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On the Presumption of Russian Weakness
One advantage to those commentors who are critial of the conduct of NATO’s proxy war with Russia over hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian corpses, is that their numnbers include veteran western intelligence, military or national security experts such as as Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Brian Berletic,Col. Douglas Macgregor, and Scott Ritter. To their number I would add Lt. Col. Daniel Davis. I notice that Davis gives some weight to those, like former UN deputy secretrary general Ramesh Thakur, who I cited yesterday, to the argument that the Russian army badly underperformed through 2022 (Thakur saying this somewhat less politely than Davis).
I shall return to Davis’ argument, which was posted yesterday on the excellent blogsite of Natalyie Baldwin (Natalyie's Place: Dan Davis), in a moment. But first I want to grasp ahold of what I think is one of the most debilitating aspects of all western political and military strategic thinking and the fatuous endorsement given it by the feeble-minded war-mongering western mainstream media commentariate: disrespect for, and undermining, not just of Russia, and, “of course,” China, but of all parts of the world that do not conform in the minutest detail to the western model of how societies should be run, what they should look like, and how their people should think - a breathtaking arrogance as astonishing as is its disconnection not just from the day-to-day reality of life in the collective west but from the entirety of human history.
Back then to Russia and its Special Military Operation: I refrain from calling this “Putin’s” SMO so as not to further nuture the silly fable trolled so eagerly in western media that Russia is a dictatorship where one man alone calls all the shots. So, did the Russian army “underperform” in Ukraine as against, say, what we are encouraged to think off as the astonishing, amazing, unparelled prowess of western military genius throughout those wars that they constantly lose or otherwise thoroughly mess up, or in other words when they throw their sophisticated bombs and missiles against the poor of the Global South? And yet still lose such wars, as in Vietnam and Afghanistan?
Not so much. The claim that Russia sent too few men into Ukraine in February 2022 resolutely fails to address other possibilities: (1) that this was never intended as an invasion force for the entirety of Ukraine, but as a limited or contained mission - clearly indicated by the nomenclature of “Special Military Operation” - to secure some of Russia’s minimal conflict objectives, namely safety for the pro-Russian peoples of the Donbass and implementation of the internationally agreed Minsk accords. Or (2) that Russia recognized, from the point of view that was available to it at the time, that a limited strike or even a threat of a strike against Kiev might actually bring about a major change of regime or of the regime’s position on neutrality and on the Donbass. This was an option that might have worked quickly, fairly cheaply, with minimal damage to all. Was it guaranteed? Not at all. But there may have been a point of view that it was worth trying and that it would save everyone a lot of trouble, and would preserve a lot of lives. Furthermore (3) such a risk, if taken, and even if failing, would have certain advantages: e.g. like a reconnaissance mission, it would expose Ukraine’s state of readiness and any weaknesses; further it would “soften” up Ukraine into a mood of willingness to negotiate, it would demonstrate the firepower and other strengths of the Russian military that it could deploy on a grander scale at some point in the future,it would confuse and divide the Ukrainian military then concentrated on the borders of the people’s republics.
Importantly, these early actions did indeed precede an actual peace negotiation, a month later that, had it not been countermanded by the British clown, Boris Johnson on behalf of Washington (and of the defense industries of the collective west) might well have achieved sufficient agreement for an end to hostilities. And Russia did establish a major footprint in the Donbass, its primary concern. The further conduct of the war, as Davis (see below) acknowledges, involved considerable Russian victories (e.g. Donetsk, Mariupol). The so-called “successes” of Ukraine in its fall counteroffensives in Kharkiv and in Kherson were illusory. Russian General Surovikin demonstrated unusual nerve and wisdom in withdrawing Russian troops east of the Dnieper and abandoning Kherson city because, as he told everybody at the time who was able to listen, he was engaged not in a war for territory so much as a war of attrition. This war of attrition would achieve those other Russian objectives (other than safety for the pro-Russian peoples of the Donbass), that is, demilitarization and denazification and Ukrainian neutrality.
The concept of a war of attrition, which was what Russian fighting in Bakhmut was so clearly all about, is not difficult to understand but seems to be a major challenge to the mindsets of many denizens of the western media commentariate. It is a concept that makes most sense when one sides loses disproportionately more lives and equipment than its opponent, and that was assuredly the case in an 8-1 conflict in Russia’s favor. As for Kharkiv, this did indeed expose a Russian weakness (overdependence on local militia, on Chechnyan forces and on Wagner in place of an adequate presence of the regular Russian army) and this weakness was, more fundamentally than anything else, a relative absence of boots on the ground. Ukraine was able to sweep an empty terrain until it came up against real Russian forces to the east of the Oskil, when it came to a sudden halt.
The rest has been a steady tale of decline, through Russia’s war of attrition, of Ukrainian lives, equipment, ammunition, air-defense, air offensive capability. Russia is said to destroy 10,000 Ukrainian drones a month. Now, as Russia launches massive drone and missile offensives across the entirety of Ukraine few experts take seriously Ukraine’s claims as to the (unbelievably high) numbers that it shoots down, since these do not square with the manifest evidence of damage inflicted, with what is known of the numbers and fired and because Russia’s production capability in such things as hypersonic missiles, advanced tanks, and ammunition far outmatches not just that of Ukraine, but of the collective West. Russia’s geranium 2 missiles, initially imported from Iran and now probably manufactured locally have been given precision-guided enhancement through the application of satellite, while Russia’s advanced electronic warfare capability is wreaking havoc not just on Ukrainian drones but on British-gifted Storm Shadow missiles and the like.
So let me return to Lt. Col. Dan Davis who concludes that “recent evidence indicates the Russian side has made tactical and operational improvements that are having an impact on the ground in Ukraine. He argues that it “was a logical and rational strategic decision for Russia to redeploy its forces to strengthen the Donbas front in April 2022,” which it followed up in July by its capture of Mariupol, Lyman, Popasna, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk. Russia, he notes, simply has “vastly more capacity to make war, both in terms of material and personnel, and therefore has the capacity to absorb enormous losses and still remain viable”. Over 15 months of war, Ukraine fought and lost four major urban battles in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Soledar, and Bakhmut. (Note that others are due soon, including, I would predict, in Chasov Ya, Marinka and Avdievka).
Ukraine has erred, fatally, by continuing to defend cities and positions that it should have abandoned and, therefore, in throwing away lives and equipment which would better have been redeployed. Under the leadership of someone who seems best to understand the logic of television, Kiev has rarely lost an opportunity to seize the best public relations optics, at a cost of enormous and ridiculous sacrifice of human lives and machines.
Davis concludes that “the trend of war is shifting toward Moscow, regardless of how upset that may make many in the West. It is the observable reality”. He urges Washington to avoid the temptation to “double-down” on supporting a losing proposition,” husbanding its resources for another time and in defense of its real national security interests. This of course, in my view, should definitely not involve yet another drearily deadly confrontation and losing proposition, this time with China over Taiwan, but rather a concentrated diplomatic effort to mend ties with other members of the rapidly emerging new multipolar order and to secure a victory for the human race: peace, prosperity, joy.
One minor sympton of the changing world to which the US now needs most of all to direct what remains, if anything, of its capacity for intelligent, diplomatic focus (while putting aside and decoupling from its grotesque Incubus of the military industrial complex) is President Erdogan’s victory in Turkiye, which signals further improving relations with Russia, continuing Turkish neutralization of the Dardenelles in Russia’s favor, continuing reconciliation between Turkey and Syria and Saudi Arabia in a context of consolidation of economic unity among the principal countries of EurAsia (including an outbreak of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan), within an Asain ambit of Chinese protection and promotion of Belt and Road prosperity based in part of de-dollarization, for the entire region and beyond to Africa, the rest of the Middle East and Latin America. How extraordinary it is that the USA has alientated all major sources of oil and gas (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela), while its own “miracle” supply of shale oil has already peaked, putting pressure on prices worldwide (especially if the collective west can skirt around economic recession, something Germany is already failed to do), except for China and India which have gleefully adjusted to a much high dependence on discounted or at any rate cheaper Russian sources.
In an overall scenario that might seem to validate Russian strength over Russian weaknesses there are blips, and at this moment these include the heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo which, if they lead to western aid and support for Kosovo, a NATO creation, will put pressure on Russia to aid Serbia and distract it from its readiness for the Ukrainian counteroffensive (should that ever come) or for its own offensive in Ukraine (should that ever come). Another issue may be Moldavia, its relationship with Russian-backed Transnistria, and Transnistria’s increasing dependence on the west for trade.