream bombing, has demonstrated it can be ruthless and utterly unprincipled.1 So far, all we have seen are failed or pinprick attacks that nevertheless get coverage, like the rumored but apparently never happened attack on a Russian plane in Belarus, or drone attacks meant for Moscow that didn’t get there.

Big Serge, along with many others, has discussed the rumor that Ukraine and Moldova will cook up a pretext for Ukraine to move on Transnistria. On paper, it’s not well enough defended to stand up to a determined Ukraine attack, and too far from Russia for it to readily send in reinforcements. So this could be a very big bloody nose for Russia and a huge morale booster.

The wee problem with this picture is the huge ammo dump that Russia is protecting. Russia could and presumably would blow that up, which per Moldovan (as in not Russia friendly) sources would be a nuclear level blast. On top of that, as Scott Ritter discussed long form in a recent talk with Garland Nixon and Andrei Martyanov, Russia’s Foreign Ministry made very clear that if Ukraine made a move on Transnistria, that would be an act of war against Russia. That would give Russia license to do things (to the mystery of Western military types) that it has refrained from doing, like taking out the Ukraine leadership. The noisemaking about that scheme seems to have died down.

But Russian officials have warned of intel on other provocations, such as chemical weapons and drums of radioactive material (along with hazmat gear!) being moving into Ukraine to stage false flag attacks that would be attributed to Russia. So until the US and NATO get over themselves, we could still see a lot of nasty developments.

And we keep seeing far too many stories in high profile Western outlets about how Ukraine can or must win, despite the lack of realistic ideas for how that happens. So expect if nothing else for the press to try to keep the emotional dial turned up to 11 even if the battlefield action remains a slow, bloody slog.


1 Even if you do not believe Sy Hersh’s account, there is no way it happened without US approval and support in that Sixth Fleet lake called the Baltic Sea.

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  1. John R Moffett

    Dina is great for up to date info on the SMO. l am fairly sure that the Biden administration is going to do something really dumb to try and turn this around. Let’s just hope it isn’t the dirty bomb false flag that Russia has been warning about. I hope it is just something symbolic like sending 2 F-16s or 3 Abrams tanks, or maybe a visit to Kiev by Blinken.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I think the desperate moves to change the situation are going to come from Kiev, rather than Washington. In fact, the recent attempts to launch (failed) drone attacks against Belarus and Moscow are already the first iteration of the Zelensky regime to try to shake things up.

      They are probably looking at the standoff between Poland and Belarus and want to see if they can goad someone into making a dumb move. They think NATO’s direct entry into the war can save them, but they’re wrong. NATO can’t do much to rescue them.

      Ukrainian leadership knows it’s stuck in a vice grip that is slowly squeezing the life out of it and they’re flailing around for a way out.

      1. digi_owl

        Every day now i wonder when Zelensky will show up sporting a toothbrush mustache in place of his “rugged” designer shadow.

        1. LifelongLib

          I have to wonder how important the (alleged) nazi-ism in Ukraine really is. It probably makes a difference in how the Russian-speaking minority is treated. But even if that wasn’t an issue Ukraine as a whole would still be in the same position vis-a-vis Russia and NATO that it is now. My sense is that if Ukraine was the most inclusive country on the planet there would still be conflict (as now, driven mainly by the U.S.).

          1. Polar Socialist

            The whole point of the Minsk accords for Russia was to integrate back to Ukraine the parts that would have always opposed NATO.

            Even now, according to a poll from this year that I saw, slightly less than half of the Ukrainians want to join NATO. And these are the ones not in Donbass or who fled the country once the EU gates opened. These are ‘hard core’ Ukrainians (and the poorest, too).

            Had Ukraine been a democracy, it would have never entertained the though of NATO, or turning it’s back to Russia (that’s what the 70% that voted Zelensky were for). In other words, there would be no war, if there was no coup in 2014 and the nazi were not just contained but challenged.

            Mind you, at the height* of Third Reich, only about 8% of the Germans were members of the Nazi party. It doesn’t take that many of them to take the power and keep it. All you have to do is let them have the security forces. The rest will follow.

            * between Anschluss and Barbarossa turning sour.

            1. hk

              I think that’s actually a dimension of Russian policy (and how well they understand actual “democracy” business) that Westerners are completely oblivious to.

              Russia’s policy towards Ukraine (and near abroad generally) was to keep it(them) as (a) friendly neutral(s), which would be achieved by maintaining large numbers of Russia-friendly populations in these countries (this was noted by Richard Sakwa repeatedly, IIRC). If anything, it was always the ultranationalists in these countries that sought to get rid of the Russia friendly populations from these countries–precisely because they were in the way of taking complete control of the country and dragging it in to the path of hostility to Russia. Putin was very insistent for years in keeping Donbass etc. as part of Ukraine, provided that Ukraine was run more or less democratically, i.e. in deference to the large numbers of pro-Russian and at least neutral populations. That obviously did not happen, literally with bombs and shells. Of course, this history has been completely memory holed (although we seem to be on the path that we’ve always been at war with both Eastasia and Eurasia now).

          2. R.S.

            I have to wonder how important the (alleged) nazi-ism in Ukraine really is.

            It’s not the Nazism people usually think of when they hear the word. Basically, it was born as a cousin ideology (and the 40s were like an icky family reunion), but Gobineauesque delusions don’t sell well nowadays. So less “blood and soil”, more “spirit and soil” now.

            You can dub it “The Tale of Two Russias”. One Russia is the good “Ukraine-Russia”. Her people are free, industrious, European (Slavs with Nordic admixture, if you ask the crazies). Her language is a true Slavonic one. She’s a part of the European culture and the rightful heir to the Kievan Rus (going back to the Tripolye culture, 5000BCE, if you ask the crazies).

            The other, bad Russia is the “Muscovy”. Her people are lazy, predatory, have “the mentality of slaves”, and are not even European (Ugric-Tatar mongrels, if you ask the crazies). She’s an offspring of the Mongols and Tatars and other invaders. The “Muscovites” appropriated the language of the true Russians, creating a distorted pidgin, then the history and the very name of “Russia”.

            But now, the people of Ukraine can restore their true identity. Speak Ukrainian, learn to shun and despise anything “Muscovite”, raise your children as true Ukrainians, and you’ll be OK. And if you don’t like the idea, get outta here.

            I mean, it’s an obvious attempt of forging a monoethnic state. And I can’t find a way to reconcile the whole story with being friendly to Russia.

            It probably makes a difference in how the Russian-speaking minority is treated.

            There was a Gallup study published in 2008, named “Russian Language Enjoying a Boost in Post-Soviet States”. It showed that when asked in what language they preferred to conduct the Gallup interview, 83% of the Ukrainians actually took Russian. So they were either native Russian speakers or bilinguals with preference to Russian. Hardly a minority.

            1. José Freitas

              “(Slavs with Nordic admixture, if you ask the crazies)”

              Many of the crazies actually claim direct “viking” descent. Which also helps to make the case that their nationalistic ideology is very close to Nazism, at least perception-wise.

              Thanks for your comment, informative and it helps clarify ideas about Banderastan.

  2. eg

    If Ukraine is willing to transport men and dwindling Western military supplies right to Russia’s front door for convenient disposal, and the Russians can dismantle western Ukrainian energy and transportation infrastructure from distance, what’s the hurry? The alternative suggests longer supply lines and dealing with likely hostile civilian populations in the non-primarily-Russian-speaking oblasts.

    Slower also gives more time for the cracks in the EU to widen, and for shrill Western leaders to further alienate members of the Global South for whom non-alignment and/or realignment may become increasingly attractive …

  3. David

    The problems the West has in understanding what’s going on derive from its cultural short attention span and inability to think on a wide scale and over the long term.

    Whatever the Russians are precisely trying to do, it is indeed wide scale and long term. I would suggest the objective is to reshape the strategic situation in Europe to their advantage for the next 25-50 years. The broad lines of their vision for Europe (Russians in, Americans out, Germans down) have been evident for some time. So the Ukraine war is both a limited campaign to clean up the immediately surrounding security environment, and a means of hastening the disintegration of NATO and evicting the US from Europe. But it’s the latter that is the strategic objective, and, if you are thinking 25-50 years ahead, it scarcely matters whether you take Bakhmut today, next week or next month.

    1. Stephen

      I was about to post a similar, albeit not so well articulated comment when I saw this and also Lex’s comment.

      Think you are spot on. As is the original article. Ukraine is simply one battlefield in a multi dimensional and multi geography conflict. Simply grabbing territory in Ukraine does not solve the Russian issues around security and getting the collective west off its goals of regime change and Balkanisation.

      My mindset previously was that there would be some kind of Russian “offensive”. The more I think about it the less I think that they need it; or rather if they do it will be only once the Ukrainian army is so degraded that it cannot fight back too much. If that takes a year or even two then what does Russia lose? The west has already huffed and puffed and run out of breath it seems. The remaining breath is now also being huffed and puffed at China and balloons. The more they carry on doing that then the greater the anti western coalition that gets assembled. To anybody who is remotely rationale, the logic of the west opening up a second front right now is bizarre. Still, that has not stopped other ideologues in history.

      1. Not Qualified to Comment

        If that takes a year or even two then what does Russia lose?

        As the Article’s title suggests, you have crazy people in the West pulling at least some of the strings. The clearer the writing on the wall becomes the greater the possibility that the loonies might try some desperate stunt to turn things around – Assassinate Putin? A false flag attack on Poland to draw NATO in? Sarin dropped on Donetsk? Or even worse, realising that their plans are going to fail they elect to take everyone else down with them – Hell hath no fury like a fanatic facing defeat.

        No, a sudden, quick and utterly final coupe de grace to end this thing leaving the crazies naked, powerless and with egg all over their faces like the clowns they are, unmasked, pathetic and powerless, is IMHO the consummation devoutly to be wished.

    2. britzklieg

      I think the problems the “West” has in understanding what’s going on is its bat-guano crazy, pure and long-lived racist hatred of everything “Russia.”

    3. hk

      I’ve always thought of the Russian goal in the present conflict as the recreation of the Congress of Vienna in some form. Now, this is a historical event that the Western world is not too crazy about because of the illiberal world order that it helped preserve (and, really, strengthen), but that was really more of an afterthought. It brought about a world order that was not dominated by a single empire via conquest and/or a radical set of “transformative” agenda to be advanced via force of arms (which necessarily gave the aftermath a distinctly “conservative” flavor), where the German states became friendly neutrals to Russia, and UK was left politically isolated from the European continent, yet was content to be so as it could pursue its imperial and other ambitions elsewhere around the world without problem. The result was an unprecedented period of peace in Europe. Many of the themes are still present: the prizes are still the middle European states–Germany and France now, which Russia is still looking to transform into friendly neutrals. Russians and Chinese seek to limit Anglo-American influence in certain parts of the world–but the scope is much greater, and not just Europe. But unlike UK after Napoleonic Wars, Anglo Americans won’t be among the victors, so that wouldn’t matter as much. Ironically, this process was begun roughly in the part of the world where the original Congress of Vienna was undone–Crimea.

    4. ex-PFC Chuck

      Re: The problems the West has in understanding . .
      Several times recently Larry Johnson has said that two developments in the CIA over the past few decades that have strongly contributed to this situation, the first being the shattering of the wall that once separated “intelligence” from “operations,” i.e. the pervasive and frequently violent meddling in other countries’ internal affairs. With the O and I people now consolidated on to meddling project teams, the career incentive for the I people is to get with the program and tell the folks up the food chain what they and therefore the O people on their project team want them to hear. The other development, likely collateral damage of the first to some degree, is the CIA no longer develops and runs its own agents. It relies on inputs from the intelligence agencies of its vassals. Who, of course, are strongly incented to tell the hegemon what it wants to hear. According to Larry’s sources, in the case of Ukraine what Blinken, Sullivan, Biden see is essentially what the rest of us get via Zelensky’s PR operation.

    5. digi_owl

      Makes me wonder what course France had taken with someone other than Macron at the helm. The nation is deeply sensitive to attacks on its identity and culture, and is a member of NATO only in the most reluctant manner (there are no US bases in France for example). If not for Macron being the globalist stooge that he is, France may well have sided more strongly with Russia.

  4. Bart Hansen

    Yesterday Alexander Mercouris closed his session with great passion and sadness, starting from where he comments on a piece in the Telegraph about “our values” and the danger of the neocons doubling down on their war.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, yes, that part was well done and alarming one you grasped it. We’re at war to defend our values…when “our values’ are defined by neocons, and are also therefore readily redefined as need be.

      1. KD

        The real threat to the world in the next 25 years is whether America decides to pull a thermonuclear rage quit when they realize they won’t be able to police the world.

  5. Strontium-90

    The unfortunate part about the over-the-top bloviation about things like balloons, is that that there are real issues simmering below the surface, which do require conversations Auf Augenhöhe as they say in Europazental — at eye level, between equals.

    Take China’s CFR-600, the fast-neutron, sodium-cooled reactor supplied with 25,000 kilograms of Russian highly-enriched uranium over four months ending in December. For US policymakers, who forewent fast-reactors in the 1970s because of fat-tail proliferation risks, the project looks like a sure sign Beijing wants to ramp up its warhead stockpile. The Pentagon has become increasingly shrill over the unit in recent Congressional reports.

    Of course from China’s perspective, that reactor represents just a small piece of its $440 billion atomic buildout in which, as in Russia, engineers want to close the nuclear-fuel cycles by recycling plutonium. Nevermind that that approach has led to financial and environmentally disastrous approaches elsewhere. Beijing claims the CFR-600 is a perfectly normal civil facility.

    The fact that all this is taking place amid the final melt down of the last remaining arms control accord between Russia and the US makes it all the more frustrating that the military brass want the plebes to focus on balloons (Squirrel!!!). There is a structural shift taking place on the arms control landscape that probably won’t be settled for years, meaning that our current mediocre leadership class has to navigate an increasingly dangerous path. Kaboom.

    More here:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      FWIW, Scott Ritter has stressed that Russia has not and is showing no interest in more nukes. But it sure as hell is not gonna let the US crawl all over its facilities and get a good look at its more advanced delivery systems and where the missiles live, particularly after Russia determined that the strike on Engels airbase was done with US modifications to old Soviet kit, and almost certainly US targeting.

      1. Strontium-90

        It’s more about China’s side of the ledger. Despite US entreaties that Beijing should be at the strategic arms control table (recall that embarrassing Billingslea stunt, their negotiators haven’t had horses to trade. That’s partly as a result of a minimum deterrence strategy. Now enter Russian HEU exports and fast-breeder reactors. In a decade’s time, Chins will very much have new negotiating heft. “No Limits Friendship,” indeed!

        1. Michaelmas

          Strontium-90: Now enter Russian HEU exports and fast-breeder reactors.

          Eh. The US defense and policy establishment needs to notice that it’s 2023.

          Because if any nation wants weapons-grade fissile material in 2023, it doesn’t require breeder reactors, centrifuge cascades, and all the heavy-duty kit the US defense establishment likes to get worked up about. Laser isotope separation makes enrichment and nuclear transmutation doable in a building the size of a big mechanic’s shop. See —

      2. ChrisPacific

        Yes, Putin said all that in so many words in his speech. Attempts to attribute other motivations to him without acknowledging that are disingenuous.

    2. digi_owl

      Completely aside, but a recent article in the Norwegian press talked about CIA trying the balloon thing from Norway back in the 50s-60s. At one point so many were launched from Gardermoen (the place was a military base long before it became a massive airport) that Sweden protested because it was interfering with their air traffic.

      It also included a mention of an attempt at inserting Finnish spies on CIA payroll via hot air balloon, launched from a rented fishing boat off the coast of Finnmark. The aim was to spy on Murmansk but they crashed long before getting there, and had to leg it back over the Norwegian border.

      So yeah, US politicians should take a long hard look at their “good book” again. In particular that part about “ye without sin”…

    3. Michaelmas

      Strontium-90: Of course from China’s perspective, that reactor represents just a small piece of its $440 billion atomic buildout in which, as in Russia, engineers want to close the nuclear-fuel cycles by recycling

      Recycling, closed fuel cycles, and breeder reactors are coming because that’s the only sane way to do civil nuclear power long term, whether the US likes it or not.

      As in many other things, the US has done a massive disservice to humanity by pushing its crappy, once-through fuel cycle model, with the concomitant nuclear waste build-up. If the US hadn’t fought “fat-tail proliferation risks” — and, oh yes, preserved its nuclear hegemony — so much, maybe today we wouldn’t be confronting catastrophic climate change today because the rest of the world could have moved to nuclear like the French did in the 1970s-80s

      Strontium-90” Nevermind that that approach has led to financial and environmentally disastrous approaches elsewhere.

      Elsewhere being the US, with its short-termist, profit-orientated, and incompetent approach to nuclear. Maybe other cultures are capable of competence in this sphere, unlike the US. Again, the French nuclear industry has had its ups and downs, but it’s supplied as much as 80 percent of France’s electricity needs without, for example, producing any of the catastrophic failures that America anti-nuclear types insist are implicit in nuclear power.


        China has 21 reactors under construction according to the World Nuclear Association. Advancing to breeder reactors is part of their five year plan. They need a lot of electricity. Their trains, for example, are electric and one of them goes 480 Km/hr. The US should just outsource reactor construction to the Chinese. There is some precedent. I think Chinese built much of the transcontinental railway. I worked at Kaiser in Fontana and when they tore the steel mill down and shipped it to China they used all Chinese workers who labelled every part for reassembly and shipped the entire steel mill on their own ships back and reconstructed it. The mill can be seen in part of Terminator 2. The Chinese manager once told me, as his team was working full blast on a hot July Sunday, in answer to my question as to why no US union operators were on site as per the contract, “American’s need their rest.”

  6. Mikel

    “But there are competing interests at the top, with the Atlanticists very much committed to breaking Russia, not caring what the effect might be on the China project…”

    If NATO and friends couldn’t get as many hard-core, Russia bashing global allies as they wanted, then the pickings are going to be slimmer for the China bashing.
    The saber rattling at China is going to widen the cracks in the NATO alliance and reveal intense, competing interests within more nations than only the USA. Saw a preview with all that was written about the Germans’ visit to China toward the end of last year.

    1. jan

      Can anybody actually oversee what the fallout would be if we went into a hard confrontation with China? It seems to me our current economic problems are bad enough, how bad would it get if China started to play a similar sanctions game against the west as the USA/EU plays now against Russia? Inflation/stagnation is bad enough as it is already.

      1. Mikel

        I have to wonder if there isn’t some faction that wants China to do big sanctions.
        Some are profiting from this global inflation.

      2. Louis Fyne

        Grandma will die from an antibotics shortage;

        you won’t be able to repair your car or refrigerator;

        every carrier sent within striking distance of China will get sunk;

        the bases on Guam will get wrecked;

        thousands of teenagers who just wanted free college and a chance to see the world will die in the first week.

        1. Fred

          It wont just be grandma.
          Childbirth for both mum and baby will become dangerous again.

          Minor cuts and infections will kill children in their thousands.

  7. Lex

    As always, Yves, your summaries of the conflict are about the best on the web. I especially appreciate your ability to disentangle from the war nerds who dominate the discussion in general. Russia has never said there will be an offensive. While it seems obvious that there should be one, I think you and David in the comments get to a more important point.

    Ukraine is the focal point but there’s a much wider and deeper process going on right now. IMO keeping the focal point burning but not too brightly serves both Russian and Chinese purposes. They’re trying to bring the US down, but not catastrophically because that way likely goes nuclear. In this respect going slow has less potential for uncontrolled escalation than a big arrow offensive that could collapse Ukrainian defenses in a hurry and lead to irrational decision making by the US. There are risks to this plan (which I admit is formed solely from my opinion of events) but there are risks inherent in all the possible plans. But the longer this goes on, the more the contrast between apparently rational actors in Beijing and Moscow and obviously irrational actors in DC and Brussels. A year ago India handled almost no Russian oil, the longer it makes a handsome profit from handling Russian oil, the less likely it is go return to pre-2022 ways.

    We’ll see though, rather than Transnistria we have a Ukrainian terrorist action on Russian soil today and Putin’s public response included calling it terrorism. The war nerds demand a declaration of war (while not understanding that such a thing is essentially impossible in the UN context), but a counter terrorism operation is a real possibility if the stories of hostages turn out to be true and maybe anyway since Ukrainian forces do appear to have shot children. That won’t develop the way it did in Chechnya – probably – but it would be far different than the very measured behavior of the Kremlin to date.

    1. hemeantwell

      “They’re trying to bring the US down, but not catastrophically because that way likely goes nuclear.”
      Yes, and a key bit is to allow domestic opposition time to develop such that not only is an Alternative available, but one that is politically hefty and can threaten regime change if insane measures are resorted to. The Trump video linked in Doctorow’s article in today’s Links was remarkable, he actually ties together factions in the national security apparatus with an “industrial complex.” There’s a new swamp to be drained, and Trump can wear the waders Eisenhower once recommended.

      I wish we could peer behind the curtains to get some idea of how public political jousting works to give dissidents in the apparatus more room to voice criticism and “organize” in some fashion. Swamp drainage = career advancement.

      1. digi_owl

        I dunno. Trump had 4 years and managed to do frag all about the things he talked about during his campaign. Basic thing is that the president is virtually powerless on domestic issues without congress backing him up. And i can’t see that happening any time soon.

      2. Ashburn

        I also noted Doctorow’s linked video. Trump calls out Victoria Nuland by name and FWIW, threatens to clean house in State and Defense of these neocons, if re-elected.

        As for bringing the US down, I refer back to Yves’ quoting Douglas Macgregor that “Russia is now planning for an up to 30 month war.” Being already 12 months in that leaves 18 more months and brings it all right up to the heart of the 2024 presidential election campaign. What better time to show the American voters what a disastrous end our criminally insane leadership has, once again, brought us to.

        1. Willow

          Yes. ’30 month war’ statement suggests Russia expects likely Republican win & US walking away from Ukraine. Which will leave Europe in a very precarious position & Russia in the box seat to dictate events. Russia won’t do anything that would either reduce likelihood of Republican win or change Republican sentiment. Democrats are already losing African-Americans and Latinos over Ukraine. Big risk is that Ukraine & their handlers knowing this will do something stupid to force Russia’s hand. Whether chemical/nuclear attacks (false-flag or not), move into Moldova, or direct attacks on civilians in Russia itself. UK & Poland in particular are very keen to lock US into the Ukraine war.

        2. Karl

          Excellent point. Putin controls the timing of events. Maybe he’ll give Biden a big “October [2024] surprise”, but maybe Biden is too smart to give him the opportunity.

          My hope is that Biden will come to realize (if only via pressure from panicked Democrats up for election) that he must do something dramatic to change the political calculus around Ukraine, and announce something like a “Paris Peace Talks” with Russia by early 2024 at the latest.

          Lyndon Johnson announced he was seeking direct negotiations with North Vietnam in his famous “I will not seek re-election” speech of March 1968. The grim outlook for the November election later that year was almost certainly a major factor in that decision. Ultimately, Nixon won (it was very close) but without that initiative it might have been a Republican landslide.

          Johnson just plain ran out of time, and so will Biden.

          1. hk

            Russia can refuse to negotiate with people “who are not party to the war.”. I’m being sarcastic, of course, but I don’t think Russia has any good reason to respond to phoney peace feelers from the West whose only goal is to provide cover for Biden and the Dems. I expect that Russia won’t settle for anything less than de facto surrender–that everyone will see for what it is–from the West.

      3. hemeantwell

        Ack, didn’t want to appear to be a enthusiastic believer in a land reclamation effort by Donald. Still, that he can distinguish himself on the war issue with a good chance of being proven right and in doing so find some revenge for Russiagate suggests he’s likely to stick with it. And if that encourages dissent in the Blob, both principled and leak-generating, great!

    2. Mikel

      “Ukrainian terrorist action on Russian soil today”
      Today, that is part of the war.
      In the future, it could be blowback and not just on Russian soil. It can come from Eastern Europe like it did from the Mid East.

  8. Amfortas the hippie

    This bit is brilliant:
    The dealing with crazy people part also argues for making the war as boring as possible, and a slow grind serves that end too. The way to give the West an off ramp is to provide them the space to move the war off the front pages and then rationalize the abandonment of Ukraine (via greatly reduced support)

    after all , “The West” is fighting(sic) a Memewar in the media….and, whats the opposite of “if it bleeds, it leads”?….thats what keeping it boring is,lol.
    the West’s masses just might lose interest…i know that, around here, i never hear a word about Ukraine when i’m out and about.
    not a single word…in weeks.
    (of course, our local Team Blue have apparently repaired to their hillforts, and i aint on FB or mastodon or Kos or wherever it is they hang out)

    otoh, every time i venture into the grocery store, i hear someone complaining about how damned expensive eggs are, right now,lol
    (my chickens have finally started laying again…so i’ll soon be covered up with eggs)

    1. begob

      Last time I looked (pre-invasion), RT had plenty of blowhards (skewing libertarian) – just not as crazed as CNN with its war drums.

  9. Hastalavictoria

    Over the last week or two a very noticeable uptick in reported daily Ukrainian dead in the Russian MOD daily report.

    Today’s total was 640 the highest I have seen.Before the last few week’s the were in the 150 – 300 range.
    Are these figures true?If they are someone has a very serious problem and it is getting progressively worse.

    1. begob

      This past month Scott Ritter has been putting Ukrainian dead at 275,000. MacGregor’s estimate from a month+ ago is 157,000. I believe the Wagner Group recently stated 110,000 killed by them alone.

      Lately, Mercouris is standing pat on 14,000 Russian dead, following BBC figures.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        BBC is light because is looking in pre-SMO Russia and so not including losses of the militias, who were doing a lot of heavy lifting early on. But even grossing up, 20,000 is probably a safe estimate allowing for various undercounts.

        1. Robert Gray

          > … 20,000 [Russian dead] is probably a safe estimate allowing for various undercounts.

          Yes. But compare what your average low-info American is being fed and happily digests:

          > Russian death toll in Ukraine passes 150,000 as Putin’s canon [sic] fodder
          > mown down in suicidal infantry waves & tank carnage

          From today’s online US edition of The Sun. Complete rubbish, of course. I wouldn’t dream of giving the link but you can easily find it for yourself. The point is that millions of people believe this shite.

        2. José Freitas

          I actually think Russian kias are probably in the 25-30k range, but Ukrainian kia+mia plus captured by Russians probably stand at over 300k. Plus wia. But, as the Russians say, “time will tell”.

  10. Carolinian

    So, a kabuki war to go with our kabuki politics? Unfortunately–as Big Serge points out–the slaughter is all too real for those Ukrainians and fewer Russians being killed on the front lines. Arguably the Bidenista’s obsession with PR games makes them even bigger monsters. It’s as though all those dead young men mean nothing to them as long as they can keep the corpses away from the cameras.

    Ukraine has a corruption problem and so do we. And ours is far more serious because of our ability to bully the rest of the planet. Ordinary Americans share in the guilt to the extent they fail to protest this pointless war. Instead they allow themselves to obsess over pronouns and psychological safety. It is about values and ours increasingly suck.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Wanna know what the deal with the Ukrainians is? Most countries follow the Geneva Convention. The Ukraine uses the Geneva Checklist.

  11. The Rev Kev

    It is noteworthy that right now, Russia is essentially fighting – and winning – against about 40 countries. By that I mean the EU/NATO countries as well as allied countries like Australia, Japan, South Korea, etc. And they are doing this through one set of mobilizations and ramping up present production – plus deliveries of specialized items like computer chips and drones. They are not even going to switch to a wartime economy as it not needed and would damage the real economy. And they have escalatory dominance in that they are setting the tempo of this war at a low enough level so that it does not induce panicked reactions from the west. That is what you do with crazy people as Yves pointed out. You don’t make any sudden moves.

    Now that China has started to get involved, this has panicked both Washington and Brussels which has led to them warning China and telling them not to dare give Russia any arms. Perhaps they are realizing that as Russia is winning this war with their regular economy, how will they be able to cope when they push against China with its monster economy. And the Chinese are more ‘patriotic’ in their behaviour so they will not put up with some of the crap that Russia has been. My prediction is that when this war is finally over, Washington and Brussels will not do a lessons learned but will move onto the next thing to cover up their failures.

    1. truly

      IIRC the Grand Armee was only 20 countries. 40 is a real step up.
      Russia seems to have a history of not doing real well in the first year of multi year wars. But then adjusting and overcoming.

  12. JR

    This was a most excellent read, but of course it is a very, very sad read, too. It just seems like killing fields there, what a sorrowful loss of life.

    My biggest concern on the escalation front will be when the Abram M1s are deployed. My understanding is that these tanks require a fair amount of maintenance. Based on the small bit of reading I have done, I expect that Ukraine will be unable to provide anything other than the simplest, most basic maintenance. Thus, in order to keep the M1s deployed at the front, US military service technicians may well be forward deployed in order to provide maintenance services for the M1s. So, once again, US service members are in harm’s way. I don’t want anyone to get hurt in this mess, least of all US service members. If US service members are forward deployed, I hope and pray they get through this safely. If, however, US service members are injured or killed, I am worried that will lead to even greater escalation. I guess the same line of reasoning applies to the deployment of other tanks from the West. Not happy thoughts here, I hope I am wrong.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a very real concern but Brian Berletic has discussed how the Abrams are not well suited for Ukraine. They are super heavy (lazy and not looking up but IIRC >60 tons v. more like 40 tons or even less for Russian tanks). As Mercouris pointed out, maintenance demands increase geometrically with weight. The Leopard and even more so the Abrams assumed repair facilities would be close at hand, which will not be the case in Ukraine. What happens when the right part is not nearby? The tank is a big beached whale and a target.

      Also the Abrams is too heavy for many Ukraine bridges and even roads.

      I need to turn in but we have many equipment fans who can add details and correct any errors/oversimplifications.

      1. hk

        The original Abrams was in mid-to-upper 60 ton range. Since it has entered service, additional equipment and modifications have crept the weight upwards, to the point that some models approach 80 tons (well, mid-to-upper 70 ton range anyways–ditto with Leo 2, which is a close cousin to the Abrams originally, and the Challenger series as well). Russian tanks began under 40 tons, but they too have gone considerable weight creep (depending on models, some T90’s are approaching 50 tons now), but they began from a much lower base and remain a lot smaller physically than the Western tanks, which has several drawbacks but also as many advantages, among which is a relatively light weight.

    2. Maxwell Johnston

      You are correct that UKR will only be able to perform basic maintenance on the Leo2s that they’re receiving (and on the M1s if they ever actually receive them). But I very much doubt that NATO will establish any forward maintenance facilities for performing serious repairs; too much risk, and anyway I think most military types understand that these western tanks are on a one-way trip to oblivion and will almost certainly never be whisked to the rear (inside or very near to Poland) for retrofitting.

      It seems that Leo2s have already been spotted in Donbas region. I guess they gave a quickie training course to the lucky UKR tankers and sent them on their way. Apparently the Soviets did a solid job when they re-built the bridges over the Dnieper after WW2, since they can handle the Leo2s (which weigh in at 60+ tons, like the M1s).

      1. Polar Socialist

        There was a short clip some days ago about an US soldier doing mannequin duty in some weapons expo spilling the beans that on his training class for Patriot were also Ukrainians two years ago.

        Wouldn’t surprise me if the Polish had trained Ukrainians for several years already for using Leopards. Might also explain the enormous pressure put on Scholz to release the beasts.

        1. Irrational

          If you are right and it can be proven, that is irrefutable evidence that the Russian invasion was not “unprovoked”. Last I checked I did not vote for any of this stupidity, so I wonder why our various governments feel entitled to go down this route and lie about it to boot. What is wrong with trying to live together on one planet and focus on addressing more urgent issues like climate? Oh yeah, not profitable.

          1. Grebo

            They have been doing it since 2015:

            “Training teams from across the British Army have been deployed to Ukraine since 2015, with 1 Mercian currently providing the majority of this activity until the end of this year.

            The UK coordinates the training it provides to the UAF with four other nations as part of the QUINT. This is made up of the UK, USA, Canada, Lithuania and Poland.

            The UK also provides a senior adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and gifted over £1 million worth of non-lethal equipment to Ukraine, including first aid kits and cold weather clothing to strengthen their defensive capability and increase their resilience.”

          2. Polar Socialist

            Here is where I came across it. Haven’t looked up that NTV video yet, though.

            Apparently it was three years ago, not two. My bad.

  13. dingusansich

    A speculative contribution to fantasy league scenarios: China could do the non-neocon West an immense favor by arming Russia, however notionally. The West could then conceivably engineer a face-saving exit from its misbegotten Ukrainian gambit by blaming China for throwing in with Russia in an insuperable industrial alliance. The public line would be, “It was a noble effort. We did all we could. Now we must end this.”

    A vernacular saw about capitalists goes: capitalists will sell the rope from which they’re hanged. So it’s been with China. Neoliberalism jumped from the frying pan of squeezed domestic margins to the fire of outsourced manufacturing, with “Who could have predicted?” results. And here we are.

    Escalation can’t fix this, unless by “fix” we mean armageddon. If a climbdown means transient scapegoating as a waypoint toward reappraisal and reorganization, that may be a least bad outcome.

    1. LifelongLib

      I lean toward the view that if some part of Ukraine remains independent after the war, the U.S. will spin it as a NATO victory because (as everyone knows) Russia intends to conquer all of Ukraine and then head for Berlin. Or something.

  14. Stephen

    Very perceptive article.

    The comment about crazy people is the biggest issue. Crazy people do crazy stuff.

    A slightly tongue in cheek thought: If we were making a list of “non crazy” western leaders I am not sure who would be on it. Orban is the most obvious one. I think too that Sunak, Macron and Scholz are also in reality non crazies but in their different ways they lack moral courage to drive for rational behaviour. Pretty much all the rest in any position that can make a difference do seem to be crazy.

    Non crazy does not mean we like the person or agree with all their perspectives. It simply means they are not crazy but follow a rational approach. Putin and his colleagues plus Xi Jinping seem to be non crazy. It’s a really good job that they are.

  15. Dan Lynch

    Like many war-watchers, I’m frustrated by the boring slow grind, but I suspect Russia postponed its offensive due to this winter’s record warm temperatures that meant the ground never froze beyond a few days here and there. A major offensive may have to wait until the fields have dried out — which may not be until summer?

    Also, mines. Even if the Ukraine army collapsed and began retreating, Russian forces would have to painstakingly clear mines before advancing. Possibly the pace may pick up if the front ever moves beyond the fortified defensive lines in Eastern Ukraine.

    1. John Webster

      According to Russian medics, the main injuries and deaths in Bakhmut have been soldiers caught in Ukrainian minefields. Most Ukrainian dead never see a Russian soldier: its artillary that gets them. And the Ukrainians have saturated parts of Donetsk city in anti-personnel butterfly mines.

  16. paddy

    russia is wearing the west down.

    that us/eu weapons are ‘super-pricey, over-fussy weapons aren’t very effective in combat. ‘ is obvious from feb 2022. if you look at the contract repair cost explosion in the 2000’s it is obvious even the taliban are too expensive to defeat!

    there are many similarities to vietnam: a rejection of self determining plebiscite as done to the 1954 geneva accords is same as dissing the votes in the russian detaching oblasts. the abject corruption in saigon/province’s same as kiev! and the reliance on bombing and military experiments… maybe petraeus can rewrite counter insurgency again for kiev!

    the main difference between 1963 and 2022 is logistics and order of battle.

    in 1963 the usa had access to several generations of aviation revolution, today the improvement over century series fighters, as with tanks, and sams is tail walking acrobatics and stealth which is obe’ed since the serbs shot a f-117 out of the sky.

    that and the usa has not facility for a long supply chain. the trillions in hyped weapons need huge amounts of spare, large set up repair facilities and huge amounts of fuel.

    deploying 31 abrams’ is the most ineffective manner, the tank needs repair shops that are economical to support them by the hundreds not by the few.

    in short the us military may be set for a collapsing defense retreating into logistics, but it cannot project except against the taliban.

    russia has no career in doing anything but attrit the western toys.

    and if the field marshals in kiev/arlington get their way then the russians job of attrition will be facilitated in blowing up any nato/eu offensive using tactics from krusk and the bulge…. and rommel!

  17. jan

    > But there are more signs of anxiety and erratic behavior by key players.

    This Larry Johnson article made me wonder about those key players too.

    However, I have heard that the finished intelligence being supplied to U.S. policymakers continues to declare that that Russia is on the ropes and their economy is crumbling. Also, analysts insist that the Ukrainians are beating the Russians.

    I can hardly believe that would be true.

    1. David

      If true it’s very much in line with historical precedent.
      The US has always had a reputation for being poor at Human Source Intelligence (recruiting sources to spy for you) and has had a strong cultural preference for Technical Intelligence. Thus, during the Vietnam War, most of the human intelligence came from the RVN, almost all US human intelligence on North Korea comes from the South, much if not most of the human intelligence on the Arab world comes from Israel etc. Notoriously, almost nobody in the CIA spoke Farsi before the 1979 revolution, and I doubt if anyone at all does now. This is all easier and cheaper than laboriously training officers in the human and language skills they would need to operate in those countries: after all, it takes maybe three years to become reasonably proficient in Arabic, and then you have all the different dialects and variants to consider. So I would imagine that the US has produced very few Russian-speaking case officers over the last twenty years because they’ve all been learning how to read classical Arabic poetry and speak Pashto and Dari. This is yet another way in which the US is manipulated by others. Here, I suspect the “sources” are either exiles (remember Chalabi and Iraq?) or some of the particularly aggressive small European states where people speak Russian.

      1. hk

        It’s worth remembering that, at least until recently, a majority of Ukrainians spike Russian as first language. I imagine that at least partly accounts for CIA buying anything Ukrainian.

  18. Polar Socialist

    A minor problem with Big Serge’s assertion that Battalion Tactical Groups were crap and thus Russia needs to reorganize is that during the battles in Kherson Oblast they held the line fine. Even against numerically superior enemy.

    On the other hand, in the Kharkov Oblast there were no BTGs, merely Russian border guards, riot police (ok, Rosgvardiya is a bit more than that) and Donetsk militia. They obviously had Russian artillery and air support, but that’s not the same as the organic firepower BTG has.

    Anyway, as I said, I see this as a minor issue – the main point is that Russian forces lacked the firepower they needed, no matter why.

    Considering that the mobilization was targeted on Russian with combat experience, it would interesting to note that most of that was possible before Russia switched to brigade system and came up with BTGs. It might be that the reorganization has something to do with that, too, because the mobilized have experience with division system.

    Now, what I’ve been thinking – and again, I don’t claim to be an experts of any kind regarding this war – is that 300k mobilized plus 80k volunteered is a lot to train and equip. Yes, there are dozens of arsenals in Russia filled with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery and so. Somebody still has to dig them all out, check them, repair them, paint them, register them etc.

    Considering how militaries have evolved since all that stuff was put away, there’s certainly a lack of smaller things, like modern helmets, body armor, secure radios, medical kits, field hospitals, mobile toilets, field saunas (yes, it’s a thing in Russia), command vehicles.

    Heck, if only one out of four new recruits is connected to the ESU TZ (Unified Management System Tactical Link) network that means procuring 87,500 portable Akvedukt R-168-0,1 radio units. Add to that the platoon, company and battalion level radio stations and servers, all the terminal needed in vehicles and even integration with artillery and air defense networks.

    During the year before war Russia equipped about 2 divisions per year with ESU TZ. Now we’re talking about 10 divisions worth of units, equipped in 6 months. One can expect there to be serious problems, innovating to get around those problems and decision making going on.

    And a final note: the Russian build up with the mobilized force has not yet lasted as long as the build up to Desert Storm did. And that was with units that existed, had trained and even deployed already several times. With Russians we’re talking about creating an army almost from scratch and deploying it.

    Sorry for the wall of text.

    1. hk

      Simplicius76 has a interesting observation on this point in his (their? I think it’s a team rather than a single person) recent post:

      I think his/their observations are spot on: you need small, “agile,” and well-armed “tip of the spear” to break through defenses. Hardly a new development–this was exactly the tactical innovation pioneered during WW1–originally by Alexei Brusilov in 1916, ironically defying the stereotype of WW1 Russian military as backwards and undertrained army led by incompetents. You won’t be using BTGs for big arrow offensives–too light for that. But they seem almost perfect for the kind of war that Russia is currently fighting with suitable modifications–and they are designed to be easily modifiable as tactical situation requires anyways.

    2. Maxwell Johnston

      Good points all. I especially liked the detail about the radios (ESU TZ); try fighting a modern war without good secure commo. This is exactly the sort of small but important item (like sleeping bags, body armor, first aid kits, etc) that makes all the difference but was probably overlooked pre-2022. It takes time to procure and deploy all this stuff, let alone train everybody.

    3. hk

      Great point about creating a new army from scratch. A lot of people have the peculiar preconceived notion about “gigantic” Russian army–which feeds the ridiculous stories about how Russia is running this war–whereas the opposite has been true for many years now.

  19. HH

    On the subject of crazy people in Washington, the neocons may be considering the destruction of TSMC’s world-leading semiconductor fabrication facilities as a counterpart to the Nordstream pipeline sabotage. Goading the Chinese into a conflict that wipes out Taiwan’s semiconductor production facilities would leave U.S. firms (including TSMC’s newly constructed U.S. fab) with increased market share. Some U.S. strategists have even suggested holding the TSMC Taiwan facilities hostage to prevent a Chinese invasion. There is no upper bound to crazy in the Biden administration.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Few US semiconductor companies operate their own wafer fabs. If TSMC fabs were to be destroyed or otherwise taken offline the majority of US semiconductor companies would be SOL. So would companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and other monopoly companies that design their own chips but have them fabbed outside. China is not desperate for TSMC. It’s not the trump card that some in the West may think. Destroying TSMC fabs will hurt the collective west far more than it will hurt China.

    2. John k

      TSMC chips, or the better ones, are imo sanctioned against China. These chip fabs are what gives Taiwan strategic importance. I’ve thought neither side would tolerate the chips available to the other side but not themselves, and either would take them out to prevent that.
      So in the current situation imo China is more likely to destroy the fabs, especially if there was any move to transport them to us, as I’ve heard rumored.

  20. Eclair

    Some interesting background reading or listening that we heard (parts of it) on our car radio yesterday:

    An interview with Norm Augustine (and others), former CEO of Martin Marietta, soon to be Lockheed Martin, featured in On Point. Lots of juicy insider information, and budget numbers, on the consolidation, at the behest of the Defense Department, of the top weapons manufacturers in the 1990’s, into the Big 5: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and General Dynamics.

    “The Last Supper,” indeed! More like the amuse-bouche before the infinite-course main meal.

  21. digi_owl

    In the end Russia and NATO/west see this in different ways.

    Russia seem to see it more as correcting a wayward cousin, while NATO is drumming this up as being empire building and perhaps even a full on invasion of Europe.

    And that is why Russia has not been so keen on going “shock and awe” in the way USA did in Iraq. They actually care about the Ukrainian public, in particular those near the border.

  22. Susan the other

    I’m reading a book on the Vietnam war from the Chinese perspective: China and the Vietnam Wars,1950 – 1975, by Qiang Zhai. University of North Carolina press. 2000. It has got to be the best insight into China’s mindset I could ever imagine. And because I just finished a history of Germany in the Middle Ages, the two separate perspectives are mind boggling. Yes, the Europeans in the Middle Ages were especially crazy – so much so that now they look like sanity personified, but only until you compare them to the intrinsically methodological thinking of the Chinese and their patience. And strategy. The basic underlying common theme between Ukraine and Indochina is location. Both wars were encroachments by the West against the socialists to gain access to valuable natural resources. And it looks as though Ukraine is going in the same direction almost as if it had the same choreography. Which is one of the definitions of insanity. We need to get out of Ukraine now. As in yesterday.

  23. Willow

    Regarding the Bakhmut ‘meat grinder’. One of the problems at the beginning of the conflict for Russia was that a lot of the Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv were Soviet-era fortresses with massive underground storage for heavy equipment. These eastern front ‘meat grinders’ are an effective way to draw that equipment & ammunition out and remove it from the battlefield. Which will make taking cities like Kharkiv a lot easier. The new offensive begins when Russia is confident Ukraine has hollowed out its stores and have little more to commit.

    Prigozhin complaining loudly about being under-resourced in Bakhmut is a signal that the meat grinder is coming to an end and the next phase starts. Russia/Prigozhin were baiting Ukraine to commit the last of their dwindling forces to an (political) objective that will be lost at little cost to the Russians.

    1. Karl

      …the meat grinder is coming to an end and the next phase starts.

      I dunno, why close the pincers when Ukraine keeps feeding more meat into the grinder? Mercouris also speculated on this a few days ago.

      1. Willow

        Because there’s no more meat to feed. Belief that there is, is just political hopium on Zelensky’s part. Sacking of Moskalyov suggests serious push back by Ukraine military about pumping more (non-existant) manpower into the grinder.

  24. WillD

    I think of them in terms of 3x ‘D’s. In no particular order – deluded, demented, deranged.

  25. Old Sovietologist

    Hambling is trying to accuse Russia of freely using not only thermobaric, but also cluster munitions, as well as anti-personnel mines, “in the expectation that no one will ever be held accountable for violating international law”

    Cleary he’s not aware that cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines prohibited by international conventions are massively used by Ukrainian nationalists on a daily basis, and specifically against the civilian population.

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