Western Policymakers Are Panicking Because There Was No Plan B if the Counteroffensive Failed

Yves here. It’s remarkable to see how the US, which was home to leading thinkers in game theory and decision theory, has become so abjectly bad at both. The US and NATO actually got what it wanted, a Russia attack on Donbass, and better yet, and underpowered one in terms of threatening the Ukraine government. The Western coalition bet mainly on its shock and awe sanctions, and that providing some more material and intel to the “trained to NATO standards” armed forces would soon bring chaos to Russia, leading to Putin’s ouster and perhaps even a breakup of Russia.

Because the West was so wedded to that plot, which the Ukraine PR apparatus kept showcasing, it could not see the Russian pullbacks in Kharkiv and Kherson as tactical retreats due to having too few forces relative to the length of the front lines, did not take Russia’s partial mobilization and continued armed forced buildup seriously, and ignored ample evidence of Russian superiority in many classes of weapons systems. Believing deeply in Russian weakness and incompetence, they gave Russia the time it needed to train rusty and new forces, build more and better equipment, and construct massive defense lines.

Many of the Ukraine-skeptic commentators correctly called that the great counteroffensive would be a bust, but from what I can tell, no one dared think, let alone opine, it would be the train wreck it turned out to be.

So now, twice having put all its chips on one strategy, and each time having it fail abjectly, the West is unwilling or unable to adapt to bad facts.

My copy of the book is still in storage, but a classic, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, has a model for analyzing military failures and isolating where, as in what level of system/organization, accounted for them. This fiasco is set to go down as the worst sort of disaster, a catastrophic failure of the sort suffered by the French army in 1940.

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

It’s easier to continue throwing money into a problem than to accept that a new approach is required, but in this case, Ukrainian lives are continuing to be thrown away so long as the Zelensky refuses to recommence peace talks with Russia and the West remains hesitant to replace him so as to bring that about.

The Daily Beast (DB) published a candid report about the conversations that took place last week at the French Military School between “100 military, political, finance, academic, and business leaders with intimate knowledge of the [Ukrainian] war”. According to them, the discussions concerned everything from requesting Taylor Swift’s support in the information war to sending Ukrainian Baptists to the US to pressure MAGA Republicans. Simply put, there was no Plan B if the counteroffensive failed, as it did.

An unnamed Ukrainian government counsellor was even quoted as saying that “America is washing its hands of Ukraine. Their military expenditure priorities are aimed against China, while our country, all of Europe, is being stormed by Russian gangsters and social media propaganda. We are screwed, absolutely fucked.” Ukraine is also upset that the sanctions failed, Russia’s economy didn’t collapse, and the West still refuses to give them that country’s hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of seized assets.

On top of that, the DB reminded everyone that antibiotic-resistant germs are running wild in Ukraine, 11 million of its citizens are food insecure, vast tracts of farmland are unusable, and “Ukraine in two years won’t have enough warm bodies to fill the trenches and freeze the lines against the Russian onslaught.” Few Westerners were aware of this since “a veteran reporter in Kyiv” confirmed that “our credentials are at risk if we write [about these stories]”.

The panic among Western policymakers is palpable when reading the DB’s report about last week’s powwow in Paris, which was published right after Zelensky’s latest trip to the US failed to break the congressional gridlock over aid to his country. Biden pledged $200 million in emergency funding just to make him go away but importantly clarified that he’s “Not making promises” about more aid even though Zelensky scaremongered that “Putin and his sick clique” are “inspired” by this impasse.

NATO’s Proxy War On Russia Through Ukraine Appears To Be Winding Down” even faster than expected as evidenced by major Mainstream Media outlets like the BBC, The Economist, Politico, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times all becoming very critical of Ukraine and Zelensky since then. This coincided with the exacerbation of preexisting political tensions in Kiev, divisions within its security services, and a Rada member admitting that “There will be no NATO” for Ukraine.

Readers should also be informed that “Ukraine Is Bracing For A Possible Russian Counteroffensive By Fortifying The Entire Front”, but at the same time, “Kiev’s Impending Conscription Propaganda Campaign Proves That Ukrainians Don’t Want To Fight.” If its troops aren’t replenished, which risks provoking a genuine “Maidan 3” due to how unpopular the forced conscription policy is, then Russia might achieve a military breakthrough in the coming months that could worsen Ukraine’s cascading crises.

If the conflict doesn’t soon freeze, which would require Zelensky complying with the West’s reported pressure to recommence peace talks with Russia, then everything that’s been achieved by those two over the past 22 months at the cost of $200 billion and hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost. It’s for this reason why “Naryshkin’s Scenario Forecast About The West Replacing Zelensky Shouldn’t Be Scoffed At” since his ego is recklessly placing all that New Cold War bloc’s investments at risk right now.

JD Vance Is Right: Russia Won’t Invade NATO If Ukraine Cedes Land As Part Of A Peace Deal”, which is why former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral Stavridis’ Ramaswamy-inspired land-for-peace proposal from early November should be considered by the West in order to freeze the conflict and prevent a Russian breakthrough. That in turn requires Zelensky to either recommence peace talks or be replaced if he doesn’t, but regardless of what happens, the point is that the West didn’t expect this dilemma.

The Washington Post’s twopart series about the counteroffensive’s failure illustrates how naïve planners on both sides were. Not only did serious differences of vision exist between them, but neither had any Plan B if everything failed, hence why the New York Times just reported that they’re scrambling to brainstorm a new strategy. It’s too little, too late, though. A Plan B should have already been in place if the counteroffensive failed, but none was as is now seen, hence the dilemma that they’re both in.

It’s easier to continue throwing money into a problem than to accept that a new approach is required, but in this case, Ukrainian lives are continuing to be thrown away so long as the Zelensky refuses to recommence peace talks with Russia and the West remains hesitant to replace him so as to bring that about. If something doesn’t soon change on the diplomatic front, then Russia might go on the offensive sometime next year, which could raise the chances of a full-blown defeat for the West and its proxies.

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  1. ambrit

    I’ll come right out and say it; the West has already lost the war in the Ukraine. Nothing short of atomic weapons will stop the Russian advances now. That is the scary part. the Washington neo-cons have shown that they are not averse to using atomic weapons and believe that they could win such an exchange.
    In short, the past two years have shown that Magical Thinking is the order of the day in Washington. There are good reasons why responsible adults keep loaded firearms out of the hands of little children. Now, to find some responsible adults in the Administration….

    1. nippersdad

      “Now to find some responsible adults in the Administration.”

      Like Diogenes canvassing Athens with a lantern looking for an honest man, the Magic Eight Ball says the prospects are not propitious.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      Magical Thinking seems to have infused everything with these people. Russiagate, which helped normalize Russo-phobia among #McResistance liberals, was also a rampant instance of it – think Russiagate poster boy Adam Schiff stating during Ukraine-centered Impeachment 1.0 how it was better to fight The Russia over there, rather than here.These people really thought they could remove Trump based on a transparently absurd narrative endlessly repeated, just as they believed you can defeat – or at least hold on militarily until your political aims are achieved – Russia in a land war.

      High status imbeciles with access to big guns, all of them.

        1. Rip Van Winkle

          Everybody knows this one –

          “…one of the classic blunders…never get involved in a land war in Asia”
          -Vizzini, The Princess Bride

          No, too stupid to be stupid. Plenty-o-cash for the connected.

      1. elkern

        The point of the first Impeachment was not to tarnish Trump by association with Russia, but rather exactly the opposite: to [continue to] tarnish Putin by associating him with Trump.

      2. digi_owl

        Funny thing about Russiagate. Both HRC and Biden defended Putin against defamation by the Reps during the Obama re-election campaign. But when HRC didn’t get the outcome she wanted against Trump, suddenly he became the great mongol satan.

      3. jonboinAR

        They’re not imbiciles. They’re bad people. Schiff knows perfectly well his rationale is BS. He just wants to cause Russia as much trouble as he can. He doesn’t care how it gets done.

      1. nippersdad

        You appear to be missing the point of attritional warfare. Why would they want to capture Avdivka when Ukraine is still willing to send their troops into the kill zone Russia has created around it? Russia will take it when Ukraine is no longer able to defend it, and then move on to the next Avdivka.

        1. Otto.Totto

          Avdiivka is the point from which artillery can reach the city of Donetsk. Protecting the city of Donetsk was one of the main reasons for the invasion.

          1. nippersdad

            I haven’t heard about Avdivka shelling Donetsk city lately. Seems like they may have more pressing matters.

            But, to your point, I have no doubt Russia has been taking notes and that all of that shelling of Donetsk City with things like Butterfly mines will come back up eventually. The Russian penchant for doing things slowly, efficiently and thoroughly is not something that we in the West, conditioned by years of shock and awe tactics, can really wrap our heads around, but it clearly works for them. Hard to point to a war in the past twenty years they have lost, or one that we have won for that matter.

            1. JBird4049

              >>>Hard to point to a war in the past twenty years they have lost, or one that we have won for that matter.

              The twenty years is more like seventy-eight years. I would give the United States some leeway with the Korean War as Kim Il Sung and Joseph Stalin made the decision for that, but for every other war, it was all the on United States’ to start and lose a war.

              However, the United States spent almost a decade getting ready for the Second World War as most people could guess war was coming. The reason why the country ramped up production so quickly was all the planning by the War and Navy departments, which included visiting factories, talking to owners, and drawing up plans. This also includes the planning of strategy, tactics, and weapons. The Americans won the partly by the planning ahead of time and the willingness to ship whatever was needed to its allies (so that they could do the fighting and dying instead of Americans). Reading about it is makes an impression.

              What our current bunch of fools forgets is that every country on both sides of the war spent years getting ready for it. Nobody just went to war without some preparation. Those armies, navies, and air forces took knowledge, skills, planning, and years of work, none of which I am seeing here except the CIA/State Department directing the undermining of Ukraine and trying to cornering Russia into a position of defeat. It is war on the cheap and done mostly to make a profit for the elites and Big War.

              1. Polar Socialist

                I believe there also was a lot of unused industrial capacity in the USA from the depression years. It’s a lot easier to expand if you still have the facilities and the trained workforce just waiting for an opportunity.

                1. marku52

                  Oh, and it was quite amazing to see a sewing machine company turn around and make bomb sights.

                  Also, not to be seen in this era–During WWII there was a company that got so efficient in making .50Cal machine guns, that they sent excess profit BACK to the government.

                  Try that one today.

                2. digi_owl

                  Much of that capacity was excess from the WW1 buildup. Why they had to call on Bernays to shift consumption from need to desire.

                3. SocalJimObjects

                  Remember Covid and the critical need for ventilators? In the end, how many ventilators were really produced as opposed to being imported from somewhere else?

              2. NotTimothyGeithner

                My dads father was one of the draftees who should have been out 1/1/42. He fought the Japanese for over 3 years.

                1. digi_owl

                  One may ponder if Norway made a deal with the devil during WW2 in order to keep its merchant fleet out of harms way, and thus has since then been in the US pocket even when run by nominally socialists.

            2. steppenwolf fetchit

              ” The Mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.
              They neither rush nor tarry but exactly grind they all.”

              –von Goethe, I think.

          2. RockTime

            The point of this military operation is to:

            1) De-Nazify the 404
            2) De-Militarize 404 and NATO, and
            3) Free the people of the 404 from the NATO neo-nazi regime.

            The village of Avdeevka (as a few others before it) are an example of the strategy of attrition — when the neo-nazis keep coming to you, when you are sitting snuggly behind the Surovikin defense line, and you can De-Nazify and De-Militarize them in wholesale quantities while preserving your own people — that’s the best outcome that anyone in Russia could ever imagine.

            So, while these NATO sock-puppets in Kiev keep making Russia’s job easier, Russia will keep obliging.

            If NATO in desperation decides to send their own troops, the outcome will be exactly the same. Just in addition to 500,000 dead Neo-Nazi Ukrainians there will be a few million dead Neo-Nazi Americans, Poles, Germans, Italians, etc.

            1. Who Cares

              Freeing the people in Ukraine:
              The current annexation of the four (former) Ukrainian provinces was a result of the publicity blitz that was the Kharkiv offense. Those provinces went oh you (Russia) will only defend your own territory, then either we join you or we go independent.
              Russia will want the provinces along the coast of the Black Sea since the people there are pro-Russia. It might also annex the territory to the east of the Dnipro, both to get a decent natural barrier and a way to threaten Kiev, but that is not certain since that would require a peace keeping force battling a restive population in the more Northern parts.
              There is also a slight possibility that Russia will not take control of the land west of the Dnipro that is part of the currently annexed provinces due to defensive difficulties but that is only a very slight possibility.

              As the people who were there during the negotiations observed all Russia wanted was a treaty that said Ukraine will not join NATO. The rest was window dressing to add more reasons as why the SMO happened and things Russia dropped from the peace negotiations.
              Thus denazifcation is not a priority, rump Ukraine can keep them seeing that the territories that are pro-Russia will all be out of their control and if rump Ukraine wants to live with those dogs then let them have the fleas.
              While demilitarization and not being able to join NATO will put an end to their effectiveness as attack dogs.

              Merely a means to an end. Russia has no interest in and does not want to spend the resources to pacify the whole of Ukraine. This in turn requires an alternative way to force Ukraine to accept their demands. And the threat to overrun Ukraine because it has no army left to speak of hopefully works.

              This is still the priority. no NATO membership for Ukraine, let them be like Finland during the cold war.
              Everything else is just a run-up to this.

              As to starting world war 3:
              The Eu doesn’t have the will, the money, the materiel, and manpower to defend Ukraine. The US has the materiel and money but not the manpower and will.

      2. Feral Finster

        We heard the same regard Bakhmut, where the strategy was to get Ukraine to keep feeding men into the meatgrinder.

        1. Altandmain

          Yep. Ukraine’s poor tactics has assured that there will be another meat grinder.

          What’s going to happen is that there will be another city or major fortification that the Ukrainian government demands that their military must not let fall. Then a lot of troops, increasingly with poor training, will be fed into the meat grinder.

          1. Feral Finster

            From the Zedlenskii perspective, any appearance that Ukraine is losing threatens the all-important money flow.

            Warm live bodies are free. Dollars and tanks are not.

            1. digi_owl

              In particular when the bodies are not “pure blood” Ukrainians but Russian or Romanian “mongrels”.

              Ukraine will fall when they need to send press gangs onto the streets of Lviv.

      3. Peter

        Weeb Union has a channel where he talks about the progress in the Ukraine war. The map that he uses for his updates is here:


        You can zoom in on the map and see the territory that each side as captured this month. Ukrainian territory gained is in blue. Russian territory is in red for today and green for earlier in the month. What you can see from the map is that Russia is slowly nibbling away territory all along the front line. Russia never moves fast, but they are relentless.

          1. JW

            But there really aren’t large Russian losses, unless you use the faery stories from Ukraine.
            What is remarkable about Avdiivka , especially on the southern front is that the attacking Russians are doing it with less troops than the defending Ukrainians. Normally you would expect a 3;1 advantage for the attackers. It shows the use of drones and artillery and shells when you have unlimited supplies compared to your adversary.
            I concur with the other remarks that Russia’s aim is to destroy Ukraine’s ability to wage war. Its a foreign concept to westerners who only see winning as capturing territory. Indeed Russia is far more likely to stop advancing once it has completely destroyed the armed forces of Ukraine and drained NATO of reinforcements, even if that point is reached at only the borders of the ‘Russian voting/speaking southern/eastern regions ( I think that includes Odessa after Putin’s latest statements).

            1. digi_owl

              As i understand it, that 3:1 thing was a shorthand from pre-ww1 German officer training that basically gave the attacker an automatic win if he fielded such a force during a war game.

            2. Polar Socialist

              One can see even from the Google maps that in the south-eastern edge of Avdiivka there are trenches and pillboxes five to seven lines deep. And today Russian troops breached the last one of them.

              It’s possible to do it with less men than opponent when you have 15 to 1 artillery advantage, 7 to 1 drone advantage, a lot to none MRLS advantage and many to none fighter bomber advantage.

              It’s almost impossible to lose more men with all that advantage in firepower while progressing slowly. According to the western media Ukrainian artillery won’t fire if the target is less than ten Russians, while Russian artillery/drones go after anything that looks like an Ukrainian that still has a pulse.

              I saw today a somewhat funny joke about how Russian defense researchers have asked to gain access to Ukrainian air defense systems, since they are so good they can actually shoot down more missiles than Russia has fired. And if the need be, they can even use the TELARs themselves to intercept the Russian missiles…

            3. NotTimothyGeithner

              The US didn’t advance in the Pacific with that ratio. The Japanese were not well equipped from a firepower perspective compared to the US.

              Supposedly the 3 to 1 figure is from a boarding school game with older kids, not even equals.

          2. Pete

            No, ukraine never won any battles where Russia actually decided to stand and fight. Ukraine only took back territory where Russia left. Like in Kiev when the peace deal in Ankara was about to be signed, a Russian goodwill gesture, and later in Kherson and Kharkiv where Russia accepted that there would be no peace deal but a full war. Russia redraw and on the way back destroyed the Ukrainian forces as they came in, mostly with long range artellery that Ukraine has no answer to. Russia then prepared for this war and is now slowly but surely destroying the Ukrainian army, the third Ukrainian army being destroyed in less less than two years, this time equipped and trained mainly by NATO. Ukraine never had a chance in this war. Ukraine could have adhered to Minsk II and had peace, they even had the Ankara peace deal in March 22. Ukraine chose to fight a US proxy war and will of course be destroyed.

      4. redleg

        When fighting a war, the goal is to destroy the enemy, not capture or hold territory. Once the enemy is combat ineffective, territory is yours for the taking.
        There are times in war where taking territory is necessary to destroy the enemy (e.g. Saipan in WW2 comes immediately to mind). However, in this war Russia doesn’t need to advance to destroy Ukraine’s soldiers and equipment to the point where they can take whatever they want. It’s only a matter of time.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          US forces took Kabul in relatively short order, a true victory if you completely ignore the ending.

    3. Skip Intro

      I’ll top that. The whole Plan B story and counter-offensive narrative masks the fact that the west lost when sanctions didn’t topple Putin and result in a blossoming neoliberal paradise with raw materials for all. There really was no plan A for the war. Just de facto Nato-ification of Ukraine, eventually provoking a pretext for nuclear-option financial sanctions which they assumed would quickly crush Russia. It might have worked on the original timetable in 2017 too. Or at least not have backfired so spectacularly. Why else would Germans so readily go along with the slashing of their economic arteries?

      1. nippersdad

        I have to agree with your analysis that had Hillary Clinton won in ’16 things might have looked very different. Russia used its’ time to batten the hatches down very well, and the results are striking. It should really come as no surprise that Putin has a ninety percent job approval rating while everyone in the West is looking for a car in the ditch to dig out and flee in.

            1. Gregorio

              Considering that political popularity is largely tied to economic conditions, Putin’s popularity starkly illustrates just how completely impotent western sanctions have been. Conversely, Zelensky’s waning popularity shows the abject failure of the neocons’ Project Ukraine. I’m guessing that by now, a lot of Ukrainians are starting to figure out that the most likely remaining scenario, is that whatever is left of Ukraine that manages to survive Putin’s onslaught, will end up being looted by western vulture capitalists.

          1. nippersdad

            I am convinced she thinks she is the new (faux) feminist Caesar. “I came, I saw, he died” prolly marked the single largest thrill she has ever had. She is a ghoul.

            But, like Biden, her inputs would largely be confined to strutting around on a stage while her neoconservative companions in crime turned whatever she touched into a Haiti or Libya. It is what they do. Russia was a lot weaker in ’16, and I have little doubt she would have done a lot of damage that Biden could not. They missed their window, and she has been grinding her pointy little teeth about it ever since.

          2. Rip Van Winkle

            Muskova Cafe (Serbian) in Westmont Illinois – very classy with great cuisine- had a very successful run until the local ‘patriots’ stopped showing up in 2022 because of the name. Reminds me of circumstances about name used before Jay’s Potato chips and timing on that.

            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Conversely, the #McResistance idiots who lined up to wait in the cold outside Veselka in the NYC’s East Village.

              I imagine by this time next year, down the memory hole it will all be, and they’ll be eating blintzes cooked by Azov Brigade fascists- allowed entry for “humanitarian” purposes, of course! – while they share an excited shudder over how awful Orange Man is…

    4. Gregorio

      It seems to me that being a responsible adult, is an automatic disqualification for a job in the U.S. State Department.
      Only neoconservative ideologues need apply.

    5. JGarbo

      The Russians are not “advancing”; they are destroying [enemy forces], according to plan. No-one listens to Putin. He doesn’t want to “take” Ukraine but to befriend it – under a reasonable govt. Even so-called western experts [sic] don’t listen, read or think- they simply follow the mob. They’ll only wake up when Russia installs a new govt and opens war crime courts for the Nazis and their collaborators..

  2. The Rev Kev

    Just logging off for the night so don’t have time for a full comment but here is one reason why the west lost. This German guy went into the biggest ammo factory in Germany and said that though the people there were working 24/7, he was shocked that it was all done manually like in WW1. He seems to have thought that there would be robotics and AI and maybe even magic ponies or something. He is typical in how the west never thought to see what their industrial manufacturing was all about and what quantities they could produce-

    https://www.bitchute.com/video/CeKnsrs2n5ao/ (46 secs)

          1. IMOR

            Not that you’re likely to be entering into a serious discussion, but one ‘side’ never reduced its industrial capacity, know-how, and workforce – only mothballed part if it for ten years at the behest of crooks hired by the other ‘side’- and the other spent 40 years shutting down, demolishing, exporting its factories and machinery while denigrating and ceasing to train its extractive and manufacture population.
            How ’bout you and I each dig a grave, but I start with a backhoe and two assistants while you, Otto, have to first manufacture a shovel?

          2. chris

            I was going to ask if you had a good reason or a source for anything you’re saying, but now it’s clear you’re just sharing feelings.

            We have no infrastructure to support what we’re doing. We have no production capacity to support Ukraine, and doubly so for Ukraine+Israel+Taiwan. You don’t give people cluster munitions to use if you have better options. We clearly didn’t then and still don’t now. We can’t provide sufficient tanks or drones or munitions or missiles. This was known back in February, even among media sites that have a very pro-Western bias. We don’t have the spare construction capacity or labor reserves or ability to build out our materiel production quickly either. This is a multi-year process, at best.

            The West has lost. We’ll lose Taiwan too. We’re not really helping Israel either. There is no both sides here. We allowed stupid greedy people to hollow out our country over a 50 year period. This is the result.

    1. digi_owl

      Guy best not visit a car factory then.

      Sure, doing something simple like filling up cartridges with powder and pushing the bullet on top may be done by automation. But anything that involves stringing wires still require human hands more often than not.

      Why cars have moved more and more to the CAN bus for everything, as it massively reduce the number of wires that need to be run.

      1. Brian Bixby

        Go look at the Tesla factory, there aren’t any people laying wires. For that matter you’re unlikely to find any doing that job in the Hyundai and Kia factories in South Korea either. Just because US automakers are too focused on short term returns to pump up stock price at the expense of investing for long term profits doesn’t mean that everyone else is.

  3. ilsm

    The west had no suitable logistics plan for the counter offensive…. nor did it have fire superiority to diminish Russian defenses which were as much standard anti tank warfare as they were new tech. Most of the Russian blunting was done by coordinated air and land battle not far removed from NATO defensive doctrine of the 1980’s.

    Offensive air support to the counter offensive was grossly neglected!

    May have been wise that here were no large logistics for a 100’s of kilometer mechanized campaign.

    I am not ready to attribute NATO failure to new tech, the NATO fault was the plan not adequately resourced.

    If the resources were not given in 2023 where do they come from in 2024?

    1. juno mas

      It appears to me that the Russian military was confident with their war tech; NATO tech was essentially US tech (which Russia was prepared for). What has been most impressive is RF air defenses. They seemed to adapt quickly to any new tech launched at them. And their Kinzhal missile system appears to be undefendable.

      1. digi_owl

        I suspect the difference in priorities between Russia and USA comes back to lessons taken from WW2.

        During that war, Russia/USSR had to defend against the luftwaffe. By comparison, USA mostly fought under the cover of air dominance by the time it got involved in the land war.

        And in the decades since, USA has rarely fought from a defensive position without air dominance.

        Back in 1991 for example the opening strikes were all about knocking out SAM sites and catching the Iraqi jets on the ground. And with the subsequent sanctions etc, in 2003 Iraq hadn’t really been able to rebuild.

        1. Polar Socialist

          It’s not just priorities, it’s also about what is possible. Or, to paraphrase a famous quote: ‘Eastern Front was big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it was. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Eastern Front.’

          Neither Luftwaffe or VVS was ever capable of gaining aerial supremacy, and even aerial superiority was possible only for a limited time in a limited area. What the 8th AF had to deal with was only about one sixth the size of the airspace over the Eastern Front, and yet they took their time to clear Luftwaffe from the skies.

      1. rkka

        Yup. The idea was to defeat the enemy simultaneously through the entire depth of his operational deployment, straight out of Tukachevsky’s 1936 Field Service Regulations.

  4. ChrisFromGA

    There sure are signs of chaotic and shambolic behavior. Speaker Johnson adjourned the house for the rest of the year, yet Chucky is keeping the Senate in town next week to negotiate against themselves over border talks. I’m not sure what he’s accomplishing other than virtue signaling.

    All the GOP has to do is leave Rand Paul in town to filibuster any sham agreement between Schumer and the left, who seem to be about to mutiny anyways over immigration changes that end parole or asylum.

    Perhaps by the time Upchuck is done negotiating against himself, we will be sending asylum seekers to Haiti.

    Kind of like the way Sunak is sending the boat people to Rwanda from the UK.

        1. Dave Hansell

          Precisely. Its not exactly quantum mechanics to figure out Paris – as well as to take responsibility for this self inflicted ‘problem’.

          Its simple supply and demand. Cut off the demand and the supply will dry up.

          There are two ways this can be done:

          1. Stop bombing whole countries and the people residing in them back to the stone age.

          2. Stop exporting unsustainable fiat created capital to the Global South in order to extract the surplus value of their resources for yourselves – via the US controlled IMF/World Bank – leaving the peoples of those countries with nothing and no means of making economic progress.

  5. ciroc

    No problem. The U.S. government will announce in the not too distant future how the corruption of the Zelensky regime prevented Ukraine from winning. This is the tradition from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

    1. ilsm

      Eliminating Diem did nothing to end corruption in S Vietnam.

      Corruption throughout the provinces was a strong selling point for the political cadres of the VC.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      The media will play its role in that, and we’ll see yet another classic example of At Your Feet or At Your Throat behavior…

  6. Sam Owen

    People here are way too optimistic. Why does it even matter that the “counteroffensive failed”? The whole point was to send poorly trained Ukrainian recruits out there to get their tanks blown up so they’d have to buy more. From the point of view of the MIC the counter-offensive was a huge success. We’re not supposed to “win” wars. The MIC wins the longer the war drags on. Remember before the war started when we all were saying “no way Putin will fall for the trap and invade Ukraine”? Well look where we are 1.5+ years later.

    Also Ukrainians are ethnically, linguistically, and culturally are nearly identical to Russians, and now they’re sending their youngest and brightest to kill each other for literally no reason! As far as I’m concerned the existence of this war is a loss for Russia. Every day this war continues Russia is losing. Territorial gains don’t matter. There have been very few anyway.

    People here and in other leftist circles need to stop bragging about the “failed counteroffensive” and “Ukrainian losses”. This conflict’s very existence is a big win for MIC and a horrible loss for Russia. Ukrainian and Russian deaths are a loss for everybody except the MIC.

    Korybko needs to get a brain. I’m so tired of his (and many others’) “failed counteroffensive” narrative, because you’re completely missing the big picture.

    1. Otto.Totto

      “Ukrainians are ethnically, linguistically, and culturally are nearly identical to Russians”

      Hope you realize that this is not only a highly controversial statement but actually is one the main reasons for the conflict.

          1. nippersdad

            One reads Politico not for the facts, but to divine what the Washington Consensus wants us to believe this week. Volodomyr Zelensky is not fluent in Ukrainian, he is a native Russian speaker, and that should tell you something.

            1. Otto.Totto

              The article in Politico mentions a book by former Ukrainian president Kuchma which discusses this in details. Otherwise, agree about Politico.

          2. Feral Finster

            Ok, now we know the Galician perspective. The rest of the country, not so much.

            In every office I worked at, “how do you say that in Ukrainian, anyway?” was a daily topic.

      1. Sam Owen

        “Hope you realize that this is not only a highly controversial statement but actually is one the main reasons for the conflict.”

        This statement was not true before 2014. The US with the NED started spreading their anti-Russian poison then. “Ukrainian nationalism” has always been an aberration propped up by the west. Putin has failed to do anything about it. Russian soft power is pathetic.

        Even still though, support for radical Ukrainian chauvinism is a minority opinion in Ukraine. The far right party only got 10% in the last election. I’m sure most Ukrainians would acknowledge how similar they are to Russians. In particular, ethnically they are literally identical which is funny considering the talking points of the Ukronazis.

        Calling Ukrainians and Russians “basically the same” would not be a controversial statement before the Maidan coup. The US likes to throw a crowbar into every minute difference it can find, and make it worse.

        1. Feral Finster

          For that matter, Zelenskii was elected by an overwhelming majority in 2019 over vociferous American objections, on a platform of peace and reconciliation with Russia. Needless to say, he was not allowed to implement that platform.

          Too many Ukrainians and Russians want desperately to believe that The West is the Magical Land Where Institutions Basically Work. It’s not, but that’s the perception. It was made clear to Ukrainians that hating their brethren and their own parents was the price of admission to that Blessed Land.

          Before 2014, Ukrainian nationalism was strictly for cranks and weirdos. In my office. My co-workers used to direct mock sniper fire at them when they held their little torchlight marches.

          1. Brian Bixby

            As a Soviet general told writer Farley Mowat in the ’70s, “The difference between Soviet propaganda and American propaganda is that no one believes ours.”

            I sometimes wish that Hell actually existed so that Edward Bernays could be condemned there. Of course he’d probably convince the rest of the inhabitants that they were in a tropical paradise before long, so never mind.

    2. voislav

      Ukraine is not ethnically or even linguistically monolithic. Eastern Ukrainians are very close to Russians and their language is very, very similar. Central Ukrainians are somewhat more removed and a lot of them use Surzhyk, which is mixed dialect. Western Ukrainians speak what is now considered Ukrainian language, but is really Galician as it was only spoken in Galicia region and is quite different from Russian and closer to Polish.

      The point is that you should not generalize Ukrainian ethnic identity as being identical to Russian and also realize that Ukrainian identity itself is not a monolith, there are wide differences in identity, culture and language within Ukraine.

      1. Sam Owen

        I could’ve worded that better. It is a large country with a lot of inter-slavlic diversity, but my point was that they very similar culturally. Therefore the idea of them fighting each other is absurd. From a cultural standpoint there was really never a reason for Ukrainians and Russians to hate each other. Absent from US interference the cultural bigotry that exists between the two wouldn’t exist.

        1. digi_owl

          And likely why Putin seemed almost distraught when he gave the public order to start the SMO. Like he was saying to USA and UK in particular, “why do you force me to attack my own kin!”.

          And this has also dictated Russian strategy and tactics, going for surgical strikes on military and dual use targets and trying to minimize civilian suffering. This in clear contrast to say US behavior in Iraq that saw Baghdad without power and water for at least a year.

          If Russia wanted, they could have sent the build of the force on a dash for Kiev, as the distance from the border is not that large. Perhaps even done a massive pincer via Belarus. But instead they secured Donbass and Crimea, with only a token force pressuring Kiev.

          And things would have ended there, as Z was already doing peace talks until BJ showed up in Kiev with a missive from “emperor” Biden to keep the fighting going.

        2. Gavin B

          I find that very hard to believe. There was widespread and well documented resentment against Russia throughout the Soviet era, and well before the USA had any influence in the region. Most of Eastern Europe hates Russia because of past grievances and because Russians to this day retain delusions of empire.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You have violated our overarching policy on comments:

            You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

            -Harlan Ellison

            Mark Ames, who lived in Moscow for many years through the early 2000s, was shocked at the Ukraine, where the ethnic Ukraine and Russian population in his day had generally been about as cool with each other as Catholics and Protestants in the US today, was surprised to see how quickly hostility towards Russians had been cultivated in Ukraine (this including devices like Russian-demonizing school textbooks and ostracization of ethnic Russian kids by teachers).

            Pew Research in 2010 confirmed Ames’ take:

            The Pew Research survey found that nearly half (46%) of Ukrainians said that Russia is a good influence on their country, and nearly six-in-ten Ukrainians (58%) cited Russia as their country’s most dependable ally

            More recent polling in January 2010 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) found Ukrainians expressing an overwhelmingly positive view of Russia — more than nine-in-ten (93%) said they had a good attitude towards Russia. When asked about what they would like to see for their country’s relationship with Russia, two-thirds (66%) believed that the countries “should be independent, but friendly states — with open borders, no visas and customs.” Another 22% of Ukrainians believed that the countries “should unite into one state.” Few Ukrainians (8%) wanted relations to be “the same as with other countries — with closed borders, visas and customs.”


            Similarly, having been a Warsaw Pact member does not necessary = antipathy towards Russia. See:

            What’s behind eastern Germans’ empathy for Russia? DW

            Most Slovaks want Russia to win Ukraine war Euractiv

            And we also have the examples of Hungary and Belarus.

      2. Feral Finster

        Want to cheese off a Ukrainian nationalist? Point out thst the Galician dialect is remarkably close to really redneck Polish.(it is).

        1. DZhMM

          It’s relatively widely recognized that the ukrainian “language” is no more than Russian as spoken by Polish hicks. Just because it was codified by the Soviets per their ideological principle that each People had a Land and a Language, doesn’t make it so. There is far more difference between Latvian and Lithuanian (quite similar enough to be moderately mutually intelligible) than between Russian and Ukrainian.

          1. Feral Finster

            Axtually, there are several dialects calling themselves “Ukrainian”. The language sproken in Galicia is comparable to Polish, but in Zacarpathia they speak something basically unintelligible to everyone else. (Interestingly, the folks in Zacarpathia traditionally saw Russia as their protector against ukrainianization and polonization.)

            The language that people actually speak is basically Russian with an accent. I met a taxidriver in Moscow who told me that he could speak Ukrainian, he learned it in Kharkov. I thought that odd, as everyone in Kharkov spoke Russian. He said, no, they speak Ukrainian in Kharkov, and also he informed me that Ukrainian is a language entirely identical to Russian except they pronounce “g” “h” but otherwise the two are same.

            True story, no lie.

            No, I am not Thomas Friedman.

            1. Daniil Adamov

              Do you mean Transcarpathian ethnic Ukrainians or Rusyns/Ruthenians? The latter are by far the smallest and most obscure of the four East Slavic ethnicities, but generally acknowledged to be something else entirely. Wouldn’t surprise me if Ukrainians in that area were similar though.

    3. Michael Fiorillo

      “There have been very few (territorial gains) anyway.”

      That just isn’t true. The war began in 2014, and so Crimea must be considered part of Russia’s territorial acquisitions, along with Donetsk, Lugansk and the other areas incorporated into Russia since 2022. That’s well over twenty percent of a country the size of Texas.

    4. i just don't like the gravy

      I am optimistic because all the MIC can do is grift. So sure, Russia is forced to waste resources that it didn’t necessarily need to, but the forced separation from the West via sanctions and its reliance on domestic industrial capacity is a win going forward. People seem to forget that the MIC gave birth to Silicon Valley; no reason for that dynamic to be any different in Russia (i.e. giving birth to domestic non-military industry).

      Yes, the MIC in the West gets rich, but that’s about it. The stripping of copper wire will continue until morale improves. The USA will cannibalize itself until it’s indistinguishable from a rump state.

      1. chris

        I am optimistic because all the MIC can do is grift.

        Unfortunately, they can kill a lot of people on the way to unseen contracts too. So many Ukrainians are dead. An entire generation at this point. Of the ones who escaped they will likely never return. Zelenskyy has been threatening everyone about what will happen next if he doesn’t get his money. Which we can assume means Naughtzis will stage terror attacks in the US too. What a God awful situation. The architects of this tragedy deserve whatever punishment they get. If not in this life, then the next.

    5. Kouros

      So you think the intention is to sell arms, eh?! But it is obvious that the west is not able to produce arms at the pace needed for such a war. They also don’t have production lines for tanks, for instance.

      Or you don’t believe that the US really wants a regime change in Russia that would end up not only in the same situation Russia was in 1995, but also with Russia dismantling its nuclear arsenal (probably after the US gets the specs of all the most advanced equipments Russia has in store)…

      1. Gregorio

        The MIC doesn’t really need to waste capital by increasing production, when they can just maintain the shortages and jack their prices/profits up.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        The West may not be producing enough weapons to win anything, but the margins on those they do produce are spectacular! That is why we have no-bid contracts after all. And if not having enough means they need to be replaced sooner, all the better. Kaching!! At least for the short term anyway, and who in the West ever cared to look further than the next quarter’s profits?

        If reports are to be believed, one problem is that the whole world can see Western weapons systems being blown to smithereens, which makes other nations less apt to purchase inferior equipment in the long run.

    6. BradN

      I agree fully that this war is a loss for Russia, and even more so for Ukraine, in the manpower and potential that has been destroyed and continues to be destroyed. I do not think that Putin himself would disagree with that sentiment, which is why he made several attempts to prevent the war from happening. Left with the choice to wait passively for the war to come to Russia with the enemy dictating the timing and nature, or to seize the initiative and possibly achieve an early peace, he chose the more active, and arguably less destructive plan.

      I suspect people who are relieved at the failure of the counteroffensive are hoping this will cause Ukraine to capitulate and the violence can end. Alas I think they may be too optimistic there as the conflict has taken on a life of it’s own and how, when, and where it ends is out of any western hands that I can see.

  7. Robert Hahl

    The Westies were and still are acting like lawyers representing a deep-pocketed client who are running a case to the end no matter how bad it is. They typically don’t even realize how bad it is. Settling a case to salvage something for the client is never considered. Such advocates are in it for the money and careerism. The legal result doesn’t matter because nobody will ever know what really went wrong, and the client usually doesn’t care, as long as the case did not go over budget.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The only settlement Russia aims at is, I believe, decimation of the “West.” Since that political economy will always lust after the Russian lands as a lootable cornucopia, and since we here are ruled by a kleptokakistocracy with bottomless appetites and a proven willingness to use nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. There was never the ability to do what the neocons envisaged, win a proxy war using the paltry and corrupt industrial base of the “West” as its armory. There’s no plan B because the West is brain-dead.

      I have to ask why shite like the neolibs/neocons/Likudniks manage to end up running things here, clearly to the disadvantage of the mass of us mopes. What is it in the human structures that empowers death-wishers and Rapture Romantics to the top of the heap? All the talk about what “we” are supposed to do to “make the world a better place,” and yet mope-dom almost always submits to the few Fokkers.

      I hope Russia’s managers are successful in their quixotic quest to de-nazify not just Ukraine but the world. My suspicion is that the nazi thing is more penetrating, persistent and pathogen than Covid. The West will keep driving, with new resources stolen from elsewhere, to surround and disarticulate Russia, China, India, Africa and the rest. Finland will be the next site for “NATO” decapitation nuclear weapons aimed at Russia, or maybe Lithuania or other tamed patsy. Russia cannot stop or slacken its efforts to maintain military superiority —this time I hope it’s the West that gets bankrupted by the arms race, since our rulers only ever are going to play this as a zero-sum game.

      1. Kouros

        “What is it in the human structures that empowers death-wishers and Rapture Romantics to the top of the heap?”

        Lack of constant accountability. If the perps were to be jailed, families deprived of assets, exiled, strangled at night, linched, beheaded, tarred and feathered, shamed in the legal and public courts, etc… we would have a different behaviour.

      2. juno mas

        Love it! JT rises to the moment with another brilliant assessment of our predicament. I am so tired of living in the “City on a Hill”. The death and destruction is soul numbing.

      3. Brian Bixby

        why shite like the neolibs/neocons/Likudniks manage to end up running things here

        The best mind control experts on the planet are the Madison Avenue advertising agencies. As a Soviet general told author Farley Mowat in the ’70s, “The difference between Soviet propaganda and American propaganda is that no one believes ours.”

  8. Gail

    Bidens war on the American public is a winner however. March 2022 after he cut us off from cheap Ukrainian and Russian grain, fertilizer and oil, he said:

    “We are all going to have to sacrifice for as long as it takes to defend Ukrainian Democracy.” Now it’s “for as long as we can.”

    The prices will never go down. The profits have been taken. Our main industrial competitor, Germany has committed economic suicide. Somehow food prices doubling is not worth saving a corrupt shithole run by a corrupt comedian who may end up like Saddam or Osama, a former ally who turned against us with our own weapons provided to him.

    Every person I know will vote for Trump.

    1. Paris

      Yes. Trump. And if somehow the establishment, the swamp, the shadows that govern this country do not let Trump win or run, I hope from the bottom of my heart that we have a lot of blood running through the streets. We are very tired of this pantomime.
      I wasn’t for Trump, but after seeing that the GOP candidate is going to be that horrible Nikki Haley, man, there’s no alternative. Let it burn.

      1. IMOR

        I wonder how many ‘new’ votes/ers will emerge in 2024 who sat out top of the ticket in ’16 and ’20 but will cast a ballot for DJT to protest / try to stop the ridiculous frauds perpetrated in the name of stopping him?
        Asking for a friend. :-)

      2. i just don't like the gravy

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        These CIA “deep state” freaks can’t even cede control to Trump, who is essentially identical to them except in his table manners.

        I don’t think Marx could have predicted how much the ruling classes would drink their own Kool-Aid to the point of being unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.

    2. John k

      Imo our main economic competitor has shifting from west to east and north Asia… to Russia for arms and to China for everything else. Granted we’re now mfg king of the west, but what does that say? Crappy performance/selection and highest prices, not really a draw.
      West is trying to cut trade with Russia/china, but that will boost west prices and slash west consumption.
      If and when row shifts to balanced trade and limits financial flows the us is toast.

  9. Paris

    I’d love to see some serious humiliation being imposed on the West, but I don’t think it is wise to do so and I think Putin is a serious guy. Anyways, always fun to read about this stupid war. I’m still mad I had to pay for that.

  10. Feral Finster

    Of course there is a Plan B, just that it cannot be said out loud – terrorism and longer-ranged missiles, since the West has ignored red line after Russian red line with impunity.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Russian air defenses can handle long range missiles. More time to see them!

      As for terrorism, Ukraine given the givens would already be doing as much as it can and attributing it to Putin-haters of all sorts in Russia. There’s been nothing meaningful.

  11. Pat

    I have fantasies of finding a bottle with a genie on the street. Though I cling to it, I have not lost my marbles enough to think that believing will make that bottle appear. There are so many instances of “magical thinking” in the policies of the last quarter century or hell even longer that I have lost track, but they just think they have to brave it out.
    Think of the doozies like the spreading of Democracy through the fear and intimidation domino theory from the project for a new American century. How about that Hillary Clinton winner of invading Libya. Or one of my favorites that we can isolate China with TPP. Or that the ACA would eliminate medical bankruptcy. Look I know some of the selling of those policies was always snake oil meant to hide the more nefarious attempt. But sometimes the people selling the cover story honestly believe it, like Ukraine being the feisty Jack who could cripple the giant while the sanctions do all the hard work setting the Russians against Putin. Magical thinking permeates all levels of government and our media. Along with the belief that if we sweep all the trash under the bed people won’t smell that something is rotten.

    For me the only real difference is that it took longer for the reality to get past the gatekeepers and that the public knows to permeate their bubbles. This blew up on them too fast for them to be out of office.

    1. John k

      Imo realism is highly unpopular, and not just among us/eu elites. I was talking with a friend, who is quite confident we are still, and will remain, no. 1.
      So it’s not just donors that don’t want realists (who would cut mil spending to focus on low profit infra etc) but the pop, granted highly influenced by donor controlled msm.
      Trump at least sees that wars are bad, but likely there’s no diff between him and Biden on anything oil related, ME/syria/venezuela etc. but at least he said no to war with Iran and has stopped funding for Ukraine.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        admittedly, i dont get out much any more…and when i do, its in and out and not lingering to listen in to what folks are talking about.
        but yes…the general automatic consensus is that we’re #1…of course!
        any challenge to that statement is like feeling up their daughters.
        its in the local paper, on the local radio(which i only play at night to keep the coyotes away from that end of the place)
        heartfelt assertions of greatness…like a prayer…meant to reinforce their own lagging belief.
        of course, in the past, when i could separate these same sorts of folks from the herd for a moment…out would pour the lamentations about how it was all frelled, and how we were on the road to perdition.
        (out here, blamed on commies, like hillary)
        so i reckon all this amen corner stuff is rather shallow…and much like repeating to oneself in a crisis “itll be ok, itll be ok…”
        as well as being unwilling to step out of the herd and and be pelted with potsherds.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            last time i partied with my eldests cohort/krewe, they kep saying that i was “That Guy”.
            so i am pleased that there is historical precedent.

  12. voislav

    Once negotiations failed Russia shifted into full-on war production and started to generate force necessary for full on occupation of Ukraine (or at least the eastern part).

    Russia started the war with ~360,000 ground force troops, half conscripts (not eligible for Ukraine), half contract. Likely no more than 120,000 were involved in the initial invasion, to which we can add some 60,000 Donbass militiamen, so no more than 180,000 total combat troops in Ukraine in 2022. Ukraine started the war with some 250,000 troops, plus 50,000-100,000 trained reservists.

    Current situation on the front is that Ukraine has around 80 combat and 30 territorial defense brigades. Ukrainian brigades are likely smaller at 3-4,000 troops, which would give them 240-300,000 front line troops and maybe 100,000 second-line troops. Basically, their force is at the same level as at the start of the war. Russia now deploys some 50 brigades and 13 divisions at the frontline and their brigades are larger at around 5,000 each and divisions are around 10,000. So almost 400,000 troops, more than double from the start of the war, and constantly increasing as their economy is able to produce new weapons and equipment necessary to create new formations.

    Ukraine has gone from having almost 2:1 advantage in manpower to being outnumbered. The big question for me is if Russia will launch a new offensive in the north, from Kursk/Belgorod to Sumy/Kharkiv. I’ve seen some recent footage of Russian forces assembling there. Ukraine has few reserves and would be forced to strip the Donbass frontline to form a credible defense force. Russia is applying pressure along the length of the Donbass frontline now, possibly as a prelude for the new offensive, either in January/February or in the spring. Ukraine would then face a choice, let northern Russian force run rampant or risk a collapse in Donbass. I see talks about defensive lines and withdraws in Donbass as related, Ukraine desperately needs to create a large reserve force to counter any such Russian moves.

    I think the end is nearer than most people anticipate. Lack of fiscal aid from US and EU will force Ukrainian government to print money, which will quickly collapse their currency. Despite influx of 10’s of billions in fiscal payments their inflation was running at 30%. It is likely that economic collapse would cause a military collapse and fragmentation of Ukraine, where local strongmen/warlords take over and make their own arrangements with the Russians. There is already a fair amount of resentment, but is kept in line by government’s ability to pay salaries and pensions. Once that goes away collapse could be swift.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      One error in your computation: Ukraine units way below full strength. Even before the failed counteroffensive, they were reported at 50%, in some cases 30% strength.

  13. Otto.Totto

    No one is panicking. Markets are up. The plan is to freeze the conflict. Defense does not cost as much as the offense. The question of who can build up the military manufacturing capabilities faster and more efficiently is still open.

    1. nippersdad

      No, it is really not.

      As was pointed out early in the conflict by RUSI, the economic systems and means of production matter. The western MIC is all about providing the least for the most in order to skim profits. The Russian version is designed to provide affordable weaponry en masse, and to do so they have cut the private sector out of the equation. Refusing to turn their MIC into a profit vector has the expected result of more money being targeted at weapons research, development and production rather than just production of new McMansions in the DelMarVa region.

      We spend more than the next twelve countries combined on “defense”. Those countries would include Russia, who is presently kicking our butts with relative ease. If we are not panicking yet, we should be.

      1. Otto.Totto

        Russia has its own model with respect to distribution of the proceeds of oil and gas trade. It channels the money into weapons production. I agree with you on that. That is exactly what makes the west unhappy and the Russian citizens poor. This model proved unsustainable when the USSR collapsed. The west should be working hard on restoring it’s manufacturing capabilities. If panicking is useful for that let it be.

        1. IMOR

          Direction of revenues into weapons that don’t work. wars of choice, and the pockets of the wealthy is what’s impoverished U.S. citizens across these 40-plus years. And not a single piece or person in Federal office or corporate boardroom sees a need for anything but more of the same.
          So I’m still looking in this exchange for anything that’s to the U.S.’s advantage if going down the same foreign policy paths, O.T.
          Pull back, retrench, change priorities, rebuild.

        2. nippersdad

          I have to disagree on a couple of points. Russia uses the proceeds from its’ various extractive sectors to subsidize many things. For example, it levied a special tax on oil receipts to pay for their people to have kids and be able to raise them without going into poverty to do so. Russians on the whole may not be wealthy, but they do have what they need. A point was made the other day that gas lines are being built out into the Russian countryside to heat homes even as people in German cities are increasingly reliant upon wood burning stoves and fireplaces to achieve the same result, albeit more poorly. Point being that weapons production is not the sole use of proceeds from their various extractive industries.

          They are by and large not poor even as we are by and large not wealthy. They have affordable basic health care, we do not. They do not have appreciable numbers of homeless. They do not have two thirds of their population living paycheck to paycheck even as half of our governments expenditures are subsidized by borrowing from the very people who ensure that our population lives paycheck to paycheck. One cannot compare the unsustainable model of the former Soviet Union without the context that our present model is similarly unsustainable. They have made changes that have worked for their society even as we have doubled down on those that do not.

          There are better people here to argue the economic case, but to say that what they are doing has not worked is to ignore that it is presently working very well for them. They have no debts to anyone and it would appear that everyone (not in the Golden Billion) is on their side right now.

          I think panicking would be useful right about now, and unfounded criticisms of someone else’s system of governance is not helpful when our own has objectively proven to be such an appalling failure.

          1. Karl

            Very well put!

            Criticizing other systems as inferior is a common sport in the West and exposes the hubris that got us into this mess (and others around the world).

            It may be a sign of class. The upper classes in the West have some basis for their arrogance. After all, the system works for them. On the surface, our cities are full of gleaming skyscrapers–except they are half empty. We are, increasingly, mostly facade, little substance. The latter was outsourced.

          2. The Rev Kev

            Alexander Christoforou was in Russia doing his walk and talks. The comments of those videos were full of Americans saying how clean the streets were, how there were no homeless, how you did not see graffiti and wrecked & vandalized parks and the like. I think that for a lot of people that was a revelation. Then he went to Greece and there was graffiti everywhere.

        3. rkka

          Russian citizens are richer than they were when US-oriented FreeMarketDeformers” were running the place, & when military spending was practically nil.

          West-supporters crying crocodile tears for the suffering of Russian citizens should keep that in mind.

          And Russia is capitalist now, with a Bismarkian welfare state, not communist.

          Nor is Russia providing massive energy & raw materials subsidies to Ukrainian industries, like before 1991.

      2. ilsm

        Low margins for making a million 155 mm shells a year in govt owned facilities

        Lots of money delivering F35 that get refitted with new stuff to make them work that create emergency need for new engine not yet on drawing board.

        Sadly F35 is the model MIC program.

        Good thing USA has Trident missile subs.

    2. juno mas

      Well, since China is now allied with Russia, the manufacturing race for war materiel is not in question. Learn some Mandarin and you too can participate.

    3. Martin Oline

      I don’t think the question of who can build up the military manufacturing capabilities faster and more efficiently is open at all. I remember the Reagan years when he stood Kenesyian Theory on it’s head and funded the MIC to overflowing instead of social spending. It took five or six years to stimulate the economy and drive the Soviet Union bankrupt. It did not result in increase capabilities at all. It produced expensive ‘gee-whiz’ weapons for a high dollar.
      I made a decision at that time as a tool maker to turn away from the military manufacturers who were hiring then and produce injection molds for medicine. You can expect at lot of power-point presentations in Washington but little production in the United States. It is all trickle-down theory – “Give the horses more oats to feed the birds” – Tom Harkin

      1. TimD

        Reagan actually almost tripled the national debt, and the economy didn’t grow faster in the 80s where it averaged 3.1% than it did in the 70s when it grew 3.2% or the 90s at 3.2%. Back then the national debt was only $1 trillion and when Reagan finished it was $2.8 trillion.

        A big change was the oil glut that happened around 1982. Inflation was high in the US and the country was the world’s largest importer of oil. When oil prices collapsed, it helped the US with inflation but it cut Soviet revenues. That may be more of a factor than Regan’s military spending – the Soviet economy was moribund anyway. Maybe the US should have took the win and cut back on spending because its national debt is now at $34 trillion and its annual interest expenses have a good chance of passing the cost of military spending in the not to distant future.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Looking the histories from the Soviet side, they were not really competing with USA, they were bled white by the burden of supporting the economies of Cuba, Vietnam, Angola etc. Even the Warsaw Pact countries were not pulling their own weight and needed constantly Soviet handouts.

          I think Chernenko stated, before becoming the General Secretary, that getting rid of that burden would almost immediately fix most of the problems in the Soviet economy. He was too sick to achieve much as a General Secretary, though. Except make sure his protege Gorbachev followed him.

          1. TimD

            Good points. People talk about the Soviet Empire like it was bleeding countries dry to enrich the core. A lot of it was a losing proposition. Then when oil prices collapsed the equation changed.

    4. Feral Finster

      That assumes that Russia will agree to a freeze.

      And markets are up because the Fed is cutting rates again and Biden is spending on war toys like a drunken sailor.

      1. digi_owl

        I seem to recall Putin has already dismissed turning Ukraine into something akin to Korea on their western border.

    5. TimD

      Markets are up in the US thanks to the Biden Administration pumping money into the economy. The Biden Administration has added $5.5 trillion to the national debt since it took over. We are talking about deficits of over 8% of GDP. During that period the Dow Jones has gone from 35,819 in October of 2021 to 37,305 at today’s close; a gain of 4%.

    6. Lex

      Given that the US still can’t supply a week’s worth of Ukrainian artillery ammunition needs with a month’s worth of production and the big plan for hitting ~100k shells/month has already been backed out to 2026, that question is already answered.

  14. Dave Hansell

    Mr Korybko is engaged in the same kind of magical thinking which produced this outcome if he seriously believes that a land for peace deal has any legs. Or that this matter is going to be resolved via the RF talking to which ever monkey happens to be nominally in charge of the proxy rather than the organ grinder. And that is before we get to the matter of having no one to talk to in the Collective West who is agreement capable in a context in which not only Ukraine but also NATO and the entire Collective West is being handed its arse anyway.

    We are where we are because the incompetent numpty oligarchy running the West believes and continues to believe as a matter of sacred finality its own bullshit about anyone and everyone outside the ‘Garden’. From the ‘gas station with nukes’ to turning the ‘Ruble into rubble’; from the weakness of the Russian military to its stated objectives reality does not get a look in.

    And Korybko is consistently guilty of the same flawed mindset which projects its own prejudices and preferences as reality by ignoring anything which does not fit the faulty assumptions arising from such projection. Thus, the reality of the stated objectives of RF security set out in (a) the December 2021 draft treaties to the US and NATO; and (b) that of no NATO in Ukraine and de-nazification – which Moscow continues to insist upon are its objectives – is ignored as irrelevant because there is no room for any option other than what a Western Oligarch would do. Which is swap land for peace.

    In a context in which previous peace deals such as Minsk 1 and 2 have proven to have been made in bad faith in order to prepare to dismember the Russian State and the Eurasion Heartland – never mind the actual stated objectives mentioned above, rather than the preferred objectives such as simplistic land for peace deal the numptys are projecting (the way they project RF military weakness and economic backwardness) – this is yet more wishful thinking which cannot be taken seriously.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      While you make some valid points, you miss that Putin means what he says with wanting a new security architecture for Europe. He has been saying that since at least the Munich Security Conference of 2007. Land for peace will not remotely achieve that so Putin is not interested. He needs a cooperative/compliant/puppet regime what is left of Ukraine, which means having Ukraine comprehensively defeated AND having that process so drain NATO that it can’t find its way to a meaningful response for 5 years, so Russia can establish new facts on the ground, say lots of defenses.

      1. ilsm

        The problem with the U.S. reflected in today’s ISW 16 (?) talking points is U.S. security insists that any “challenger/perceived competing power must be neutralized”.

        Unspoken adoption of the Thucydides corrundrum.

        A paradigm shift in needed in the base of U.S. power.

      2. John k

        5 years is a long time in the evolution from uni to multi. Eu might be pretty irrelevant by then. ME might look very different, BRICS might be very large, etc. might even see a un for row come into existence.
        West seems to be weakening itself by the day. Hard to imagine the west ever recovering from Ukraine/me disasters.

      3. Dave Hansell

        Agreed. That security architecture was implicit in the December 2021 draft treaties to NATO/US. Thanks for making the point more explicit.

  15. GramSci

    But what if there were many plans?? Every cop and every ad agency in the U.S. and abroad had many plans. It was just a matter of aligning plans, and all will agree that in the short run, war is always good for the local Imperial economy.

    True, the plan of causing Putin and then Russia to fall like dominoes failed. But it was always a long shot, and baring one’s teeth is a reflexive primate feint.

    OTOH, the plan of destroying NordStream was executed perfectly. Germany and Europe must now move its infrastructure to the US. True, some big Euroish companies have placed some chips on China, but war is always good for the local Imperial economy, and we’re still in the game.

    On an allied front, the plan for forcing Europe to sacrifce its industry and family joules for climate conservation has been a smashing success! Europe joins the Global South. How woke. Three cheers for the Greed New Deal!

    All this could still add up to a victory for Joe/Kamala CEO/CTO* 2024!!!

    * Chief Technicolor Officer

    1. JBird4049

      The leadership of the United States and its satrapies do not have plans. They have intents and instincts needed for carrying them out, which are very different than plans. It is group of children using the plans and goals of their elders, but without any foresight.

      They consist of staying in power, if need be by beating (possibly to death) any opposition or reformists including any potential future ones.

      Getting even wealthier by the easiest way possible, which usually is stripping assets from the weakest with any available wealth. Coups, wars, assassinations, financial manipulation, and other underhanded are normal and accepted.

      There is no intent for helping or serving anything else including the Earth, civilizational, religion, ideologies, countries, or nations excepting themselves, but not even necessarily their immediate circle.

      I can accept short term thinking hungry, poor, unemployed, family upheaval, even being an addict, but these people, who have every advantage, as a group are acting like not particularly intelligent, spoiled, sugared up children.

  16. Aurelien

    There is no Plan B and there never was. I wrote an article arguing effectively that six months ago. There is no fallback option, no round two, no second chance. The only option the West ever had was a quick and decisive Russian defeat either on the battlefield or through the destruction of the Russian economy, or preferably both, leading to a change of government in Moscow. This was considered such a certainty that there were no plans for anything else. When it didn’t work straight away, that was assumed to be because the Ukrainians were inadequately trained and equipped. As soon as that little detail was settled, the war would be over.

    But in reality, a Plan B was impossible anyway. The West did not have the soldiers, or the equipment holdings, or the ammunition and logistics even to sustain the Ukrainians in a long war, and they could not have fought the Russians successfully even if they had been prepared to take the risk. All of the ideas that have been floating around for nearly two years now have the same basic structure: do X, Russia will collapse and Putin will be gone. This is not going to happen, and there is no other option. (These are the governments that brought you the Covid response, remember?)

    The panic I suspect is partly that the West, without realising it, has been destroying its economies, its political systems, confidence in government, and its military capabilities. (I’d be surprised if anyone takes US military capability seriously any more, and the regime in Washington may indeed be the first political casualty of the war.) The next couple of years are going to be interesting, in the pejorative sense of that term.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Aurelien: Thanks. I made a comment below, but I just want to compliment you on your formulation of events here in this comment.

      The upshot: There was no strategy (particularly in London, Berlin, and Washington plus New York). The elites cannot define a purpose for the war. The elites also, from sheer lack of experience of the physical world, thought that war is self-executing. As you write: Quick defeat of Russia. Economic collapse of Russia. Regime change of Russia. All without getting Boris Johnson’s hands dirty. Mirabile dictu: That “strategy” isn’t a strategy that wins a war.

      Also agreed: The next year in the U S of A is going to be a mess. I am glad to be in the Undisclosed Region, which, in spite of several big problems, at least is focused on things that matter: Which panettone to buy for Christmas.

      1. Skip Intro

        I think we saw another example of projection. As imperiling the wealth of our oligarchs is the most direct way to create rapid political change, so they believed sanctions on Russian oligarchs would quickly lead them to pull the reins. But the Russian oligarchs apparently had the bit, not the reins.

        1. Polar Socialist

          There could be something about Russia not having defensible natural borders that makes it’s deep state/security apparatus dependent enough on the state for it’s own survival to still see themselves as subservient to the state and not the other way around.

          And thus they are willing to keep the oligarchs away from the reins.

          Personally, I’d prefer exponentially progressive taxation so there wouldn’t be oligarchs. Ever.

          1. nippersdad

            I seem to remember an interview with Putin in which he told a story about how they dealt with problems in St. Petersburg in his youth. The insinuation being that they did not deal with them in a socially approved manner. I think Putin had a great deal to do with the taming of the Russian oligarchs, and with his being a fully fledged member of the state/security apparat they had a good role model in their president.

      2. chris

        Panettone or pangiallo. This is the question! Much better to ponder than the weighty topics discussed here. Cheers sir :)

    2. Societal Illusions

      I wonder at “without realising it” – how can that actually be? Seems to be too many bright people in the world to miss obvious eventualities or potential outcomes and demonstrate such gross negligence. Which leaves that the intended outcome is the one we have? Or the “system” is so corrupted and broken that there’s no self-correction or adjustments allowed or available once the plan is set in motion? I clearly don’t know, but stupidity doesn’t seem a likely reason for what is enfolding in our world.

    3. Karl

      While reading this thread I’ve wondered “what could a credible Plan B have looked like?” I remember the goal of Plan A as being (in the long run at least) using conventional forces to 1) help Ukraine emerge stronger and 2) make Russia weaker.

      Here’s what I think Plan B has necessarily been, but even this is not going according to “Plan”: 1) acknowledging that Plan A cannot be achieved among the D.C. leadership; 2) hiding that from the public until after the next election; 3) help Ukraine negotiate terms of surrender (if it can). I think #1 has been in place for months.The miscalculation is that Ukraine can’t keep the mirage of probable victory credible enough, for long enough, for part #2 of Plan B to work.

      Republicans see no advantage to helping Biden with #2, and throwing more $ into that money pit, unless they can get concessions on other things (like border control). The Republicans won’t let Biden play the waiting game. What’s in it for them?

      This leaves one remaining option: unconventional forces, but I think we’re past that scare…?

      1. Lex

        A credible plan B would have been a negotiated settlement in Spring 2022 that could have left Russia “isolated” and with close to the minimum gains it would have accepted for a short, sharp conflict.

        A credible plan C would have been attempting a settlement in late fall of 2022 after the territorial success of the Kharkov offensive by Ukraine. That assumes Putin would have still been willing to make a deal, but it was a moment when the US had a good hand to try.

    4. Glen

      Thank you for posting this. As always, it provides insight into the murky world of how elites think.

      One comment – as to “without realizing it”, it has seemed obvious for a long time that what has been happening to western countries is no secret, especially to those on the receiving end of these policies. These “warning signs” were pretty clear. Here is some of them, there have been many:

      Mouvement des gilets jaunes

    5. John k

      When the west vetoed what was Minsk 3 in march 22, I thought we were living in the most interesting of times since about 1942.
      I assume Hamas was encouraged to act when it did from the ongoing west disaster in Ukraine. Dominoes…

    6. lambert strether

      > the regime in Washington may indeed be the first political casualty of the war

      Yes, that’s what victory looks like. At least for the working class and certainly “the people” of the United States, though there will be costs and casualties as the regime thrashes about, wailing “traitors stabbed me in the back!”, hopefully in ever-diminishing tones….

      1. Librarian Guy

        Biden’s insane hyper-militarism, backed up by all the chumps like Yellen, YES, we can afford 3 wars at once (Ukraine, Palestine, and next year China/Taiwan) is beyond delusional. It’s 3rd Reich style lunacy.

        LBJ destroyed his presidency by giving 65% to guns & dropping butter to 35% . . . Biden believes in nothing but guns, guns & more guns!! No butter for ‘Murican consumers coz we are “exceptional”.

        Oh, then they made up the lie, well, Pennsylvania makes lots of death tech, so they’ll vote for us in 2024. It won’t be enough!! Michigan is lost, Biden has given this country nothing but rampaging inflation, enviro-disasters everywhere, E. Palestine, Hawaii etc. & a f–k you peasants you don’t matter message. But let’s send Ukraine more phony printed money so more of them can die for the Neocon Narrative. Will Menaker jokes that the Israelis have a murder-suicide pact with the US elites. Well, at some point the surviving Ukranians will realize who consigned them all to death and destruction & poverty, & that isn’t the “Asiatic” Putin or Russia.

        1. nippersdad

          Just wait until we find out that a lot of the refugees going west were “former” Banderites with an axe to grind. Somehow I doubt that we have heard the last of that bunch.

    7. digi_owl

      Yeah it all seemed to depend the claims of expat revanchists in DC and from detached Russian PMCs, cargo culting their western “bretheren”, that the public secretly hated Putin and would “Maidan” him if the economy was in any way stressed.

    8. SocalJimObjects

      “regime in Washington may indeed be the first political casualty of the war.”. Bush Sr won the Iraq war and lost the election because of the economy. AFAIK, the false WMD narrative driven war in Iraq and the mess in Afghanistan never hurt anyone in power either. Americans only ever cared about their wallets in the end.

      I am not a big fan of Biden but consumers seem to be having it good. Sure they complain about inflation, but then they go out and spend big every month. With “Print them while they are still good” Trump back in power, and the Fed ready to drop interest rates next year, the US is probably looking at a very decent economy for the next few years, and that will be all that matters to Americans. Ukraine etc will be long gone from anyone’s recollection within a few months. Heck, Biden and Trump killed more than 1 million Americans between them, and nobody is even raising a stink about that.

    9. fjallstrom

      Agreed that the sanctions was the plan A, and a foolish one at that. Both because sanctions rarely brings down governments, and because they sanctioned mainly exports. If sanctions are going to work to undermine a government it’s through a lack of goods or raw materials, in particular food and energy. But denying Russia food from EU was already tried in 2014 and only strengthened Russian agriculture. A realistic analysis of the chances for sanctions to work in 2022 would have shown that Russia’s size and raw material wealth would make any sanctions regime unlikely to work. Add in the good relationship between Russia and the world’s workshop in China and chances goes down even more.

      Maybe the planners in the west believed that the lack of money from exports would bring Russia down. That would make the sanctions the most failed mercantilistic sanctions since the Napoleonic continental system failed to bring down Britain.

      And yet, despite the low chances of plan A working, the US insisted on avoiding the off ramp of an early peace settlement.

  17. DJG, Reality Czar

    I notice two words in particular: Yves Smith’s use of the word “plot” up top, which I am going to take as complot rather than as the events of story. I also note the use a few times in the piece of the word “strategy,” although I have misgivings.

    I think that the reason for the failure of the Western powers is this: No strategy, terrible tactics.

    What is the purpose of the proxy war in Ukraine? Can anyone truly define why the West ratcheted up the stakes? Is it overweening pride?

    The war was “fought” as office politics and as dueling memes. (Yves Smith posted a couple of days back that ridiculous tweet with the snow leopards of Kyiv striking fear into the invading horde.) Any money spent on a marketing department was a distraction and a waste: But Western elites now believe more in marketing than in facts.

    Consequently, the Western elites had no idea what the consequences would be. This war is a repeat of the disaster provoked by the US of A in Syria and an extension of the disaster of Libya. Knock things over. Run away like a candy-ass. Hope that your enemy is KO’d.

    With cartoons of threatening snow leopards baring fangs at the “Orcs.”

    Well, victory didn’t happen. (And I’ll point out that the Israeli mess in Palestine and Gaza is based on the same sloppy premises–knock over some Palestinians, run away, hope Hamas or Hezbollah doesn’t notice.)

    I’m reminded of the song made famous by Peggy Lee: Is that all there is? Is that all there is to U.S. elites?

    Just as a good interviewer asks a question that the interviewer already knows the answer to so as to keep control of the discussion, the U S government should have articulated a reason for the war. It couldn’t. It can’t. “Trump and Putin are gay lovers” isn’t enough, folks.

    Yet the U.S. and EU elites thought that war is self-executing: Provoke. Apply sanctions. Wait for collapse of the enemy. Make reservations at a five-star restaurant.

    It is the very banality of evil.

    1. Susan the other

      There is always a plan B. But it is light on its feet until best guesses are made about success. Plan B is so very in our face we can’t see it. Gaza. Gaza isn’t an ethnic rivalry. Nor was Ukraine. Ethnic rivalry always obfuscates the real goals which are the emerging geopolitical economic realities. That reality for Ukraine is to establish a separation between Western Europe and Eurasia economically. Unfortunately, Eurasia has all the oil. So, plan B: just a few days ago, after Iran had claimed to have no animosity against the Jews, but instead against Zionists, both Biden and Blinkin made public statements that they are Zionists. That was so astounding I almost could not believe I had heard it. It is profound in implication because it lays the foundation for establishing the Zionist state in the Middle East – from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, where most of the oil is. We sent a massive flotilla of nuke-armed ships to back Israel just to make sure everybody understood. Maybe our first objective here is to establish our demands so we can claim them in negotiations if everybody else chickens out. Probably by necessity, Plan B has to dwarf Plan A. And, imo, as irony would have it, it all hinges on who is the most unhinged.

    2. digi_owl

      Oh they have a reason for the war, but they can’t speak it in public because it does not benefit the masses. Instead they keep trying to present Putin as some Hitler clone going after the rainbows etc, something that is a nothing burger to the non-PMC that are going hungry and cold from massive spikes in inflation and fuel prices.

    3. ilsm

      What caused the special military operation?

      Path to Feb 2022 “invasion”.

      Color revolution Kiev Feb 2014. Crimea separation, West said Russia invasion from their local installations. Crimea plebiscite. Donetz, Lughanz secede, West claims Russian little green men. Ukraine government starts civil war, Donetz militia crush Ukraine attackers, Minsk I bail out Kiev, who start artillery war. Minsk I & II violated by West, arm up Kiev!

      Putin reacts as France should have over Rhineland in 1936.

      West coverage mainly narrative.

      Whether Kiev had Marshalled forces to invade Donbas or not, Feb 2022 makes a lot of defense sense for Putin and Russia

      Is anyone in U.S. EU trustworthy to not reprise Minsk style diplomatic sham?

  18. Tom Stone

    Stupid, incredibly arrogant people with the power to destroy the World are panicking.
    I may stop buying green bananas…

  19. kemerd

    I don’t think anyone in the west had ever considered the Ukrainian counteroffensive could succeed. Ukraine does not have air power and the NATO military thinking is based on air power. When you factor that in, the best they hoped for must have been killing a bit more Russians than usual while gaining some more time before Russians start pressing harder.

    Why, then, engage in such a futile enterprise? I am now very close to believing what Martyanov has been saying for a while that they are idiots hoping “something” to happen in the meantime.

      1. ilsm


        It is as if they thought Russia would fold like France, and the British in 6 weeks as in May 1940.

        Of the Germans only Hitler, and the tank war theorists like Guderian supposed that could happen, and Hitler also had Rommel, and several other hard soldiers in the tank army going through the Ardennes and grabbing crossings on the Meuse at Sedan…..

        In 1940 on the less expected flank, very little air superiority was needed.

        Only Hitler got away with acting on his own propaganda

        What bothers me most is if the Russians did not take them seriously we would be looking at several Ukraine breakthroughs getting tac nukes.

        My wonderment is how any of this from 2014, or the Belgrade bombing of 1999 could have led to nuclear war….

    1. chris

      Nope, the State Borg and similarly minded people in MD/DC/NoVA have always believed in complete victory. The best kind of grudging agreement I’ve been able to get when discussing facts was that the US was not winning. They will never agree that Russia is winning. They will never be able to handle the idea of the US being unable to win.

  20. Es s Ce tera

    Remember how, in Red October, the admiral said “The Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

    What can we say about the collective West….?

  21. HH

    I have come to the pessimistic conclusion that the failure of these neocon wars is not a bug, but a feature. Each debacle is another windfall for the U.S. war machine, and all it takes is pressing the button on the media amnesia machine to sweep away any accountability for lost lives and money (Afghanistan? Where is that?). Even defeat in a war against China might not be a problem for the neocon reign of error. The U.S. has become so detached from reality that only a massive economic and/or military blow could alter our ruinous course. As happened in Japan in the last century, militarism has poisoned our society. The results are predictable.

    1. digi_owl

      As long as the moats of Fortress America holds the asiatic hordes away from DC, nothing will change. Like some hermit crab they can retreat for some years and then try again once Hollywood has worked its magic to convince the masses that they actually won (at great patriotic sacrifice, so shut up about the MIC as you are pissing on everyone in uniform! /s).

  22. V V Gerasimov

    Over the past year+ John Michael Greer (the Archdruid) has written several very insightful articles at his ecosophia.net site on the subject of empires in collapse. A recurring theme is that as empires/civilizations collapse, the ruling elites/people cope by resorting to Magical Thinking. As the impact of disintegrating infrastructure and rapidly falling standards of living becomes more and more painful, people desperately seek relief by turning to whoever/whatever offers any hope of rescue, no matter how delusional or absurd that “cure” is in reality.

    An excellent example is the “Ghost Dance” phenomenon that swept through the Plains Indian tribes 1889-1891, with its promises to raise ancestral spirits to defeat the white encroachers and bring back the buffalo herds and restore the Plains culture to its former glory.

    Needless to say….

    The US Empire has long passed through the event horizon; its descent into the black hole of destruction cannot be reversed — or even slowed down — at this point.

    As that fate becomes more and more obvious (see the coming movie Civil War as a harbinger), expect more and more desperate Magical Thinking among the empire’s populace to try and deny the reality of the onrushing calamity.

  23. lambert strether

    In this war, to me, victory = the defeat and purging of The Blob. Removing that facehugger from our body politic is our only hope of safety and sanity. No sign of that yet, but it’s a “Pay me now, or pay me later”-style of thing; worse the longer it goes on.

    1. nippersdad

      I think that it is significant that the BBC has so thoroughly turned on Israel. It took about three minutes for the US to pick up on their reporting of Israeli hostages being shot by Israeli troops, and they are centering those hostages that were found in the rubble from the bombing of Gaza. I was just watching a BBC segment in which a US spook working for RUSI was stressing how involved Biden was in trying to rein in Netanyahu from the start, and last night there was a ludicrous story in Politico about how our intelligence services have been monitoring Israel’s war crimes since the beginning of the conflict. No mention why we are still arming them, though.

      Seeing as how British media are routinely used as the shock troops of our Blobs propaganda machine, it does actually look like we may be turning a corner. For once the Friedman Unit may be a measurement in our wars that has some degree of accuracy.

      1. digi_owl

        Interesting, as i think even the BBC partook in defaming Corbyn as antisemitic.

        Maybe there is hope for the old institution yet.

        1. nippersdad

          They did, but those protests in London must be making a mark. Perhaps the rationale is that if you cannot jail all of the “anti-semites” out there maybe you can act like you are joining them. For a little while, anyway.

          They found a parade and are determined to lead it.

  24. SocalJimObjects

    Remember Yanis Varoufakis, the acclaimed Game Theory expert and the way he negotiated with the Troika? Nowadays when I hear, “Game Theory expert”, I think of people who are good at playing video games :).

    Talking about Plan B, you don’t need one if you are playing with other people’s lands, other people’s lives, same thing with Wall St when they are playing with OPM.

    1. Michaelmas

      John von Neumann was the founder and begetter of game theory —

      — also of computers as we know them —

      — and nuclear weapons, too —

      — and much, much more besides. Have a full look at his wikipedia page. Geniuses like Hans Bethe and Eugene Wigner and Enrico Fermi said that being around von Neumann made them feel like getting a glimpse of what the next step in human evolution would be like.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Daniel Ellsberg was a top decision theorist and even came up with what is called the Ellsberg paradox.

      With all due respect to Varoufakis, any economist with the math chops to be a serious game theorist would not be doing economics.

  25. KLG

    What Lambert said. Anyway, I remember telling a fellow denizen of the PMC at the beginning of this war in Ukraine that Russia would win because they have all the food, oil, natural gas, industrial capacity, and resolve needed to win, that our “sanctions” would bounce off Russia like a tennis ball bouncing off the windshield of a 5-ton Russian truck. That the Russian Army is not to be trifled with. Also mentioned that Russia doesn’t have to sell high-end cars to the rest of the world to remain a going concern. And that since the Pentagon has contracted everything out over the past 30 years in the name of efficiency but really to make war profiteers rich, we have no capacity to fight a war, albeit a proxy war, against an equal. Halliburton is not equal to the 101st Airborne and Patton’s Third Army of 1944. My friend basically called me Putin’s Stooge for not viewing Russia and Putin as the Soviet Union and Stalin. I really think that is the basis of this particular psychosis. And even then, the USSR could have blown up the world, as we could have, but they were not the “existential” threat of the perfervid Cold War imagination. Russiagate nonsense prevails in the form of terminal TDS. And to echo what JBird wrote early in this thread, August marked the 78th year of the Pentagon’s losing streak against equivalent opponents. The truth, it hurts. On the whole, I would rather live in boring times.

  26. Rubicon

    The economist Dr. Michael Hudson started pointing out a year a half ago that BEFORE the destruction of Norstream, the Germany, Italy, others in the EU had been supplied with Russian Oil. Hudson explained this was the opening shot by the US Financial Powers to disable the EU/UK. HOW? With the attack against Russia, via Ukraine, ALL EU Nations had to find money to pay for the weapons supplied largely by the US armament factories.
    As a result- for the first time in our memory,Germany has a growing deficit along with France, Spain, etc. due to the armament they had to pay for.
    Now, we are seeing the first evidence of the EU/UK becoming “colonized” by the US. In Europe our friends are seeing the privatization of health care, even veterinary services and a cut back in wages, and social spending. See VOX in Spain: they are using the same playbook that the US started in the 70s-80s. in America. Pretty soon universities will be privatized, property will be swallowed up by Big US investors and their minions in the EU/UK. “The Hand Writing Is On The Wall.”

  27. Willow

    US can’t afford to be defeated in Ukraine otherwise they end up losing their geopolitical standing which will have dire consequences for their (Pentagon) primary aim of ensuring Taiwanese independence. An independent Taiwan critically constrains China’s access to the Pacific. (But clearly someone at State didn’t get the memo.) US will try and drag out a stalemate (unlikely to succeed) to 2024 election & next Taiwanese election in 2025. Biden will be thrown under the bus to save face & bide time with a new Dem nominee (TINA). But ultimately Ukraine will collapse within 12-18 months & US/Europe will run out of money even if things are maintained as a standstill. Long term West is fucked but may believe they can save some furniture in the near term.

    Very few people are able to perceive risk properly without learning via painful feedback. As memories of WW2 fade because people who have experienced the pain of loss are no longer here, people become to think of risk as ergodic where they don’t have to worry about absorbing barriers. Reality perceived as ‘war games’ that can be ‘rebooted’ in the event of a loss. Loss ends up being perceived as a shared inefficiency instead of an individual catastrophic end. Particularly for those who think they can socialise losses from their personal agendas/grievances.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The idea that Ukraine has anything to do with Taiwan is a Pentagon delusion, save that both prove the US is incapable of winning in peer conflicts. And unlike Ukraine, where we apparently gamed the tabletop exercises to show a Ukraine win, the US loses in every simulated war game with China.

      1. Willow

        It’s about the impact of Ukraine on Taiwanese sentiment. As the Chinese saying goes about the monkey taking note of what happens to the rooster. In this regard China has already won even before consideration of any military dimension.

        1. hk

          I am really curious how the Taiwanese are perceiving US promise of support in light of how things have turned out in Ukraine. It’s one thing to dislike Beijing. It’s another to self-immolate for a distant power’s desire to fight Beijing on the cheap–by sacrificing you.

          1. SocalJimObjects

            I live in Taiwan and I can tell you the people here are clueless about the state of war in Ukraine. Self immolate for another country? I don’t think that’s what Taiwanese people are thinking. In their imagination they will be fighting hand to hand with US and Japanese soldiers. Once the TSMC factories in the US AND Japan start operating at full capacity, this island will have no value to Western powers. “But they are producing the most advanced chips in Taiwan”, I am sure some will say, and that’s true, but it’s easy enough to fly the best engineers to Arizona when the time comes.

              1. SocalJimObjects

                Pretty much, although Taiwanese people will not identify with Nazism, all in all, the younger people here are pretty liberal and tolerant. Also, I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, compulsory military service was steadily reduced from 2 years back in 2000 to just 4 months 13 years later. Does that sound like an island who was living in fear of its bigger neighbor?

                Starting from next year though, young males of a certain age must serve a mandatory 1 year long active military service. If war were to break out, I think Taiwan will have its hands full just to put it mildly.

                Anyway, six months of blockade and Taiwan will surrender because the island is not self sufficient in terms of energy and food. Yours truly will be on the first flight out of here the moment things get real fishy.

          2. Wlliow

            In the 2022 Taiwanese municipality elections (which have mid-term qualities) post Pelosi visit the ruling party went backwards (record low from an already low base) so clearly no change in sentiment for the pro-independence stance.

            Given Cameron’s recent statement that a reunification of Taiwan is unacceptable indicates that West knows it’s losing the narrative with the Taiwanese. https://twitter.com/RnaudBertrand/status/1734579219261534447

      2. chris

        People who think China will let any aggressive foreign power control Taiwan are deluded. I can’t wait to see what shenanigans the State Borg and MIC come up with to attempt it. The hilarity that ensues is the only bright spot coming in that chaos.

  28. AG

    I might be alone with this here, but I would like argue that military victory in a strictly speaking sense is only one of the many variables counted in by the US when engaging RU in UKR.

    Noam Chomsky in one of the last appearances of Dan Ellsberg in Febr. repeated one of his own special analyses of the Vietnam War, which I think applies to Ukraine as well (and frankly to virtually every war since Korea):

    Vietnam might have been a defeat in a very narrow military sense. But the greater goal was to destroy the popular movement in Vietnam to deter any more democratic experiments of peoples who would not be willing to yield to any empire.

    The result was the successful destruction of the entire region. Same with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, now Ukraine. In every single case giant profits were generated for US companies and chaos was left to that region. Regions far far away from US shores.

    So laying havoc to your contender´s door-steps is US logic.

    In that model US MIC is merely a means to an end. This is what Kissinger was an essential part of. Or to again quote Chomsky: “There is not much Kissinger really understands, except the use of force. That he knows how to do.”

    Whether Ukraine wins (never in the cards) or not, is secondary. This was about subjugating Europe and turnig it into the fierce frontline of Russia and cause Russia to go into re-militarization. Both so far have worked out perfectly.

    p.s. Blogger “Skeptic” on his Substack last year pointed out, that the US Air Force could have easily dispatched 2000 or 3000 of its 12,000 fighting air force.

    That would have been an entirely different war. But they did not.

  29. Lambert Strether

    > a classic, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, has a model for analyzing military failures

    Here is 2017 post showing that shows an example of Gooch and Cohen’s “Matrix of Failure” method (France, 1940) and then applies it to politics: “Political Misfortune: Anatomy of Democratic Party Failure in Clinton’s Campaign 2016 (Part II).” If you look at the critical paths to failure in 2016, you will see that very little has changed.

    With regard to Gooch and Cohen, besides Gallipoli (1915), The Battle of the Atlantic (1942), Korea (1950), Battle of France (1940), they treat the Yom Kippur War (1973). I don’t have the book to hand, but IIRC, one of the key failures at the High Command level was called “The Concept(ion).” From another source, but making the same argument in the same terms:

    The Israeli Security Theory [“The Conception” ] was a widely-accepted mythos that Israeli security forces would have advanced notice of any impending attack and that until certain conditions were met, including the necessity of Egyptian air superiority and pan-Arab cooperation, Egypt would not dare to go to war against Israel.

    In fact, “the concept” was false, and strategic surprise for Israel was the result in 1973. I’m not a Middle East maven, but it does seem that a similar failure occurred on 10/7. Certainly better sourcing is possible, but this from the Royal School of International Studies (Singapore):

    On the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Hamas militant group launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza and sending ground units to breach highly fortified fences separating Gaza and Israel.

    This will go down in history as the one that diminished Israel’s deterrent value and the myth of Israel’s invincibility in the 21st century. It will spark years-long debates on the events and consequences surrounding the massive Hamas incursion.

    While the violence rages on, Israeli commentators are firing questions on the confluence of factors that might have led to the critical failures of Israel’s concepts of deterrence, early warning and rapid military response.

    Some of the questions ringing loud include the systemic failures of Israel’s intelligence community and its sophisticated early warning systems to detect Hamas’ operational plans in advance, Israel’s prolonged political fragmentation and internal protests that undermined military readiness, and why the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units deployed in the “Gaza Envelope” were overran [sic].

    Similar to the 1973 Yom Kippur war surprise, the Israeli political and military establishment has vastly underestimated its enemy’s resolve amid the cloud of Israel’s military-technological superiority, and political ideology to ignore Palestinian aspirations in a protracted and bloody conflict.

    In essence, the prevailing strategic thought was that there would be no such way for a Hamas force to break through the advanced Israeli intelligence networks, penetrate high-tech border sensors and barriers, and essentially storm into Israeli homeland, all under the cover of a massive missile barrage.

    The reality is that Hamas units have adapted to the IDF’s operational conduct and managed to effectively combine available high-tech with low-tech forms of warfare, and utilise the elements of many previous conflicts – turning their perceived strategic weakness into political advantage….

    The paralysis of the IDF in the early hours of the incursion are reminiscent of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, which caused tremors in the Israeli military establishment and society, leaving the entire inventory of IDF concepts in the dustbin.

    (One such concept being Bibi’s method of dividing the West Bank from Gaza to conquer the Palestinians by actually funding Hamas, and letting Palestinians through the checkpoints to work in Israel (rather as if they were a remittance population)).

    If true, this would mean that the Israeli elite failed just the same way (“failure to anticipate”) and for the same reasons both in 1973 and fifty years on. This is not unusual. From 2015:

    So, to recap, we’ve got a military that lit a trilllion dollars or so on fire and threw it into the air in the process of losing two wars, while firing no generals; and we’ve got a national security and a political class that looks on blankly, twiddling their fingers, whistling a little or occasionally humming, for what, thirteen years? while the smoking, bloody ball of severed limbs and torn metal rolls, gathering speed and size, downhill. This is imperial decadence of a Caligulan scale. To reframe the question posed by the headline: Do you want Caligula putting “boots on the ground” in Syria or Ukraine? Again, a rhetorical question marked with the particle num. Though I don’t know if there’s a Latin way to say “Not ‘No.’ Hell no!”… If I didn’t know better, I’d say we were setting ourselves up for a lot more self-licking ice-cream cones… On the narrow question of policy, yeah, we’d be nuts to send our military into either Ukraine or Syria. They’re losers. Worse, because they’re never held accountable for failure, we’d just be setting ourselves up for more losing, down the line.

    So it goes…

  30. Kristiina

    Very interesting conversation, thank you!

    The current situation concerning Russia and Putin looks a lot like a collective psychosis. We do not have good knowledge on how to cure mental illness, but we know that mental illness does not come out of the blue. Identical twin research has shown that schizophrenia will not appear when the genetically disposed have sufficiently safe and nurturing upbringing. Schizophrenia appears in the sibling who has home environment that is insecure. So there is something going on in our culture that disposes folks to drop out of reality into psychosis, either genuinely or as adaptation to perceived majority opinion. In precarious circumstances stories about a thousand-year reich help to make folks feel a little bit better. That works for people who are already off their moorings. An unfortunate method of coping in circumstances that feel beyond ones’ control.

    1. AG

      If I may muse on your psychosis analogy – CG Jung and Freud both made clear that their methods of Classic analysis (not psychiatry, which Freud knew little of and disliked) was fit only for patients from the upper class for 2 reasons:

      1) Working-class “ordinary” people could not conduct the kind of intellectual high-brow conversations that were the essence of their method due to lack of education.

      2) Usually only rich people had medical issues the analysis was in fact fit to cure.

      Both men knew the real ills of the soul of working-class masses were caused by social inequality and could not be cured by talking (merely covered up as is done since the 1970s) and would instead require a socialist revolution and the end of the market economy, to put it simply.

      Any of these forms of curable psychoses usually were a “prerogative” of the privileged. Working man had no time and opportunity to develop a nuanced life style to lose himself in that kind of sickness of the soul. He instead would die working, well before those nuanced other illnesses could be cultivated.

      To come back to the point Russia and Putin –

      the hair-raising intellectual stunts being performed to find explanations that neglect the obvious (Nordstream, Russiagate, Russian spies everywhere, Putin will die, Putin is Hitler, Banderistas are democrats, eventually the Orwellian concepts of doublethink, war=peace, slavery=liberty) are always results of the intellectual elite who turns the simple facts of life and poltitics into all sorts of falsifications, narratives, imaginations, falsehoods, acrobatic lies, inventive theoretical nonsense (Zizek e.g. or LETTRE INTERNATIONAL, many artists and scientists carried the torch for WWIII.)

      You have to first develop the skill to create such essayistic speculations clouding the truth in order to turn image into reality. People who are fighting to survive and look at things in the cold light of day initially won´t get those lies.

      They will instead ask “Why?” or “Is this true?”. But with a university degree it´s below you to state such primitive questions. You will attempt to look “behind” it. Because you have been trained to do so. It becomes second nature.

  31. TBone

    It’s easier to continue throwing money (BODIES) into a problem (MEAT GRINDER) than to accept that a new approach (WE’LL WIN IN 3 DAYS) is required, but in this case, Ukrainian (RUSSIAN) lives are continuing to be thrown away so long as the Zelensky (PUTIN) refuses to recommence peace talks (GTFO OF UKRAINE ) with Russia and the West remains hesitant to replace him so as to bring that about. Fixed it for ya but I can’t do strike through text here so I had to use parentheses.

    1. Pat

      No, you haven’t fixed it. Quite obviously you have missed that Russia doesn’t do things like the US. They quietly just keep getting it done. No shock and awe, declaration of victory and then a twenty year occupation of attrition until the other country kicks you out. That meat grinder is for Ukrainians. They have lost most of a generation either to war or running from it never to return and are now billions in debt to the US and Europe. And all because their leaders wouldn’t stop the persecution of Russian speaking Ukrainians and make an agreement with Russia to remain neutral. Instead they listened to idiots like Hillary Clinton, the Kagans, and eventually Joe Biden. None of whom gave a damn about Ukraine or what would happen to it in their quest to break up Russia by proxy. Which was always a pipe dream with no actual basis in reality. But those “sponsors” still want things to continue and Ukraine to be ground up, they just cannot help them much anymore. And having failed them those loans are probably not going to be written off but used as a weapon against them. In truth, a peace deal with Russia, and building an alliance there is their best hope.

      But you keep believing Hillary I am proud of instigating the destruction of Libya Clinton and Genocide Joe about…well anything but especially Russia.

  32. Lex

    Plan B’s are for realists and there aren’t any of those in positions of influence in the US. Hell, Plan A was essentially a pitch deck in terms of depth and detail. The problem now is that in western leadership circles it’s impossible to admit mistakes so they go uncorrected. Some of them you can walk away from and pretend like they never happened, Ukraine won’t be one of those.

    1. St Jacques

      You think so? The Clown of Kyiv is ready made for the blame game: “we gave him wonderwuffen but he didn’t read the instructions, etc, etc“. He’s the fall guy-in-waiting if there ever was one.

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