Written to mark the one year anniversary of the launch of Russia’s Special Military Operation, the following is reproduced from the Irish Political Review with thanks to both the magazine editors and the writer Dr Pat Walsh
“The war I know about is not the war you’re reading about”Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on Ukraine
“It is evident that the conflict, initially a limited territorial war, has evolved into a global economic confrontation between the whole West on one side, and Russia, backed by China, on the other. It has become a world war.”Emmanuel Todd, French philosopher.
It is the anniversary this month of the launch of the Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine. It is not the anniversary of the war in Ukraine, which has been going on since April 2014 and had cost around 14,000 lives by the time of the start of the Special Military Operation in February 2022.
What happened a year ago was that the US succeeded in its long term ambition of luring Russian forces into Ukraine to create the narrative of “Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine” so that a regime-change operation could be mounted on all fronts – political, economic and military – to disable a resurgent Russia.
It had become intolerable for Washington to witness the revival of Russia that had taken place under Vladimir Putin. An internal collapse instigated by the last First Secretary of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev, had laid Russia low a generation ago ending the Cold War in an unexpected Western victory. But there had been no Treaty of Versailles to formalise the defeat and there had been no Congress of Vienna, either, to stabilise Europe and secure its future security. There was unfinished business for the West with regard to Russia. So from 1999 NATO was advanced up to Russia’s borders in 3 waves.
Russia was down and out, it appeared to the West, so it then took up other adventures – smashing up the Muslim world in a series of invasions and wanton acts of political vandalism. But having taken its eye off the ball, Russia found the time and space to rebuild itself to the chagrin of Washington. When the third wave of NATO advancement was launched in 2008, starting with Georgia and later including Ukraine, it was met with solid resistance from Moscow. Putin warned the West about this, the year before, at the Munich Security Conference.
The US had given Gorbachev security guarantees at the winding down of the Cold War relating to the non-expansion of NATO. But when NATO was later advancing up to the borders of Russia, and the Kremlin complained about being cheated, it was explained that these promises had been given to the Soviet Union and not to Russia
It is important to note that NATO expansion eastward was not done to contain an actual Russian threat. Washington saw little threat from Russia before 2014. NATO expansion was the expansion of Western liberal hegemony. It produced or generated “the Russian threat” particularly in what was done by Washington in Kiev in early 2014.
The powerful RAND Corporation reports have been the blueprint for Washington’s Foreign Policy and US geopolitics in recent years. RAND is different to other think tanks. It has a customer – the United States – which it provides with scenarios. Rather than being made up with “on the make” academics eager to demonstrate their usefulness to Washington to gain lucrative positions it is made up of the elite itself, part of the “Deep State”.
RAND’s 2017 Report, Extending Russia, mapped out the ways in which the United States could potentially weaken Russia on a number of fronts. Why Russia has to be weakened is not explained. It is just taken for granted that it needs to be disabled for the good of the World.
Under “Economic Measures” the Report had sections on “Measure 1: Hinder Petroleum Exports; Measure 2: Reduce Natural Gas Exports and Hinder Pipeline Expansions; Measure 3: Impose Sanctions; Measure 4: Enhance Russian Brain Drain.” However, all these measures were difficult to justify in being put into operation in a way that could result in the disabling of Russia. Hysterical wartime morality was required, presumably.
Under “Geopolitical Measures” it had “Measure 1: Supply Lethal Aid to Ukraine”:
“The United States could increase its military assistance to Ukraine—in terms of both the quantity and quality of weapons… The United States could also become more vocal in its support for NATO membership for Ukraine… While NATO’s requirement for unanimity makes it unlikely that Ukraine could gain membership in the foreseeable future, Washington’s pushing this possibility could boost Ukrainian resolve while leading Russia to redouble its efforts to forestall such a development… Expanding U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including lethal military assistance, would likely increase the costs to Russia, in both blood and treasure, of holding the Donbass region. More Russian aid to the separatists and an additional Russian troop presence would likely be required, leading to larger expenditures, equipment losses, and Russian casualties. The latter could become quite controversial at home, as it did when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan… An increase in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine would likely lead to a commensurate increase in both Russian aid to the separatists and Russian military forces in Ukraine, thus sustaining the conflict at a somewhat higher level of intensity… Alternatively, Russia might counter-escalate, committing more troops and pushing them deeper into Ukraine. Russia might even pre-empt U.S. action, escalating before any additional U.S. aid arrives. Such escalation might extend Russia; Eastern Ukraine is already a drain. Taking more of Ukraine might only increase the burden, albeit at the expense of the Ukrainian people. However, such a move might also come at a significant cost to Ukraine and to U.S. prestige and credibility. This could produce disproportionately large Ukrainian casualties, territorial losses, and refugee flows. It might even lead Ukraine into a disadvantageous peace.”
It was James Connolly who said that the only true prophets are those who carve out the future they predict.
The other Measures included: “Measure 2: Increase Support to the Syrian Rebels; Measure 3: Promote Regime Change in Belarus; Measure 4: Exploit Tensions in the South Caucasus (Armenia/Azerbaijan); Measure 5: Reduce Russian Influence in Central Asia (Kazakhstan etc.); Measure 6: Challenge Russian Presence in Moldova”
Most of these “measures for extending Russia” have come to pass in one way or another.
But Ukraine would always have been the biggest threat to Russian national security if it were turned over by the West. Turning Kiev into an enemy of Moscow would be like an enemy making camp in Scotland to threaten England or Canada to threaten the US. It would be the closest thing to a civil war. Ukraine had a large population and very good material for an army. It had even been a nuclear power. The armed forces of Ukraine had been fighting a civil war for 7 years and been carefully prepared for a future war against Russia by Western forces during that period.
After the 2014 Western-sponsored coup in Kiev the elected President Yanukovich had fled the country. His supporters in parliament were intimidated and failed to show up for votes. The incoming US-handpicked government set out to suppress the Russian speaking parts of Ukraine and subject them to Kiev’s nationalist authority. The first move of the rump parliament, now dominated by nationalist representatives from Western Ukraine, was to prohibit the Russian language for official business.
Ukraine had been a country of 140 nationalities during Soviet times and ethnic origin had mattered little outside the Banderist element in Western Ukraine. It was a multinational state before 2014 in which nationality problems were largely non-existent – or at least dormant. But from 2014 Ukraine began undergoing a simplifying nationalist metamorphosis in which the nationalist ideology of a minority has been imposed on the majority with the assistance of Washington, under the cover of wartime conditions. An anti-terrorist operation was launched against its own citizens in which heavy artillery was used to bombard civilian population centres and dozens of trade unionists were burned to death in Odessa.
The 2014 coup brought ethnic issues to the agenda and the ethnic Russian population in the east, opposed to the coup, rebelled against it. The coup government tried to oppress it by military means but many soldiers from the Donbas and Crimea defected to the rebels and soon they began to win the upper hand. Most of the weapons and men on the rebel side had come from units of the old Ukrainian army which had change sides. They were supported by a small detachment of Russian volunteers, opposed by the Kremlin – which wished to keep the region a part of the Ukrainian state. Russia, however, took Crimea back into Russia in a swift and carefully planned operation, encountering no resistance from the population.
After a crushing defeat of Ukrainian troops in the battle of Ilovaisk in August 2014, envoys from Kiev, the rebels and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed a truce in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in September 2014.
The Minsk agreements, endorsed by the UN Security Council, had required Kiev to negotiate with the Donbas separatists and to implement legislation. The first Minsk agreement had failed to stop the fighting, and it was followed with a revised and updated agreement, Minsk II, signed on 12 February 2015. This agreement consisted of a package of measures, including a ceasefire, and provisions for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners of war, constitutional reform in Ukraine granting self-government to certain areas of Donbas and restoring control of the state border to the Ukrainian government. It envisaged that Ukraine would regain control over the border with Russia in rebel regions after they held OSCE-monitored local elections. This sequence was opposed by the more militant nationalists and was used as the means to prevent implementation by Kiev.
The former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President François Hollande Kiev have since confirmed that Kiev made no attempt to fulfil the agreement but used it to gain time to train and arm its military, in conjunction with the West.
By February 2022 half of the Ukrainian army, around 120,000 men, had been mustered near the ceasefire line and were ready to launch a large offensive to recover the lost provinces. On the opposing side there were 40,000 men under arms in Donbas. They would have little chance to withstand an offensive of that size, which could be quickly reinforced by more men, armed and trained by the West. The Kremlin was forced to overturn its policy of seeking autonomy and protections for the Donbas within the Ukrainian state to recognising the rebel succession.
If Ukraine could regain the break-away provinces by armed force this would produce consternation in Russian public opinion about the let-down and fate of the Donbas people. Since the 2014 coup in Kiev around 4 four million Ukrainians had already moved to Russia. There are lots of family ties between the two countries. It would also mean that Ukraine would be able to join NATO, meaning Russia would be up against the collective West in any future conflict rather than Kiev assisted by the West. Because of the threat Russia put some of its own forces on alert and moved weapons and munition to assembling points near the Ukrainian border.
The US was warning for months of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine. This had been aired for so long less and less people believed it. But Washington knew Moscow had to respond militarily to Kiev’s attempt to regain the Donbas and Crimea by force. It seems that in mid-February, after a phone call to President Biden, the Ukrainian President Zelensky gave the final order for the Ukrainian attack. The decision was immediately leaked in London as well as in Kiev. Western Diplomats began to be moved out and Western weapons flown in. Ukrainian oligarchs began to bail out of the country.
Kiev’s willingness to resolve the nationalities question created by the 2014 coup by force rather than compromise placed the Russian government in a bind – damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So, in February 2022 Washington achieved its heart’s desire by creating a major threat to the national security of the Russian Federation which if not responded to immediately would have resulted in a critical situation for Russia fighting a defensive war on its borders.
Putin had bought time for Russia and prepared the armed forces and economy for what was an inevitable confrontation with the expansionary NATO. The Special Military Operation would have been suicide for Russia in 2014. But by February 2022 the vital hour had arrived. This was a classic “preventative war” as Prof. Geoffrey Roberts termed it – a war in which initiative was taken rather than surrendered to the enemy.
The Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev had offered up their country as a battlefield and their people as cannon fodder for Washington’s geopolitical aims. In doing this they succeeded in carving out a more homogeneous Ukrainian nationality, albeit at the risk of losing the territory they inherited from the Soviets. However, the 50 million population of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine is long departed. And the war has reduced it to a little over 20 million.
All the indications are that this new Ukrainian nationalist development will continue to fight, with continued Western assistance, until Russian power is applied in sufficient quantity to break their will to fight.
Current Situation on the Battlefield
Around September last year it was believed by many in the West that the war in Ukraine was being won and it would all be over by Christmas with a quick thrust by Kiev’s forces into Crimea. That was certainly the propaganda being fed to the Western media by the British and US ex-military men who were making a handy living from the anti-Russian think tanks that proliferate these days. Of course, these people pointed out that escalation was needed to achieve the victory and the Ukrainians would have to be backed by a great increase in Western aid, and perhaps even direct intervention itself, in some form.
They were, however, to be disappointed.
Washington – despite the pleadings of that incompetent wrecker of relationships, governments and countries, Boris Johnson – has, so far been unwilling to go for bust against Russia. It has only been prepared to raise the stakes in the war in a gradual way, when Kiev begins to stagger from Russian attrition, to keep it in the game. It has become clear that Washington does not fancy a full scale, no limits, war and is only prepared to maintain Ukraine in the field, bleeding Russia – at an ever increasing cost to Ukraine.
Having lit the fire under Ukraine in 2014 Washington has been stoking it ever since to prevent it going out.
The present writer wrote Ukraine: Turning of the Tide? to record the period of Western triumphalism in the Autumn of 2022 and explain that it involved a misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, about the course of the war. The tide was actually turning the other way as Putin realised he had a fight on his hands and started to get serious. Russian forces did what they usually do in war – learn through its fighting. Anyone who has read Dominic Lieven’s Russia against Napoleon will understand this historical phenomenon which was also evident from 1942 against Hitler and his European allies, including the Banderists.
Some Kremlin delusions about the Ukrainians being brother Slavs etc. and the West being not serious in its hatred of Russia (as Russia itself rather than Soviet Russia) began to disappear in favour of greater realism and an understanding of what Russia had actually bitten off. Russian fraternity with Ukrainians reduced casualties early in the war but was taken advantage of by both Kiev and Washington.
As a consequence Ukrainian deaths and hardship have now increased. The early Russian notions of a relatively bloodless victory were dispelled when the Ukrainians put up resistance and decided not to accept terms at Istanbul after the Russians had ringed Kiev. Boris Johnson bolstered the Ukrainian will to fight on with an offer from Washington that Zelensky could not refuse: reject peace and fight on with help from the West or take your chances alone with Russia. This was confirmed by Fiona Hill in Foreign Affairs, speaking to negotiators present at the talks. It has now been revealed by former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, that Washington scuppered a parallel peace process, leading Kiev little option but to walk away.
Washington and London are obviously intent on prolonging the war for as long as it can be seen to be “extending Russia” with little regard for the destruction it will cause to Ukraine and its people.
At Istanbul Moscow offered to withdraw from all of Ukraine except the parts of Donbas and Crimea it occupied. But with the rejection of a peace settlement Russia was left with an army in Ukraine, insufficient to the task of overcoming the Ukrainian will to fight. Russian forces, transferred from the environs of Kiev to support forces in Donbas, were left manning a huge frontline while a large Ukrainian army was being taken in hand by the West and refashioned into a NATO army.
Russia hoped to wrap up the Special Military Operation quickly with minimum cost to itself and Ukraine. But that objective was frustrated. It moved on to Plan B, which it certainly had prepared for, but required a period of adjustment.
In late 2022 Putin, The Reluctant Annexationist laid down a marker declaring his territorial ambitions with regard to Ukraine. In this, he made it clear that he had no intention of trying to subjugate Ukraine as a whole, if he could possibly help it. But he also gave up the policy of encouraging the Donbas Russian-Ukrainians to make terms with Kiev to restore stability. This policy was proved to be bankrupt by the intransigence of Washington and the ultra-nationalists in Ukraine.
The Kremlin then did 3 things to turn the tide against the NATO army of Ukraine. Firstly, it mobilised significantly more men to strengthen the front, which up to that point had been a minimalist project. Secondly, it massively shortened this over long front to concentrate its limited resources and engage the enemy into positions in which Kiev’s forces could be destroyed by artillery and diverted from further counter-offensives elsewhere, while Russian lines were being reinforced. Thirdly, it began to launch missiles and drones to weaken Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, diverting Kiev’s resources to defending its electrical grid, impeding its general war effort.
Roughly 18 per cent of the territory of the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is now controlled by Russian forces. Another 2 per cent has been formally annexed to the Russian Federation, although held presently by Kiev’s forces. The rest of Ukraine has been neutralised as a functional state. Its economy has been destroyed and Kiev is completely dependent politically and economically on Washington for its survival. Ukraine is gradually becoming the property of Western countries with its defence industry the latest acquisition of its plundered state resources.
Ukraine’s NATO membership has been neutralised by the Russian Special Military Operation – although NATO now effectively possesses an army in Ukraine.
As has been noted, September was the high-point in Kiev’s military fortunes. Availing of Western intelligence and satellite technology Kiev was able to pinpoint numerical weakness in the long Russian lines, manned by a relatively small expeditionary force of probably no more than 150,000. It was well known that the 6 month contracts of contracted soldiers were up at that point and around 30,000 would have to be replaced that month. NATO directed Ukrainian offensives, which had been noted for their failure up until that point, into the gaps in the Russian lines.
Russia abandoned territory that it cared little about, particularly in the North, around Kharkov. The southern land corridor from Russia to Crimea was way more important than the North and that is where the Russian troops were relocated to. It should be noted that the territory around Kharkov may only temporarily be in the possession of Kiev. There are still Russian formations there and large Russian forces are sitting across the border in Russia and Belarus, ready to spring, if called upon. The presence of these forces means that Ukraine cannot afford to transfer men away to the south east lest the Russians reappear across the border and deal a morale blow to Kiev, in taking further territory from it. The supply of Western weapons has been linked to Kiev at least holding its own and the possibility of it moving forward being believable.
Further to the South the Russians abandoned the right bank of the Dneiper and Kherson city. This was known to be undefendable territory if the Ukrainians applied sufficient resources to its capture. It turned out to be difficult to supply. The new Russian military command wanted the 30,000 troops holding it to move elsewhere. The Russian troops moved to the east side of the Dneiper with few losses. Russians decided it was not worth casualties incurred in defending it. Since Kherson’s occupation by Ukrainian forces it has proved to be a millstone around the neck of Kiev. It is largely unfit for habitation and dangerous. It has not been able to be used for further offensives and the civilian population has largely fled.
NATO’s army in Ukraine failed to inflict the casualties needed to turn the orderly Russian retreat into a rout. Instead the retreating army inflicted much greater casualties on the advancing Ukrainians, who had left their safer defensive positions. The high level of casualties impeded the launching of further counter-offensives against the numerically inferior Russians.
Russia has now mobilised around 350,000 with a projected 1.5 million in the pipeline and it appointed a very competent defensive General who brought order and direction to the Special Military Operation. It has since reorganised again, indicating a new phase in the war is imminent in which large scale ground warfare is predicted and the cohesion of combined arms will be imperative. The battalion tactical groups of the Special Military Operation are being reorganised into the military structures of the conventional army within military districts.
The battle for the Bakhmut/Artemivsk area is the biggest battle of the war and it is instructive. Some have called it the Stalingrad of the war, but this misrepresents the nature of the battle.
The West has been playing down the significance of it, with its media and analysts declaring incomprehension at Russian efforts there. Kiev is evidently not of the same opinion. It has some of its strongest and most developed defences in Bakhmut. It has been pouring tens of thousands of troops into the area to defend it. The Ukrainians know the city is an important hub/axis and lynchpin of the overall defence line which will be undermined by any retreat from it. Falling back would result in mustering troops in much less developed defensive positions where they would be increasingly exposed to artillery.
The Russians are expending concentrated effort, mainly through the Wagner group, on this objective for a number of reasons. Firstly, the operation has drawn in and concentrated a large number of Ukrainian troops is an area on which Russian artillery can be used with devastating effect. There are around 8 times the amount of Russian shells being fired than Ukrainian ones. The Wagner and regular Russian forces are advancing slowly and cautiously where they can and all the time pinning down defenders who can be decimated by shell fire. There is a north and south pincer around the town and the Ukrainians are retreating despite the amount of troops they have there.
Bakhmut, in drawing increasing numbers of Kiev’s forces to the battle, has prevented Ukrainian offensives in other areas, while Russian forces are still in limited number, before accumulation takes place.
The Russians realised that they can cause disproportionate casualties on the Ukrainians of around 5 or 6:1. This is because Kiev’s forces are fighting for territory whereas the Russian objective is demilitarisation. In effect this means that the Ukrainians will fight more recklessly to hold and/or gain territory while Russians have no problem in giving it up to escape and fight again. Artillery preponderance is the key to this. It is estimated that 90 per cent of casualties in the war are caused by artillery and, of course, Russia has a great advantage in this area.
Colonel Richard Kemp in an interview with The Telegraph confirmed this:
“The Ukrainians have fought hard for Bakhmut and they have taken vast amounts of casualties. The Russians have also taken casualties there, significant numbers. But it has had a really horrific effect on the strength of the Ukrainian army… The Russians calculated that this is where we call kill very large numbers of Ukrainians and this has proved correct.”
When the Ukrainians announced they would defend Bakhmut no matter what the losses, and to the death, the leader of Wagner, Prigozhin said “Please Do! Resist. Fight to the end!”
Prigozhin is a remarkable entrepreneur from St Petersburg who started as a hot-dog salesman before becoming a caterer to the Russian education department and finally diversifying into the private military sphere, pioneered by the US. His Wagner PLC recruited heavily from Russian prisons, offering men a deal of amnesty for signing up to 6 month contracts in Ukraine. This proved a very effective enterprise. Some suggest as many as 50,000 convicts were signed up. The Wagner convict recruits were used for the very difficult task of urban fighting and minefield clearance. They have undoubtedly suffered heavy casualties given the nature of their role but have helped inflict even heavier casualties on the Ukrainians, by drawing them into concentrated areas. Wagner has plugged the temporary Russian manpower shortage, and conserved the lives of Russian soldiers whilst clearing the prisons of violent criminals, saving the state considerable expense. The prisoners themselves are transformed from criminal scum to free heroes, with useful military skills, if they survive their contracts.
The fact that a hot dog salesman became a general at a Stalingrad tells us everything we need to know about the chaos of Yeltin’s capitalist Russia and why it gave way to Putin.
The Wagner Group have proved to be effective fighters. After they succeeded in capturing Soledar in a hard fought battle during January, regular Russian brigades attempted an assault on Vuhledar, perhaps to prove they could do what Wagner could. But this operation in early February was badly botched and a flanking manoeuvre was defeated through the use of US supplied remote anti-armour mines, which can be fired by artillery into areas that are thought already cleared of mines. A newly recruited Tatar volunteer battalion took heavy casualties in men and tanks after they were sent into battle without appropriate air defence against drones.
There are many hard and costly battles ahead before places like Soledar, Vuhledar and Bakhmut can be captured and the Russians continue to make military blunders in the escalating fighting.
Insights from Foreign Volunteers
The increasing number of videos appearing on social media of Western volunteers/mercenaries’ experiences have been enlightening. The real truth about conditions on the ground, carefully suppressed by the mainstream Western media, is appearing in these videos. These foreign volunteers are noticeably depressed about the current situation on the battlefield.
One American volunteer, Justin, described his experience fighting with the famed Azov Regiment. He freely admitted they were hard-core Nazis and extreme racists. He pointed out the lack of black or Asian volunteers in the foreign legion, who the Ukrainians would not tolerate for a moment.
Azov are Ukraine’s best fighters with a fearsome death-cult. Most have been killed, captured or disabled by the Russians over the previous 6 months, according to Justin. The American volunteer’s Ukrainian girlfriend warned him to leave Azov because they all intended to die and he would never see her again. He survived, but virtually all his comrades died in battle with the Russians. Justin had fought alongside Azov in Donbas and said that nearly all Ukrainians there were seen as collaborators by Kiev’s forces. They are suspected of giving away the positions of foreign legion units to Russian artillery. They were given harsh treatment by Azov because they fundamentally supported Russia or at least refused allegiance to Kiev.
At the Munich Security Conference Vice-President Kamala Harris has accused Russia of “Crimes Against Humanity” suggesting a Nuremberg II over the events at Bucha, around a year ago.
A British volunteer who was with the Ukrainian army for a number of years described the battle for Bucha, where he lived with his wife and children. He saw no deliberate killing of civilians by the Russians, as Kiev claimed and used as an excuse for breaking off negotiations in Istanbul, when the war was nearly settled. He said that the Russians had probably executed territorial army defence volunteers who did not fight in full uniform, after fatal ambushes took place on resting Russian troops. These defence forces had been pinpointing Russian positions and had relayed information to squads of well-prepared Ukrainian special forces armed with NATO weapons.
The British volunteer noted that the civilians killed on the road in Bucha were killed by Russian aerospace, not soldiers. He inspected the size of bullet holes in the sides of cars and saw they were cannon shells fired by Russian aircraft at anything that moved (something the US airforce is noted for). The British man was detained by the Russians, who allowed all women and children out and treated him well. His only problem with escaping the war zone himself was due to Kiev ordering all military age men to remain under pain of arrest. He left Bucha when this order was lifted and rejoined Ukrainian forces to fight in the war.
Nearly all the foreign volunteers said that about 80 per cent of the foreign legion had now left the war zone and returned home. The non-military volunteers had soon given up after experiencing the first action or hardships. Many who had been in Afghanistan or Iraq, and served in US or British armies for years, were shocked at the formidable Russian artillery. They had been used to calling up airstrikes for support in their previous deployments but now the boot was on the other front. They all saw the Russians as much more formidable and competent than they had been led to believe by the Western media. The foreign volunteers suspected that the Russians were using their older equipment and holding the more modern best equipment in reserve. One volunteer described the Western media as peddling a complete lie about Ukraine.
The accounts relay similar stories of Ukrainian corruption with money and equipment disappearing into locals’ pockets and NATO weapons being sold on the blackmarket. The recent dismissals of senior Ukrainian officers back up the views of these foreigners. They found Ukrainian commanders to be mostly incompetent and reckless with the lives of their men. The foreign volunteers preferred to fight in their own units and do their own thing rather than be sent on suicide missions by Ukrainian command. There have been massive Ukrainian losses concealed from the public, according to the foreigners.
The Western mainstream media has completely ignored this revealing source of information about the war. Any volunteers interviewed have been carefully vetted and presented. But the tales on YouTube cannot be dismissed as Kremlin propaganda and goes completely against the Slava Ukrainia narrative necessary for the maintenance of Western support for Kiev. It is therefore bad news buried.
The Economic War
If the West has an objective in Ukraine it is regime change in Moscow. This has not been realised after a year of unprecedented sanctions, and vast economic and military support for Ukraine. Russia is probably more cohesive politically and militarily than it was a year ago as a result of the Western pressure. After all what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
The fiercely anti-Russia Economist sums up the failure of the economic war on Russia in a couple of sentences:
“Real-time economic data paint a concerning picture for the West. At present, the Russian economy is in better shape than expected. Meanwhile Europe, weighed down by sky-high energy costs, is falling into recession.”
It notes that while Western sanctions have been tough, the Russian government have dealt with them effectively and achieved a record current account surplus of $220 billion in 2022, double what it was in 2021. The inflow of foreign currency has also helped Russia’s economy.
As the Economist notes:
“This foreign currency has helped finance imports. Many Western firms have stopped selling their goods and services to Russia. But companies in other parts of the world are only too happy to help—China’s, for instance, have stepped up. Turkey appears to have become a go-between for Western companies looking to skirt sanctions. Russian imports have recovered a long way after a sharp drop in the spring.”
Due to the sanctions issued in 2014, when Russia took Crimea back from Kiev, it knew what was coming and had prepared for it. Within weeks of the launch of the Special Military Operation the Ruble went so high that the Russian central bank was forced to intervene to lower its rate. The Western companies intimidated out of Russia by their governments were quickly taken over or replaced by Russian ones. Trade with China and other non-western countries grew immensely. Russia’s total GDP decline in 2022 was only 2.5-2.9%, according to the IMF, not the 20+% that Western “experts” had confidently predicted. Some European countries that imposed the sanctions had sharper declines.
On 24 February President Biden, in announcing the economic war, let slip that it had been a long time in preparation before Russia had launched the Special Military Operation:
“We have purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the long-term impact on Russia and to minimise the impact on the United States and our Allies. And I want to be clear: The United States is not doing this alone. For months, we’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well more than half of the global economy. Twenty-seven members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy — as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many others — to amplify the joint impact of our response.“
The sanctions were enthusiastically supported by the prosperous former Imperialist/Colonialist West (client states of the US) but not the majority of states in the World or their populations. And important states like Turkiye, India and Saudi Arabia, which had been previously Western-oriented to a strong degree, dissented from them.
US sanctions on Russia are being openly flouted and a number of significant countries (including one very important member of NATO) are acting as middlemen maintaining trade in products between West and Russia. So whilst Washington has succeeded in finishing Europe as an economic competitor and reduced it to moral and political servitude, the wider world has looked at US actions with a combination of fear and distaste and decided it wants out of Washington’s world. In many ways the US has lost the World already and its last stand is in Ukraine.
The US assumptions about the Russian economy, on which the sanctions were designed to act, proved to be completely wrong. Russia’s economic position had not been reflected in its crude measure of GDP. Russia’s GDP in dollar terms was much lower than most European states but its GDP per capita, measured at the purchasing power of the ruble, was very robust. Russia’s GDP includes a much higher percentage of real production capacity and output and a lower percentage of dubious ‘services’ and the fake economy of the West. Russia produces much of its own food and has all the natural resources it needs. Its economy is mostly self sufficient, something that grates on Washington, as it prevents US leverage over it. The production of steel, concrete and electricity per capita, things of real value, particularly in wartime, was much more developed than the major middle income countries in Europe. The fact that Russian industry can produce 6 times as many artillery shells as the West, including the colossal US defence industry, supplies to Kiev, illustrates the point very clearly.
The Western sanctions on Russia have not only failed but have blown back at those who launched them with enthusiasm. A look at the UK and Europe’s energy crisis, large Covid-style government subventions to rescue consumers, the “cost of living crisis”, spiralling interest/mortgage rates, skyrocketing food prices, destruction of health and education systems, growing political and social discontent among populations, increasing strikes over depressed wages and cuts to pension entitlement etc. show how misguided the economic war on Russia was.
Washington thought that Russia could be brought to its knees by sanctions and sanctions, wrapped up in propaganda prophesying defeat and disgrace, would be enough to produce a coup in Moscow. Western destabilising policy is all about coups – its opponents are constantly subjected to the threat of coups, all of which are based upon the hollow slogans of democracy.
The Eurasian economic project, given only half-hearted support by the pro-Western political elite in Moscow for decades, is finally being pursued, through necessity of the economic war’s impact on Russia. The Kremlin has woken up and smelt the coffee. And that has produced a very serious reversal for Washington and the West. De-dollarisation and a retreat from globalisation, in which Washington policed the world market, has turned the tide of what began in 1991 and was meant to mark the “end of history”.
The sanctions have enabled Putin to accomplish something he could never have without the Western economic Armageddon. The pro-Western St. Petersburg elite has been decimated and the Kremlin has divested itself of its colour opposition. The cowardly self-seekers have fled to make money in the West. The opposition is now more warlike than the Kremlin, wanting the war in Ukraine and the West to be fought with more thoroughness.
The Vassalage of Europe
The US has successfully demonised Russia and all things Russian in the West, and ended the direct European economic relationship with Moscow, making Western Europe effectively its vassal. The main target of this geopolitical thrust was aimed at preventing a German/Russian collaboration – a geopolitical aim of the Anglosphere stretching back to the Great War of 1914 and Halford Mackinder. The broader US intention is to keep Europe in its sphere of influence by preventing Europe from becoming the Western wing of Eurasia
In this context it should be noted that Washington does not just aim to end Europe’s energy relationship with Russia but its trade with China. The Ukraine war has succeeded in intimidating Europe into drawing back from this developing commercial relationship putting it firmly within the US economic sphere.
A significant article by the noted investigative journalist (a dying breed in the West), a reporter with a long career for the Associated Press and the New York Times, Seymour Hersch, entitled How American Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline offers is interesting reading:
“What came next was stunning. On February 7, less than three weeks before the seemingly inevitable Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden met in his White House office with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who, after some wobbling, was now firmly on the American team. At the press briefing that followed, Biden defiantly said, “If Russia invades . . . there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
Twenty days earlier, Undersecretary Nuland had delivered essentially the same message at a State Department briefing, with little press coverage. “I want to be very clear to you today,” she said in response to a question. “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
Hersch, using an informant, suggests the US blew up the pipelines through the use of a US Navy diving unit, whose activities do not require reporting to Congress, like other branches of the US military. The planting of explosives occurred in June 2022, during NATO exercises in the area of the pipelines. In late September 2022 a sonar buoy was dropped with the assistance of the Norwegians to trigger the explosion after Biden gave the order to end Nord Stream II. The decision was taken at a point when Washington was worrying about the Germans buckling under a cold winter and the President wanted there to be no turning back to Russian energy by Europe.
Others like John Helmer suspect otherwise. They point the finger at US and NATO operations off Bornhom Island more than a year before the explosions, that had laid explosive charges well before the Special Military Operation began.
What it certain is that the pipelines were a target of Washington well before “Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine” and the US and its supporters in European intelligence services had the major motive for destroying the energy links to Europe.
“Biden ordered the pipelines blown up to put pressure on Western Europe not to stop supporting the U.S. in the conflict in Ukraine. Things were not going well for the West, and they were afraid of an approaching winter. And the U.S. was worried that Germany would lift sanctions because of the cold winter,” Hersh explained in an interview with Berliner-zeitung.
Nobody in the US Congress, the European or British parliaments has shown any interest in this act of terrorism. Western environmentalists have been curiously silent over such an ecological disaster. Hersch’s old newspaper, The New York Times, refused to write a word about the biggest story of the Ukraine war. They continued to report the dubious news issued by Kiev and Washington’s propaganda.
After the destruction of the pipeline the former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski tweeted: “Thank You, America!”
About 7 years ago George Friedman made an important speech in Poland. He told his audience that the golden age of the EU was over. What had happened between 1991-98 was an anomaly. Friedman pointed out that the European Union had been made by the US as part of the Marshal Plan. Western Europe had been involved in the making of the EU but it was Washington and the Cold War that provided the will and means to do it. It was indispensable for Europe to avoid war if it were to act as a barrier to Soviet Russia. The historic problem of Germany had to be dealt with. Western Germany was to be neutralised by being put into the EU.
However, in 1991 Germany became reunited and developed a new relationship with Russia over cheap gas. Poland, between Germany and Russia became very important for the US in such a situation.
Friedman insisted that Poland was to be encouraged to become a great state again, not just a mere part of the EU so to have a distinctive usefulness for US policy with regard to severing ties between Germany and Russia. The “Make Poland Great Again” project would be to use historic Polish hostility to Russia to assert its own role as a leading power within the EU and create a barrier between Europe and Russia.
Now Poland is rumoured to be making preparations to fill the void in Eastern Galicia if the Ukrainian state collapses as a nationalist venture. There can be no coincidence about the new assertiveness of Poland, but it worries many Poles with a sense of history. While President Kennedy went to Berlin a generation ago, President Biden now goes to Warsaw, signifying a change in the leadership of Europe by the Kingmaker.
Britain’s parallel leadership role in all this is interesting. The UK, particularly under PM Johnson, assumed the position of right-hand man to Kiev and formed a military and political alliance with the anti-Russian east Europeans, outside the EU. Poland had been an instrument used by Britain to start a world war in 1939 to cut down a resurgent Germany.
As part of British State policy the BBC instinctively pumps out continuous propaganda about Western European hesitation and inaction in support of Kiev. In recent days Britain has even attempted to trump the US to show its leadership in the fight against Russia, facilitating and supporting Zelensky’s demand for fighter jets and escalation.
This is all about Britain playing the Balance of Power in Europe again. The UK is providing leadership of the Eastern part of the EU to wrest power from the Western core and ultimately disable the whole thing. Meddling from without has replaced meddling from within. And the EU is caught in a bind because they have hitched themselves to the moral crusade against Russia, and a faced by an Anglosphere fifth column in Eastern Europe.
There are people in the United States and Western Europe who want to bring the war in Ukraine to a close in the near future, at the negotiating table. However, what Western Europe wants does not really matter. Europe’s part in this war has always been one of just supporting Kiev as best it can – primarily morally and with finance and military equipment to a limited degree.
It is when Washington decides the war should end that the Western Europeans will gratefully concur with the decision.
The latest RAND paper entitled “Avoiding a Long War: U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict” notes that the weakening of Russia in Ukraine is good for the United States. The paper also mentions Europe’s lessening dependence on Russia for energy (and corresponding reliance on the US) as another positive for Washington.
It also lists the negative aspects of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, including:
- the risk of a collision between Russia and NATO and possible use of nuclear weapons has increased;
- America is committing more and more to the war effort;
- continuation of the war is the main obstacle to the stabilisation of global energy prices;
- the war in Ukraine diverts attention from other areas of US foreign policy such as China etc;
- Russia’s relationship with China is growing, which is contrary to US interests; Moscow is increasingly selling Beijing the inexpensive gas that Europe is not buying to the benefit of its industry.
- Russia and China have increased the number of joint military exercises and are winning over other states against American hegemony, particularly in Eurasia but also in the Global South.
While suggesting that “Ukrainian control of more of its sovereign land may reinforce the territorial norm” (p.7) it notes that there are significant potential costs to US state interests in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It points out that Secretary of State Blinken has stated that the goal of US policy is to enable Ukraine “to take back territory that’s been seized from it since February 24” i.e. not to enable Kiev to take control of Crimea or Donbas. And rather devastatingly for Kiev’s territorial aims it concludes:
“Our analysis suggests that this debate is too narrowly focused on one dimension of the war’s trajectory. Territorial control, although immensely important to Ukraine, is not the most important dimension of the war’s future for the United States. We conclude that… avoiding a long war is also a higher priority for the United States than facilitating significantly more Ukrainian territorial control.” (p.25)
The rest of the report is also significant. It suggests that the major problem for the US is in escaping from the escalation of the conflict it has been engaging in, that has encouraged Ukraine to keep fighting for its full territorial aims. That will be very difficult, it concludes, and “a dramatic, overnight shift in US policy is politically impossible” (p.26) Washington will have to engage in stealth and persuasion of Kiev and European allies to accomplish a retreat from the demand for Ukrainian territorial integrity.
The West is sending out signals that they are open to concluding the war on a different basis than Kiev has been encouraged to aim for. But Russia understands they have to kill an awful lot of Ukrainians to finish their will to continue the war at a level attracting continued Western support.
That is how the war will end – when one side or other loses the will to fight. For Russia, there is no going back. Once the war in Ukraine was taken on it was win or bust.
There are concerns in the West about a coming Russian offensive, which may be too much for Kiev. Colonel Richard Kemp, speaking in an interview with The Telegraph thinks so. George Friedman has addressed this possibility for the first time in an article What if Ukraine Should Fall. He concludes:
“If Ukraine’s defenses crumble, the U.S. would have to make some rapid decisions (or rapidly implement decisions already made). It could send forces into Ukraine to try to force a Russian retreat, or it could decline combat. Directly engaging Russian troops with limited force can be a long, painful and uncertain engagement. But accepting the outcome opens the door for Russia to rearrange Europe again. A second cold war would be a necessary but undesired outcome. Reinforcing Ukraine before its collapse would therefore be the lower risk and cost option.
If Ukraine falls, the U.S. will be forced to engage Russia. Fighting directly in Ukraine will be a choice, which means doing so will be politically painful. Presidents are rarely rewarded for avoiding a threat that has not yet materialized, even if it’s inevitable.
I am not predicting the imminent fall of Ukraine, of course. I’m simply gaming out all the options if it does fall. Prudence – and the coming Russian offensive – demands it.”
This really is a world away from the coverage of the war in the Western mainstream press.
Those who have power in Washington show no sign of wishing to conclude the war. Why should they? The purpose all along – at least since 2014 – has been to lure Russia into Ukraine and bleed it dry so as to provoke regime change in Moscow. Even if the war strengthens Putin and his governing circle the US will settle for bleeding Russia dry. There really are no factors that would make a diplomatic solution appealing to Washington. Short of expelling Russia completely from Ukraine anything else would be a defeat for it, or at least a losing draw. Geopolitically such a result would enhance the Eurasian development and result in lost leverage over the Global South.
There are no American body bags returning to the US to sicken the American public of this war. Ukrainians are expendable in an almost limitless way, particularly if casualty figures can be continued to be suppressed along with the exaggerations about Russian losses. So fighting to the last Ukrainian, or until the last Ukrainian has the will to fight, is the preferable option – for now.
Europe may begin to buckle at some stage but short of great civil unrest and European governments going down like ninepins Washington does not need to worry. The 5 or 6 per cent of the US Defence budget spent on the war is good value as one Congressman put it.
But what would happen if the war is too successful for Washington? If Russia decided to go down fighting rather than quietly, and saw no way of staving off defeat but through defending itself through the use of weapons of mass destruction. The US would want to avoid the threat of destruction outside Ukraine – to Western Europe or itself – which is why it is limiting the war at present to Ukraine. At the same time the idea that Russia would not fight back at this level is ridiculed, as if the Kremlin was stocked with privileged Westerners!
Meanwhile in Britain, there is little evidence of the UK “pulling back”. They are rhetorically escalating the whole thing with calls for fighter jets and longer range missiles for Kiev, after Johnson’s rallying cry! There is Rishi Sunak’s “Joint Declaration” with Zelensky, committing to a war without end. The globalist non-entity who became British Prime Minister has become the shadow of Johnson, as the former PM seems out to get the present incumbent using Ukraine and the NI Protocol.
According to the Guardian:
“Ukraine … demands that Russia be seen as a threat to all of Europe and the world. It rejects the danger of nuclear escalation as an idle threat. Emboldened by western weaponry, it now wants Russia driven out of all of Ukraine. Military experts say this would require a long-term and massive western commitment, possibly including manpower on the ground…”
This leaves Russia with no way out. Once Putin decided on the military intervention a year ago it was win or bust in Ukraine. It attempted to intimidate Kiev into a settlement through a small expeditionary force and lightening strike at the capital. It nearly succeeded at achieving a settlement to end the war at the Istanbul talks but the West encouraged/intimidated Kiev into fighting a war of attrition with promises of continued support.
A strange contradiction has persisted about Russia in the Western narrative since the start of the war. Firstly, Russia is portrayed as having ambitions of recreating the Soviet Union and expanding into Eastern Europe if it is not stopped by the spread of NATO. At the same time Russia is portrayed as useless, incompetent and incapable of purposeful military activity.
This parallel fable disguises the truth of the matter, presumably known at the highest level: Russia is a much weaker Power than the old Soviet Union, aside from its world-ending capabilities. It has limited ambitions today, concentrated on the security of its immediate frontiers, and mainly to do with its own stability. Far from desiring to be a Superpower competitor of the United States it would settle for functional security arrangements that left it be, to pull itself out of the dire situation it fell into during the 1990s. Putin is a moderate, conservative leader with a minimalist agenda – and certainly a much more dependable and realist statesman than the Russian nationalists who might replace him because of his reluctance to wage full scale war on Kiev and the Ukrainian population.
The pro-Russian commentators in the West expect a large Russian offensive in the Spring of 2023. The indications are certainly there for that. But the Russians have been constructing great defensive lines of trenches, bunkers, fortified positions and minefields right across the front at the same time. That tends to suggest they will settle for as little territorially as they can get away with.
The problem is the West has a strategy to draw them further and further into Ukraine with the consequent effect that the country may have to be made a wasteland to end the war. A couple of months ago the reluctant annexationist Putin defined the limits of Russian territorial ambitions in Ukraine. Western escalation through the provision of missiles with longer range tends necessitates greater and greater destruction to be visited upon Ukraine in 2023.
Washington and the EU began the conflict for Ukraine in 2014. Moscow responded with the Special Military Operation in 2022. The West determined to escalate the SMO into a war in Ukraine, having lured Russian forces onto the battlefield. World War I was about “Poor Little Belgium” and World War II about the Danzig Corridor.
President Biden now states that he will support Kiev “for as long as it takes” in the manner of a gunslinger when “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”. It seems that it’s personal for Cowboy Joe and he will not rest until the town is cleaned up, in the spirit of the US Sherif.
The mission of Joe Biden means that the war in Ukraine may well be the final instalment of the War for the World, if Washington now pushes Russia to the limit.
This article is published in Irish Political Review, March 2023.