The Russian Endgame in Ukraine and European Resistance to “Right Wing” Advances: A Thought Experiment

As most of you know well by now, the so-called European right wing made substantial, even in cases stunning, gains in European parliament elections. This would seem to take some of the wind out of the sails of those wanting to escalate against Russia. But we’ll describe a scenario below that they could pursue and even use the right wing gains to justify. In other words, as Lambert would put it, this is still an overly dynamic situation.

French President Emanuel Macron, after Marine Le Pen’s National Rally won the most votes for MEP seats, with exit polls showing 32% compared to about 15% for Macron’s allies, is taking the stunning gamble of calling snap elections. Given how poor Macron’s political instincts have been, I would not bet on this move working out well for him.

The German Greens also took a drubbing, with preliminary totals showing it fell from second place in 2019 at 20.5% to fourth place now at 12.8%. The CDU/CSU is tops at 30.9% and AfD gained from 11% to 14.9%. In Italy, Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy was estimated to have garnered 26-29%, besting left-wing contenders who came in at 21-25%.

In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party came in the lead at 26.7%, but in the Netherlands and Hungary, the right wing fell short of expectations.

The Guardian summed it up: “Despite gains for the far and radical right, the mainstream, pro-European parties were on course to hold their majority.”

Nevertheless, this outcome has to add to the rising frisson over voter lack of enthusiasm for Project Ukraine despite attempts to whip up fear over the supposedly imminent Putin takeover of all of Europe. Admittedly, we are likely to see a lot of sloppy analysis over why more voters are refusing to eat centrist dog food. In many countries, the reasons are likely to be local and thus oversimplied in efforts to craft over-arching explanations. In the absence of better facts, James Carville’s “It’s the economy, stupid” is probably as good an assessment as any.

But again, crudely speaking, these “populist” right wingers are nationalist, meaning not keen about NATO adventurism and suspected Putin stooges. And European and US leaders are likely now quietly freaked out about the risk of a LePen and then Trump win. But what might they do?

It is true, as Aurelien said early on, that all the Europe can do in the long run is engage in epic sulking. Absent an escalation to nuclear war or a series of astonishingly bad military actions, Russia is comfortably on track to crushing the Ukraine military and being able to dictate terms. Even if the Collective West was not showing cracks in its former anti-Russian unity, the means are proving to wanting. Ukraine’s allies have been scraping the bottom of their weapons barrels to try to keep up supplies. Brave words about increasing arms production have not been met with anything more than paltry results, even as Russia has ramped up output considerably in major equipment categories.

As experts have pointed out, even if the US/NATO forces could keep feeding Ukraine with munitions, Ukraine is running out of men, particularly men who are anything more than cannon fodder. I have no idea how representative these images are, but the fact that there are any like this is telling:

Putin also discussed the Ukraine military force sustainability during his interview with foreign journalists:

According to our calculations, the Ukrainian army loses about 50,000 people a month—both sanitary and irreparable losses, approximately 50/50. The current total mobilization does not solve these problems. They mobilize about 30,000 people a month—mostly forcibly. There are few volunteers.

In the past two months, they have mobilized around 50-55,000 people, according to our data. But this does not solve their problems because this mobilization only covers their losses.

This problem leads to lowering the conscription age: from 27 to 25. We know from Ukrainian sources that the US administration insists on gradually lowering the threshold from 25 to 23, then to 20 years, and finally to 18 years. They already require 17-year-olds to register for the draft. This is a demand from the US administration to the Ukrainian leadership.

Putin also said, in effect, that the US would keep Zelensky around to implement unpopular measures like conscripting 18 year olds and then replace him when his perceived utility is over. Zelensky appears to have purged immediate threats, so at the moment he is comparatively secure.

The Biden Administration (not just Biden but Blinken also, who seems to be Victoria Nuland’s Mini Me) despises Putin with the passion of a thousand burning suns. They will never countenance negotiations with him or a Russian government. Macron and the leadership of NATO, the UK, Poland, and the Baltic States also show serious hostility.1

So Putin’s intel is consistent with the US and key allies refusing to back down and continuing to press Ukraine to keep fighting, no matter what the cost to Ukraine, even at the cost of more deaths and disability among Ukraine men, and more loss of territory.

However, we warned early on that Russia could win the war and lose the peace. The problem is that Putin’s big motive for launching the Special Military Operation was that the prospect of continued conflict in the Donbass and eventual installation of long-range missiles in Ukraine, whether as a formal NATO member or in some wink-and-nod unofficial status, was a direct threat to Russian security.

How does Putin achieve a cessation of a hot conflict and improve Russia’s security?

Even with Russia having a very big military upper hand, it still faces two problems. One is that the absolutism in the West seems likely to lead to Russia achieving maximum territorial gains relative to what the Russian leadership has signaled might be of interest. The West really is determined to fight to the last Ukrainian. It is already well on its way to exhausting weapons supplies.

From an administrative perspective, Russia does not want to attempt to hold hostile territory. That would seem to restrict what it would want to integrate into Russia to land a bit to the West of the Dnieper so as to secure the major cities that straddle the river, such as Kiev, Dnipro, Zaporzhizhia, and Kherson and the Black Sea coast to Odessa.

Note that Russia securing what was Ukraine’s Black Sea coast has the potential to unleash extreme Western responses. But that’s a risk for Russia to weigh, hence Putin calling Odessa an “apple of discord”. More recently, however, Putin and other leaders have been regularly describing Odessa as a Russian city. And it goes without saying that if Russia were to control Ukraine’s Black Sea access, it would control Ukraine economically.

But that does not mean the West is without resources. Even if the US/NATO combine succeeds in getting Ukraine to send most of its remaining young men to death and injury in the battlefield, shrinking their rank, ethnically Ukrainian, Russia-hostile western Ukraine will remain. Russia does not want to occupy it. But the alternatives may be worse.

With the demonized populists, particularly Trump gaining in polls, the current leadership in the US has been implementing measures to restrict Trump. From CNN in February:

Lawmakers from both parties last December may have been anticipating former President Donald Trump’s current NATO trash talk when they quietly slipped language limiting a president’s power to pull the US out the alliance into the annual defense policy bill, which passed with bipartisan support.

That sort of preemptive measure is likely to be moving to the front burner. Here is a simple spoiler. If yours truly can come up with this sort of thing, there are likely many others.

Earlier in the war, Colonel Douglas Macgregor discussed that the US could form a “coalition of the willing” which could get to about 100,000 in total, between US, Polish, Romanian, and UK commitments. Then he envisaged it as an offensive force to assist Ukraine, stressing then that it would be too small in number to have good odds of changing the course of the war (these mentions if I recall correctly were before the defeat of the great summer counteroffensive, so Russia looked weaker than it does now).

But what if the US reworks this as a strictly defensive operation, to preserve rump Ukraine? They could try to achieve their much-claimed frozen conflict by announcing the boundaries of a DMZ and then positioning coalition forces on the other side of it, in western Ukraine.

And then with the West firmly in control of this terrain and an excuse for a serious military presence, there is always the potential to install the sort of long range missiles that Russia absolutely did not want in Ukraine.

Readers are welcome to shoot holes in this idea. But Mark Sleboda, who tends to be conservative (as in “worst outcomes for Russia” biased) in his analysis, volunteered, without elaborating, that it might be best available option for Russia to take Western Ukraine, even though he had thought otherwise until recently.

Of course, as John Helmer pointed out early on, Russia could create a big DMZ, its width dependent on the range of missiles the West saw fit to use, via de-electrification. And that unlike the formation of a “coalition of the willing” could be done pretty quickly.

Please keep in mind that the point of this post is not to suggest that the West would act on any particular scheme. But the unanticipated right wing gains and Trump not being dented much (at all?) by his conviction is likely focusing quite a few minds. And one line of thought they may be pursuing is how to create facts on the ground that would impede their action.

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1 It is not clear why Macron shifted from being willing to engage Putin to hostility. Was it because Putin snubbed him by letting word get out that he found Macron’s long calls to be time wasters? Or because Macron blames Russia for France’s recent setbacks in Africa?

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187 comments

  1. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Just one quibble, with regard to the UK being able to deploy in Ukraine, and this says it better than me, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5804/cmselect/cmdfence/26/report.html#heading-2.

    Readers will note the name of retired general Nick Carter. He has just joined the Blair team and will advise the UK government and other governments who hire Blair behind that screen.

    With regard to Ukrainian soldiers, it’s not just these ageing ones pictured. I know a subaltern who will soon leave the British Army. One of his duties was instructor at Catterick, including squeezing Ukrainians in for a few weeks, sic, between rotations of young local recruits. He said he heard about mildly down’s syndrome men being recruited for effectively suicide missions. These are not sent west for training.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks. Macgregor had made clear that the # of UK forces were puny and most would come from the US (40,000), Poland (30,000) and Romania (IIRC, 20,000). I was remiss in not including that he strongly insinuated that any UK participation would be close to symbolic.

      Reply
      1. ilsm

        Russia has no use for freeze or ceasefire, until Ukraine is destitute of military assets, including the NATO gifts. It won’t endure a revised Minsk Accord.

        Logistics!

        40000 US “force” if that is purely “line combat” units could be 5 or 6 Brigade Combat Teams. The movement of those on long land lines is problematic!

        Getting 4 or 5 brigades from the US is a big deal. Not all battalions in an ‘object’ brigade are on the same post!

        Covering them with aerospace power (most overlooked deficiency of the 2023 offensive) so they don’t get ‘strafed’ as in WW II North Africa and Sicily is a separate huge deployment. All of it needs a steady flow of bullets, beans, blood and jet fuel/diesel!

        A logistics ‘corridor’ from the port at Rotterdam!

        It would be throwing them into the “briar patch”, right where the Russians can wear them out.

        What happens when some of them get on the ‘left’ side of the Dneiper?

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        1. Louis Fyne

          >>>Getting 4 or 5 brigades from the US is a big deal.

          Given the current state of US naval logistics, the odds of moving those brigades and their equipment to Europe within 30 days of a presidential order is literally 0—(this was the gold standard during the height of the 80’s Cold War).

          And not only that….the US pretty much is at-the-bone when it comes to the availability of trained reservists/National Guard in the infantry warfighting MOS (military occupational specialty)—whether in whole brigades or singular soldiers in “Individual Ready Reserve.”

          It is not hyperbole that despite all the $$$$$ and people in uniform,—in my opinion— the US military is less ready to fight a multi-month peer war today than on December 6, 1941.

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          1. ilsm

            In my misspent youth, I did a tour around Air Force deployment planning for a NATO defense of Europe. That was prior to 1985 and the positioning of assets was a lot closer to Rotterdam, than envisioned for Ukraine.

            A large part of transport has eroded, and at least for USAF, the F-16 remains the primary multi role fighter.

            DoD is a shadow of its Reagan build up self, across the board!

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        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The scheme above is NOT to have any forces in rump Ukraine be intended for offensive operations but defensive threat display, as in they will park their butts in Ukraine to make Europe feel all cuddly and protected and deter those meanie Russians from going further West.

          Reply
          1. Michaelmas

            YS: they will park their butts in Ukraine to make Europe feel all cuddly and protected and deter those meanie Russians from going further West.

            They can try that, certainly. But in the big picture Russia’s goal is to roll back US-NATO to its 1997 borders in Europe and, indeed, ideally to show US the door out of Europe.

            To that end, it needs US-NATO to continually feed US-NATO military resources into Western Ukraine, where it can grind them to pulp and wait for the next batch.

            Thence, by 2027-28 the regimes currently in power in the EU will either-

            [1] Have so attrited their states that they’ll be ejected by their angry, exhausted populations (viz last night);

            [2] Relent;

            [3] Double-down so stupidly that the whole thing escalates into WW3.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Making Shit Up is a violation of our written site Policies. Russia has never never never said ANYTHING about rolling NATO back. It would take nuclear war to achieve that. The Poles would be the last to exit NATO.

              Russia has already substantially demilitarized NATO. NATO has not meaningfully increased its weapons output, makes many weapons on a national basis (a disaster for logistics, even the 155 mm shell is apparently not very well standardized) and even if it did, they have been found to be pricey, fussy, and therefore not all that well suited to large-scale conflicts.

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              1. lyman alpha blob

                I’d thought that a hawkish Russian official had said something about rolling back NATO, although neither the Russian government or Putin had mentioned it. When I went to look it up, I couldn’t find what I was thinking of due to crapified search, but I did find this and other similar articles from a couple years ago: https://nypost.com/2022/02/17/russia-repeats-nato-pullback-demand-expels-us-embassys-no-2/

                “Russia has also insisted, according to the outlet [state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti], that NATO roll back its military infrastructure to the way it was in 1997, when Brussels and Moscow signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security.”

                Not familiar with that news agency, so Russia may not have said anything about rolling back NATO, but US sources claim they did at least. There was no link provided in the Post article, so they could be taking what was said out of context, as is often the case with US reporting on Russia. It is admittedly hard to keep everything straight when there is so much propaganda to sift through and info recovery isn’t what it used to be.

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                1. nippersdad

                  “I’d thought that a hawkish Russian official had said something about rolling back NATO,”

                  I think that was Ryabkov and Medvedev.

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                2. Grebo

                  (Proposed) Agreement on Measures… 17 Dec 2021

                  “Article 4

                  The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997. With the consent of all the Parties such deployments can take place in exceptional cases to eliminate a threat to security of one or more Parties.”

                  I take that to mean NATO should “roll back” its forward force deployments, not that countries should be made to leave.

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              2. nippersdad

                I believe that was one of the positions taken when Russia was discussing a new security architecture treaty in Europe prior to the outbreak of the SMO in the Donbass. It was an extreme position, but one that was subject to the debate that the US/NATO did not want to have when they still thought they could crush Russia through sanctions regimes.

                “Article 4

                “The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997. With the consent of all the Parties such deployments can take place in exceptional cases to eliminate a threat to security of one or more Parties.”*

                But now they are bringing that draft treaty back up.

                * https://edam.org.tr/en/blog/russia-proposes-a-new-security-architecture-in-europe-and-beyond

                Reply
                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  See the interpretation above. This is a treaty proposal and involved only forward deployment reversals, not the end of NATO membership, where most NATO forces are of their own state. It is most assuredly NOT Russia “rolling back” NATO militarily.

                  Reply
                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Thanks but that is not at all the same as the claim I disputed, which was rolling NATO back to 1997 boundaries, which is vanishingly unlikely to happen other than by conquest and the newly installed governments withdraw from NATO.

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          2. WJ

            Unless I am mistaken, Russia has stated that they will strike against any declared presence of U.S./NATO troops in Ukraine.

            Russia is of course aware that there have secretly been U.S./NATO troops in Ukraine since the beginning, and they seem mostly to turn a blind eye to this—but they are drawing the line, at least rhetorically, at the presence of any troops that are officially acknowledged as playing some role in the conflict.

            I think the U.S./NATO will therefore not insert official troops on the ground in Western Ukraine unless they have determined that Russia is bluffing about their promises to strike them. Perhaps the U.S. is trying to shape the affairs on the field and in diplomatic relations to force Russia to swallow this pill, but I am not sure how they can ever be sure they have done so in advance.

            I for one am pretty confident that Russia would in fact strike at them as stated.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The announced purpose for the various schemes to bringing US/NATO member forces was to support Ukraine’s operations. Ukraine’s stated objectives are still to retake all of 1991 Ukraine, which included Crimea and the four oblasts that are now per Russia part of Russia. Ukraine has been attacking Russian troops in its offensives and also attacking Crimean and pre-2014 Russia. The new “limited” US missile authorization is to attack pre-1991 Russia.

              The use case above is different and not to advance those Ukraine goals.

              Announce a DMZ, announce an intent only to operate behind the DMZ for the purpose of ending the conflict and effective concede the rest of Ukraine is lost. This would amount to the western way to try to draw a line where Russia might tolerate a line being drawn w/o negotiating. It would be a way for the West to try to save face and pretend that they were not completely capitulating to Russia.

              The reason Russia might tolerate that is that the rest of the world might prefer an end to the conflict.

              I am not strongly advocating this as an option. However, I am saying with the odds of Trump winning not abating and the far right gains suggesting the far right may continue to erode the EU (perceived) anti-Russia consensus is that US/NATO leadership will be very motivated to try to create facts on the ground to prevent Trump from making what they perceive to be concessions to Putin, even if they are just concessions to reality. This is just an extreme sketch of the sort of thing that they might bandy about.

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              1. drive-by commenter

                The reason Russia might tolerate that is that the rest of the world might prefer an end to the conflict.

                If only the “rest of the world” had that much power… I mean, populations are always against wars, until propaganda quickly gets them onboard. But what state would really sanction Russia here for a quick end to the conflict? China? :) Or even more NATO sanctions? (I thought they ran out of those…)

                I tend to agree with the others, Russia can see very clearly the fallout and would never agree to such a scheme. NATO forces on the ground would be struck, the world outside NATO would still side with Russia because it’d make it clear that its security was still compromised, just as it was at the beginning of the conflict. NATO wouldn’t follow up on the strike and with everyone clearly seeing these outcomes I doubt they’d be able to push their own troops there (in spite of Macron and all recent saber-rattling, or maybe in light of that). Just more of the mercenaries, legionnaires or whatever, which would be blown to smithereens.

                Maybe an assumption here is that Russia wants this war to end soon. But there’s no evidence for that, the closest thing would be Shoigu mentioning 2025 as a possible landmark, which would still be very weak evidence. Another thing to keep in mind is that wars are very good for winning (or anyone but clear losers, like Netanyahu) leaders, it’s one of the oldest tricks in the bag. This war has been excellent for Putin and still is, there’s no reason to think that he and his circle want to end it soon either.

                The US will remain there and scheming. So far the most promising lines are hiking up terrorism and drones, missiles, sabotage. I’d chance that if Russia actually finally gets Odessa, there will be fewer skirmishes, but, for the US, the war will keep its function with epic sulking. The prime target of the Ukraine war has been Europe for a while now, as long as it tears it apart, preventing a hegemon competitor, fostering militarism to make all of Europe a spearhead against Russia and all the while keeping Europe within the US control, this war is a win (NATO is, after all, about keeping the “Russians out, Americans in, Germans down”). This won’t be changed by Trump and, thus, he doesn’t pose much of threat. His only threat is deranging things by cutting support etc., but he’d be more of a team player in the 2nd term.

                What I’m most afraid of is resorting to dirty bombs once the farce of a front collapses. There’s been much talk about nuclear weapons, maybe the establishment could decide it’s time to try something of the sort in a few years

                Reply
                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Russia depends on the rest of the world for trade now, and is VERY much enjoying its acquisition of soft power at US expense. Russia invaded Ukraine, which usually makes one a pariah, yet has come out of this via skilled handling with many more hard and quiet allies than it ever had before. Putin has acted like he would like to end the conflict. It would undermine all of his previous PR and make him suddenly look untrustworthy to not take advantage of the West trying to find a face-saving way to stop.

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                  1. zach

                    Mad Vlad finally tilts his hand on Russian casualties at SPIEF – 10k a month, by his maths.

                    We’ve got Russian Version Robert McNamara in charge at MoD, with a mandate to get all McNamara-y with things over at the officer’s club.

                    Mr. Helmer tells us (via Levada) that Russian domestic opinion on the conflict is steady/steadily hardening, the only out being that 60% of respondents would support a cease fire.

                    IDK how things work back in the… RF, but here in la-la land presidents do unpopular things when they’re governing with peak political mandate (i got a B+ in poli sci 101 many years ago).

                    Certainly, Mr. Putin and the Foreign Ministry will be diligently exploring off-ramps to decelerate the tank machines, ladders to climb down, and maybe walk under… descending escalators, to snare their shoelaces.

                    But if they’re looking, it’s cuz they’re interested in an end also. I’ve heard tell, from some or another commenter on one or another blogsite, in a negotiation the first person to talk loses. The US doesn’t need to say diddly squat – after all, this is a conflict between Ukraine and Russia!

                    Reply
          3. Jams O'Donnell

            Putting armed forces into the Ukraine would be to legally enter into participation in a war, I imagine. If so, then legally they could be attacked. Also, they would need air cover – The EU/US airforces are no match for Russias now, except maybe in terms of numbers. In any case, these scenarios would all be preliminary to a major war breaking out.

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            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Again you are missing the line of thought. This is not for offensive operations. This would be to sit behind a DMZ, so as to attempt to create a frozen conflict. Just as Russia went in light at the beginning of the SMO to signal that it did not intend to conquer Ukraine, this presumably would be manned way way way lighter than for any possible offensive operation but was seeking to achieve political aims.

              Yes, they could be attacked but this would not be to prosecute war but to go into a defensive crouch. It’s to tell Russia they want to end the war here w/o having to suffer the humiliation of negotiating with Putin.

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              1. Jams O'Donnell

                Maybe so, but I think you are making a distinction that Russia might not bother to make. A frozen conflict would not be in Russia’s interest. It would mean an area of the Ukraine controlled by NATO, where, if they followed the course they have been, for the last couple of decades, more ballistic missiles threatening Moscow could be installed on a whim – ok – a pretty dangerous whim, but there is no indication that the ruling classes in the EU or US are particularly sane.

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                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  But Western Ukraine is a can of worms for Russia. Occupying an area that is hostile to Russia is draining, even corrupting. So what does Russia do, drink this poisoned chalice, if some wakes up to the idea of declaring/creating a DMZ before Russia does

                  Helmer’s idea is looking the best, creating a big de-electrified zone. Can’t create much trouble from there.

                  Reply
      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        There’s no need to feel remiss about anything. The team and you do an amazing job, for which we are very grateful.

        You are right to use the word symbolic. No doubt, the UK MSM will pretend otherwise, hence the polling you highlight on Links.

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  2. ChrisFromGA

    It seems likely that even if Russia takes Kiev and everything along the Dnipr down to Odessa, any sort of “rump” Ukraine in the west can be used to launch terror attacks on Russia. Longer range missiles can reach Western Russia from places like Lviv, I think.

    Of course, that would make what’s left of Ukraine functionally like Somalia. A failed state with a safe harbor for outlaws. And right on the border of the EU. It would be of no economic use to the West, as all the good stuff would be Russian and the huge debt would be unpayable even with the usual Wall Street criminal tricks like zero percent refinancing. With no organic GDP and no electricity, Ukraine is going to make Bolivia look like Canada.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Chris.

      I must quibble with Ukraine “would be of no economic use to the West”. Cheap labour, including sex workers, surrogate mothers and gangland muscle.

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      1. ChrisFromGA

        They can export most of those types. I should have said, no economic use to the Wall St. criminals.

        Garden variety criminals, yes.

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      2. Henry Moon Pie

        “Cheap labour, including sex workers, surrogate mothers and gangland muscle.”

        Well put, Colonel. We must all find a place in the ecology of life.

        Reply
    2. lyman alpha blob

      What you say is certainly true if Russia were to leave a rump Ukraine depopulated and in ruins. But we have seen reports of Russia quickly rebuilding in Mariupol already, before the SMO is even finished.

      If Russia can end this war, get rid of the not-see leadership supported by the West, and rebuild the rest of Ukraine, perhaps with the help of China as part of the Belt and Road initiative, that might create a peaceful and viable state that isn’t in any hurry to let the West in to “help” again any time soon.

      Reply
      1. nippersdad

        Adding to that, Col. Wilkerson was saying the other day that the proposed entrepot into the EU for the new Silk Road was supposed to be Ukraine. Should they decide to continue with such plans, despite the war, that would create an economic magnet for what is left of rump Ukraine. By the end of all of this the EU may be more amenable to such lifelines as Russia and China may care to provide.

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        1. lyman alpha blob

          Indeed. I’m pretty convinced that one rationale for meddling in Ukraine was to stop the B&R from going through there, as it would make Europe far less dependent on the US and might foster cooperation between the EU, Russia and China.

          Peace might break out, and the US can’t have that.

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          1. Michaelmas

            I’m pretty convinced that one rationale for meddling in Ukraine was to stop the B&R from going through there

            For sure.

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      2. KLG

        A Russian Marshall Plan. The symmetry is beautiful! (Travel day, and I have not read all the comments so apologies if this has been mentioned already.)

        Another snippet. While driving home from a meeting I listened to NPR commentary (no actual news) about the European Right’s good day. A major point made by the German interlocutor was that Russian disinformation was a big factor. Stated as a plain fact as obvious as the Brandenburg Gate.

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    3. hk

      The “Rump” Ukraine will need to be a Russian satelite, like Poland during the Cold War. The question is how much, if any, goodwill Russia can find “governing” it.

      Reply
  3. DonC

    I don’t know about the “endgame” but question whether the “game” itself is shifting. Last week at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, it seemed like a number of “what ifs” were floated or implied. In the broadest perspective, the game could shift to: if you are putting your missiles on our border, we are putting our missiles on your border. The Russian naval vessels coming to the Caribbean Sea and porting in Cuba could be a precursor. The West may soon need to think less about “offense” and more about “defense”. The other reality facing the West is that China is showing less patience and strongly indicates that it will not be bullied. Both China and Russia may test the West’s pressure points making Ukraine less significant.

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    1. Pearl Rangefinder

      Indeed, this is important. Putin and Medvedev said Russia would supply the West’s enemies with weapons. We have to see what that will mean precisely, but given the US and co. have such a sprawling international presence with their bases and infrastructure, there are a lot of potential targets out there if ‘we’ continue to insist on not playing nice.

      Reply
  4. Stephen T Johnson

    Well, what’s next is a very interesting question here. I tend to think David/Aurelien is right, that the more rabidly Russophobic NATO nations will not intervene in large numbers, largely due to inability.
    So the big question becomes – if we assume negotiations don’t happen – when and how does Ukraine fall apart?
    Collapse is unpredictable, and we just can’t know what emerges on the other side.
    Interesting times!

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  5. MT_Bill

    The Russians need to get the U.S. involved on another front that means more to them than Ukraine.

    It’s obvious that the U.S. and the west can’t sustain the dual conflicts at this point, and might end up loosing both depending on the situation. And from what we see in these recent elections, there’s lot’s of blowback at home.

    The catch being keeping both fronts as smoldering conflicts draining the west of resources and credibility, while not escalating into WW3.

    If Israel decides to go for Lebanon maybe that would do it.

    The Russians have already said they’re going to start shipping out weapons to be used against the west. The question is where do they show up first in a big way and how soon?

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    1. John k

      Russia docking warships in Cuba is an irritant but not likely to go hot. Us is already seriously distracted by the Israeli war, likely it’s no accident Hamas took action during the Ukraine war.
      Israel has frequently bombed Syria with impunity. Maybe Syria will have more options of using aa defenses in the near future. Plus Russia might quietly help Hezbollah… Iran has difficulty getting them missiles etc, the Russian base is nearby. But Russia also has worldwide options to push against us around the world. Niger already saw a us retreat.

      Reply
      1. WJ

        Russia is too tied to Israel to allow Syria to use advance antiaircraft technology against the IDF. This of course benefits the U.S. because it means that any Syria action that could be construed as too obviously harmful to Israel is off the table.

        Reply
  6. Balan Aroxdale

    But again, crudely speaking, these “populist” right wingers are nationalist, meaning not keen about NATO adventurism and suspected Putin stooges. And European and US leaders are likely now quietly freaked out about the risk of a LePen and then Trump win. But what might they do?

    Are we not forgetting the lesson of Meloni in italy? The pro-Nato populist?
    Traditionally the election of “far right” parties would be deemed as making war more likely, not less. Is there any serious reason to think the greater part of these nationalist parties cannot be won over to backing their natural inclination for a shooting match on the eastern front?

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Italy has been the very vocally opposed to the Macron/Stoltenberg idea of using NATO weapons to strike Russia. Italy has categorically rejecting using its weapons that way. Italy has also not been terribly eager about arming Ukraine generally but has been less obvious about that.

      Reply
    2. ChrisFromGA

      I’m increasingly suspicious that the neocons bought themselves an insurance policy on Trump. He seems to have gone native. Recall the strange spectacle of him inviting Mike Johnson to Mar-a-Lago for some sort of “pow wow” right before Johnson went Judas and M T-G went ballistic as the $61B package that Johnson had opposed for months passed and he suddenly found religion*.

      I highly suspect it was Trump who cut a deal with the neo-cons to bail him out of his legal problems. Note how they rallied to his support after the NY conviction. The Devil of course demanded his soul, in return.

      So, yeah, any far-right threats can be neutralized given enough time, money, and legal problems.

      * Mikey’s new version of Christianity eliminates troublesome parts of the Bible, like Exodus 20:13, Exodus 20:15, and Luke 9:25.

      Reply
      1. Synoia

        The Devil of course demanded his soul, in return.

        Maybe, but I do not believe the devil would accept a soul which he already possesses.

        Reply
        1. MFB

          In James Blish’s Black Easter, the black magician decides to sell his soul once he realises that the whole world is irredeemably damned. Any sensible devil would do such a deal, because the trinkets of the real world mean nothing compared with victory at Armageddon.

          Mayge this also explains US Ukrainian policy. “What profiteth it if a man keep his soul, if he lose the suburbs of Kharkiv?”

          Reply
        2. ChrisFromGA

          Can Trump’s soul be “re-hypothecated” i.e. sold multiple times?

          Sounds right up Trump’s scammy alley.

          Reply
    3. fjallstrom

      The far right parties may claim to be nationalist, but I think their common demoninator is finding scapegoats to blame the economic malaise on. These can be muslims, africans, local minorities, trans people (attempts to import the US debate are common), economic migrants within EU (*) or an external party, like Russia. The blame solidly placed, the project to dismantle what remains of european welfare states can move on. Of course, they will loudly decry the abject results of dismantling and blame it on chosen scapegoats. So that some are pro-Nato and pro supporting Ukraine should ot really come as a surprise, that is not their core.

      Their long term increase is because of neoliberalism. As people in charge very well understood and wrote about after world war two, full employment and rising wages keeps facism away. But full employment was abandoned in favour of compulsary unemployment (marketed as inflation reduction) in the 1980ies and early 1990ies in both west europe and the former Warsaw pact states.

      I saw some poll on biggest issues on the EU level in the run up to the election and 1-3 were economic, 4 was I think climate, migration came farther down and Ukraine was close to the bottom of the top ten. Haven’t seen anyone comparing the different exit polls that asked about mayor issues. But so far I think the electon is mostly about economics and voting against who the public in different states views as responsible for the malaise. This takes different expressions as their isn’t really a EU wide political arena, but instead lot of national and local ones.

      (*) An attempt some 20 years ago for far right unity in the European parliament failed when the italian far right scapegoated roumanians coming to Italy for work, leading to the Greater Roumania party leaving the collaboration.

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        The Spanish subclass of far right are pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine neoliberal nationalists: in sum chaotic and contradictory. Milei-like if that clarifies anything.

        Reply
  7. Louis Fyne

    The last time the US Army (or anyone in the NATO orbit) fought a real, industrialized peer war was 1945 with 1953 getting an honorable mention.

    The 2024 US Navy can’t dispatch the Houthis like the 1986 USN dispatched Libya.

    By all sane metric, any deployment to W. Ukraine would be the undeniable Suez Crisis moment and bound for a trans-Atlantic defeat.

    But we have the IDF mired in Gaza yet mulling an invasion to the Litani River and none of the normally anti-Biden rabid Capitol Hill GOP are dare criticizing the current Red Sea debacle.

    what a bizzaro world of incompetent “elites”!

    Reply
    1. John k

      The world changed with the Houthi defense against gunboat diplomacy. Cheap missiles and cheaper drones are readily available. It’s not just gunboats, aa defenses stop western traditional air superiority. The Hamas war would be quite different if Hamas had access to modern low cost defenses.

      Reply
  8. Benny Profane

    I wouldn’t trust those pictures of old Ukranian soldiers very much. Easy to dress up a bunch of old guys and stage those photos. Although I believe most are in their forties.

    Let’s see how Macron does in his snap election, and then there’s November, of course. That poll in links telling me such an enormous share of Americans are hardly as bloodthirsty as our congress is fascinating, although I’ll bet most Americans don’t care.

    One wonders if western Ukraine can be de-electrified entirely. Close enough to western wires coming in to at least keep something going, although industry and the economy are screwed, for sure.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The photos, had you paid attention. were from Anadolu Agency. Turkiye is a NATO member. They were syndicated by Getty Images. So these are MSM photos.

      If you think those guys are in their 40s, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. My 88 year old great uncle, who spent most of his adult life hauling lobsters every day (= lots of sun and wind weathering of his skin) looked better than they do.

      And Alexander Mercouris in his Sunday show went on about a video he saw of old soldiers that he found very distressing. And it was of Ukraine origin. So they are going around.

      Reply
      1. Benny Profane

        I didn’t say they were 40. My guess is alcoholic 65-75. I said most soldiers seem to be 40ish to 50.

        Unless you can produce the photographer, I still don’t trust those photos. Skillful retouching and now A.I. have poisoned any image, but, like I said, someone with an agenda could have just paid some guys in a bar to pose in those uniforms.

        Reply
        1. Maxwell Johnston

          Men in RU and UKR (and probably in Belarus as well) do not age well, as a general rule. Whenever famous RU males die, I usually check their photo on the internet, and I’m constantly amazed at how incredibly unhealthy they look. Take a look at Igor Sechin (head of Rosneft); only slightly older than I am, and he looks like a RU male version of Victoria Nuland. Despite wealth and unlimited access to health care. Booze and stress and bad lifestyle decisions, and these are even more significant at lower income/wealth levels.

          I believe the photos are real. UKR is scraping the bottom of the barrel to maintain its front lines.

          Reply
          1. Darthbobber

            And if the median age is admitted to be 43 we would obviously expect a significant number to be substantially older.

            Reply
          2. Benny Profane

            Go to an American Boomer event (concert, sports, mall, restaurant) and get back to me about that. People looked like shit before Covid, and they really looked like hell when they emerged from isolation. Nobody exercises, they eat crap, Boomers drink too much, and they stress out over stupid stuff. If they weren’t so comfortable financially, they’d be dead.

            Reply
  9. Roquentin

    Wars are easy to start and hard to finish, as the saying goes. With everyone involved too invested and too vainglorious to cut a deal to end the conflict we get what we have now, a simmering war of attrition that occasionally boils over. To take the long view, this has been the status quo clear since Euromaidan. Sometimes the conflict heats up and sometimes it cools down, but it never went away. We could end up with split country, akin to how conflicts between the West and Russia/USSR were settled during the cold war, but who knows?

    At this point it’s kind of like sitting at a poker table playing a round of Texas Hold ‘Em where no one really has a good hand on the Turn anymore, but the remaining players have too much money on the table to fold. Everyone then proceeds to try and bully or bluff the other person out with their lousy card. To take the metaphor further, when everyone has a lousy hand it pays to know who has the least bad among them. That fifth and final card might change things a little, but the die is basically cast.

    Reply
    1. Anti-Fake-Semite

      Except that Russia is holding a royal flush and NATO has a pair of 9s, that was a perfect analogy. The only thing NATO can do is burn down the casino with everyone in it.

      Reply
      1. Roquentin

        I’d hardly call Russia’s hand a Royal Flush. They badly overplayed the mediocre hand they had. This was all supposed to be over quickly, and they failed in this utterly and completely. While you could make a strong case Russia has the least bad hand of the major players involved, this has not been good for them either.

        Not that Ukraine, Europe, and US haven’t overplayed their hand as well. The Summer Offensive was a completely delusional strategic blunder that massively weakened the position of Ukraine in this conflict. Had Ukraine and its Western backers committed to a purely defensive war the result may well have been different. Better yet, defensive war with the goal of at least creating enough trouble that it was better for Russia to go back to the table and cut a deal rather than continuing to prosecute the war. This also didn’t happen. Coming away from the war with a worse deal than Minsk II would have been a very hard sell, might have lead to Zelensky getting coup’ed or having an unfortunate accident.

        Reply
        1. John

          When the first moves in Ukraine did not produce the end that Russia planned for, hoped for, it did what the sane and sensible do. (I maintain that without US/NATO jumping in with both feet that Russia, per the Istanbul agreement did win its war in the first months.) It looked at the facts and altered its plans, not its aims, but its plans. Hence the mobilization and the ramping up of production of weapons and ammunition. Now Russia has all but demilitarized Ukraine at a horrific cost in men to Ukraine and it is on its way to demilitarizing NATO in terms of usable machines, weapons, and ammunition.

          Why did this have to be? To stop those trains from China arriving in Germany. To keep the US on its high horse … as a good hegemon must be. To permit Biden et al to go on hating and demonizing Mr. Putin for no reason that the normal and rational can perceive.

          The US is frantically and recklessly trying to stop the world from turning. This stupid and unnecessary war, the threats and belligerent huffing and puffing in China’s direction, and the utterly insane support for apartheid Israel’s genocidal actions are reminiscent of the waning days of the Spanish Empire in the 17th century. I do hope we all survive this. The Spanish did not have nuclear weapons as their star was fading.

          Reply
  10. K.M.

    The only chance the USA had to win the war against Russia was by destroying its economy through sanctions. It did not work and that was clear from the first weeks of the war.

    Then the war was used as a pretext to serve the interests of the power centers in the USA (namely bankers, oil industry and Industrial military complex) to “milk” european governments and US citizens.

    The european elections will not change things too much. Europe has first to get its political independence back for its elections to have a sense. Until then Europe will serve only as a battlefield for Russia and America to settle their disputes no matter who wins its elections.

    Reply
      1. MFB

        Simplicius claims that Russia has overtaken Japan in terms of national purchasing power. Obviously not a neutral observer, but given Russia’s resources and the huge spurt of growth this century combined with wild exaggerations of the impact of the collapse under Yeltsin (long-term impact, I mean, obviously Yeltsin’s regime slaughtered the Russian people worse than Stalin’s did) I can more or less believe it.

        After all, we keep being told by the business press that China is the world’s second-largest economy, the same press which tells us that Ukraine can win this one if we just give them more money.

        Reply
  11. lyman alpha blob

    What if Russia doesn’t stay in its own sphere of influence? A repeat of the Cuban missile crisis with Russia setting up weapons/bases in Cuba might help get Western minds right. Perhaps in conjunction with China pushing for Puerto Rican independence and sending some ships to the hemisphere for “exercises”, in international waters only of course.

    The problem with scenarios like that is determining ahead of time just how nuts Western leadership really is. A rational person might see how this puts the US’ own actions overseas in perspective, and that complaining about it would only highlight Western hypocrisy (not that it needs to many more floodlights shining down on it), so time to make peace like Kennedy did. But are there any rational people left or have they all quit in disgust? I think it was Nixon who tried the madman strategy of acting overly belligerent to get opponents to back down, but supposedly he wasn’t really nuts. I’d say anyone who authorizes carpet bombing another nation is a psycho, but that’s just me… Now though, even as a USian who watches politics very closely, I am hard pressed to tell whether current leadership has all their marbles or not. Many of the ones we see speak publicly are surely not all there, but is there anyone behind the scenes reeling these clowns in?

    Reply
    1. hk

      What I wonder is how far Cuba and Venezuela would go as Russia’s proxies in the Western hemisphere. I suspect it won’t be farther than Vietnam against China, for exact same reasons. Unless US goes batshit crazy and try to regine change them and otherwise incur long term hostility (a distinct possibly, admittedly…do we recognize Maduro yet?), they wouldn’t want to antagonize US and a large “pro-US” (defined loosely) faction will always remain in those countries, imposing limits on how far they’d cooperate with Russia against US.

      Reply
        1. nippersdad

          I am surprised that we have yet to hear about any submission from Cuba to join BRICS. They actually have a lot of oil to trade, they just need someone to develop the fields and to trade it with.

          Reply
          1. Polar Socialist

            When Lavrov visited Cuba in February, there were statements along the lines that Cuba is interested in “deepening it’s relationship with BRICS” and Russia will, as a chaircountry, support these ambitions.

            I suspect that the multipolarists (Russia and China) are saving Cuba as a coup de grâce for the monopolar world.

            Reply
            1. John9

              I seem to remember in the last week Larry Wilkerson talking to a Cuban friend who asked: What is Washington trying to do, turn us into Haiti?
              I’m confident that some of the cray cray in Washington would be quite happy with that outcome.
              Makes sense they would be looking to BRICS.

              Reply
      1. ISL

        the real question is how far the Houthi’s will go against US key interests (aka Israel).

        The threat of the loss of control over oil in the middle east would be something the US would bargain to keep (if the Global South, for some reason, wanted to negotiate instead of repeat the recent decolonization of central Africa.

        Reply
  12. Anti-Fake-Semite

    How do these purported NATO deployments intend to prevent Dr Khinzhal from making his house calls? NATO cannot risk losing more than it already has. The West will bend the knee to reality or go the way of the Holy Roman Empire.

    Reply
    1. Piotr Berman

      Russia is quite cautious, with two possible motivation. First, it is easier to escalate than de-escalate, and Russia has a long term perspective. Second, Russia needs positive international opinion, think about perceptions in India, Indonesia, Brazil etc. On slim data points, both public and official attitudes toward both Iran and Russia are positive in Pakistan, although until now, the official Pakistan does not act on that. “Pivot to Asia” of Natoids is not particularly promising if most Asian countries are alienated, Philippines are the only “triumph” of American diplomacy of late.

      Thus nukes were displayed (mind you, USA displayed its nukes much more aggresively, flying nuclear-capable bombers around Kaliningrad), but a symmetric response was promised and probably, under development: supply countries and “forces” in conflict with the West with advanced weapons. Clearly, this is not Cuba, Venezuela etc. (not that they WILL NOT get Russian weapons), but Iran, Yemen, Syria and “Hezbollah” force. Consequences can be very interesting.

      Reply
  13. Joker

    But what if the US reworks this as a strictly defensive operation, to preserve rump Ukraine? They could try to achieve their much-claimed frozen conflict by announcing the boundaries of a DMZ and then positioning coalition forces on the other side of it, in western Ukraine.

    That has been in the works for a while. but someone needs to be the first one to send troops into the frying pan. That’s why Macron have been barking about sending soldiers. If his 2000 legionnaires enter officially, and stay alive long enough, then others would follow.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The difference is that the Macron proposal was for French troops to support Ukraine and Ukraine has been attacking Russian forces. They make regular counter-offensives, even if small. And of course there are many if generally not very consequential attacks into Russia, on Belgorod, on oil refineries, and the occasional consequential ones, on Russia’s early warning radars.

      This would not be the same in that they would be behind a DMZ and allegedly tasked only to prevent Russian incursion. They would not go beyond the DMZ.

      Reply
      1. Skip Intro

        Unless the NATO troops can completely disarm the Ukrainian nationalists they have been arming for generations, it seems like they will end up being targets/hostages waiting for real or staged attack by Russia. I don’t see why Russia would accept or trust a unilaterally announced DMZ even with valuable hostages, so the plan sounds like the west bargaining with itself again. It is a process I guess.

        Reply
  14. ciroc

    It may be unreasonable for Ukrainians, but since the Russians have already added Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, Kherson, and of course Crimea to their constitution as their own territory, Putin has only two choices: continue the war until he establishes full control over them, or become a traitor.

    Reply
  15. ZenBean

    It is not clear why Macron shifted from being willing to engage Putin to hostility.

    Here is my theory: he is pro-actively adjusting to the new post-war status quo which is an increasingly isolated Europe, finally subjugated to the US via its Balto-Polish quislings. This new Europe is going to be feverishly Anti-Russian for decades to come and within this framework the importance of its eastern members is going to grow. One way to secure their support for France instead of Germany, is by credibly deminstrating stalwart support for their agenda and by pre-empting any peace agreement with Russia.

    He isn’t going to send troops to Ukraine, not to any active combat zones. He has no illusions about the outcome of the war, is neither willing nor capable of averting the defeat of Ukraine. All his wreckless brinkmanship is trying to achieve is convincing the East that Europe would work better for them under a more dominant Paris instead of Berlin.

    Risky play, of course. But as his recent decision to call new elections shows: it’s the kind of thing Macron likes to do.

    Reply
    1. Mikel

      “It is not clear why Macron shifted from being willing to engage Putin to hostility.”

      Alex M. was talking about this yesterday. One theory he pointed to was that Macron needs a scapegoat (my wording) for what has happened to France’s interests in Africa. Macron wants to blame it all on Putin and not the Africans just taking a look around themselves and basing their decisions on their own experiences under France.
      And that’s the way it works for an establishment that is loathe to admit their shit actually stinks.

      Reply
    2. AG

      “This new Europe is going to be feverishly Anti-Russian for decades to come and within this framework the importance of its eastern members is going to grow.”

      Yes.

      Everything we are hearing is confirming this. Be it VdL. Be it this piece from:
      German-foreign-policy-blog, however with one important addition: US focuses on China.

      “The next turning point”

      “Berlin think tank calls for rejection of smaller military operations around the world and for the Bundeswehr and society to focus completely on the war against Russia. US strategists speculate about three parallel wars.”
      June 10th

      https://archive.is/4AF9v

      Whether Biden or Trump, the piece suggests the US will shift resources to China. Which would turn Germany into the heart of the anti-RU project. This will be a constant diversion which serves for permanent states of emergency – a EU version of post 9/11 in the US with colour scales.

      EU will re-allocate money to secret intelligence, arms manufacturers and 100% dismantle the EU New Deal of yesteryear in order to finance it.

      If the issue of hypersonics is solved in the West we will witness numerous missile bases targetting RU. Perhaps with conventional munition. So that Ukraine as territory is meaningless. Poland and Romania (Black Sea) are enough to threaten RU 24/7.

      Remember those 180 South Korean tanks Poland ordered 2 years ago. And the rest (800 MBTs) built in Poland. Such deals are made not without some serious geopolitical plans.

      “(…)On July 27, 2022, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Mariusz BŁASZCZAK approved several arms agreements with South Korean defense manufacturers in a ceremony held in Warsaw.(…)
      Within the contracts, Polish Army will take delivery of 980 K2 MBT (main battle tanks.)(…)”

      And other equipment:

      “KOREAN TANKS FOR POLAND
      by Arda Mevlütoğlu”
      https://www.defenceturkey.com/en/content/korean-tanks-for-poland-5400

      Western Ukraine might be turning into some African style permanent war.
      It´s up to RU to erect a new Iron Curtain to pacify this conflict and turn towards Asia. Completely sealing off the West.
      That has always been Washington´s desire.

      Conquering Russia might have been one goal but if that wouldn´t work out, they just rekindle pre-89 ideology.
      This time the incentives for the people will be fighting China taking away our liberties and more importantly wealth. Russia being only the Chinese stooge.

      Depending on how willing Germans are in the long run, France either is supposed to slap on their hands or assist the US in Africa which will again become a theatre of hot wars. But way more risky for the West.

      The US perhaps offering France and Germany a sweet deal on midwiving common arms projects between F and FRG which have been in a limbo for decades.

      By forcing RU and CHINA into a more war-oriented behaviour the US can control Europe and parts of the Asian theatre.

      p.s. A pet project will be turning India into the new China enemy. But I wouldn´t be surprised if that backfires.

      Reply
      1. nippersdad

        But can they afford to be feverishly anti-Russian for decades? Germany has well nigh deindustrialized itself, and France is not far behind them. Hard to make bombs without steel plants, and being forced to buy everything from a US that is largely dependent upon the kindness of China for such things* will be spendy.

        If China cuts off the US we will be in enough financial problems such that Europe will be on its’ own. I suspect that their separate peace is closer than we may think.

        * IIRC, we couldn’t even rebuild the Golden Gate bridge without using steel imported from China, and rebuilding that industry is something that would take years to do.

        Reply
        1. Polar Socialist

          If more countries in Europe adopt these foreign agent laws, switch to neutrality could happen almost overnight. Wasn’t there a recent poll saying 4/5 Europeans want the war in Ukraine to end.

          And the Israel genocide has finally forced many people to ask that dreaded question: are we the baddies?

          Reply
          1. John k

            Yes. Us pop also doesn’t want more wars notwithstanding msm cheerleading.
            Eu is starting to vote with their feet. More industrial job losses, cuts to social support on account of increased spending will change more minds. Le pen might finally win next time.
            It does look like trump gave in over Ukraine, but he would have more power as pres. And imo our oligarchs are not in agreement on trump or even, perhaps, of us foreign policy.
            Imo after the war ends, and Russia doesn’t move towards Paris, the eu will turn away from us domination, especially those without us bases. Imo France under a neutral pres is a natural leader of a neutral eu.

            Reply
        2. AG

          Privately I dont entirely buy into those gloomy scenarios.
          For the reasons you state.
          And after all the future is not yet written.

          But to consider those dire prospects is adviseable.
          And as polls are now at least the next elections in Europe won´t change much.
          Same true for the EU Commission.

          I am not good on questions as where steel would come from.
          But if it´s a question of money only you can always work out some deal which would exempt imports from China to keep EU afloat.

          Such deals were made even in WWII.

          I think the Eastern bloc country the US gave most loans to was Romania. The worst among those “satellite states”.

          Reply
      2. Bugs

        Well.

        All that in summed up sounds like we’re going to be living in a really crap world for the next generation or so.

        Unless you’re in China.

        Reply
        1. nippersdad

          There seem to be an awful lot of Americans moving to Russia. I was watching something on YT the other day where this American guy was showing off how cheap real estate near Lake Baikal was.

          The idea seemed utterly bizarre, and yet still strangely attractive.

          Reply
            1. Rain

              Global warming helping to make it more attractive every year. Apart from the unfortunate smell of melting permafrost!
              I read one of the reasons that Russia has had bumper crops last years, is because new rich cropland has slowly started to open up.

              Reply
      3. Revenant

        I have begun to wonder, per AG, whether NATO is not now engaged in a very noisy fighting retreat because, since Russia didn’t collapse when sanctioned, what they want is to shrink the US sphere into a new cold war. They *know”?* unipolarity is unsustainable but how to rell the kids and the military industrial complex? The only way to keep funding a guns not butter economy when the West is being left behind by Russia and China is to circle the wagons and loot Europe.

        We discuss here endless how NATO is a paper tiger. Well, perhaps they don’t plan to fight anyway. They just plan to justify how they cut themselves – or rather cut their people – off from the BRICS co-prosperity sphere by blaming it all on Russia and China. NATO and the MIC is fighting a war of internal aggression, against its civilians, erecting a juche security state. The actual results beyond NATO borders don’t matter. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

        You have to admit, it’s more consistent with the data and self-interest than the idea they are genuinely planning WWIII. There’s no room service in the apocalypse.

        Reply
    3. Benny Profane

      Or, like Hailey and countless other politicians, he knows how wealthy he can be soon whoring out to the MIC, and he’s just building his cred.

      Reply
  16. schmoe

    I think that the military situation is a bit more ambiguous although I do believe that Russia has the upper hand. Russia has no answer to ATACMs attacks and just this morning lost several S-300 or S-400 launchers. The removal of S-400 launchers is likely meant to facilitate Storm Shadow and SCALP missile mass strikes on Russian soil and weapons factories from F-16s.

    Long story short, my feeling is that the West is intentionally escalating until Putin is forced to use nuclear weapons on Ukranian airfields, on the assumption that this will give the US leverage to force China to cease its support for Russian weaponry. How NATO responds to that (IMO) likely outcome should be interesting. No reverse gear.

    The most likely favorable outcome is if Ukranians en masse refuse to fight before the escalation spiral I noted above, but I am not optimistic about that despite the increased push-back against recruiters.

    Reply
    1. Paul Damascene

      Important to broaden our sources to include those skeptical of UKR claims. First, Russia has already demonstrated the ability to intercept at least 80% of ATACMS right out of the gate, and that is against soft targets. Not clear if *any* ATACMS beyond the statistically inevitable leakers in a large salvo has successfully struck a heavily defended military target.

      No one has destroyed multiple S-300 and S-400 launchers in a morning. Two lost launchers a month is probably the upper bound, and US doesn’t make ATACMS any more. The successor system has been um, ‘delayed’.

      Reply
  17. Richard

    1. I think the best take on the EU elections is the “outs” beat the “ins”. The so-called right won the marquee races in Italy and France. But the so-called left won in Scandinavia, Netherlands and elsewhere. Throw in the anticipated result in UK. Toss in Turkey (I believe) and India, too. Everybody’s unhappy, except maybe the Taiwanese who seem to enjoy being romanced by Uncle Sam. Poland’s incumbents are still honeymooning. This pattern is not good for Senile Joe, which may be why there are now regular stories about this or that plutocrat signing on with Trump, while Trump seems to find the NeoCon harness increasingly comfortable.

    2. Call me Pollyanna, but I think there is a fair chance for reconciliation between Russia and what will remain of Ukraine or peace in a Russian-dominated rump Ukraine after all is said and done. The conscription if unpopular. Most of the Rada doesn’t show up. Arestovych has been hinting that Ukraine joined the wrong side; Chechnya offers a template. We shall see. It is something to hope for.

    Reply
    1. ChrisFromGA

      I want to hope that some sort of mass-formation event happens in Ukraine, one where they wake up and stop drinking the NATO kool-aid. The realization settles in that they’ve been used by the likes of Nuland and Bidan like a prophylactic and tossed in the dumpster by the West.

      But my understanding of human nature is that people in abusive relationships get comfortable and will often defend their abusers. Right up until they are killed by them.

      Reply
    2. David in Friday Harbor

      Cheers for adding to this otherwise depressing discussion with a positive note!

      Millions have fled “Ukraine” rather than die for the pan-European delusion. The Russians began their Special Military Operation in the belief that their “Ukrainian” siblings would come to their senses. The Carinthian fascists will hopefully lose their ability to force culturally Russian people from Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa to die on their behalf, and the AFU will lay down their arms. The threats to send NATO troops suggest that this may finally be about to happen.

      Reply
  18. Paul Damascene

    It’s reasonable at this point to conclude that even as Russia’s hand grows stronger, the poisoned well of enmity on the part of the Western oligarchies, which the SMO has uncorked, is revealing itself to be bottomless.

    It seems reasonable also to project, at this point, that even the end of large scale kinetic action in UKR will not bring Russia much peace or additional security. UKR, after all, was only the proximate threat–the monkey with the hand grenade armed by the Western imperial organ grinder. And as the visit of an official Armenian delegation to Bucha can be seen to attest, the multi-vector project to ‘unbalance’ Russia is more likely to accelerate in other areas than abate.

    In one scenario we might imagine RF moving to the Polish border as the UKR military finally collapses, convening a territorial conference, attempting to broker–with Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, & perhaps Belarus–some sort of arrangement for joint or several management of Galicia and the border lands, after which Russia withdraws to the boundaries of territories it is prepared to manage long-term.

    A variation on this is Russia acquiring only such further terrain as it cares to acquire or administer then committing to make a defacto DMZ of the Rumplands by means of destroying w/ long-range strikes any military formations–and especially missile sites–that appear there, while announcing Russia will move no farther forward.

    Russia may also reconsider its opposition to NATO membership of what remains. In many ways the existence of proxy states that NATO can use to launch free shots at Russia from is more dangerous than if these were NATO countries without the beard. This, for example, may apply especially to Moldova, which can be used as a consequence-free base from which to threaten Russia in the Black Sea. Perhaps Russia takes the East, South & North of Moldova (leaving the Romanian core to be absorbed by Romania. The missile batteries that Russia will obviously not be happy to see in the Rumplands are already in Poland & Romania and quite possibly soon to be in Finland and, who knows, Armenia.

    In the next 48 months Russia’s overall military industrial / geopolitical / combat power will be at something like its peak. The Rand-style threat to ‘unbalance’ Russia seems unlikely to be ended by fighting over more territory in the buffer zones. It may be that Russia has to more directly challenge the ever weaker version of NATO 48 months from now. A new Eurasian security framework or war (initially economic–embargoes of energy, strategic materials, strategic goods, boycotts of Western goods, Western debt Jubilees)–conceivably with not just Russia but China, Iran, and by then, who knows what other players.

    Reply
  19. James Lawrie

    I can’t see why people are shrieking that Trump will leave NATO, I think it’s ludicrous. He enlarged it.
    ‘North Macedonia’ joined NATO while Trump was president, he could have blocked it. He could have said it was a bad idea. He didn’t do anything.
    Trump just didn’t want the USA to pay for its European Empire, not get rid of it.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are behind. Trump has a made a lot of NATO-threatening statements since he left office.

      And Trump could probably not find North Macedonia on a map.

      Reply
      1. JonnyJames

        Yeah, the DT is all bloviating BS, he talked a lot of hot air during his tenure, but the same policies continued.Then JB came and said nothing will change.

        Putin said the US election won’t make any difference, as usual – of course, he knows the US is an oligarchy. JB is so senile, he couldn’t find anything on a map either, he can’t even find his way out of a room. Hail the Kakistocracy!

        Reply
        1. ChrisFromGA

          I agree with you. Trump is at this point fatally crippled and compromised. He’ll never be able to live up to his MAGA rhetoric, and I suspect that should he somehow win in November AND be allowed to assume office (don’t forget about the other 3 criminal cases that are stalled but could roar back to life at the drop of a Judge’s order) he’ll be forced to rely on the neo-cons to get anything done. And he’ll likely be focused on revenge and retribution, so wars and such will be mere distractions from the big bowl of consequences he’ll be serving up on the judiciary branch.

          Personnel = policy. Don’t forget that Trump brought in notable neocon sociopaths like Bolton and Mike Pompeo to his first administration and has already said that there is room in the tent for Darling Nikki.

          Reply
          1. nippersdad

            OTOH, this time he will have the full benefit of Koch Enterprises behind him with Project 2025. Seems to me that their foreign policy prescriptions are notable for their paucity.

            If he gets to take advantage of their army of lawyers, the very first objective may be to dispatch the neocons, and delegitimizing them after having lost twenty five years and trillions of dollars worth of wars may not be as difficult as it may at first appear.

            Take for example the effort to Trump-proof NATO. The US Constitution gives nearly unlimited oversight of foreign policy to the Executive; Congress now only has the ability for nominal advice and consent, and to pay (or not) for such things as he may choose to implement. I say “nominal” and “now” because Congress has openly relinquished the ability to declare war for so long that it may have developed the force of law.

            What are the odds that a federal judiciary, replete with Federalist Society appointees, will overturn any attack on Congress over such matters that Trump may seek to implement? That and he would have the electorate on his side. Lack of accountability for all these years has created an oversized appetite for such that he can easily take advantage of if he so chooses.

            One would like to think that maybe he learned something from his first term in office, and that the Bolton’s could be dealt with more efficiently than he did the last time. I have to think that there is a rationale behind the Washington freak-out over the potential for his dreams of revenge and retribution, and having all of that lawfare directed against them would have to top their lists of fears over a new Trump presidency.

            Reply
            1. JonnyJames

              Sounds like wishful thinking. I agree with Vladimir Putin’s assessments.
              And a bonus: no matter who “wins” the sham elections, the US will continue to fund and support the Genocide of Palestine.

              Reply
              1. nippersdad

                You are both prolly right. It just seems to me that the track record for both organizations tends towards locking down distinctly right wing domestic agendas rather than foreign ones.

                Reply
            2. .Tom

              One of the things that has really impressed me in this whole UA thing is how it showed that when the deep state really wants something the private sector interests pipe down. Big money is important to the political class but raw imperial power is still greater than both.

              Reply
    2. Format

      I don’t see Trump doing anything for the US to leave NATO either. All the legal documents are in Washington and the US Senate votes on the countries’ membership. The president can say what he wants, but leaving NATO is a more complicated process. Also, after the Russian SMO many of the European NATO countries have made good on getting their military spending up.

      Besides welcoming North Macedonia as a “strong partner”, also Montenegro became a NATO member during the Trump presidency. Trump endorsed both countries’ membership. All the stuff about him wanting to dismantle NATO is just a result of media exaggerating and speculating on some of his remarks.

      Reply
  20. Bill R

    With all the anti-Russia [and anti-left of centre] propaganda for the last 30+ years, is it really surprising that right parties are doing well?

    Reply
  21. The Rev Kev

    Mine own guess, for what it is worth, is that the Russians will do the same that they did in the war against Georgia. They will advance deep into Ukrainian territory beyond the Oblasts that they want to keep for themselves, and in the peace settlements after the war, will retreat back to these Oblasts in return for concessions from the west. There will be a point where the Ukrainian army will simply collapse like the Georgian army did and they will be able to advance as far as they want. Sure the west may send contingents to fight the bear but they will be far fewer in numbers than the Russian army, will only have enough ammo to fight for several days and they will be at the end of supply lines that reach all the way back to Poland and Romania several hundred kilometers away – all vulnerable to attack.Will even Biden risk having US troops being annihilated not long before the November elections? That would be a buzz kill for the Democrats that. Of course Russia will have zero trust in the west to carry out any agreements so Russia may have to take out not only Ukraine’s electrical grid but transport grid as well. Due to demographics and the number of people fleeing the Ukraine, the Ukraine will no longer be capable of generating a new field army anymore but Russia will still have to set the conditions so that the Ukraine can no longer be used as a military threat against them. They have spent too much blood and treasure to do otherwise.

    Reply
  22. Mikel

    USA/NATO will not go a negotiating table with Russia until they have shown they can hit Russia much harder.
    No way, despite any insanity that may be visited on populations, will they go to a meeting with Russia hat in hand.

    Reply
    1. MFB

      The European wing of NATO might not agree, since they have something to lose. In that case, if they produce hats for their grovelling meeting with the Russian government, the US might kick them out of NATO. Perhaps that can be blamed on Trump. Go, neocons, go!

      Reply
  23. Tom Pfotzer

    For Russia, the remaining task of the SMO is de-nazification and removal of long-range, potentially nuke missiles from Ukraine.

    If the de-nazification is done, the missiles will not be stationed in Ukraine.

    So how to de-nazify? Here’s a little context:

    a. Ukrainians don’t want to fight anymore. No volunteers.
    b. The nazis are the ones doing the local coercion.
    c. The Russians know who the nazis are, where they’re operating from, what their supply lines are
    d. The Russians have, heretofore, demonstrated the ability to deliver decapitating strikes on Ukraine (and US, UK, French) military leaders

    Up to this point, Russia has only occasionally attacked the senior officers and henchmen of Ukraine.

    I think I would start there during the next escalation cycle. The rest of the world will applaud Russia for doing so, and a minimum of additional civilians, unwilling conscripts, etc will be killed.

    Lastly, to reiterate what others above have said, if Russia controls the Black Sea coast, it controls Ukraine’s economy. That fact alone will both reduce the West’s incentive to be involved in Ukraine (it is about money, right?) and it’ll give Russia a lot of leverage over who gets the dog-bones in what remains of western Ukraine’s economy.

    Let the dog-bone recipients help sniff out and eliminate those that continue to stand in the way of profits, and status, and comfort (e.g. the Nazis). Pick new social-order apex players, and let them do the dirty work, which they will if the dog-bones are attractive enough.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I do not think ex the most senior Ukraine officials that Russia can in fact separate out the neo-Nazis at a distance. They are being complete cowards, refusing to fight, insisting that their highest and best use is behind the front lines, to kill soldiers who flee or try to retreat. So I don’t think many are that distinct from regular troops.

      Reply
      1. Mikel

        That’s an interesting dynamic. Could NATO be thinking about sending ground troops (very colorful ground troops too probably) into that situation with neo-Nazis?

        Reply
      2. Tom Pfotzer

        Yep, not surprised to hear that.

        What inspired me to make those remarks was the recollection that Russia was able to target some high-value assets, and my surmise was “inside info” helped Russia out.

        So I was looking ahead a little; at some point the grind of trench warfare is going to turn into some major pieces of territory conceded to Russia, likely along the Black Sea coast.

        That will be the end of some Ukrainian oligarchs, and that creates opportunity for the next generation of oligarchs to step in.

        Who wants a Franchise? Who wants to own a Black Sea harbor-side warehouse? A steel fabrication plant? The price is low: name some names, and provide some addresses. You get paid when the persons in question are duffed out.

        Think about how much leverage that provides Russia. And as distasteful as it is to contemplate in our well-ordered society … this is how they think and behave in Ukraine.

        Reply
        1. AG

          On the sell-out note: What in West Ukraine has already been sold to Western companies (what not yet)?
          I read only a few weeks ago – German press even (!) – that as much territory as RU has now taken in the East has been sold to Western investors in the West.

          From the very good Oakland Institute´s study from 1,5 years ago we know that the agricultural resources have been sold. There is also much Chinese aquired territory.
          Would be interesting to see an overview of everything going on.
          And of what assets are there left to be monetized the way you suggest…

          p.s. for those who don´t know it, recommended reading:

          “War and Theft: The Takeover of Ukraine’s Agricultural Land”
          “exposes the financial interests and the dynamics at play leading to further concentration of land and finance.”
          Febr. 21, 2023
          https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/war-theft-takeover-ukraine-agricultural-land

          Reply
          1. Tom Pfotzer

            AG:

            I recall reading that many of the industrial operations – steel, mining, cement, port facilities and so forth were owned by oligarchs of one stripe or another.

            When land, and commercial ops on that land, is seized in war, the victor has the best, most complete control over those assets. This is one of those situations wherein “possession is 9/10ths of the law”.

            Think of all those warehouses, manufacturing facilities, truck fleets, mines, farms, grain silos, fertilizer plants, ships, docks, etc. that used to be owned by the oligarchs that allied with the West to try to steal Ukraine – not just from Russia (the Russian-speaking sections) but also from the Ukrainians themselves.

            Those things – there’s probably thousands of individual, high-value assets – are highly desirable things in the eyes of those families that wish to start anew, or perfect their place in the social hierarchy as it’s going to be in the decades to come.

            Russia is going to control a lot of Ukraine’s economy henceforward, and what it doesn’t directly control it’ll highly influence.

            At some point, and maybe shortly, the people that want to rebuild their future are going to see that the sell-outs get identified and killed.

            Think for a second about the babushka, whose grandson was conscripted on the way to the grocery store for a dozen eggs, and came back a few weeks later in bits, in a box.

            That lady is going to talk. She’s seething.

            So it’s not just the people who are looking to score some riches; it’s the people who know good and well who ruined them, their family, and their country.

            The knives are going to come out.

            === And one more point, AG:

            As Russia is forced to control more and more territory in order to defend itself, it concurrently seizes the assets that these Western oligarchs and private equity personalities have acquired. That money is, and must, go up in smoke.

            If people say “U.S. pays no price for its adventures in Ukraine”, I say “the people that control the U.S.’ behavior in Ukraine are going to lose – have already lost – a _lot_ of money. And that is what they care about most.”

            Reply
          2. CA

            “There is also much Chinese acquired territory.”

            This is untrue and malicious and offensive. This is untrue and meant to harm China.

            Reply
            1. AG

              not intended CA!
              I read that, seriously, on a decent blog some time last year.
              I mean why shouldn´t China do business there?
              So I do think it´s reliable info. What it definitely is not is malicious and offensive.
              May be I can find that entry on China again in my archive…

              Reply
        2. Yves Smith Post author

          It appears that the Ukrainians and some of their US and NATO little green men friends have been too keen about having big or even medium sized meetings in Ukraine. This has proven to be a bad idea more than occasionally yet they still seem to feel the necessity to hold them.

          Reply
        3. Format

          Regarding the selling of Ukrainian assets, I just wonder how much the Ukraine government has been able to collect through its privatization efforts:
          https://privatization.gov.ua/en/

          Despite the news articles on the page being outdated, the news feed is current and down on the page one can click on an up-to-date “Download the list of small privatization objects” link.

          Reply
  24. Aurelien

    Much has been said, but briefly:

    Macron’s attitude is easy to understand. He wants to re-establish historic French dominance in the European defence and security area, taking full advantage of German weakness. Macron is a fanatical European (see his remarks after the elections yesterday) who subscribes to every dot and comma of the Brussels orthodoxy on the economy and on all social issues of history, culture, immigration etc. As I explained in various essays, the European elite views this as a holy war against a leader (Putin) who incarnates every backward-looking, nationalist, cultural/historical/religious attitude that “Europe” has fought so hard to destroy. Zelensky, by contrast, represents everything that is “modern” and takes care to place himself squarely in the Brussels bubble. I think Macron realises the game is up, and is pinning his short term hopes on being the most volubly militant of European leaders (“if the rest of you had followed me we might have won”) and his long-term hopes on the emergence of a “moderate” post-Putin government, which, he can argue, was made possible through European resistance, led by him.

    As for numbers, it all depends on what you want to do. If the intention of a defensive deployment is to “protect” western Ukraine in perpetuity, then you’re talking about stationing units there permanently or semi-permanently. This involves the creation of an entire infrastructure, including training areas, barracks, family accommodation, schools, medical services, dedicated airheads, storage and logistic sites and much more. You would require tens of thousands of local personnel , and probably the same number of contractors. You’d probably have to set up special logistic arrangements and build new infrastructure (Kiev is further from NATO capitals than you might think.) The figure of 40,000 US troops (of which half, at most, would be in combat units) is roughly the maximum strength of permanently-deployed US forces in South Korea. The infrastructure necessary to support these troops was enormous: essentially, every US garrison had a small town built around it.

    That’s if you can find the forces. Of the other countries mentioned, Romania, for example, has an Army 35,000 strong. McGregor’s idea would be deploying virtually the entire combat army into another country, forever. Oh, and you’ll need (or have to try to provide) air power and air defence, so most of your air force would be deployed there as well. And it’s not just numbers. There are no forces anywhere in NATO at the moment which are equipped and structured to fight the Russians in the type of warfare we have today in Ukraine, and NATO has no way of challenging complete Russian air superiority over the whole of Ukraine, nor its ability to destroy NATO forces at will with rockets and missiles. There are theoretical solutions to this, involving the formation or reactivation of heavy armoured units, massive production of ammunition, and the design, implementation and rehearsal of completely new doctrines of warfare as well as massive investment in new and untried air defence technologies. Even then, after perhaps a decade, NATO forces would not be capable of defeating a Russian attack.

    Which leaves a difficult, fantastically expensive, politically controversial and ultimately purely political deployment which would take years to make happen. By that time the end-game would be over. It will be a rump Ukraine which has agreed not to allow foreign forces on its soil, which rather renders the whole idea redundant.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I did not want to flesh out this idea all that much since I meant it merely to illustrate that the US and NATO will feel even more compelled to put some stakes in the ground, whatever they might be, to prevent or impede possible future concessions by Trump or some EU members to Russia.

      Another big motive for Biden, if Russia starts making more visible gains, is to pretend the West has some sort of response. For the purpose of being re-elected, it would not matter if it was a long way from being fully implemented. A few flashy opener photo ops and budget commitments would do. Admittedly, getting other states on board, ex largely optical lapdog participation (the UK and Baltic states) would take some negotiation, which means lead time, when something like this would need to be meaningfully underway.

      Reply
      1. JonnyJames

        Given the disconnect between the blah blah, and the actual policies of the DT regime, I highly doubt that another term will be any different: As Putin noted, the DT regime only ramped up “massive sanctions” against Russia, tore up the INF treaty, attacked Russian interests abroad, attacked Russian allies, supported enemies of Russia. With “friends” like that…

        Reply
        1. John

          The West, the US, is all about PR, the narrative. What can be sold to the rubes, the deplorables, in order to stay in office. In war or in politics, it is a good idea to keep in mind that your dirty tricks which seem so devastatingly clever used on the other guys will not seem so when applied to you. Biden et al will be “lawfared” if the lose the election. Those Russian ships in Cuba would not be there had longer range missiles not been supplied to Ukraine, nor would the Russians have announced the intention to supply the Houthis et al with more advanced missiles than they now possess. Two can play the game. Cliché? Absolutely. True? Absolutely.

          Reply
    2. Paul Damascene

      Your military analysis is no doubt sound, and as good a read on the strategic chaos behind Western schemes as any other. The West’s strategy so far seems to be:
      1. specifically, escalate to the brink of a war that could quickly go nuclear on the assumption that a) Russia is too rational to follow them up that ladder and that b) if by error or inadvertence a war breaks out that the West would actually have preferred to avoid, the decision makers will avoid accountability while the West eventually prevails to rule over the ashes.

      2. generally, pursue whatever course of action that denies Russia a political victory and makes the military/industrial campaign as expensive as possible–forever war, stay-behind terrorism, and forcing Russia to take more territory than they actually want to have to control.

      Reply
  25. Chris Cosmos

    One of the great mysteries to me is how it is that Ukrainians continue to fight and fight well against the Russians. While I have no idea of what life is like in Ukraine it is clear that they fight enthusiastically or, maybe, the Russians are just fighting poorly. They will lose and they have to know they will lose yet they fight ferociously despite lack of artillery, air power, and training. This is a subject that the usual group of dissidents around the Duran, Judge Napolitano, and MoA have been saying about Russia’s military superiority yet they seem to say nothing about the superior quality of the Ukrainian fighting spirit.

    Having said that, I think part of the problem Russia has is that the situation in the world is evolving into a WWIII situation. Russia has to see that the fanatical neocons in Washington and NATO are, despite the growth of the right in Europe and (somewhat) in the USA , as dangerous and requiring Russia to take long-term measures in seeing this as a war that may take many years to resolve. The oligarchs in the West clearly want to destroy Russia and eviscerate China and Iran.

    My take on all this is that war is a force that gives us meaning as Chris Hedges wrote a few decades past. The Europeans seem to want to resurrect their destructive tendencies towards war to rediscover the joys of unity even if its forced through censorship and repression.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think you missed that Ukraine has anti-retreat forces, as in neo-Nazis stationed behind the front lines that will shoot anyone who tries to flee or does not take orders to advance. And I have my doubts that the recent, poorly trained recent conscripts are performing well. The speed of the Russian advance in Kharkiv (and the Russia troops made beginner gaffes like not dispersing while advancing, so even though trained they were certainly not seasoned) says they were not dealing with a very well-functioning opponent.

      Reply
    2. Paul Damascence

      The person who perhaps best addresses the Ukrainian fighting spirit–as the best proxy NATO will ever have (compare this with the immediate collapse of Afghan forces vs. Taliban–is Scott Ritter. For Mr. Ritter, the explanation of Ukrainians’ tenacity, courage and capacity to endure suffering is simple. They’re Russians.

      Reply
  26. TomW

    Everyone knows this, but Ukraine is 800 miles East to West. https://www.quora.com/How-big-is-Ukraine-compared-to-the-US

    Russia can let the West carve off a decent sized chunk of Ukraine without it making much difference.

    I think it is highly likely that Ukraine will be broken up … All that remain are the details. Which is what makes this war so depressing…so much damage for such minor differences.

    Wherever the line is drawn, we are replacing an internally divided, but neutral Ukraine, with an East/West Ukraine with NATO and Russia sharing a border.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you bone up on Russian concerns about NATO being stationed in Ukraine. Ballistic missiles can go a lot further than 800 miles. There is still too much talk of NATO membership being Ukraine’s consolation prize if it survives.

      Reply
      1. Paul Damascene

        Honestly, Yves, though Russia’s opposition to NATO in UKR is crystal clear, Russia may come to the conclusion that since Aegis Ashore in Poland, & Romania are already closer than anything in Galicia would be, it might be better to have the Nazis inside NATO, disciplined by the alliance, than have them outside the tent trying to get nukes.

        This conflict has shown that the technically non-NATO countries that NATO can use as proxies are more dangerous to Russia than NATO itself, which cannot attack Russia ‘consequence free’ as NATO has been able to do through the UKR proxy.

        Russia’s can’t solve this problem territorially (I’ve come belatedly to see). They will have to back NATO down directly, which must wait until NATO’s politically expendable UKR land army is defanged. I suspect Russia already sees itself as at war with NATO. Once UKR folds, they may insist on a new Eurasian security framework or open war–not invasion of NATO but long-range strikes at missile facilities within striking range of Russia.

        Reply
        1. Polar Socialist

          Russia has stated clearly that they will allow only non-neutral* Ukraine to exist. With Ukraine in NATO, the decision time between a mistake and nuclear war is only a few minutes, and that’s not enough for anyone on Earth to be comfortable with.

          Of course the actual end game is to force a new security arrangement down The West’s throat. Whether it’s NATO pulling foreign troops back to 1997 lines, nuclear missile ban in Europe or something similar, this war won’t be over until these are in the works.

          * also no long-range missiles and a total ban on old and new ethno-nationalist extremist organizations

          Reply
          1. Paul Damascene

            I agree with what you’re saying here, but the flight time from Lviv is longer than from Romania. I do agree that the core issue is backing off NATO, regardless of how the Ukraine issue is finally settled. I’m not saying Russia is wrong to fight them, but being forced into a series of wars to defend its borderlands addresses the symptoms without getting at the cause: the Western Globalist Oligarchy.

            Perhaps Russia changes strategy and decides to allow Galicia to enter NATO, to have the Nazis policed within NATO, rather than firing free shots (for instance, as Russian NPPs) as a proxy, leaving NATO unaccountable. If Russia instead consolidates the territories it wants to administer (including Odessa) and focusses instead on backing NATO down directly–beginning w/ Aegis Ashore in Romania–then it would be better not to be stretched all the way to the Polish border.

            Reply
  27. E Lazarus

    Pending the overthrow of the globalist regimes and the hanging of the US State Department for crimes against humanity, the best Russian policy may be to simply Gaz-ify western Ukraine.

    That is turn it into a barely functioning rump, routinely bomb its infrastrucutre, assassinate any Ukranians who begin to show leadership potential, continuouslty create refugees who will resent their new hosts for abandoning them, and all the while whine loudly about being the victim.

    This has the advantages of being flexible, relatively inexpensive, and would give the junta in the anti-White House a taste of its own medicine.

    Reply
  28. upstater

    I apologize if this has been previously posted, by Theodore Postol on Responsible Statecraft. Related to the discussion of a permanent conflict:

    Droning Russia’s nuke radars is the dumbest thing Ukraine can do

    Whoever targeted Russian strategic ICBM early warning radars are lunatics. The attacks used drones, possibly launched within Russia. The attacks do nothing for Ukrainian defense, but allow US submarine launches to go undetected until a few minutes before a strike. Was it really Ukrainians planning this target or was it the domestic neocons?

    While Mercouris contends the damage was superficial and easily repaired (I’m not so sure), the point is for some period of time vulnerability to surprise attacks increased.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Reply
    1. WJ

      RWA had a recent episode on this. They claim that according to standard nuclear doctrine a direct attack on any early warning systems must be responded to with a nuclear attack, as the only reason why an opposing state would target such warning systems would be in preparation for launching such an attack of their own. Russia didn’t respond at all—but if you think about it, they couldn’t very well respond against Ukraine, as Ukraine doesn’t possess nukes. The only rational target for Russia to have retaliated against would be a NATO base, and they obviously don’t want to escalate to that point yet. It is incredible how dangerous the West is being at this point.

      Reply
      1. Tom Pfotzer

        WJ: Great points. It is incredible, and what’s more incredible is that we little people are so passive about this.

        But before I go off the deep end with the fear and paranoia, I’d like to present some other perspectives which were presented in Larry Johnson’s blog by a reader that seems to know a bit about Russia’s actual missile defense systems. Here’s the link to the full comment, and here’s a little bit to give you the gist of what’s said:

        Someone should explain both to Prof. Postol and Mr McGovern that on average (and by far margin) Russian early warning radar network is younger (by almost a decade) and technically superior to the US one.

        and another prolific and authoritative poster said … in this case about the Russian early-warning radar installation that was supposedly destroyed… said the following:

        I called my friend, who has a house in a village located 3 kilometers from this station. She said that the locals had not heard anything about any destruction. If the station had suffered significant damage or been destroyed, it would have been impossible to hide this from people – the whole neighborhood would have been buzzing.

        So, there’s some counterpoint to consider.

        Reply
        1. AG

          hm…not sure how to judge that comment on Johnson´s site?

          I unfortunately am only about to get into early warning system.

          Postol was referring to the 10 radar stations. Whether there was destruction caused or not is only part of the problem. In his explanation the issue is the physical limitation of ground radar itself which is a vulnerable point NATO would try to attack.

          In case see his Dima-interview and more on Skeptic´s blog entry:
          https://askeptic.substack.com/p/war-reports-2024-06-08-special-report
          Only Dima:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uesyZ8Z6zQ

          WMD UN-expert Pavel Podvig on early warning, e.g.:
          2017:
          https://russianforces.org/blog/2016/12/no_gaps_in_early-warning_cover.shtml
          2024:
          https://russianforces.org/blog/2024/01/russia_has_four_operational_ea.shtml

          May be one should inquire https://1dkv.substack.com/ about this topic…I only know that one has to be very exact on these matters, urban legends are taking over very quickly. So I am skeptical towards any comment, including my own alleged knowledge.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Postol has been criticized repeatedly on other matters for being way behind the state of current tech. McGovern amplified Postol. So I would take remarks of that sort now pretty seriously.

            Reply
            1. AG

              I understand that. However I met Postol 2 years ago. We talked, me as the non-scientist. Which makes me biased. He can explain things in person extremely well I found.

              The matter is complex.
              If you can prove to him scientifically that he is wrong he will agree with you happily.
              My impression.

              The issue is what area are we talking about.
              Is it laws of physics which don´t change. Is it early warning system or tracking of Russian SSBNs (or US) which are each highly classified subjects in different ways. Former you can find out about more easily than latter.

              Hypersonics e.g. is a “hot” topic right now. All kinds of theories and allegations can be read even in more scientific publications. But what of that is real and what not? Or the rumours about WMDs in Poland and Belarus. Much was written and said. But little of it seems correct.

              Postol explained very well how e.g. “Iron Dome” is supposed to work but doesn´t and why there is no independent serious info available on this. But despite the lack of data these systems are propagated as highly successful while most likely they are absolutely not.

              As far as McGovern´s reports are concerned there I only read about security problems that arise with Aegis ashore and of course the known warning over refitting ABMs in Poland and Romania. But what was incorrect with those statements?

              So by singling out the various areas I wonder where is he wrong. Perhaps on the current state of RU early warning and technology of RU SSBNs. May be RU air defense developments.

              I am not an ideologue in this, am trying to see and understand the proof.

              That he did mistakes I have heard before. I wasn´t told what exactly.

              But interestingly those in the Pentagon who have spent billions on ABM-systems which do not work because of the physics have of course never experienced any consequences. Or public backlash.

              So I would have found it appropriate for other scientists form a group with him, younger ones, other areas and start scrutinizing the decisions made constantly throwing billions over billions out of the window. And above all putting us onto WWIII track.

              (The same with Hersh. Young reporters started to insult and attack him. Instead of appreciating for what he had been the only one to dare think and dig up. In the past that would have led to a group to try back up Hersh´s work. Not any more. It´s “all for one and more for me” now. Disgusting behaviour.)

              Internet discourse is too often either black or white. Its too often about being right, not about understanding. Because for that you naturally have to be wrong too, many times. Because that´s just how things work.

              People should try to acknowledge what Postol has accomplished and regard him as an asset in the struggle against, yes, empire. Instead of being a know-it-all but having no clue for real.

              Again this is not re: NC.

              Reply
              1. Yves Smith Post author

                This is cognitive bias called halo effect, of wanting to see people as all good or all bad. The fact that Postol can explain what he has learned does not prove his knowledge is current. It SPECIFICALLY does not and cannot prove his assertion that Russia is behind the US/West in its early warning systems. General knowledge in no way shape or from translates into knowledge of a particular

                Here is one example of EXACTLY that sort of error, of conflating a North Korean system with one he knows:

                https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1218663/errors-in-postols-analysis-of-the-hwasong-18/

                Here, Postol, who as far as I can tell does NOT have access to Russian sources or schematics, is amplifying a variant of the classic attacks on the Russian military: “They are no good, behind, etc.”.

                Reply
                1. AG

                  Thx for reminding of Lewis´ analysis.

                  I had heard complaints about Postol´s stubborness on Twitter even in Germany. Not being on Twitter I don´t know if he walked back on that or at least did so in private.
                  But in the current state in which we find ourselves I prefer him this way than the other way, i.e. shutting up, like 99% of his colleagues do. Even if I do not agree with him on some things. Including bias towards NK. And in fact demonizing them to a certain extent. But then I am thinking of others who have served in such positions and the culture that surrounds you 24/7, your work ethics, they become part of you. (On the same note I do not agree with Scott Ritter or Daniel Davis´ statement about Ukrainian heroism and bravery. Their resistance to RU was idiotic and caused unnecessary deaths. I understand that sentiment of such men. But I certainly do not share it.)

                  Reply
                2. Paul Damascene

                  First, I fully concede that striking at these installations is extremely reckless (and therefore stupid)–for the message it sends the Russians: we are prepared to back UKR to do pretty much anything–nuclear power plants, dirty bombs, nuclear bases, early warning radars, and one day nukes of their own.

                  That said, Martyanov does a pretty good job of showing that Postol’s data on Russia is out of date, and that it is much less vulnerable to this sort of thing than Dr. Postol believes. Which is perhaps why Russia has been fairly low-key about this.

                  Reply
          2. Robert Gray

            Just to point out, AG, Dima ‘Military Summary Channel’ and Nima ‘Dialogue Works’ are different guys.

            Reply
          1. Tom Pfotzer

            Thanks for that link. Martyanov does a great job of using 3rd party authoritative sources to support his assertions.

            What I find most curious is that Larry Johnson and Ted Postol’s reports about Russian radar and anti-missile capabilities are … seemingly … not very correct.

            This issue of radars, early warning systems, and missile-defense capabilities seems like something Johnson and Postol would be very well informed about.

            One of the two of the groups – Martyanov or Postol/Johnson – is pretty far off-base, and this is an important issue to not be off-base about.

            Always pays to get a 2nd opinion, doesn’t it?

            Reply
  29. NotThePilot

    I’ve mentioned it a couple times before, but I think the inevitable logic of this war (from the capabilities, aims, and even world-view of all parties involved) is pointing in a single direction. Which is ironic because I don’t think it’s close to what anyone involved wants, neither the Russian state nor NATO nor especially Ukraine, nor any of the individual people it sweeps up.

    But Russia probably could eventually overrun even Western Ukraine and lock in the conquest through colonization. Almost no 3rd party is going to raise a stink about it at this point, with the US and the core of NATO merrily helping Israel do 100 times worse to the Palestinians. If Russia really wanted to, they could probably recruit enough settlers, just from India alone for example, to make the Galicians into a small minority on their own land.

    If Russia got serious about setting up the institutions for it, which they’ve shown they can do pretty competently and quickly these days, it almost seems rather straightforward: rebuild infrastructure with links back to the Motherland, embed the adults in Russian institutions, send the kids to Russian schools, and make sure the various religious leaders have outreach programs with the Orthodox church.

    Russia gains at least a few other benefits from this approach. First, it gives Russia a massive population bump (“we already have enough land, we need people”). Second, it further cements Russia’s connections to the Global South. And third, it will drive the more racist “garden” part of Europe, still in total denial about how much of the current world is blow-back from their own colonialism, absolutely bat$#!& insane.

    Reply
  30. Es s Ce Tera

    One possibility I haven’t seen floated above is Russia perfects anti-drone and anti-missile detection and defenses such that it moots the need for a DMZ. There’s no question that Russia has tech specialization in this field, is very far ahead of the west. We’ve just seen Iron Dome in Israel fail even when reinforced and supplemented with overlapping US defenses. Meanwhile, we know from reports that Russia seems to be having much better success than Iron Dome++.

    Meanwhile, I can’t find the articles (too much noise about Putin and pipelines) but shortly after Nordstream there was a news items that, in response to the Nordstream pipeline attack, Russia had begun to duplicate and build redundancy into oil and gas pipelines going south and east, anticipating attacks along these vectors. This shows Russia to be anticipating attacks long term, but also shows the mindset that an occasional attack will succeed and therefore Russia must build infrastructure such that no one successful attack can be devastating, minimizing the harm AND the threat.

    And we saw how quickly the Crocus attackers were tracked and apprehended. Clearly Russian surveillance, command and communication capabilities are significant, if not superior.

    So, advanced anti-missile and anti-drone defense, advanced EW, redundancy in critical infrastructure, advanced anti-terrorism, plus self-sufficient economy.

    My guess is wherever Russia ultimately decides to put the new Ukrainian border, the West will sooner want to just forget the whole thing even happened, memory hole it like they do every other loss.

    Reply
  31. Librarian Guy

    Alex Christoforou of the Duran reported yesterday that Russia is now the world’s 4th largest economy, after China, US & India!! Well, those sanctions certainly did the trick!!

    The delusional fools in the White House (evidently the real President is Jake Sullivan, it certainly isn’t the brain-dead Weekend at Bernie’s Biden they trot out) don’t just shoot themselves in the foot, they also hit the knees, groin, etc.!! Heckuva job Brownie!!

    Indeed, Richard Nixon’s worst nightmare in the 70s of the Empire as a Pitiful Helpless Giant has been enacted by the Biden crew. The fat lady will sing soon, I’d give 4-1 odds that Ukraine will be contained if not fully polished off by the November election. Assuming Trump wins (unless he comes across a “lone nut” candidate, his victory seems almost certain), the question then becomes will he try to step back from the Ukraine quagmire, or will the Deep State professional class block him again if he does try, as in Syria?

    Reply
    1. ChrisPacific

      I don’t think Trump quite realizes the extent of the failure in Ukraine at this point. His (admittedly dated) ‘end the war in a day’ plan relied on threatening Putin with overwhelming deliveries of weapons if he declined, which would be obviously laughable today (and honestly was back then as well).

      I think his most likely approach would be a pragmatic one, acknowledging failure while blaming it all on the Biden administration. If only he had been in charge, Russia would have been beaten decisively in a matter of months, and so on. We all know the drill by now.

      This could work out quite well for him since the Democrats would reflexively insist that he was completely wrong and Ukraine was on the brink of victory, if only the West continued its endless escalation. As a self-evident lie that must nonetheless be repeated as a kind of loyalty oath, it would serve Trump’s interests quite well, and further convince his base that the establishment was not to be trusted and Trump was the only one giving it to them straight.

      Reply
    2. mowgli

      South Korea:

      Population 51,628,117 (2022)
      $3.058 trillion (PPP; 2024)
      The size of Korea’s informal economy is estimated to be 22.9% which represents approximately $546 billion at GDP PPP levels.

      Real GDP per capita

      GDP – per capita (PPP) compares GDP on a purchasing power parity basis divided by population as of 1 July for the same year.

      13 Norway $67,500 2022 est.
      14 United States $64,600 2022 est.

      22 Austria $55,900 2022 est.
      23 Iceland $55,600 2022 est.
      24 Sweden $55,300 2022 est.
      25 Germany $54,000 2022 est.
      26 Belgium $53,300 2022 est.

      37 Taiwan $47,800 2019 est.
      38 UnitedKingdom $47,600 2022 est.
      39 France $45,900 2022 est.
      40 Korea, South $45,600 2022 est.

      72 Romania $32,500 2022 est.
      73 Greece $31,700 2022 est.
      76 Russia $ 27,500 2022 est.
      77 Bulgaria $27,000 2022 est.
      78 Kazakhstan $26,100 2022 est.

      https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/field/real-gdp-per-capita/country-comparison/

      United States 2022 76,329.6

      Germany 2022 66,616.0

      Sweden 2022 68,178.0

      United Kingdom 2022 57,460.5

      Korea, Rep.2022 51,666.4

      Lithuania 2022 50,968.9

      Estonia 2022 48,168.4

      Japan 2022 46,850.1

      Poland 2022 46,609.6

      Romania 2022 43,239.6

      Russian Federation 2022 40,813.2

      Latvia 2022 41,624.7

      Kazakhstan 2022 36,619.6
      Mexico 2022 23,900.4

      Central Europe and the Baltics 2022 45,181.7

      European Union 2022 57,285.5

      Upper middle income 2022 22,751.1

      https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD

      Reply
  32. Maxwell Johnston

    I continue to think that any serious NATO troop deployment into UKR is going to resemble the Allied Intervention into the Russian civil war 100+ years ago. And it will similarly be a shambolic mess and end in fiasco. But the west’s politicians (captives of their previous declarations) might go ahead and do it anyway: much as was the case in 1918, there is a prevailing sense that “something must be done” to oppose Putin (just as fear of the Bolsheviks drove a similar–and equally foolish–decision 100+ years ago).

    I have trouble imagining how USA will deploy 40k troops to rump UKR. The 82nd and 101st airborne and the special forces are basically light infantry; they will be horribly exposed to RU artillery and missiles. Deploying heavy tank/mech divisions takes a LOT of time and logistics (both seaborne and land-based) that can easily be interdicted by RU. And even if they can be deployed successfully, they must be sustained: again, more logistical headaches. And UKR is a big place (stretching west-east from Chicago to NYC on a map), featuring plenty of space for RU to take occasional whacks at these deployed troops.

    Reply
    1. GramSci

      A very apt analogy. The whole 2024 Ukraine-Zionist clown show is so like a 1918 rerun. Monarchs replaced by sorta-democratic nation-states; now oligarchs replaced by … well, it rhymes.

      Reply
  33. Willow

    What’s interesting is the split between those European countries north of and including Poland and those countries to the south of Poland. This is how NATO/Europe splits over Russia. The Greens who were the most rabidly anti-Putin/Russia have been hammered. Europe will become a much less singular voice against Russia as the nationalist agendas drift to domestic concerns (becoming more like Italy). This throws a hammer in the works for the Neocons agenda to coalesce Europe into a unified anti-Russia ‘voice’. Any serious ‘NATO’ response to Russia will fall on the UK & European north including Poland. (which is not enough).

    While Right will take a more neutral stance on Russia, dismantling the Green economic agenda will inevitably create leakage in Russian economic sanctions to the benefit of Russia over the medium to longer term. More problematic though will be European Right’s response to the Middle East and how this may complicate things for Russia.

    The immediate & seriously dangerous risk is what Biden Administration will do given likelihood move to Right in Europe reflects a greater likelihood Trump will be elected president, again. What type of bat shit crazy survival instincts will kick in?

    Reply
    1. Revenant

      Geography is destiny: everybody south of Poland is protected by mountains (Hungary in its basin, the Balkans, Italy whereas Germany and Poland are a flat march / tank drive bfrom the North Sea to the Ukraine.

      Reply
  34. Safety First

    I think that:

    a) The ideal resolution that the Russian government would prefer is that the Kiev government capitulates (various public figures have used the term “unconditional surrender”, echoing World War 2 language). Then the Russians would have some portion of Ukraine annexed, and the rest as a rump puppet state, and it is this rump puppet state that could, with help from Russian military police battalions, handle any issues with Western Ukraine. [I also suspect, but cannot point to anything they’ve said, that Moscow hopes the most pro-Ukrainian Ukrainians would leave of their own accord for European pastures in this scenario.]

    b) At the same time, I think (but obviously cannot prove) that Moscow realises, this is becoming a less and less likely scenario, because the US has taken a burn-it-all approach. Based on Putin’s latest interviews to the press, it might even be that they do not think a Trump presidency would change things very much, since Moscow believes the American “deep state” is really in charge.

    c) As an alternative, I suspect – but again, cannot prove – that Moscow would be “ok” with an Idlib-type scenario, where the Russians control Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and any anti-Russian population moves into the westerly provinces, where they remain Western puppets of some description. This would also more or less accomplish Russia’s security goals, because US missiles or radars in L’vov or Vinnitsa are far, far less impactful than same in or around Kharkov. Remember how Medvedev had floated the idea of the westerly portion being split between Poland, Romania and Hungary. But again, this is Moscow hoping rather than what can ultimately be attainable.

    d) At worst, I think that Moscow would go all the way and take the entire country if options (a) or (c) were not practicable. Remember, from the Russian government’s perspective, this is an existential issue. Moreover, everyone in Russia still remembers the humiliating peace of 1996 with Chechnya, and while Russia is not exactly the most liberal of liberal democracies, its elites still pay close attention to public opinion with the view of forestalling any sort of colour revolution or even significant discontent.

    e) Meanwhile, the core issue remains how far will Washington choose to escalate the issue. If this were the Cold War circa 1960s, I’d have expected nothing less than provocations against Transnistria and Kaliningrad using various neighbouring European states (e.g. have Sweden and Estonia threaten to close the Baltic corridor to Kaliningrad, and see how the Russians respond); some sort of shenanigans in Khazakhstan, where ~75% of the oil and gas sector is still owned by American corporations, placing the government literally between three geopolitical poles (US, Russia and China); and, of course, escalations in Ukraine all the way up to deploying European (not American) troops in Odessa. We, however, have the Biden White House, which I do not view as terribly competent even at doing imperialism, and the possibility of a Trump White House in November, and I am given to understand those people all want to refocus on China in any event.

    f) Consequently, I hesitate to rule out (a) and (c) as of yet, basically due to the US not exactly being a very skillful or stable hegemon. It’s the same thing of – in the Eisenhower days, or whenever, I would have expected the US to so rapidly ramp up weapons production, that Ukraine would be positively flooded with shells, tanks, whatever. Not of the best quality, mind you, but enough to actually cause meaningful damage to the Russians as opposed to merely hoping for said. Now, we have what we have, and then wonder why our proxies are consistently outgunned by the evil Russians.

    g) Lost in all this, somewhere, is the Pentagon, where, I suspect, the Powers That Be are rather more concerned about any escalation with the Russians than any professional politicians. Because, not the least, they want to refocus on China more than anything, and witness the fact that the current Joint Chiefs chair is an Airforce guy who’d spent the bulk of his career out in the Pacific theatre – training to fight, you guessed it, against the Chinese or their proxies. In other words, if it comes down to escalating against the Russians, the Pentagon might provide a sort of a red line of its own. I think it is not an accident that Putin openly said “we might now start sending weapons to guys you are fighting against”, and I suspect this is the last thing the Pentagon people want, given the enormous spread of US military bases and baselets across the globe.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is very good, thanks!

      A problem with a) is that Russia has no one to sign an unconditional surrender with in Ukraine given that Putin has depicted (with good reasons) Zelensky to be illegitimate. And any US installed successor would have the same problem.

      Sachs said similar things re the Blob. When asked who was running policy, he could not even name names of who was in charge. He depicted it as deeply embedded bureaucratic behavior.

      Reply
    2. Frank

      This is an excellent analysis, thanks for posting, it’s almost exactly how I’d summarize my own view of the situation.

      Reply
  35. Socal Rhino

    This isn’t happening in a strategic vacuum. While the SMO progresses the US is watching the Chinese crank out mass quantities of ships and missiles. If Ukraine was meant to be a precursor to China, the window for pivoting eastward is closing. If that US admiral who predicted war by 2025 was close to being right, eastern Europe is likely to soon become Afghanistan 2.0, as in abandoned and memory holed. Just have to get past the elections in November. My non expert thoughts.

    Reply
    1. Rain

      Im with you on memory-holing Ukraine, after the elections. For the moment, they want to keep it simmering in the background, give just enough money to prop it up until they can reassess their options. NATO Countries sabre-rattling has exposed more splits, in the masses preferred voting patterns (the people arent war propagandised enough) and also between countries, weakening the ‘Alliance’. Some semi-manufactured scandal over Zelensky and co perhaps?
      The UniParty goes hunting a scapegoat…..

      Reply
  36. spud

    russia better look over moldova also. the southern part i understand is not to happy with the northern pro E.U. and nato.

    the southern part has a port on the danube, prime real estate for importing trouble into what will be left of the ukraine, if any.

    the port is run by the dutch, nato, a e.u. run bank, again, nato, put up the money to build the port.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_Giurgiule%C8%99ti

    Reply
  37. Paul Jurczak

    I don’t see a significant strategic advantage for Russia to go much further west than Dnieper and Odessa. The closest distance from the west bank of Dnieper to Moscow is about 690km. The closest distance from Latvia is 600km. If you worry about intermediate range missiles, Latvia becomes a bigger problem after Russians get to the Dnieper. Not mentioning Estonia, which is only 140km from St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. Perhaps they will want to add a bit of a safety margin on the west bank, but there is no need to take Lviv. No matter what they do, they will have to deal with rabidly anti-Russian Baltic States, Poland and whatever remains of Ukraine.

    Reply
  38. Susan the other

    The only sane thing that has happened in the last few days is the stunning confession of Lindsay Graham. He is sitting calmly in front of the camera, his makeup is perfect, he is calm and articulate and he takes only two minutes to relate his message that the real reason we must pursue victory in Ukraine is because Ukraine is worth many trillions in mineral resources which we in the West need and it would also be good to deprive Russia and China from acquiring them. But his message is conflicted by his honesty, he should still be screaming-red, so it seems he might be resigned to our defeat. He doesn’t say it but the look in his eyes certainly does. So I’m guessing the consensus is that the Ukraine War is over. We will bring as much German industry as possible to the US and let the EU pick up the mess. I wonder if the EU simply refused to confiscate 300 billion from Russia and we don’t want to get stuck with the bill.

    Reply
    1. Susan the other

      But, here is a new twist. New US nuclear doctrine, now being reviewed, entails the justified use of nuclear weapons if “vital national interests” are at stake. Much like Russia’s nuclear doctrine of vital national defense. So with this in mind, Lindsay Graham’s tranquilization almost seems ominous. The broader truth here is a review of the Cold War and the effort to keep global peace. That effort to keep peace and promote prosperity was expensive. We ran aground, imo, because our capitalist system depended on unsustainable growth, and we overextended our own economy to the extent that we are now faced with shoring up our monetary system to fit a new world of equal interests. That shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. It’s not something the West should go all right wing about and explode into nuclear confrontations. That’s absurd. We should instead take pride in the fact that the world has reached this level and recognize that the most important thing is to cooperate. But somehow, I don’t think that is what Lindsay has in mind. But maybe.

      Reply
  39. debi

    One endgame I have never seen discussed is that Russia takes all the bits of Ukraine that want to be in Russia and lets the rest join Nato. Yes, you read that right.

    Inside Nato there is zero chance of missiles being launched at Russia from Ukraine. That is WW3. So Nato would automatically have to restrain Ukraine. A ‘neutral’ Ukraine is precisely what the warmongers want. The perfect location to launch attacks at Russia ad infinitem.

    In the cold war there was zero buffer in Europe and it worked rather well.

    I suspect Putin worked this out a long time ago.

    Reply
    1. Polar Socialist

      In the cold war the whole Eastern Europe was The Buffer. That’s why it remained cold. That’s why Gorbachev demanded NATO wouldn’t expand to east. That’s why Yeltsin demanded NATO wouldn’t expand to East. That’s why Putin demanded NATO wouldn’t expand to East.

      Both Russia and NATO figured this out a long time ago. But USA needed the NATO expansion to stay relevant in Europe.

      Reply
      1. debi

        I believe all of Eastern Europe was in the Warsaw pact, cheek and jowl up against Nato along the iron curtain.

        There was no neutral buffer zone from which to launch attacks, to one side or the other.

        Reply
    2. Paul Jurczak

      Agree. This will be a logical extension of the status quo, which already exists along the more northern European border of Russia, i.e. Poland, the Baltic States and Finland. No need for the uncertainty and political cost of a buffer zone. Also, see my comment above regarding missile range issue.

      Reply
      1. debi

        Exactly. How many missiles has Estonia launched into Russia since it joined NATO? St-Petersburg is less than 150 km away. Can’t get more anti-Russian than Estonia.

        The war mongers want rump Ukraine outside of Nato so that they can harass Russia forever.

        Reply
  40. Ignacio

    I believe that there is one reason in favour of Yves’ hypothesis that has nothing to do with Trump or Le Pen. If the West just abandons Ukraine without doing the best they can, then the rump Ukraine that remains in the future might turn to be a bigger problem for the West than for Russia after all those human sacrifices done. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Ukrainian nationalists turn they anger all the way around if they feel betrayed.

    Reply
  41. mowgli

    “Nevertheless, this outcome has to add to the rising frisson over voter lack of enthusiasm for Project Ukraine despite attempts to whip up fear over the supposedly imminent Putin takeover of all of Europe. Admittedly, we are likely to see a lot of sloppy analysis over why more voters are refusing to eat centrist dog food. In many countries, the reasons are likely to be local and thus oversimplied”

    I wonder why Yves Smith put reference to RUSI forecast in her previous posts:
    https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/russian-military-objectives-and-capacity-ukraine-through-2024

    “In order to achieve its aspiration to make significant territorial gains in 2025, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has assessed an industrial requirement to manufacture or source approximately 4 million 152mm and 1.6 million 122mm artillery shells in 2024. Russian industry has reported to the MoD that it expects to increase 152mm production from around 1 million rounds in 2023 to 1.3 million rounds over the course of 2024, and to only produce 800,000 122mm rounds over the same period. Moreover, the Russian MoD does not believe it can significantly raise production in subsequent years, unless new factories are set up and raw material extraction is invested in with a lead time beyond five years.”

    Reply
  42. Jams O'Donnell

    Very interesting discussion Yves. Thanks for starting it off. I really appreciate your site. I’ll transfer one of my current support subscriptions to you. It won’t be much, as I’m not rich, but it will pay for the odd cup of coffee. As we used to say in Scotland, ‘every mickle maks a muckle’.

    Reply

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