WaPo Reported That Ukrainians Are Distrustful of the West & Flirting With a Ceasefire

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Yves here. Keep in mind that this post illustrates yet another example of what I call the Western side negotiating with itself, as in fantasizing what positions or outcomes are tolerable from their side without considering what the Russians will accept.

In contrast with the Ukraine belief that they can declare a ceasefire unilaterally or otherwise call it quits and Russia will stop, we have a series of confounding issues. The first is the hawks, thanks to Biden’s belligerence and unwillingness to climb down, are in charge in Washington and will conduct a long war with Russia if they have to, despite a Rand paper in 2022 warning explicitly against that. Second is that Russia is determined Ukraine commit to not joining NATO. That would seem to require regime change or prostration of Ukraine. Confirming that view is Alaistair Crooke, in an interview with Glenn Diesen and Alexander Mercouris, who at 7:45 points out that the war has changed the psyche in Russia, that the government and public “want to see the regime defeated.”

By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website

The takeaway is that a theoretical Russian breakthrough along the front lines, perhaps in Kharkov Region where its armed forces have gradually made progress over the summer, could be enough to force Kiev into accepting an informal ceasefire as a last resort against its will.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is among the most well-known representatives of the Mainstream Media so it’s important to keep an eye on what he says if one wants to see what narratives the Western elite are pushing at any given moment. His latest article for the Washington Post (WaPo) about how “Ukrainians are determined to persevere, but they worry that their allies aren’t” is a case in point. Here are the highlights, which will then be analyzed to help make sense of what’s going on behind the scenes:


* Life in the Ukrainian capital is practically unaffected by the ongoing conflict

– “Despite the war, Kyiv feels almost normal…Stores and cafes in the city are bustling. Air raid sirens went off while I was having dinner at a friend’s place, and no one even stopped eating.”

* Nevertheless, the mood there is becoming dour

– “Everyone is exhausted and sober. Ukraine’s losses have been terrible, measured both in cities destroyed and soldiers and civilians killed.”

* No one wants to “surrender”, but complaints about the counteroffensive are common

– “But exhaustion does not equal surrender. No one I spoke with believed that Ukraine should stop fighting to get back its territories. They were disappointed that the counteroffensive is not going better, but its difficulties only remind them that this will be a long struggle.”

* Some are even whispering about a ceasefire

– “When you speak with people at greater length, their views are more nuanced. ‘No surrender’ is the mantra, but some said it was possible to imagine a cease-fire — with Ukraine never legally endorsing the legitimacy of Russian rule over parts of Donbas and Crimea — in exchange for real security guarantees.”

* An unnamed politician hinted that the military’s rank-and-file would support that scenario

– “As one Ukrainian politician (who wished to stay unnamed) told me, ‘It’s easy for all of us who have not been in the fighting to refuse to compromise. The real question is what are the attitudes of the soldiers in the field and those who have returned. They might have more nuanced positions. But they will have to articulate them.’”

* These shifting sentiments might be partially due to the Western public’s fatigue

– “The dominant worry in Kyiv is not about Russia but the West. Ukrainians have reason to be worried. Support for their fight is waning in some European countries…Support for Ukraine is also slipping in the United States…Ukrainians are determined to persevere, but they worry that their allies are not.”


The average Westerner might be surprised to learn that Kiev is practically unaffected by the ongoing conflict, which could result in even more of them turning against their politicians who want to continue redistributing the public’s hard-earned tax wealth to Ukrainians. As for the locals in that country, Westerners might also have been unaware that they too are beginning to wonder whether it’s worth fighting Russia indefinitely, with these two points combining to boost popular support for a ceasefire.

That’s not to say that one will be forthcoming, especially not after the recent events detailed here strongly suggest that Kiev and its liberalglobalist patrons in the US’ permanent bureaucracy plan to keep the conflict going into next year, but just that divisions between the public and policymakers will widen. The preceding trend could lead to more support for the Republicans ahead of next year’s elections while worsening the fatigue and frustration that Western media earlier reported has taken hold of Ukrainians.

The first therefore won’t stand a chance of reshaping policy until sometime in 2025 at the earliest, but even that can’t be taken for granted, whereas the second could have much more immediate implications. The fact that an unnamed Ukrainian politician hinted to WaPo about how war-weary his country’s troops have become and their growing interest in a least a temporary respite show that the armed forces might not be able to fulfill policymakers’ expectations of a protracted conflict.

All the dynamics that have been discussed thus far are made even more acute by the symbiotic relationship between Ukraine and the West at the state and the local levels. Their officials’ vicious blame game over the counteroffensive arguably influenced their people’s perceptions of this conflict and one another, which accelerated their overall fatigue and mutual distrust. This had the direct effect of contributing to the dour mood that Zakaria observed during his visit to Kiev.

The takeaway is that a theoretical Russian breakthrough along the front lines, perhaps in Kharkov Region where its armed forces have gradually made progress over the summer, could be enough to force Kiev into accepting an informal ceasefire as a last resort against its will. The logic is that this could limit Ukraine’s losses together with preventing the collapse of its armed forces. It would obviously be under duress and opposed by the US, but Zelensky might feel that he doesn’t have an alternative.

Each side would of course blame the other, but the Ukrainian leader could claim moral authority over America if he spins this decision as the will of his armed forces (“heroes”), though the US might still try to exploit the resultant scandal to undermine his re-election bid if this happens before the next vote. There are veritably pros and cons to this scenario, and it’s largely dependent on the uncertain possibility of a Russian breakthrough, but the substance of Zakaria’s articles suggests that it can’t be ruled out.

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  1. Ignacio

    Korybko makes good analyses. The only problem here is that Zakaria focuses on Kyiv and the rural areas are set aside. The urban environment may be the one that sees more benefits with economic relationships with the West and the proportion of conscripts from urban areas is (apparently) lower compared with that of the rural areas. Quite possibly the objective of the grain deal was not other than keeping the rural side engaged in the war while making most human sacrifices, but now, with the grain deal dead opinions might be changing there in directions other than those of Kyiv.

    1. digi_owl

      > The urban environment may be the one that sees more benefits with economic relationships with the West and the proportion of conscripts from urban areas is (apparently) lower compared with that of the rural areas.

      Surprise surprise. Same dynamic everywhere, because cities do not care if their refrigerated food etc comes from the next county or half way around the world.

  2. Benny Profane

    Cease fire? Why would Russia agree to a cease fire? Sure, so the Ukranians can take a breath, re arm, eat some decent meals, and come back at them, refreshed?

    Simplicius paints a dire picture of the Ukranian manpower issue that most who have been following this expected. The attrition at all levels is pretty bad. He uses the term “parabolic” to describe the point we are at right now as far as UAF losses, all the while the Russians grow much stronger with experience. We’re training the Russians in a real time war game, using Ukranian men as fodder.


    There are two “mutiny” videos towards the end. Note the physical condition of the men standing in the first. These are not young men, and most are somewhat overweight and not conditioned well for battle, although I bet they were in even more “comfortable” physical condition when they were snatched out of their lives a month or two ago, then fed crappy rations daily, sleep deprived. Then note the condition of most Russian military personnel. Night and day. And there are a whole lot more Russians.

    The decadence I read about in Kiev right now reminds me of the scenes described in Saigon during that war. Maybe when those partygoers get drafted, we’ll see a real revolt.

  3. Lex

    If it’s true that Ukrainian military rank and file are talking about a ceasefire or peace, Kiev is in a dangerous spot. The longer it avoids negotiations the more likely segments of the military start talking about peace at any cost. And the western analysts seem to believe that if negotiations start they can be done under a ceasefire or will be quick. Neither of those seem particularly likely nor are there any whispers that Russia and the US are already negotiating quietly. Not to mention that the whole point of the Ukrainian offensive was so the US (Ukraine) could negotiate from a position of strength.

    And clearly the Kremlin has hardened its heart. The demands for restarting the grain deal along with destruction of Ukrainian port facilities show that. So what’s the Biden plan for when it decides to freeze the conflict and Russian demands are unacceptable? Because they will be unacceptable to both Biden and Zelensky, any demands will be.

  4. Skip Intro

    I didn’t read his piece, did Fareed talk to any cab drivers? They might have mentioned the recently announced mass mobilization. It will sweep into the meat grinder many who were previously considered unfit to serve due to medical conditions including that of being assigned the female gender at birth. I expect this will focus some minds in the taxis and barber shops of Kiev.

  5. Aurelien

    Your point about the West negotiating with itself is fundamental. This always happens to some extent in government, because there are always different opinions and different interest. But the indispensable requirement is that these discussions take place within a realistic understanding of what the other side might actually be induced to accept. When this doesn’t happen (Brexit is a parallel case that comes to mind) any amount of internal debate, even consensus, is effectively meaningless and even dangerous. So long as western leaders and pundits believe that the West can enforce terms on the Russians, or at least negotiate from a position of strength, they will get nowhere.

    Just a point on NATO membership, which is actually something of a red herring. There’s no doubt that Ukraine in NATO would be a political defeat for Russia and a political victory for the West albeit, as I outlined in an essay a few weeks ago, it would be a longer-term disaster in the making. There’s no doubt also that if Russia could exercise an effective veto over another country’s membership application, even once, this would be a major political defeat for the West. But that’s politics. Whilst there are certain practical advantages to NATO membership, in terms of the Integrated Military Structure, access to NATO systems, jobs in command structures and so forth, it’s arguable that in reality Ukraine has pretty much all of this, already. NATO membership is not required for foreign forces to be stationed there (many examples around the world) and by contrast France, a NATO member, has no foreign troops deployed on its territory.

    What the Russians want, I think, is an enforceable declaration of neutrality, in the sense not only that Ukraine will never be a member of a military alliance, but also that it will never permit the stationing of foreign troops in its country, and that it will sign a bilateral treaty with Russia to bring this about. I’m beginning to think that the model for the future will not be the stupid idea of a Korean-style DMZ, but rather what I describe as the Vichy Option. There, you will recall, only half the country was occupied, with a notionally independent regime in Vichy, which had quite a lot of autonomy on domestic issues, and which was allowed small and non-threatening armed forces.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If the Ukraine never went into NATO, that would have to count as a win for NATO itself. There was a recent article called ‘The ‘monumental consequences’ of Ukraine joining the EU’ in which it was realized that if the Ukraine entered the EU, it would radically change that organization. Even now, the Ukraine is not even in the EU but they are threatening to take the EU to the WTO because they are not allowed to swamp the EU with their agricultural products-


      But if the Ukraine were in NATO, they would be constantly schemed how to engineer a way to get the whole of NATO into a war with Russia to get back the territories that they lost. Think of false flags, terrorist attacks on western targets, etc. Would the Ukrainian regime risk starting WW3 to get back at the Russians. Damn right they would. It is their nature. Of course a country is not supposed to be allowed into NATO if it is at war or is in a territorial dispute with a neighbour but we all know that they would be given a “special” waiver.

        1. The Rev Kev

          That is an excellent essay that, David. Of course where you refer to * Stuff happens*, that sounds suspiciously like the South Park underpants gnomes at work. Then again, Neocons don’t have a great reputation for thinking things through or taking the time to study military and industrial capabilities-

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5ih_TQWqCA (1:36 mins)

          But in your essay where you said that the Ukraine ‘would block agreement on measures that had wide support if its concerns about Russia were not met.’, you could substitute Israel going into NATO and get the very same effect. My god – Israel in NATO. Can you imagine?

      1. digi_owl

        > threatening to take the EU to the WTO because they are not allowed to swamp the EU with their agricultural products

        Good luck with that. The big stick of EU is the customs barrier. Want access to the EU market? Bow to EU directives.

    2. Ignacio

      Speaking of Vichy …and which was allowed small and non-threatening armed forces.

      Except may be the fleet in Algeria which was therefore sunken by the allies just in case? One of so many examples in WWII that only merits being forgotten. Otherwise very good commentary.

      1. Aurelien

        I meant non-threatening to the Germans. The French Navy was not a threat to them, but a potential prize. The French were allowed a 100,000-man Army in Algeria, largely infantry. The fleet was potentially a threat to the British, but I don’t think that there will ever be a consensus on the events at Oran, such is the sensitivity of that issue.

        1. Carolinian

          Not just non-threatening but also active collaborators. See The Sorrow and the Pity or Army of Shadows. Vichy rounded up the Jews for the Nazis. Will a Vichy Ukraine round up the Banderites for the Russians?

          I’m not sure any of us have a crystal ball about Putin’s plan or if he even has one. But he seems unlikely to compromise on any of his original demands. Meanwhile NATO and Ukraine are deteriorating while Russia gets stronger. Russia has the whip hand here.

          1. hk

            I agree. The Vichy fleet at Oran was less a prize for the Germans than a potential threat to the British–thus, eh, the unfortunate events.

            Speaking of WW2 analogies, I’d wondered about Romania in 1944, or, if it goes badly, Italy in 1943.

  6. marku52

    There is an interesting article by Micheal Vlahos, comparing UK position to the position of the south in the US civil war. like
    -it is up against a more populous and industrial competitor
    -and that it has to enter into poorly considered (strategically) offenses to keep a foreign sponsor on board.

    The south invaded the north multiple times, the last time disastrously at Gettysburg. Also, this was for good PR to its sponsor, Great Britain. Vlahos comments that the British navy even protected confederate blacade runners in the Caribbean, which I did not know.

    It’s a good read.

    1. hk

      And the South was at war against 1/3 of “its own people,” like the Ukraine, while claiming to fight for “freedom and liberty.”. At least Jefferson Davis was not nearly so corrupt.

    2. Joe Well

      It’s impossible that Britain would have supported the Confederacy, the BBC told me Britain was the champion of abolition. /s

  7. hk


    Mercouris and Disen interview with Mearsheimer. While there is not a whole lot of “new” information, Mearsheimer makes an interesting point: US has no incentive to end the war because it’s not costing us much–like a bunch of Congresscritters said, “it’s great because it’s not costing any American lives.” This echoes what I’d suggested about Russia’s central strategic dilemma (actually, it’s even worse in a way than I’d been thinking): even a total destruction of Ukraine does not bring Russia much closer to victory, or perhaps, even total capitulation of Germany and France coupled with complete reorientation. To “defeat” the West, Russia has to inflict real cost on their only real adversary, the US, without escalating things so much that you risk a nuclear war.

    1. Benny Profane

      I just listened to that today in the gym. Love Mearsheimer, but, his class standing at his age may be revealed in that statement that the U.S. is so “rich” that we can withstand the damage from this new foreign policy debacle, a debacle so bad that Dubya smiles again after Trump erased his worst president ever standing. Maybe in Mearsheimer’s hood, no doubt filled with stately old colonials tenured academics reside in, but, he seems to forget that a very large part of America voted for Trump, of all people, most likely because they think they ain’t so “rich”. Yeah, in faceless GDP per unit numbers, we are still on top, but if this thing ends in a Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam conclusion, and probably worse, something tells me that “rich” won’t tamp down the anger, especially when the inevitable sordid history of where the weapons and money actually wound up, five to ten years down the line. History still has a way of shining a light on the evil.

      1. hk

        But those problems are independent of Ukraine: the discontent that fueled the Trump movement has been growing for decades before today. HRC was gleefully pressing her boot on human face screaming “America is already great” 6 years before things turned really bad in Ukraine. So, even if Mearsheimer’s characterization of America today may be questionable, he is right that United States has not been paying a serious cost directly emanating from the current war in Ukraine, nor will ut even if Ukraine, Poland, or Germany is completely obliterated. On top of this, there’s the fact that Ukraine, Germany, and maybe even Poland are more valuable to Russia in the long run as neighbors and potential partners than they ever will be to the United States–so US does not pay much of a cost for their destruction while Russia does.

        The only way Ukraine can serve as a catalyst for change in US is as a highly visible reminder of the badly misplaced priorities by our unrepresentative government. But the misplaced priorities, with ever growing severity, have existed independent of Ukraine and the reminders of that have been plentiful. There is no telling whether the Ukraine War will actually “change” things more than other fiascos–after all, Ukraine is far away and it is not (directly and visibly) affecting our lives much. So the Russian strategic problem and the difficulty in wrapping up this conflict remains.

        1. Detroit Dan

          Perhaps we should think of this as a new Cold War.The establishment got a big boost after the U.S. “won” the first Cold War around 1990. U.S. prestige was boosted, accompanied by secular deflation as the U.S. dollar was in high demand as was U.S. culture and the English language. These positives have gone into reverse in recent decades, but the war in Ukraine is of a different order of importance. In addition to securlar (long term) inflation, we now see depressed cultural status affecting any American engaged in international travel or commerce. Add in increasingly political incoherence as the foreign policy establishment is discredited, and you have an increasingly dysfunctional political system which negatively affects all U.S. citizens. There’s a palpable weakness pervading U.S. society including elite institutions

    2. ChrisFromGA

      I’ll make an argument that there are “hidden costs” or deferred ones to the US in fighting this pointless proxy war.

      True, there isn’t a huge cost yet in terms of human or other resources, in the US, but our allies have been weakened (Germany, Poland, the Baltics) to the point where they’re essentially 51st states that are going to need continued federal money for decades, possibly longer. Where is that money going to come from? I am aware of MMT arguments, but the system we have now requires borrowed money paid back with interest. As rates rise, this appears to be accelerating a fiscal crisis.

      Another hidden cost is the quantity of mothballed “wunderwaffen” now turned into steppe scrap. Sure, this can be replaced, and it likely will be, probably to the delight of Raytheon, Boeing, and other card-carrying members of the MIC. However, remember that due to the way Pentagon procurement works along with other factors, the new stuff will likely cost many multiples of the old stuff, with an extra “grift” factor thrown in to spread “walking around money” throughout congressional districts in all 50 states.

      As we approach the point where interest on the federal debt along with defense takes up the entire tax revenue haul, the hidden cost may be much higher inflation and Fed fund rates for the foreseeable future. Along with zombified allies that become a ward of the empire state.

  8. WillD

    I wonder if the apparent normality of life in Kiev is a symptom of or contributor to the problem of facing reality – something that the Kiev regime, and to a slightly lesser extent its western sponsors need to acknowledge before they can address their problems in this conflict.

    There has been far too much delusion and outright disinformation from Ukrainian & western media and their politicians, preventing them from accepting the uncomfortable truth of their situation. Russia, by contrast, appears to have a clear and consistent grasp of reality, now that it has finally abandoned hope that the west might honour its agreements.

    So, flirting with a ceasefire is just more delusion and fantasy – Russia certainly won’t agree to it unless it is in a position to directly enforce its own security guarantees.

    1. hk

      Mind you that trash in Berlin was being picked up until March (or was it early April) of 1945, when the Red Army was literally just miles away. Life is wartime capitals stay “normal” to an amazing extent and Kiev is not being bombed or shelled the way Berlin, Beirut, or Baghdad were.

      1. Detroit Dan

        The Berlin example is interesting. It kind of supports the point that a profound defeat for the West could be just around the corner. Perceived normality in Washington DC (think BIden, Pelosi, McConnell) means little. The dam may be about to burst.

  9. Felix_47

    Apparently the Ukrainian government is demanding that Poland send the military aged young Ukrainians who are there back to Ukraine for military service. That will end the war. If Germany does the same thing the war will end faster. The US learned that drafting soldiers into a losing war means the regime is going to get replaced. We instituted the volunteer Army so our regime can wage war without the consent of the nation. And if the EU starts sending Ukrainian men back to Ukraine against their will the precedent might solve the refugee crisis in Europe. Most of the refugees are young men escaping mandatory militiary service be it Afghanistan, Syria, sub Saharan Africa etc. So from a peace standpoint we should encourage the repatriation of these men to end the war in Ukraine and maybe consider such and option in the European arena. Don’t worry….it is not going to happen. The war/refugee business is too profitable. The elderly oligarchs in the US and Ukraine are not going to back down as long as they are earning dynasty creating amounts of money in campaign donations and kickbacks and getting reelected.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I doubt this will happen. The EU has very strong legal protections for refugees:

      The European Union is an area of protection for people fleeing persecution or serious harm in their country of origin.

      Asylum is a fundamental right and an international obligation for countries, as recognised in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees.

      In the EU, an area of open borders and freedom of movement, member countries share the same fundamental values and joint approach to guarantee high standards of protection for refugees.

      EU countries have a shared responsibility to welcome asylum seekers in a dignified manner, ensuring that they are treated fairly and their case is examined following uniform standards. This ensures that, no matter where an applicant applies, the outcome will be similar. Procedures must be fair, effective throughout the EU, and impervious to abuse.


      Now admittedly Poland is getting unhappy with the cost of having decided early on to be very generous with Ukraine refugees, and has been cutting back on support programs. So with no money and no place to live, some will presumably return to Ukraine.

      However, the wealthy ones who bribed their way out will not be in that boat. And Poland et al will not mind them since they presumably can afford to pay their way (when forced to) and not be a drain on state services.

      Moreover, these men could not be booted en masse. Ukraine would have to demand that individuals be extradited and file extradition papers on an individual basis. Any attempt at bulk processes would be a violation of the law. I don’t see that Ukraine is making any effort to observe forms. And even if there were to (putting aside how does Ukraine figure out which country a particular conscription-evader went to to then petition for that man to be returned from that country), the process would hopelessly clog up the courts.

      So na ga happen.

  10. Irrational

    Stoltenberg – after 25 paragraphs of delusion stated in a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday that Putin went to war because of NATO getting too close:
    Haven’t checked the delivery, but it reads as if he is proud that NATO rejected Putin’s proposals.
    Now let’s see how long it takes him to walk back the statement and say Putin is evil, saving democracy etc.

  11. Not Moses

    Again, lots of philosophical second guessing and wishful thinking by all sides. Factually, Zachariah is saying Ukrainian military doesn’t see a way into a win.

    Today’s NYT has an article about where US aid to Ukraine is going: “ In Ukraine, a U.S. Arms Dealer Is Making a Fortune and Testing Limits Billions are pouring into a clubby, secretive arms market. With Pentagon cash and unusually close Ukrainian military ties, Marc Morales has few peers.” So, of all the traditional arms traffickers, it’s a Miami (probably Cuban) who’s the baddest guy? How convenient! As the SNL church lady used to say. This obfuscates the real crooks, ie. the BlackRock’s Larry Fink and the other oligarchs with double citizenship. But, it adds pressure for a cease fire agreement, that will probably include NATO membership unless….


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