Ukraine’s Unraveling, the Funding Row, and Coalition Wobbles

Economist Herbert Stein famously said, “That which can’t continue, won’t.” That applies to Ukraine. It is increasingly becoming obvious that Ukraine can’t prevail in its proxy war with Russia. Absent a nuclear war or some Yellowstone-caldera-blowup-level natural disaster in Russia, the fact that Ukraine can only pursue a war of attrition against the much better resourced Russia means Ukraine will lose on the battlefield. How total that loss is in military terms is a matter of Russia’s resolve and its willingness to continue to commit men and materiel.

But it is still striking to see Russia doubling down on a battlefield resolution even as the West clearly needs some way out but can’t, as they say in Maine, get there from here.

The 2022-2023 level of funding and arms have not been enough to beat Russia. Politically, the West cannot continue that level of support without a prospect of a Ukraine win, or at least fighting to a not-horrible-looking standstill, in say a year, eighteen months tops. The new mantra in some circles of a long war is an admission of defeat, of trying to buy time until a face-saving is found. And that’s before considering the elephant in the room, that the Beltway “rules based order” types see China as the bigger threat, and don’t want to blow their wad on Ukraine.

In light of all that, we’ll argue that the failure of the Administration to get $24 billion (then cut to $6 billion) of additional 2023 funding to Ukraine as part of the so-called continuing resolution is a bigger deal than the press is acknowledging and many pundits seem to appreciate. Even though many default to “of course Ukraine will get the money,” the procedural path for getting that done is not obvious.

First, the fact that the Administration failed to prevail is a sign that Biden is in lame duck terrain. Normally, the continuing resolution drama is a very effective vehicle to get all sorts of Congresscritters to hold their noses and vote for things they don’t much like to keep the government open. Must haves like disaster relief serve as cudgels to pass the entire package.

The whole point of putting a huge chunk of additional Ukraine spending in that bill was because that was the easiest way to get it done. Any other scheme will be more visible. And now that one round of Ukraine spending has been denied, it makes it less risky for other Congresscritters to oppose Ukraine spending or insist on lower amounts.

Specifically, Biden is now talking up having the House and Senate vote on a stand-alone Ukraine funding measure. He is acting as if that House Speaker McCarthy agrees to that.1 But McCarthy denies that as Florida representative Matt Gaetz, the leader of the campaign to block Ukraine funding, is now taking a run at McCarthy’s speakership. From BBC:

The deal late on Saturday that averted a government shutdown left out $6bn (£5bn) of funding for Ukraine because Mr Gaetz, of Florida, and other ultraconservatives insisted the US has spent too much on that country’s war with Russia.

Mr Gaetz has wielded the threat of dethroning Mr McCarthy ever since January when he led party rebels in opposing the California congressman’s bid for the speakership, forcing him to endure 15 gruelling rounds of voting in the chamber.

During the political horse-trading before he ultimately won the gavel, Mr McCarthy agreed to a change of rules that would allow any single lawmaker to call for a vote to oust the Speaker.
That paved the way to the motion to vacate.

In a speech on the House floor on Monday, Mr Gaetz accused Mr McCarthy of striking a secret deal with the White House to insert new Ukraine funding into separate legislation.
Mr McCarthy has said there is “no side deal on Ukraine”.

After filing the motion to vacate, Mr Gaetz told a crowd of reporters: “Well, I have enough Republicans where, at this point next week, one of two things will happen.

“Kevin McCarthy won’t be the Speaker of the House, or he’ll be the Speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats, and I’m at peace with either result, because the American people deserve to know who governs them.”

As an aside, the seemingly obvious route of tucking the extra 2023 Ukraine spending in the Pentagon kitty is problematic too. The House and Senate each passed their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2024, as in the next spending year, in July. The two versions have yet to be reconciled. Trying to cram more Ukraine monies in there won’t lead to a faster outcome even assuming both sides are willing to give much on other contested issues, which is what the Ukraine confidence fairy needs right now.

Now the Pentagon is sure to be able to find some change in the sofa cushions to toss some more cash to Ukraine. But scaring up $6 billion would look unseemly even if they could find out of 2023 authorizations.

Since it’s only six week until the next go at a spending bill, the normal solution to the problem of stubborn representatives is bribes, in the form of pork for their district. For instance, the originally fiercely derided TARP passed after liberal application of handouts. But these Republican ideologues are fierce opponents of more spending save for a few pet categories like border control. They thus might be unwilling to take these inducements out of cussedness or reluctance to be depicted as hypocrites. And as the Washington Post pointed out:

GOP support for Ukraine’s defense has been dropping precipitously with each House vote, and there is little reason to believe McCarthy will face any less resistance to supporting Kyiv if he tries to rally his conference next time he tries to do so.

The US going visibly wobbly is happening just after various commentators have noted, in the last few weeks, Russia has been taking a tougher line, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chairman of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, and now deputy chair of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev all making statements that pretty much amount to Russia now being committed to a maximalist goal, of either getting Ukraine to capitulate or ending its existence as a state.

Note that is not tantamount to taking all of Ukraine, but of following Clausewitz: “War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” But as Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforu have pointed out, Russia has been broadcasting in what look to be recruitment ads that portray campaigns against Odessa and Kiev, as well as others that signal that Russia now expects to move forces west of the Dnieper. Recall not just Kiev but many other cities, such as Dnipro, Nikopol, and Kherson straddle the river, making how far Russia eventually goes West not obvious. 2

As Russia has become more bloodyminded, Ukraine’s allies seem caught in their own conflicting boundary conditions. There is no willingness to mobilize to defend Ukraine. There isn’t even a serious effort to ramp up military production to an adequate level to match, let alone surpass, Russia’s output. which using a population of 36 million, only has 5 EU states larger than it, which makes is a very costly welfare project.

And that’s before getting to the fact that Ukraine as a county has become a very costly ward of all its backers. Alex Vershinin, in his important paper, The Return of Industrial Warfare, clearly envisioned the implications of Ukraine’s dependence on coalition support:

The Ukrainians’ terrain-focused war of maneuver is constrained by two factors: limited artillery ammunition and equipment production, and coalition considerations…Ukraine simply cannot go toe to toe with Russia in artillery battles…

Ukraine’s second constraint is the coalition nature of its warfare. Since running out of its own stocks, Ukraine is increasingly reliant on Western weaponry. Maintaining the Western coalition is crucial to the Ukrainian war effort. Without a constant string of victories, domestic economic concern may cause coalition members to defect. If Western support dries up due to depletion of stock or of political will, Ukraine’s war effort collapses for lack of supplies. In some ways, Ukraine has no choice but to launch attacks no matter the human and material cost.

Due to not wanting to overload this post, we will put to one side the magnitude of funding for Ukraine ex military support and how its economy is buckling even with all of that backing. Commentators have a understandable tendency to focus on what they can observe, even though that runs the risk of the “drunk under the streetlight” syndrome. As we hope to discuss in a separate post the dire conditions in Ukraine’s economy and the extreme measure now taken to keep it going. Many commentators discuss the prospects for the collapse or conquest of Ukraine’s military, but desperate conditions away from the front can also sap the will to keep fighting.

The problem is that factions in the US leadership have conflicting objectives that are becoming harder to paper over. And now we have fractures in Europe, witness the win of Ukraine-war-skeptic Robert Fico in Slovakia and the prospect of Poland’s opposition to providing more arms and other rows with Ukraine becoming not just the spat of the day to appease voters before October 15 elections, but enduring as policy. The very short version is Poland’s lead party Law and Justice (PiS), which was once a diehard Ukraine loyalist, has backed away from that position as Polish voters have soured on Project Ukraine. Ukraine filing a WTO suit against Poland (and others) for rejecting Ukraine grain was correctly perceived as a hostile, ungrateful act after too many displays of Ukraine entitlement. And as one reader pointed out with respect to Ireland, the official budgetary support for Ukraine does not include all of the benefits extended to Ukraine refugees, another source of resentment. Former president Donald Tusk, who is staunchly pro-Ukraine, is running as the opposition leader but even with massive turnout at rallies last weekend, is polling only at 30% The touts seem to favor PIS (now at 38%) forming a coalition with the conservative and Ukraine-critical Confederation party. You’ll note Politico does not even deign to mention that outcome in its latest story. But Associated Press did take note last week:

Poland’s hard-right Confederation party … made their case for lower taxes, less regulation and an anti-European Union and anti-Ukraine foreign policy….

Confederation has turned up the heat on the Polish political establishment, riding a wave of support for nationalist conservative parties across Europe. Similar political forces have surged on opposition to widespread migration to Europe and anger over COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates…

The Polish party, which won nearly 7% of the vote four years ago, was polling at around 15% in the summer, creating the prospect of a third-place finish after the governing national conservative party Law and Justice, which is the frontrunner in surveys, and the opposition Civic Coalition, led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, which is trailing in second place.

That created speculation that it could end up as a coalition partner in the next government with Law and Justice. Such a scenario could push the EU and NATO even further to the political right and weaken Poland’s support for the Western alliance defending Ukraine.

While every country is different, polls in other EU members have tended to understate support for anti-EU/NATO factions. Viktor Orban was predicted to at risk of losing when he won in a rout. Fico was projected to be only a possible winner and exit polls had his party as beaten when he won by five points. So that suggests that the conservative groups in Poland might do even better than now projected.

If PiS and Confederation do form a solid coalition after the Polish elections on the 15th, Victoria Nuland’s head might explode. Too bad it won’t be televised.


1 In fairness, the Biden statement was slippery: “I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

2 We warned from the outset that Russia could win the war and lose the peace; we think trying to subdue Western Ukraine would be a huge resource drain as well as corrupting, which is why we suggested forcing significant depopulation of that area as potentially the least bad of not good options. Medvedev early on had suggested what amounted to partitioning it among countries with reasonable claims, as in Poland, Hungary, and Romania, but EU and NATO heads would explode over member states of these two organizations executing what they would deem to be a nefarious Russian plot. Medvedev having floated that scheme early on makes it seem unlikely that the Collective West would embrace it as their idea.

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  1. Adam Wadley

    Could anyone elaborate on this point?

    “The problem is that factions in the US leadership have conflicting objectives that are becoming harder to paper over.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We don’t want World War III but we keep escalating with Russia. Some are advocating a cease fire and/or frozen conflict with Russia (which Russia has rejected anyhow) while some hawks and diehards believe that of course Ukraine can win if we only give them more money and weapons. Similarly, some have said the US loses in a long war with Russia while others are calling for just that. Some say we must husband our weapons because we need them to fight China while others say we can’t possibly let Russia win because it will embolden China.

        1. Rubicon

          Perfect quote: Synoia!! Shakespeare, again :)

          Some day there will be massive books/ online sites written about how the US Financial Hegemon started to slide which has cause such massive turbulence in the world.

          Let us go back to how Empires die by looking at the Roman Empire and its Aristocracy. That should be our starting line then chronologue how other Western Empires that met the same fate: The Dutch Republic,The Spanish Empire and then the British Empire….They all died out of massive greed and because they failed to appreciate how foreign entities could and DID cause their downfalls.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: Thanks for this report and all of the data marshaled to write it. You have placed in the footnotes someting that I think should be emblazoned above main text:

    We warned from the outset that Russia could win the war and lose the peace; we think trying to subdue Western Ukraine would be a huge resource drain as well as corrupting,

    A reason being that to get out of the war we’ll have to discuss in practical terms the next stage. Some kind of flawed peace.

    I thought of both the impending Ukrainian loss, which Naked Capitalism has been predicting for months and months, as well as how to achieve some kind of peace, as I read a report about an electoral list for peace coalescing here in Italy. I’d be skeptical of it, except that some successful politicians with heft (like Massimo Cacciari) seem to be involved as well as a high-profile TV host (Michele Santoro). I don’t see the same high level of dissent in the U S of A, much as I like Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald.

    That written, the group is trying out statements, and I noted this (freely translated): “We want Italy out of the war, and we want a negotiated peace with neither party as victor.”

    That may seem naive, but it could work. On the other hand, if as Yves Smith predicts, Russian may simply dismantle Ukraine, that leaves a victor of sorts and rubble of sorts.

    Of course, the Italians have been proposing negotiations for months. Even the conveniently feckless Draghi had a plan. I suspect that the reason the U S of A, and the U K, which is clinging with all ten fingers to vapors of Empire, don’t want negotiations is that they would have to make concessions. And they don’t want even to concede that they provoked the war way back in 2014.

    Nevertheless, for someone who lives in Italy, the continuing signs that the Natives Are Restless gives me some comfort.

    1. Benny Profane

      “I don’t see the same high level of dissent in the U S of A”
      Maybe you missed the budget bill vote that eliminated Ukraine aid. Matt Gaetz is at a much higher level than an Italian pundit, and his crew is growing by the day. Sorry, but, Italy could go either way at this point and it would hardly matter, but if the money spigot from America gets turned off, and it’s sputtering right now, then the present regime in Ukraine is doomed to terrorist acts and assassination attempts while it’s remaining population, half of which are pensioners that we, the American taxpayer are funding, starves. Unfortunately for those citizens, we have armed the Nazis so well that any sort of uprising would be impossible.

      1. Rubicon

        Sadly, Italy is in a bad spot.. It is hemmed in by the US Financial Hegemon that enhances the riches of the already very wealthy Italian Aristocrats. It’s political structure is there, like in the US, to serve the needs of the very wealthy. All the while social services for millions of average and poor citizens are being slowly cut off. It’s fatal mistake in joining the EU -Aka Germany/The US.

        Now we are reading that with US Big $$, public institutions are being scrapped for privatization of health care. Big Real Estate investors are starting to buy up agriculture owned by small Italian farmers. Unless all this stops, Italy and much of the EU will end up looking like a colonized US nation.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Blinken flat out said in an interview with David Ignatius, IIRC in January or February, that he was planning for the conflict after the war and the US would re-arm Ukraine to fight with Russia again.

      Others have made similar remarks.

      So Russia has not defeat not just Ukraine but also NATO. I’m not sure how they do that but a minimum requirement is, as they have put it, Ukraine capitulating or ceasing to exist as a state, and thoroughly draining NATO of weapons.

      1. Ashburn

        I agree that once Russia has achieved its military goals in Ukraine it will have to achieve its political goals with the US and NATO. One way this may happen is if Russia can continue to tighten the screws on the economies of the West. While I don’t have the data I believe there are any number of pressure points that Russia has yet to fully apply: exports of natural gas, oil, strategic metals, etc. Russia may even be able to convince China and the other BRICS countries to assist in this effort.

        I would welcome another deep dive into what other measures Russia might apply in the economic realm.

    3. Feral Finster

      The history of WWI is most instructive, in particular the extent to which the Entente was willing to run rough over every law and financial norm to keep financing the war, not to mention every last one of the freedoms and principles that the Entente claimed to be fighting for, how they wept copious tears over Poor Little Belgium but invaded Greece and installed a friendly government at bayonet point in order to get that country to abandon neutrality, etc..

      All in a war that did not need to happen.

      The West is nowhere near done doubling down. After the election, Stoltenberg was quick to remind Fico that regardless of election results, the policy of Slovakia towards Ukraine will not change. I suspect that he knows whereof he speaks.

      1. Adam1

        And the Spanish Flu as it is called is mostly known as the Spanish Flu not because it originated in Spain, but because they were neutral and their press was uncensored for the war therefore the best reporting on the pandemic came from Spain. Hand the press of the western powers not been censored it likely would have gone down in history is the American Flu.

  3. furnace

    On the matter of losing the peace, it seems that Russia did a pretty good job of pacifying Chechnya. Of course these are very different situations, but the Russians seem at least to be better at the job than the US.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Russia did a better job of rebuilding Grozny in 10 years than Michigan/DC has done with post-white-flight Detroit in 50

      1. Darius

        War destruction can be repaired or reconstructed. It’s virtually impossible to undo a bunch of freeways.

    2. Ignacio

      Problem here is we don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on internally in Ukraine while the fascists are in charge. But if funds start to dry, causing scarcity and skyrocketing inflation, with the prospect of Russia smelling blood (supposed some Ukrainians are paying attention to what Shoigu and others are saying), and more and more bloodbaths in battlefields, support for the current regime might plunge with some risk of implosion in Ukraine. Russia could in that case claim that pacification is their new objective.

  4. GW

    For now, I’m trying to figure out what’s happening in the battle zone. I’m intrigued by recent reports indicating that UKR may have suffered a significant strategic defeat in its 2023 summer offensive.

    Given the (near) universally poor quality of information sources in US/UK MSM, it’s almost impossible for average Joe’s like me to know what’s the truth. But I’m cautiously optimistic something very bad may have happened to the UKR army.

    Prof. Mearsheimer is unequivocal in stating that RU forces are fighting very well, and that UKR is now deadlocked in a war of attrition that it can’t win. That’s encouraging, given that Mearsheimer is world famous and tenured faculty at UChicago. I don’t think he’d risk sullying his reputation by making claims unsupported by hard evidence.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Maybe there’s a happy ending to this mess in the medium term future.

    1. Feral Finster

      I would say that reports are mixed, which is as sure an admission as any that the the much hyped and much ballyhooed counteroffensive did not pan out as predicted.

      Ben Wallace, for instance, was still cheering on the bloodbath, predicting imminent victory, just one more push, as if this were the Battle Of The Somme. Others are less sanguine.

    2. nippersdad

      Just based upon the original metrics of what Ukraine/NATO wanted to achieve, the “counteroffensive” has failed utterly at anything but wasting men and materiel.

      They were supposed to be at the Sea of Azov within a week and to then start menacing Crimea; that was last July. Now they are down to sending in small contingents of lightly armed troops beyond the first line of defense and calling that a victory. Seeing as how that was what the Grayzone and first lines of defense were supposed to achieve with Surovikin’s defense strategy, Russia is doing exactly what they expected to do.

      And now it is the mud season, so going forward, at least until the ground freezes up, military action will consist of just artillery and air actions, things that Ukraine simply has no defense against.

      1. marku52

        UKR are about to take Robatnye again, for what is now the 3rd or fourth time?

        Strategically, they have accomplished nothing. But they had to do it. LIke Vlahos pointed out in comparing UKR to the American South in the Civil War, they had to go on offense to keep British support, just like UKR and the west. Rusi agrees:
        “In some ways, Ukraine has no choice but to launch attacks no matter the human and material cost.”

        1. nippersdad

          Yep. If this thing ever gets to an international criminal court (of sorts), it is going to be the West that gets the most attention for pushing them into the meatgrinder. The NYT et al will call it a kangaroo court, but people on both sides have no doubt been taking notes. It is going to be ugly.

          I think it was Alex Christoforou who was joking a couple of weeks ago about how many times Robotnyo has been taken by the Ukraine forces, and he was saying it was between twenty three or twenty four times now. No doubt an exaggeration, but not by much. One has to wonder if that place even exists anymore.

      2. GW

        “… Surovikin’s defense strategy…”

        That’s how RU beat Napoleon in 1812, BTW. Not many people realize this, but it’s true. It happened at Borodino, a battle which RU lost indecisively, but in the process, inflicted nearly 30% casualties on the Grande Armee.

        Because Borodino was one month’s march from the closest French supply depot of Smolensk, there was no hope of reinforcing or resupplying the Grande Armee afterward. The invading forces began breaking down that very day, leading to Napoleon’s decision to retreat from Moscow, which happened six weeks later.

        At Borodino, RU fought a defensive battle, replete with redoubts and artillery batteries everywhere. The attacking French had to march one mile from their starting point to RU positions, blasted by RU firepower every step of the way.

        I’ve visited Borodino myself. While viewing the knolls and gullies and many different artillery firing angles, I realized that RU generals thought long and carefully about how a defensive strategy could gut the more powerful Grande Armee.

        I hope the present war goes down in history as the conflict that permanently ended NATO expansion, something of historic significance. Maybe future generations will regard UKR’s stalled summer 2023 offensive as the equivalent of a Borodino style defeat.

        If Surovikin is really the brainpower behind RU’s carefully conceived defensive strategy, I hope he goes down in history as a great general who accomplished something comparable to what Kutuzov did in 1812.

        1. Polar Socialist

          If you believe Martyanov, Russian military tradition remembers every fight of every war from the last 500 years or so, and officers in military academies study those battles meticulously and on every level all the way up to the national strategy.

          You get the feeling that regardless of the commanding general, some variation of this plan would have been the end result. Surovikin may have been the right man at the right time to pull the troops back, though. Not all well trained officers have the guts to follow their training and trust they are doing the right decisions, especially when the population and politicians are expecting something else.

    3. LadyXoc

      I don’t see any “happy ending” here but please note that there is a plethora of alternative sources for high-quality news on this topic. Among them, Brian Berletic and the Duran channels on YT.

  5. ilsm

    “Defense of Ukraine:!

    Since 2014 (earlier?) US did in Ukraine what Hitler did in remilitarizing Rhineland in March 1936.

    Russia is merely doing what France and Britain should have done in 1936, if you listen to the “blame Chamberlain” crowing!

    History rhymes!

    1. hk

      I suppose it also does address why Anglo-French leaders were hesitant about taking action in 1936. Things seem so easy in retrospect…but in 1936, the original Nazis were no more (possibly much less) “Nazi” than the Kiev regime today (as much of the really evil history hasn’t happened yet.)

  6. GramSci

    I’m not sure I would call Russia ‘bloodyminded’. It was the US/NATO that asked for this war, and its most peaceful conclusion, in the long run, might well be “denazification” in which Russia controls Odessa, Ukraine east of the Dnieper, and the Black Sea.

    If Washington tries to fight this result, it might well find it is the US, not Russia, that has been bankrupted by war. $200 billion in military spending will not outspend Russia if it is 90% graft.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think bloodyminded is good even though I agree that is not the most common usage. I see it as “relentless” crossed with “not giving a shit about what the other guy thinks”.

      1. Revenant

        In support of Yves, it’s pretty close to core meanings of bloodyminded in British usage, viz:
        – stubborn / intransigent / obdurate / obstinate.
        – unpersuadable
        – having an idée fixe / monomaniacal

        However, bloodyminded has a shading of cussedness or solipsism (to hell with what others think etc) that mere stubborn lacks. Russia, while being stubborn, is not doing so out of mulishness but out of commitment. Bloodymindedness also has a hint of being deaf to reason or entreaty, whereas Russia has very good reasons for this war.

        I think “resolute” or better still “resolved” would be a purer descriptor of Russia’s position. They have decided on an objective and are sticking to it, come hell or high water, but deliberately rather than atavistically.

        1. Sergey P

          Oh, I too fell victim to an inferior vocabulary. Bloodyminded sounds so very much like bloodthirsty!

        2. Adam1

          I’m not a British english expert, but from an American who’s watched movies it seems very appropriate from the 3rd person perspective…

          Think of a story where 2 characters are at serious odds with each other. One being very stubborn and unpersuadable and possibly rightly so.

          Now think of a scene where the other character is ranting about the bloodyminded “idiot” who just doesn’t get it when in reality it is he who just doesn’t understand or, more likely, want to understand the other persons position.

          I think that is where our western elites are… the 2nd character that’s screaming about the bloodyminded Russians that THEY don’t want to acknowledge have some real grievances that they’ve created (and seem to keep creating).

          1. Revenant

            I think it is what Bernard or Sir Humphrey would call an irregular declension (h/t Yes Minister):

            I am resolute
            You are stubborn
            He is bloody-minded


            A late thought occurs that the US equivalent might be “ornery”, a la Yosemite Sam….

      2. GW

        “Bloodyminded” somehow has a British ring, at least to me. Something the English would have said before sending their mighty navy to fend off Russia’s encroachment of the Ottoman Empire in 1854 and 1878.

        During the 1878 Russo-Turkish War, one popular refrain by British nationalists (19th century Russophobes?) was “By Jingo,” a song performed nationwide by G. H. MacDermott and George William Hunt.

        The lyrics went like this:

        We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do,
        We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too,
        We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true,
        The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

        The 1878 war ended with the Russian army encamped under the gates of Constantinople, while a large British fleet anchored off the Bosporus. A Russian-English war was barely avoided when all great powers agreed to meet in Berlin to discuss a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

        History moves in circles. Are we going to see a large NATO army (included US troops) moving into West Ukraine in 2024 or 2025? It could happen if Ukraine’s military and political stability unravel under war stress.

  7. Socal Rhino

    Re end game: Dismantling Ukraine now might be necessary but not sufficient from Russia’s perspective, if they truly see this as a war with Nato and the US, with Ukraine a proxy. A question I imagine they face is how to deter future similar actions against them short of nuclear war. They probably see events in Poland and Slovakia as promising, but durable? Only they know, as Martyanov says from time to time.

    There is a typo in the section describing Ireland, polls at “305” should probably be “30%.”

    1. Schopsi

      I’m ever so cautiously optimistic.

      Talking big and spewing hatred is easy, as are sending weapons, even a couple thousand mercenaries is no big deal.

      But when push really comes to shove, I suspect the number of countries genuinely willing to face the kind of horrific devastation of their own territory and the sort of de-population that Ukraine faces will in the end turn out to be very small, both in Europe and in Asia.

      The looming destruction of Armenia, where Russia won’t have to lift a finger, combined with the total defeat of Ukraine, may well already suffice.

      Perhaps Britain sending some troops into Western Ukraine that immediately get bombed to smithereens.

      A handful of british ships sunk If they tried to enter the black sea, taking out NATO spydrones systematically.

      The very fact that the Brits fantasize about possibly going in themselves seems to suggest that previous Proxy elect Nr. 2, Poland, the most promising candidate up to now, is no longer eager to make the ultimate sacrifice, probably pretty much regardless of who is elected.

  8. The Rev Kev

    I am thinking that the western countries have now thoroughly boxed themselves in. It has finally sunk in that the Ukraine will not beat Russia which leaves them with the problem of how to proceed. If they could drop Project Ukraine it would be great. Then they could go after China over Taiwan with a ‘clean slate’ so to say like they did after they abandoned Afghanistan. But therein lay the problem. How to get out of the Ukraine as for them it has become a quagmire – and here I am not talking about the infamous Rasputina. They are right now looking for an off-ramp. That is why all this talk of frozen conflicts, Korea and neutral zones. An off-ramp for them would be great except for one thing. They will only take the off-ramp with the sign above it saying ‘The West Wins.’ They still refuse to accept that they have been defeated and seem to be trying to convince the Russians to call it quits. Not going to happen of course because of all the western talk of re-arming the Ukraine and setting up that country to be a major manufacturing center for military equipment. So the present strategy is to continue to push the Ukrainians to attack the Russians, even though western weapons stocks are running dry. And then hope that Russia becomes tired of the whole thing or that maybe Putin will be overthrown or something. But hope is not a strategy. So I expect to see the Russians to ramp things up to collapse the Ukrainian State, no matter how long it takes. They have spent too much blood and treasure to just call it quits to give the west a win to make them look good. I would expect that the west will then go after Kaliningrad or Transnistria out of sheer spite, no matter the dangers.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      If they ‘go after’ Kaliningrad that will mean outright war with Russia. Kaliningrad is as much Russian territory as Moscow. And if they make an attempt in Transnistria while Russia has taken, or is in the process of taking, Odessa and the Black Sea coast – well – they’ll need a lot of deep missile shelters. Transnistria also has Russian peacekeeping forces, so an attack on them could also be construed as a declaration of war.

      But you are right about collapsing the Ukrainian state. That and its replacement by a pro-Russian government and binding treaties on permanent neutrality and disarmament is the only way to go.

      1. hk

        The likely endgame: rump Ukraine as a Union State (that will still demand promised reconstruction money from the West, I hope!) and a neutral zone running from Poland, through Slovakia, Hungary, (and possibly Rumania) and Turkiye?

        1. hk

          Clarification: Thinking aloud about the kind of endgame that Russia is likely looking for that is, rather than what I think the likely endgame is.

    2. Feral Finster

      “So I expect to see the Russians to ramp things up to collapse the Ukrainian State, no matter how long it takes.”

      That would require movement of men and materiel, and I have seen no evidence of either.

      1. nippersdad

        You are not going to see big arrow movement of men and materiel until Ukraine’s military collapses. But I am sure that is what all of those armies being built up just over the line in Russia will be used for if they deem it necessary.

      2. Polar Socialist

        I think it was colonel Macgregor, who said that Russia has build 300 km of new railroad in Donbass to improve logistics, and just banned exporting diesel fuel to save it for “domestic consumption”, a.k.a. tank armies. He thinks it’s pretty certain Russia is preparing for an offensive.

        Simplicius the Thinker is convinced that Russia has been building up ammunition storage, but it’s really hard to estimate the pace.

        If it’s true that over 300,000 men have signed up this year, it means Russia is still very busy training and equipping all those men. So we shouldn’t expect much movement yet. And given their tendency for maskirovka and the state of current IRS, I believe the movement of troops we will see is the one we’re supposed to see – and we’ll notice the actual, real offensive only when it has begun.

  9. Mark A

    To paraphrase the real Fuehrer, not the narco one, “the Ukrainians fought bravely, but at the end of the day they were led by NATO”. However this war ends for Ukraine, NATO won’t do any better, they’d probably do worse. I’d disband that organization immediately on the grounds of uselessness like it should have been dismantled with relief in 1991.

    1. schlott

      Amen. NATO as an organization is long past usefulness. The Iron Curtain is down. The Soviet Threat is gone and disbanded. For what do we need an expensive union of military organizations ready for war? Its disbanding should be used as a bargaining chip in a new treaty signed with Russia for all the regional states. One that will restrict Western politicians from antagonizing Russia and trying to capture the resources of Ukraine and Russia, by hook or by crook, for personal gain.

  10. bassmule

    Post from Matt Orfalea via Matt Taibbi (Racket):

    NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg just weeks ago, on September 7th, addressed a European parliamentary committee and said the opposite of what he’d insisted previously:

    “The background was that President Putin declared in the autumn of 2021, and actually sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign, to promise no more NATO enlargement… a pre-condition [to] not invade Ukraine. Of course we didn’t sign that.

    The opposite happened. He wanted us to sign that promise, never to enlarge NATO. He wanted us to remove our military infrastructure in all Allies that have joined NATO since 1997, meaning half of NATO, all the Central and Eastern Europe, we should remove NATO from that part of our Alliance, introducing some kind of B, or second class membership. We rejected that.”

    Matt Orfalea Versus the Memory Hole: Ukraine War “Not About NATO”

  11. NN Cassandra

    Isn’t this stop of funding quite nice way out? Make lot of noises about republican ultras selling out Ukraine to Putin and how Russia could have been defeated with a few more billions, but also make sure it’s all empty theater and no further funding gets passed. (Of course assuming there is someone in the Biden circle who wants out of this mess.)

    1. nippersdad

      They are already floating that:

      “During his 1976 presidential campaign, the late senator Bob Dole once recounted the toll from “Democrat wars.” He might better have cited the costs of retreats and abandonment by Democratic Congresses and administrations, of which Vietnam and Afghanistan are the most dramatic examples.

      But today’s congressional Republicans who adhere to the cut-and-run message of Donald Trump on Ukraine are betraying the peace-through-strength philosophy of Ronald Reagan.”

      It is fun watching Republicans getting hit from the right for being “weak on defence” for once.

  12. Piotr Berman

    Ukrainian economy is on iron lung, which resembles the situation in South Vietnam. In the same time, neo-cons/neo-liberals created an ideology that managed to dominate all “mainstream parties” in the West, but is nevertheless un-attractive to large segments of the population.

    For example, one component of this ideology is liberal, responsibility to protect, making world safe for democracies, international solidarity, and this is quite inimical to normal conservatives, and most of all, to the “deplorables”, low/medium income folks who treasure their guns and have aversion to fund “noble causes”, regardless if they are actually noble or not. Trump, while in power, pretty much gave up on having his own input to Ukrainian policies, but that did not save him from deep hostility from the very neo-cons he hired, including their cooperation with impeachment and Russiagate, so now he has (a) a cause to take revenge (b) popular cause that appeals to both Republicans and a large swath of independents. Weaponizing anti-Russian xenophobia for internal politics predictably backfired.

    On the other end of the spectrum, neo- ideology is militaristic and bend on “mind control”, that is unattractive the old left and others who see how phony the “high minded” parts of neo- ideology are.

    At the beginning of this century, I thought that Bush wars were conceived as elixir of power, the way to mesmerize the population to follow Republicans. And for one election cycle it worked like a charm… “Long hard slog” does not have the hypnotic quality of “We kicked the ass of those damn XXX” (XXX being Russia nowadays). This is why morons in neo- central pushed for futile offensive of 2023, even as Russia worked out ways to deccelerate them while suffering much smaller casualties. Strategically, this drive for offensive was stupid: theoretically Ukraine could force stalemate at much lower human cost, while the West could ramp up production of weapons that make a difference. To a large extend, it is more of a drone war that armor or manned aircraft, Russia needed a year to address that, and it is an open question who will have drone domination in 2024, and West definitely has a much larger POTENTIAL which to some extend is visible in the current war. But still to little to prevail, Russia is ramping up production, and overt and not so overt allies help with components. As it is, Ukrainians improved their skills in evading conscription…

  13. Skip Intro

    I’m not sure how the US, EU, or NATO would actually stop Poland and Hungary from taking parts of a vanquished Ukraine. This will be increasingly possible as regime change washes over the west. The EU will be tearing itself apart from the collision of budgetary constraints and the domestic needs of Germans, and the expanding Ukrainian refugee crisis. If Russia thinks those countries can keep their new populations in check, it can happen.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The EU is very important to member states via all sorts of funds they get. The EU can cut off Poland and Hungary. Similarly, I don’t know how much US equipment either has or wants to have but we can cut off parts and new shipments.

      1. Jake Dee

        Poland, Hungary or Romania could salami slice it. Not in the crude sense of moving their barbed wire eastwards by a few meters every night when nobody’s watching of course, but over here is a refugee center, there is a medical crisis treatment facility, and next week a reconstruction crew will be arriving, each needs a perimeter and security zone with law enforcement personnel and suitable support equipment. Those men over there aren’t Polish/Hungarian military, they are local militia and some international private security contractors with only a few former military officers in a purely advisor role. No democracy and the rule of law have not been suspended, that is misinformation, your previous mayor has taken a temporary leave of absence due to a pressing family matter, please address all future inquiries to the new committee of peace and reconstruction. If you want to take advantage of the new housing, food and fuel subsidies you will need to update your identification details. etc. etc.
        The EU heads can spin all they want but unless they are willing to stake real money and men on an alternative then they will have to live with it.

    2. Feral Finster

      The idea that Poland would want a territory that is inhabited by fractious and well armed people who are not only by no stretch of the imagination Polish but who also conducted a genocide against Poles well within living memory baffles me.

      1. ZenBean

        Nostalgia for a lost Golden Age makes people do stupid things. They have yet to emotionally process the loss of their Commonwealth – an age where they were the boot instead of the ass.

  14. JCC

    It’s time I contributed to the NC Songbook

    Maybe a little too crude and/or cynical, but after 40 years of near constant War, I was a tad angry last evening, so here goes:

    Ode to America’s NeoCons

    (Verse 1)
    The lights are on, but you’re not home
    K Street is where you roam
    You’re all smiles, the money’s good
    More tanks and bombs fit the mood

    They don’t sleep, no, they can’t eat
    There’s no doubt they’re in deep
    Your brain’s calm, you’re breathing well
    Negotiations don’t ring a bell

    Whoa, you like to think that you’re
    immune to the stuff, oh yeah
    It’s closer to the truth to say
    destruction’s your chore
    You might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    (Verse 2)
    You make your plans, the pivot’s on
    Blame them with all your charms
    “They stole your jobs, They stole your health”
    (Corp USA increased their wealth)

    You got Vicky, you got Bobby
    Tony Blinken Mark Miley
    Shoot them all they like to shout
    Let the Nazis sort them out

    Whoa, you like to think that you’re
    immune to the stuff, oh yeah
    It’s closer to the truth to say
    mass death is your chore
    You might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    (Post Chorus)
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    (Verse 3)
    Our lights are on, we’re home
    But our will is not our own
    Your heart’s cold, you think you’re smart
    With more death planned on your charts

    Whoa, you like to think that you’re
    immune to the stuff, oh yeah
    It’s closer to the truth to say
    you’re M I C whores
    You might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War
    Might as well face it, you’re addicted to War

    With sincere apologies to Robert Palmer

  15. grizziz

    I am not sure these two sentences work as intended: There isn’t even a serious effort to ramp up military production to an adequate level to match, let alone surpass, Russia’s output. [Ukraine?] which using a population of 36 million, only has 5 EU states larger than it.

    Also, when I opened the Statista link they required opening an account in the amount of $199.00 per month to look at the data. I am sure that many researchers would find value, just not me as a browser.
    Here is an open source listing the 2023 European populations:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I never got asked to pay for Statista and I often look at and link to their data. Wonder why you are having different results. Sorry.

      Will look at the sentences you flagged. I was rushing to get it posted by the time Links launched.

  16. Feral Finster

    “n light of all that, we’ll argue that the failure of the Administration to get $24 billion (then cut to $6 billion) of additional 2023 funding to Ukraine as part of the so-called continuing resolution is a bigger deal than the press is acknowledging and many pundits seem to appreciate. Even though many default to “of course Ukraine will get the money,” the procedural path for getting that done is not obvious.”

    Of course McCarthy already agreed, even if he says otherwise. Otherwise Biden and Team D never would have agreed to the continuing resolution.

    Team D is all-in for more war, as are most of Team R. Team D controls the House and only needs a couple of Team R votes in Congress for funding to go through.

    Zelenskii will get his check, at least this time.

    1. hk

      If McCarthy does deliver money to Ukraine with Democratic votes, over the objection of so many Republicans, on behalf of a Democratic White House, it will be the end of Republican Party as a serious legislative organization (OK, I expect that some people will snark at this characterization…). Parties in Congress operate on the promise (explicitly built into party bylaws, as I understand it) that the party leadership will adhere to the wishes of their members first and foremost and will use (if they are in the majority, especially the House) procedural levers to not force votes on things that their own members oppose in large numbers and/or with strong enough intensity. The only exceptions in the past are when they brought up measures that their own members opposed in large numbers took place on behalf of the White House when their own party controlled it (Clinton and GWB, I think, were the most recent exceptions). It will be unprecedented when a nominal majority in the House brings up a measure for vote that a majority of their own partisans oppose stridently on behalf of the president from the other party. Either McCarthy will be ousted long before that happens or the Republican party breaks and the speaker vote goes to the full house where he would have to make deals with the Democrats to keep his position with the latter’s votes. If the second possibility happens, the Republican Party in Congress will be finished.

        1. marku52

          I really appreciated Gaetz’s comment “Either McCarthy won’t be speaker, or he will be working for the Democrats. Either way we know” (I paraphrase)

          Also, McCarthy broke some of the agreements he made back when he became speaker. I’m happy to see there being consequences, for a pleasant change.

          1. Socal Rhino

            Rep. Omar said McCarthy was a known liar, in explaining why she would not vote to help him retain the speakership.

      1. Feral Finster

        The RNC serves The Empire.

        So does the DNC, albeit more openly and fullthroatedly.

        If it becomes necessary to destroy Team R to keep the Empire going, then they will do it without hesitation.

      2. Anon

        A very simple question: suppose McCarthy is ousted. Who takes his place? Most likely a MAGA ideologue. As you suggest, party discipline will prevent moderate Republicans from voting down such a candidate as Speaker. Better to be inside the tent pissing out than to go down in history as the Republicans who voted to shatter the Republican Party in Congress.

        This is the zero-sum nature of our politics. The Democrats have no incentive to cut a deal with McCarthy, which means he will be defeated, which means he will be succeeded by someone further to the right, which will be worse for the Democrats and the country at large. Welcome to shutdown city, impeaching Biden over the color of his tie, passing bills to ban unisex bathrooms, constant war between MAGA-controlled House and Democratic Senate, etc.

        1. hk

          Well, here goes. RIP GOP (at least the Congress version). Probably a bad thing by any measure–you’re almost certainly right–but this is a historic day, possibly the most important moment in American history since 1850s when the Whigs went extinct (and set the stage for what took place about a decade later…).

  17. Feral Finster

    “Now the Pentagon is sure to be able to find some change in the sofa cushions to toss some more cash to Ukraine. But scaring up $6 billion would look unseemly even if they could find out of 2023 authorizations.”

    IIRC, the Pentagon already discovered “accounting errors” (seriously, whom do they think they’re kidding?) in the $6B range not so long ago.

    Still, doing so again would put the farcical nature of financing this war out into the open. Perhaps that was the intent, to signal that the US would continue to finance the war, regardless of any law or budget to the contrary.

    1. scott s.

      Authorizations are not money in the bank. You need appropriations for that. DoD Appropriations are split into categories known as “colors”. Not all appropriations must be obligated in the year appropriated; US Constitution limits the Army to 2 years but there is no particular limit required for the other services except as imposed by Congress. So there are most likely unobligated balances of prior year appropriations in the system. These could be “reprogrammed” but typically you need Congressional approval depending on dollar amount (In my day I think service-level reprogramming limit was $20m).

      Dealing with obligated balances is another matter as obligated doesn’t mean cutting a check. But the system doesn’t have great visibility of actual “outflows” due to the poor state of the systems; that’s why DoD gets a qualified audit report from GAO.

        1. John

          It occurred to me that, ” we don’t need now stinkin’ law.” What is law when it always seems possible to find a way to do precisely what you choose? we no longer have a government of laws, but one of gangs loyal to their patrons just like the late Roman Republic and we know how that turned out.

          The West (US) continues to negotiate with itself trying to find the words to make a debacle appear to be a victory. It will not work and Biden and his gang are delusional if they believe it will. The cheerleaders for Ukraine have fallen silent. This does not mean they will vote for Trump or whoever, but they may not vote at all. The core within each faction of the uniparty will remain solid. The rest, who knows.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          No,, you are mischaracterizing what they did. The $ was for weapons. Basically they created an excuse for lowering the price at which they were transferred from US inventories to Ukraine. So then they could transfer more.

  18. hk

    So, what’s the state of politics in Poland now? Last few weeks, the ruling party has done a sudden and complete turnaround on Ukraine. Has the main opposition, which seemed mildly Ukraine-skeptical earlier, but also very pro-EU, reacted to this in any way? There’s much talk about a million man march in Warsaw organized by the opposition…but what’s the sentiment among the PO (and PiS, and for that matter, other parties’) supporters nowadays? Whoever wins the elections, what’s the prevailing, insofar as there is any, perspective on what to expect from inside Poland?

    1. Feral Finster

      The Polish opposition are all-in for more war in Ukraine. If the pro-government party wins the election (and I would lay better than even odds), they will promptly reverse course, the moment an American official snaps his fingers. An cartoon from Poland depicted the way Poles like to see themselves, walking arm in arm with their American Buddies, but the reality is of a Poland on its knees, lovingly fellating its American master.

      The irony being that I don’t know a single Pole who didn’t lose family members in the genocide in Galicia.

      1. Petter

        To add to this, and to Yves comment about someone commenting from Ireland about Ukrainian refugees:
        On my current merry go round of home heath nurses and assistants (and short stays at the old folk homes and hospitalizations) I exchange thoughts about the war with Poles, Lithuanians, and Latvians. They all start by saying we need to support the refugees and then it comes – they get access to services (fill in the blank) while we can’t take care of our own.
        Here in Norway one nurse told about a friend of hers who is a hairdresser – had a Ukrainian client who didn’t pay because “I’m a refugee.” Another is a teacher and has unruly students but nothing like the Ukrainians. They get taxis to school while other kids have to walk.

  19. Mikel

    I’m playing catch-up on shut down machinations, but:
    “Specifically, Biden is now talking up having the House and Senate vote on a stand-alone Ukraine funding measure…”

    Seems to me that would make it easier for the shut down in the coming weeks. The backlash against funding the Ukraine government while stiffing people in the USA is what put a stall to the game this time.
    I almost think the Biden adminstration is wanting a shut down. They want that grift to continue and will step on whoever they need to here in this country to do it.

  20. Carolinian

    Thanks for this. The cited cases all seem to point to what Alastair Crooke and others have been saying which is that NATO and eventually Biden are going to be looking for an escape hatch rather than Blinken’s endless conflict. Perhaps the process could be shortened by getting rid of Blinken and Nuland. True this might set off another round of Lindsey stamping his little foot.

    It was always “glory to the Ukraine” versus Country 404 and being neighbors the Russians seem to have had a clearer vision of reality than our DC bubble.

  21. Abel

    Throwing money into a Ukrainian corrupt engine as if it were charcoal, never made sense. After billions of aid, a fair amount of financial aid is unaccounted, giving many Democrats and Republicans pause. As it should. Rank and file Ukrainian soldiers are and have been brave.

    Friends and foes alike knew from the outset that Ukraine wasn’t going to win the war. But, neither is Putin.

    No matter how much spinning is written about Putin, he’s not a Russian patriot defending his country’s patrimony, but just another ambitious, cold blooded Stalin-like dictator, whose end probably won’t be in a warm bed. With all the oil revenues, one would have expected a Russia to be moving into a more stable diversified manufacturing base – it isn’t. Where are the EV cars? Super infrastructure? Nyet.

    On the other hand, with a State Department cementing the Netanyahu Doctrine, it creates a conundrum for the non-aligned Netanyahu citizens (now serfs of the hedge fund crowd) of this country.

    1. paul

      I find that hard to understand, I think his achievements in restoring Russia after the depredations of yeltsnism compare very well with the aggressions of the global west against its populations

      1. John

        Agreed. Putin restored Russia and I am not at all sure that EV autos are the benchmark of progress that I would use. Russia is using its oil revenues on a plethora of public projects while also arming itself perhaps in hopes of convincing NATO, that is the US, that it means exactly what it says and will follow through on its words. It is worthy of note that the US was in its Middle East Wars ‘for the long haul” or “as long as it takes” until it wasn’t. Why should Ukraine be any different? Take on China? Why? How does China pose a threat to the US? AN economic challenge? Yes? A military threat? No. Possessing only military means, the DC Bubble sees everything in military terms? Quite a cramped view of the world.

    2. Polar Socialist

      I think you make here a slight mistake of confusing the size of the energy sector in Russian economy to the size of energy sector in the Russian government income. The first one is 15%, the second one is 45%. Or thereabouts.

      Russia is generally considered to be one of the most autarkic countries in the world, it’s must then follow that the 85% of the economy outside of the energy sector is the most diverse on the globe. It took Russia just a few years to start producing all the parts of Sukhoi Superjet domestically.

      Just this week they broke ground for the new factory building batteries for EV cars, EV busses, trams and EV boats. In 2 years it will produce 50,000 batteries/year, and in 5 years 155,000/year.

      Yup, Urban EV passenger boats are a big thing in Russia at the moment. Plenty of cities with river(s) running trough them.

    3. Frank

      Comparing Putin to Stalin is a very compact and concise way of saying you know nothing at all about Russian history, or Russia in its contemporary incarnation. Your opinion isn’t particularly relevant either, it’s the Russians whose opinions matter and they think quite highly of him.

  22. Pookah Harvey

    Yves notes “How total that (Ukrainian) loss is in military terms is a matter of Russia’s resolve and its willingness to continue to commit men and materiel.”
    Russian defense minister Shoigu stated (reported by TASS) that since the beginning of this year, more than 335,000 people have volunteered for military service and signed relevant contracts. In September alone, more than 50,000 people signed service contracts .
    If almost 2.000 Russians a day are presently volunteering for military service it seems the Russian people have a lot of resolve .

  23. Sergey P

    To Yves. The content of your articles is always brilliant. But can I just say that I am completely enamoured with HOW you write. Elegant, playful, yet fierce. It feels like I am becoming a better person with every paragraph. But most of all — it feels like I enjoy a company of a wonderful human being.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, that is so kind! I don’t know that I’d live up to your view of my character, but I do think we should do what we can to oppose bad conduct and make things better, even if those moves sometimes seem small.

  24. willow

    Putin & Russia taking a harder line on Ukraine likely more due to do with Canada’s (& UK’s) most excellent work in pushing India into the Russia camp rather than newly perceived wobbliness of the US.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, the remarks by Volodin were before that, and he was explicit about capitulation or Ukraine ceasing to exist as a state.

      The trigger was the abject failure of the counteroffensive.

  25. EU Krainium

    Ukraine filing a WTO suit against Poland (and others) for rejecting Ukraine grain was correctly perceived as a hostile, ungrateful act after too many displays of Ukraine entitlement

    Possibly too late to comment, but I disagree with this particular statement. Whatever you think of Ukrainian leadership, they clearly weren’t so absolutely stupid enough to abandon a peace agreement and sacrifice their entire country without some pretty strong guarantees. In this case, definitely the US and UK, but more than likely other countries such as Poland are actually showing an unbelievable amount of ingratitude for not supporting Ukraine to the hilt after demanding a set of obviously foreseeable sacrifices in terms of manpower in order to “FAFO” with Russia.

    When you demand ~20 months ago that Ukraine risk committing suicide for some other country’s foreign policy goals, the least you can do is support them/sacrifice some of your farmers’ short term welfare.

    Again, I have no sympathy for Ukraine’s issues and I quite frankly think these people must have IQs lower than room temperature (in Celsius) for believing anything the West promised them. But I believe that on this narrow point, the ingratitude lied on the part of the West, not Ukraine.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The US and UK had nothing to do with the shipment of Ukraine grain into Europe. Poland specifically complained it was supposed to be trans-shipped and not to have Poland as much of a destination. It was the EU, not the UK or US, that had suspended grain shipment from Ukraine to its neighbors and it was when that waiver was lifted that Poland (and Slovakia and Hungary) rebelled.

  26. msv

    DJG: “We want Italy out of the war, and we want a negotiated peace with neither party as victor.”
    That may seem naive, but it could work.

    Few points to drive home my reasoning which is critical to bear when looking for outcomes in this conflict:

    1/ For what it’s worth, imo most of the Western commentators & power-brokers alike have no idea about the magnitude of this war nor the depths of it’s cause and are happy to ignore the scale of financial & material support as well. An active front line spreading over 1100km, over 18months non stop combat & counting is possible only when the 3 factors above are in a magnitude of WW measures.

    2/ At the same time on all counts West also miscalculated the readiness of RF not only to engage but match & outperform the previously stated “magnitude” which is at the same time being grossly under reported as well and also the motivation of the population & indeed the entire state on each side (in Ukraine & in Russia) Real atrocities took place in Ukraine & real systematic cleansing engaged by the government rule & law have been put in place & yet nobody in the west seem to call it out & reject it out right – even UN & EU is actively whitewashing all aspects of this happening on day to day basis – and yet it is outright illegal & total unacceptable in any of the EU countries. The fight for it’s existence was not just a meme – it was a statement of shift in strategic direction & essence – again on each side (this time I mean Ukraine/Nato vs Russia).

    3/ This underestimation regarding RF seem to directly lead to assumption that RF does not understand what is involved & everything it does is called a failure, a mistake or an inability. Apart of it being a falsehood propaganda, anyone acting on those bases does not have a place to comment simply because they have not idea what kind of game is being played here. This is mainly because RF had made all the necessary preparations & adjustments to be strategically ahead in this conflict – here the lack of intelligence about what’s going on in Russia is really palpable. All I can see that the latest reports on Russian state of affairs have been frozen at the level of 2008-2010 – whilst Russia has made leaps & bounces since that time and is actively & eagerly working on all operational & tactical issues as they arise (which is the part making it stronger as time goes by).

    4/ The depth of rabid Nazism (hate of anything Russian – read up on Bandera’s cult in detail – a genocidal maniac was made into a national hero without reservations) within Ukrainian governing & legal infrastructure is so extensive now that there is no way those who hate Russian speakers & by extension the RF and are in power not just in Kiev & Lvov but through out 404 will ever voluntarily stop their current path! This fact of course RF leadership knows very well – proof? – that’s simple – 2 out of the 3 main objectives of the SMO are clearly aiming to deal with it. (And yes I mentioned 404 because on it’s own, Ukraine would not last a week – so as an entity it is a construct which cannot sustain itself anymore – beating their national chest & civilian genocide which do not agree with ethnic cleansing cannot count as self-sustaining nor nation-building! Again those thinking I’m exaggerating need to read both sides of the conflict – in particular, what happened in Bucha and around Kiev when Russian soldiers left, what happened in Kharkov when Russian soldiers left & why Russia evacuated 120,000 from Kherson & gave them equivalent land & housing within RF to avoid the two previous scenarios. Read up why people from eastern side of Ukraine voluntarily send their kids to RF & what is Ukraine doing with those which did not managed to do that. Also do a research on which units in Ukrainian army are sent to the front as cannon fodder & which ones are in the rear, in reserves, being trained or serving as ‘anti-retreating forces … the list here is very, very telling).

    5/ Unless & until the issues in point 4 are fully resolved, there is absolutely no possibility to talk about the last goal of SMO – that is EU security framework. I would direct readers to go back to the December 2021 proposal issued to Nato & US and ignored by both – nobody talks about it but everyone should know that’s the elephant in the room and RF will not negotiate unless a new redress is accepted – this is the real fight & this is the real cause RF have decided to extend politics into “other means” – talking about unprovoked attack on Ukraine states a gross ignorance of both regional & global power developments since 1990!

    So any reasonable analytic/realistic person (one who has watched both sides of the conflict from the beginning – that’s before 2014) must accept the inevitable staring in the face – that there will not be “frozen conflict”, there won’t be “real negotiations” and there won’t be “real peace” – until one side takes all !!!! ….. That’s why people who are saying that we are already in WWIII are correct – by world war meaning that after this is over, the world order will change – one way or another but the change will be global – I’m sure many are already feeling the winds of change to say it poetically – just look at Brics++, look at G7 or G20 year on year, look at Africa wanting to take off its last neocolonialist shackles, EU de-industrialization & US dependence energy, military and policy conduct is also significant factor. This conflict is being fought in all essential areas of world geopolitical conduct. Unfortunately we can expect much bigger casualties of this struggle for domination/new order as one side will become aware how acute the situation has become – RF has openly stated that they will go all the way & Nato openly denied that it’s their only fall-back strategy. My personal concern is about the later because at the moment there is only one adult in the room & it’s certainly not Nato, or US or EU or UK or Ukraine! Current Ukrainian annihilation might be just the beginning since there is still such a gross disconnect between the those who wield the power & those who delegated it !!!
    Thanks for reading this far. Let us all pray, hope & wish that tide of change will bring better news in near future for us all.

    1. Frank

      Salient points, good comment. I’ve also been watching from the beginning and agree that the stakes here couldn’t be higher.

    2. MFB

      What nobody seems to have acknowledged about “Nazigate” in Canada is that it reveals far more about the nature of the Kyiv regime than about the Ottawa regime.

      The idea that you could present a known and vocal ex-SS officer as a hero of the contemporary Ukraine and wish to be seen standing shoulder to shoulder with him is, when you think about it, not just a mistake. It’s an indication of a catastrophic intellectual failure on the part of the Kyiv government. Either they believe that everybody in the West loves a Nazi, or they simply have no moral compass at all and fling whatever faeces they have at Western parliaments in anticipation that the parliamentarians will gobble it up like chocolate pudding.

      And in the case of Ottawa they were of course right in the latter sense, but wrong simply because there are people outside parliaments. Perhaps part of the problem is that Kyiv is simply not interested in the people who are not inside the bubble of imperialist privilege.

  27. john

    NATO and the US have invested too much…as the Ukranian military collapse turns into a rout, and Russia begins its own offensive, look for NATO to move into western Ukraine on “Humanitarian grounds”…hence then, there will be face off that the neo-cons have always dreamed of, so, will the world then step in to stop the shooting, will russia stop where they are, will Zelensky be removed, or will there be ww3….

    1. Polar Socialist

      Should NATO try such a move, it would probably tear NATO apart since most members don’t want to fight Russia. They want US to “protect” them with a nuclear umbrella in exchange for vassalage. Having zircons taking out their infrastructure while the lord remains safe overseas is not what they signed on for.

      Furthermore, as per the statements of the Russian politicians, those NATO troops would be a legitimate target and Russia certainly would try to pound them ruthlessly to oblivion. It would be an opportunity to de-militarize NATO without attacking any NATO member. As the recent memo stated: US Armed Forces could stand a war of this intensity for about 3 months before starting to run out of warm bodies.

        1. caucus99percenter

          As a distraction, NATO and its east Asian vassals could open a second front, deploying some of their Pacific resources (drones, etc.) to attack and try to destabilize, say, Vladivostok / Primorsky Krai.

          The Blob could also suddenly start cranking up sympathy with Japanese nationalist elements re Sakhalin and the Kuriles.

          NATO / the Blob could launch some ops to see just how resilient to stress and sabotage Russia’s supply lines are, to its own far east?

  28. msv

    Anyone interested in the latest in depth state of the front line should read/listen to the Simplicius the Thinker & his substack. Here is the link to his latest assessment of the situation from various points of view & what it implies (precisely confirming what I have written above, in part thanks to his reporting I listened to of late) –

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