More on Ukraine’s Desperate Economy

Moon of Alabama yesterday described at length Ukraine’s pre-existing demographic bust in men in their late teens through thirties, the result of the catastrophic collapse in living conditions in the 1990s after the USSR broke up. The post described how the war has turned what is left of Ukraine into a demographic disaster, It keys a statement by the former British Minister of Defence, Ben Wallace, that the average age of soldiers at the front line in Ukraine is 40.

We’ll soon explain how this factoid is the tip of the iceberg of disastrous conditions in Ukraine, not just for its military but also for its economy and society. But first, let’s finish the demographic overview. From Moon of Alabama:

Ukraine’s population by age and sex in 2020


The ‘age pyramid’ in Ukraine isn’t a pyramid. In 2020 there was a huge lack of 15 to 20 years old people. They were simply not there. They never existed. The number of newborns around 2000 must have been horribly low….

Bad economic times and low expectations of betterment had influenced the desire of its people to procreate. Two more downturns followed during the global recession around 2008 and due to the 2014 Maidan coup and the civil war following it.

The article adds that Ukraine now is at its lowest birthrate ever and continues:

In 1990 Ukraine had a population of more than 50 million people. Twenty years from now the country will have less than maybe 25 million inhabitants. This even if all refugees return.

As bad as this is, Ukraine is not facing a future internal crisis. It’s in the midst of one right now. War watchers look for the signs of a possible Ukraine military breakdown, but that may well come as a result of an internal collapse, that the effort to keep manning the war produces what amount to breakdowns in critical systems that transmit quickly to the (in)ability to wage war.

A recent article in AlMayadeen, Living conditions in Ukraine are resembling a new slavery, a triumph of Western ‘democracy’ in the 21st century, paints a vivid and disturbing picture of the extreme measures being taken now in Ukraine to keep things functioning. It’s hard to find any information about day-to-day functioning in Ukraine, due among other things the shuttering of all opposition media in Ukraine, and the apparent capture of the members of the press who go there. Most seem to stay in Kiev, which is a sprawling city and whose center and diplo/big money haunts seem to have been spared. A brave few do go to or near the front lines, but that again means they are spared seeing how ordinary people live now.

Similarly, Twitter fare consists of battle-related news, Zelensky and visiting official shots, partying in Kiev (with disapproving comments), and men being impressed into service. So there is a genuine information gap.

Even discounting for the article potentially painting in overly-bright colors, thing are unquestionably bad, and in ways some might not have anticipated, like harsh work requirements. From Almayadeen:

In Western media, the current conflict in Ukraine is often presented as a war between Western-

style ‘freedom and democracy’ and Russian-style ‘authoritarianism and dictatorship’. We are told, furthermore, that such ‘freedom and democracy’ are represented by the governing regime in Kiev.

But this is a regime that has banned all men between the ages of 18 and 60 as well as women in certain professions from leaving the country. There is no free internal movement of citizens. The main exceptions to the prohibition on leaving the country are those unfit for military service, those fathers who have three or more minor children (all below the age of 16), and persons caring for people with disabilities. (The latter exemption only applies if there is no other family member to provide care.)

The article, from August 20, describes a proposed bill from August 8 for using mobilized men on public works if they don’t want to fight. Given that the source article is in Ukrainian, I can’t search to see if it became law. I would appreciate it if any readers with the needed language expertise can find any updates.

Now the article depicts the intent of the law as, erm, responsive to the desires of some conscripts not to fight. Perhaps the idea actually is well intentioned, to increase success in “recruitment” and get more men working productively, instead of hiding in basements.

But it is also possible that work relief could be made even more harsh than a fast death on the front lines. This fictionalized example, extreme by design, does make that point:

In fairness, as the article explains, the government has tried to find resources for hard labor, which is likely the sort of thing the proposed legislation is intended to address:

Ukrainian authorities tried to solve their labor shortage problems by tapping into the large pool of the unemployed. The unemployed who were officially registered were sent into military zones to clear rubble, cut down trees, build shelters, etc. This is hard physical work, often located near the front lines. This initiative was labeled an ‘Army of Reconstruction’, but many people responded by simply stopping to register as unemployed. After all, unemployment benefits have also been cut in Ukraine. Today, the average benefit hovers around the equivalent of US$27 per month. The maximum benefit rate is $180 per month, but this is only good for three months.

Other wage reductions:

There is also already a serious shortage of trained personnel in Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of factory workers, skilled tradespeople, railway workers, drivers, and other equipment operators in agricultural industries, and on and on have been conscripted into the army. Many of them have died or been seriously injured in the futile attempts of Ukraine’s leaders and their Western patrons to storm the well fortified defensive lines of the Russian armed forces.

Help wanted notices go begging because the conscription office has first dibs on anyone who turns up.

The article also describes wage cuts in the face of inflation running at an estimated 30% (Statista puts it at 21%). Teacher pay is down 15% to 50%.

Author Dmitri Kovalevich argues that the labor mobilization scheme illustrates that the government is moving towards a system of forced labor to keep Ukraine operating:

Ukraine is gradually introducing a system of slave labor – people must work to meet basic food needs, but they work for steadily shrinking salaries and benefits. Western media is silent about all this but is happy to continue preaching about the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ of the former Soviet Union where millions toiled without receiving wages or financial benefits in return.

The new draft law on the mobilization of workers is intended to “ensure the functioning of the national economy under martial law”, in the words of those drafting the law. It is noteworthy that in early August, Ukraine began to talk about a likely ban against military conscripts leaving the country for three years following an eventual end to military hostilities and martial law…

This idea of prohibiting Ukrainian citizens from leaving the country even after the end of hostilities stems, in part, from the fact that Ukraine is now heavily indebted to Western governments and financial institutions..

Bloomberg News reported on July 24 that Ukraine needs to bring back 2.8 million of its women citizens from abroad in order to have a chance at economic recovery following the end of military hostilities. According to one expert Bloomberg interviewed, if only half of the women return, this would cost Ukraine 10% of its GDP by 2032, on the order of $20 billion per year. Such losses will far outweigh the EU’s proposed four-year aid package to Ukraine in the amount of $14 billion per year.

Ukraine is also considering changes in labor laws to allow for 60 hour work weeks and only one 24 hour period off, with the plan first to be implemented in areas deemed to be critical infrastructure. The article notes that at least one employer has been accused of imposing an even more taxing work schedule, with martial law the justification.

And mind you, this is before getting to what happens when the US and EU cut financial support for the Ukraine government, which is bound to happen given rising voter antipathy for the spending, lack of a prospect of a win or even a clean exit soon, and competing priorities (for the US, China). The article estimates the current workforce at 9.5 million versus a population. The manpower loss plus physical destruction means a big reduction in productive capacity. That in combination with deficit spending as the foreign aid shrinks is a prescription for hyperinflation.

We have been speculating what Russia might do to make sure rump Ukraine is neutralized as a threat. If this article is correct, the baked in economic trajectory will do most of the job.

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  1. Randall Flagg

    This can’t be true as it’s all going well ( other than those evil Russians),according to the major networks, WAPO, NYT, NPR, MSNBC,CNN, etc.
    sarcasm off
    Can’t wait to see how it’s all explained away when the truth is impossible to ignore and we , the US, walks away.

    1. Random

      The US was tricked by those sneaky corrupt Ukrainians.
      We did everything we could but they simply didn’t listen to our advice and stole too much. Also those Russians used inhuman tactics and ate too many babies while losing millions of people.
      God bless America.

    2. ian

      It will be blamed on the GOP. If only they hadn’t denied funding for more weapons, Ukraine would have won.

    3. Synoia

      It will will bot be explained. It will be Ignored because of some other bright shiny object

      Like Kosovo or Iraq and others.

    4. Altandmain

      For an example, note how the mainstream media covered the 2003 Iraq invasion after it became clear that Saddam was not developing weapons of mass destruction for use against the US.

      Simialr tactics are going to be deployed throughout the Western world. Too many political figures and media figures have staked their political capital on this conflict.

      Presumably as well, a scapegoat will be found. Maybe even Zelensky himself will be thrown under the bus. Certainly the US has done so for past proxies such as Saddam himself (there’s a video of Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam shaking hands back when the US backed Iraq in the Iran Iraq war).

      Whether the public will by gullible and accept these explanations is another matter.

  2. JohnA

    Have any mainstream media run with the story from The Nation that Zelensky’s wife allegedly spent over $1 million on jewelry at Cartier while he was in New York begging for more of everything? They published a copy of the invoice, and as yet, nobody has claimed it is a fake.
    That couple, hoovering up luxury residences around the world and seemingly going for breathtaking bling to go with them, appear not to be suffering any kind of economic crisis like the rest of their country.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Fear not: when the time comes, they will turn on him, and blame him for their failures and greed. The unspoken operational axiom of corporate media is, “At Your Feet, Or At Your Throat.”

      That’s not to say that #McResistance media will have a fit of truthfulness or a sincere Come To Jesus moment, just that their perceived imperatives will shift, and Zelensky will be pivoted to the Bad Guy role, in order to protect Biden, Blinken Nuland, et. al…

      All of that said, it seems unlikely to work. Uncle Joe and crew are going to be facing a s>×*storm next year, when the Ukes collapse and the Germans and other Europeans begin waking up to what’s been done to them; expect all kinds of revelations about Nordstream to start pouring out, and stories of Ukro-Nazi atrocities finally seeing the light of day.

      All that, combined with the constitutional crisis fomented by Democrat reliance on Lawfare, instead of politics, to neutralize Trump. Dreadful stuff, literally…

      1. notabanker

        I dunno, it usually takes 2-3 years for the media blackout to be lifted and the truth to slowly crawl out of the woodwork. Hersh’s piece just had it’s first birthday.

    2. Jeff

      It was NOT from The Nation, it was from a fake site. And it’s obvious, not even close to believable

      1. The Rev Kev

        Why not even close to believable? When Zelensky was in Paris last year his wife spent big money on fashions and I think that she did the same in previous trip to New York. She has form.

      2. JohnA

        Why is it not even close to believable? A million in jewelry is chickenfeed compared to all the properties Zelensky has acquired around the world, US, London, Italy, Israel, Egypt, and possibly others that have not yet come to light.
        Or do you think his property portfolio is not even close to believable, either? The man is an actor, playing the role of his life and has accumulated a fortune that even the most highly paid Hollywood actors would swoon with envy at.

        1. nippersmom

          I’m curious whether, when the house of cards finally collapses and Zelensky becomes persona non grata, those properties will be seized by the respective countries. They’ve certainly seized other assets on flimsier grounds.

    3. Feral Finster

      Last I checked, nobody held Ghani to account, even though he is no longer invited to Atlantic Council shindigs.

      1. hk

        He wasn’t canonized, nay, deified the way Zelensky was (in fact, hardly anyone not paying attention to foreign affairs knew who he was). I doubt this can be buried quite so thoroughly.

        1. Feral Finster

          I dunno, those who want to continue to uphold the Cult Of The Twerp, wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, a greater battlefield leader than Caesar, Hannibal and Genghis Khan all rolled into one, will continue to do so.

          “Russian disinformation!”

  3. John R Moffett

    Unless the West is totally incompetent and has no idea what it is doing, then it seems that the destruction of Ukraine was actually part of the plan to harm Russia. With a destroyed and bankrupt state now being partly incorporated into the Russian Federation, there will be more costs and difficulties for Russia to overcome when the war ends. The West must have known for at least the last 6 to 9 months that Ukraine wasn’t going to win the war, so they decided to send the Ukrainian army against an impenetrable, layered wall of Russian defenses. This way the West gets to see how their weapons work while encouraging the Ukrainians to destroy their own country.

    1. The Rev Kev

      So If I read you right, you are partly saying that when the west realized that they could not win, their Plan B was to establish a failed state on Russia’s borders filled with Nazis and missiles.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I don’t believe this. America doesn’t do this sort of thing. It’s not like we have a history of creating failed states in various places around the…wait a second…

        ***glances over at Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan***

        Excuse me, I’ll just see myself out.

    2. Jams O'Donnell

      The Ukraine has a great deal of natural resources, but the previous (and current) governments were riddled with corruption which presumably siphoned off a lot of wealth. If Russia does take over the state (which is arguably dubious) rather than installing a friendly government, it should not take long to get some kind of medium sized economy going. However, Russia has already allowed the most industrialised regions to become part of the Russian state, so the economy of what will be the future Ukraine will probably be mostly agricultural. That still allows for a lot of production (see current grain export problems with the EU). And as the Ukraine will have sworn off armaments, there will be more money for reconstruction. Russia has already begun this process behind its lines, and it will be a bonus for Russian and Chinese construction firms.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Most of the natural resources are in the east, which Russia is pretty sure to control, like over 85% of nat gas reserves. The best soil is disproportionately in the east but the west has enough superior and very good soil to be productive.

        1. itsaclasswar

          Well put, as “the west” represented by BlackRock, Cargill etc. already owns most of it.

      2. Louis Fyne

        Ukraine’s greatest resource was all the infrastructure and legacy human resources/institutions left over from the Soviet days.

        That’s all going to turn to rubble or scattered to the 4 corners of the EU.

      3. Feral Finster

        At least when I lived there, there wasn’t much western investor interest in these supposed Ukrainian natural riches.

    3. James

      John R Moffet

      What you are suggesting sounds like the “dual containment strategy” that the US pursued during the Iran-Iraq war to try and keep that war going as long as possible. Sounds pretty plausible to me.

    4. Arkady Bogdanov

      Yes, and I have been saying to my acquaintances for over a year now, that this is why Russia is not advancing. The area they are fighting in was already destroyed in the first round of the Donbas wars in 2014/2015. So if you want to chew up the Ukrainian military, and all those pieces of juicy NATO equipment and mercs/sheep dipped imperial soldiers- why not stay put on the territory that is already wrecked as long as they are dumb enough to come to you? As long as NATO leadership continues to shovel men and equipment directly at the Russian positions, Russia has no incentive to advance- in fact, the Ukrainian tendency to shell towns, kill civilians, and destroy infrastructure in towns/cities they retreat from is a disincentive for Russian forward advancement. This saves Russia a great deal of money and resources- if they advance, it just means more rebuilding. All the Russians have to do is stay put and let the Ukrainians stupidly and effectively destroy their ability to resist future Russian advancement, while the Ukrainians also throw away their ability to salt the earth upon retreat. People that fail to see this are the ones that are mad at the Russians for being soft, but the way I see it, it is a brilliant strategy. Amazes me that NATO appears to be too dumb to see it. The wise thing for NATO to do, given their goals, would be to move backward into areas where fighting has not occurred and force the Russians to come get them, and then impose costs on Russia by slowly retreating and destroying Ukrainian territory as they go.

      1. Acacia

        Yes, though in that scenario, what’s to keep the Russians from waiting in place, whilst sending drones and missiles ahead to the Ukie positions?

        Ukraine is basically on life support from the West — Russia, not at all — and the West is now getting impatient that there doesn’t seem to be much “victory” to show for all the billions in support. At some point, the aid will be cut back drastically. Maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of that now.

        So, the Ukies have to keep “doing something” with the hope that they can keep the game going. But the human cost of this calculus is just tragic.

  4. neutrino as of now:

    Headline #2 – Backlash grows against Ukraine’s EU accession

    Top stories #1 – Juncker: Ukraine is totally corrupt

    Top stories #2 – EU to US: Help, we can’t cope without you on Ukraine

    Top stories #3 – Ukraine is ‘freaking out’ as McCarthy chaos threatens US aid

    Has the case just advanced to the “Suddenly” phase ?

    1. Ignacio

      Ukraine accession to EU: na ga happen. The unreachable carrot after the stick. The empty promise.

      1. itsaclasswar

        It is definitely irreconcilable with the imperative of keeping the remaining population, let alone motivating those who have fled to the EU to return home.

  5. bwilli123

    Destruction of Ukraine? Surely, you jest? They’re on the verge of winning, according to UK former Defence Sectretary Ben Wallace.
    …”Whisper it if you need. Dare to think it. But champion it you must. Ukraine’s counteroffensive is succeeding. Slowly but surely, the Ukrainian armed forces are breaking through the Russian lines…”


    …” The Russian army is cracking. Ukraine has learnt new tactics to overcome horrendous minefields, and the Storm Shadow strikes are devastating Russian HQs. We are witnessing the beginnings of the battle for Crimea.

    Shades of Comical Ali / Bagdad Bob

    1. Freethinker

      Well, if you’re going to do something best, bring in the most appropriate experts, so for comedic storytelling, who better than the most proven successful campaigners in propaganda, those who got brexit done……

    2. Keith Newman

      And the Russians ran out of missiles 18 months ago, then 17 months ago, then a few months after that, then a year ago, so any “Russian missile strikes” you read about are just fake news.

  6. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    I’m working at Amsterdam HQ this week. When I mentioned what benefits Ukrainian refugees are on and Brits are not, I heard it’s the same there and maddening as their own children are staying home until their 30s.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thank you Colonel. I came across an RT article recently that said that the Berkshire council, home to Windsor Castle, is more than $240 million in debt and is running a high risk of insolvency. They presently have a debt of £203 ($240 million) which is rising because of higher interest rates. Reading your descriptions of how local Councils have been so lavish with their spending on Ukrainian refugees, you do have to wonder if all those costs of supporting them have helped blow out their budget-

  7. Not Cain

    60 hr work weeks in a nation at war? A melting GDP? A dwindling male population? An overall population contraction? What’s going on? Mrs Zelensky using milk & flower money to buy Cartier trinkets? Well, let’s hope a bare chested putin can triumphantly enter Kyiv on a white horse.

    Btw- a UN survey found that about 900M people around the world are ready to move “someplace else.”

  8. Freethinker

    Ordinary Ukrainian people have allowed corruption to eat their country alive for years, with or without war, so this was the inevitable result, it got stolen/destroyed from under their feet …..& the rest of us vassals are not as different as we like to think, we were just never targeted, so never tested – I doubt we’d be different.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The Ukraine may be an object lesson in what happens when you let a set of oligarchical families end up running a country. It never ends well.

      1. David in Friday Harbor

        “Ukraine” appears to have become the seat of Soviet and post-Soviet oligarchical rule after Khruschev set up Kiev and Dniepro as his power base in the wake of the Great Purge.

        I don’t read Russian, but I wonder how much resentment there must be in the Russian Federation over how Brezhnev’s “Dniepropetrovsk Mafia” ran the USSR into the ground. How significant was Gorbachev’s purge of these “Ukrainians” in the break-away that precipitated the final collapse?

        The American version of the history of this region appears to be pure fiction. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but “Ukrainians” such as Brezhnev and the Dniepro mafioso Kolomoyskiy appear to be the real empire-builders, not Putin.

    2. TimH

      Ordinary Ukrainian people have allowed corruption

      Give me a single country that gives “ordinary people” any genuine gatekeeping on corruption…

  9. sinbad66

    Thank you, Yves, for this story. You give analysis to the financial/economic side of the house—something rarely touched on by others, but greatly important to the outcome of this war.

  10. Subhasis_Aragorn

    Dmitry C reports from working class perspective, I think mainly attributed to his political affiliation. His reporting throughout this period has been consistent and measured, compared to MSM story based writing style. It begs the question though, how trade union congresses of European countries choose to support Ukraine government, instead of Ukrainian working class (rhetorical)!

  11. Louis Fyne

    also note that the Ukrainian currency is pegged to the USD by emergency decree, and paid for by DC and Brussels

    when the dam breaks, it’ll be just like end-stage Fall 1918 Kaiser’s Germany.

    1. Feral Finster

      I believe that the Ukrainian Central Bank ended the dollar per a couple of days ago, supposedly because they had so much free dough.

      1. Louis Fyne

        no mention when the actual free-float day will be.

        Peg still in effect. with Ukraine theoretically having 12 months’ worth of hard currency reserves.

  12. Ignacio

    Reading this article and then recalling the many times that von der Leyen, Borrell, Baerbock et al have been saying that Ukraine will join the EU as if a recipe to solve all social economical issues in Ukraine I cannot stop thinking how little these morons care about Ukraine. They don’t give a damn about Ukraine.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They need a win. Can a Von Der Leyen survive an investigation into her dealings with Pfizer? In a more precarious environment, electeds will move to save themselves. They will want sufficient trophies to throw to the masses.

      Democrats protected Menedez a few years ago when he should have been tossed, but now their numbers are much worse. They don’t care about the brazenness. They care that he will now be a drag.

    2. GW

      They talk about inducting Ukraine into the “European Family of Nations.” But what they really want is to inflict a humiliating military and political defeat on Russia. After that, they’ll focus on salting the earth from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.

      But, seriously, what can we expect from anti-Russian racist pigs like von der Leyen, Borrell, and Baerbock?

      (P.S. – Sorry for the harsh language. But a few days ago Mark Ames hit the nail on the head when he called out US/NATO types for their “centuries old, racist” views of Russians. He’s emboldened me.)

  13. Camelotkidd

    The US and NATO have created a perfect neoliberal Galts Gulch in Ukraine through their unceasing efforts
    Good work all

    1. Feral Finster

      Not sure how you can say that, when Ukraine is entirely dependent upon foreign largesse.

      And I am no randroid.

  14. Verifyfirst

    I’m tempted to send this article to every Ukrainian flag flying liberal Dem Twitterist………but the blue Maga bubble is utterly impervious. Don’t forget suspension of all opposition political parties.

    I have wondered at the lack of news about the human cost on both sides of this gruesome war, especially now with social media. You see reports and pictures of tanks being blown up, but no acknowledgement there were people inside that tank. It’s all censored, on both sides?

    1. turtle

      I have wondered at the lack of news about the human cost on both sides of this gruesome war, especially now with social media. You see reports and pictures of tanks being blown up, but no acknowledgement there were people inside that tank. It’s all censored, on both sides?

      Thank you, I’ve wondered a bit of the same myself. After watching last year’s movie “All Quiet On The Western Front” that vividly illustrates the barbarism of war, I thought to myself: how could anyone wish for any other human being to go through this kind of hell on earth? If some other country invaded mine and wanted to take parts of the territory, I would be inclined to say, okay, have it. Surely it would lead to a better outcome than what’s depicted in the movie and what’s happening now, for the vast majority of people? By what logic do you go on an all out war to every last man, woman, and child?

      1. Freethinker

        That was tested in Paraguay when it’s 3 neighbours ganged up in a war where the Paraguayans were surrounded – so had nowhere to escape to – it ended with almost every male over 12 years old wiped out, while women & children would have been indirectly killed off via disease, exposure or starvation. It took the country generations to recover ……only to an extent though given that the scars remain in radical demographic changes to give just one example.

        1. turtle

          Thanks for the counter-example! I skimmed a bit of the fairly long article about this war on Wikipedia. The whole thing seems really complicated, with multiple parties and multiple wars, so forgive me if I get something wrong based on my quick reading.

          My impression is that the Paraguayan war doesn’t at all seem to contradict my idea? In fact, it kind of seems to support my idea and have some parallels with the Ukraine. It seems Paraguay decided to get into a war with not one but two neighboring, regional hegemons when the latter invaded a third neighboring country(?), fought for a few years until their capital fell and the president went on the run, then kept up a guerrilla fight for a while after, resulting in hundreds of thousands dead, both from combat and even more from disease and hunger.

          How may that have turned out differently had they said “okay, have it,” like I mentioned? If I (or the Wikipedia article) got any of this wrong, please let me know.

          1. juno mas

            The war in Ukraine is a proxy war by US neocons. It started in 2014 with the Maidan coup and continued with a massive arms buildup and military training for eight years. Whereupon negotiation was attempted to stop the killing of innocent civilians (mostly Russian) in the Donbas. Putin sensed that “okay, have it” would endanger many more Russians.

            Since Russia is a major military power and operating in its own backyard they punched back. It looks like the the Ukraine proletariat is being eviscerated. The Ukes appear to be the ones that should have said, “okay, have it.”

            1. turtle

              Right, that’s what I was getting at, that Ukraine should have just said have it, on either or both occasions. Where’s the sense in relying on the elephant half a world away to defend you from the rhinoceros next door.

          2. Freethinker

            Hi turtle, my response does support your point, because i was using that example to agree with you that when there’s that extreme an imbalance in power between 2 sides, the weaker is doomed anyway, so might as well consider even bad ultimatums :)

            Personally, I know/knew several friends, acquaintances & relatives who have/had been involved in different wars in some capacity & from listening to their stories, it’s always worth exhausting every possibility before pressing the button that may torch your life.

            My life is still scarred today from a war my grandfather was conscripted into for years, he survived and even did well in the following peace, but was haunted by memories. My father was physically stunted from years of malnutrition (born at the worst time) & also mentally damaged by neglect from periodically absent parents. He was badly affected by war-derived trauma despite being a small child, not even a combatant at the time. My generation has serious problems that damage our lives, from the inherited trauma reverberating down the descendants – making bad choices due to deeply ingrained fears of what might happen at any given time even though it may appear peaceful – it’s truely amazing how long that damage can go on. People who have not experienced war have no idea how cruel it is …..when you see bodies lying around on TV, it doesn’t stop there, the suffering passes on from those who can no longer feel pain to those that they left behind. Only those who benefit can enjoy it

            1. turtle

              Hi Freethinker, sorry I misunderstood your initial reply.

              Thank you for adding these personal anecdotes and thoughts. They confirm what I think about war: that it’s a horrible, horrible thing that causes widespread, long-lasting damage (physical and mental, as you described). That means that it should only be used to prevent or resolve something that is or will be even more horrible. The only valid war example I can readily think of is the fight against Germany in World War II in light of the Holocaust, but I’m sure that there are other examples from history.

              Thanks again.

  15. Feral Finster

    There is no “Ukrainian economy” other than cashing aid checks and skim.

    That simply makes the Kiev regime and its dependents so much more desperate for the war to continue, as otherwise the gravy will stop flowing.

  16. Polar Socialist

    In 2019 Ukrainian Academy of Science published a report that Ukraine was losing people at an alarming rate. And it all happened officially unnoticed, since the government stopped registering emigrating people in 2003 precisely because the numbers were very scary.

    In other words, that missing cohort of young people is not really missing – it’s the kids of the young families that emigrated from Ukraine between 2000 and 2010. Apparently only half of the children born in 2001 finished school in 2018. The rest had not dropped out, but had emigrated with their parents. Since nobody was keeping records, the estimated number of people who voted with their feet is 4 to 6 million, or 10%-15% of the whole population.

    And a minor point I’d like to make regarding the gulag in Soviet Union while it’s not the issue here: it was not slave labor, it was forced labor. It was devised specifically to get workers to all the distant mines and hydropower construction sites when there were not enough volunteers.

    So prisoners got paid, and in that weird Stahanovian system of Soviet labor, the more they did, the more they got paid. It was not called salary until 1950’s, before that it was called “enticement”. The camps had canteens to buy stuff, probably the guards provided things for money and of course while commuting from the camp to the workplace the prisoners could buy vodka and makhorka. And who knows, probably some hanky panky, too.

  17. turtle

    What I sometimes wonder about is what is this setting up for the future of the Ukraine and of the wider region? Ok, so the country will be destroyed and the economy in shambles at that point. What will all the ultras (nazi and otherwise) be up to after all this is done? Right now they’re already talking about hunting down any “Russian propagandists”. What lengths will they go to after Ukraine has conclusively lost this war and they no longer need to please their (by then former) benefactors? Will they be seeking revenge not only against Russians but also against anyone else who they feel betrayed them in any real or imagined way?

    What are the odds of assassins and terror cells spread around the world, but especially around Europe? How about the odds that the nazis rise to power and blame the Jewish president who lost the war and presided over mass loss of life and property and massive emigration? What are the odds that they don’t even wait for him to be voted out but coup him out? The whole thing seems like an overly dynamic situation?

    1. Another Anon

      All good points. Zelensky has already threatened those European countries that the refugees they accepted will become violent if Ukraine doesn’t continue to get its money. We already know that Ukrainian terror cells exist in Russia so maybe such cells already exist in Europe. Alexander Mercouris mentioned that the Chechens made peace with Russia once they realized that they were being used by the US solely for the purpose of weakening Russia.

      1. turtle

        Very interesting point too, none of which I had heard about. I wonder why these countries and factions that are approached by the US to “help them” don’t see the problem (potential for disaster) coming from a mile away.

        1. Frank

          Said countries and factions are usually quite fractious, which allows certain parties to leverage US “help” for their own domestic political goals. This true of both Chechnya and Ukraine. But this is also how eventual peace is maintained, when asymmetry is restored.

          I believe it will be possible for Russia to incorporate all of Ukraine, if that is how the chips fall, by letting the eastern Ukrainians rule over it. They have scores to settle and will be ruthless enough to suppress dissent and potential violent resistance.

          On a separate note, thanks to Yves for this thought provoking post. It hadn’t occurred to me to think about the realities of everyday life in most of Ukraine and the dearth of coverage on the topic. I suppose hope of victory was the glue holding society together, as that fades things could unravel.

  18. Freethinker

    It’ll be interesting to see how Ukraine’s implosion affects the central European states caught in the jaws of the vice between the Russian bear hug and Nato’s neoliberal disaster capitalism. Populist leaders are already seizing on the financial pain caused by this new proxy cold war in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the sheeple are getting restless & are more easy to manipulate when panicked, so more dominos will soon fall. Countries around the world will notice who won & the weaponry that did it, so power will shift and the tectonic plates of empires will move, changing the geopolitical map, some will benefit & others, like Armenia choosing the losing side, will lose in the great game of planetary risk.

  19. Hot Breath of a Cat

    The demographic pyramid for Russia is identical in proportion, if not gross figures, to Ukrainian demographics, shaped by identical forces until 2014. This issue is critical to both sides. 19,500 Ukrainian children were not kidnapped so that the Russian state would document itself perpetrating statutory genocide for psychological purposes alone; there is real practical utility for the state. When one’s proxies in the media break out the demography charts, you have to wonder if this is a tacit admission that victory won’t be happening within one’s lifetime.

    There is a big fat minus column for any mobilization; it’s a war after all. The UK mobilized 22% of its population to fight Germany. I wonder if Russia has nearly identical mobilization referendums on the books as Ukraine has, why isn’t Russia able to enforce them across its social stratum, in more developed areas other than its East? Historically, mobilization gives a significant boost to a state’s authority. However, Russia’s special no-maybe-mobilizations resulted in Prigozhin’s mutiny, a wobbling of authority. Military institutions are incapable of protecting own its elite officers, let alone trusted with the progeny of the Russia’s ruling class.

    The Telegram channels are in complete denial about what Russia unleashed in Ukraine, echoing historic claims made about how (Moscow-backed) Arab League was going to steamroll Israel based on troop numbers alone. Saying that the fight is over because Ukraine’s collective house is burning down doesn’t account for the “nothing left to lose, backs against the wall” sentiment that keeps soldiers motivated to fight for generations building states centered around military superiority above all else.

    1. juno mas

      The demographics may be similar but Russian infrastructure is not obliterated. Russia has a real economy with functioning government. (Putin is not a dictator.) There is no brain drain going on in Russia. They’re seeing their culture of determination and traditional values be rewarded in a test against the rules-based-order.

      Russia has half the population of the US. But unlike the US, half it’s society doesn’t want to destroy the other half. What’s not to like?

      1. MFB

        Just like the US, about .01% of the Russian society wants to destroy the other 99.99%.

        Unlike the US, however, that fraction of the Russian society is not in power.

    2. Freethinker

      With resources rapidly running out at the moment on our overpopulated planet, where large populations are no longer an advantage for agriculture or war-necessitated labour, Russia is one of the few countries in a relatively good position. It has plenty of good agricultural land, forest, fresh water, coastline, minerals, industrial/military capacity & significant supplies of the remaining concentrated hydrocarbon fuels, as well as a relatively well-educated, healthy, unified, satisfied citizenry, whose quality of life is assured for generations into the future, unlike western Europe where it is in freefall from centuries of resource depletion while no longer propped up by colonial looting or financial rent-seeking from poorer countries via predatory trade.

  20. Ridgewood Dickens

    As bad as this is, Ukraine is not facing a future internal crisis. It’s in the midst of one right now. War watchers look for the signs of a possible Ukraine military breakdown, but that may well come as a result of an internal collapse, that the effort to keep manning the war produces what amount to breakdowns in critical systems that transmit quickly to the (in)ability to wage war.

    That makes me think of Vietnam-style escalation. Will the imperialist military alliance introduce troops (in ostensibly non-combat roles) to make sure these breakdowns don’t happen?

    Somehow they then end up on the front lines?


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