Ukraine Collapse Starting. What Happens Next?

Ukraine now resembles a patient with a terminal disease who is staring to exhibit multi-organ failure. His longevity is still uncertain but is measured in months, not years. It’s not obvious which system will go first and whether that one by itself will be fatal or will kick off the terminal cascade. But the odds of pulling out of the current trajectory are poor.

We’d like to step back and consider what Russia’s choices might be as Ukraine starts coming unglued.1 Many commentators are focusing on the question of territorial acquisition because it seems to be hard to get out of the habit of thinking that way. Recall that the object of war, per Clausewitz:

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

Russia may have a fundamental problem. It has arguably been Putin’s top objective, certainly with respect to the US and Europe, to come up with a new security architecture. That was the theme of his much-hated speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007: No one is safe until all of us are safe.

Russia is very far along with one of its key aims, demilitarizing Ukraine, by virtue of not only depleting weapons stocks across the West and producing armaments at a rate the West cannot match, but sadly also by killing or maiming many of Ukraine’s service-age men, and now even women. Ukraine is considering and likely to pass what amounts to a mass mobilization bill. The US is now also committed to arming Israel; it’s not clear, given rising criticism across Europe of Israel’s genocide, if and when its allies will cut back on weapons supplies given their supposed disapproval. While it was noteworthy that the hyper aggressive German defense minister, Annelina Baerbock, whose country is defending Israel at the ICJ, criticized Israel’s conduct in unvarnished terms. But the tweet below points out, Germany has not yet cut back on weapons supplies:

The US and key European leaders are whipping up a “Russia will soon be in Paris” frenzy across the continent. And the problem Russia has is that, as the US has admitted, the war in Ukraine is a proxy war, with the US and NATO as the protagonists.

Even though Russia will soon be able to compel Ukraine to fulfill its will, it can’t do that to NATO, its ultimate opponent. So what is Russia’s next best outcome?

Our colleague Aurelian posited that Europe would eventually retreat into what he called “epic sulking” over its loss in Ukraine. But the level of “We need to rearm” hysteria means that will be some time in coming. Fortunately for Russia, the economic cost of Europe divorcing itself from cheap Russian energy and its accelerating de-industrialization will limit how much Europe can do to live up to its fist-shaking. The US inability to reverse its long-standing, poor procurement practices (overpriced fussy weapons that not only are comparatively few in number but also don’t perform all that well in combat conditions) also means it seeming vanishingly unlikely to catch up with Russia as an arms designer and maker.

And in fact, when the US and Europe have finally internalized that they can’t outdo Russia’s war machine, and its overmatch in most important weapons categories along with its nukes amount to a formidable deterrent, they may indeed settle down to licking their wounds. But absent regime changes all across Europe, which is not impossible given the number of elections this year and voter unhappiness about their own strained budgets and officials prioritizing warmongering over domestic welfare, Europe will want to engage in as much threat display as possible and stoke hostility towards Russia among its citizens.

The fact that Russia is conducting what it has conceived of as a special military operation, as opposed to a full bore conventional war, where it would have flattened administrative buildings in Kiev and taking out the Internet and cell phone service long ago, is now leaving Russia with choices that a normal successful combatant in conflict would not face. Normally if you prevail, you occupy the enemy’s territory, kill or enslave its men, and take the womenfolk. The modern variants are manage the occupied territory badly and turn it into a near failed state (Iraq) or rebuild and turn it into a vassal (Germany and Japan).

By contrast, as we’ve intimated and Black Mountain Analysis has described, it is conceivable that the Ukraine military could break terminally not all that far from where the line of contact is now, which contrary to most historical wars, is well away from the government/administrative center. It’s suited Russia wonderfully well to have Ukraine keep feeding weapons and men into contested spots on the line of contact. It’s not far from Russia, facilitating resupply and even troop rotation. By contrast, Ukraine has had to schlepp all those wonderwaffen across the country. And Russia is also able to destroy anything that might resemble a military training center, further impeding Ukraine replenishing its now enormous losses.

For those who have been following the conflict, the fact that Ukraine forces are starting to fail is no surprise. Ukraine is on its fourth army, throwing barely trained troops, now including women, against Russia soldiers, with a predictably short life expectancy.

As many commentators have pointed out, General Zaluzhny’s replacement, Oleksandr Syrsky, is in synch with Zelensky’s destructive inclination to try to hold ground at all costs. Syrsky is the “Butcher of Bakhmut” for feeding more men into the Russian meat-grinder in accordance with Zelensky’s wishes and apparently his own predisposition. Note that “Zaluzhny was liked by his men” seem overdone in light of the horrific death count; he’s rumored to have given preferential treatment to the Neo-Nazi contingents which seems a more likely explanation for his supposed popularity.2

Zelensky deems it necessary, as he once did with Bakhmut, to hold what he can of the southern Donetsk city of Adiivka, despite the fact that the Russias have created a cauldron which they could finish encircling pretty readily. With the US funding package still in play, Zelensky can’t afford a serious loss.

Keep in mind that continued US support is absolutely essential to the survival of the present regime. It isn’t just a matter of needing the monies for the government budget, meaning to keep Ukraine from having to “print” on such a scale as to kick its current high inflation into hyperinflation. Remember that Ukraine has been running a massive propaganda campaign intended both to maintain support from the coalition partners on which it depends but also for its population. Positive Western press in turn has likely helped keep morale in Ukraine at a higher level than it would otherwise be by validating domestic war happy talk and persuading at least some Ukrainian that the bad news they are hearing is unrepresentative, that things are not as terrible as they might appear. Zelensky will no longer be able to keep up the pretense that Ukraine has any hope of prevailing, and not even much of surviving as state, with only 50 billion euros meant as budget support, and then spread over four years.

Nevertheless, Syrsky is willing to feed the remaining Ukraine reserves into the Adiivka killing field.

The Ukraine leadership has also been moving towards the politically-radioactive move of a general mobilization, even though it will probably get a kinder, gentler label. Not that killing more Ukrainians in the interest of personal survival is a good idea, but if you’ve ruled out negotiation and surrender, it become obligatory.

But given legislative timing, the earliest that measure could become law is April. And even on a cannon-fodder accelerated timetable, the earliest new forces might get to the front is late April, more likely May. That seems way too late to do any good, even if they were well enough trained so as not to die quickly. But even if battered Ukraine military can somehow soldier on, the economic and societal costs look untenable:

With that long set-up, let’s return to our headline question, what happens when the Ukraine military collapses? “Collapse” means a combination of widespread surrenders, retreats/abandonment of positions, and Russian captures of Ukraine forces because they are surrounded and lack the ammo to fight back.

Some commentators have argued Russia will run to the Dnieper once the Ukraine line collapses in a big enough way. I am doubtful. You’d normally do something like that to force the opposing side to sue for terms. But Zelensky and the neo-Nazis who would be stiffening his spine won’t allow that. Once the military is crumbling, Russia can take territory at its leisure (which is again really abnormal in a typical war but this is not that). Russia can still be very productively engaged in first making sure it has eliminated the Ukraine forces near the front, and of taking all of the territory it incorporated in 2022, the remaining parts of Kherson and Zaporzhizhia oblast.

The other reason that a big arrow move toward the Dnieper might be seen as suboptimal is the unhinged state of the West. You do not make sudden moves around crazy people. Yet another reason to watch and see how Ukraine comes apart is the administrative burden of occupying territory. That is likely a reason for Russia bulking up its military so much.

If Russia did want to rachet up pressure on Kiev, some sort of re-run of its 2022 pining operation might be a preferred move. If Russia is lucky, the government will decamp to Lvov, which would be an admission that they expect to lose Kiev and much of central Ukraine.

The reason for trying to engage in a bit more granular thinking is that many commentators can envision some end states Russia would like, but how to get from A to B is not obvious. The leadership in Kiev will need to be killed or flee; they are not likely to stay at their posts and have Russia impose terms. That does beg the question of what Russia does in the way of a government of Ukraine, particularly if it is not keen about occupying or administering Western Ukraine.

However, Russians are fabulously patient and Putin is natively cautious. Once the military starts to crack, Ukraine will enter what Lambert calls an overly-dynamic situation. At that time, Russia will be able to observe the pace of collapse of the central government administration and what is happening in civil society. Ukraine is also a huge country, and even subduing chucks of it would be no small undertaking.

So aside from possibly pinning Kiev and finishing incorporating the missing parts of the four oblasts, one possible path is for Russia to keep biting off pieces as what is left of the central government and the US and NATO are forced to watch and are relegated to missile and drone attacks, but not enough to change the direction of travel. Kharkiv might be next on the menu due to proximity (and therefore less Poland?baltic freakout) and high proportion of ethnic Russians. Taking Odessa is a logistical challenge; the best train lines are either through Krivoy Rog or from the northeast across the country.

But the other reason for being maddeningly slow, aside from getting better data, is that with hyperinflation and a highly-likely baked-in economic collapse in non-Russian controlled Ukraine, is that conditions may become so desperate that having Russia come in and take charge may start looking less bad to many of the locals. Again, the longer Russia hangs back and lets more of Ukraine drift into failed state territory, the more this dynamic has the potential to kick in.

I am not saying any of these are givens. But Russia still needs to move carefully and deliberately if it is to increase its odds of having what is left of Ukraine not merely be neutral as the result of an imposed settlement, but have a very sizeable majority of its citizens be so sick of war and war-related privations that they will be highly resistant to NATO and CIA efforts to turn them back to being its pawns.

1 Forgive us for not going into the battlefield situation in detail; there are many excellent sites as well as Telegram channels that do a fine job. However, Dima at Military Summary, who admittedly can over-anticipate, has been describing the accelerating Russia tempo across the front line. Other commentators are describing the Ukraine defenses as cracking at multiple contested points., which is pro-Urkaine similarly shows a mass of Russian actions:

Similarly, the Institute for the Study of War’s latest Ukraine update tallies Russian advances and positional fighting; it’s hard to find any positive Ukraine sightings.

And the mainstream media is not doing much in the way of porcine maquillage. For instance, from Friday’s New York Times:

Ukraine’s military challenges go well beyond any single battle. American assistance, urgently needed, remains in doubt. Ukrainian troops are exhausted, and they lack weapons and ammunition. Air defense systems, crucial to protecting civilians from Russian missiles, are being steadily exhausted by repeated bombardments.

American officials assess that, without replenishment, Ukraine has enough air defenses to last until only next month.

If you checked out the Institute for the Study of War update, they give lead billing to the desperate state of Ukraine air defenses. More from the gray lady:

Western officials and military experts have warned that without U.S. assistance, a cascading collapse along the front is a real possibility later this year.

It would still be at least a couple of months before the lack of renewed aid has a widespread impact, they say. But without it, they add, it’s hard to see how Ukraine will be able to maintain its current positions on the battlefield.

By next month, Ukraine could struggle to conduct local counterattacks, and by early summer, its military might have difficulty rebuffing Russian assaults, the officials and analysts say.

2 Victoria Nuland was rumored to have come to Kiev to (probably among other things) persuade Zelensky to keep Zaluzhny. Nuland is close to Neo-Nazi leaders, such as the former head of the Right Sector Dmytro Yarosh. This theory would explain her bizarre, isolated night press conference in what I assume was Maidan Square. It screams that Zelensky denied her the use of government offices.

Note also that former lieutenant colonel Lawrence Wilkerson says Syrzky has a good reputation among foreign military types. So he may be terrible only as a willing implement of Zelensky’s bad tendencies.

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  1. KD

    Zelensky’s choice of Syrzky is excellent. Syrzky is Russian, so when everything fails, he can be scapegoated as a traitor. Second, as a Russian, he is hard pressed to have any mass power base like Zaluzhnyi has in the Right Sector.

    The Mobilization Bill has another problem–it will cost $13 billion to mobilize 500,000 men, as I believe Zaluzhnyi pointed out. Ukraine is getting money from Europe in that range, but that money is supposed to pay salaries and pensions. American aid is on hold, perhaps indefinitely in the House (which says it won’t vote until it votes on border security). Not to mention the economic impact as discussed above of mobilization on Ukraine’s economic production. In other words, it just sounds like bullshit to appear to be “doing something” when they know they can’t. Also,, are there really 500K soldiers to be found in Ukraine?

    Turchin modelled this conflict out:

    Thing appear to be pretty close to the blue region in the graph, and with no artillery for counterbattery fire, the Russians are able to mass artillery and really up the attrition, not to mention the glide bombs. If Ukraine mobilizes another 500,000, they would be literally cannon fodder, and just a speed bump on the road to Kiev.

    1. NN Cassandra

      Zelensky had to hire teacher to learn Ukrainian after election and, as Westerners are never tired to point out, is Jew, Syrsky is straight up Moskal, also West promptly redirected munition to Israel and its little war with full support for the genocide while chiding Ukrainians that they can’t shoot even few missiles into Russia proper…

      I wonder what narrative these totally not-nazis will make from this when things fall apart and they will search for explanation. I also wonder if they will find new uses for all these artisanal drone capabilities that aren’t enough to defeat Russia in industrial war, but against someone who is completely unprepared for such types of attack on its territory and is too arrogant to realize it…?

  2. Revenant

    If I were Zelensky and I wanted to sue for peace and survive, I would appoint Syrsky the Butcher to run a defence to the last man standing East of the Dnieper, using all of the Nazi units that Zaluzhny had held back. I would then blow the bridges and leave them as Russia’s prisoners while I sued for peace. :-)

    Result: de-Nazified rump Ukraine west of the Dnieper.

    If I were Putin, I would accept this result, with some tweaks (Odessa to be ceded, if not already taken; no Nato membership for the rump; EU membership for the rump only with a treaty of friendship and economic cooperation between Russia and EU that prevents future sanctions).

    I wonder if Syrsky and the commitment of Azov to Avdyevka is the beginning of this strategy? I wonder if Syrsky is an active participant or a cat’s paw?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That is clever but I highly doubt Zelensky has the degrees of freedom to do that. He can’t go mine the bridges himself. He had to have peeps, as in military peeps, do that. The CIA and MI6 won’t help him with this one. And the Banderites will never never never allow Zelensky to accept terms. They’d kill him. In fact I believe it was Scott Ritter early on who said the GRU (I think I have the right Russian intel operation) was pretty sure to have well infiltrated the SBU and in particular the guys around Zelensky to keep him alive, since Russia has an interest in Zelensky surviving. The likely replacements (Zaluzhny was typical) are hard core neo-Nazis, and so would never deal with Russia. To your implicit point, if Zelensky were to surrender to Russia or otherwise agree to terms, the West would have to accept that after having built Zelensky up so much.

      But that very fact makes it pretty certain Western forces will kill Zelensky or at best help him flee and be set up as running a government in exile.

      1. Revenant

        Blowing the Dneiper bridges would require a party loyal to Zelensky, you’re right. Russia might be able to help there, if he was intent on surrendering. Another bold airborne operation for Russian paratroops to take the bridges as the Big Arrow operation sweeps through Karkov oblast but – hurrah! – despite the evil Orcs seizing them, a plucky Ukrainian rearguard operation detonates the charges and drops them after all. Just don’t look too closely at the Russian defusal operation which requires laying a mysterious quantity of plastique and somehow results in no paratroops being on the bridges when they are dropped….

        Also, if you are the West and you want to put down the tar baby of Ukraine and you do not want to enter Ukraine as a protecting force, how do you reconcile the contradiction of the marauding Red Army and “Upper Volta with rockets”?. Answer, you restore the Iron Curtain: Russia trapped on the left bank of the Dnieper, where it can be exhibited as the angry bear, ready to eat Europe unless they pay their contributions to Nato.

        The US-EU-UK alliance needs to salvage a moral victory and maintain the threat of Russia to keep its population in line. Allowing Russia to take the least loyal parts of Ukraine and remove the Ukrainian nationalist problem is a win-win.

        Odessa and Kiev present issues with my Zelensky-Russia conspiracy, admittedly. Kiev straddles the Dnieper. Russia might allow Zelensky to “defend” Kiev, resulting in a hot border and a DMZ close by, like Seoul and North Korea. Kiev would benefit from the EU-Russia transit traffic and tourists would have a nice nostalgic border experience.

        The price for this would doubtless be Odessa ceded to Russia, but this again would raise an issue of how to portray Russia as defeated when there are no practical obstacles north of Odessa. Perhaps Moldova could “protect” the south western edge of Ukraine north of Odessa such as Podilsk, where there are substantial historical romanophone populations, to serve as a convenient buffer state, a Belgium between Ukraine and Russia?

        Losing the Black sea coastline of Ukraine is a big loss militarily but, if the West is accepting a new security settlement in Ukraine, that’s the price of failure. There would be an economic benefit to the Eastern European members of the EU, however. Ukrainian agricultural exports would have to transit them and thus they can in practical terms block rump Ukraine from dumping its produce on the market.

        Let’s see how long Zelensky and Syrsky throw Azovites into the meatgrinder. That will be the tell….

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Please stop the spy movie fantasies. They make you and the site look bad.

          Alexander Mercouris has repeatedly pointed out that bridges are so sturdily built that missile strikes can’t take them out. Look at how little damage that truck bomb did to the Kerch Bridge. It damaged the surface elements but not the span.

          And Russia helping????? Are you nuts? How pray tell do they smuggle in lots of explosives and place them on actively trafficked bridges? With drone surveillance now widespread?

  3. Samuel Conner

    > That was the theme of his much-hated speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007: No one is safe until all of us are safe.

    The thought occurs that the “we are no longer safe [from Russia]” rhetoric coming from certain figures in European governments might, if it is sincere and becomes widespread belief, have an upside in that it could make the concept of “indivisibility of security” more attractive to both the publics and policy-makers of European NATO members.

    That, and the unaffordability of European NATO members pursuing a rearmament race with Russia, might make the idea of a “new security architecture” more attractive. We’ve been learning that there is a “Russian way of war”; I wonder whether one could say that there is also a “Russian way of regime change.”

    I’m sure I’m just dreaming, but it would be karmic justice if European elites come to regret the refusal to countenance admitting Russia to NATO when VVP raised the issue decades ago.


    The thought occurs that if the UAF does collapse and there is fear in the West that RF will be free to advance to the Western border of Ukraine, the Dniepr bridges may loom large as infrastructure that must not be allowed to fall intact into RF hands. Their destruction would have major negative economic consequences for Ukraine, but that might not weigh heavily on the consciences of the decision-makers.

  4. Es s Ce tera

    Russia will at least need to capture all of Donetsk and Luhansk given the pretext for the invasion was to defend these two. But if Russia stops there they’ll always be under harassment and fire, so a DMZ extending just outside of artillery range, at least, would seem called for. No need to negotiate anything with Ukraine, ever, just indefinitely target and destroy anything detected as military. Eventually Ukraine realizes the best way forward is to rebuild its economy with what little it has and the only way to do that is to abandon its military aims.

    With enough passage of time, Ukraine will return to the family of its own accord, perhaps having justifiably developed a new and abiding hatred of the West.

  5. The Rev Kev

    I would tend to suspect that Project Ukraine will continue so long as the collective west can continue to send tens of billions of dollars/euros to the Ukraine. It should be understood that in spite of the size of those sums, only a fraction of it ever reaches the Ukraine while the rest remains in the west in mostly the MIC but with a fair amount making its way to politicians. That is why both the US and the EU are so frantic getting this money to the Ukraine as it is really their own personal pay day here that you are talking about. Having the EU talk about literally destroying Hungary if they did not give the nod to that money to the Ukraine shown how financially they must be invested in it. It was exactly the same with Project Afghanistan and now the same is happening for Project Ukraine. It’s a money washing operation. When the Russians have taken enough territory and/or collapsed what remains of the so-called Ukrainian economy, then the war will be shut down.

    As for Syrsky, he is living up to his reputation. He is getting ready to send in the 3rd Assault Brigade – which is one of the few elite units left – to reinforce Avdiivka. Will it change anything? No. But Zelensky will be happy as he does not want to lose another Ukrainian city. It looks bad with his sponsors-

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Not correct. The West can supply funding but that’s no good with no forces and not even remotely enough weapons. The New York Times said Ukraine will be out of air defense munitions in March. Other earlier (in the past month) MSM stories have had men on the front lines saying that even though they are running short on weapons, it would not matter much even if they had them because they are catastrophically short of trained men.

      Shorter: this problem cannot be solved by throwing money at it.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Should have clarified my comment more. That is what meant. When the Russians have run the Ukraine dry of trained men, military gear, ammo, missiles, etc. then the Ukraine will collapse and only then will the western money spigot by the west be finally turned of. Sure, they could send about $5 billion monthly to pay all those people’s wages but by that point, they will drop the Ukraine like a dirty rag and may not even bother sending humanitarian relief.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The Western spigot is being turned off NOW, in the House, by Republicans. They want serious border controls as a trade and Biden will not give it to them.

          The arms manufacturers don’t need this bill because a lot goes for non weapons funding plus there is no shortage of demand for weapons, between the Middle East and China.

          1. Indus

            Apologies for the tangent question, but why is that Biden does not want border controls? I don’t remember reading anything on NC on this topic, also am not aware of US political dynamics on this. Hence the Q.

            1. Chris Cosmos

              I don’t know exactly why Biden and the Democrats want to increase immigration but the traditional reason throughout US history has been to keep wages and working conditions in low-wage jobs as low as possible. Immigrants work harder and don’t complain in lower wage industries. At the same time Democrats believe that new immigrants will vote Democrat–at least that’s what critics of the Democrat Party say.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        aye.”cant print shells”, etc.
        and as for this exercise being a giant money laundering play by the MIC, et alia…which is what my cousin insisted just yesterday…as in “those guys never lose”—i replied to him, from memory…but now i cant find it:
        what about blackrock, etc buying up Ukrainian farmland and factories, etc….as if they really believed that Russia would fall over dead.
        trillons of dollars, if i remember right.
        how do they unwind that?
        and given the incestuously hypercomplex nature of the FIRE Sector in the west…all it takes is one stick to break, and then plates start falling all around.
        or am i mistaken?
        my cousin insists that reality is not a factor in the power elite of the west/USA…but i reckon reality ultimately has the last say in the matter, and wall street, etc can only keep the whole mess going while the Belief is still widespread enough.
        cousin reports from houston that everybody he talks to who is not-dem and not-rich is in an epic funk…tired of it all, and in an inchoate state of anticipation for it all to go to hell.
        so, at least anecdata-wise, the Belief necessary has already frayed immensely, just in the past 3 years…and barring “a catalysing event…like a new pearl harbor”, how do the PTB of the west keep going once the defeat in Ukraine becomes impossible to ignore?

        and…not assigning homework…but you and y’all are my most trusted sources on such matters.

        1. Skip Intro

          Is this a trick question? Blackrock ‘unwinds’ its positions by dumping them on pensions or Softbank, then maybe getting a bailout, just like always.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          No, they buying up stuff is a post war plan. Please don’t confuse hype with action.

          Even an Australian merc in a recent videocast pointed out no one will invest: terrible demographics = lousy domestic market, war damage, uncertainty about access to Black Sea.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            thank you.
            info overload.
            too much idiocy running amok to keep track of it all.
            and, as per Caitlin, the gaslighting and universal obfuscation is getting much harder to navigate.
            76 years to go in the “2 centuries of nihilism”.

          2. James


            I can see a ‘South Korea / North Korea’ style division of Ukraine with Ukraine west of the Dnieper being ‘West Ukraine’ … which then gets granted EU membership … and Zelensky and his lot fleeing to per-prepared bunkers in Lviv.

            South Korea, Taiwan, and even Japan were all disasters after their respective wars but quickly recovered economically thanks to preferential trade relations with USA/Europe.

    2. Milton

      Then there’s this where the reinforcement of Avdeevka may be over before it begins.
      Commenter from MOA:

      A massive missile attack on an Ukrainian training grounds in Selidovo few tens of kms fro Avdeevka, up to 1,500 potential victims, the troops were going to beef up the Avdeevka units, the place has been shut down, nobody can leave, the Ukrainian spooks are searching for those that directed the missiles:

        1. Sausage Factory

          This contains many Azov soldiers (3rd brigade) who were imminently heading off to ‘save’ Avdeevka. A similar attack also today in Konstantinovka with lower casualties. Apparently Russia ‘trippled tapped’ the base in Sedilova, crushing attempts to rescue the injured. The entire town is shut down and local telegram channels are ‘off air’. The second tap (strike) was Iskander using cluster munitions (fairs fair, the west are happy to use banned munitions so RF can reply in kind) Casualties are unclear, it is suspected NATO ‘instructors’ were caught up in it and I read one report that said 2 helicopters sent to evacuate them were shot down (I doubt this is true, RF doesnt have troops in the area, its 30km from the front line – but if there was a third tap as some say they may have been caught up in that.) Range of casualties mostly gleaned from ukie channels is between 600 dead and wounded to 500 dead and 700 wounded. Probably never know the true numbers but its big and I think will qualify as ukrops biggest single loss of men in a single strike by Russian forces. Syrsky in for a tough time.

        2. Skip Intro

          And Dima at MS just speculated that this was the nutzy Azov 3rd brigade, freshly transferred (by Syrsky/Zelensky) from Kiev, where they would have represented a handy para-political force for Zaluzhny’s newly launched political career.

          1. Lefty Godot

            Zelensky’s prime motivation for firing Zaluzhny may have been just to get someone (Syrsky) willing to send Zaluzhny’s pet Right Sector affiliated brigades into the meatgrinder. Because they probably threaten Zelensky more than the Russian forces do at this point. If this lets him defang Zaluzhny and the neo-Nazi contingent then it’s buying him, potentially, months more insurance against a coup. By the end of March his constitutional legitimacy would be very shaky, so there wasn’t much time left for him to undercut the possible coup faction.

            It seems like Nuland was not in favor of this development. But the Republicans have taken away some of her leverage.

            I expect when this is all over and Russia has taken all of eastern and southern Ukraine, there will be peace for about a week, maybe slightly less, before the CIA starts the next round of color revolutions in Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, etc. And we start putting missile bases in Finland and the Baltic states. The neocons will never change.

      1. The Rev Kev

        A few more details have emerged about that attack. It was organized as a “double tap”. After the first wave of missiles went in, a second wave went in to deal with their military and security forces that went in to get the wounded. They used several Iskander missiles with a cluster munition along with Smerch MLRS, also with a cluster part. In addition-

        ‘Selidovo is a strategically important logistics hub of the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian units come there from Pavlograd and Pokrovsk before being sent to the frontlines. The military facilities in the village were used for accumulation of Ukrainian military reserves before they were sent to plug the holes in defense in the Donetsk direction. According to preliminary reports, a large part of the victims of today’s attack were servicemen of the notorious 3rd Assault Brigade “Azov”. The Ukrainian military command had previously declared that this unit would be send to reinforce Ukrainian garrison in Avdiivka.’

  6. JTMcPhee

    Senate has “reluctnatly” approved $60 billion for Ukraine and $17 billion for Auschwitz on the Mediterranean. Billions more for other pet neocon-neoliberal projects.

    The blood (and grift) must flow.

    “We (whoever that set includes) are in unknown territory.” For sure.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Senate is a side show. Spending bills must originate in the House (there are ways to finesse that I believe amounts to slipping approved Senate language into an older House bill that died and renaming it, but that requires willingness on the part of the House). I don’t know why the Senate is continuing to engage in legislative masturbation. The House Rs do not care what the Senate thinks. They are sticking to their guns, a serious border bill or no Ukraine buckeroos. From Links, lead story in the WaPo this AM:

      But House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) preemptively rejected the legislation on Monday night, saying in a statement that the package’s failure to address U.S. border security makes it a nonstarter in the House.

      House speaker rejects Israel, Ukraine aid package ahead of Senate vote Washington Post

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Right, and the longer this goes on, the more entrenched both sides become. It’s an election year. Freeze frame Mitch is on his last legs. There are already calls for his ouster from the Mike Lee and Rand Paul types.

        Speaker Johnson has turned out to be a different cat than I thought. One with more backbone and less of a sleaze factor than “Muh Kevin.” He might want to hire a food taster, though.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        In their minds, this plays well with the electorate. Like the sinking Eurocrats, they definitely can’t win if they give up. The press releases were all geared up about a paralyzed House with late night comedians making the same dull joke. They just haven’t grasped Ukraine was at most a great random sports competition. In the end, no one really cares.

        Then Biden isn’t demanding domestic policy instead declaring mission accomplished, so this is all they have.

      3. Kouros

        It looks that 2 years electoral cycles are keeping the flame closer to elected behinds than 6 years electoral cycles…

  7. JW

    Putin wants a new European defense architecture and the de-Nazification of at least Ukraine.
    We should probably look to Chechen to see how he intends to do the second. I can’t see any other way he can force the first other to continue to roll westwards until the internal pressures with western European countries forces negotiations. Of course he will be willing to negotiate both these outcomes at any time.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The West will not negotiate unless and until enough European governments suffer regime change and wind up with less Russia-hostile leaders.

      So Putin is pretty much guaranteed not to get a new European defense architecture. It may happen eventually by default by virtue of NATO slowly coming apart or becoming so weak as to be a near irrelevancy.

      1. hk

        I agree with that characterization (i.e. no new European security architecture) and this brings us to the original Russian strategic dilemma: for what Russia really wants, “victory” in Ukraine is largely irrelevant. What Russia needs to do is to defeat NATO in Ukraine without officially going to war with NATO and, in a way, a premature Ukrainian collapse (and military defeat) actually don’t serve their goal. Russia wants not only to drag the war out, if this is what they are thinking, but also to force the West to bleed both resources and actual blood, not just Ukraine (and Russia probably does not want most “regular” Ukrainians to bleed too much, unless they are ultranationalists.)

      2. JW

        You are probably correct ( as usual).
        Which I fear will mean a Russian/NATO border running Moldova to Poland. Many more killings to come unfortunately.

      3. Susan the other

        I noticed that dear little Annalena Baerbock has become excessively concerned with the carnage in Gaza. (She never was about the genocide in Ukraine, of over a half-million killed). Combine that fake concern with Scholz being beyond casual about Nordstream and then add in all the pissed off farmers now in Germany as well, and the corporations leaving for better business opportunities, seems like even the narrative is collapsing. And I see a connection from the EU first going for Ukrainian access to Russian oil, to the hubris of thinking they could cause Russia to back down, to being completely insouciant about Gaza until all the Gazans were in fact dead and/or gone. Because now, within reasonable time, the EU will be mainlining Plan B natgas. Israel will be the new Saudi Arabia and Russia will still be cut off from western trade, even more so, and stuck with some very nasty and angry insurrectionists in their remote southwest. Just my take about the EU. I’m more worried about the USA falling apart lately.

        1. bwilli123

          A Russian news site reporting on German Press says that Annalena suffers from the same familial condition as Von Der Leyden; an emotional connection to National Socialist forebears.
          -via Google translate

          …”Her grandfather was an engineer during the war in a unit that repaired anti-aircraft guns. The dossier contains an assessment that Colonel Waldemar Bärbock was not just a Wehrmacht officer, but was also an ardent supporter of National Socialist ideology
          The officer’s personal file literally states that he was a “convinced National Socialist”, an excellent student in a course of political studies based on Hitler’s book “My Struggle” *, and also somehow “proved loyalty to National Socialism.” (The book is extremist material and is prohibited for distribution in Russia.)
          In 1944, Waldemar Bärbock was awarded the War Cross with Sword for his services in the war effort…”

            1. ZenBean

              Yeah, these sort of feelings & sympathies tend to skip a generation.

              The Green Party is a fertile breeding ground for this mentality. Along the lines of: “Hitler wasn’t all that bad. He just shouldn’t have built the Autobahnen.”

        2. Piotr Berman

          The German government parties are highly unpopular in recent polls, but somehow the outflow of voting intention went mostly to CDU/CSU, which seems equally hawkish, if less implicated in policy failures. Kind of like UK, the worst may happen to the establishment is passing the baton to Starmerian (truly, Blairian) Labour…

          BTW, while the concerns about Gaza are laudable, but Annalena seems to copy Biden, “Shuck, it is awful, if we could only do something about it!”. Which reminds me my unresolved question: is hypocrisy a renewable resource, or not?

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          The natgas is disputed. Israel is making not-defensible offshore claims. The fields are or should be predominantly Lebanon’s. So war with Lebanon is baked in.

    2. Feral Finster

      Whom does Putin think he is kidding? Europe hates and fears Russia. Russia will never be allowed to join their club, no matter how much europe itself might benefit.

      Might as well accept it.

      1. Morongobill

        Yep, let the Europeans stew in their hovels warmed up by American Freedom Gas, at least until the gas bill comes due.

        1. Feral Finster

          The europeans who matter will do just fine and they could not care less about their fellow citizens.

          Don’t believe me? Look at the reaction of the european political class to the news that the US committed an Act of War by blowing up NordStream. Even when a european is forced to admit the obvious, the response is to stare and their shows and mumble something about how they deserved it.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        but who is “europe” in that formulation?
        sure, obviously the elite…davos grown and otherwise…hte russia…but what about the People?
        whats the sentiment of the proverbial guy/gal on the street?
        here in texas, of course, the random sample of humanoid in the feedstore thinks russia is still commuinist/ussr….but they also think biden/hillary are commies.
        the more thoughtful small r right winger(ie: skewed younger, not married to reagan or foxnewts) seem to lean towards pro-putinist…at least sort of, and without really knowing(lol-sigh).
        and related: does the lumpen electorate matter in europe?
        i look at all the manure in cop shops and burning cars when say…the french people….are mad at macron…and compare and contrast to what happens over here.
        IOW…what practical effect will an angry electorate have in europe?

          1. urdsama

            Those with nothing to lose are very unpredictable.

            And it won’t be a matter of opinion, which rarely changes the course of events in the modern world.

            1. Feral Finster

              A prime example of mythology in lieu of history.

              As any marxist knows, the French Revolution was a middle class project. And it ended with Bonaparte.

        1. Susan the other

          Well my favorite thing the Europeans do is, all the pissed off farmers get up a convoy of high-tech manure spreaders and drive slowly, blocking traffic all the way to the Capitol, where they turn on their spinners and flip shit all over the place. god, I love ‘em.

      3. John k

        Imo never is too strong. Elections are coming, assuming war ends this year we might see a splintering eu well before 2030 with countries peeling off with their own trade deals with Russia and eu/nato too weak to prevent them.
        I wonder if those with nato bases might be treated differently, say higher priced gas etc.
        otoh, can’t imagine us agreeing to new security with Russia any time soon regardless of which party is in White House, not that it would be worth the paper it was printed on, so why would Russia waste the time?

      4. RockTime

        Russia has a couple of ways to deal with Europe and Nato:
        – Time and patience: wait till their economies collapse and people start starving (or killing each other for a meal) — yeah, that might take 5-10 years, but who cares, and/or
        – If they are insane enough to make a move — use those little hypersonic toys with (as Medvedev put it) “special warheads” so as that even cockroaches don’t survive — that will provide a pretty secure western boarder.

        Europe will fall in line, one way or another… Russia will not tolerate threats to its security any longer. That much is clear.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Hyperbole is a form of Making Shit Up, a violation of our site Policies. If you again wildly exaggerate, the comment will not be approved. You are already in moderation for past abuses, so please read our Policies and adhere to them if you intend to continue participating here.

  8. Nordberg

    Do the Banderites hate the Poles and Hungarians? If the war against Russia is lost, will they turn their ire towards them? What would NATO do then? Fight itself?

    1. Polar Socialist

      Might be better to think about it the other way around – Ukraine still has a lot of “non-conforming” Ukrainians left that the Banderites have been kicking around (if not literally torturing and killing like in Donbass) for years. When the war against Russia is lost, they certainly will have some tits to tat with the Banderites now totally stripped of the western support and hiding scared of the FSB/GRU/Smersh.

    2. Feral Finster

      Before 1939, the traditional Ukrainian nationalist folk devils were Jews and Poles. The nationalists themselves were cooling off in Polish prisons when the Germans invaded.

      By contrast, they were little concerned with Russia. They knew about the famine in Soviet Ukraine and they didn’t much care, since the Ukrainian SSR had broad cultural autonomy, unlike the aggressively centralizing and polonizing Second Republic.

      Russia only became a folk devil because the UPA, once released from prison, found out just how little I.V. Stalin care about their ideas for how Ukraine should be run, and because they saw the Nazis and thought “Our Kind Of People!”

      Of course, after WWII, the West discovered that it could make common cause with all sorts of unsavory characters.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      European far right groups have always been pretty fluid and flexible when it comes to deciding who is part of their in or out-group.

      It would not surprise me if in the event of a ‘betrayal’ by the West and Kiev, then they’d look to revive the idea of the Intermarium, a Slavic nation stretching from the Baltic States to the Black Sea. A broken and disillusioned Europe post defeat may well agree that Western Europe would be better off with a buffer state between it and Russia.

      1. hk

        The original (post WW1) Intermarium failed because Poles (other than Pilsudski’s people) didn’t want to lead it and Ukrainians and Lithuanians didn’t want to be under Polish rule. Not sure things will be too different: America is different to the folks there because we are distant not only physically but mentally–we don’t care about them other than abstractly, so they can hoodwink us easily–up to a point. If they actually have to organize something themselves, things will change.

  9. Dave Holloway

    Ho hum. 700 days after the inevitable 3 day victory, don’t you suppose it would be easier to just admit you were wrong?

    1. Dave Holloway

      Although there has been an historic error.
      By not giving ranged weapons to Ukraine while they still had the initiative, NATO will now face a fully militarized enemy with no path back to the former, meager, status quo economy.
      Once Russia reconstitutes the professional military that was annihilated in their ill chosen adventure, they’ll be tempted to use it for lack of another path to sustaining the oligarch regime.

      1. nippersdad

        What planet are you living on?

        I don’t recall Russia ever saying they would have a victory in three days. That is left over propaganda from back when they were supposed to have been cannibalizing dish washers for micro-chips.

        Russia has been reducing the power of its oligarchs and had an autarchic economy for years now. The sanctions regime imposed upon them has only served to increase the speed of actions already taken in that respect to the degree that they now have the strongest economy in Europe.

        It has also been building up its’ army since the breakdown of the Istanbul accords. Their army was never “annihilated”, it has been augmented.

        But here are some other talking points you have missed….
        ….they make for fun reading, anyway.

        1. Bush Jr

          I asked for who in Russia said “3 days” once and there were two people that commenters could come up with. A woman who is an executive with a print or TV media outlet said that Russia could do it very quickly. And Putin said something about being able to roll right through to Kiev quickly. But Putin’s qpcomment was in 2914 when the civil war broke out. A lot of NATO training and weaponization took place in the 8 years following that.

    2. SeventyTwoTrillion

      Ho hum. 700 days after the inevitable 3 day collapse of the Russian economy due to Western sanctions, don’t you suppose it would be easier to just admit you were wrong?

  10. ISL

    minor suggested edit – “The leadership in Kiev will need to be killed or flee;” [or imprisoned and tried]. There will be no last minute “helicopter from Saigon” or “airplane from Kabul” (as Russia would down any fleeing politician aircraft) and Russia has promised that war criminals will see their day in court (and then killed or exiled to Siberia). A good reason the west needs Zelensky exiled (or dead if still in country at the end).

  11. IMOR

    I got tired of unfunny puns on my actual surname by second grade, so I’ll spare you the obvious riposte based on your screen name.
    I will suggest that a quick readthrough before hitting the Post Comment button or during the multiminute editing window can help one avoid self-contradiction, almost as much as consulting even official government statistics or ‘factbooks’ before compising one’s post might. Welcome!

  12. Camelotkidd

    In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway described how one went bankrupt–gradually, then suddenly.

    It’s the same with empires. One day they’re fit as a fiddle, then the next day multiple crisis’s expose a brittle shell.

    The US is undergoing one of those moments, where the collapsing proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and fulsome support for Israeli genocide have badly exposed the hollow nature its power.

    What’s amazing is that the rapid decline of the American empire has been precipitated by the original decision to back Israel’s genocide in Gaza, supposedly to defeat Hamas. Instead, it has turned the region and much of the World against the US.

    All of this, coming as it does, at a moment when the US’s Ukraine Project is imploding, demonstrates Lenin’s axiom that–“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”.

    1. ISL

      “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” – Athenian General-turned-historian Thucydides

      The US acts as if it must defend every point of honor or the predators circling beyond the firelight will spiral inwards. The rising powers would prefer this happens on someone else’s territory.

      1. Kouros

        Persian funds going to Sparta also helped… Plus all the Greek refugees languishing at the Persian court, bitching and maoning against the regime in Athens.

  13. ciroc

    The Russians noted that Syrsky resembled Andrei Vlasov not only in appearance but also in his career. He was a hero of the Red Army, but later turned to the Nazis. After the defeat of the former Nazis, Vlasov was captured and executed. In the not too distant future, after the defeat of the modern Nazis, the fate that awaits Syrsky will not be so different.

    1. James

      All you people talking about Syrsky or Zelensky getting executed – have you not been reading the articles about how Lviv is the fallback position for the Ukrainian regime? Do you think Putin is going to want to take Lviv?

  14. Steve H.

    隔岸觀火, Gé àn guān huǒ (Observe the Fire on the Opposite Shore):

    Delay entering the field of battle until all other parties become exhausted by fighting amongst each other. Go in at full strength and finish them off.

  15. Dave Holloway

    As far as the vaunted Russia military-industrial complex goes, they no longer have access to the more capable satellites who produced for the Soviets in places like Katowice, Kharkiv, Moravia are no longer available.
    Workers there were somewhat less drunk and lazy.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Dave.

      You sound like a funster, chiding workers for being drunk and lazy.

      I work in the City and am used to assessing risk. Your comment reminds me of various forms of risk managers and stenographers who no longer, if they ever did on account of age, know how to assess economies that make things, are largely self-sufficient and / or have a large measure of state control, the jesters that, for example, say the UK should be like Singapore without ever learning how Singapore, where I used to work for HSBC, works. NB I also worked for HSBC in Russia and Kazakhstan.

    2. Kouros

      I have watched quite a few clips with diverse manufacturing lines in Russia, from small drones to missiles, shells, tanks, guns, etc. They didnt give the impression of negligence, being lackadistical, innebriation, etc.

      And as Russians ended up over drinking, because the Tzars had monopoly on alcohol sell and pushed it through regardless of consequences, they can stop that habbit, especially with the example Putin provides.

  16. Socal Rhino

    Re new trolls appearing

    As many have pointed out, our MSM continues to push two contradictory narratives: Russia is going to roll on to Berlin again, and Russia is a gas station with a feeble army. The first sells the need for funding, the second reassures that just a little more funding will allow Ukraine to prevail. Clever marketing, like the notion that buying a mass produced auto will show you are a rugged individualist. Both collapse when you pause to think for a minute.

    1. ilsm

      Romney infer: Putin coming for Brussels, right after he recovers from the drubbing our $73B squandered in Kiev wrecked his poultry army..

      So we need print more debt to keep Kiev green.

      I don’t know whether to weap or go buy some Lockheed and Boeing shares.

    2. Reply

      The troll alarmist invasion stories squeeze out room on front pages and in media stories for lingering questions that people in flyover land still have.

      When will Ukraine funding audits be made available?
      And the weapons audits, after reports about arms falling into others’ hands?
      And rumors of bio weapons labs?
      And whatever became of those Burisma grifter offspring like younger Romney, Pelosi & Biden?
      And what steps are being taken by whom to address the Nazis that a prior generation defeated?

  17. PlutoniumKun

    Thanks for this great overview.

    Endgames for wars are rarely neat and simple, even when one side has a decisive victory. We often think they are, because so many history chapters end with the final surrender or collapse. The reality is rarely so clean. Its usually only when a head of state stays in place to manage the transition (for example, Japans Emperor), that it can go according to some sort of plan. Even Germanys surrender in 1945 wasn’t nearly as neat as its often portrayed in the history books.

    I think that even in the event of a general collapse, Russia will find it very hard to take additional territory once it goes beyond the majority pro-Russian areas. There will be mountains of weapons available, especially mines, that can be used to extract a heavy price if there are local forces willing to resist. One definitive conclusion we’ve seen from this war is that modern weaponry decisively favors defenders over attackers. And crossing the Dneiper will be extremely difficult, even with a shattered Ukraine. I think Russia may come to regret the decision to withdraw from Kherson, sensible as it seemed at the time – a classic example of a tactically sensible decision being strategically problematic. But I don’t see any way it can finish the way without complete control of the mouth of the Dneiper, even if it decides not to take Odessa – which in itself will be very difficult – its a far larger city than any taken so far.

    So the best case scenario that I see it is that a shattered Kiev makes some sort of deal, which will be difficult enough, even if it has lost all its viable army. This is why I think Ukraine will fight essentially to the last available soldier – there are too many forces at work making some sort of surrender impossible.

    There is one possibility though that I assume the Russians are considering – that a shattered Ukraine simply falls apart into warlord (for want of a better word) led regions based on the remaining cities. Local commanders (or mayors or just local mafiosi) may feel they can get a better deal for themselves if they declare de facto independence from Kiev and remaining militias and units may be more willing to fight on for a popular local hardman than Kiev (especially if he has cash to give out). There are plenty of historical precedents for this – not least former Yugoslavia. This could create an opportunity for Russia to maintain a chain of mini-buffer states between themselves and Nato – a combination of force and bribery could keep them ‘neutral’. But if Russia advances, it may find that local warlords are far more effective than Kiev in making taking and occupying land far difficult. If local people are willing to resist, and they have some sort of leader/figurehead, it would be extremely difficult to pacify any major city west of the Dnieper.

    1. hk

      Ukraine itself is an example: there was armed resistance in the West for a decade after the war, when USSR was far more repressive than Russia today and the obvious routes for the West to support these movements were largely blocked off (since Eastern Europe was mostly under Soviet control.). All the more reason Russia does not want actual possession of Ukrainian territories beyond obviously Russophile regions. But they still need to find a neutralist regime for the rump which will be hard because the Russophile regions of Ukraine will have become Russia by then. I think it was Sakwa that argued that Russia wanted Ukraine whole for a long time because of the internal balance between Russophilic and Russophobic regions. That ain’t there any more

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes – I don’t know too much about the history of post war Ukraine, but it does seem the uprising there was far more disruptive and intense than many (including the Soviets/Russians) want to admit.

        I think its often underestimated just what an achievement it was by that generation to create a generally stable western, eastern, and southern Europe out of the mess left post-war.

  18. Tom K-ski

    In the eyes of Stavka or Russian General Staff, The End to this SMO special military operation involves one of a NATO members rolling into the Western Ukraine and declaring some sort of a protection zone. This scenario would allow Russians to make a presentation of their real military power and wipe out or eliminate NATO soldiers in a spectacular fashion – Hollywood style. This showdown could impose the peace in Europe for the next 80 years. The Mike Tyson doctrine involves a punch to the face of our overlords/adversaries in order to shatter the illusions and fantasies. See the fireworks in Kiev when Patriot batteries fired all the missiles into the sky. Imagine the same show in the sky of Lvov.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Why should the West oblige Russia? Russia may have already poisoned that option via the famed Medvedev map, which made clear it was an outcome Russia would like

      One NATO member seizing territory would cause great consternation among other NATO members. Germany in particular would not like an enlarged Poland. Poland it already too big and troublesome for Germany and many other EU/NATO members’s taste.

      Hungary is seen as a bad guy so it could not be allowed to get part of Ukraine after blocking funding.

      It this is the best idea the Stavka has, they need to go back to the drawing board.

  19. Lefty Godot

    For years Americans (with any awareness of what goes on outside our borders) have complained, “How come they get all those holidays in Europe and we don’t? How come their health care is all provided by the government and we have to pay separately for a worse version here?” So Europe was a threat to the US Empire because it provided an alternative “socialistic” model that looked better from some angles. Just like the USSR was a threat for the same reason. Between excellent propaganda and unlimited fiat money the US was able to break down the USSR eventually. So now it was Europe’s turn to get taken down, and the privatizers and globalizers and free marketeers went to work on that project, with some success. But this war has accelerated the process tremendously! The enshittification curve for European countries is looking steeper and more exaggerated than what the US is experiencing. So, whether Ukraine wins or loses, this war is a success already! The US will have ruined another alternative to its program of making human life nasty, brutish and shorter (than it would be in a nation whose government actually served its people). The Uniparty can break out the champagne and celebrate no matter how the cookie crumbles for Kiev.

    1. Kouros

      More examples for the world that the US system is to be avoided at all costs. And the success in Europe will be temporary, there is no lock in on the political power, parties and leaders sprout up like mushrooms, and with the BS spread all over by the US and its European sycophants, there will be a fertile ground for lots of opposition.

  20. Dessa

    Not sure I’d call drug dealers heroes, but if this is where we have to find them:

    I’m not sure “drug dealers” is a fair characterization of cannbis growers at this point. It’s widely acknowledged as having medicinal applications with relatively few downsides. If we’re calling them “drug dealers,” we could say the same of GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson&Johnson, whose products are often more dangerous

  21. bold'un

    As far as I know, Ukrainian speakers occupy the countryside while Russians tend more to be city dwellers, so there is no easy way to divide the pie by language. Also mobilisation has complicated russian-speakers’ loyalty (see Sirsky): fighting together inevitably forges national identity.
    I guess the best solution would be a “Swiss” one with different cantons speaking different languages and some sort of armed neutrality that depends neither on NATO nor ex-Soviet weaponry… but sadly I am reminded that Beirut was called the “Switzerland of the Middle East”…

  22. Grebo

    It will be interesting to see if the Nazi battalions that Zaluzhny kept safe will agree to enter the killing zone. The Russians have been waiting for them. Russia does not want to move fast while they might be able to escape. Once they have been annihilated we will see Nazi officials running or being eliminated by Ukrainians. Then peace will become possible.

  23. Willow

    Two key points in the article:

    > unhinged state of the West. You do not make sudden moves around crazy people.
    > things may get so bad that having Russia come in and take charge may start looking less bad to many of the locals.

    Russia needs to manage conflict in a way that doesn’t give West a free kick to do something stupid. If West does something stupid it needs to be extremely costly for the West which means extremely well prepared layered strategy. To take Eastern Ukraine without it becoming a huge resource drain Russia has to flip Ukrainians against Zelensky & West. This means Ukraine has to collapse economically & socially not just militarily . In both cases a slow and cautious approach covers risk while paying big dividends.

    But there are other huge benefits for Russia letting Ukraine collapse economically and socially – the impact on Europe. As Poland said, Ukraine will be the drowning country who pulls down the rest of Europe with it. A new flood of refugees into Europe taking jobs and draining state budgets adding fuel to the fire of discontent over immigration at the same time of Muslim anger over Europe’s support of Israel. And here is the critical bit: as Ukraine collapses militarily, there’s going to be a massive flood of black market weaponry into European criminal gangs and onto other ‘discontents’. Europe won’t have to worry about Russia, the security risk will be internal. Europeans (not the elites) will end up flipping and asking for Russia’s help!

    Russia’s long game is Europe not Ukraine. Russia playing chess while West is playing checkers.

    1. Heretic

      I would also add that at this present moment time, Western politicians are agreement incapable, and their deep state /woke state leaders have a rabid hatred of Russia. The Russians have to thoroughly demoralize and frustrate the peoples and governments in order to have peace.
      Going nice and slow serves Russia on the tactical picture and strategic level (as pointed out by Mr Mercouris and by Yves). On the tactical level, fighting in the Donbas gives Russia shorter supply lines, and much better ISR, via a sympathetic population. At the strategic level, a slow but thorough destruction of the Ukrainian army, slowly de-nazifies the country, and will inflict exhaustion on both Ukraine and the West, such that in the future Ukraine and the West have no choice but to accept Russian demands. The big tragedy in Gaza, combined with Russian battlefield performance, might stiffen the Arab peoples and their leaders to also act according to their dignity and self interest; which would mean curtailing supplies to Europe, which would cause Europe to curtail supplies to the Ukraine. This would bring about the necessary conditions that the Russian would need to impose a security solution on Europe and on the Ukraine. This would also instill a sense of betrayal and disillusionment within the Ukrainian people (and some of the elites), toward the West; an invaluable outcome for the Russians as it would make the Ukraine more pliant and less rebellious as Russia attempts to rebuild the Ukraine

      I expect that the final physical configuration of the solution to the Ukraine for the Russians will likely require occupation (via its forces or a trusted third party) of depopulated border zones stretching all along Ukraine’s east borders to all along its Black Sea coast and at minimum the 8 oblasts nearest to Russia. Hopefully the depopulation can be done via an orderly and humane transit either into what remains of the Ukraine or out into Europe. All imports of goods and travel of people into the Ukraine will have to be inspected to insure no inflow of weapons or special personnel (well trained with malicious intent, such as sabateurs, assassins, or maidan-event planners) from the perfidious aspects of the European and American Deep state. Furthermore, there must be treaty agreements with Europe, to prevent the propagandizing of undue hatred and fear, as well as large scale industrial re-armament of Europe. This I believe will be the shape of the Russian solution for the Ukraine

  24. Aurelien

    Coming very late to this, but I was instantly struck by the belief of people like ISW that “American assistance” will somehow enable Ukraine to survive. Do they really believe this? What is this “American assistance” of which you speak? What is this air defence capability? What are these defeat-avoiding capabilities that can be provided? What are people like ISW taking?

  25. CA

    What has been made clear and the Russians know is that the war in Ukraine is an existential war for Russia. Russia, however, will win the war simply because the stakes are so impossibly high. President Putin sought to explain just this and the result of the explanation could easily lead to negotiations and peace, but America in particular evidently wants none of this and the tragedy will continue unfolding for a time.

  26. CA

    “The German government has repeatedly expressed its concern for civilians in Gaza – the foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said on Saturday that ‘the suffering in Rafah is unfathomable’ – while continuing to supply arms to Israel.”

    This German government is both terrifying and inept. I do not imagine that it will be sustained in any coming vote. Is there something about being a Green that has turned an Annalena Baerbock incapable of being ethically self-reflective?

    February 13, 2024

    This Arctic Circle Town Expected a Green Energy Boom. Then Came Bidenomics.
    Generous subsidies are helping the United States steal green industries from Europe, as countries race to secure the energy supplies of the future.
    By Jeanna Smialek and Ana Swanson
    Photographs by Thomas Ekström

  27. David in Friday Harbor

    I’m very fearful that the closer “Ukraine” gets to collapse, the more dangerous the situation becomes for the entire world. After a “betrayal” by the West, the “Ukrainian” ultras are going to be a lot less fastidious about the “blowback” from unleashing a dirty bomb that might send a radiation cloud over Europe.

    It’s clear to me from the Tucker Carlson interview that Putin and Lavrov miscalculated badly their ability to force a diplomatic settlement with their 2022 military feint. Having to win a military victory is a messy project that they don’t appear to have envisioned.

    The longer that the “Ukrainian” ultras are allowed to hang on, the more desperate their moves will be and the more needless human suffering that will ensue. They are already publicly dissing Maidan coup-sponsor Victoria Nuland, the Russian-hating genius who got the ball rolling on this humanitarian disaster. All because the neocons were bent that they had failed to destabilize Russia and take control of the oil and gas flowing to Europe — because, as Putin pointed out to Tucker, they under-estimated Yeltsin.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Dirty bombs are not good weapons. Having the radioactive material competes with the explosives. Notice how one has never been used????

      They would likely be most effective in the suitcase to van-sized truck bomb range, at a transportation hub like Grand Gentral. The terror effect and reminder of the event via the haz mat cleanup would outweigh the actual damage.

      From the NRC:

      A “dirty bomb” is a type of “radiological dispersal device” that combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. The terms dirty bomb and RDD are often used interchangeably. Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness – the conventional explosive itself would be more harmful to people than the radioactive material. However, an RDD explosion could create fear and panic, contaminate property and require potentially costly cleanup.

  28. Jorge

    Ok, I’m going to lay down a marker:

    1. In the Putin/Carlson interview, Putin slips in a silly little story about driving around Ukraine in the 80s and seeing first Hungarian text on the street signs and then Hungarians in their Quaint Native Costumes. “Are they in the circus?” “No, they’re Hungarians and want to be Hungarians. They speak Hungarian.” “So, they’re Ukrainians, but they want to be Hungarian? Wow. Such a world. Who would have thought it!” It’s about a quarter of the way down in the RU transcript, search for “cylinder”:
    Interview to Tucker Carlson

    2. Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban has been hassling NATO’s Hungarian detachment for years. He derailed the careers of the NATO guys in the Hungarian military. Here is the link:
    Hungarian Generals Ousted as Orban Overhauls Top Army Leadership.

    My conclusion: by slipping in this “silly little story” to Carlson (who can only understand silly little stories), Putin did the stage magician misdirection thing. This was a public offer to Hungary that maybe it could have a bit of Ukraine, as a post-war treat.

    I further claim that the obvious quid pro quo is: “leave NATO and you can have your old bit of Ukraine back, when it comes time to rearrange the *Security Architecture*”. Hungary, Poland and Romania all have cultural claims on different chunks of land on the border of Western Ukraine, and Hungary is by far the most likely to bite on such an offer.

    It is far too early to formally make such a non-Westphalian* offer, but slipping in the story was a sly way to articulate it to anyone paying attention. If a dumb IT guy like me can spot it, some people in The Blob may have vomited when reading this, assuming they bothered to read it. (I’m sure it’s verboten in various quarters, like reading Wikileaks will void your security clearance.)

    Is this Making Shit Up? Yes, but backed with an argument.

    * Yes, this was a joke about the Lovecraftian horrors of non-Euclidean geometry, why do you ask?

  29. Humwawa

    The problem that a victory in Ukraine will not give Russia any security guarantees or remove the threat from US missiles systems in Romania and Poland always did exist.

    I think the primary reason why the Istanbul peace talks in March 2022 failed is that Western powers didn’t want to give the security guarantees Zelensky demanded in lieu of Nato membership. The Budapest memorandum of 1994 never became a legally binding treaty because the US Senate refused to ratify any treaty that would force the US to wage war against Russia to assist Ukraine. I don’t believe that the thinking in Western capitals has changed in this regard. Zelensky’s fancy ideas about security guarantees from all kinds of countries was totally unrealistic.

    That brings me back to the mutual security guarantees proposed by Russia on December 17th, 2021. Ukraine wants security guarantees. Russia wants security guarantees. Europe, which is now working itself into a frenzy about the threat of a Russian attack, could do with security guarantees. The Russian proposal for mutual security guarantees could be more attractive to European leaders than the prospect of ruining their failing economies in another arms race that will make us all less secure.

    The problem is that the US wants hegemony and not security.

  30. Borislav Katzarov

    Since the US does not feel any pressure presently, it will not agree to anything.
    The EU leader also are not in any danger from Russia at the moment.
    The present Ukrainian government is dependent on the West and on the Banderites.
    So, option one: A coup in Ukraine. All the present leadership follows the faith of Mussolini or relocates to London. A small state called Galicia with security guarantees from Russia is created.
    Option two: You break it, you buy it. The Russians will have to deal with the whole of former Ukraine.
    If they leave anything on the map with the name Ukraine, that state will have claim on all the 1991 territory, and the West will continue to pour weapons there. There might be significant resistance in he beginning, but it is much better for the Russians to be inside their jurisdiction.
    Since, the Chinese and the Indians are now firmly backing the Russians, they might have already agreed to such a possibility.
    In time an agreement with the EU might be possible. The neighboring EU countries were given the carrot to reclaim their old territories. The Germans have the option to restart the gas.
    These seem to me to be the most likely options under the present circumstances. I am sure there are other.

  31. Expat2uruguay

    This is a great discussion and I can only add one more observation as to why it could be attractive to Putin to wait for Ukraine to fall apart after it is abandoned by the West. This we will make it apparent to everyone that the failure in Ukraine is due to a failure of the US. Russia sweeping in with big military moves then could cause people in the rest of the world to be less trustful of Russia and more willing to join a coalition against Russia. So by waiting Putin is able to allow the United States to suffer the consequences of its poor decisions and make Russia look less like the big bad scary meanie.

  32. Romulus

    One possible plan is for Russia to continue the war for 5 to 10 years, very gradually whittling the Ukraine’s population down to 5 million or less, and the country to absolute poverty and totally dependent (as it is now) on charity from neighboring countries. Once the country has reached such a moral, political,demographic and economic low point, Russia can colonize the land by importing its population (as it did in the Baltic’s) and thereby extend its boundaries to touch Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
    The Ukrainian army is a NATO army, trained, armed, led and supported by NATO and effectively (was) the second largest NATO army. The Russians demolished it, and so have no fear of the very loud mouthed but militarily very ineffective West. They have all the time they need to carry out their plan.

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