Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run;
There’s still time to change the road you’re on…
Led Zeppelin, from “Stairway to Heaven”
“They were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Great Gatsby”
I led off with that snippet from ‘Stairway’ for two reasons – one, a lifelong love of Led Zeppelin. Two, an opportunity for ironic amusement. Because the time to change the road we’re on slid into the rearview mirror along about the time the USA summarily refused all Russia’s demands for security guarantees, in exchange for resumption of the uneasy peace which had prevailed. Although the forces and pressures which set the current military operation in Ukraine in motion had been steadily increasing for some time, years – that was the moment the wheels of inevitability began to pick up speed, until the windows hum with their turning.
The time to change the road we’re on has come and gone, and the world is now committed to whatever will ensue. We’re in the back seat, while our lunatic ‘leaders’ jerk the wheel this way and that. Each day brings new astonishment to stoke our incredulity, from Germany’s Annalena Baerbock’s ringing declaration that Germany will not waver from supporting Ukraine no matter what its voters think, to Liz Truss’s promise that Britain’s support this coming year will at least equal, if not surpass that of the year currently bleeding out. The UK has committed £2.3bn so far this year, so figure on at least another £2bn in 2023. That’s in an environment where inflation has topped 10%, and the Truss government is planning to borrow about $120 Billion for spending on subsidies to cap British energy prices. The inmates have taken over the asylum – who does Truss imagine will be on the hook to repay a borrowed $120 Billion? The taxpayer, of course. For Germany’s part, in July of this year it recorded its first trade deficit since Helmut Kohl was in his penultimate term as Chancellor. An export-based economy, Germany had been posting the highest trade surpluses in the world; 8%, 9% of GDP, or €20 billion a month. German industry is being ruined before its electorate’s horrified eyes – it is the nature of business that when conditions are imposed upon it such that it can be neither productive or profitable, it relocates to where that potential is again within reach. The German Greens, like Baerbock and Robert Habeck, don’t give a fuck – they hate industry anyway; it uses too much energy and generates so much smoke and pollution that it’s hard to see the dear little windmills turning. Don’t forget, in the next day or two, Germany is expected to announce the nationalization of gas-import giant Uniper; this was supposed to cost the German taxpayer €19 Billion, but according to Oilprice.com the cost has ballooned to €30 Billion, added to the €100 Million Uniper is losing each and every day in its flailing efforts to replace Russian gas. Along with that bizarre action, Berlin also seized the local unit of ROSNEFT PJSC. In case you were unaware, ‘seized’ means ‘stole’. This invites retaliation and escalation from a country which has no worries at all where its gas is coming from, and has customers eager to buy the volumes Europe resolutely turns its stupid face from. Russia continues to realize record profits from energy sales even as the volumes it sells decline.
“Despite efforts to massively damage Russia’s economy in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s energy industry appears that it is continuing to boom, with Vladimir Putin’s state-owned gas company Gazprom posting record half-year profits on Tuesday thanks to soaring natural gas prices worldwide.
The company has since announced that it has totally halted gas deliveries to Europe via its major Nord Stream pipeline for what are ostensibly reasons to do with repairs, leaving bigwigs in Europe to sweat over whether the supply will ever be turned back on again.
According to a report by Der Spiegel, Gazprom posted a six-month profit of around 2.5 trillion rubles, roughly equivalent to $41 billion.
This is compared to the company’s previous record annual profit of 2.09 trillion rubles which it posted last year, a much smaller sum especially when the value of the now surging ruble is factored into the equation.”
Two years in a row of record profits, coincidentally two years of concerted NATO efforts to bring the country to ruin, during which it has steadily descended to pretty much every dirty trick in the book. Russians are the same as people everywhere; they see it when people blindly follow prejudice and disinformation to foment hatred against them. Despite this, Putin remains steadily and constantly popular with those he leads. The Conversation has an explanation for that – Putin owns the news media, and it pumps out Putin-love propaganda day and night. As well, people are too scared Putin will come into their room at night and kill them – he does that a lot – to criticize the war.
“Alexander Hill, a professor of military history at the University of Calgary writes that the Russian leader has the support of pretty much all of the country’s news media (unsurprising, as he controls pretty much all of it). So ordinary citizens have been fed a non-stop diet of propaganda since before the invasion was launched. Meanwhile, thanks to oil and gas revenues, the economy is in reasonable shape still. And, Hill asserts, people may just be too scared to admit their opposition to the war.”
I am encouraged to think Americans actually believe Putin is an unstable tyrant who rules with an iron fist, at the very same time that his hold on the public is so sclerotic that criticism from addled dotard Alla Pugacheva is the final straw which will bring his rotten empire crashing down around his pointy ears. The author cheerfully asserts that Pugacheva remains as popular and influential as she ever was, even though she is 73 and her last album was released ten years ago, relying on go-to western-shoe-kisser Stas Belkovsky, and a Russian blogger who writes…Christ, I don’t know if I can get this out….COOKBOOKS! You all remember Stas Belkovsky; you’ll be happy to know he’s still at the National Strategy Institute. They were damned lucky to get him, if you ask me. Strategists like Belkovsky – who predicted in 2007 that Putin would leave politics that year because Russia was too dependent on agricultural imports, the economic outlook for average Russians was deteriorating and Putin wanted to go someplace to enjoy his stolen wealth – don’t grow on trees. Incredibly, he didn’t stop there; Putin, he said, would need a prestigious international apolitical position to insulate him from the fury of Russians when they realized the extent to which they had been duped, and forecast Putin might become head of the International Olympic Committee. Well, he is only 70; still plenty of time for a second career. And in 2021, Russia became a net exporter of agricultural products – way to light a fire under that incompetent bastard, Stas.
Anyway, sorry, I seem to be wandering further and further from the point. So, here we are, in the back seat of the Clown Car, part of the giddy parade of clown cars with our gibbering leaders at the wheel, bucketing down the Highway To Hell. We’ve departed from Comfortable Reality We Once Knew, and are bound for Things Will Never Again Be Like That. Roads have signposts to mark our progress, and I thought it might be fun to cede that role to Foreign Affairs magazine, thereby charting the progress of the military operation in Ukraine through their stories. I had a subscription to Foreign Affairs – I think I wanted to cite something they wrote that I couldn’t get anywhere else – and they still send me notices of their publications. Without further ado…
Let’s spot the Americans about a month, to give them the opportunity to view completed events. The military operation kicked off in late February – although Ukraine’s own operation began much earlier and the USA was surely part of the planning – and March looks like a good place to start. So let’s begin with Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage’s “What if Russia Loses?”. The thinking here is typical of the German Marshall Fund’s prodigies, and it is the employer of both authors. The pervasive ambience is one of smugness; no matter how it comes out, America will benefit, because it always falls to America to manage global affairs. Know why? Because only America is any good at it. Here’s a sample:
“Meanwhile, the sanctions that the United States and European countries have imposed on Russia will result in a separation of Russia from the global economy. Outside investment will fall away. Capital will be much harder to acquire. Technology transfers will dry up. Markets will close to Russia, possibly including the markets for its gas and oil, the sale of which has been crucial to Putin’s modernization of the Russian economy. Business and entrepreneurial talent will flow out of Russia. The long-term effect of these transitions is predictable. As the historian Paul Kennedy argued in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, such countries have a tendency to fight the wrong wars, to undertake financial burdens and thus to deprive themselves of economic growth—the lifeblood of a great power. In the improbable event that Russia could subdue Ukraine, it could also ruin itself in the process.”
In German Marshall Land, Ukraine will never, ever submit; instead, even if it is defeated militarily, it will become a wild and intractable acquisition, fighting a constant insurgency to throw off the yoke of Russian rule, because of Zelensky’s ‘pitch perfect’ stoking of Ukrainian nationalism.
As Putin argued compellingly just the other day in an impromptu press conference on the sidelines of the Head of States Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO comprises around half of the global population, owns a quarter of the world’s GDP, and is made up of nations whose economies are growing significantly faster than those of the NATO club. But the NATO club is excluding itself from those economies, by choice and for ideology. The conflict centers loosely around Ukraine, but that’s really just a convenient pivot point – what it essentially boils down to is the west, with its big mouth, has maneuvered itself into a position where it cannot back down. It must grit its teeth and continue throwing money at Ukraine, in the hope that just a little more pressure will be the magic that will make Russia crack, but it’s not about a Ukrainian victory – it’s about western pride and the fact that losing would force it to rethink how it feels about itself, its self-appointed role as arbiter of global affairs, the beloved and admired dispenser of wisdom and regulation. Its hate has blinded it to its own behavior over the last couple of years. Meanwhile, I see news that Russia has announced a ‘partial mobilization’, calling up some Army reserves. Even after that, a revision of economic data was announced which forecast less shrinkage than national authorities had forecast, about a third of what the IMF predicted, and a return to growth in 2024. But if I were running a European country, I would have experienced a sinking feeling upon reading the second-to-last paragraph:
“The “redirection” of Russian oil and gas exports toward “neutral countries” will help to support economic activity by 2024-2025, the minister added.”
Europe has made a most uncomfortable bed, and must now lie in it – Russian supplies of cheap oil and gas are not coming back. Build some more windmills, Habeck, you unshaven dolt.
As to Ukraine mounting a fierce insurgency to ensure there is never anything like peace, things might be a bit different when the people no longer have to fear UAF and SBU reprisals. Kherson and some other regions have begun issuing Russian passports, and the Governor of Kherson has received one; there are plans to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation. Many video clips showing lines of people formed to apply have been taken down, and state organs like the BBC make sure to mock the whole process, suggesting only a handful of hardcore traitors have applied for Russian passports. When they won’t let you see for yourself, there’s usually a good reason.
Anyway, let’s move ahead, to April and Frederick Kagan’s “How Not to Invade a Nation”. I’m sure you all remember Fred Kagan; the Kagans – Frederick and Robert – are a big noise in neoconservative ideology, and Robert Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland, the famous Baker of the Maidan, whose generous buns birthed a new Ukraine. So to speak.
Frederick Kagan has himself not spent a day in uniform, although he was a professor of military history at the US Military Academy West Point. His petulant opining often reflects this background – I don’t want to suggest military history is easy, it’s not, but there is sort of not much strategic talent required to forecast the victor in a battle that wrapped up decades or even centuries ago. Spoiler alert – the Germans lose. At the same time, there is a temptation to believe you ‘see things’ others are incapable of grasping in maps which were furnished by your allies, known and demonstrated liars over and over, from a country led by an actor. Let’s take a look.
“The initial Russian objective was to seize Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, remove the current Ukrainian government, and impose a new regime beholden to Moscow. Russia’s first and overwhelming objective, then, should have been taking the capital, and a sound campaign plan would have prioritized this aim and subordinated actions elsewhere. The collapse of the Ukrainian government and the destruction of the Ukrainian military forces defending it, after all, would likely have unhinged Ukrainian defenses elsewhere, making the conquest of eastern and southern Ukraine much easier.”
I don’t know why Putin persists in maintaining his own staff to generate military strategy and plans, when he could just outsource it to NATO – “Yo, yo; Freddie K, my man. Listen, I was thinking about laying a beating on Ukraine. Yeah, saucy, you said it. Anyway, how many people will I need, and what should my objectives be?” No matter how many times Russia says it does not want to overthrow and replace the Ukrainian government, there it is right up there on the tote; Objective Number One. I suspect that owes much to the fact that it did not happen, and can therefore be spun as a shocking failure, to a chorus of NATO snickering.
Next up, Dara Massicot with “The Russian Military’s People Problem”. It’s hard for Moscow to win, says Dara, while mistreating its soldiers. A rib-tickler replete with accounts of Russian soldiers stealing everything not nailed down from Ukrainian towns they’ve conquered. Toilets were not specifically mentioned, but the implication hangs heavy in the air that Russian soldiers are so poor that a stolen washing machine humped all the way back from Ukraine might become the focal gathering-point of their village, like some plateau-dwelling Amazon civilization which has never seen such technology.
“With discipline and morale faltering, Russian troops began looting what they could from Ukraine and shipping it back home—including washing machines, frying pans, televisions from Ukrainian schools, and even used mascara. They raided Ukrainian convenience stores for meat, cigarettes, and alcohol. When they ran out of food from markets, they stole it (along with livestock) directly from Ukrainian people. According to intercepted phone calls released by Ukraine’s intelligence services, some Russian soldiers have even eaten dogs.”
I don’t have to tell you where that comes from – yep, the old reliable ‘intercepted phone calls released by Ukraine’s intelligence services’. Hey, Sergey; yes, it’s me, Pavel. Oh, not much going on here, just hiding from the Ukrainian Army behind this big white thing with some sort of burners on top of it. Not a lot to eat here, but I have to say, the dogs are delicious! As if. Same with the accounts of Russian troops being issued field rations which expired ten years ago. At this point, if the Americans and NATO are going to insist on simply printing whatever Ukraine tells them, they are too stupid – not to mention assuming you are, as well – for it to merit further commentary.
We’re going to have to skip ahead a bit faster, because this is running longer than I planned, but the out-and-out foolishness in what is meant to be a prestigious and influential western defense publication has a sick fascination all its own, like driving past a messy road accident. Dara was up again in August; yes, not only was she not sacked for writing such fantasy crap, they even printed more of her stuff, every bit as mendacious.
“But although Russia has had six months to learn from these mistakes, it appears poised to once again commit its depleted forces to an untenable mission: annexing and holding Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia Provinces, or oblasts. Holding this territory will require substantial amounts of manpower and armored equipment—particularly given that the regions have contested frontlines and that Russian forces in each experience organized partisan attacks. And Moscow has lost its most advanced equipment, for which it does not have equivalent replacements. The Russian armed forces have also suffered tens of thousands of casualties, including well-trained personnel, and its current strategy for replenishment—recruiting new soldiers from a motley mix of communities and armed groups—will not create a combat effective force. There remains, in short, a mismatch between the Kremlin’s goals for Ukraine and the forces it has to deliver them.”
There might be quite a lot to recently-discussed ‘projection theory’, which holds that whatever the problems are in Ukraine, they are promptly attributed to Russia in the interest of keeping Ukraine staggering along, by feeding its morale and whispering in its bloodied ear that it is soooooo close to winning. Russia, to the very best of my understanding, is nowhere near out of ‘its most advanced equipment’ – it doesn’t need to fire Khinzals at Ukraine all day long when artillery will do. Western magazines love to feature photos of burnt-out tanks with some civilian walking past, and caption it “Ukrainian woman walks past a burnt-out Russian tank”, but in reality Ukrainian tanks look identical to Russian tanks for many models because they were made by the same manufacturer, and all you have to do is photoshop a hazy ‘Z’ on the wreck – presto! a destroyed Russian tank. Nobody knows for certain what Russian casualties are, but according to the Russian defense ministry they are just under 6000, not ‘tens of thousands’, and it is Ukraine rather than Russia which is throwing untrained youths into the front lines; there is no realistic possibility that Russia’s casualties are ten times those of Ukraine, which is the way Zelensky tells it.
One of us is lying. I don’t think it’s me, but time will tell. Meanwhile, the same western analysts who told you Russian forces could roll right over Ukraine and be in Kiev in 72 hours now tell you Russia is screwing up six ways from Sunday and has to resort to putting the paperboy in a uniform and shoving him into the meat grinder.
I had initially planned to dissect a monthly article from Foreign Affairs, right up to the present. But that would result in a post about double its present length, and I don’t want to do that. The urgency I am trying to convey transcends simple mockery of American and NATO strutting and posturing; neither has won a war in decades, unless you count the stunning American victory over Grenada, and the US military was sent down the road in Afghanistan 20 years after it entered, having accomplished nothing significant but wrecking the place a little more than it already was, after spending $2 Trillion and losing nearly 2000 American forces in combat. To put that $2 Trillion in perspective, the 2020 GDP of Afghanistan was $20 Billion. Of course Grampy Biden portrayed the American departure as an awe-inspiring victory: nobody retreats like we do.
“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve,” the President said in the statement. He said he will make an address about Afghanistan to the nation on Tuesday.
The idea that NATO has the chops to be analyzing anyone else’s military conflicts and pointing out where they are fucking up is preposterous. If you approach that position from the perspective that NATO picked an ally before the conflict started and now repeats everything it is told by that ally without ever checking any of its stories, when billions upon billions in donations depend on the perception that the ally is kicking Russian ass and some 70% of that ally’s GDP is still under the direct control of a predatory oligarchy which includes at least its former president, if not the present one, too…well, what’s more preposterous than that? Ludicrous? Would that do it?
The relationship between NATO and Russia has been, historically, like having a slave you love to beat. Your slave does useful work for you, but by God, when you wants to feel like the Massa, ain’t nothing like getting out the whip. And this accrues from the most grotesque and bloated sense of entitlement, delusion writ so large that a talking balloon like Ursula Von Der Leyen is worshipped as a visionary, I…I’m lost for words. How did this world get so stupid so fast?
Now NATO seems to think it is ready to go to war in Europe. Think so? What do you plan to use for gas? Do you have tanks and planes that run on bullshit? Hope you have some big-ass piles of reserve ammunition, too, because ammunition is made in a factory and your factories are shutting down left and right; they use too much energy, and energy is becoming unaffordable in Europe.
A winter of discontent, indeed.