Ukraine: Breakthrough on All Fronts Ahead of Schedule

Yves here. We have not written much about Ukraine for a while, in part due to the genocide in Gaza and the slow escalation by the Axis of Resistance having the potential to precipitate a regional war if the US continues to fail to restrain Israel. Another reason for neglecting this front is that the fighting continues to be a slow grind, just as the Russians prefer.

But as Herbert Stein famously said, that which can’t continue, won’t. Ukraine can’t sustain its defense against the Russia meat-grinder. It was already running short of men and its Western backes are running short of materiel. At some point, Ukraine will start to break, whether it comes via a government collapse, infrastructure failure, or the military buckling in so many places that a lwo-cost Russian advance becomes possible.

There is evidence of accelerating Ukraine decay on the Ukraine. The military death tolls appear to be rising from their already high levels. The Ukraine leadership has become embroiled with infighting, with the immediate dispute being over military chief Zaluzhny’s refusal to take ownership of the need to mobilize another 500,000 to shore up the weakening front line. We’ve had the spectacle of president Zelensky unable to get Zaluzhny to resign, and also unable to get someone to agree to take his place if Zelensky dismissed him. One Alexander Mercouris source told him that the reason was that Zaluzhny had the loyalty of the military was that he, as a hard core Banderite, had been favoring those units (estimated at 25% of the total forces) who were dominated by those of Nazi persuasion, with more supplies and postings typically behind the line of contact.

However, despite well-warranted reluctance in Ukraine to cross this fabulously brutal faction, Zelensky looks to have prevailed due to the intervention of Victoria Nuland. However, her press presentation was so clearly improvised as not to be confidence-inspiring. In fact, making a presentation in an empty square, at night, conveys the impression either that she is not safe in any of the grand official spaces in Kiev or that they are too damaged to serve as a suitable backdrop. I assume neither is actually the case and this is instead an attempt to evoke Victoria Nuland in Maidan Square handing out cookies as port of the 2014 coup, but with no crowds or even big name company. It’s a messaging backfire:

The rising death toll Helmer describes below is due in part to the slow-moving operation around Adiivka in Donbass. It was something of an embarrassment that the Russian forces had not captured it sooner, since it was one of the main outposts Ukraine used to shell civilian targets in Donetsk city. Adiivka was extremely well fortified, and has like Bakhmut proven to be a hard nut to crack. Again, like Bakhmut, Ukraine has considered it to be strategically important (many contend if Russia takes Adiivaka, it will collapses the last defenses in Donbass, facilitating a big Russian advance) and has fought tenaciously to keep it. But if you look at the new short segment at Military Summary, you can see a cauldron-type substantial encirclement. Russia looks to be repeating its Bakhmut playbook, refusing to close the cauldron so that Ukraine will keep feeding more men and equipment in. Oh, and if I understand the terrain correctly, Ukraine is in even worse shape than it appears, because Russia has captured the heights and the largely-encircled area is lowlands.

Adiivka has gotten a lot of attention due to it being a hard slog, but Russia has also been imposing substantial losses on Ukraine in other key points, such as the Bakhmut environs and Kupiansk in the north, in Kharkiv oblast.

An open question still is where does Russia want this conflict to go. As we and many others have recounted, Putin has been signaling greater territorial ambitions. This is not IMHO due to success going to Russian heads but Russia having to rethink what a final map will need to look like to provide for Russian security needs. Given the paranoid screeching from EU and NATO leaders, this translates into more acquisition than they deemed necessary before.

I believe it was Lavrov who said early on that if the West started deploying longer-range missiles, Russia would need a bigger security zone to protect Russian territory (which now includes the absorbed oblasts). We and others assumed Russia would probably need to take the Black Sea coast to assure economic control of whatever rump Ukraine was left west of the Dnieper. Putin has also been talking fondly of Ancient Rus (admittedly if you look at this speeches, an established theme, then presumably to suggest Russians and Ukrainians ought to be able to get along). That has been taken to mean that he deems capturing Kiev to be necessary. I hope he has taken note from the Israel case study as to how corrupting it is to be an occupier, and comes up with some other long-term solution. We warned from the outset that Russia could win the war and lose the peace. That remains a real risk.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

When the General Staff have been discussing with President Vladimir Putin the timing of the Russian offensive to force the Kiev regime into capitulation, it has been agreed, understood, and repeated that the strategic reserves of the Ukrainian forces should be destroyed first, together with the supply lines for the weapons and ammunition crossing the border from the US and the NATO allies.

This process, they also agreed, should take as long as required with least casualties on the Russian side, as determined by military intelligence. Also agreed and pre-conditional, there should be no repeat of the political intelligence failures of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) which precipitated the failed special forces operation known as the Battle of Antonov (Hostomel) Airport from February 24 to April 2, 2022.

Taking account of the mistakes made then by the SVR director, Sergei Naryshkin, and the subsequent mistakes of military officers around Yevgeny Prigozhin, the General Staff has also accepted that their tactical operations must run least risk of Russian casualties through March 17, the final day of the presidential election.

Reinforcing these preconditions for the timing of the Russian offensive,  General Winter  and General Patience   have joined the Stavka meetings.

This week military sources believe there has been a turning point – on the Ukrainian battlefield, and on the Russian clock.

The daily Defense Ministry briefing and bulletin from Moscow reported last Thursday, before the Friday weekly summary, that the Ukrainian KIA (killed in action) for the previous twenty-four hours totaled 795, with the ratio of offensive tactics to defence,  3 to 3. On Monday, the KIA total was 680, the ratio 4 to 3. On Tuesday, KIA came to 885, the ratio 5 to 1.  The casualty rate is unusually high; the shift to offence is recognizably new, if not announced.

The “Stavka Project”, a military briefing which is broadcast by Vladimir Soloviev, confirms the positional breakthroughs this week on several of the fronts or “directions”, as the Defense Ministry calls them,  along the Donbass line; click to watch (in Russian).

In Boris Rozhin’s summary of the Defense Ministry briefing materials, published before dawn on Wednesday morning,   the leading Russian military blogger (Colonel Cassad)  identifies “small advances”, “slight movements”, some positional “successes”, other positional “counter-fighting”,  and “no significant progress yet”. The adverb is military talk for timing.

According to a military source outside Russia, “the Russian breakthrough is beginning to happen now. It’s being coordinated with strikes and raids along the northern border. The commitment of the ‘crack’ Ukrainian brigades at the expense of other sectors shows how desperate [General Valery] Zaluzhny is to plug the holes. He knows that the target is the isolation of Kharkov, the establishment of a demilitarized ‘buffer zone’, as well as the development of a situation whereby all Ukrainian forces east of the Dnieper are threatened with being cut off… and he’s quickly running out of ammunition, not to mention cannon fodder.”

“By the end of the winter,” the source has added overnight, “the Ukrainians will barely be able to move along the roads they use to feed the front due to the Russian drone, missile, conventional air, and artillery strikes. Once they can no longer plug the gaps with mechanized units acting as fire-fighting brigades, it’s just a matter of time before the big breakthroughs and encirclements begin. At the current burn rate of Ukrainian forces, I imagine we’ll start seeing Russian tanks with fuel tanks fitted for extended range appearing and Russian airborne troops making air assaults in the Ukrainian rear within weeks.”

In yesterday’s edition of the Moscow security analysis platform Vzglyad, Yevgeny Krutikov, a leading Russian military analyst with GRU service himself and GRU sources for his reporting since, published a report entitled “What does the offensive of Russian troops in the Kharkov region mean?” “Russia is creating a new strategic situation in the Kharkov region,” Krutikov concluded,    “threatening to dismember the Ukrainian defence up to the Donetsk agglomeration.” A verbatim English translation of this piece follows.


January 29, 2024 – 19:10.

  What does the offensive of Russian troops in the Kharkov region mean?
By Yevgeny Krutikov

“The settlement of Tabayevka in the Kharkov region has been liberated,” the Russian Defense Ministry says. We are not just facing the capture of a village: Russian troops are now hacking into the contact lines, which have not budged for a year. Russia is creating a new strategic situation in the Kharkov region, threatening to dismember the Ukrainian defence up to the Donetsk agglomeration.

First, Krakhmalnoye, then Tabayevka – Russian troops have advanced in the Svatovo direction (Kharkov region), pushing the enemy to a new line of defence (to the village of Peschanoye). Slightly to the north, already close to Kupyansk, the enemy’s positions are also gradually moving to the west and southwest.

Along the way, forests are being cleared, which the VSU [Ukrainian Armed Forces] is turning into fortified areas, even giving them names (“Alligator” and “Woodpecker”). The enemy is losing the old lines of trenches, the first line of contact has been destroyed. Something similar is happening directly near Kupyansk, but there the advanced fortified lines in Sinkovka are being held still by the VSU, though the positions on the flanks have gradually begun to sink.

At first glance, we are looking at isolated episodes of positional warfare, since the big, iconic and recognizable geographical names do not appear in the information releases.  But this is not quite true.

Firstly, even in this scenario as published so far,  strategic threats arise for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, for example, in the possible drive of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the Oskol River which has far-reaching prospects. Notwithstanding, it is still impossible to predict when this will become possible in practice.

Secondly, the enemy has been demonstrating a systemic defence crisis in the Kupyansk direction during the past week. The defence of Kupyansk has been under construction by the Armed Forces of Ukraine since the spring of last year, when the decision was made in Kiev on a ‘counteroffensive’ in the southern direction. New brigades with western armoured vehicles were sent to the southern section of the contact line, and Kupyansk and the area around it were designated for defence with the rest of their forces.

In Kiev, they were convinced that Russian troops were forming an offensive group in the Kupyansk direction, and so the VSU began to wait there for a frontal assault. However, as a result, the Russian Army did not undertake anything of the kind in this area. Instead, the Ukrainian units were gradually ground down by the Russian army in positional battles, while the Kupyansk group of the VSU had to be replenished with whatever troops were left.

Now Ukrainian sources are complaining  that as a consequence, a combination of lines has formed in the sinkhole areas (that’s the same Krakhmalnoye and Tabayevka). Into these lines the VSU has herded separate battalions from different units, with the result that unified management and command have been lost, and the performance quality of the troops has left much to be desired.

As a result, the VSU is considering the possibility of transferring the remnants of those forces which participated in the failed ‘counteroffensive”’ to Kupyansk from the southern direction. Before that, they had been sent in great haste sent to Avdeyevka.

But this is already a systemic problem for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, since there is trouble in the southern sector. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have gradually regained some of the positions which were left during the so-called counteroffensive, and these forces continue to move forward. We are even talking about possible threats to Orekhov, a rearguard city for the VSU, from which all the communications and command of the ‘counteroffensive’ had been carried out.

Behind the defensive fortifications of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, an open field for tens of kilometres opens up on a whole group of sites. Kiev’s military reserves are gradually being squandered, and there is practically no human materiel left to plug the holes. Related to these problems there are the panic campaigns in Kiev about total mobilization.

There is another problem: the attrition of officers. Western military personnel cannot replace this crucial resource —  they can only be used to service technically complicated weapons systems such as air defence or long-range artillery. Along the line of contact, foreign officers are more likely to interfere due to their ignorance of the language and misunderstanding of the mentality of the [Ukrainian] subordinates.

There are other factors weakening the Ukrainian defence, but they are not directly related to military operations. For example, the Western sponsors are really concerned about the corruption of the Ukrainian leadership. The inspections and audits which are taking place in Kiev on this issue right now are preventing Ukraine from building new defensive lines swiftly enough.

Another non-military factor: political discord among the various factions of the Ukrainian authorities. The premonition of defeat is triggering a drop in morale, not only in the troops, but also in the elites.

All this in general creates a strategic opportunity for Russia to seriously change the situation on the line of contact.

Partial tactical successes must at some point turn into a major breakthrough in the enemy’s defence. Moreover, we are talking about such a breakthrough that will not stop in just two or three days at the next defensive line, but will lead inevitably, precisely,  to the collapse of the front. This is exactly what the efforts of the Russian Armed Forces are now aimed at, probing for the weaknesses in Ukrainian defensive positions.

The liberation of Tabayevka is an example of just such an approach. Sooner or later, the VSU will not have time to create a new defensive line behind a particular settlement. And then we will see how the special operation will break the current positional deadlock.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. JohnA

    As the saying goes “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings” and sure enough Victoria Nuland has arrived in Kiev this week airing her vocal cords.

    1. Ignacio

      If there was the slightest doubt on this war being a US proxy thing with the help of a few European dwarfs, Nuland has come to erase them.

      1. Pavel

        If there was ever the slightest doubt that the US doesn’t give a damn about Europe (“F*** the EU!”) then this little Ukrainian frolic should put them to rest. The German economy has been destroyed (and the EU budget funding along with it), angry populist groups are starting to riot in capitals around the continent whilst the EU bullies Hungary into approving another EUR 50 billion it doesn’t really have for the corruptocracy in UKR.

        Great job, chaps!

        1. Otaku Army

          33€ of the 50€ billion comes in the form of loans. Ukraine’s Finance Ministry expects the cost of debt servicing in 2024 to run 37€ billion. So the EU “aid” just disbursed will go directly into German and French banks.

          This recent bit of feelgood propaganda from the Friedrich Erbert Stiftung, the think tank of the SPD, is rather telling:

          The premise of the article is that the Ukrainian state is abandoning libertarian deregulation in favor of actively promoting public-private-ngo partnerships in order to place the military-industrial complex at the heart of the Ukrainian economy. The claim that this transition marks an end to “neoliberalism” is deceptive, to say the least.

          As a Google search for keywords “neoliberalism” and “militarism” would quickly reveal, the two go hand in hand. This is not a new thing. In fact, it is more like neoliberalism on steroids.

          Debt, militarism, financialization, the individualization of risk…all of these key neoliberal elements will be strengthened by the new policies that supposedly “abandon” neoliberalism. A more pertinent question would be what makes militarized neoliberalism different from militarized Keynesianism? The answer would lie in the radically different nature of debt and the individualization of risk.

          Of course, the German SPD Party of Olaf Scholz currently in the ruling “traffic light coalition” doesn’t want us to know what “support for Ukraine” really means.

          The propaganda organs in the West want us to think that it was a “victory” of the EU over the authoritarian Viktor Orbán that enabled the most recent EU “aid package” to Ukraine. Yet if there was any sort of “victory” here, it was a only victory for militarized Big Finance.

          Sadly, the EU nations seem to be heading inexorably in the direction of militarization — putting the economy on a war footing — even before Trump’s probable re-election (Trump’s likely choice for defense secretary would demand this policy). Last time I was in Germany (Baden-Württemberg) for medical treatment, everybody I talked to was anxious about Trump’s possible re-election. Little did they realize, the “traffic light coalition” run by the SPD is taking Germany down exactly the road that Trump’s future Secretary of Defense, Elbridge Colby, has recommended for Germany and Europe.Colby wants to see Europe move to a war economy, which is more or less what all of the mainstream parties in Germany are arguing for today.

          1. Zephyrum

            Thank you for this; very informative.

            Regarding Elbridge Colby, he is a dangerous man, so I follow him on Twitter. He’s vastly more intelligent than most of the ciphers in recent presidential administrations. I wouldn’t say he seeks war, but he’ll be happy to have it and will work towards as much conflict as, er, necessary to maintain the strength of the empire and its vassals. Where are the intelligent peacemakers? Not in the US or Europe.

          2. mrsyk

            33€ of the 50€ billion comes in the form of loans. Distressed debt futures! Wonder what the collateral looks like.

          3. GuardYourHumanity

            But what will happen to all Ukraine’s debts to EU after Ukraine is defeated? Will they ever be repaid? Can they? And what would massive default do to the European banking system?

            These are not rhetorical questions. I am trying to understand.

        2. Martin Oline

          The Parasitic Management Class always fails upwards as reflected in this story, originally from Bloomberg, that I read this morning at RT:
          One of the main architects of the US sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict is leaving her position, Bloomberg reported on Friday. Elizabeth Rosenberg is departing the US Treasury to pursue opportunities in the private sector, according to the media outlet. Rosenberg was part of a core group of officials who have worked on sanctions against Moscow, including the freezing of sovereign bank assets as well as the price cap on Russian oil, according to the news agency. She also reportedly toured some 25 countries in a bid to push governments to comply with Washington’s punitive measures..
          Where else but in Washington can a public serpent destroy western economies and then go to the private sector to enrich themselves?

        3. Susan the other

          It is difficult to siege the proxy. If there was one useful lesson to learn from Vietnam that might be it. The Proxy always seems to be in remission like a clever virus, and rationalizing like a gold medalist. Pontificating and propagandizing shamelessly for the profits. So if you are the opponent, you treat the symptoms as they emerge. The definition of chronic warfare. Chronic warfare is a wasting disease which is something the planet can ill-afford these days. But nukes are clearly not an option. And it might be that chronic warfare has become politics but, ironically, a minimalist politics of conservation and prevention from the worst damage, so both sides settle up. So when a group of insane zealot Nazis or Zionists decides to attack, defying reason and human decency at any and all levels of human society,, they can at least extort a few concessions and think they “won” something. Because they are that stupid. And criminal. There should be a word and a punishment for this particular genius of crime.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > As the saying goes “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings”

      “You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. ”

      It’s “the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” This may help:

    1. nippersdad

      Just goes to show that there are limits to what even a Dorian Gray portrait in the attic can do for her.

      1. chris

        Yes it is. Perhaps Ms. Nuland needs to start carrying a worry stone? It might go well with the voodoo doll she has of Mr. Putin.

    2. cousinAdam

      Seconded. I only hope mobster Vicky Noodles lasts long enough for her “f**k the E.U.!” declaration to rear up and bite her in her increasingly pear-shaped derrière.

    3. Willow

      Wow. She came across very isolated & ineffectual. Like someone who’s been cut loose & has nothing to offer. Did the Ukrainians tell her to f* off and go home?

  2. Feral Finster

    I wish I could agree, but the West is nowhere near done doubling down.

    You don’t need to be Nostradamus to figure out what is next, and that this is surely not all of the “surprises” Nuland mentioned.

    In fact, the West can’t not double down, because they’ve already staked so much on Ukraine. Another predictable result of Russia refusing to take this war seriously from the outset.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      You have to hand it to him, Erdogan “gets” how you have to deal with the non-agreement capable empire.

      It’s a lot like a drug deal as portrayed in the 80’s hit cop drama, “Miami Vice.”

      Two groups of criminals approach each other, warily. Weapons are holstered, but visible. A car pulls into the center, and the dealer’s low-level operative opens the trunk to reveal bags full of coke. Another car approaches. Thug number two walks out with a briefcase. The two men meet. The briefcase is opened to verify the cash is there.

      If all goes well, the deal goes down. Nobody takes anyone’s word for anything. Show me the goods, and I’ll show you the cash.

      That’s how Erodgan got his F-16s. No deal on Sweden until I get my F-16s.

        1. jan

          Next he’ll sell S400s to Ukraine.

          Maybe he’ll let Putin know when and where they’ll be shipped.

        2. Jams O'Donnell

          Erdogan needs those S400’s himself, just in case there is another US backed coup against him. He can be sure of controlling the S400’s to shoot down potential attackers, but not if they were US supplied Patriots. That’s why he insisted on getting them in the first place.

    2. Aurelien

      I keep hearing about the West “doubling down” and staying in the fight “as long as it takes.” But the metaphor is from gambling, when you make repeated bets on the same outcome, hoping to win. For that you need money. The West has nothing left to bring to the table: all they are saying is “we will sulk and pretend it never happened and refuse to accept reality.” Good luck with that.

      1. Feral Finster

        If we have seen nothing else, it is that people of influence and authority are very good at finding ways to get what they want

        Witness how the US bribed Greece and Ecuador into giving up their Soviet munitions this week, or Brussels strongarmed Hungary into acquiescence to the latest aid package.

        And then there’s the impending seizure of Russian assets, or the idea of giving the Ukrainian regime moneys that otherwise would have gone to Ukrainian refugees and letting the regime decide what to do with that money.

        Stop kidding yourselves.

          1. Polar Socialist

            It will likely make the aftermath of this conflict all the worse for those who now push for these, shall we say, unorthodox, scraping the bottom of the barrel, ideas forward.

            There’s only so much shit they can pile up until it starts to unravel. Maybe Europe will go trough another phase of fascism before it happens, but eventually it will happen. And then, as always, the finger pointing will begin and most of the minions will deny everything and attack their lords viciously.

        1. Richard

          “If we have seen nothing else… Stop kidding yourselves.”
          So, who’s going to pony up the warm bodies?

          1. Feral Finster

            Send In the Poles! Although it’s not clear how many bodies are needed as long as Russia continues to dither.

            1. The Rev Kev

              They have already lost several thousand Poles in the Ukraine as mercenaries or “unofficial” Polish army volunteers. Last I heard there were 2,200 dead Poles and that was about a year ago.

  3. Feral Finster

    “I believe it was Lavrov who said early on that if the West started deploying longer-range missiles, Russia would need a bigger security zone to protect Russian territory (which now includes the absorbed oblasts).”

    Talk is cheap. Let’s see if Russia actually does it and pays the price to do so, taking into account that the Russian leadership clearly does not want this war and has tried to avoid escalation and the costs that come with it.

  4. timbers

    I recall Putin saying Kiev is historically Russian (could be mis-rememdering). I doubt that it is now. If so, that sadly might rule out the Dnipier being used as a clean line of separation at least for Kiev, but maybe south of Kiev. Unless the part of Kiev east of Dnipier is different from the western part. On the other hand there has been chatter of Lviv becoming the Capital. Doubtless the Russians will be weighing the pros and cons. I am guessing all the Western $$$ flowing into Kiev has significantly changed its character.

    1. Lee

      Rus’ people [Wikipedia]

      “The Rus’,[a] also known as Russes,[1][2] were a people in early medieval Eastern Europe.[3] The scholarly consensus holds that they were originally Norsemen, mainly originating from present-day Sweden, who settled and ruled along the river-routes between the Baltic and the Black Seas from around the 8th to 11th centuries AD. In the 9th century, they formed the state of Kievan Rusʹ, where the ruling Norsemen along with local Finnic tribes gradually assimilated into the East Slavic population, with Old East Slavic becoming the common spoken language. Old Norse remained familiar to the elite until their complete assimilation by the second half of the 11th century,[4] and in rural areas, vestiges of Norse culture persisted as late as the 14th and early 15th centuries, particularly in the north.[4]”

      1. Polar Socialist

        Those must be Swedish scholars :-)

        Iron age Sweden was barely able to fake a clan based society that elected it’s king. There’s no way they would have been able to do any “nation building”, especially since any are east of them was more organized, richer and had better weapons than they did.

        Oh, and these realms were also part of the “Byzantine World” – or Rome, as the contemporary people though. In the terms of the 9th-10th century, Sweden (or Scandinavia) was the ultimate periphery of the civilization. Only by closing ones eyes completely to the Byzantine and it’s influence can one imagine that Svear had anything to give to the eastern shores of Baltic sea.

        1. Albe Vado

          So are you disputing the Viking origin of the Russian state? Because that actually is genuine academic consensus, including among Russian academics. The debates are about the extent of the Norse ethnic contribution and how long before they were completely subsumed by the greater Slavic population and culture. But it is a fringe theory that there was no significant Viking contribution and that Rus is fundamentally an indigenous Slavic invention.

          Also, the medieval period is not the iron age. You’re off by over a thousand years if you call it that.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Yes, I’m disputing it. Those debates exists solely because there’s no written, genetic, linguistic or archaeological evidence of any long term Norse presence anywhere in Russia.

            During the past few decades more and more evidence has been collected proving long term Slavic presence in the Nordic areas, though.

            I don’t know anyone who’s claimed Rus was indigenous Slavic “invention”, since the vast literal, linguistic, genetic and archaeological evidence has always made clear it was a lot about Slavic migration to Finno-Volgaic areas.

            In Nordic research Viking age if often counted as belonging to the Iron age, given that the society was not yet as developed. Even in the larger European context Viking age follows directly Iron age. While the definitions are somewhat arbitrary, there’s no thousand year gap between them. These “ages” either overlap or follow each other, depending on the location and discipline.

          2. fjallstrom

            In Scandinavia the Iron Age usually includes the Viking era as the last part. I think it really just comes down to the border between archaeology and history as academic disciplines. History studies written sources, which in practice arrives with the christian church.

            Anyway, I agree that the scholarly consensus is a large viking part of ancient Rus. I don’t think it’s an accident that slave hunting vikings created an early state among is primary targets close to their largest market.

            1. James Lawrie

              I’m afraid that’s not the consensus at all , and I’m a medievalist.

              There are well documented Scandinavian settlements and inputs but to say this is proof of a Scandinavian state is confirmation bias, The vast amount of Rus are poorly documented and rely on fragmented archaeological studies. They are not compatible sources.

        2. Namreh

          Without getting into the debate whether the Swedes were the Kievan Rus, they certainly would have been able to establish a ruling clan or a semi-state in this period. Scandinavians in this time were spreading all around the North Atlantic and in less than 50 years around year 900 had as an example established a state in Iceland, complete with gentry, farmers, slaves, a society regulated by laws, regional meetings and country parliament, run by commerce and production of vital wares for viking seafaring.

    2. KD

      The Rus got rolled back from Kiev toward Moscow by the Mongols if memory serves, and had to pay tribute until Ivan the Terrible’s Daddy whopped the Great Horde for the last time.

    3. John k

      Regardless of historical, the 2014 and earlier pres elections showed very high votes for the west leaning candidates, I think 75-80%. Imo Kiev will remain with Ukraine rump, and probably the capitol.
      Imo dnieper will be the barrier for the north half.
      However, I can’t imagine Russia not incorporating the 4 remaining Russian leaning oblasts, including Kharkov and Odessa.

  5. Lefty Godot

    If Russia put a hundred thousand soldiers (which it supposedly has in reserve) on the border of Sumy, it’s hard to imagine what Ukraine could do to counter the threat of them executing a blitzkrieg toward Kiev without weakening all the other fronts that they are trying to defend. Even with all the warning that they would obviously have, given ISR. Am still guessing that Avdiivka will either fall or be completely cut off from resupply by the end of this month, which may trigger a cascade of other events, both militarily and politically. Ukraine is sure putting up a hell of a fight, but something’s gotta give at some point with the casualties they are suffering.

    Nuland I’m sure wants to kill more Russian civilians in some dramatic fashion and score some big PR wins with strikes deep into Russia. Hundreds of thousands of deaths and mutilations are due to her actions, which makes me sympathize with those who hope for some divine justice in the afterlife.

  6. Piotr Berman

    The latest breakthroughs are still rather small, not all verified. However, such breakthroughs present a dilemma to Ukraine: slow steady retreat that adds up as the war linger, or keeping the line by sacrificing lives. Russia applies enough pressure that Ukraine cannot man and supply properly the entire front line.

    The West can resolve current controversies about the funds and weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine lacking internal resources to continue, pretty much like South Vietnam when it was a separate state. But Ukraine is running out of people, especially, those that can and WANT to fight.

    In the meantime, plausible strategic goals of Russia require to take over big cities in Russian speaking regions, Odessa, Kherson, Kharkov, Kryviy Rog… and that is impossible without destroying them, unless Ukraine’s military collapses. This is why a bold offensive make little sense, and bleeding Ukrainian army does. As far as the current balance of capabilities is concerned and the potential to change that balance, not easy to estimate exactly, but geo-strategically, Western capability to intimidate (CtI) the rest of the world requires “Ukrainian victory”, while Chinese capability to resist CtI requires that Ukraine fails.

    Interestingly, while not friendly toward China, India, Gulf monarchies etc. do not cherish CtI either.

    1. Feral Finster

      Sumy is a city that I know well, a city where humans that I dearly love once lived, not so long ago.

      Would to God that the Kiev regime is kicked out of there, although, frankly, at this stage, I have little confidence in the Russian government.

    2. Norge

      Thanks PB.A good and concise explanation why Russia is fighting a war of attrition, rather than “shock and awe “.

  7. Hastalavictoria

    I have clocked Dima’s MS Channel religiously twice a day for the past 2 years.There has been a noticeable ‘uptick’ along a wide front over the past 6 weeks.While wide of the mark on larger strategic issues he is excellent on the minutia.~ only moves his map via GPS locations, and if he waves documents I try to listen.

    There was a very interesting,highly detailed report,regarding the Artillery differences between the forces compiled by the Russians on Intelslava.

    Surprisingly, according to the report, Ukraine held the advantage for the first year and a half, Old soviet kit + volume bettered Russian volume.Great report for techies.I will try to post it.

    Also admitted the Ukrainian’s were more
    inventive~needs must etc.

    My guess is Russian’s using Minzberg’s change theory.Do something and watch for opportunities and threats .Nullify the one exploit the other.

    MBA ‘bollocks’ really for something that most people use in life anyway and academics can spin a lifetimes sinecure out of.

    Hannibal won the battle at Cannae but did not use the victory. I do not think the Russian’s will make this mistake.They regard themselves and they are, the heirs of the 45 army.

    1. Roland

      Re: Hannibal. War is politics. Hannibal’s hypothesis was that if he could defeat Roman armies in Italy, the resulting loss of Roman strength and prestige would cause the political dissolution of the alliance which provided half of Rome’s armies.

      Victories at Trasimene and Cannae shook that alliance, but did not shatter it. Certain important cities like Capua and Tarentum did defect, and some of the Etruscan cities stopped paying tribute. But the core Latin alliance remained solid, in spite of the disasters suffered by the hegemon.

      The hypothesis behind Hannibal’s invasion was quite reasonable. It was tested. The conditions for its success were met. But it failed anyway. Hypotheses are never proven by their rationality, only by their results.

      Hannibal had no siege train, nor could he establish a secure base of supply in central Italy. Therefore, he could neither storm the city of Rome, nor starve it out. A march on Rome could only be a moral demonstration, as indeed it was when he actually made such a march later in the war.

      Hannibal’s Italian campaign was still valuable, for years afterward, in a secondary sense, tying down Roman armies, and despoiling territories friendly to Rome. As a measure of his generalship, keeping his polyglot army together and formidable for that long was an achievement as remarkable as any of his famous battles. Nevertheless, his primary war aim had been frustrated, because in spite of the operational results, the desired political result had not been attained.

      When we say a victory is decisive, who makes that decision? Answer: the vanquished. Unfortunately, the idiom of our language, in which, “winning a victory,” is an expression using a transitive verb, in the active voice, with the victor as subject, and the victory as a direct object, makes it difficult to perceive this fundamental fact of warfare.

      1. Hastalavictoria

        What a wonderful reply. I am off soon to Lucentum,and hope to get down to ,New Carthage.

        Your passion shines through.

        Best regards

      2. Hastalavictoria

        I surrender! I meant victory in the narrow sense.
        Victory on the day.And when I see ‘transitive’ ‘active’ and ‘ passive’ it pleases me greatly.

        I started Latin 5 years ago after a 60 year gap

      3. The Rev Kev

        Like the British in 1940, logic would dictate that after Cannae that the Romans should have buckled. It would have been so easy to negotiate some sort of peace and acknowledge Carthaginian superiority. But they did not. They held firm and used tactics to deny any future Carthaginian victories. And when the brilliant, young Scipio Africanus landed in Africa with a Roman army, Hannibal’s military facade in Italy fell apart as he was recalled home. It was a Roman trait to see something through to the finish, no matter how good or bad and it paid off here and Rome went on to see it’s greatest days.

      4. zach

        A battle won is a battle which we will not acknowledge to be lost – General Ferdinand Foch

        Ignoring reality until victory, since 1918.

      5. hk

        This also scores the current Russian dilemma (and an assortment of strategic dilemmas historically.). WW2 obviated this dilemma because Germany (and to a lesser degree, Japan) were totally beaten (and in case of the former, the German state literally obliterated.). That is a difficult goal to reach in any war (the last year of WW2 was also the bloodiest, notwithstanding the Axis having been effectively beaten already, after all)–in fact, I don’t think it is achievable at all today, although nations and their leaders seem to want to act like it after “winning”…

  8. Altandmain

    Keep in mind, and as the article has hinted at, that the territorial gains matter less than the casualties that the Russians are inflicting on the Ukrainians. The Ukrainian AFU has lost most of its best trained troops and is mostly a conscript army at this point. They are also desperately short on ammunition and equipment.

    The Western industrial base has been unable to come anywhere close to what Russia can produce and seems to be prioritizing Israel first. Worse for the AFU, the West may find itself in a regional war in the Middle East, against Ansar Allah (the Houthis), Hezbollah (Israel seems to be hellbent on widening the conflict, having lost to Hamas), and possibly even Iran.

    Putin has also been talking fondly of Ancient Rus (admittedly if you look at this speeches, an established them, then presumably to suggest Russians and Ukrainians ought to be able to get along). That has been taken to mean that he deems capturing Kiev to be necessary. I hope he has taken note from the Israel case study as to how corrupting it is to be an occupier, and comes up with some other long-term solution.

    I think Putin and the Russian Establishment (I want to emphasize that Putin represents an entire Establishment) are far too smart to make the mistakes that the West has made in its poorly thought out “War on Terror” and Israeli has made.

    Scott Ritter recently returned and he indicated that he spoke with some high up Russians. It seems that the areas that will be a part of Russia will be Kharkov, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, and Nikolayev. I can’t imagine that there will be much of an insurgency here. These Oblasts have large Russian populations. If the experience of the Donbass is anything to go by, they will see the Russians as their liberators, particularly as their living standards go up.

    The rest is also up in the air. Whether or not Lvov goes back to Poland or Hungary gets its historical territories for example, is an unknown.

    The areas that remain under rump Ukraine are likely to rebuilt with heavy Russian involvement as well – when Scott went to Russia, he visited Chechnya, which the Russians have extensively rebuilt. The Russians have rebuilt Grozny far better than the West rebuilt Iraq or Afghanistan (which they really didn’t). Israel has never really tried to build anything for Palestine, just steal their land. Chechens have integrated remarkably well with Russian society and the CIA attempts at Balkanizing that area have been a total failure. The Russians will play a role in rebuilding the rump state and do a far better job than the West.

    Not to mention, Ukraine is likely to be very short of young men. That’s the core of what is needed in any insurgency. I would not be surprised if like the Chechens, they become quite loyal to the Russians at some point after the reconstruction.

    When the Russians talk of Ukraine as a “brother nation”, they mean it. They’ve been going very soft in this war, even to the point of taking heavier losses than they otherwise would have, as they really see Ukraine in that way. Not to mention, there are many Ukrainians that see themselves as being used.

    Rebuilding won’t be perfect, and it won’t be easy, but I think the challenges that Russia faces will be vastly different than the experiences of Israel or the West, which didn’t really have the interests of the locals (Palestinians and whatever nation the US conquers) at heart.

    1. Feral Finster

      “When the Russians talk of Ukraine as a “brother nation”, they mean it. They’ve been going very soft in this war, even to the point of taking heavier losses than they otherwise would have, as they really see Ukraine in that way. Not to mention, there are many Ukrainians that see themselves as being used.”

      That is the problem, as the West and the regime in Kiev see this as contemptible weakness, and they will accuse Russia of genocide no matter what it does or does not.

      1. Altandmain

        Post SMO, this will not be a weakness. It will mean that the Western wet dream of turning Ukraine into a place where there is an insurgency, apart from the lack of military aged males, will be far more difficult.

        1. Feral Finster

          This is a favorite retcon used to explain away Russian indecision.

          Ukraine was never going to be a successful insurgency. Insurgencies require a young population. The median age in Yemen is something like 19 years old.

          The median age in Ukraine was over 40, and that figure from before the war.

          1. zach

            Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa.

            “Ukraine was never going to be a successful insurgency… The median age in Ukraine was over 40, and that figure from before the war.”

            If this is true, why engage in a shooting war with their neighbor brother country in the first place?

              1. zach

                Oh, of course. How foolish of me.

                But then, if denazification were a goal and priority, why was the Russian gov’t prepared to ink a peace treaty in march 2022, not long after intitiating hostilities? Does that mean that they had denazified everything satisfactorily in those 6ish weeks of fighting? If they had done so, what have the past 20ish months been about?

                To your other point, it seems like a good amount of ethnic Russians have been killed as a consequence of this war – some sources put the army KIA in the 30-50k range, and i’ve heard tell the civilian casualties are in the low thousands. How do you rate the Russian gov’ts performance on achieving that particular goal?

                1. GF

                  To your first point, the Russians knew the nazified elements that controlled Ukraine would never sign a peace treaty. The Russians used that time period to maximize preparations for the SMO as they were not ready when they started the SMO.

                  The second point, I would need to see some kind of evidence concerning your numbers stated.

                  1. zach

                    I would need to see some kind of evidence concerning the Russian gov’ts prescience regarding the outcome of the peace talks. At the time, they seemed pretty blindsided by the sudden withdrawal.

                    I would also like to see some evidence to back up the casualty figures. Simplicius has an estimate of army KIA in that range, BBC has estimated something similar based on open source info (obit’s/funeral announcements/reading the russian news). I have not seen numbers of civilian casualties for some time, six or more months, but last i remember seeing it was well under 10k, i believe under 5k.

                    Alas, Russian gov’t keeps that info under control, and western gov’ts tend to exaggerate.

    2. The Rev Kev

      In this short video, Scott Ritter lays it out-

      ‘The people that live in these territories are Russians in their hearts, in their souls. And it doesn’t matter what the collective West thinks. There’s nothing that’s going to happen, that’s going to change this reality. The sooner the collective West can come to the realization that Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk in their totality are Russian territories part of the Russian Federation, the sooner this nightmare conflict that the West is brought upon itself can be resolved,” Ritter emphasized.’

  9. Paul Art

    It is certainly hard to understand this pathological hatred that the Nuland types in the Blob have for Russia. I can only think that it is all motivated by the greed of their masters in the upper echelons who control the puppet strings via Think Tanks like the Brookings Institution etc. Brian Berletic had a really great piece on his site a couple days back where he traced the Ukraine interference directly to articles published in papers by Brookings. Also, after an initial attraction to Mercouris and Christoferu I more or less recoiled after partially watching one of their videos with Robert Barnes. It is sad that erudite people can be so purblind when it comes to calling out Trump’s legitimate foibles. In that video Mercouris seems to totally belittle the Georgia incident where Trump called Raffensberger and asked him to “find xxxx votes”. That was captured on tape. They need more proof? Wow! These days one does not know where to turn to find likeminded voices except NC.

    1. Paris

      Nuland and her gang are the offspring of Eastern European jews that hate Russia with all their hearts, because of wrongs inflicted to them on a personal level. What I certainly do not understand is how these people were able to capture American power.

      1. Michael Hudson

        They hate not only Russia, but Ukraine. That was the major center of pogroms, as Leon Trotsky’s autobiography described so vividly — and as other Jewish writers also did. So Nulled gets a twofer: not only killing Russia, but killing the Ukrainians attacking it. No love for either.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Yes, almost all pogroms were perpetrated by Greeks, Poles and Ukrainians. It was often the arrival of the Russian army that stopped them.

          Of course Alexander III, that German emperor, did eventually issue rather harsh laws limiting Jewish rights in order to quell the disturbances.

        2. nippersdad

          “No love for either.”

          I often wonder how much of the present outrage against Russia (or China, or Iran) for foreign policy mavens other than the Ukrainian diaspora is an outgrowth of past failures to achieve permanent results from past projects.

          The fall of the Soviet Union and subsequent restructuring of the economy there happened on Billary’s watch. Hard not to see how they would be ill favored toward Putin when he was such a large part of the successful restructuring of the Russian economy after the disaster wrought upon it by the “Harvard boys” that Clinton sent in to neoliberalize the Soviet remnants. They took that loss very personally.

          One could also say that much of the present anger at China is that those Republicans who sought a permanent slave workforce there did not get their way, and that those still angry at Iran have not gotten over Iranians throwing off the US installed puppet Shah and consequently losing their oil monopolies and geopolitical control over Saudi Arabia.

          IOW, it doesn’t even have to be generational for these people to tear their hair and stomp on the ground, just their failure to achieve their own objectives and being made to look like fools in the process. It may be just as petty and juvenile as that.

          1. digi_owl

            A mix of everything. Just look at Pelosi taking a trip to Taiwan that even Biden disagreed with. All likely because she wanted to demonstrate allegiance to the affluent Chinese expats in her California constituency.

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        “… because of wrongs inflicted on them on a personal level.”

        Why, for liberating the Death Camps and defeating the Nazis, and then being first to support the State of Israel?

        This woman has issues, shall we say, and her hatred of Russia says far more about her than it does about the Soviets or Russians.

        1. Jessica

          The good deeds you mention were all done by the Soviet Union. Pre-Soviet Tsarist Russia (which included much of Poland) was a nightmare for Jews. Most of the Jewish diaspora in the US is descended from folks who fled the pogroms and the Cossacks in Tsarist times.

          1. Morincotto

            Lots of places we’re nightmares for Jews.

            Still no reason to make war on them a hundred years later.

      3. nippersdad

        “What I certainly do not understand is how these people were able to capture American power.”

        I think what you are seeing is the ability of those with intense feelings to take control of an existing parade that started during the cold war. It should come as no surprise that the first thing our “former” Goldwater Girl, Hillary Clinton, did when she ran into political trouble was to reach back to the McCarthyite playbook of red baiting smears of her opposition on both the left and the right. Nancy Pelosi was doing the same thing this week end on the Sunday talk shows wrt the Palestinian protests.

        As for the people who continue to vote for them, I can only surmise that my anecdotal experience of an ill informed populace, too insular to keep up with changes in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and having an inchoate need to feel superior to someone else, anyone else, are all too happy to outsource their foreign policy information sources to corporate structures that have found propaganda pastiches of this sort to be both fun and profitable.

        It is a circular process, and one that I am in hopes a good smack upside the head, the kind that Russia is giving us in Ukraine will ultimately provide, to get us out of this rut.

        1. jan

          Nancy Pelosi was doing the same thing this week end on the Sunday talk shows wrt the Palestinian protests.

          That was ridiculous!

          …but for them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message,” she said. “Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see.

          So, a cease-fire would be bad if that’s what Putin wants too? That’s deranged.

          1. nippersdad

            So then she turns on some Palestinian protesters outside her house the very next day and tells them to “go back to China, where your headquarters are”! It is deranged, and it is bi-partisan. Tom Cotton was grilling the CEO of TikTok and just couldn’t leave it alone:


            There is power in red baiting, regardless of how “communist” any of these countries actually are anymore, and it drains down from the top for any pol with an ounce of ambition to pick up off the streets in Washington. It is just the cold war parade that will not die.

        2. mrsyk

          “What I certainly do not understand is how these people were able to capture American power.”
          Might be worth considering Jeffrey Epstein here. It’s certainly one way that power is captured.

          1. nippersdad

            Wasn’t it Herbert Hoover, though, that perfected that method of gaining support for his positions from pols? There was nothing new about Epstein’s methodology, though he definitely had a talent in effecting it.

            1. mrsyk

              Good point. I’m going out on a limb and say the methodology has been around for as long as there’s been something to gain by it.

        3. jrkrideau

          I can only surmise that my anecdotal experience of an ill informed populace, too insular to keep up with changes in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union

          I have often thought that a large proportion of the US population never got the memo about he fall of the USSR. Certainly a number of Senators and Representatives give that impression.

      4. Feral Finster

        By that logic, then they ought to hate Ukraine more. For in Jewish folk memory, the Galicians were the stupidest and most ogrish antisemites of them all.

        The rank and file guards at the death camps were Galicians, and their reputation was old when the Holocaust began.

  10. Paris

    The Europeans have approved another round of donations for the Ukraine – Orban after all said yes after he got what he wanted from the EU, they paid his price.
    Let’s see how much more time this money will buy them. Here hoping for a military coup and the death of the clown. It would spice things a bit.

    1. Feral Finster

      Orban can try to spin this as a win if he wants, but he wasn’t really given a choice.

      If Brussels has to resort to open blackmail to force Fico’s or Orban’s hands, then that is what they’ll do.

    2. jan

      It’s over a 4 year period too, and for non military purposes iirc? Easier to swindle for Ukraine too. But it won’t likely take another 4 years for Russia to wrap this up, so …

      1. Yaiyen

        It will take more than 4 years. Russia don’t have the troops to take whole Ukraine and it take minimum 1year to train new troops, they had years to build up there army for this war but they dint. It feel like Russia think war will end after Odessa and kharkov, so they train just enough troops for that.They are for a bad awakening

        1. Snailslime

          Odessa and Kharkov will turn into huge massgraves for ukrainian reserves, it remains to be seen how much the Kiev Regime will be able to squeeze out of it’s dwindling manpower pool after that and how stable the regime will still be at that point.

  11. Hastalavictoria

    Ukraine Sorry big error on initial post


    I have clocked Dima’s MS Channel religiously twice a day for the past 2 years.There has been a noticeable ‘uptick’ along a wide front over the past 6 weeks.While wide of the mark on larger strategic issues he is excellent on the minutia.~ only moves his map via GPS locations, and if he waves documents I try to listen.

    There was a very interesting,highly detailed report,regarding the Artillery differences between the forces compiled by the Russians on Intelslava.

    Surprisingly, according to the report, Ukraine held the advantage for the first year and a half, Old soviet kit volume + NATO quality and accuracy bettered Russian volume.Great report for techies.I will try to post it.

    Also admitted the Ukrainian’s were more
    inventive~needs must etc.

    My guess is Russian’s using Minzberg’s change theory.Do something and watch for opportunities and threats .Nullify the one exploit the other.

    MBA ‘bollocks’ really for something that most people use in life anyway and academics can spin a lifetimes sinecure out of.

    Hannibal won the battle at Cannae but did not use the victory. I do not think the Russian’s will make this mistake.They regard themselves and they are, the heirs of the 45 army.

    # There was a bad error on first post
    Ukraine advantage due to Old Soviet Volume + NATO accuracy bettered Russian Volune

  12. BillS

    As the Russo-Ukrainian War drags on, it seems more and more that the Russians are setting up the timing of a Ukrainian defeat to correspond with the US elections to maximize the possibility of a political collapse in the USA-returning the favor for the fueling of the Soviet collapse via Afghanistan in the 1980s. It would not surprise me to see the collapse of Ukraine around the time of Super Tuesday 2024.

    1. SocalJimObjects

      ZOMG, Herr Putinz is doing everything to make their Super Agent Trump win the election, Russian Interference!!! IMHO, most Americans don’t care about Ukraine, as long as there’s money in the bank for XMas, all is well.

  13. schmoe

    Thanks for this article but my only comment is that even pro-Russian commentators are mentioning that the recent offensives are quite costly in terms of Russian material and personnel losses.

    1. Snailslime

      Still a good bit less costly than in Bakhmut it seems (certainly according to Mediazona).

      Frankly, I think at this point there is pretty much no conceivable level of MATERIAL losses that Ukraine could inflict that Russia can’t compensate for.

      Where personel is concerned, well, I do have the impression that a lot of the military bloggers are kinda used to the russian losses being really quite low for many months of defense now, so I guess it’s kinda relative.

  14. Wisker

    The “buffer zone” talk has always been gibberish to me, and for Russia’s sake I hope it’s some kind of rhetorical butt-covering and not in any way sincere:

    –NATO can provide plenty of weapons that can be walked, driven, or flown up to the edge of any buffer zone and make their way deep inside Russia. Heck, Ukraine can build such on their own with little difficulty.

    –Russia will have no choice but to treat the citizens of a “buffer zone” it controls like any other Russians, with an equal right to protection from Ukrainian attacks.

    –Any “independent” rump-Ukraine left behind is likely to be Western-controlled and run by a virulently anti-Russian regime for at least a few decades. It could be a constant source of attacks with whatever means it is allowed: from terrorism, to long-range weapons, to an almost guaranteed attempt to base-, build-, or threaten- a small nuclear arsenal.

    Russia’s post-SMO options are: a neutralized Ukraine, no Ukraine, or an amicable agreement with NATO. I wouldn’t put much money on that last option.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, you have missed the option John Helmer has discussed, that of de-electrifying a large swathe of Ukraine, which is within Russia’s capacity to impose. I have pointed out the result would be like the Unorganized Territory of Maine, which has very low population density and that is of, as the locals put it, men with beards, or shorter, beardos.

      1. Wisker

        Thank you, I’ll look up those posts but I don’t see that it makes a buffer zone policy much more plausible. Russia could absolutely disrupt civilian life heavily and over the long term, at significant reputational harm to itself of course.

        But military operations would be moderately impeded at best, and long-range missile and drone strikes practically not at all.

        As you’ve mentioned before and on multiple occasions: Russia has limited options post-SMO to ‘win the peace’. IMO a “buffer zone” continues to be hand-waving for much harder, more far-reaching postwar decisions and operations.

  15. skippy

    I think it might help people to watch the last Russian Assault Squads STORMING Fortress Avdiivka -#historylegends.

    What really stood out to me as an ex special ops sort was the way drones were being used both to systematically take out strong holds and how they were being used for real time recon which was then used to inform troops on the ground via coms. Its a methodical and grinding approach that is measured in meters and not kilometers.

    This is the complete opposite of the IDF’s blow buildings up with bombing, artillery, or tanks and never actually taking control and holding territory.

    I think it should also be noted that Russian strategy is to apply pressure to the front whilst simultaneously taking out men and materials in route via supply roads, before arriving at the front. This is critical because the men and materials never make an impact at the front, plus acerbates the loss/replacement factors that Ukraine is suffering right now.

    Not to mention in the Avdiivka case it seems its now turning into a delaying tactic whilst stronger fortifications are being built to the West of it.

    As such I think the hamfisted rhetoric from those like Nuland will only increase to keep the spigot open and the dream[tm] alive because they have no plan B …

    1. Snailslime

      Fortifications stronger than those in Avdeevka (a decade in the making) built in a couple months?

      Color me somewhat unconvinced where that is concerned.

      1. skippy

        Did not say it was a concern, only that is what seems to be the UKR plan. If you do watch the video I suggested it seems a preformed concrete trench system 3 lines deep which would be supported with deflate positions of mortar, artillery, glided systems.

        Other than that I have maintained that RUS has had the upper hand in all of this since day one, no ego or ideology to cloud my mind,

  16. Paul Damascene

    Winning the war but losing the peace would be pretty standard US fare, except for the winning the war part.

    Scott Ritter makes a significant contribution to speculation about post-SMO Ukraine by elaborating on the example of Chechnya. Even more alien & hostile to Russians than Galicians were. Chechnya may be a one-off, but it’s still a remarkable example, and perhaps aspiration.

    But there is a significant component of the SMO that entails domestic transformation. A weakening of the West-looking oligarchy & Europhile elites, winning back the young (how clever of the West to ban, cancel & openly revile Russian artists and athletes–Tolstoy’s an inspired choice)–and Russians more generally.

    With the Russian economy ticking over, the hemophiliac West bleeding out through a thousand self-administered wounds, big changes among the global majority, it is entirely possible that a status quo that shows Russia making slow but inexorable gains, gaining in combat power relative to the West–at this rate in five years NATO may be thoroughly cowed from their stay-behind terrorist after-War) is easier in many key areas, including domestically, than the opening years of a post-War settlement.

  17. J_Schneider

    There is no breakthrough. UKR army is fighting hard and RUS army has to conserve resources. Let’s not forget that Moscow has to build Leningrad military district, staff it with personnel and put hardware there. Putin is carefully and skillfuly manipulating RUS public into total war economy. There must be a reason. Shoigu says that the war will last until 2025. Reader skippy got it right in his comment.

    1. Snailslime

      To categorically claim there is no breakthrough seems not only dubious but pretty much selfevident nonsense.

      In a vein similar to denials right up until the fall of Bakhmut.

      Personally I doubt we will ever see Russia’s economy on full total war setting or that this will be necessary, this strikes me as rather wild speculation as well, but we will see.

    2. skippy

      I think Russia is just responding to long term outcomes with NATO e.g. reactionary, same applies for China. So the idea that its transitioning to a total war economy, out of hand, when MIC has been around for so long in the US et al. At least it won’t be a investor driven political foot ball for congress critters to mangle with absurd long lines of Mfg and logistics for political at home points.

      I also think that it is in RUS long term favor that UKR forces are compelled to commit and expose themselves as a delaying tactic until fortifications in the West are ready. Additionally that so many military pundits are using stale optics from the last 2 hundred years of conflict where combat is done in broad sweeping strokes via amassed troops and materials. Made even more surreal by the propaganda for the views at home.

      This is a completely new battlefield dynamic that is evolving at speed/evolution. At the end of the day RUS has the advantage in Mfg and Logistics as its at its front door and regardless of NATO agendas before hostilities the nation [if you could call it that] was a mess of external agents pushing agendas for a payday.

      At the end of the day RUS has long term national interests first and foremost in mind when the UKR is a consortium of external investor driven expectations. Not really a good framework for conducting a military campaign IMO.

      1. Snailslime

        It is said that nobody ever won a war by being on the defensive.

        It might be though that Russia will prove this claim at least partially wrong in time.

        If Zelensky manages to put Budanov in charge of the military to fullfill his dream of going on the offensive again no matter what (or alternatively Sirsky who is marginally more competent but whose strategy also seems to boil down to: “Attack! Attack!! Attack!!!”) then Russia very well might bury Ukraine for good by mostly alternating between active defense/aggressive attrition, allowing and indeed goading Ukraine to squander reserves in illconceived attacks and a couple more big, urban meatgrinders (Odessa alone basically will leave the Ukrainians almost No chance but to commit mass suicide).

        Simplicius argues the Russians actually prefer urban fighting over fighting on open terrain and shows vids of russian soldiers talking about just that point.

        Granted, it might not work if your adversary is a country with more favorable demografics and a more popular, less corrupt and selfdefeating leadership clique but with Ukraine it just might.

        1. J_Schneider

          Fighting inside cities makes sense for RUS as NATO SAR satellites are useless there. They are very good intelligence tool in open terrain and all new info are immediately analysed and sourced into military management system and transmitted to UKR trenches by Startlink. That’s why there is no chance of any RUS breakthrough as breakthrough means amassing lots of people and hardware in open, that is immediatelly detected and HIMARS, UKR howitzers and drones are directed there and RUS would take huge losses before attack starts. No breakthrough happens after the first push, attacks would have to be repeated, RUS casualties would be huge. What is happening in Avdievka are local advances. Many viewers will hate me for this post but this is the reality on the battlefield. UKR army is still strong and fighting rather well albeit with diminishing resources.

          1. Snailslime

            Well, no hatred from my part.

            It’s certainly true that the Russians have zero interest in any long thunderruns over the open steppes.

            But as Long as they can continue to Turn the Ukrainians’ own defense belts as Well as their Most important and economically vital urban regions (the ones that are also what there western sponsors desire the most) into huge killzones, while denying Ukraine and it’s owners the blacksea coast and the ability to attack Russia’s fleet from there,so preventing all of the primary strategic and economic Goals of NATO from being realized, while retaining the ability to strike anything, everywhere in Western Ukraine at will, Ukraine remains a dead country walking.

            In a way all the better If the West trickles in it’s own forces to also be killed piecemeal and sharing the fate of their equipment.

      2. Arkady Bogdanov

        I’m late to the party on this one (as is often the case, so apologies), but for some time now I have strongly suspected that the Russians have another strategy in play:
        I think the Russians may be trying to keep the bulk of the fighting on a particular geographic footprint in order to minimize destruction of infrastructure to keep future reconstruction costs as low as possible. Much of this territory was subjected to quite a bit of damage before 2/22. Given the stated primary goal of destroying Ukrainian military capacity, it makes far more sense from an economic standpoint to perform this task in areas that already have extensively destroyed infrastructure (as well as much smaller civilian populations, let’s not ignore that aspect of it), than it does to drive the Ukrainian military backward onto territory where the infrastructure is still serviceable and civilian populations are larger. If the Ukrainian military is willing to come to the Russians, why on earth would the Russians want to expend the effort and energy to move forward and extend supply lines, especially if that means an increase in civilian deaths and increased reconstruction costs?
        I have never seen anyone else say anything else about this, but given the costs and efforts the Russians are putting into rebuilding liberated areas, and the amount that went into rebuilding Grozny, this makes an awful lot of sense in my mind.

        1. hk

          Not to mention that, no matter what happens, Russia still needs a more or less “legitimate” Ukrainian government in whatever that is left of Ukraine.

          The fundamental Russian dilemma from day 1 was that, there would be territories to the West of what Russia does occupy where troublemakers can base themselves in: it could be the West of Dniepr, Galicia, or Poland. To root them out, Russia has to keep going west (how far? To Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, London?) or establish something that has enough credibility with the remaining Ukrainians and the West so that it can keep things reasonably quiet. Not leveling the “Western Ukraine” is part of that endgame.

          Not sure if this is doable, in the end. Who could possibly come to power in Western Ukraine that could deal with both Russia, the West, and what’s left of Ukraine now? (The departures of Crimea, Donbass, and other pro Russian regions doubtlessly upset the balance of Ukrainian political sentiments:. I figure most “pro Russian” Ukrainians are now Russian.)

  18. Rubicon

    Even before Ukraine lost the war, Big Finance has been in the Ukraine grabbing ALL of its natural resources: rich farmland, minerals, water ways, etc. etc. Larry Fink of Black Rock, Halliburton, and the US Big AG corporations are also seizing land.

    Motive: German/French farmers are incensed and in revolt against their governments because their produce, goods will be taken over by IMPORTED Ukrainian goods into W. Europe/UK at cheap prices for the Financiers. End result: no more high quality food for Europeans. They’ll pay higher prices at the food markets. There goes their wonderful cheese, baking goods, chocolate, real Italian pasta/pasta sauces. Both farmers and citizens will lose out. For Americans who have never visited Europe, it won’t mean much to them, but it will be for millions of EU/UK citizens.

    1. John k

      Don’t see why Russia would accept those land grabs.
      However, given expensive energy all sectors in eu will suffer and will be non-competitive. Even worse if they try to build up their weak and depleted armed forces. Avery rich place with great benefits turned into a poor one within a very few years. Maybe s Disneyland for adults.

  19. The Rev Kev

    Looking at that video clip, you can’t help but be a bit disappointed in how daggy she looked. The woman is in fact the Viceroy of the Ukraine and this is what she looks like. At least when the British had their Viceroys in India, they took care to have them dress in impressive garb-

    I’m sure that Vikki would love to wear at least a tiara.

    1. Willow

      Looks like a neocon Cinderella who stayed past midnight & her carriage turned into a pumpkin & coachmen into rats.

    2. Roland

      While I realize that the link you gave about Mountbatten was for sake of the photo there showing him in ceremonial dress, nevertheless I must say that the article at that link is a bad hatchet job, containing some serious factual errors (e.g. that Mountbatten was responsible for the surrender of Singapore.)

  20. St Jacques

    War has changed and the defence has the advantage. I don’t think the Russians like a slow grind – that means suffering many more casualties, but they will persist, of that I never doubted. Their attempt at a knockout at the beginning went badly and nothing can hide that failure. Sorry. The Russians miscalculated badly, as much politically as militarily, and there were all sorts of issues with the Russian army, but they sensibly pulled back, dug in, re-organised, and allowed the Ukrainian army to impale its best trained and equipped forces on their defences, leaving the Ukrainians undermanned and their command squabbling publicly, which is a clear sign of increasing desperation. btw, after my surprise at the failed Russian knockout phase at the beginning, I never doubted the Russians had the will and means to regroup and turn the war. Just as outraged people at the beginning by saying the Russians would adapt to the sanctions and outproduce the west, I shocked people with this prediction, despite acknowledging the bad start. It’s really simple, no regime in Moscow would ever tolerate NATO in Ukraine, any more than Washington would tolerate Russian and Chinese bases across the Rio Grande. When all is said and done, it’s been pretty familyblog simple.

Comments are closed.