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SCOTT RITTER: The Onus Is on Biden & Putin

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By Scott Ritter
OpEds


We are, literally, on the eve of destruction. Now is the time for the kind of political maturity leaders rarely demonstrate.


Ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island  returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea, March 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy, James Kimber)


Special to Consortium News

Wars should be avoided at all costs. Nuclear conflict should never be contemplated.

These two truisms are often spoken, but rarely adhered to. Wars occur all too frequently, and so long as nations possess nuclear weapons, their use  is contemplated on a continuous basis.

The ongoing Ukrainian-Russian conflict has put the world’s two largest nuclear powers on opposing sides, with the U.S. supporting a Ukrainian military that has become a de facto proxy of NATO, and Russia viewing its struggle with Ukraine as including the “collective West.”

Since the initiation of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, both the U.S. and Russia have played their respective nuclear cards.

Russia has made it clear that any intervention by NATO would be considered an existential threat to the Russian nation, thereby invoking one of the two clauses in the Russian nuclear posture in which nuclear weapons could be used. (The other would be in response to a nuclear attack against Russia.)

The U.S. has made it clear that any attack by Russia against a NATO member would invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter (the “collective defense” clause), resulting in the totality of the alliance’s military capabilities, including nuclear weapons, being made available in response.


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky joins NATO meeting in Madrid in June via video link. (President of Ukraine)

So far, neither side has directly challenged the red line of the other, although the United States has edged right up to it with the provision of tens of billions of dollars of advanced weaponry, financial assistance and intelligence and communication support for Ukraine.

This material support isn’t provided for Ukraine’s defense, but rather to enable Ukraine to retake territory lost to Russia and to inflict losses among the Russian forces of such a magnitude as to weaken Russia  for an extended period.

From the Western perspective, the massive infusion of military aid appears to be succeeding. Ukraine is perceived as having pushed back an initial Russian effort to capture Kiev in the opening weeks of the conflict. It is also seen as having held back a concerted Russian offensive in the Donbass long enough to deploy a reconstituted army — trained and equipped by NATO — which succeeded in recapturing the totality of the Kharkov region.

The fact that the Kiev “victory” has been described by Russia as a strategic feint, and not a defeat, and that the Kharkov offensive, together with a parallel failed offensive in Kherson, cost Ukraine so many casualties that it was more Pyrrhic than political in nature, is secondary.


The Kremlin, March 2016. (State Department)


From the perspective of both Ukraine and NATO, the Russian army is no longer viewed as invincible, but actually vulnerable. Both NATO and Ukraine appear ready to continue an aggressive military posture designed to attrite Russian forces while recapturing Ukrainian territory.

For its part, Russia believes that it has the upper hand in the conflict, having both inflicted massive casualties on the Ukrainian military and seizing control of approximately 20 percent of Ukrainian territory.

Moreover, by holding referenda in the occupied territories about joining  Russia  (all of which passed by an overwhelming majority), Russia  has changed the very nature of the conflict, transforming it from a fight between Ukraine and Russia on Ukrainian soil, to an existential battle with the “collective West” over Mother Russia  itself.

Russia has also ordered a partial mobilization of some 300,000 troops which, once trained and deployed into the Ukraine theater of operations, will provide sufficient military power to successfully complete Russia’s original tasks — demilitarization and denazification.

NATO and Ukraine both believe that the Russian forces, even after receiving the 300,000 mobilized troops, will not be able to defeat Ukraine. This inability to achieve the desired objectives, they believe, will compel Russia  to resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons on Ukrainian targets in order to break the will to resist on the part of the Zelensky government.

Nuclear Postures

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting at the at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, June 16, 2021, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right. (White House/ Adam Schultz)


The reality, however, is that Russian nuclear doctrine does not allow for such a scenario. Indeed, there are only two conditions where Russian nuclear doctrine permits the employment of nuclear weapons.

No 1. “[I]n response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies,” the 2020 Russian Nuclear Posture document states, or

No 2. “in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”

 U.S. nuclear posture, however, does allow it.

 “[T]he United States will maintain the range of flexible nuclear capabilities,” the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) declared, “needed to ensure that nuclear or non-nuclear aggression against the United States, allies, and partners will fail to achieve its objectives and carry with it the credible risk of intolerable consequences for potential adversaries now and in the future.”

It should be noted that the 2018 NPR was promulgated during the administration of President Donald Trump. Although the Biden administration initiated the NPR process in September 2021, it has yet to publish an updated document.

By ignoring stated Russian nuclear policy, and instead mirror-imaging U.S. nuclear policy onto Russian behavior, the U.S., NATO and Ukraine are setting themselves — and the world — up for disaster.


Russian bombardment of telecommunications antennas in Kiev, March 1. (Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)


Indeed, using a hypothetical Russian tactical nuclear attack on Ukraine as a working assumption, the Biden administration has developed a range of non-nuclear options in response, including — according to Newsweek — a “decapitation” strike targeting Russian leadership, to include President Vladimir Putin.

According to Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, the White House has “communicated directly, privately, to the Russians at very high levels that there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.”

Sullivan noted that the Biden administration has “spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean” in its communications with the Kremlin. Just to be clear: the White House has communicated to Russia its intent to respond in a non-nuclear manner to any potential Russian nuclear attack against Ukraine.

Andrey Gurulyov

Scott Ritter & Andrey Gurulyov, on Rter's show, Sep 29, 2022.

 

Enter Andrey Gurulyov, a former Russian general officer and current member of the Russian Duma.

<<< LEFT: Scott Ritter & Andrey Gurulyov, on Rter's show, 9.29.22.

Gurulyov is from the Russia United Party (Putin’s party), and is said to be closely connected to the senior Russian leadership. He gave me a wide-ranging interview on the Sept. 29 edition of my “Scott Ritter Show” (a joint effort with Russian producers of “Solovyov Live” featuring the well-known Russian commentator Vladimir Solovyov). We discussed the future of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in the aftermath of the referenda and partial mobilization.

Gurulyov indicated that given the reality that the Ukrainian military was operating as a de facto proxy of NATO, the “demilitarization” task set forth by Putin in invading Ukraine now meant the complete destruction of the Ukrainian military.

Likewise, given that the Russian government has labelled the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a Nazi regime, “denazification” would require regime change in Kiev and Russian troops advancing up to the western reaches of Ukraine that border NATO itself.

These objectives would be accomplished through a strategic air campaign that would destroy the totality of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, severely impacting command and control and logistics of the Ukrainian military.

According to Gurulyov, such a campaign could last up to three weeks, after which the Ukrainian military would be a sitting duck for the newly reinforced Russian military.

The Duma building, in Moscow.


Gurulyov was confident that the reinforced Russian military would be able to defeat the NATO-enhanced Ukrainian armed forces without resorting to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

Indeed, Gurulyov was adamant that tactical nuclear weapons would never — and indeed, could never — be used by Russia against Ukraine.

He was less so when it came to using tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.

Gurulyov was convinced that the nature of Russia’s military victory over Ukraine would be so decisive that NATO might feel compelled to intervene to stop Russia.

If NATO were to indeed dispatch troops into Ukraine, and those troops engaged in large-scale ground conflict with Russian forces, then Gurulyov envisioned that Russian nuclear weapons could, in fact, be used against NATO targets.

Gurulyov was convinced that the United States, fearing Russian strategic nuclear-retaliation capabilities, would not unleash its own nuclear arsenal against Russia, even if NATO were struck by Russian nuclear weapons. But here Gurulyov was operating from a false premise — U.S. nuclear doctrine clearly states that “They [Russia ] must understand that there are no possible benefits from non-nuclear aggression or limited nuclear escalation.”

Indeed, U.S. nuclear doctrine emphasizes that “any nuclear escalation will fail to achieve their objectives and will instead result in unacceptable consequences for them [Russia].”

From these two fundamental misunderstandings —  that a) Russia could be preparing to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine that would generate a non-nuclear response on the part of the U.S., and b) Russia believes that the U.S. would not respond with nuclear weapons if Russia were to use its own nuclear arsenal against NATO, the world now faces the real prospect of imminent nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Russia.

From the U.S. perspective, Russia’s unwillingness to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine underscores the overall impotence of Russia and its leadership, and therefore opens the door for decisive NATO intervention, including boots on the ground, in case of any Russian non-nuclear threat against Kiev itself.

From the Russian perspective, the documented U.S. reluctance to employ nuclear weapons in the case of a decisive Russian military victory over Ukraine opens the door for Russia ’s use of a tactical nuclear weapon against NATO in the case of a major NATO military intervention in Ukraine.

From this foundation of misrepresentation and misunderstanding only disaster can ensue.

Putin, in announcing the formal incorporation of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Lugansk into the Russian Federation, has turned up the rhetorical heat regarding Ukraine and the “collective West.” Soon words will be transformed into action, initiating the very scenarios U.S. military planners and Russian authorities such as Andrey Gurulyov have spoken about.

We are, literally, on the eve of destruction. Now is the time for the kind of political maturity leaders rarely demonstrate. The onus is on Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin to make sure that even while events on the ground in Europe devolve into chaos and violence, the leaders of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals do not allow emotion to get the better of reason. The consequences of failure in this regard are, for humanity, terminal.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR / SOURCE
Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. His most recent book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika, published by Clarity Press..


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Up to You.

^3000US citizens have no real political representation.

We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.

I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.


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ALL CAPTIONS AND PULL QUOTES BY THE EDITORS NOT THE AUTHORS

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DIANA JOHNSTONE: Omerta in the Gangster War

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The sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has virtually announced that the war in Ukraine can only intensify with no end in sight.


Crew from the LVNS Talivaldis performing mine countermeasures training in the Baltic Sea during during the annual BALTOPS maritime exercise in June 2020. (NATO)


By Diana Johnstone
in Paris 
Special to Consortium News

Imperialist wars are waged to conquer lands, peoples, territories.  Gangster wars are waged to remove competitors.  In gangster wars you issue an obscure warning, then you smash the windows or burn the place down.

Gangster war is what you wage when you already are the boss and won’t let any outsider muscle in on your territory.  For the dons in Washington, the territory can be just about everywhere, but its core is occupied Europe.

By an uncanny coincidence, Joe Biden just happens to look like a mafia boss, to talk like a mafia boss, to wear a little lopsided half smile like a mafia boss.  Just watch the now famous video:

Reporter: “But how will you do that, exactly, since…the project is in Germany’s control?”

Biden: “I promise you, we will be able to do that.”

Able for sure.

It cost billions of dollars to lay the Nord Stream 2 pipeline across the Baltic Sea, from near Saint Petersburg to the port of Greifsfeld in Germany. The idea was to ensure safe natural gas supplies to Germany and other European partners by going around troublesome Ukraine, known for readiness to use its transit rights to siphon off gas for itself or blackmail clients.

Nord Stream 2 area map. (Berria Egunkaria, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)


Of course, Ukraine was always vehemently hostile to the project.  So was the United States. And so were Poland, the three Baltic States, Finland and Sweden, all attentive to what went on in their sea.

The Baltic Sea is a nearly closed body of water, with narrow access to the Atlantic through Danish and Swedish straits. The waters near the Danish island of Bornholm where the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged by massive underwater explosions is under constant military surveillance by these neighbors.

“It seems completely impossible that a state actor could carry out a major naval operation in the middle of this densely monitored area without being noticed by the countless active and passive sensors of the littoral states; certainly not directly off the island of Bornholm, where Danes, Swedes and Germans have a rendezvous in monitoring the surface and undersea activities,” writes Jens Berger in the excellent German website Nachdenkseiten.

Last June, Berger reports,

“the annual NATO maneuver Baltops took place in the Baltic Sea. Under the command of the U.S. 6th Fleet, 47 warships participated in the exercise this year, including the U.S. fleet force around the helicopter carrier USS Kearsarge. Of particular significance is one particular maneuver conducted by the 6th Fleet’s Task Force 68 — a special unit for explosive ordnance disposal and underwater operations of the U.S. Marines, the very unit that would be the first address for an act of sabotage on an undersea pipeline.”

In June this year this very unit was engaged in a maneuver off the island of Bornholm, operating with unmanned underwater vehicles.

Crew member from the LVNS Talivaldis in the operations room, controlling and tracking the movement of the underwater robot during the BALTOPS maritime exercise in June 2020. (NATO)


Berger considers that a major sabotage operation “could not have been carried out directly under the noses of several littoral states without anyone noticing.”  But he adds this clever observation: “if you want to hide something, it is best to do so in public.”

In order to be able to attach explosive devices to a gas pipeline halfway unnoticed, one would need a plausible distraction — a reason for diving near Bornholm without immediately being suspected of committing an act of sabotage. It doesn’t even have to be directly related in time to the attacks. Modern explosive devices can, of course, be detonated remotely. So, who has been conducting such operations in the maritime area in recent weeks? As luck would have it, exactly the same task force around the USS Kearsarge was again in the sea area around Bornholm last week.

In short, during NATO maneuvers, some participant could have laid the explosives, to be blown up at a later chosen moment.

By an odd coincidence, only a few hours after the sabotage of Nord Stream 1 and 2, ceremonies began opening the new Baltic Pipe carrying gas from Norway to Denmark and Poland.

The Political Significance of the Sabotage

 

A Royal Marine commando briefs Royal Marines, U.S. Marines, Royal Navy personnel and Singaporean observers in the vehicle deck of HMS Ocean (U.K.) during BALTOPS 2016. (NATO)

Due to Western sanctions against Russia, gas was not being delivered through the destroyed pipelines. However, gas inside the pipelines is leaking dangerously. The pipelines remained ready for use whenever an agreement could be reached.  And the first, dramatic significance of the sabotage is that henceforth, no agreement can be reached.  Nord Stream 2 would have been the key to some sort of settlement between Russia and the Europeans.  The sabotage has virtually announced that the war can only intensify with no end in sight.

In Germany, the Czech Republic and some other countries, movements were beginning to grow calling for an end to the sanctions, specifically to solve the energy crisis by putting Nord Stream 2 into operation for the first time.  The sabotage has thus invalidated the leading demand of potential peace movements in Germany and Europe.

This act of sabotage is above all a deliberate sabotage of any prospect of a negotiated peace in Europe.  The next move from the West has been for NATO governments to call on all their citizens to leave Russia immediately.  In preparation of what?

The Russians Did It

In this catastrophic situation, Western mainstream media are all wondering who could be the guilty party, and suspicion automatically fixes on… Russia.  Motive? “To raise the price of gas” or “to destabilize Europe” — things that were happening anyway.  Any far-fetched notion will do.

European opinion-makers are showing the result of 70 years of Americanization.  Especially in Germany, but also in France and elsewhere, for decades the United States has systematically spotted up-and-coming young people, invited them to become “young leaders,” invited them to the United States, indoctrinated them in “our values” and made them feel like members of the great trans-Atlantic family.  They are networked into top positions in politics and media. In recent years, great alarm is raised about alleged Russian efforts to exert “influence” in European countries, while Europeans bathe in perpetual American influence: movies, Netflix, pop culture, influence in universities, media, everywhere.

When disaster strikes Europe, it can’t be blamed on America (except for former President Donald Trump, because the American establishment despised and rejected him, so Europeans must do the same).  It has to be the bad guy in the movie, Putin.

The fanatically anti-Russian former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorsky couldn’t restrain himself and joyously greeted the massive natural-gas leaks from the destroyed pipeline with a cheerful tweet, “Thank you, USA.” But Poland was certainly also willing, and perhaps even able.  So perhaps were some others in NATO-land.  But they all prefer to publicly “suspect” Russia.

Officially, so far, no NATO government knows who dunnit.  Or maybe they all know. Maybe this is like the famous Agatha Christie mystery on the Orient Express train, where suspicion falls on all the passengers, and are all guilty.  And all united in Omerta.


Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her latest book is  Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press). The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr .


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What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.


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“The War Has Just Begun”

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The Winter of Yuri

 

“You should know, by and large, we haven’t even started anything yet in earnest.”


I have been attempting for several days to collect my thoughts on the Russo-Ukrainian War and condense them into another analysis piece, but my efforts were consistently frustrated by the war’s stubborn refusal to sit still. After a slow, attritional grind for much of the summer, events have begun to accelerate, calling to mind a famous quip from Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

This has been one of those weeks. It began with the commencement of referenda in four former Ukrainian oblasts to determine whether or not to join the Russian Federation, accompanied by Putin’s announcement that reservists would be called up to augment the force deployment in Ukraine. Further excitement bubbled up from the Baltic seabed with the mysterious destruction of the Nordstream pipelines. Nuclear rumors circulate, and all the while the war on the ground continues.

In all, it is clear that we are currently in the transitional period towards a new phase of the war, with higher Russian force deployment, expanded rules of engagement, and greater intensity looming. Season 2 of the Special Military Operation looms, and with it the Winter of Yuri:

Let’s try to process all the developments of the past few weeks and get a handle on the trajectory in Ukraine.

Annexation

The keystone event at the heart of recent escalation was the announcement of referenda in four regions (Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson) to determine the question of entry into the Russian Federation. The implication of course was that if the referenda succeeded (a question that was never in doubt), these regions would be annexed to Russia. While there were some rumors circulating that Russia would delay the annexation, this was never really plausible. To allow these regions to vote in favor of joining Russia only to leave them out in the cold would be monumentally unpopular and raise serious doubts about Russia’s commitment to its people in Ukraine.

Formal annexation is a certainty, if not on September 30th as rumored, then within the next week.

All of this is rather predictable, and completes the first layer of annexations which I noted in previous analysis. The reasoning is not particularly complex: clearing the Donbas and securing Crimea were the absolute minimum Russian objectives for the war, and securing Crimea requires both a land bridge with road and rail connections (Zaporizhia oblast) and controlling Crimea’s water sources (Kherson). These minimum objectives have now been formally designated, though of course Ukraine maintains some military activity on these territories and will have to be dislodged.

The Big Serge Annexation Map: Phase 1 Complete


I think, however, that people lost focus as to what the referenda and the ensuing annexation means. Western talking points focused on the illegitimacy of the votes and the illegality of any annexation, but this is really not very interesting or important. The legitimacy of annexation is derived from whether or not Russian administration can succeed in these regions. Legitimacy, as such, is merely a question of efficacy of state power. Can the state protect, extract, and adjudicate?

In any case, what is far more interesting than the technicalities of the referenda is what the decision to annex these regions says about Russian intentions. Once these regions become formally annexed, they will be viewed by the Russian state as sovereign Russian territory, subject to protection with the full range of Russian capabilities, including (in the most dire and unlikely scenario) nuclear weapons. When Medvedev pointed this out, it was bizarrely spun as a “nuclear threat”, but what he was actually trying to communicate is that these four oblasts will become part of Russia’s minimum definition of state integrity - non-negotiables, in other words.

I think the best way to formulate it is as such:

Annexation confers a formal designation that a territory has been deemed existentially important to the Russian state, and will be contested as if the integrity of the nation and state is at risk.

Those fixating on the “legality” of the referenda (as if such a thing exists) and Medvedev’s supposed nuclear blackmail are missing this point. Russia is telling us where it currently draws the line for its absolute minimum peace conditions. It’s not walking away without at least these four oblasts, and it considers the full range of state capabilities to be in play to achieve that goal.

Force Generation

 

The move to hold referenda and eventually annex the southeastern rim was accompanied with Putin’s long-awaited announcement of a “partial mobilization”. Ostensibly, the initial order calls up just 300,000 men with previous military experience, but the door is left upon for further surges at the discretion of the president’s office. Implicitly, Putin can now ramp up the mobilization as he sees fit without needing to make further announcements or sign more paperwork. This is similar to American Lend-Lease or the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” in America, where the door is opened once and the President is then free to move at will without even informing the public.

It was increasingly clear that Russia needed to raise its force deployment. Ukraine’s successful drive to the Oskil River was made possible by Russian economy of force. The Russian army had completely hollowed out Kharkiv Oblast, leaving only a thin screening force of national guardsmen and LNR militia. In places where the Russian Army has chosen to deploy sizeable regular formations, the results have been disastrous for Ukraine - the infamous Kherson Counteroffensive turned into a shooting gallery for Russian artillery, with the Ukrainian Army haplessly funneling men into a hopeless bridgehead at Andriivka.


A Shooting Gallery


So far in this war, Ukraine has achieved two big successes retaking territory: first in the spring, around Kiev, and now the late summer recapture of Kharkov Oblast. In both cases, the Russians had preemptively hollowed out the sector. We have yet to see a successful Ukrainian offensive against the Russian Army in a defensive posture. The obvious solution, therefore, is to raise the force deployment so that it is no longer necessary to hollow out sections of the front.

The initial surge of 300,000 men is being a bit muddled. Not all of the men being called up will be sent to Ukraine. Many will remain in Russia on garrison duty so that existing ready formations can be rotated to Ukraine. Therefore, it is likely that we will see more Russian units arriving in theater much sooner than expected. Additionally, many of the units originally committed to Ukraine have been off the front for refitting and resting. The scale and pace of Russia’s new force generation is likely to shock people. On the whole, the timing of Russia’s manpower surge coincides with the depletion of Ukrainian capabilities.

Ukraine spent the summer sending its 2nd tier conscripts to the front in the Donbas as it lovingly collected NATO-donated weapons and trained units in the rear. With generous NATO help, Ukraine was able to accumulate forces for two full scale offensives - one in Kherson (which failed spectacularly) and one in Kharkov (which succeeded in pushing past the Russian screening force and reaching the Oskil). Much of that carefully accumulated fighting power is now gone or degraded. Rumors circulated of a third offensive towards Melitipol, but Ukraine does not seem to have the combat power to achieve this, and strong Russian forces are in the region behind prepared defensive lines.

On the whole, therefore, Ukraine’s window for offensive operations has closed, and what remains is closing quickly. The last zone of intense Ukrainian operations is around Lyman, where aggressive Ukrainian attacks have so far failed to either storm or encircle the town. It is still possible that they take Lyman and consolidate control of Kupyansk, but this would likely represent the culmination of Ukrainian offensive capability. For now, the area around Lyman is a killing zone that exposes attacking Ukrainian troops to Russian air and ground fires.

The large scale view of force ratios is as follows:

Ukraine has spent much of the combat power that they accumulated with NATO help during the summer, and will have an urgent need to reduce combat intensity for refitting and rearming at precisely the same time that Russian combat power in the theater begins to surge.

Simultaneously, NATO’s ability to arm Ukraine is on the verge of exhaustion. Let’s look at this more closely.

Depleting NATO

 

One of the more fascinating aspects of the war in Ukraine is the extent to which Russia has contrived to attrit NATO military hardware without fighting a direct war with NATO forces. In a previous analysis I referred to Ukraine as a vampiric force which has reversed the logic of the proxy war; it’s a black hole sucking in NATO gear for destruction.

There are now very limited stockpiles to draw from to continue to arm Ukraine. Military Watch Magazine noted that NATO has drained the old Warsaw Pact tank park, leaving them bereft of Soviet tanks to donate to Ukraine. Once these reservoirs are fully tapped, the only option will be giving Ukraine western tank models. This, however, is much harder than it sounds, because it would require not only extensive training of tank crews, but also an entirely different selection of ammunition, spare parts, and repair facilities.

Tanks are not the only problem, however. Ukraine is now staring down the barrel (heh heh) of a serious shortage of conventional tube artillery. Earlier in the summer, the United States donated 155mm howitzers, but with stockpiles of both guns and shells dwindling, they’ve recently been forced to turn to lower caliber towed trash. After the announcement of yet another aid tranche on September 28th, the USA has now put together five consecutive packages which do not contain any conventional 155mm shells. Shells for Ukraine’s Soviet vintage artillery were running low as early as June.

In effect, the effort to keep Ukraine’s artillery arm functioning has gone through a few phases. In the first phase, Warsaw Pact stockpiles of Soviet shells were drained to supply Ukraine’s existing guns. In the second phase, Ukraine was given mid-level western capabilities, especially the 155mm howitzer. Now that 155mm shells are running low, Ukraine has to make do with 105mm guns which are badly outranged by Russian howitzers and will be, in a word, doomed in any kind of counterbattery action.

As a substitute for adequate tube artillery, the latest aid package does include 18 more of the internet’s favorite meme weapon - the HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket System. What is not explicitly mentioned in the press release is that the HIMARS systems don’t exist in current US inventories and will have to be built, and are thus unlikely to arrive in Ukraine for several years.

The increasing difficulties in arming Ukraine coincide with the rapid closing of Ukraine’s window of operational opportunity. The forces accumulated over the summer are degraded and fought out, and every subsequent rebuild of the Ukrainian first tier forces will become harder as manpower is destroyed and NATO arsenals are depleted. This depletion comes precisely as Russian force generation is surging, foretelling the Winter of Yuri.

The Winter War

 

Anyone who expects the war to slow down during the winter is in for a surprise. Russia is going to launch a late autumn/winter offensive and achieve significant gains. The arc of force generation (both Russia’s increasing force accumulation and Ukraine’s degradation) coincide with the approach of cold weather.

Let’s make a brief note about combat in the cold. Russia is perfectly capable of waging effective operations in the snow. Going back to World War Two, the Red Army was more than capable of offensive success during the winter, starting in 1941 with the general counteroffensive at Moscow, again in 1942 with the destruction of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, and in 1943-44 with two successful large scale offensives beginning in the winter. Now, of course World War Two is not directly applicable in all ways, but we can establish that from a technical standpoint there is a clearly established capability to wage operations in cold weather.

We also have more recent examples. In 2015, during the first Donbas War, LNR and DNR forces launched a pincer operation which successfully encircled a Ukrainian battalion at the Battle of Debaltseve. And, of course, the Russo-Ukrainian War begin in February, when much of northern Ukraine was below freezing temperatures.


Nice Move


Winter weather actually favors a Russian offensive for multiple reasons. One of the paradoxes of military operations is that freezing weather actually enhances mobility - vehicles can get stuck in mud, but not on frozen ground. From 1941-43, German troops celebrated the arrival of spring, because the thaw promised to bog the Red Army down in mud and slow their momentum. The winter death of foliage also reduces the cover available to troops in a defensive posture. And, of course, cold weather favors the side with more reliable access to energy.

As for where Russia will choose to commit its newly generated forces, there are four realistic possibilities, which I will enumerate in no particular order:

  1. Reopening the Northern Front with an operation around Kharkov. The attractiveness of this option is clear. A Russian move in force towards Kharkov would immediately collapse all of Ukraine’s gains towards the Oskil by compromising their rear areas.
  2. An offensive on Nikolayev out of the Kherson region. This would move further towards the goal of a landlocked Ukraine, and would take advantage of the fact that Ukrainian forces in this region are badly chewed up after their own failed offensive.
  3. Massive commitment to the Donbas to finish the liberation of DNR territory by capturing Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. This is less likely, as Russia has demonstrated comfort with the slow tempo of operations on this front.
  4. A push north from the Melitopol area towards Zaparozhia. This would safeguard the nuclear powerplant and end any credible threats to the land bridge to Crimea.

Other possibilities I regard as unlikely. A second advance on Kiev would make little operational sense, as it would not support any of the existing fronts. I would expect action around Kiev only if the new force generation is significantly larger than the headline number of 300,000. Otherwise, Russia’s winter offensives are likely to be concentrated on mutually supporting fronts. I think some movement to reopen the northern is likely, as it would completely compromise Ukraine’s gains in the Izyum-Kupyansk direction. There are rumors that forces are being moved into Belarus, but I actually think the Chernigov-Sumy axis would be more likely than a new Kiev operation, as it could be supportive of an offensive on Kharkov.


Potential Axes of Winter Advance (Base Map Credit: @War_Mapper)


On the broadest level, it is clear that Ukraine’s window to conduct offensive operations is nearing its close, and the force generation ratios on the ground are going to swing decisively in Russia’s favor through the winter.

Nordstream and Escalation

As we were pondering these developments on the ground, yet another plotline emerged underwater. The first hint that something was amiss was the news that pressure in the Nordstream 1 pipeline was dropping mysteriously. It was then revealed that the pipeline - along with the non-operational Nordstream 2 - had suffered serious damage. Swedish seismologists recorded explosions on the floor of the Baltic Sea, and it was revealed that the pipelines are heavily damaged.

Let’s be frank about this. Russia did not blow up its own pipelines, and it is ludicrous to suggest that they did. The importance of the pipeline to Russia lay in the fact that it could be switched on and off, providing a mechanism for leverage and negotiation vis a vis Germany. In the classic carrot and stick formulation, one cannot move the donkey if the carrot is blown up. The *only* feasible scenario in which Russia might be responsible for the sabotage would be if some hardliner faction within the Russian government felt that Putin was moving too slowly, and wanted to force an escalation. This would imply, however, that Putin is losing internal control, and there is no evidence whatsoever for such a theory.

And so, we return to elementary analysis, and ask: Cui bono? Who benefits? Well, considering Poland celebrated the opening of a new pipeline to Norway only a few days ago, and a certain former Polish MP cryptically thanked the United States on Twitter, it is fair to make a few guesses.


The first lesson of doing crimes is not to brag about it on twitter


Let us briefly meditate on the actual implications of Nordstream’s demise.

  1. Germany loses what little autonomy and flexibility it had, making it even more dependent on the United States.
  2. Russia loses a point of leverage over Europe, reducing the inducements to negotiation.
  3. Poland and Ukraine become even more critical transit hubs for gas.

Russia clearly perceives this as a bridge-burning move of sabotage by NATO, designed to back them into a corner. The Russian government has decried it as an act of “international terrorism” and argued that the explosions occurred in areas “controlled by NATO” - the concatenation of these statements is that they blame NATO for an act of terrorism, without explicitly saying that. This precipitated another meeting of the Russian National Security Council.

Many western nations have advised their citizens to leave Russia immediately, suggesting they are worried about escalation (this coincides with Ukraine’s unhinged claim that Russia may be about to use nuclear weapons). For the time being, I expect Russian escalation to remain confined to Ukraine itself, likely coinciding with the deployment of additional Russian ground forces. If Russia feels compelled to undertake an out of theater escalation, targeting American satellites, digital infrastructure, or forces in Syria remain the most likely option.

On the Precipice

I am fully cognizant that my views will be spun as “coping” after Ukraine’s gains in Kharkov oblast, but time will tell out. Ukraine is on its last legs - they drained everything usable out of NATO stockpiles to build up a first tier force over the summer, and that force has been mauled and degraded beyond repair just as Russia’s force generation is set to massively increase. Winter will bring not only the eclipse of the Ukrainian army, the destruction of vital infrastructure, and the loss of new territory and population centers, but also a severe economic crisis in Europe. In the end, the United States will be left to rule over a deindustrialized and degraded Europe, and a rump Ukrainian trashcanistan sequestered west of the Dnieper.

For now, though, we are in the interregnum as the last flames of Ukraine’s fighting power flickers out. Then there will be an operational pause, and then a Russian winter offensive. There will be several weeks where nothing happens, and then everything will happen.

During that operational pause, you may be tempted to ask - “is it done, Yuri?”

No, Comrade Premiere. It has only begun.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR / SOURCE
Big Serge is an Eastern European geopolitical analyst who prefers to remain anonymous. .


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I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

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UKRAINE Submits NATO APPLICATION, Russia EXPANDS, Putin HISTORIC Speech

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Jackson Hinkle
THE DIVE

 

Streamed on:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR / SOURCE
Jackson Hinkle is the host of The Dive, a YouTube/ Rumble video channel, producing radical analyses of world events.


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What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

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Roundtable #25: George Galloway, Syrian Girl, Alex Thomson

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Gonzalo Lira

Roundtable #25: George Galloway, Syrian Girl, Alex Thomson



Sep 29, 2022


In case YouTube deletes Gonzalo's account, try—as he suggests—his Rumble platform. probably a lot more reliable, albeit capitalist, too.

 

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Russian allegations of rampant Nazism in Europe

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By Gilbert Doctorow (Posted Aug 26, 2022)
MONTHLY REVIEW ONLINE



At the time of the exchange of courtesies between Putin and Scholz in February, I wrote an essay in which I tried to explain the background to Russian claims of rampant Nazism in Ukraine, which sounded very odd to Westerners but found a very receptive audience among the Russian population, where evocations of Nazism arise at every annual May 9th celebration of Victory in Europe Day, marking the end of WWII. As I noted then, one source of Russian allegations was the celebration by official Kiev of the ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator of the German forces in WWII who practiced vicious ethnic cleansing against Jews, Russians and Poles. Statues are erected to him; streets are named after him across Ukraine.

Of course, the numbers of actual neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine before and since 2014 have been very small as a percentage of the overall population. In the parliamentary and presidential elections that have taken place since the United States installed its preferred regime in Kiev in February 2014, the neo-Nazi candidates have not scored more than several percentage points. However, from the first days of the February coup d’etat, neo-Nazis have held the key ministerial posts in defense and the security apparatus of the Ukrainian government, effectively calling the shots in foreign policy and the confrontation with Russia.

When the Russians finally flushed out the Azov battalion extremists from their fortified positions at the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol three months into the ‘special military operation,’ they found and presented on television proof positive of the Nazi presence at the core of the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukrainian prisoners of war were stripped and the Russian camera men video-recorded their tattooed bodies, featuring not only swastikas and other German Nazi symbols but also portraits of Hitler and other Nazi leaders from the Third Reich. Western journalists, of course, saw all of this but it hardly was reported in our media. Nor has there been any reconsideration in the West of the facile dismissal of Russian concern over neo-Nazism that Scholz demonstrated.

Events in the EU’s ‘front line’ countries of the Baltic states and Poland have given a new dimension to the Russian concerns over neo-Nazism. I have in mind the dismantling and removal of statues and other monuments to the Soviet Army liberators of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from German occupation in 1945 even as their own Nazi collaborators from the past are given new honors. This has greatly accelerated in recent weeks. Meanwhile, parades of the descendants of the collaborators have been going on in Riga and elsewhere year after year.

Still more controversial and significant has been the attempts of Lithuania to close down land transportation between the main territory of the RF and its Kaliningrad outpost in violation of all signed undertakings for free transit between different constituent parts of Russia agreed by the EU.

Add to that the latest Estonian led effort to close Europe entirely to Russians. A few weeks ago, Estonian border guards at the Narva crossing refused to admit Russians holding Schengen visas issued previously by their own authorities and now they are refusing to recognize Schengen visas issued by other EU Member States. Together with Poland, all three Baltic States have demanded that the EU no longer issue visas to Russian tourists.

To be sure, the demand that all Russians be barred from Europe as punishment for their war on Ukraine has not met with universal approval within the EU. Even Germany came out against the initiative, with Scholz saying that exceptions must be made for humanitarian reasons. Others have debated the legality under EU law of such generalized prohibitions directed at an entire population. But the debate rages on.

Finally, a statement made yesterday by Latvian President Egils Levits got the full attention of Moscow. He said that Russian-speaking residents of Latvia should be ‘isolated from society’ if they oppose his government’s policies with respect to the war in Ukraine. Just what is meant by “isolate” is not clear. Does Levits intend to intern them in concentration camps? Given the absolute failure of Latvia to respect EU human rights norms going back from the first days of the country’s independence from the USSR in 1991, such an atrocity would not be out of character.

I have dealt with precisely this issue in essays going back to 2014 which were included in my collection Does Russia Have a Future?: see chapter 22 “Latvia’s 300,000 Non-Citizens and the Ukrainian Crisis Today” and chapter 33 “Latvia’s failed U.S. inspired policies towards Russia and Russians.” I further explored these issues in my 2019 book A Belgian Perspective on International Relations, chapter 38 “Republic of Latvia, Apartheid State Within the EU.”

The point is that upon achieving independence thanks to the active support of many of its Russian-speaking citizenry, the government of Latvia turned around and stripped 400,000 of them of their citizenship, close to 40% of the total population at the time, and offered them a path to regain passports that only a tiny fraction of them could follow. When President Levits speaks today of Russian-speaking “residents” of Latvia, he has in mind those who were deprived of civil rights including passports and remain stateless up to the present time. Everything that Latvia did to its Russian-speaking population going back 30 years set the precedents for Kiev’s repressive policies towards its own 40% who are Russian speakers after the nationalists from Lvov came to power in 2014.

These various developments were the main topic for discussion in yesterday’s Evening with Vladimir Solovyov political talk show, which stood out as especially valuable. Although I have made reference to this particular talk show frequently over the years as a good source of information about what Russia’s political and social elites are thinking, I freely acknowledge that the presenter cannot and does not fill every program with material and panelists worth listening to. Indeed, there is a lot of sludge on air between the gems. By ‘sludge’ I mean the kind of ‘kitchen talk’ in which expert panelists talk the same non-facts-based drivel that ordinary Russians will engage in when they follow the principle of socializing described by Chekhov in Act Two of The Three Sisters:

They are not serving us tea, so let’s philosophize.

In any case, last night’s Solovyov was definitely worth listening to. The question of neo-Nazism in Europe was the glue binding together different elements of the discussion, ranging from Levits’ obnoxious declaration of the same day to the fate of ordinary Russians in Kazakhstan and Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and what to do about all of these challenges to the Russian World.

The overriding point was that the Russophobia and ‘cancel Russian culture’ movements that have swept Europe during 2022 mean that Russians are the Jews of today. They are what the Hitlerites called Untermenschen, against whom all manner of rights violations if not outright murder can be practiced. This arises in its worst form in Ukraine, where Russians as a people are systematically dehumanized in statements from the top leadership of the country. In Ukraine, the ultra-nationalists call Russians “Colorado,” a reference to the bugs that infest potato crops. These insects carry the red and yellow colors of the St George’s ribbons that patriotic Russians wear. This is the same logic that made possible the biological weapons attack on Russian soldiers in the Zaporozhie that was carried out last week by Ukrainian forces, sending the victims to intensive care treatment for botulism poisoning. That development probably did not get coverage in your daily newspaper.

The conversation on Solovyov was particularly interesting in the ‘what is to be done’ segment. Acknowledging that a ‘special military operation’ against Latvia is not practicable yet given Latvia’s membership in NATO, a panelist who heads the State Duma committee on relations with the Former Soviet Union states, said that those Russians who profited from the transit business between Russia and Latvia for decades should now pay up and contribute financially to relocating the Russian speakers in Riga to the Russian Federation, meaning providing good housing and jobs that till now were never on offer to incentivize immigration. A fellow panelist broadened the proposed assistance to suggest a government program of resettlement modeled on what Israel did some decades ago to facilitate the relocation of certain Black African Jews from their country of persecution to the State of Israel. And it was suggested that similar relocation offers should be extended to Russian speakers in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries where they have all been second class citizens since these countries became independent of the USSR.

This issue of the fate of ethnic Russians living outside the borders of the Russian Federation at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union has been around for a long time.  When Vladimir Putin spoke the words that have been so often raised by Russia-haters in the West, namely that the break-up of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, he definitely had in mind the fate of the 25 million Russian speakers who were left high and dry in the other republics, now sovereign states ruled by the non-Russian majority populations. In 1991 and later years, Russia’s own economic woes left it unable to offer decent housing to its soldiers and officers transferred back to Russia from the former Warsaw Pact countries, let alone to care for the 25 million Russian civilians outside its borders.

Last night’s panelists argued that the time has come to redress this moral failure of Russia to stand by its former citizens who are Russian-speakers, to offer to repatriate them under attractive conditions. This would respond to the country’s own economic interests by redressing the demographic challenges Russia is facing as a result of its 1990s collapse and birth rates that then declined precipitously. And it would be a direct answer to the neo-Nazi movements in Europe which would gladly exacerbate repression among Russians in their midst.


About the author
Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. He chose this third career of 'public intellectual' after finishing up a 25 year career as corporate executive and outside consultant to multinational corporations doing business in Russia and Eastern Europe which culminated in the position of Managing Director, Russia during the years 1995-2000. He is presently publishing his memoirs of his 25 years of doing business in and around the Soviet Union/Russia, 1975 - 2000. Memoirs of a Russianist, Volume I: From the Ground Up was published on 10 November 2020. Volume II: Russia in the Roaring 1990s will go to press in two months.

Originally published: Gilbert Doctorow Blog on August 25, 2022 (more by Gilbert Doctorow Blog)

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of The Greanville Post. However, we do think they are important enough to be transmitted to a wider audience.


 

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What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.


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