NATO Freakout Over Crumbling Ukraine Military: Poland Threatens US with Nuclear Development if No Aid Package

Admittedly the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is rabidly anti-Russian. Fortunately, there does not seem to be much mainstream Anglosphere press amplification of his remarks at the UN last Friday and his follow-up comments to Bloomberg and CNN. As we’ll see, they are based on the barmy idea that Russia will roll up Poland after fully eating up Ukraine. So Poland is threatening the US that if it does not keep pouring money into the Ukraine black hole, NATO members will have to take matters into their own hands by getting nukes.

As we’ll discuss soon, the vehemence of Sikorski’s comment seems triggered not just by the House’s refusal to approve $61 billion for Ukraine, but also the spectacle of the Ukraine forces starting to crumble with a defeat that at the end turned into a rout in Adiivka.

In a recent post, we considered the question of how Russia seemed vanishingly unlikely to defeat its ultimate opponent, the US and NATO, in the Ukraine proxy war, and what that could mean for how Russia prosecutes the Ukraine war. Recall the Clausewitz standard:

War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.

While NATO members may eventually settle down into what Aurelien calls epic sulking, Sikorski’s remarks illustrate that the most ferociously ant-Russian NATO members, Poland and the Baltic states, will continue to whip up fears of Russian invasion and sapping of precious bodily fluids.

And could they do more than just bark at Russia? As we’ll discuss, Poland’s current and likely near-term support of the Ukraine conflict may Russia in a tricky position and could even affect how it paces the war.

First, let’s look at what Sikorski said1:

Recall that Sikorski, who at the time was not in the Polish government, thanked the US for the destruction of the NordStream pipelines.

His recent remark is not a direct threat but it still is awfully specific. Fortunately, Poland and the Baltic states are not well positioned to move it forward: Wikipedia does not list any of them as having nuclear reactors. Nevertheless, Sikorski’s remarks about nuclear weapons make for a jarring contrast with Poland’s position in opposition to nuclear power being include in the EU “green finance taxonomy”.

Sikorski’s threat display demonstrates that Ukraine defeat at Adiivka has punctured the very large propaganda balloon about inevitable Ukraine victory. For one-stop shopping, Similicius the Thinker has an excellent sitrep that is very heavy on Western news coverage, with alarmed headlines from virtually all major outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, The Hill, Politico, ABC.

In concert with downbeat official statements, many reports did not try to pretty up the fact that the Ukraine forces crumbled in Adiivka, by highlighting the capture of troops and the disorderly evacuation, aka rout. Moreover, the press is also covering unsightly realities like the exhaustion and demoralization of Ukraine forces, the losses they have suffered, and even the almost medieval conditions in the trenches.

But Sikorski’s belligerent talk is in keeping with the assessment of Politica’s morning European newsletter, that the posturing greatly exceeds the ability to do much:

LEADERS’ SUMMIT IN PARIS: Some 20 European leaders are meeting today at the Elysée Palace for a hastily convened summit in support of Ukraine….

Their goal? Getting their mojo back to help Ukraine win against Russia’s advancing troops….

Words vs. actions: The problem with the EU’s enthusiastic support? To date, the rhetoric hasn’t been matched with sufficient ammunition and weapons deliveries — with North Korea and Iran sending more ammo to Russia than the entire EU has to Ukraine….

But many Europeans are gloomy: Without action to back it up, the Elysée is increasingly alone in its optimism. Only one in 10 Europeans think Ukraine can win, according to a recent poll….

The question European leaders will need to answer: Are they prepared — and willing — to step in and make up for a flagging U.S.?.

A careful reader will notice that this is just a new version of the old “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian” strategy, that the EU is at best intending to send more weapons when its and the US’ deliveries were not enough to overcome Russian forces. A new analysis, republished in TASS, dutifully recounts how Western weaponry in the famed summer counter-offensive greatly exceeded what Russia brought to that fight. Of course, there is the wee matter that the West provided almost nada in the way of air support, which is considered in the sort of doctrinal offensive that the US and NATO ginned up. And among other failings, they also appeared not to have contemplated Russia mining their too-clearly-announced line of attack, and then quickly mining behind the advancing forces, so they suffered more losses when retreating.

And the “do more of what so far has failed” not only does not acknowledge that Western weapons cupboards are looking mighty bare, but also, as Scott Ritter and Brian Berletic have pointed out, disparate EU weapons systems, like a multiplicity of tanks, creates a logistical nightmare, so the value of those arms is blunted by the complications in deploying and sustaining them. And there is the elephant in the room: that Ukraine has long ago run out of the ability to shanghai conflict-capable men, and has taken to press-ganging the unfit (in age and intellect) and is also conscripting women. The media has chosen to focus much more on shrinking weapons supplies, but has increasingly started to include more mentions of the manpower shortage, particularly of anyone with a modicum of experience.

However, second, there is a more immediate and serious cause for concern. The US and EU member states still keep moving up the escalation ladder with Russia as Project Ukraine founders. And a move that had seemed unduly provocative may now be under serious contemplation, as in having nominally Ukraine-piloted F-16s attack Russia, potentially out of NATO states. Jens Stoltenberg has also just announced that NATO is on board with Kiev attacking targets “outside Ukraine,” aka in Russia, so long as the target has been approved, presumably meaning colorably military. From the Financial Times:

Ukraine has the right to strike “Russian military targets outside Ukraine” in line with international law, the Nato secretary-general has said for the first time since the start of the full-scale war nearly two years ago.

Jens Stoltenberg earlier this week acknowledged that the use of western-supplied arms to strike targets in Russia had long been a point of contention among Kyiv’s allies, due to fears of escalating the conflict….

A Nato official confirmed to the Financial Times on Thursday that Stoltenberg said Kyiv had the right to self-defence, including by striking legitimate Russian military targets outside Ukraine….

In recent months Kyiv has stepped up strikes on military targets inside Russia with drones and long-range missiles, including an oil depot used by the Russian army near St Petersburg.

However, due to western sensitivities around attacks on Russian territory, Ukraine has only ever alluded to its responsibility. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s air defence forces, Yuriy Ignat, said that Ukraine “as a rule, does not comment”.

France and the UK, which have already supplied Kyiv with long-range missiles, have been cautious about endorsing such strikes for fear of escalation with Moscow.

Russia had said a long time ago that any use of foreign materiel or bases in an attack on Russia would amount to an act of war and Russia would respond.

But Russia has not treated this line as hard and fast. That is likely because that Ukraine and its NATO helpers have bothered with creating a veneer of deniability with these attacks, for instance depicting some as the doing of dissidents in Russia. It’s also close to conventional for major powers to send little green men in to “advise” pet state actors and as we know all too well from the Middle East, sponsor terrorists as long as we like their choice of enemies.

But Russia is well aware of transgressions. Precision targeting almost certainly means US/NATO assistance. Many of the weapons platforms, such at the Patriot, are difficult to master and thus are pretty certain to be operated in large measure by NATO “volunteers”.

Foreign mercenaries have been active in Ukraine. Russia has even been credited with striking gatherings of NATO “advisers.” In his recent Tucker Carlson interview, Putin mention that, in order, Polish, Georgian and US mercenaries are most active in Ukraine. Per Alexander Mercouris 9see at 1:16:15), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu briefed Putin that the Ukraine war effort was being run by the West, out of Poland (presumably based on this session. Note I have been unable to find a transcript or an English subtitled version).

Let’s put this in context of the state of play. Many of the panicked reports describe that Ukraine really will run out of many critical weapons, at least relative to the level needed to prevent catastrophic losses, starting at the end of March. The most important is air defense, which is reportedly set to dry up then. This is far and away the biggest potential casualty: with Russia having total control of the skies, it could take out many more targets.

Mind you, experts point out that even if the US $61 billion were approved in early March, it’s not clear how much the US could deliver quickly given its depleted stocks. Zelensky want to acquire Patriot missiles, which are already in short supply.

But the $61 billion is also reported to be necessary to fund Ukraine’s much anticipated mass conscription, which has yet to be approved. Ukraine, which has its own currency, certainly could “print” if it wanted to to finance the initiative. One assumes the actual constraint is political: that without ongoing Western support, Ukraine would suffer mass upheaval as citizens rebelled against throwing yet more men and now even women into the meat grinder. The government apparently judges that there is not enough Banderite muscle to compel compliance in the absence of Western backing.

However, the Financial Times, consistent with earlier accounts, warns that the NATO forces are seriously contemplating at least two avenues of attack directly on Russia:

In Germany, lawmakers are seeking to persuade Chancellor Olaf Scholz to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine, a long-standing demand from Kyiv as it could use the advanced German weapon to strike Russia’s supply lines.

The government’s parliamentary majority on Thursday was set to approve a motion asking Scholz to deliver “additional long-range weapons systems” to Kyiv, which many take to mean Taurus. The German missile has a slightly longer range than its French and British equivalents and is more sophisticated against reinforced structures, such as bunkers and bridges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted last year that Moscow could strike western-supplied F-16s outside Ukraine’s borders, which he said risked bringing Nato into a direct conflict with Russia. “This seriously risks dragging Nato further into this armed conflict,” Putin said in June.” The tanks are burning and the F-16s will burn just as well.”

The pink paper is being coy about F-16s. It is not just that they would be Western-supplied. They would almost certainly have to operate from airbases outside Ukraine, since the require pristine runaways and Russia could make sure there weren’t any. Poland appears to be too far from Russia (even Crimea) for the F-16 to launch attack anywhere that might raise Russia’s hackles. But Romania might be plausible for continuing to attack the Donbass. Readers?

Now it may be between the distance to Russia proper and the low likelihood that the F-16s would be effective even if they got that far that Russia is more worried in principle than practice. Scott Ritter has said that an F-16 would be visible to Russia upon takeoff and the odds of a pilot returning alive was 20%.

However, many commentators have taken note of the current uncomfortable resemblance of the current conflict to the runup to World War I, including a plethora of incompetent leaders and key officials. Many contend that no one wanted a big war (which is an exaggeration; there were interests that wanted a fight) and that conflict blew big due to a series of miscommunications and misreadings, plus rigid treaty obligations.

So Russia is no doubt mindful of the risk that the West could do something colossally stupid, as in mount a serious enough attack on Russia to protect its amour propre that Russia would be compelled to retaliate against an offending NATO member.

This is a long-winded set-up to an amendment to the view of the earlier post, which argued that Russia had ample reasons to move slowly even when the Ukraine military started imploding: the need to do first things first (fully capture and clear all the oblasts that joined Russia), see what the progress of economic and political collapse implied for the best next steps. and the lack of a real need to move rapidly.

We also stressed that the principle of “Do not make sudden moves around crazy people” also argued for a measured approach.

But if the NATO powers look determined to inflict damage on Russia, even if that would be unproductive to counterproductive, that could suggest a need to move faster, not necessarily in terms of territorial acquisition (occupying terrain is costly and would add to the Collective West freakout) but the pace of destruction of the Ukraine military. Heads exploding across NATO-sphere suggests Russia might want to take maximum advantage of the soon-to-open window of Ukraine being badly undersupplied, most of all on the critical air defense front. Simplicius gives a very good description of how Russia is now punching Ukraine from multiple directions, regularly catching Western planners off guard and disproving the claim that in the brave new world of ISR, surprise is impossible.

Simplicius and other point out that Russia has been concentrating forces, both in the Zaporzhizhia area and has been reversing the meager gains of the great Ukraine counteroffensive, and also has troops buildups not just near Kharkiv but also Sumy. The map-watchers so far think they are not big enough for a big arrow offensive.

But it does mean Russia would not find it hard to feed a great many more men into positions opposite the already-bucking line of contact. And a decisive collapse might persuade the West it had no good countermoves save licking its wounds and trying to foment terrorism within Russia, a la the IRA in England.

In other words, it seems possible that Russia could kick its operations into a higher gear than otherwise necessary to protect the West from itself.


1 Sikorski’s remarks at the UN, which then led to a round of press interviews:

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes but they appear to come by their extreme views independently. As in it does not seem likely that either would be more moderate if married to someone else. And remember that Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, is also fervently anti-Russian, albeit less prone to provocative outbursts.

  1. Froghole

    As ‘Mr Applebaum’, Sikorski is the Transatlantic neoliberal neocon from Central Casting. As such, any of his pronouncements should be discounted immediately as dubious, but also taken Very Seriously, because they express clearly the overriding objectives of the Biden Administration and Brussels alike. His interventions in the Brexit debate, which often descended to the level of mud-slinging (as did those of Tusk), were memorable. However, it will be enjoyable to see how he struggles with the growing economic dissonance between the US and EU. I suspect he will double down on his rhetoric, and will deflect Europe’s socio-economic travails onto China and Russia.

    1. The Rev Kev

      In that linked video of Sikorski at the UN, it was mostly just one lie after another and it almost got tedious to listen too. You wonder how he would feel if the idea came up of an Anschluss between Poland and the Ukraine as he thinks that the later is so great. Poland may be making noises about getting nukes but they should remember that two years ago Zelensky was making noises about getting nukes too at the Munich Conference. That did not go well. In any case, I doubt that DC will let Poland get nukes as it would not be in their interests to do so as the Poles would not be so dependent on the US.

    2. playon

      I wonder how much of this is him playing to the home crowd in Poland? Politicians enjoy talking tough.

      Props for the inclusion of the Dr. Strangelove clip!

    3. JonnyJames

      “Sikorski is the Transatlantic neoliberal neocon from Central Casting” Cheers! we need more witty humor nowadays. Might as well have a good laugh…

      (neocons: aka textbook pencil-necked, bed-wetting cowards who like to talk tough to compensate for deep-seated feelings of physical and/or intellectual inadequacy) I’m no psychologist, but there must be a diagnosis for this disorder.

    1. Uncle Doug

      They are always wrong, but they never admit it. And, as Mercouris keeps reminding us, they have no reverse gear.

          1. ex-PFC Chuck

            You’ve got to admit, however, there’s one thing the neocons excel at. And that is keeping a tight hold on the levers of power and pushing any competitors away.

            1. CA

              You’ve got to admit, however, there’s one thing the neocons excel at. And that is keeping a tight hold on the levers of power and pushing any competitors away.

              [ Importantly so; seemingly becoming more so. ]

              1. Jams O'Donnell

                Interestingly enough, there is an article in todays UK ‘Guardian’ which says that contrary to previous thinking, females are psychopaths to the same extent/proportion as men. Which possibly sheds an interesting light on H. Clinton, V. Nuland and that ugly woman whos name I can’t remember who glossed-over the deaths of millions of Iraqi children.

                1. JonnyJames

                  The deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of US siege warfare, “we think the price is worth it”. Easy to say when she didn’t have to pay any price, and it wasn’t her children or family killed.

                  Of course, women can be warmongering sociopaths too. HRC, Vicki Nuland, Condoleeza Rice, Margaret Thatcher, Madeleine Albright, Niki Haley…

                2. Giovanni Barca

                  Madeleine Albright. Ain’t too proud to gloat over her demise. In fact I broke into song in a Saginaw Walmart at the news.

          2. ilsm

            Strob Talbot and Mrs (Kagan) Nuland were installed at DoS by Pres Clinton in 1993, when the move NATO east despite all reason began.

  2. CA

    Admittedly the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is rabidly anti-Russian. Fortunately, there does not seem to be much mainstream Anglosphere press amplification of his remarks at the UN last Friday and his follow-up comments to Bloomberg and CNN. As we’ll see, they are based on the barmy idea that Russia will roll up Poland after fully eating up Ukraine. So Poland is threatening the US that if it does not keep pouring money into the Ukraine black hole, NATO members will have to take matters into their own hands by getting nukes…

    [ Tolstoy described the intense, religion-based hatred of Russians of prominent Poles. Tolstoy wrote:

    Quos vult perdere dementat. *

    * Those whom (God) wishes to destroy he drives mad. ]

  3. Polar Socialist

    I doubt even the most rabid US warmongers would allow Poland to have nuclear weapons. That would get them out of the leash and raise significantly the risk of US actually being involved in a nuclear war, while now people die far, far away. I expect Sikorski to retire soon.

    It must be a bitter pill to swallow when you realize the “friend” you put your neck out for wasn’t actually a friend but just using you to get to your kin. Even if you knew that the dude always throws away folk like you like an old shoe… you weren’t special, after all.

    1. gk

      “I doubt even the most rabid US warmongers would allow Israel to have nuclear weapons.”

      That’s good to know.

  4. meadows

    Neocon Modus Operandus Summation:

    …delusional extreme view hegemony
    …always wrong
    …never apologetic
    …doubling down (no reverse gear)

    I think the commentariat has nailed it down…

    1. Hastalavictoria

      Russia has always appeared to be very rational,methodical and calculating i.e.It’s traditional approach.Perhaps it’s time for Russia itself to throw a lttle bit of it’s own crazy into the mix?

      Dima mentioned yesterday the German Foreign Minister was in Odessa and that Taurus may have already been agreed.Perhaps now is the time to stop giving visiting dignitaries a free pass? A little reminder that they also may have ‘skin in the game’ via a missile going astray would not come amiss to those who have been happily sending thousands to their deaths.

      1. Feral Finster

        Of course, the sociopaths in the West see Russian moderation not as reasonableness or humanitarianism, but a contemptible weakness.

        They certainly show no qualms about escalating while Russia dithers, and, yes, Taurus is baked in the cake.

        That Russia allows so many western politicians to swan in and out of Ukraine for photo-ops is depressingly telliing.

      2. ZenBean

        that Taurus may have already been agreed.

        Today, Scholz explicitly stated that Taurus will not be delivered to Ukraine because it risks drawing Germany directly into the war. He is a compromised, weak leader in a coalition with deranged ultra-hawks. But that’s the kind of statement it’s hard to walk back from. They would have to force him to resign or to break up the coalition to hand over the missiles.

      3. XXYY

        Russia has always appeared to be very rational,methodical and calculating

        I always think it’s extremely relevant that USSR/Russia puts out a tremendous number of world class chess players, and that chess is pretty much a national sport, even for people of a very young age.

        Chess requires patience, focus, high tolerance for complexity, willingness to study your competitors and have respect for them, and a very strong desire to win (expressed in a low key way!). In other words, the qualities of a high-performing military strategic planning corps and general staff.

        The US, in contrast seems to prefer violent ground acquisition games that are over in an hour or two.

      4. Lobotryas

        What would be the benefit for Russia to do this? None.

        Russia is playing the “straight man” to GAE’s insanity. All it needs to do is stand back while the West self destructs.

      5. Cine Tee

        That reasonableness has been a debilitating weakness for Russia’s navigation of post-Soviet western geopolitics. Playing the “straight man” may make Putin popular in the “global south” but also makes him incapable of projecting power to the western public.

        Either his west-worship, which he hasn’t quite exorcised himself of, in fact it seems it has just turned into west-resentment, or his aversion of old Soviet methods have prevented him from participating in world power in ways that soviet Russia was actually good at. We’re potentially headed toward WW3 or nuclear war because Russia is playing it straight in a very political world.

        What would Stalin, or Khrushchev, or Brezhnev, or even Medvedev with a free hand do? Any number of geopolitical (emphasis on political,) moves that the US neocons would have no trouble being creative about. Moves which the western public understands and can’t be veiled by the western propaganda. As has already been suggested by a Russian MP, Russia could deploy (or threaten) nukes to Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. It could semi-ambiguously offer hyper-sonic technology to Iran. Or semi-overtly suggest at providing missile technology to NK. Open a real base in Niger and claim Africa free from the old empires. Make close economic friends in South America. If Russia acted like a superpower again, the western public can respect that.

        But what Russia has accomplished in western politics so far was to make a semi-legal invasion, then allow itself to be turned into whatever boogeyman western intelligence captured media wants to make of them, and then be completely helpless in it. That would be fine if they could end the war the way they did in Chechnya, but in Ukraine, they’ve ruffled western feathers that they don’t seem capable or willing to deal with politically. Russia’s choice of the military road only is allowing the west’s militaristic factions to dominate the politics. As in the WWI comparison, we may be heading for a WW3 that nobody wants and all sides, including Russia, are diligently working toward.

  5. Aurelien

    I read this as a cry for help and a wail of existential despair. No country in Europe, except probably Germany, has the capability to build a nuclear warhead in any reasonable timeframe, let alone the guidance and delivery system integration. This is just the last in a long line of prayers for a miracle weapon, a ring of power that will allow the good guys to triumph in the face of evil blah blah. It’s an index of how desperate the situation actually is.

    As for the rest, it’s not impossible that F16s could fly out of Rumania and launch missiles that might possibly strike Russian targets, but everybody accepts this would be purely symbolic. A reasonable policy for the Russian s would be just to knock them down before they got anywhere, whilst publicly keeping the option of striking back at Rumanian territory, as a form of intimidation.

    1. vao

      No country in Europe, except probably Germany, has the capability to build a nuclear warhead in any reasonable timeframe, let alone the guidance and delivery system integration.

      You mean, not even France?

      1. Polar Socialist

        On that vein, Russia and UK (ok, they didn’t make theirs) are also in Europe. But I assume Aurelien was referring to those countries that don’t have them already.

        1. JW

          The UK can’t use theirs without prior approval of US. Not sure about France, they would publicly say not , but in reality….

          1. Aurelien

            No, the UK has invested massively in a firing chain that is under national control as have the French. Politically who knows? But if things get that far you are down to national survival.

            1. JonnyJames

              Yes, and “down to national survival” is a bit of an oxymoron. Or, maybe nuclear war/nuclear winter can mitigate climate change and overpopulation. It’s a win-win!

            2. Michaelmas

              Aurelien: No, the UK has invested massively in a firing chain that is under national control .

              It’s more complicated than that. And worth understanding because the history of the nuclear relationship between the UK and US is the Special Relationship, which thus turns out not — as widely assumed — to be merely the UK’s delusion that they matter to Washington when poodledom is their true status.

              The essentials: –

              [1] In 1940 the possibility of nuclear weapons was recognized by the UK’s MAUD Committee and in August 1941 the UK’s nuclear bomb development program, the Tube Alloys project, was approved by Winston Churchill and officially commenced.


              [2] In July 1940, the UK also offered the US access to its research, and the Tizard Mission’s John Cockcroft briefed American scientists and discovered that US research wasn’t as advanced as the UK’s. In October 1941, partly because of UK input, Roosevelt gave the order to commence the Manhattan Project, and Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to correspond on nuclear matters.


              [3] In 1943-44 the UK transferred the Tube Alloys scientists and research to the US and placed them under the umbrella of the Manhattan Project, on the basis that the collaboration’s results would be shared between both parties (the Hyde Park agreement).


              [4] In 1945, Truman succeeded Roosevelt in the US and Attlee succeeded Churchill. Truman and the US reneged on the nuclear deal with the UK, despite Attlee sending Washington a photocopy of the Hyde Park Agreement.

              The US then passed the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (McMahon Act) officially ending cooperation and sharing of data on nuclear matters with the UK. In some cases, UK scientists were denied access to papers they had recently written.


              [5] The UK then developed and exploded its own independent A-bomb in 1952 and its own H-bomb in 1958.

              [6] Thereupon, the US then said, “Oh, we’ve now found the Hyde Park agreement where it fell down the back of Roosevelt’s sofa” and signed the US–UK Mutual Defense Agreement on nuclear weapons cooperation.


              Under this agreement, the UK builds its own nuclear warheads and uses for their delivery system US-built submarine-launched missiles — first Polaris, then Trident.

              So, as Aurelien says, the UK has nominally invested in a firing chain that is under UK national control. But ….

              [7] Fast forward to 2024 and in two recent tests of those US-built Trident missiles —

              Trident missile test fails for second time in a row

              So the question becomes: What’s the good of investing massively in a nuclear firing chain under UK national control if Lockheed Martin’s US-built delivery system is unreliable junk?

              1. ChrisPacific

                I don’t think targeting accuracy for nukes is all that important. Chances are just the launch would be enough to trigger nuclear escalation. Once enough of them are in the air, it really won’t matter that much where they land.

              2. Aurelien

                This has been the case since the Macmillan government’s decision in the 1960s, following the US, to go for the Polaris system. But the UK has always built its own warheads and has invested massively over the years in the capability to launch its own systems if necessary. This is for political reasons as much as anything else, so that it can discuss issues like warhead technology with the US on a reasonably equal footing. Obviously, the system is dependent on the missile working, but that’s true with any system. The French SSBN force operates missiles made in France, but they still have to actually work.

    2. upstater

      Russia can knock aircraft like the SU24 or F16 down before they launch long range weapons… much of the time. But some planes launch missiles that get through.

      The other issue is the limited number of A50 AWACS that Russia has available. They allow identification of over horizon threats. Russia does not announce hull losses, but supposedly two have been lost in a matter of weeks. The aircraft and crew are not easily replaced.

      Biden will do everything to avoid collapse before the election. Expect very reckless behaviors.

      1. Polar Socialist

        In order to reach the maximum range the air-launched missiles have to launched at relatively high speed at relative high altitude [where a) air is thinner so less resistance b) the missile has the boost of the platform from the get go]. Russian Nebo-M radar can pick high flying aircraft anywhere in Ukraine and relay the data to any and all AA batteries from Pantsir to S-500.

        As far as I know, neither Russian or Ukrainian MoD has commented in any way the recent alleged shot down of the A-50. Ukrainska Pravda picked the claim up from an obscure TG channel and then it spread everywhere.

    3. Tom67

      Until 1990 Germany was a “latent” nuclear power. Latent in the sense it would have taken no more than several month to build a bomb. Remember those Iranian centrifuges to enrich Uranium? These are actually a German invention from the Fifties and Sixties in the Kernforschungszentrum Jülich. The Nonproliferation treaty was conceived with Germany and Japan in mind. Both countries forewent the bomb in return to have access to all nuclear technology and both became “latent” nuclear powers.
      As part of unification Germany had to give up her most advanced nuclear facilites (Nukem and Alkem) which were shipped to Russia. Most likely the insane closure of her last atomic plants was the end of German involvement in any kind of nuclear technology. Coincidence or not, the closures happened together with the blowing up of the Nordstream pipelines. Both – the end of any energy cooperation with Russia and the closure of German nuclear plants – had been long term demands of the Greens who are the foremost representatives of US foreign policy in Germany.

  6. ilsm

    What does Sikorski worry USA won’t destroy the world for his angst against the Tsar?

    The life span of a Cossack straggler in “Poland” was brief if you did not count the torturing! A lot of ‘history’ between whatever was “Poland” around Prussia and the Tsars.

    Sikorski is looking for a “1947 moment” from the USA where it would commit to 7% of US GDP to stop the Tsar!

    $61 billion US largesse for Kiev is an outrage against common sense!

    1. CA

      “What does Sikorski worry, that USA won’t destroy the world for his angst against the Tsar?”

      This was just the sense of the Polish religion-driven, Russian-disdaining, elite that Tolstoy described. Imagine the sense of foreboding that Russians had when the US decided to place missile systems in Poland:

      August 15, 2008

      Russia Lashes Out on Missile Deal

      WASHINGTON — The United States and Poland reached a long-stalled deal on Thursday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, in the strongest reaction so far to Russia’s military
      operation in Georgia.

      1. ilsm

        Aegis ashore, Poland and Rumania, uses vertical launcher as on USN ships. They can load cruise missile with nuclear warheads.

        Russia’ complaint.

        1. Polar Socialist

          To be honest, USA claimed it was not possible to launch nuclear tipped Tomahawks from them because reasons. I believe it took something like two weeks after USA withdraw from the INF to test that it indeed was possible, after all. Who could have known?

  7. Feral Finster

    Found on internet:

    Todays news:

    “…Several Nato and EU members considering sending soldiers to Ukraine, Slovak PM says

    Reuters reports that several Nato and European Union members are considering sending soldiers to Ukraine on a bilateral basis, Slovak prime minister Robert Fico said on Monday…….”

    Now of course this is because the U.S. government is telling them to send their children to die in Ukraine.

    So much for and idea that the this sacrifice will prompt any self reflection or a change of course.

    But then again Snowden could have told you that up front, 10 years after he sacrificed the life he knew.

    1. JonnyJames

      Speaking of sacrifice and persecution: Julian Assange is still rotting in solitary at max sec. HMP Belmarsh. His health is so bad, he could not even appear at the latest appeal hearing. It was Assange and Wikileaks who helped Snowden escape the clutches of the empire. Otherwise, he might be in a similar situation.

  8. AG

    Regarding Poland stationing WMDs I wrote a question on the very helpful WMDs blog “STRATDELA” Newsletter.
    The response by D. Stefanovich was:

    “Nothing so far in practical terms. But I imagine Poland will be becoming more and more involved in conventional support for US/NATO nuclear operations.”

    Regardless of WMD redderick in the West whipped up by the media, I would still argue that the highest echelons of NATO and the Pentagon so far tread carefully with WMDs. The AWACS almost shot down over the Black Sea fall ´22 was one warning sign for all parties.

    So in this question I would really distinguish between public mad projection and the internal processes. Nukes are nukes. And the people responsible know this. Of course that personnel you will never encounter in any media publication.

    I also remember, Yves Smith on the occasion of the shot-down missile over Polish territory, stressed correctly the fact that NATO had immediately countered any Polish Art. 5 rhetoric.

    It is true of course, that RU is in a difficult position: She is aware that 2025/26 increasing military support could create more obstacles for the war conducting effort against UKR. UKR possibly may never be as weakened as by mid/end of 2024.

    On the other hand the question for RU is in how far Kiev would be responding in more cooperative fashion if RU scaled back with SMO.

    Mark Sleboda doesn´t believe Kiev will ever give up.

    Historian Nicolai Petro however argues that peace could eventually end up in the hands of Kiev and Moscow only. With the US content with EU in the cahoots spending more on arms and separating from RU. Which were the main goals.

    Why then risk annihilation.
    But for a sane public now is certainly an early inflection point to resist any European moronic behaviour re: the bomb. Which, of course, is not a new idea. It was floated around in the 1950s until JFK shut it down.

    1. ilsm

      The nuclear tripwire for USA is in Poland?

      In my Cold War day we supposed it was somewhere west of the Fulda gap.

  9. LawnDart

    Shifting the focus to F-16s? This could be part of the reason (and your lack of surprise is expected):

    American tanks Abrams disgraced and « escaped » from Ukraine

    At one time, the media and various military bloggers talked a lot about the American Abrams M1A1 and what effect they would have on the course of the SVO, being on the line of combat contact. Apparently, they could not fulfill anything worthwhile there.

    Unofficial evidence from some military-corporal television channels suggests that the experience of using American tanks Abrams M1A1 in Ukraine is recognized by NATO as unsatisfactory…

    According to military equipment, the soils characteristic of Ukraine were too difficult to overcome the heavy Abrams. In addition, the prospects for the full use of the combat vehicle were reset by the total deficit of aviation kerosene, which is required for the operation of its gas turbine engine. Because of this, American tanks moved around the country 404 mainly on tractors…

    In the end, this story is tired of the NATO command and that’s it American tanks are currently allegedly taken to Poland and will then go to Germany.

    1. ilsm

      The turbine in Abrams can run road diesel, might need filters more often.

      Abrams like other 60 toners need heavy road bridges! Treads too thin tread psi weight too much. But this is winter frozen turf should be good to go.

      F-16 could launch JDAM, and laser guided munitions but would expose to variety of AD.

      Air to air EU F-16 do not have necessary updates to fire control, unless USA rushes it, if new smaller system is ready.

      Aerial refueling would be needed, and give AD big hint they are in bound. So Ukraine needs KC 135 or KC 130, too.

  10. Glen

    So this will sound very cynical, but if one examines what it takes to get overwhelming government support in America, Poland may be able to get enhanced American support by selling it’s public lands and infrastructure to Wall St and PE hedge funds, and privatize it’s prison system, selling it to the American companies that sell prison labor. The Uniparty will dump billions to Poland to protect American oligarch’s investments.

    I’ll be honest, this “cure” may be way worse than the “disease” so it may also be smart to just do something really radical like talk/negotiate with Russia.

  11. KD

    Sikorski is essentially admitting the obvious: NATO has lost its credibility as a conventional military deterrent. If Russia went into Poland, Poland could expect a re-play of the Ukraine experience. The US or France or UK are not going to sacrifice DC/Paris/London to play nuclear footsies with Russia over Warsaw, so Poland is dependent on the kindness of strangers. There are not enough trained combat forces and hardware to support troops in NATO to win a war with Russia, not without striping security commitments in the ME and SE Asia. After all, the US is about to be supporting Israel’s Total War Crusade against Hezbollah and Syria soon, not to mention the cleansing of Jerusalem. What if North Korea starts rolling South, or there is turmoil in the Taiwan Straits? Greater US/NATO commitment in Eastern Europe is likely to result in opportunistic attacks on US hegemony/interests in other regions. If you are declaring victory on the basis of your four-flush, you cannot afford to turn over all your cards.

    Another hypothetical–Ukrainian nationalists realize they picked the wrong side and flip. They need an enemy, and without Russia, its obviously Poland. So not only do you have a Russian security concern, but what if the Russians arm the Ukrainian new order to fight a proxy war with NATO by invading Poland? You could say that is paranoid, but that is what Neo-Cons do, and they expect their enemies to do the same back.

    Any security Poland experiences is going to be due to kindness of the Russians in the absence of a Polish nuclear capability. It is also likely that divisions over the nuclear question may unravel the alliance altogether. I am not saying it is likely or probable that Russia invades Poland, but from a security planning perspective, it pays to look at the worst case.

    1. Sergey P

      Wow, thanks for an interesting insight KD! Haven’t thought about it that way. Mr. Sikorski went for saber rattling, but instead landed on his ass. The king is naked, ain’t nobody’s gonna rush in to stop the Russian. The Poles will need to fend for themselves, and they have a deep genetic memory of exactly that not quite going their way, several times over.

      Especially if mr. Putin can lure Hungary to absorb some Ukrainian territory and become a land bridge to otherwise surrounded Serbia, which I think would mean ultimate restructuring of European security architecture.

  12. AG

    2 reader comments, one alarming, the other calming down, from Moon of Alabama´s site on this topic:

    1) “Robert Fico says NATO states “are considering sending troops to Ukraine on a bilateral basis” — whatever that means.
    “For me, today’s meeting is a confirmation that the West’s strategy has completely failed when it comes to Ukraine. Nevertheless, I want to come to this meeting constructively prepared. Although the theses that we discussed make my body shudder.
    A number of NATO and EU member states are considering sending troops on a bilateral basis to the territory of Ukraine. We are assessing the security of such proposals and cannot prevent an individual EU or NATO member country from concluding such a bilateral agreement with Ukraine.
    Equally, we say that this will not fulfill the purpose that is expected of it, that certain pressure will be exerted on the President of the Russian Federation and the Russian administration and that some concessions will be made. On the contrary, we believe that such a decision will lead to a huge escalation of tension.
    Deputy Speaker of the Slovak Parliament Lubos Blaha:
    “The West is pushing us into World War III. We’ve all been on the edge of it since last night. What is going on in Paris anyway?
    Robert Fico confirmed today that some Western countries want to send their soldiers to Ukraine – and no one can predict the consequences. There is a real threat of nuclear conflict. So far, the West has waged a proxy war against Russia, but a new phase is beginning.
    The West will enter into an open and direct military conflict with Russia – this is just a millimeter away from an all-out war.
    Slovakia wants nothing to do with this.”

    2) Olaf Scholz again spoke out against the supply of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, explaining the refusal to provide them with the danger that his country would be drawn into the conflict.
    “We should not be associated anywhere with the goals that this system will achieve,” he said at a conference organized by the DPA agency.
    “And this clarity is necessary. I am amazed that some people do not even care, that they do not even think about the fact that it could, to a certain extent, lead to participation in a war because of what we are doing,” he added.
    “I explained why this is not taken into account. And this is the final decision,” he said.

    * * *

    -I would still side with a calm view. The news outlets have become extremely pushy and totally unreliable. And this is even true for formerly sober, expert sources, like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, which loose it when it comes to RU.

    1. ilsm

      Sheep dippedNATO already there. Who is operating all the super duper air defense, doing set up, rearm and repairs?

      Reports of English and Polish talk at the lines.

      Taurus, like ATACMS would let Ukraine do to cities in Russia what been to Donetsk since 2014

    2. KD

      If NATO sends troops to Ukraine, they will die like the Ukrainian troops. If they send F-16s, Russian AD will shoot them down. Russia has sufficient justification to declare war on NATO without further provocation, so Russia will not declare war on NATO with further provocation unless Russia decides it is in their interests.

      If there is a NATO-Russia war, do not be surprised if China, Iran and North Korea provide material. NATO has more population, but I don’t think the morale is comparable. If Russia was getting attrited, it would make sense for China to provide military advisers rather than let the West win. Not to mention the nuclear option.

      In Vietnam, people were complaining about 3000 KIA a month. You could easily have two to three times that in a week in Donbass. I don’t think the US wants a head-to-head with Russia for a reason, and I don’t think Russia wants a head-to-head with NATO for a reason. It would be catastrophic for both sides, even if it does not go nuclear and it might be generations before anyone recovered.

      1. Polar Socialist

        If Russia and NATO go to war, the odds are it goes nuclear. That’s the main reason Russia didn’t want NATO on it’s borders – without buffer there’s no time to negotiate and things will escalate at warp speed.

        1. KD

          Certainly in a direct NATO-Russia conflict the odds of nuclear engagement go up dramatically, and nuclear engagement would be catastrophic. On the other hand, Kissinger admitted that in the Nixon administration, the US was not going to trade DC for Berlin or Paris, so it is possible that a conflict confined to Eastern Europe would not go nuclear.

          Further, Russia has AD capable of intercepting ICBM’s, and the US has no hypersonic capability or comparable AD systems, not to mention most of the US stock being ancient and maybe doesn’t work (see Trident discussion above). Can the US ensure MAD? If they can now, will they be able to ensure it in the future? If MAD no longer holds, Russia has options. Putin is probably too cautious, and too pro-Western to go there in a serious fashion, but Putin will not last forever, and there is no telling where his successor will go.

          1. AG

            I would caution to not overestimate RU AD against ICBMs and underestimate US WMD dominance. Keep in mind that ICBMs fly 18.000 mph and defense against MIRVs especially is virtually still impossible (5% of attacking missiles killed would be high).

            If a kill is intended it has to happen early after launch. However hitting the missile is only possible via visual radar navigation of the interceptor which in its range is limited due to physics of radar tech (radar range is not infinite.)

            The strategic assessments of Keir Lieber and Daryl Press laid out between 2006 and 2020 repeatedly, in essence have not changed: The essence being that US Strategic Nuclear Planning viewed by RU experts could very well be regarded as Counterforce first-strikes with 95% of RU silos destroyed.

            Lieber & Press in fact argueing that MAD has long been outmaneuvered by true US WMD capabilities.

            Equipping RU sea-and airborne units gradually with hypersonics is an economic way to bridge certain issues of strategic disadvantages. But Obama´s 1,2 trillion to modernize US WMDs were not criticized by Ellsberg so heavily without a reason. Neither the 12 new planned OHIO SSBNs , $9bn each, 16 Trident MIRVs on each boat with 4-14 warheads per MIRV. I am stating these numbers to remind of the sheer madness and scale of US nuclear war machinery.

            Additional to that RU SSBNs possibly still trackable (?) by US surveillance. The biggest security issue of all, RU early-ground warning still lagging behind. Which makes misunderstandings so dangerous.

  13. zach

    “The government apparently judges that there is not enough Banderite muscle to compel compliance in the absence of Western backing.”

    Денацификация, товарищ.

    I didn’t sift comments, so maybe someone else has brought this up already – what’s the fighting surface like in Ukraine around the end of March? The Rebel Alliance might have a little more dithertime than expected, though of course if they really are run dry of air defense they’ll have to sit through some vicious spring hailstorms.

    I also wonder what kind of political coverage the Russian gov’t can expect come Ukraine’s day of reckoning – will the international coalition of fence-sitters maintain their indifference if the Russia gov’t is made to appear unreasonable or cruel in their advances, by virtue of Ukraine at that point well and truly unable to mount a credible defense yet still unwilling to engage in peace talks?

    1. ilsm

      Ukraine is fighting to inflict casualties on Russia for their colonial masters.

      Whether they deplete US stocks or not, the war is on the colonizers.

      Ukraine evolved as an administrative whim of Lenin and Stalin, and Kiev have tried to deRussified the areas now in Russian Federation

      1. zach

        Take a gander at today’s (2/26) post in the links “The Crisis of Soviet Ukraine: The Maidan Revolution didn’t free my people.”

    2. Daniil Adamov

      I really doubt that this coalition – being made up of more or less ordinary human governments – is particularly motivated by sympathy or antipathy towards my government’s actions. I think they mostly look out for their own interests and also dislike US pressure when it goes against said interests. So I don’t imagine the appearance or reality of Russian cruelty would change anything, for better or worse. (I think that if this mattered to them they could’ve just jumped on the Western bandwagon early on. There is no war without cruelty, so there is plenty to object to, if one cares.)

      1. zach

        That is a fair point. To the extent that the conflict in Gaza is a reasonable foil for the conflict in Ukraine, if the int’l news media can draw an equivalency between the approach of the Russian gov’t towards Ukraine as Israel’s to Gaza, will the coalition of the indifferent remain steadfast?

        More plainly, if NATO/US support wanes to the level that Ukraine must mount a high speed reverse gear defense, but refuses to entertain peace talks with the Russian gov’t, at what point does the Russian gov’ts international political coverage say to them privately, “ok guys, wrap it up.” You may be correct in your assessment that that isn’t a priority or concern for other gov’ts.

        Tangentially, if this conflict truly isn’t about conquering territory then the Russian gov’t must cease offensive operations at some point, regardless of ceasefire or peace agreement with Ukraine. In Mr. Putin’s own words, reflecting on the retreat of the USSR from East Germany, (paraphrased) Russians should never go where they are not welcome.

        From memory, the numbers from the Kherson referendum were indicative of a drop in support for Russian actions in Ukraine. While Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye were in comfortable mid to high 90% support, Kherson was (as I recall) 75% – still overwhelming majority, but possibly concerning from a certain point of view. This is one reason why i’m not so sure moving into Odessa is a given.

        Apologies, I got rambling.

  14. Kouros

    I always get very confused at the cavalier ways the western countries and allies talk about getting nuclear weapons (what about the delivery systems?) as it won’t be an issue to breach the NPT (is this also a consequence of the “rules based order”) and no western media picks on it and on the other hand threaten Iran and N Korea with fire and brimstone and the mother of all sanctions if they dare to get nukes.

    If this happens, the UN sanction regime against NK will collapse.

    However, these days I get a good uplift listening at the ICJ hearing on the legal consequences of Israel occupying Palestine. Ooh, that is really taking Israel through tar and feathers as well as those arguing for Israel’s right to occupy because security or let them have bi-lateral negotiations because reasons. All these people/ countries batting for Israel are figuratively hung, drawn, and quartered on the world scene alongside Israel. It is epic and exhillerating. Like the expected scenes in Dune 2 with the mountain range being A-bombed and the freemens riding the impossible sandworms (Shai-hulud) to eat the Harkonnens (Israel) and the empire’s sardaukars (the US).

  15. Victor Sciamarelli

    Regardless of talk about recession or the cost of energy, Germany’s economy is twice the size of the Russian economy. The EU’s economy is in the neighborhood of 6x-7x larger than Russia’s and its population is roughly 3x larger. Thus, if the EU really believed Russia was an existential threat, it could have easily prepared for its own defense.
    And regardless of Sikorski’s remarks, which at best reflect historical grievances rather than current reality, imitating Biden’s propaganda might be designed to get him to the front of the line for US handouts. I doubt Sikorski believes Poland is in imminent danger of being reoccupied by Russia.
    It’s obvious that the entire Ukraine disaster was a cock-eyed US project that predictably has gone awry. The Europeans are in a position like a successful corporation that one day realizes the CEO has become deranged. You need to navigate so as to rid yourself of the CEO without damaging the company.
    Unlike Americans, Europeans have real experience with war. They should now have no illusions how dangerous America is as they witness the unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. And US threats against Iran or China have been more explicit than anything Putin said of Eastern Europe.
    I think more people realize that if peace and security is to be achieved, the US, with its threats, sanctions, and wars of choice, needs to be isolated.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please no out of date disinformation.

      1. Russia’s economy is now bigger than that of Germany:

      2. As Andrei Martyanov has explained repeatedly, GDP is a poor metric of military capability. Russia is a manufacturing power, close to an autarky, with abundant commodities. The US actually depends on some key categories of Russian commodities like uranium and neon. The US is a service economy that has offshored a lot of its manufacturing to China.

      3. The fact that we have a profit-driven arms industry means we cannot compete with Russia. For instance, no contractor will build surge capacity. Look how even now we have not been able to ramp up shell production.

      Our profit-driven model also means our defense contractors build fussy, hard to operate, hard to maintain weapons systems when what you need in war is as simple as possible and robust. Look at our stupid F-16s. They have to land and take off on golf-green level groomed airstrips.

  16. AG

    last note:

    Mark Sleboda in his new interview argues that RU will have to take Kiev and possibly all, over a long period.
    Stoltenberg recently essentially made clear that the era of grey zones, of neutral countries is a thing of the past.

    see TC 22:00-26:00

    One of Sleboda´s examples is the new NYT article on the 12 secret CIA spy bases at the RU border:
    “The Spy War: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin”

    Why would they so openly admit?
    Because further escalation is the only way.
    Of course it is logical to assume NATO did not start this entire thing just to “surrender” at some point.
    So its an open end so far.

    Ray McGovern with his usually gloomy predictions warns of a mini-nuke set off somewhere just to test RU.
    I think that´s too risky but his interview here:
    see TC 6:10-6:40

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The fact that NATO keeps insisting Ukraine will join NATO and/or including it as a key point in their negotiated peace blather means Russia will have to take more of Ukraine than it wants, and/or create a much bigger buffer zone than it intended to. It needs rump Ukraine to be dependent or else a basket case and an albatross to the West.

      1. Kouros

        It is possible that given Russia’s determination to not allow Ukraine in NATO, the estimation is that on the long run what remains of Ukraine will end up in the Russian sphere and as such, continuing the war would be great in leaving Russia with a big albatros on its neck: a ruined, depopulated, embittered, and hateful Ukraine that will forever be a problem for Russia.

        All the while forgetting how Chechenia and Grozny looked like 15 or so years ago, and how the Chechen fighters have cheerfully joined Russian army in its fight against UKR and NATO…

        1. AG

          If I may expand for a second:
          What is NATO´s end game?
          Andrei Martyanov is never tired to remind us of the demise of US conventional military prowess. But if he correctly does so to a certain extent, and if a war of conventional troops over UKR takes place, how will NATO finish that without blowing up everything?

          Because most likely NATO would not inflict a conventional defeat on RU. Throughout the Cold War simulations NATO in fact never did. So this is not new.
          Historically NATO´s only true plan ever was to threaten USSR with nukes. That was the bottom-line of any NATO strategic paper. In fact the raison d´être of NATO.

          Fight a conventional war of aggression now, get thousands killed in order to then create a demarcation-Cold-War-line? Korea 2.0? What´s the sense of that? Or do they intend to wage that at the same time as attacking China? Until now the US has gained more than lost. But there is a turning point. Who defines that?

          1. hk

            IDK about NATO, but at this stage, I should have to think that Russia’s end game would have to be breaking the NATO, not just preventing Ukraine from joining it. Demonstrating that NATO does not offer protection to its marginal members, not just sorta would-be members like Ukraine, is probably desirable. I don’t think Russia needs to militarily show this: is Poland, Sweden, or Germany any more secure now because of NATO? Their leaders are openly war- and scare-mongering in a manner that demonstrates the insecurity to their peoples. But what will actually come out if this?

  17. gpc

    oh, thx for reporting about sikorskis demand, but those
    talks about nuclear weapons for europe just started in germany, too.
    so there are two options :

    all the french, english nukes plus the german share on us-nukes are not enough for deterrence…


    this is a distraction, there’s a country that really needs this kind of weapons – right now or best yesterday.
    but they just can’t make them (bc. of parts and money) and can’t admit that they make any.
    I think, they have the main ingredient, but it has to be enrich (for u-235: 50-60kg for one nuke) by
    centrifuges – and this is a sequential process, not possible to parallelise, so at least two years, but maybe it has already started. but they need 50-100 nukes. I think you all know, which county it is….

    funny part: mr. carlo masala (ua expert with heavy rotation in medias) from the german army university (muc) opposes such development, because, the european governments could not decide, who is in charge to push the button ;)

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