John Helmer: The Mosquito Swarm and the Violent Pinprick Are Zelensky PR To Beat NATO’s Christmas Deadline

Lambert here: Musical interlude:

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.

On the battlefield the Ukraine has pioneered the Mosquito Tactic – that’s sending units of dozens of soldiers running towards Russian defence fortifications in several swarms at the same time, across a half-dozen salients up and down the line of contact. In parallel, in the air and on the sea President Vladimir Zelensky and his general staff have devised the Bloody Pinprick Tactic – that’s drones exploding on Russian targets like the Crimean Bridge or the Kremlin Senate Dome.

The purpose of both, mosquitoes and pinpricks, is warmaking as public relations, Zelensky is advertising the illusion that the Ukrainian army can win its offensive against Russia, no matter how great the loss in Ukrainian men and materiel; notwithstanding how little the impact on Russian forces.

The real target of this bloody PR isn’t the Russians. It is Zelensky’s NATO allies and paymasters who secretly warned him during the July 11-12 NATO summit meeting that the cashflow and the enthusiasm are already running down, and may be cut by Christmas. The tactic of bloody PR means making daily defeat look like imminent victory, with conditions: NATO fighter-bombers pretending to be Ukrainian; Polish troops around Lvov pretending to be the revival of the Polish-Lithuanian union of 1386; and grain carriers as warships on the Black Sea, pretending to feed the hungriest populations of the world.

Listen to the interview with Basil Valentine, TNT Radio, starting at Minute 34:10:

In its statement on the Crimean Bridge attack twelve hours later, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “if the investigation finds that the surface drones that attacked the bridge are of Western origin, and that Western countries played a role in planning, sponsoring and conducting this operation, it will confirm their complicity in the Kiev regime’s terrorist activity.”

Asked to comment, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “this is a situation we are monitoring. Ah, and I don’t really have anything in particular to offer on that, err, just, ahh, I can say that as a general proposition, of course Ukraine has to decide how it conducts this war in defence of its umm territory, its people, ahhh its freedom.”

Source: Min 14:22.

The next day the Russian Defense Ministry reported: “Tonight, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation inflicted a group strike of retaliation [for the Crimean Bridge attack] with high-precision sea-based weapons on objects where terrorist acts against the Russian Federation were being prepared with the use of unmanned boats, as well as the place of their manufacture at a ship repair plant near the city of Odessa. In addition, in the area of the cities of Nikolaev and Odessa, fuel storage facilities with a total volume of about 70 thousand tonnes were destroyed, from which fuel was provided to military equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. All targets planned for the strike are hit.” The ministry bulletin also recorded the count of killed in action for the day in the mosquito attacks came to 715.

Fuel oil storage terminal at Ilyechevsk port, Odessa, hit by up to seven Russian missiles on July 18.

For background on the July 2022 Black Sea Grain Initiative and the role played by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, read this.

The Christmas deadline for the Ukrainian offensive to win or die was reported here. Canadian sources claim the deadline given to Zelensky at the Vilnius summit meeting was until November.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. .Tom

    What’s the real nature of the Xmas (or Nov) ultimatum? On the one hand it sounds like kicking the can down the road, a common way of dealing with things at international meetings. But if it’s a real ultimatum, what is NATO really threatening to do at the end of the year and what progress do they require of UA to prevent that?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Cover. It’s over. The #counteroffensive failed. The West is years away from the manufacturing capacity needed to fight this kind of war, and it requires money and resources. Biden bragged about the largest defense spending bills in history. Has that protected Americans?

      USians pay little attention from Thanksgiving through the 1st. My gut is the reason for Kissinger’s China trip is the White House is trying to work out a Kennedy Cuban missile crisis win where they can call Ukraine as part of NATO in exchange for guarantees. Rationally, Moscow and Beijing won’t make those kinds of deals with the West at least why so many politicians such as Biden are in office.

      The faded flag waving suburbanites will have moved onto gossip about whether Will Smith will hut anyone again at the Oscars.

      Macron is whining about blackmail in regards to ending the grain deal. The only response is no s**t, sherlock. Backlash was never expected. With existing internal problems in the West due to neoliberalism, changes to trade routes are just going to put Western politicians in more precarious positions. They just don’t want to look like they are going to “cut and run.” Poland’s sabre rattling is to make it look like Warsaw cares about anything other than selling land for US military bases. They know the Russians aren’t coming and known it all along.

  2. Aurelien

    The key, I think, is to understand that NATO nations genuinely believe that time is on their side. Not militarily, certainly, but politically. This is not based on analysis, but on inductive reasoning from certain a priori assumptions. One is that any leader who takes an anti-western line must by definition be unrepresentative of the population in general, and so an autocrat if not actually a dictator. Thus, it is necessary to prolong the war until war-weariness causes a massive popular uprising or a coup that overthrows Putin and replaces him with the famous “pro-western moderate.” Another is that the Russian economy is intrinsically weak, and that sanctions will work “eventually” and bring Putin down. And a third is that the world is united against Russia, and that quite quickly, the Chinese, for example will bring the Russians to heel. No matter how ludicrous you think these assumptions are, they are genuinely held in most, if not all, NATO capitals, because elites there are incapable of thinking any other way.

    Ironically, of course, the longer the war goes on, the worse for NATO politically and economically. I pointed out in my latest essay (thanks for linking to it, Lambert) that Ukraine in NATO would destroy the alliance, but I’m coming increasingly to think also that, as we approach the endgame, the centrifugal strains will be such that it will start to come apart anyway. I just feel sorry for the poor Ukrainian people.

    1. Eclair

      Thank you, Aurelien, for your latest essay. Your detailing of the complex ‘infrastructure’ of NATO, with its ambassadorships, enormous staffs, postings to the glittering capitols of Europe (and US) was illuminating. I had no idea! Lots of perks and privileges there; no wonder its beneficiaries want to keep and even expand it

    2. Kouros

      Cognitive dissonance is great:

      Most of the world is not alligned with EU, and this is why we get outbursts like Borrell’s garden/jungle statements, which are rather signs of frustration and impotence rather than signs of superiority.

      Also, the fall of Greens in ratings and the rise of Allince for Germany in Germany – or other similar political outfits in other countries is a real example of the delusion of the EU elites…

    3. Anon

      iirc, America wasn’t doing so hot in the late 70s, early 80s. Popular elections won by commies everywhere, massive energy shock, sky-high interest rates, wild superstition and occult fantasies… yet we starved the Soviet Union out.

      That is to say, we weren’t especially capable then either, we just did our worst. Everywhere. Now Russia is no USSR, but something tells me we haven’t begun to do our worst. It cost two million Vietnamese lives to make us blush.

  3. The Rev Kev

    The Ukrainians have been getting a lot of stick from the White House because they have not been trying hard enough. No, really. They have been ranting that the Ukrainians have to do combined arms attacks on the Russians forgetting the fact that they have no air cover, nowhere near enough air defenses, not enough tanks and armour, not enough trained and experienced officers & men plus the minor detail that at an absolute minimum that they have taken maybe thirty thousand killed since this offensive began. But that is not important to the White House as what is actually important is that by failing, that they are making Biden and his allies look bad-

    Tough luck if you are a Ukrainian grunt.

    1. Lex

      This line of thought coming out of western capitols is particularly disgusting because we know from previous public statements from those capitols that the offensive was designed by the west. It was NATO military command, and particularly the US, that came up with the plan that has failed so spectacularly. The Ukrainian command isn’t blameless and it is responsible for the changed tactics after the original southern offensive failed so spectacularly.

      Perhaps most importantly, it was the US that demanded the offensive be aimed south in order to achieve US political goals related to Crimea. Plenty of Russian doomers pointed out, rightly, that Ukraine probably could have launched a serious offensive with a reasonable chance of success against Donetsk (city). Instead Kiev was told to advance across open steppe, through well-established minefields and against multiple defensive lines constructed such that they can be seen from space. It’s hard to reach any other conclusion than that the entire plan was based on the best-case scenario in which the Russian military would simply run away when the Ukrainians approached. As usual, there doesn’t appear to have been a realistic plan B much less Plan A.1.

      1. Patrick

        I’m not buying that there would have been a chance of success against Donetsk. Urban combat is tougher, Donetsk has been fortified for almost a decade, and every attempt at anything near Donetsk from either side has been a failure

        1. Lex

          I think that an advance towards Donetsk would have a greater chance of success than what is being attempted (was attempted). The fortifications are serious, but not echeloned in the same was as the southern front and the minefields are much less significant, including more terrain being less well-suited for mining the way the southern front line has been mined. There’s far more cover too.

          Urban combat is a very difficult, but somewhat less so than advancing across an open gray zone without air cover. And if you’re not concerned with the number of losses you take, urban combat at least provides some cover for your meat assaults.

    2. Kouros

      Wasn’t LBJ complaining under the rose about the lack of discipline of the American soldiers (not even able to hold the smoking while on night duty guard, thus susceptible to sniper attacks) compared with the Vietnamese soldiers? As such American presidents complaining about other nations’ armies and abilities is no brainer, especially when they can say that US did all it could but the recipient was not that capable or determined. And Ukrainians are truly demonstrating that they are determined and capable…

  4. Ignacio

    May be even Z de is starting to notice that the PR war is no longer going in his favour and he is running out of stunts. By november he might flee to wherever he feels safe. Yet, in its efforts to save face NATO might find suitable to blame him for all wrongdoings, mistakes and failures while at the same time keep their assumptioms unchanged as described above by Aurelien.

  5. Candide

    Medea Benjamin urges messages to members of Congress, and compromised as they are, that’s probably a better path than this note sent via

    One day’s breakfast in Washington…

    Over 700 Ukrainian soldiers were sacrificed yesterday in a “mosquito swarm” or pinprick campaign to satisfy the appetites of those advising the White House and helping Ukraine meet its promised level of sacrifice to ego driven gamblers in Washington. 100 families in mourning to satisfy the Thursday “breakfast appetites” for each of seven MIC servants: Biden, Blinken, Nuland, CIA chief, etc.

    Meanwhile nuclear missiles await their Big Day and Artificial Intelligence is “happy” to replace us.


  6. nycTerrierist

    reply to Candide

    Whatta crew, just look at them: the ghoulish demeanor of Blinken and Sullivan (or ‘Skullivan’ h/t Max Blumenthal); warmonger Nuland, who battens as she sends others to die; Biden himself, a carcass (maybe the nicest thing one could say about him)
    Just yuck.

  7. Susan the other

    Helmer is saying also that the entire post-war structure is crumbling. Ukraine doesn’t end with the disintegration of NATO, it continues to disunite all nations. USians are calling for a “buffer state” to replace the former vaguely-republic country of Ukraine. How Ukraine became the OK Corral is a forensics mess. And this stupid showdown will not only make NATO impotent, it will force a realignment of some future “UN” and it will decouple Western Europe “the EU” enough to.require serious repair. All while strengthening the former non-aligned nations into a new democratic multi-lateral organization. Even though we do our best to sabotage it, which will harm us the most. Funny how irrelevance causes power to throw a temper tantrum.

  8. Felix_47

    On the podcast it was mentioned by Helmer, I believe, that the Ukrainian defense minister just bought a 7 million dollar house for his daughter on the Cote d’Azur. I wonder how much of this taxpayer loot is routing back to Washington?

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