Putin Orders Reality Check – No Ukrainians Left on the Battlefield, No Sovereignty in Kiev

Yves here. This post may explain why in late May Putin recently referred to “that territory known as Ukraine.” Close observers took that as a statement of intent, that Russia was planning to render Ukraine into something other than a sovereign state.

It turns out that that is Russia’s present view of Ukraine. As John Helmer explains below, both Putin and the Foreign Ministry said that due to Ukraine having repudiated and then terminated the 1990 treaty with Russia and successor treaties recognizing each other as sovereign states, Ukraine is no longer sovereign, at least with respect to Russia. And among other things, that means there is no viable Ukraine-type entity for Russia to sign a cessation of hostilities pact, assuming Ukraine somehow were able to slip the leash of its US and NATO overlords.

In other words, from Russia’s vantage, not only is Ukraine de facto not sovereign, but also de jure.

One might wonder how to square this reading with the March 2022 Russia-Ukraine negotiations facilitated by Turkiye. Perhaps Russia actually did intend to solve this if a deal were worked out; “Um, you know this has no legal effect unless you cancel the termination of our treaties?” But Russia now has no reason to be flexible. Recall Ukraine was warned about that too. Putin said the longer the war went on, the more difficult it would become to negotiate with Russia. Russia would require more to lay down its arms if Ukraine and the West kept fighting.

Oh, and in case you missed it (I believe Conor will also be featuring this tweet in Links shortly), Ukraine has given up its remaining pretenses of being a democracy:

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

In brief statements issued late last week in Moscow – their significance missed in the western press — President Vladimir Putin ordered a reality check of Russia’s war strategy. He then  answered himself by declaring the war will be over when no Ukrainian army will be left on the battlefield, nor NATO weapons.

The Foreign Ministry answered by pointing out that Russia does not recognize there is a legal Ukrainian state because the reality is that the mutual recognition treaty between Russia and the Ukraine was cancelled by Presidents Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky in 2018 and 2019.

“We can conclude,” Putin said at the Security Council meeting on Thursday morning,  “that they can certainly send in additional equipment, but the mobilisation reserve is not unlimited. And Ukraine’s Western allies really seem determined to fight with Russia to the last Ukrainian. At the same time, we must proceed from the fact that the enemy’s offensive potential has not been exhausted; they may have strategic reserves yet unused, and I ask you to keep this in mind when making fighting strategies. You need to proceed from reality.”

Putin was following by a few hours the statement by the Foreign Ministry that Russia does not recognize the legal sovereignty of the regime in Kiev, and that following the cancellation of the treaty between the Ukraine and Russia in 2019, there will be no Ukrainian state left to sign an end-of-war agreement.

At her weekly briefing of reporters, the ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, was asked “when will Russia initiate a legal procedure to terminate the bilateral treaty with Ukraine on its sovereignty?” Zakharova answered:  “The procedure for terminating the bilateral treaty with Ukraine on its sovereignty is hampered by the absence of such a treaty. In Article 1 of the Treaty on the Principles of Relations between the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR of November 19, 1990, the two republics recognised each other as ‘sovereign states.’ The 1990 treaty was then replaced by the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine of May 31, 1997 (Article 39),  which was denounced by Ukraine and terminated on April 1, 2019.”

No army, no state. But the war will continue because it is the one between the US and the NATO powers and Russia. That too will have an ending, but longer.

“If [NATO Secretary-General] Mr Stoltenberg again says on behalf of NATO that they are against freezing the conflict in Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said  on June 21,    “this means that they want to fight. So let them fight. We are ready for that. We realised NATO’s true goals in Ukraine some time ago as their plans took shape over the years that followed the coup. Today, NATO is attempting to implement them…they are directly involved in the hybrid and hot war declared on Russia.”

I am reminded, Lavrov added, “of a Soviet-era joke noting that the Soviet Union is located too close to US military bases.” The Soviet Union was dismantled, but the war continues against Russia. It will end when the US is pushed to a safe distance.  How safe, Putin asked Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to explain in answer to two questions?

Putin’s question: “we know that the enemy is to receive additional Western equipment. What does the Defence Ministry think about threats in this connection?”

Shoigu’s answer: “All arsenals, accumulated by the Soviet Union and countries of the former socialist bloc, have now been virtually depleted. We can say the same about former Ukrainian resources… the amount, due to be delivered throughout 2023, as well as those weapons that have already been delivered, will not seriously affect the course of hostilities. Additionally, most of the armoured vehicles and fighting vehicles belong to the previous generation, or even to an earlier generation. On the one hand, their armour is weak and ineffective, compared to modern equipment. Mr President, we do not see any threats here.”

Question: “Mr Shoigu, what is the percentage of Western equipment out of the equipment that has been destroyed since June 4, which Mr Patrushev has just reported giving generalised data? Approximately.”

Answer: “Of the 246 tanks destroyed, 13 were Western made. At the same time, it should be noted that, if we consider the equipment that was delivered, tanks in particular: 81 Western-made tanks have been delivered. Of the 81 Western tanks, 13 [16%] have been destroyed. Of the armoured fighting vehicles, 59 Western ones have been destroyed. To date, Western countries have supplied Ukraine with an estimated 109 Bradley armoured fighting vehicles. Of the 109 BFVs, 18 [17%] have been destroyed. Overall, 59 Western-made armoured vehicles have been destroyed. As for field artillery and guns, here, of course, I can estimate right away that out of the 48 pieces destroyed, about 30 percent were Western made.”

The “reality”, Putin concluded publicly, not for Shoigu or the General Staff, is that the percentage of NATO weapons destroyed on the battlefield will rise sharply because “the enemy’s offensive potential has not been exhausted; they may have strategic reserves yet unused.” When those reserves are defeated, there will be neither NATO arms nor Ukrainian men left.

The significance of this re-tuning of Russia’s war aims was diverted for several hours by the Prigozhin affair.

The return of the Wagner columns to their bases in Lugansk, the dissolution of Wagner by the Defense Ministry, and the exit of Prigozhin to house arrest in Belarus remove the distraction from the battlefield and the General Staff’s war strategy.  If Prigozhin cannot bear the silence, the lack of access to the fortune he has accumulated, and his loss of freedom of movement, he may attempt a break-out to Africa, to plot his return to Russian politics. He will also be aware of the Lebed precedent – and the danger of taking helicopter rides.

Russian military sources believe the outcome of the one-armed rebellion will be salutary for the key decision-makers including Putin and Shoigu; least of all the General Staff and the chief, General Valery Gerasimov,  who have come out of the affair with greater political leverage over the Kremlin.  According to one Moscow source, “Now that the General Staff have saved the president, the latter will allow General Patience to continue doing its work, as Generals Iskander and Kinzhal seem to be doing theirs now.”

President Putin in a visit to the headquarters of the Dnieper battlegroup near the Kherson front on April 18. Tass reported: “While at the headquarters of the Dnepr battlegroup near the Kherson front, Vladimir Putin heard reports delivered by Airborne Troops commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky [left], Dnepr battlegroup commander Colonel General Oleg Makarevich [right] and other field commanders.”  

The last comment is a reference to long-range missile strikes against Ukrainian command headquarters, airfields, reserve stocks of ammunition and fuel, and NATO storages. After Shoigu had publicly warned on June 20 of decapitation strikes if the Ukrainians attacked targets in the Crimea and other Russian regions,  and there was a Storm Shadow attack on the Chongar bridge in the Crimea on June 22, the Defense Ministry reported that it had launched a June 23 salvo “ in response to a strike on a road bridge across the Chongar Strait [as well as] , a warehouse with Storm Shadow cruise missiles was destroyed at a Ukrainian airbase near the settlement of Starokonstantinov in the Khmelnitsky region.”

Left: Missile explodes on impacting the Chongarsky bridge on June 22; right, impact crater on the bridge road surface.  Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk

As for the impact of the affair on the conduct of the war, the assessment reported in the broadcast several hours before the end of the affair, was between next to nothing and not very much. The no Ukrainian army, no NATO weapons, no Kiev state goals are much more important now.

A NATO veteran comments on what he expects to see next at the front. “The Ukrainians are going to have a problem disengaging at the front lines and passing on to a conventional defence. I’ve noticed that the Russians, especially on the Lugansk People’s Repubic/Kharkov front, have massed significant forces and are applying pressure. This is causing the Ukrainians to shift and commit forces to the area either to stop the Russians, or to gain the initiative via attack. Unless they are willing to accept losing territory in favour of sparing their reserves — which they don’t seem to be — they will continue to be ground down at the front. While this is going on, their logistics will disintegrate at an increasing scope and rate due to Russian strikes, made up in large part of cheap Iranian-designed drones augmented by missiles.

“Stavka is moving away from the battalion tactical group as the fulcrum of operations and back to division-level formations. The forces built up on the Kharkov front are indicative of that.  When your enemy knows how you think on a fundamental level, it’s a trifle for them to figure out what you’ll do next. After that,  it’s about how to maneuver the enemy into doing it when and where they choose. I’m going to keep watching Kharkov.”

Listen to the presentation in the third segment of TNT Radio’s War of the Worlds, from Minute 46:

Source: https://tntradiolive.podbean.com/

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  1. berit

    “No army, no state. But the war will continue because it is the one between the US and the NATO powers and Russia. That too will have an ending.”

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says, on behalf of NATO, that “they are against freezing the conflict in Ukraine.”

    I wonder on what authority Mr Stoltenberg speaks? Biden’s? Ukrainians’? They are TPTB, the current MICMAC, the despicable lot making tons of money on other peoples’ suffering and death.

    Jensemann he’s often called here, meaning little brother Jens. Just another twist of the too long, soon gone, I hope, oportunistically changing “rulesbased” western “world” order?

    I see no logic in Stoltenberg’s utterances, other than another servile fool making lots of money on heeding His Masters’ Voices.

    Ukraine is no longer a sovereign state, as commonly understood, (neither is Norway, ceding ground to US bases and atomic weapons under US law) Ukraine cannot be said to be democratically governed, having decended into totalitarianism under its scripted president, who immediately betrayed the people who overwhelmingly voted for him as peace-candidate. His pretense is long gone, as are EU’s, NATO’s and Jensemann Stoltenberg’s, doing their devilish work to prop up an ailing Biden as the crumbling facade of the evil US hegemon.
    I used to be proud of my country. Sadly, I’m not any longer. We have let ourselves be corrupted too.

  2. deedee

    Seems to me that Putin isn’t half as smart as some would think. This definition of victory is probably unachievable.

    1. Frank

      On what evidence, authority and expertise do you draw this conclusion? You don’t think the President of Russia has a better idea of what is achievable?

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Do you believe the President of Russia, a politician, is telling the truth? (That is to say, I think he knows full well that this is probably unachievable, but is not about to say so for reasons of political and military expedience.)

        It seems like common sense to me that this is either impossible or extremely impractical. There are still plenty of Ukrainians left for a slow, grinding defensive war. NATO can keep producing and shipping just enough equipment for them to keep up such. A far more likely (if still not that likely in the short term) victory scenario is if Ukraine and/or Western support for it collapses. Not if they literally run out. Very few wars have ever been won that way. I would welcome counter-examples though.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Um, Ukraine is down to about 19 million people per Douglas Macgregor, between flight, death, and loss of territory. Ukraine was already demographically short on men in the 20s to early 30s due to the 1990s-early 2000s baby bust.

          The TL;DR version is not only is Ukraine short of men, witness old men being pressed into service, but they are also not being trained, which = fast death and no military utility except extending the war a bit.

          Ukraine has just gone to full mobilization in its West. Before it was trying to target heavily ethic Russian or Hungarian areas, hence a lot of the dragooning scenes coming from Odessa.

          Suggest you read this Scott Ritter interview:

          Asked to comment on recent Western media reports that Ukraine’s staggering losses have forced authorities in the country’s west to dig up old graves from earlier wars to make room for new casualties, Ritter predicted that its only “going to get worse for Ukraine” as time goes on, and their military continues to be ground up in the proxy war with Russia.
          “The longer this war goes on, and I’m not talking about years, I’m talking about the coming weeks and months – more pressure is going to be put on Ukraine to generate new forces,” he predicted.

          “As you hear right now, the need to do a mobilization to get 70,000 new troops up and running in as shorter period as possible. Why? Because Ukrainians know that the 60,000 that were trained by NATO are going to be destroyed. Now, where are those 70,000 going to get their training? How good is this training going to be? What is the quality of the officer corps that’s going to be commanding them, the non-commissioned officers? The answer is they’re not going to have good training. Their officers, well, they might be motivated, but poorly trained, incapable of doing complicated military tactics and operations. The same thing with their non-commissioned officers. You’re going to have a unit of men that barely knows how to get up in the morning, get dressed and stand in formation. And definitely, doesn’t know how to fall in on technologically advanced Western equipment and use it in the most sophisticated manner on the battlefield against an enemy who is everything the Ukrainians aren’t,” Ritter summed up.


          See also tweets like this:

          Recruiting centers in Ukraine were instructed to mobilize up to 90,000 people to conduct accelerated training under NATO programs and send them to the front.The reason is the huge losses during the counteroffensive. Mass mobilization in Ivano-Frankivsk and Obolonsky district of Kiev is connected

          One of the YouTubers, I think Larry Johnson, said Ukraine would find it hard to meet its current mobilization target.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Their manpower is definitely being degraded. I don’t think they would be able to launch a serious offensive. But on the other hand: they are only now starting a full mobilisation? Even without hitting their recruitment targets and even with drastically lower quality in most units, I think they can hold out for a long while on the defensive (see Mariupol, Bakhmut). That would also give NATO enough time to find/produce more equipment to keep this going. Unless there is a morale and/or political collapse, which is a different matter from exhausting their manpower. War to the utter exhaustion of one side’s resources is very uncommon, and very expensive for the other side.

            1. ChrisFromGA

              Once they’re degraded to the point of only being able to play defense, logic would dictate that the time for peace talks has arrived. As further delays will only result in Ukraine losing more territory, should the defense let a goal or two get passed them.

              Of course, I’m assuming a Ukrainian negotiating entity with agency and the interest of the Ukrainians in mind. Unfortunately, we don’t have that right now with Zelensky and his puppet regime. It’s the sad reality that NATO countries with little “skin in the game” are dictating the fighting and dying, but not actively taking part, except for a few “sheep dipped” mercs and advisors.

            2. chris

              I don’t think you have any idea what is going on here.

              I’m not a military expert by any means but I have worked on projects to produce materiel. It will take years to scale up production, produce, and then ship, what is needed for the Ukrainians to make more than a token effort against the Russians. The allies who would be ideally suited for this cause are Germany and Italy. If you have been reading the articles on this site, then you know that both countries do not have the resources to do this. They do not currently have the energy to produce what they want for their civilian economy, let alone a surge in their weapons production capabilities. In the US, unless an awful lot has been hidden from citizens, we don’t have the physical plant or the people to produce what is needed in the short term. Based on past experience, unless someone in power decides we need to transition to a war footing and stop producing things like cars to make more tanks, we’re looking at 2-5 years before production is scaled up to make a difference in this conflict.

              Now, I don’t speak or read Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, or German. I don’t trust what comes out of my home country’s media or the foreign media. I know everyone is spinning and lying. But even the most diehard NATO hawks have been public with the materiel challenges in this conflict. And even the most anti-Russian sources are admitting the counter offensive has been a flop. Publicly available information suggests that Ukraine has asked for something between two to four times what NATO countries can produce in terms of artillery, armor, and supplies.

              So I want you, and people who think your point of view is reasonable to consider, what it means to have Russia kill Ukrainians for another 2-5 years before anyone can do anything about it. I want you to consider how truly naked the “West” is against this form of attack right now. Because what I’m saying, and what current results suggest, is that this is the best Ukraine is going to get for another 2-5 years. If for the sake of this conversation we accept that is true, do you still think that the goal of completely demilitarizing Ukraine is impossible? Because I don’t.

              1. Altandmain

                Yep. Working in manufacturing and now mining, let me tell you one other big problem.

                The Civilian Manufacturing Base is now a fraction of what it once was. There isn’t that large amount of workers that would have existed decades ago. Many people who once had a decent job in manufacturing have become “deaths of despair” statistics, while others who lived through the decline of manufacturing have retired, and others who are around today, who are still working have found employment in other fields.

                Keep in mind that thanks to the insane neoliberal economic policies such as “free trade” and “comparative advantage”, which were an excuse for the greed of the shareholder and executive class, a large percentage of the civilian manufacturing base is now overseas in other nations, such as China. Needless to say, the Chinese won’t be lending their manufacturing to help the US wage its war against Russia, because of course the US seems hellbent on provoking into a war as well over Taiwan.

                A large part of Generation Y and Z have never worked in manufacturing. They don’t have the decades of experience that the WW2 generation or the Baby Boom generation had working in such jobs. At work, I’ve found that often new hires require ground up training.

                Not to mention, the West no longer has the large pools of engineers and other specialized skills that would be needed – the US has chosen “Financial Engineering” and the Wall Street casino instead. I suspect that the West will also find that software engineers and manufacturing are 2 very different fields.

                Yet another problem is the calibre of leadership in the corporate and political world. They don’t have the experience scaling up manufacturing that previous generations did. Perhaps Germany or Italy might have a bit more experience, but less so in the US and in any event, Europe is now short on energy and natural resources. I don’t see the US (mis)leadership class executing this with anything near the competence of a nation like China.

                Other barriers exist. Modern supply chains tend to be very long, with many nations, and a surprising amount of them have components in Russia. In many cases, replacements will cost many times more. An example being titanium.


                It’s not just in civilian industries as well.


                There are other barriers – how big a standard of living is the average Western citizen willing to take? Full-scale Mobilization means ration cards and the like. The Russians have been careful to only partially mobilize for similar reasons. Keep in mind that political legitimacy comes from economic prosperity.

                The real danger IMO is now the Western world is more reliant on nuclear weapons than ever before, having lost the conventional war.

            3. Polar Socialist

              We can, perhaps, assume somewhat less strict definition of “an army on the battlefield”.

              At the end of the WW2 over 3 million Germans surrendered, which was almost the same number they had at the beginning of the Barbarossa. Wehrmacht just wasn’t a cohesive fighting force anymore.

            4. tevhatch

              Perhaps, if the USA gives up on China or China makes a serious error. Otherwise I expect the powers behind Biden/Trump will weary when too much money goes to MIC while Bill Gates/Tim Cook/etc, will start their own war on Washington.

            5. hk

              Unfortunately, I have trouble seeing an end of this conflict without one side or the other (and I don’t think Ukraine is a part of this conflict any more, of it ever was.) collapsing. Either NATO “surrenders” or Russia ceases to exist. There’s no off ramp for the West not only because they lack credibility, but also because major factions therein blew up every possibility. Russia can only end the conflict by “winning” because there is no one to talk to, but what it would mean for Russia to win is not clear: I don’t see one other than capturing Paris and restoring the Peace of 1815. This war has a long way to go yet, then: Ukraine may soon run out of people, but I expect the neocons will try to drag on the conflict to the last American after they run out of Europeans to kill. I think you noted earlier that you think a new cold war is the likely result, and I think that’s about the best result we can hope for.

              1. tevhatch

                The reason the EU and USA are clamping down on priviliges such as “free press”, free speach, etc is they are more worried about their own Bolsheviks, and are prepping their own weak sauce NSDAP. A clever operative will play along until they get enough levers of power, then put the boot onto the neck of the oligarchs and use appeasement to buy economic room. It’s grim, but not necessarily just for Russia.

                1. hk

                  Maybe, or not. Nobody really knows really. The point that Daniil Adamov is raising, I think, and I think he’s right, is that there’s no way out of the current situation for either side, unless something really weird happens (some kind of political revolution in the West, even a subtle one, seems quite improbable in the near term, at least). Western leaders have talked themselves up to the point that most reasonable peace terms that don’t expand the conflict have been ruled out–unless they all collapse at once. Russia can end the conflict only by “winning,” but the conflict has evolved to the point that it is not really about Ukraine any more: the only “meaningful” victory for the Russians is to defeat NATO in one form or another and break it as a meaningful alliance, to be replaced by a renewed Peace of 1815 in some form. The war can’t even become a stalemate until something pretty big happens and I don’t see it taking place (the minimum requirement for this is a total military collapse and capitulation by Ukraine followed by Russian takeover of all its territory, directly or indirectly–say via a puppet regime.) in the immediate future (that is, this summer)–and only a stalemate then because Russia will not be able to even indirectly strike at its “real” enemies if the fighting in Ukraine ceases (the longer the fight goes on, the more West bleeds because Ukraine is a hardly intact rotting corpse now).

                  So a strange strategic situation has emerged, I think. As far as I can tell, Russia does not want to “win” if that means just defeating the Ukrainians. The West is split between those who want to keep fighting for some reason or another (at least in the medium term) and those who want to stop the fighting (and the bleeding) for now by having the Ukrainians lose decisively on the battlefield and reassess (I tend to put people like MacGregor in this camp). I don’t think anyone in positions of influence on either side actually wants to “talk”: Russians because they know the West isn’t ready to actually “surrender” yet–and only a “surrender” (even if disguised in some fashion is acceptable ending to them because the West can’t be expected to abide by whatever agreement that was not imposed (and maintained) on them by force); and well, I don’t think anyone needs to delve too deeply into the goings on in the West. So, from the perspective of seeking actual and meaningful peace, there’s no path open in any reasonable term.

            6. Michael Fiorillo

              It’s Ukrainian manpower, but it’s also US political will, and it’s hard to see Biden & Co. being able to maintain the military war in Ukraine and the propaganda war in the US/Europe.

              US politics will also have an impact on policy; people are getting sick of this s#*+, and that will play out at the voting polls, especially with the Democrats as brittle as they are.

              1. lyman alpha blob

                Biden may not be able to maintain political will in the US with current Republican opposition to the war, but that opposition is only due to the fact that they weren’t the ones starting the war. If a Republican other than Trump wins in 2024, my guess is the Republican party will get their minds right and support the war 100%.

                If Trump wins in 2024, who knows? If he opposes the war, has public support for that and tries to end it, Republicans would be hard pressed to oppose him (and Democrats will try to impeach him a few more times). If Trump wins and decides he wants to continue the war though, would Democrats suddenly agree with him on something?

                It would be great if this whole thing could be over yesterday before anyone else has to die for the hubris of US fools who never got tired of playing Risk and think the world was put here for them to conquer.

              2. The Heretic

                Deep state and Elite political will in the USA is virtually endless, as long as their children do not die in war. Now in Western and Eastern Europe and in the USA, what is the popular will? Giving guns and ammo is one thing, giving the blood of your sons (and a few daughters) is an entirely different matter. I see no popular support for an actual NATO intervention of head on war with Russia, even though news outlets speak of Russian atrocities. The European and US elites/ Intelligence agency probably do have a decent picture of the battlefield, and no doubt it is ugly. Furthermore there are enough Cold warriors left, who are not totally senile, to know the a direct NATO/Russia shooting war has potential Nuclear Consequence, so they know that a conventional war between NATO and Russia is out of the question. (Unless Hillary wins the presidency, but I suspect that she too was just blowharding, or if the neo-cons are populated by blasphemous heretical evangelical Christians who actually want to bring about Armageddon…)

                So NATO will continue to supply weapons, but will there be Ukrainians Soldiers and mercenaries around to shoot them? If Russia can continue to trade their artillery shells for Ukrainian lives, this war from the Russian point of view need not stop until they march to within 20km of Ukraine’s western border. (Perhaps Russia should consider using more environmentally friendly high explosives that does not poison the ground nor poison their own land due to its manufacture)

                There is only one other scenario… the Russian will march west past Dneiper river by approximately 200 km, occupying any natural geographic defensive atributes or key strategic towns to set up a buffer zone. They will encourage the Ukrainian population to emigrate toward Europe due to loss of water and electricity and the sound of artillery explosions. Kiev will become surrounded city like Berlin… it’s airport will be outside of the city by 20km in Russian controlled airbase (so they can inspect all persons and cargo entering the city) The borders of the Ukraine will be policed by a strong multilateral non-nato force with Russians. All cargo and person will be inspected crossing the border. And Russian will maintain Air Supremacy over the Ukraine for ISR and aerial bombardment/disciplinary purpose.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Actually it is the reverse. Ukraine will run out of weapons before it runs out of men….although with so many having fled, Ukraine was already going deep into age groups that normally don’t serve.

            7. Raymond Sim

              The territory over which the Ukrainian government’s writ holds will shrink faster than the territory its military is able to exclude the Russians from. Personally I will be amazed if the power vacuum doesn’t precipitate Polish and Hungarian action.

          2. Paul Damascene

            Entirely understandable to be focussed on Ukraine and the most kinetic aspect of what is, however, a multi-domain, multi-front conflict.

            Worth thinking about this as now a Globalist West vs RF (PRC) conflict–w/ various trends now in train: de-militarization of NATO, de-dollarization of global finance, de-industrialization, de-energization, structural inflation, increasing friction/disruption in global supply chains–up to, potentially, a Sanctions Club emerging that might actually embargo sales of critical resources to the West–reduction of financial leverage–up to, potentially, a Global South repudiation of Western debt.

            Borrell rather helpfully observed that for all the 70 billion or so that the EU had invested in the conflict directly, the costs to the European economies was on the order of ten times that amount. It’s been estimated that Germany was able to take 20 billion in cheap Russian energy and produce 1 trillion in value-added in industrial production.

            There can be no victory without a political dimension. Westard war destroys everything in sight, installs an occupation/neo-colonial extraction regime and calls it victory. We see how that goes. Arguably the best case of an actual political victory is the reconciliation between Russia and Chechens. This won’t be fully available in (West) Ukraine, but an element of a political victory will be the weakening, fracturing or defanging of NATO–getting at least part of Europe, and ideally contiguous segments of it connectable to BRI, to peel away from Atlanticism and turn away from open *and* covert conflict w/ Russia/Eurasia.

            The fanaticism of the Russia-haters in the West, however, may actually demand direct confrontation, which is very likely to lead to, or start, some level of nuclear conflict. The wildest of wild cards is Ukraine as a now insane kamikaze state going scorched earth and destroying itself rather than letting Russia have it–ZNPP is the greatest danger at the moment, but there are other nuclear facilities, and Ukraine is very much a danger to produce dirty bombs or be given tactical nukes under the table.

            Most dangerous moment in human history, by far.

            1. JonnyJames

              I agree with your comment. Sorry to be a hair-splitter and pain but: Language is important, it’s not some “globalists” (whatever that means) We already have terms to describe: Imperialist West, The Anglo-Zionist Empire, The US Empire, Empire of Lies, or whatever

              The “Globalist West” is not global. The vast majority of the world population is not part of “the West”

              1. Greg

                Globalism is a culturally homogenising force that wants to turn every country into airports, starbucks, and mcdonalds; where labour is cheap and capital is free. It’s a pertinent term that makes sense in the context of PDs comment.

                It encapsulates the west (a tiny proportion of the world) attempting to colonise the globe financially and culturally. It in no way implies a global representation.

                  1. podcastkid

                    What former imperial powers would roll out concrete (airports eg) over lands crucial to human survival? McDonalds and Starbucks are almost as bad…asphalt (at least China doesn’t require endless wars in the mix).

                    The explosion of cities buries fertile soil under concrete. The equivalent of 30 football fields are consumed by cement and concrete every minute. If the current trend of urban population growth continues, and if urban sprawl proceeds at the maximum rate, the world’s total urban area, which is associated with impervious soil coverage, will increase by 1.2 million sq. km by 2030-48, an expanse equal to the area of South Africa. That would be a tripling of the global urban land surface since 2000. The most valuable soils for agricultural use are often lost in this way, for cities are usually built on highly productive agricultural land.

        2. chris

          There are still plenty of Ukrainians left for a slow, grinding defensive war.

          So, how many more Ukrainians should die for this? Is there an acceptable number in your opinion? Because it seems from your statement that there is some kind of acceptable tolerance for loss of human life in that country. I’m curious when, in your opinion, there will no longer be “enough” Ukrainians for this conflict? Does age matter? Should we consider ratios to evaluate the fighting strength of children and the elderly?

          I have been amazed to see so many people make so many assumptions about what other people should tolerate during this conflict. But it is clarifying to see comments like the above. Good to know that according to some people not enough Ukrainians have died yet.

          1. Irrational

            I took that sentence as meaning that the West is deluding itself that it can go on, not that Mr. Adamov shares that view.

          2. JonnyJames

            The cowardly warmongers in Warshiton are willing to fight “until the last drop of Ukrainian blood”. Zbig would say they are pawns in the Grand Chessboard.

          3. Daniil Adamov

            It’s not about what they should tolerate. It is about what they have tolerated so far, and seem likely to continue to tolerate. I’d be only happy if the slaughter ended today, so long as it actually ended. (Meaning that, for example, I would not want us to give Ukraine Crimea and the Donbass back – as while that would likely end the war between our nations, it would certainly not end the slaughter on the ground – or would replace it with another.)

            That aside, I think there is obviously a great deal of tolerance for the loss of human life in both Russia and Ukraine. Hell, I can just about promise that for the former, since I live here and talk to people. And events in the latter over the last few years have been pretty telling as well.

        3. Sausage Factory

          NATO no longer talks about victory. They talk occasionally about their desires and they are forever hopeful if forever delusional but they have no concept of any victory at all (although we will hear a lot of rhetoric at the NATO summit soon) Its just rhetoric, it will come face to face with reality and it will lose. The West cannot produce enough weapons to keep the war going in any kind of fruitful way, of course they will give more and more away (actually they are selling it, IMF issue the loans, Ukraine gets more duff gear and another 10K dead out of the deal) Russia is in no rush, it can destroy what comes in quicker than the West can replace it, that has been the same since day one 18 months ago. Mathematics and physics tell you what is happening and what will continue to happen thats why we can be certain. The only thing in its way is ‘slash n burn’ US tactics via a biological attack or nuclear destruction which is and has been arranged for the Ukrainians. We know that the zaparozhe NPP will be the target, are the West desperate enough? I think they are. Last week the FSB arrested two people buying Cesium 137 inside Russia for a dirty bomb, linked to Ukraine, the Ukrainian junta are desperate and so is Biden. Humiliation is a great motivator for western political numbskulls. Doubling down on insanity seems a good idea when you’re desperate.

          1. Librarian Guy

            Thank you, I believe you understand the overall equation quite well. So then I think the question becomes are the MSM Propaganda spoon-fed masses so ignorant and without any agency under the sway of the brain-dead TPTB in D.C. that they merrily (or cravenly) allow the initiation of WW III & nuclear war? Sadly, I believe that the U$ public (if public even exists in this Ayn Randian nightmare divided country anymore) will follow the Masters a few steps further on the road to World War, which the West cannot win in the Slavic lands, which will lead to nuclear brinksmanship & quite possibly annihilation. (There are some sane leaders in Russia; there are few in D.C., some in the professional military however DO evidently know this can’t end well if Escalation is the only Button one can press on the keyboard) . . . Perhaps some of the Europeans will put a check to it, I do hear that Scholz is hovering at 30% popularity and will soon be out, obviously Macron is widely despised in France, a shame that the millions taking to the streets only sustained it for 6 weeks or so . . . I agree with Paul Damascene above (who I have read on MoA), “Most dangerous moment in human history, by far.”

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Yes, I should have made the point you are making earlier rather than getting would around the axle of the manpower discussion.

            Ukraine will run out of weapons. That is the limiting factor, not manpower. On current trajectories, they will be out of artillery shells by end of summer/start of fall, which is why Scott Ritter has been saying the war will be over by them. The Discord leaks said they’d be out of air defense missiles by end of May, hence the yammering for F-16s, which would be used in that capacity (F-16s would not get near the line of contact; Ritter said even under optimal conditions, as in with AWACS and a US pilot, a F-16 would not make it back home after a sortie v. Russian forces 8 times out of 10). The EU has been falling short of its targets for deliveries to Ukraine.

            1. Paul Damascene

              Though I think the military calculus of attrition vs replenishment is sound, according to information widely reported even in the West, it may be more useful to think of the war moving to a different phase rather than being over.

              1. There seems to be some concern among sympathetic Russia watchers that Kiev might abandon the offensive, and perhaps with it, the fight-for-every-inch strategy. At some point (preferably for them soon), the strategy may shift to identifying some version of what remains that Kiev will try to defend. Odessa, for example. If Kiev doesn’t collapse first, they can force Russia to choose whether it is prepared to destroy Odessa to retake it.

              2. I mentioned above the potential shift to a full-on dog-in-the-manger / salt the earth (w/ radioactive isotopes) strategy–nuclear power plants, dirty bombs, eventually perhaps a tactical nuke for the Strangeloves with blue balls, biological & chemical warfare, terror attacks, etc.. Negotiate or the kid gets it, sort of thing.

              3. Coalition of the willing. Though most of the Western military analysts we respect see NATO as a paper tiger, the depths of analytical delusion we have seen on display prior to The Offensive are as nothing compared to the delusions of grandeur of NATO itself. I can’t imagine they’ll call a halt to this without some subset of NATO getting its beak wet (and its neck broken).

              4. Nazi insurgency / stay behind forces–essentially a renewal of the CIA Gehlenist program in place from the end of of WW2.

              5. These have all been shifts by the UkriNaziNATO side. But particularly in light of #4 above, and with a butcher’s bill approaching 30,000 KIA, pressure is building in Russia to take NATO–and especially the US on directly. Lavrov said something like this just the other day. And Putin today emphasized with particular bitterness how the West is sitting back behind its proxies without risking themselves.

              5a. It could be a duel-at-dawn sort of scenario, wherein RF calls a global press conference and on live TV, with Pentagon on the line, explains that, we are now at the brink of war. Russia will no longer accept a one-way war, & and announces a single **conventional** Sarmat launch on CIA HQ. (To demonstrate willingness & capability.) We recommend you evacuate, and you’re of course welcome to try to shoot it down. In turn we will accept a single, conventional launch of an ICBM at a target you publicly specify in advance. We of course will put our AD to work to intercept.

              Any deviation, and the war is on. We will begin striking US military targets everywhere with conventional means.

              5b. Russia states that it considers itself at war with NATO. RF has no interest in NATO territory but we will begin to strike staging areas for strikes against us, beginning with the Aegis ashore bases in Poland and Romania, etc. I suspect if Russia determines that some form of conflict with NATO is now unavoidable or that they no longer care to avoid it, then Russia would prefer to fight NATO from its current positions rather than be stretched out to the Polish border. In SE Ukraine, Russian positions are largely out of reach of NATO air forces whereas NATO staging areas are well within range of Russian missiles. Russia might pledge to limit strikes to US military targets unless reprisals are directed at Russia proper, rather than Russian forces in Ukraine.

              6. We get a buffer zone–with Russia certain that the West will be investing the next 5-10 years in remedying the deficiencies they’ve displayed in this conflict.

              7. Or sufficient European countries peel away–or, hell, RFK Jr is elected–and Russia presses the December 2021 proposed changes to the European (Global) Security Framework.

        4. vao

          Not if they literally run out. Very few wars have ever been won that way. I would welcome counter-examples though.

          The only example I can think of is the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870, which left Paraguay with only 40% of its pre-war population, with a ratio of male-to-female of 1-to-4 amongst the adult survivors.

          Paraguay even came to levy slaves, children, and women as a last-ditch measure, and after its army and navy had been destroyed in a succession of traditional military campaigns (with success swinging back and forth), resorted to guerrilla warfare till every single remaining resisting unit had been defeated.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            Ancient Carthage also comes to mind – Romans razed it to the ground and salted the earth. And given the quote that Tacitus puts into the mouth of one Roman enemy – “Rome creates a desert and calls it peace” – that wasn’t the only time they wiped out everything.

            This type of warfare probably happened a lot more in antiquity though – reducing nations to rubble doesn’t make for good PR, which is why the US rarely talks about what it did to Korea back in the 50s.

          2. Daniil Adamov

            That is the one I thought of too. An anomaly for a good reason, and a hell of a war goal to set.

    2. Pat

      Just out of curiosity, what do you think should be his definition of victory in this situation?
      Please be sure to factor in the trustworthiness of the drug addled Ukrainian leadership and the fantasy driven and agreement incapable psychopathic American leadership.

      1. Rolf

        By giving the neocons/neophytes control of foreign policy, Biden lost the opportunity to show any real diplomacy or statesmanship (so much for his ever-ballyhooed FP chops), and negotiate with Russia to preemptively circumvent this conflict. As I understand it, he failed to do so immediately after entering office. Now, it seems Russia must continue to prosecute until it accomplishes its original goals of Ukraine’s de-militarization, pushing NATO back to what Russia regards as a safe distance.

        Biden and the Democratic Party have stupidly committed themselves to a position from which they cannot then back down without political humiliation. They now must somehow attempt to prolong this conflict through 2024, such that we are engaged (together with the requisite political tension and uncertainty) during Biden’s campaign.

        But then how will Biden campaign against Trump? All Trump need do is point to a lackluster economy, scandals of influence peddling, the weaponization of DoJ against him, pathetic responses to inflation and supply chain fragility, and the lack of any clear strategy for ending this conflict — other than trying to immerse the country in another one with China? All Trump need do is to say he will end the war in a week or a day. We all know Trump is a master at exploiting political weakness. His administration was a train wreck, but Biden has made it clear as crystal he’s no improvement.

        A corrupt, decadent political duopoly owned by corporations and the ultra rich, a labyrinthian, entrenched federal bureaucracy, and a titanic military-industrial-et-al. war machine … these make up the real tripartite system of government in the US, that works to keep most Americans in debt, insecure, distracted, at odds with one another, and willing to work for peanuts.

        Sorry for the rant —

        1. Lex

          Biden is a foreign policy neocon and always has been. The neocons in his FP team worked for him and Obama, a few of them go as far back as the second Clinton administration. None are career DoS personnel, all have always been political appointees. The democrats and Biden aren’t trapped. This is their foreign policy and it has been since the New Democrats (which always included Biden) took over the party.

          1. JonnyJames

            The original neo-conservatives or neocons were the PNAC group of Leo Strauss worshipers. Now the term is synonymous with warmonger. The D faction of warmongers were called “liberal interventionists” by many. No matter what the label du jour, they are all just plain old-fashioned warmongers and war profiteers. No matter which faction of the Country Club we “vote” for, the warmongers are always there. Another example of sham democracy

          2. Librarian Guy

            Bidet did (symbolically) vote against Gulf War I, but overall I agree, his political record is 100% disgraceful, & reactionary– pro-segregationists (& segregated schools) starting out, the “Senator from Mastercard”/ Delaware, Lock ‘Em All Up drug Warrior (originally a Nelson Rockefeller-R initiative, then picked up by Nixon & Erlichman to go after those damned anti-war “hippies”), & the one who assured the predatory lenders they could keep college attendees in debt for decades with eventual profits of 200% + on college loans.

            Honestly he still had some working neurons in the early 90s when Bush Sr. launched the first Gulf War to “liberate” the Kuwait monarchy from our former strongman, Saddam. When he entered office this time, there was clearly little or any cognitive ability, it’d be interesting to know who the Svengali with all the REAL decision making power is. My guess would be “Dr. Jill.”

            But yes, beyond an empty suit, Zombie Joe is an empty cranium. Not a good look or outcome for a (fast-fading) “superpower”, perhaps now devolving into Paper Tiger territory as Nixon and Kissinger feared.

  3. JBird4049

    The United States’, let’s be honest here, regime, not government in my view, has bribed, threaten, blackmailed, and ultimately maneuvered the country of Ukraine into a war it could never win after giving the Russians no reason to believe that it or its controllers are “agreement capable.”

    Just wonderful. One destroyed country. Two countries that have suffered heavy casualties. The whole of Europe economically crippled. The American Empire has accelerated it decline, which I would think it a good thing since the militarized, destructive, coup throwing, mass murdering, dictator supporting, occasionally nonsensical, and often illegal activities of the country since 1947 with the very qualified exceptions like the Korean War; however, we are still ruled by these greedy, short sighted, fools with delusions of competency and with a growing authoritarian, maybe totalitarian, police state.

    The whole twenty plus past years really has been an increasingly enthusiastic march of folly. A barely functioning economy, a dysfunctional functional government at all levels almost everywhere, environmental collapse, ungodly amounts of still growing corruption all of which we are not supposed to see or talk about because we will get censored. If we actually try to anything, we can worry about a visit with the nice with the dark SUVs and automatic weapons. Because reasons.

    What a goddamn mess we are all in.

    1. spud

      1993 was the year all things changed. with the election of bill clinton, and the creation of the E.U., this set up the world wide fascist movement, it freed up finance and created many more billionaires than ever could have been before.

      this of course set the world up for endless war and genocide to increase the profits of the few, over the many.

  4. JohnA

    Were Ukraine to remain a sovereign country of some sort, what quality of life would there be for the surviving Ukrainians? In addition to all the the greviously disabled war veterans and war widows, Zelensky has destroyed all employee rights, made deals to sell agriland and other assets to US and western interests, plus the country will have insurmountable debts due to all the loans provided by the west.

    It is highly likely that such an existence would be Hobbesian in the extreme, as in ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.
    Not a happy or encouraging prospect.

    1. Anon

      What I find curious, is that throughout history and the world; what you describe has been the norm more than it hasn’t. It is our relative comfort that is the aberration. If you investigate, you may find the contrast proportionate. Inversely so. Which is to say, the Machine doesn’t give a damn about the suffering experienced between its gears; it is a lubricant.

      Ukraine needs to remain a sovereign country to facilitate its liquidation. Blackrock et al, can’t take those receipts to Russia.

    2. redleg

      Unless they can be neutral like Austria has been until very recently, in which case the conditions will be fine.

  5. Mark Gisleson

    Excellent intro from Yves and strong stuff from Helmer.

    I think what depresses me most about this war is the certainty that average Americans will come to think of this as a Bay of Pigs in which the Joe Biden crime family blew our big opportunity to defeat big bad Russia (and not as a unilateral move against Russia by shadowy figures behind the scene who only come into the light after victories — which is why we’ve never seen them).

    Russia will receive no credit for anything, their spectacular win a reminder of Biden’s betrayal. Ukrainian refugees will cluster in New York, Chicago and other enclaves from which to plot their CIA-funded invasion of Russia who will bitterly cry tears of blood as . . . um, OK, probably to soon to talk about bayoneting babies and pregnant women but yes, all the Nazi stuff fershure.

    Russia may be winning a war, but we’re inheriting the slava wind.

    1. SocalJimObjects

      Russia will receive plenty of credit from the rest of the world. Where I used to live in South East Asia, many people were supporting Russia, and messages containing the background to the war e.g. Maidan were actively spread through social media.

  6. Lex

    I’m not so sure on the Shoigu and Geramisov saving Putin. Notice that it was the Chechens who were mobilized, and while extremely dangerous (Wagner and Chechen officers fought each other 20 years ago) it suggests quite a lot about loyalty to Putin and who was trusted to confront the Wagner mutiny. The Chechen contingent is deeply and personally loyal to Putin.

    I’m very hesitant to draw any conclusions from the Prigozhin Mutiny yet. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I am more and more convinced that there are deeper intra-elite machinations and power struggles, though we’re unlikely to see the actions or the results directly. Neither Shoigu nor Geramisov are at all popular with large sections of the military or opinion makers. The momentum against them has been gathering and expanding beyond the turbopatriots who regularly call for them to be shot.

    1. Raymond Sim

      Putin is old. The succession struggle is surely already ongoing. In the midst of it all a military commander went crazy, as they sometimes do, and for a while nobody was sure what the hell was going on. That’s how it looks to me.

      1. Lex

        Putin is old but plans to run for another term. This is problematic though because it isn’t over inside Russia. The political discussion, what it means, what should be done is not decreasing after the weekend. It’s increasing. And from the looks of it right now, Putin only has a compromise that makes everyone unhappy.

        1. Raymond Sim

          Not to diminish the challenges, but isn’t having everybody displeased pretty much status quo Putin? Viewed from outside Russia this sort of public unhappiness almost seems like his comfort zone.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Putin can do a 4 hour press conferences on his feet and rattle off facts and data on many topics from memory. He’s was sharper than most 30 year olds and seems pretty robust. Ex an accident or a stroke, he seems able to soldier on till at least 80. And Putin and his most obvious current successor, Medvedev, are tight.

        1. Raymond Sim

          All true, but Putin being as taciturn as he is these things only serve to make the situation more perplexing for power players looking to manuever don’t they?

          But manuever they will, that being the nature of the beast. Which is why it seems plausible to me that even Putin’s inner circle may have been perplexed by Prigozhin’s antics, let alone what public face to put on their response to them. And of course gving him time and enough rope is exactly what one would expect from Putin.

        2. Rolf

          Very much agree, Putin seems anything but old, and his measured command of details during conferences, interviews, and public addresses is impressive. Watching videos of him speak at Valdai Discussion Club (2012? 2013?) was an eye-opener for me, but these sessions are dismissed as self-serving propaganda in the US. I’ve come to realize how Russo-phobic — or just illiterate — our current political classes are — how is that so many regard Putin as some sort of Bond-film villain? A jingoism further inflamed by Biden’s extemporaneous “Putin must go!” (or whatever he said) this spring.

      3. Polar Socialist

        Prigozhin has never been, is not and will never be a military commander. He is a businessman, who got darn good sweetheart deals from Russian MoD for catering services in all Russian garrisons and as a supplier of all kinds of other stuff that all armies require for daily running.

        Then Russia turned to war-economy, and MoD dropped all those deals and even started to integrate his mercenaries to the armed forces proper. He did not like this new deal he was dealt with, and like a businessman on the 90’s Russia, made violent threats to force the other side to renegotiate. The other side called his bluff.

        1. Raymond Sim

          Ersatz commander then. Same deal, complex and cautious early political manuevering going on, and this one guy goes whackadoodle, nobody quite knows what to do for a time.

        1. Raymond Sim

          I think Putin’s position is comparable to one of the elected monarchs of old, with oligarchs and senior state officials as the electors. Putin is old enough for all interested parties to be very much concerned with the nature of his replacement – both the process and the person.

  7. John R Moffett

    One minute in the west, Russia is said to be losing because they are going too slow, proving their army is weak and frightened, and in the next breath you hear from the same people that Russia is sending human waves against Ukraine. Not sure how you can have both “weak and afraid” and “sending human waves to die”. But western news audiences have lost all ability to think critically, so no amount of contradiction can ever lead to doubts. What keeps coming back for me is the fact that many of the problems in the west are the result of people watching the TV news and believing it, and that includes the creepy people in congress.

    1. hk

      That’s been going on since the beginning of the Russia derangement syndrome: Russia has such a masterful understanding of America that they can control American politics at will or they are so incompetent that they are about to collapse at any minute. After almost a decade of that nonsense, I’m surprised that these people believe Putin never goes out in daytime and has weird aversion to garlic.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      It’s not just TV news. If you rely solely on mainstream/respectable news sources, you’re condemned to brazen, unending doublethink.

      Trump broke the brains of liberals, who, because of Russiagate, migrated from passive and casual support for the excesses of empire (Honduras, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, et. al.) to visceral, all-in support for bellicosity and everything it represents. These people think Putin is the Devil, when they don’t think he’s insane, when they don’t think he has cancer… Just as they’re convinced Stormy Daniels (or the Espionage Act, or…) will remove Trump and Trumpismo.

      The combination of lawfare, strategic and tactical incompetence, and sanctimonious magical thinking is quite a spectacle to behold.

      1. truly

        A minor quibble:
        “Trump broke the brains of liberals”….
        If you have a good therapist and you say something like “my wife made me mad” your therapist will stop you and remind you to rethink that statement. Your wife did not make you mad. You became mad. You are blaming it on your wife. Your wife did something and you responded. Your response is not her fault.
        The brains of liberals were not broke by Trump. They were broke by their own refusal to do an honest introspection and self analysis after their candidate was beaten by Trump. Their refusal to acknowledge their own shortcomings led to the breaking of their brains. Yes, it happened during the era of Trump. But he did not do it.
        I bring up this minor quibble because I think it is analogous to the USA vs RU and China situation. America is at risk of becoming “broke”. Militarily, mentally, spiritually and/or financially. And it wont be because RU or China did it to us. It will be because we have refused to do honest introspection and self analysis and reorient ourselves to the challenges of our time. We blame others rather than look ourselves in the mirror.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Fair enough, and I totally agree with your last paragraph, though I wouldn’t want anyone to conclude from the therapist analogy that the “wife” (Trump and Trumpismo) is a neutral actor in this pathology. Your quibble could have probably been avoided by my referring to the liberal response to Trump’s election, which took many forms of literal derangement..

  8. The Rev Kev

    It looks like the Ukrainians leadership and their western sponsors do not want to – or cannot – give up. One high ranking Ukrainian official was asked about weapons deliveries and if they are enough. He sad that when victory is achieved, then it will be enough. And if there is no victory, then the help is not enough. And the western nations are determined to have the Ukraine in both the EU and NATO so that it will be like a version of Israel in being a hostile, militarized nation receiving huge subsidies. The fact that they are now starting with general call-ups means that they are near the end. With all those people in uniform, what sort of economy will be left? Not that they have much of one left anyway. But those western countries will thrown anything that they can into the Ukraine to force Russia to back down and if another 100,000 Ukrainians get killed, well then the price was worth it. So for a reality check, you will have to see an actual collapse of the army along with the Ukraine. At that point, the west will turn their backs on them and say that they did not try hard enough.


  9. Cephalopods are People

    Russian Aviation lost 39 airmen on Saturday. Six helicopters and an Il/22 command and control fixed wing. Worst single day of the war. Destroyed by their own gear, Pantsirs, given to the Wagner pirates by Russia, itself. Wagner waltzed through sovereign Russia, captured at least two cities of 1+ million people, and dispatched all the light armor that was left to throw within 48 hours. It was down to blocking dump trucks, helicopters, and the FSB between Wagner and Moscow.

    The Russian in the trenches would have to be pretty willful not to have faith in their own command evaporate, if any was there to begin with. Ukraine has damaged Russian logistics. It only a matter of time [next weekend?] before the Russian ammo is expended in defense and another political crisis staggers the Kremlin.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      OMG, please get that knee seen to.

      Wagner did not take anything. The correct term is “blocked” and perhaps also “treat display”. They circled part of Rostov and were having chats with the senior people on the base and with citizens. This was not an armed contest. Within less than a day, per Dima at Military Summary, Russian forces had encircled the Wagner circle at Rostow.

      So your charge of inaction and ineffectiveness is all wet. Even mere watchers of crime shows knows that when dealing with hostage-takers, which is what Prigozhin had attempted to do with Rostov, you send in the hostage negotiators while also getting the snipers and SWAT team in place. Russia operated completely consistently with this book.

      Russia did send some aircraft to check out what was going on. Nearly all of the helicopters shot down were unarmed.

      4,000 to 6,000 men can’t take anything, FFS. Similarly, his drive to Moscow was silly. Tanks can’t drive 1000km and men in armored vehicles with small arms could not possibly do much.

      Russia held back from contesting what Prigozhin had done by force in the hope he could be talked out of the tree when he realized he was getting no support from the military. Prigozhin capitulated. He got no concessions whatsoever except having the initial criminal charge against himm, of armed insurrection, dropped. There are plenty of other charges Russia could levy, starting with murder and treason.

      1. Michaelmas

        Here’s what Jane’s currently claims, for whatever it’s worth. Boldface mine —


        A screenshot from a video shared by the Wagner paramilitary group’s social media accounts shows its convoy seemingly being hit with an airstrike. (Wagner/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

        The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) suffered significant losses during the seeming mutiny of the Wagner Group on 24 June.

        Footage posted online during the event showed a number of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft types of the VKS being shot down by Wagner forces during the mercenary group’s short-lived insurrection against the Russian military and political leadership.

        While not possible to verify, open source footage and images indicate that one Kamov Ka-52 ‘Havoc-B’ attack helicopter, four Mil Mi-8 ‘Hip’ transport helicopters, one Mil Mi-35 ‘Hind-E’ assault helicopter, and one Ilyushin Il-22 ‘Coot’ airborne command-and-control aircraft were downed during the event. Janes has been able to ascertain that these include an Mi-8MTPR-1 electronic warfare platform, an Mi-35M, and an Il-22M11 airframe.

        If correct, these aircraft losses would amount to about 29 VKS crew members killed (two for the Ka-52, three for each Mi-8 and the Mi-35, and 12 for the Il-22).

        At the time of publication there had been no official pronouncements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation as to the scope and scale of the VKS losses during the nearly 24 hour rebellion by Wagner.

        We will see. If true, this level of damage and death likely will not be swept under the carpet.

    2. JonnyJames

      Cephalopod: that sounds like TV news, is that where you got your info? Thanks, I had a good snicker. No need for me to elaborate, Yves did all the work.

  10. Synoia

    Next step for the US an Ukraine given Ukraine is short of manpower is Mercenaries, who are unreliable;e and do not want to fight to the death.

    When does NATO Invade? Probably after some monstrous nuclear false flag operation.

    The US has to back down to end this, but the instigators are safe and sound around DC, with large salaries, no morals, and a propensity to copy Hunter Biden’s model of “fair grift for 5 minutes work”

    1. tevhatch

      Biden is a member of a large death cult, burn a candle, confess, do some hail mary, and then push the button. He could even confess he’s going to push the button and ask for absolution.

      1. JonnyJames

        Scary… and Joe has obviously lost his cognitive abilities, he stumbles, falls, forgets where he is, has to be led out of rooms, blurts out irrational nonsense etc. He is worse Raygun in his last year of office

        Not only reckless, it is elder abuse to prop Biden up as the Puppet Emperor

        1. digi_owl

          Not the only one that gets propped up in DC.

          There seem to be a disturbing number of oxygen tanks being wheeled around in congress.

          1. JonnyJames

            Yeah, I guess the “unlimited political bribery” favors incumbent-puppets until they keel over, rather than take a chance on a new, unknown puppet.

            1. tevhatch

              It’s more they have already bought the goods and seek to amortize them to the end. The nomination, much less the election, goes to the useful item. AOC got in because they found her to have more potential uses, otherwise she’d have been hosed down before the primary.

  11. steven t johnson

    Does anyone remember Gen. Shinseki, who got fired for publicly stating that actually holding Iraq in control would take more than twice the forces the genius Rumsfeld sent into Iraq? And does anyone actually remember the US Civil War? Putin started the SMO with a preposterously small number of troops. And for these expanded war aims he still hasn’t committed enough troops. So far as I can tell, he has no more mobilized the economy than the Reich did in WWII (till quite late in the day, if Adam Tooze was right in The Wages of War, which I expect he was.) Despite the fan club, I have no idea why Putin is regarded as a genius. He seems to me to be as rote and penny ante as Biden, who I think of as President Band-Aid for the inadequacy of all his gestures. [Biden’s vast military budget is also entirely inadequate for the vast war aims.]

    Both examples (please don’t waste time arguing the US “won” what they wanted in Iraq) show that actual victory requires enormous manpower and willingness to suffer. When Prigozhin started his overt adventure he began by claiming there was no reason for the war, that it was a plot by Shoigu and Gerasimov and others. He was appealing to Putin to back him. And despite all the bluster about how lethal Wagner was, he was calling for a peace. I don’t think Ukrainian fascism is far more like the South, incapable of truly mobilizing its manpower because so much of it is tied down in oppression. [I’m convinced that in years to come, the historical studies of the Ukrainian fascist atrocities paid for and dutifully covered up, will simply be ignored.] But they’re ultimately being pad for war against Russians. The IMF gave loans to Ukraine after 2014 despite that meaning they were funding the war on Donbas. That’s not changing. The thing about hybrid WWIII is, you don’t have to actually conquer lands, you just have to trash them.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      First, Russia has been preparing for this war and stockpiled ammo and other materiel for a possible conflict with NATO. Contrary to your assertions (I note you provide no support for your personal opinion that Russian production is inadequate), Russia is currently vastly outshelling Ukraine and has stepped up the frequency and intensity of its drone attacks. It has increased production. Even before Russia ramped up production. Alex Vershinin of the Royal Services Institute, in a now-famous paper The Return of Industrial Warfare, concluded that it would take the West a full ten years to catch up with Russia, since the West had de-industrialized but Russia had not.

      So contrary to your unsubstantiated claims, it is the West that would go to a war mobilization footing merely to match Russian production. It has not done so.

      Second, as for Russian manpower, you are also misrepresenting the state of play and I suggest you become better informed. Russia is by outside estimates at at least 600,000 trained service members. It could be as high as well over 700,000. Russia is not needing to mobilize further right now because it has more than enough men for the current level of the war and near-term planned increase, and it is seeing a high level of enlistments, due to patriotism and to high pay levels for soldiers.

      In the last meeting of the Security Council last week, someone (Shoigu?) said Russia would need bigger forces if it were to take Kiev but that is not the current plan.

      We have pointed out Russia has both the understanding of Ukraine’s electrical system and the strike capability to take out Ukraine’s grid entirely in the West, or on a more targeted basis. Russia so far has been merely crippling service in a way that could be repaired so as to force Ukraine to keep substantial air defense assets in the West and deplete its stock of those missiles.

      As for Prigozhin’s statements, he was running the worst sort of Western propaganda, trying to depict the war since 2014 as a hoax (the UN, OSCE monitors, the 1/5 million refugees who fled to Russia and Belarus, and Merkel, who ran to Moscow to work out what became the Minsk Accords, would disagree) and depicting his move on Rostow as “crossing the border” when Russians regard Donbass as Russia now. His patter was all based on Western talking points or bizarre extensions.

      As John Helmer first described, Russia has the ability to create a substantial de-electrified area in Ukraine using drone and missile strikes only. You assume it needs to use troops to subdue West Ukraine. It could instead simply destroy the grid, which would when winter comes, also produce the destruction of water pipes in many buildings due to freezing.

      The point is that you are not at all up to speed on Russia’s capabilities and options, yet act as if you are in a position to offer a critique that is worth listening to.

      1. steven t johnson

        Kept it short and in brackets, but the comment that Biden’s war budget, as huge as it is, still is completely inadequate implies US military mobilization needs vast war production investments. But then Biden civilian infrastructure plan is yet another Band-Aid, hence my personal nickname for Biden, President Band-Aid, rather than Crime Dynasty Overlord. It’s true that Russian industrial production is far better off than the US but it’s Russia that needs to win to survive. The popular will to support the war for survival is promoted I think by actually mobilizing everyone in some fashion.

        It was the OP which convinced me that the “re-tuned” war aims imply the occupation of all Ukraine. I do not believe air forces have the power to destroy a nation, the ghosts of Billy Mitchell and Giulio Douhet notwithstanding. I think the DPR Korea is still with us. Further, Russia has not operated by the usual US style of warfare, which finds destroying the village to save it perfectly rational thinking. I don’t know how killing civilians serves the goal of secure borders. The US aims to kill civilians because they’re goals don’t involve living in the wasteland. Why would Russia change?

        And at this point it’s US/Ukraine that’s destroying infrastructure, like Nordstream, that ammonia pipeline, the Kerch bridge, that other bride on the Dniepr and I suspect the dam that feeds water to Crimea. Even if it is possible for air power to annihilate the civilian population of Ukraine, that doesn’t get rid of armies which are supplied from elsewhere. At some point boots on the ground are required. Given that the Russian armies are not as experienced as the perpetually warring US/NATO forces, the total figures that count are the veteran forces. Yes, 600 000 sounds a lot, but that’s in the ball park for occupying Ukraine. What about the threat from Poland and the Baltics and internal threats? And the divided command is still astonishing.

        Yes, Prigozhin was spouting Western propaganda. That’s the first step in making a rotten peace. (Rotten in my view, that is, but I firmly believe Ukraine is fascist.) And blaming everybody but Putin is the way to go with that. I’m not quite sure that “Russia’s” options don’t include trying to negotiate.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You really do not have a good grip on facts. Putin DID try to negotiate. Were you asleep in March 2022, when Ukraine and Russia were negotiating and looked on track to a deal, and the UK and US kicked over the table>

          Anyone who has followed this conflict since 2014 knows Putin has done everything to try to avoid it. Ray McGovern even posed the question to John Mearsheimer in a recent Mearsheimer talk, “What else could Putin have done?” and Mearsheimer conceded Putin had tried everything.

          Did you ALSO miss that Poroshenko, Hollande, and Merkel all said they had no intention of honoring the Minsk Accord, that is was all a ruse to buy time to arm Ukraine? How can Russia negotiate with parties who are loud and proud of the fact that they won’t honor written treaties? Oh, and that Ukraine passed a law saying it won’t negotiate with Russia if Putin is in charge?

    2. JonnyJames

      Putins’ fan club? Aw jeez, because folks criticize US and vassals’ foreign policy, they are automatically purveyors of “Russian propaganda”, “Putin stooges” blah blah. If we need anti-intellectual, puerile, irrational statements, we can watch TV news.

    3. tevhatch

      “Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of Staff because of his comments on troop levels;[18] however, his retirement was announced nearly a year before those comments.”[19]

      Military Generals/Admirals get fired all the time, but the usage in Military-Political Circus/fool the sheeple speak means a gentle slap on the face with a nice paid vacation followed by an internal transfer to another seat, sometimes even more weighty position in terms of MIC corruption, to buy compliance with the story that people are being held responsible, now go back to sleep. It never means forced retirement/pink slip.

      Guess who so far has tried to put their economies on a war footing and have failed, the whole of the EU. They don’t have either the money or the ability. Guess who has the money but not the ability and hence so far hasn’t even seriously tried to get the their economy on a war footing, maybe also because of Elections. Did you say USA? Bingo. The longer this drags on, the bigger the currently not apparent deficiencies are going to grow.

      1. tevhatch

        PS. ” Shinseki has served as a director for several corporations: Honeywell International and Ducommun, military contractors; Grove Farm Corporation; First Hawaiian Bank; and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. He is a member of the Advisory Boards at the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and to the U.S. Comptroller General. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and the Association of the United States Army.”

        An officer who really gets an “ordinary discharge”, the correct word for being let go as a punishment instead of “fired” never has this sort of post military career, and all he’s still in the retired reserves, so eligible to be called bank into service in an emergency?

  12. Mountaineer

    4,000 to 6,000 men can’t take anything, FFS. Similarly, his drive to Moscow was silly. Tanks can’t drive 1000km and men in armored vehicles with small arms could not possibly do much.

    Who said anything about tanks driving 1000km? They were clearly loaded on heavy transport trucks, as is typical. This was reported widely across both pro and anti-Russian media accounts. Odd to believe that’s a meaningful critique within context.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, the images were mainly of them driving, not on trucks. All the convoy shots were of that or individual cars and armored vehicles on the road to Moscow (the latter by themselves and moving at a pretty good pace). If tonks are on trucks they can’t be used to deal with forces on the way, and in keeping, there was further commentary on whether the police and civilian barriers of trucks blocking the road would be enough to stop the tanks. If you have to unload tanks and get men in them, you’ve made yourself a big fat target. Reuters did see TWO convoy trucks that did get pretty far up the road, carrying one tank each.

      My points stands.

    2. tevhatch

      Do you have an accurate timeline? The tanks on tractor trailers pictures you report might be post action, after the Wagner Units agreed to return to barracks. The MOD at that time provided them with proper transport.

  13. LawnDart

    ‘Panicked’ Putin flees Moscow to bunker in ‘secret palace’ after Wagner coup


    Vladimir Putin reportedly flees Moscow as Wagner forces advance in Russia

    Wagner coup: Vladimir Putin flees Moscow after failed uprising

    I dunno, man… these seem like pretty-credible sources– are we sure it’s not Putin’s body-double speaking from the Kremlin? How do we know that Prigozhin’s goons didn’t successfully kidnap him, stuff him into the trunk of a car, and are enroute to Kiev as we speak? Where’s the evidence against this?

    I think that Putin is wrong to dismiss Ukrainian sovernty as Ukraine is one of the leading, most-progressive nations in the world, setting the example for efficient, easy-to-understand, and streamlined-voting– in fact, they’ve leapt-ahead of USA’s two-party system and simplified the elections (held only if necessary) even further: Ukrainians don’t even need to show up at the polls to vote for the candidate, as the authorities will vote for them! Now that’s public-service!

  14. JonnyJames

    The western Mass Media Cartel is hilarious! They have some great comedy writers nowadays
    Cheers for the laughs LawnDart

  15. Klärchen

    I watched the P. Lancaster video recommended yesterday by jo6pac and it provoked in me a perspective on events that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. The video showed a largish crowd, no more than a couple hundred people, I’d say, circulating around the Wagner soldiers in Rostov as presumably Wagner were preparing to leave the city Saturday evening. The crowd were clearly in an excited, celebratory mood. Lancaster seemed surprised, even confused at the answers he was getting to his questions about the happenings of the day. The Wagner soldiers were heroes to these people. “Our boys”. They had won the battle of Bakhmut. And Prigozhin was nothing less than a superstar. Even Lancaster seemed excited to be able to ask Prigozhin a question as he was being driven away. At the same time the crowd had only praise for their president and the way he had handled events. “It was just a misunderstanding”, someone said.

    There was no contradiction for these people in embracing both “our boys” and the object of their boys’ bad behavior. Of course, this was a relatively small group of citizens in one neighborhood in one city. But if this phenomenon is in any way indicative of the national mood, it might explain why Putin has found it necessary to treat Prigozhin with kid gloves through all his obnoxious behavior over the last months. Prigozhin, supreme self promoter that he is, and his soldiers are heroes to the Russian people.

    1. Greg

      That video was something else. Really brought home how hard it is to understand the Russian perspective from out here in the west.
      And it was exactly what you mention that was so jarring – the vox pops were all joyous, it was a festival atmosphere, and they really loved Wagner and Putin, and trusted Putin to sort it all out.

      There were however only two families (many questions for each) and a very-good-English-speaking university student interviewed I think, so it’s possible that they are not very representative. The student I did wonder if he was a plant. It’s hard not to be suspicious of something that ended up looking very much like a media event more than a political event.

  16. Klärchen

    One of the Wagner soldiers responded to a question from Lancaster, “Terrorists in the morning, heroes in the evening”. An example of that famous sardonic Russian humor.

  17. EssCetera

    What led to the end of the 100 Year’s War was England and France recognizing each other’s sovereignty. I wonder if that’s the solution to ending this, namely Ukraine and Russia bringing back that Treaty on the Principles of Relations and a revised Treaty on Cooperation, and Partnership. I don’t see why both sides wouldn’t agree to it, especially if there was international pressure to do so. Maybe Putin is hinting at what might be a solution.

  18. Altandmain

    I’m thinking the US is now facing its Suez Canal Crisis moment with Ukraine along with its NATO vassal states.


    The UK and France were never the same after the Suez Canal Crisis. It signalled to the world that these 2 nations were now permanently second tier powers.

    Originally I had thought that this would occur after the US provoked a dispute over Taiwan with China, but now it is looking that the US made the ill-advised move of waging what amounts to a 2-front Cold War with Russia and China. It will go down in history as one of the biggest geopolitical mistakes in history.

    Famously, Mao Zedong once mentioned the US as a paper tiger (if you want to see the source – https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_52.htm). Quite a large number of Americans have laughed at Mao, but perhaps he will get last laugh on this quote. The US military industrial complex, despite the stupendous sums of cash spent on it, has proven incapable of winning a conventional war that it claimed to be unrivaled in its competence against the Russians, who have spent a fraction of the total amount the US spent. Granted, dollars spent and GDP are deeply flawed metrics, but the extent of the US decline is hard to not notice. It is losing to a nation that it once contemptuously referred to as a “Gas station”.

    The US does not have the industrial base to mount a serious challenge to Russia, let alone picking a fight with China at the same time, something that Biden has done. Not enough artillery shells, missiles, aircraft, ammunition, and trained personnel can be deployed. This was linked on NC a couple of days ago.


    I think that at the moment, the US Establishment seems to be too out of touch (and indeed the ruling classes of all of the NATO nations) to understand the full extent of what is happening. That is where the danger is the greatest, as the neoconservatives may very well choose to escalate without limit rather than to accept a world where they are second tier. Certainly the UK’s Prime Minister Anthony Eden, wanted to go down fighting as the first article I linked notes.

    One can only hope that this does not end in nuclear conflict and that after this, the US empire enters a phase of terminal decline. I’m not saying the multipolar world won’t have its share of challenges (it will), but it is surely better than the world of Pax USA.

    Peace need not lead to a collapse in living standards – after all, by many metrics today, the Nordic nations have some of the best living standards (although falling since their embrace of neoliberalism) and they are by no means hegemons.

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