Introduction: the proverbial “fog of war” vs the Internet
Listening to all the innumerable opinions and news (the latter mostly fake) about what happened in the past days in the Ukraine I am getting the feeling that I am observing two quasi non-connected worlds. The first world is the purely military world and in that world a rather minor incident happened. In this world, it is even possible that the Russian executed a crafty feint (Kiev op revisited). In the second world, let’s call it the “information space”, Russia has suffered a crushing defeat and the entire SMO is about to collapse. These two worlds are so far apart that it is hard to compare them. So the first thing which I will try to do today is to use common sense to try to tackle this issue.
So the first Big Question is: did the Russian General Staff conduct a brilliant feint to force the Nazi forces out from their dug-in positions or did the General Staff totally fail to see the signs of an imminent Ukronazi attack, then screw up in a hasty retreat which left plenty of pro-Russian civilians in the hands of Nazi death squads?
How do we answer that? Well, one approach is that we have a massive screaming contest in the comments section and the social media, where some scream A! A! A! while others scream non-A! non-A! non-A! That is not very helpful. Why? Two key reasons:
- Nobody (that I know of) has access to the Russian General Staff (RGS) plans and intel and
- There are almost no verifiable facts on the ground (yet!) to base an opinion on
So this entire “he said, she said” might feel good, but it is useless.
So, what would solve the two problems listed above? Simple:
So, the “access” thing won’t change, even most Russian military commanders do not know the real plans of the RGS. We will never know the full truth, at least not from the Russian officials.
But consequences is the key here: from a purely military point of view, what happened is a minor incident, but if this was a huge mistake of the RGS, soon we will see major military consequences, including a successful development of the Ukrainian offensive on the operational and (possibly) strategic levels.
Again, whether this was a brilliant RGS plan or an abject failure by the same RGS will probably never be clarified by the RGS itself for all sorts of reasons, both military and political.
So right now, we need to simply wait and, with time, we will find out.
That being said, we can use our heads a little bit while we wait and ask ourselves an interesting question: would there be signs which could help us, at least indirectly, guess whether this was a feint or a disaster. In fact, there are plenty, but I will suggest only three:
- Did the Russians fail to detect the Ukrainian force concentrations?
- Did the Russian organize an orderly retreat (including the evacuation of pro-Russian civilians) or was it a chaotic run for safety?
- Did the Russians bring in reinforcements in and orderly and planned manner or did they rush their forces towards the general Kupiansk area with clear signs of problems (road jams for example)?
I will try to suggest some answers to those three questions next.
- The entire Russian Internet was buzzing with rumors of a Nazi attack even while the latter were attacking in the direction of Kherson. To assume that the RGS missed these signals would be to assume that the RGS is less informed than most social media users. Some will say that this is possible. I have to disagree.
- The retreat. Now that is an interesting issue which we will discuss in more detail below, but I think that it would be fair to say that the Russian military forces suffered very few losses during this retreat.
- The reinforcements. Here, rather than repeat it all, I will yield to Larry Johnson’s superb analysis entitled “Understanding Planning, Orders and Troop Movements in Ukraine“.
[Sidebar: I discovered Larry Johnson’s website Son of the New American Revolution rather recently through my friend Andrei Martyanov’s blog and I have to say it is superb. I highly recommend it to all my readers! Also, check his latest analysis posted yesterday]
Of course, all of the above looks at things in the theoretical “purely military world” I mentioned above. However, to pretend that something huge did not happen in our theoretical “information space world” would be simply silly because in that world a huge INFORMATIONAL EXPLOSION happened, that is undeniable, even if we don’t like it. So let’s look at it even if we don’t like what we see.
Modern PSYOPs are more powerful than ever
Here, before I continue, I am going to post a document mentioned by Andrei Maryanov in his latest video, the
This is a very interesting, if somewhat complex, read, and I do recommend you read the full thing. If you cannot, at least read the abstract. This will give you a good idea of the magnitude of the current information operations against Russia by the united West. Without an awareness of how huge this strategic PSYOP is you will never understand the true nature of what is taking place.
Now I don’t have the time to go into a detailed discussion of PSYOPs, but I want to mention just one thing here: in the distant 1980s I distinctly remember a US general on TV discussing PSYOPs and declaring that “we have not won until CNN says we won“. I am sure of the quote (I was very impressed by its implications) but, alas, I don’t remember who said that. But my point is simple: US military commanders already understood how important PSYOPs are, especially to the western way of warfare.
Furthermore, it is not only about what theses a PSYOP campaign promotes, it is also about all the information which successful PSYOPs can obfuscate by drowning them in an informational tsunami made so much easier by the fact that the Neocons control both the western media AND the key western IT companies (YT, Google, etc.).
One example of the latter: the legendary LDNR commander Khodakovskii has been warning about large Ukrainian force concentrations near the city of Ugledar. That is exactly what many others have been saying about the Kharkov area, but now that the PSYOP focus in on Kharkov, this piece of news is basically buried under what Martyanov aptly calls “white noise”.
But there is much more to this: western PSYOPs are not only directed at the western audience, they are also very much directed at the Russian general public. They even include the creation of fake Telegram channels to announce plenty of fake news ranging from the hasty evacuation of the leaders of the LDNR to, I kid you now, the use of nuclear weapons (see image)!
This is just one, admittedly extreme, example, but there were many, many more.
And, of course, this is all made much worse by the absolutely TERRIBLE PR coming out of the Russian MoD: first General Konashenkov remained totally silent, and then he made a sudden announcement that all this was a super-dopper feint. The reaction to that on many (if not most) Russian Telegram channels was “well, thank God, at least this time he did not say that “it was an act of goodwill by Russia” (remember that idiotic statement by Lavrov?).
Suddenly, Russia's disciplined and courageous troops are a pack of pathetic cowards (according to Business Insider).
So while the enemy says A, the Russian MoD first says absolutely nothing, and then is forced into a clumsy and utterly unsubstantiated declaration which only makes things worse.
And it is not like the Russian general public watches CNN or the BBC! This is a video that was shown in Russia, and which is now very successfully used to a) discredit Russia and b) to frighten pro-Russian Ukrainians, see for yourself:
Here is what this military official was declaring in Kupiansk last June: “It is a fact that it is obvious that Russia is here forever. Russia will never leave here. And all the needed aid will be delivered according to the terms we have discussed with the head of the local administration. Russia is here forever“. This video was shown yesterday by the Ukrainian blogger Anatolii Sharii.
There are also some disturbing facts that cannot be denied. For example, by pulling out from Izium, the Russians have now opened the road between Kharkov, Izium, Slaviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut/Soledar. This makes no sense, as Big Serge correctly pointed out on his blog, Izium is the “gateway to the Donbass” and not only did the Russians know that, they also knew they could have defended Izium. Yet, instead, they deliberately withdrew from it.
They better had a very good reason and I tend to think that they did (see below), but the official Russian verbiage does not address this question.
It gets even weirder. It was also evident that the town of Balakleia would be amongst the very first ones to be attacked by the Nazis, yet it was initially defended by a small force composed mostly of Russian Guards who fought truly heroically, but who were only reinforced by a relatively small force of paratroopers which eventually had to retreat.
As I said above, it is too early to come to any conclusions, but I will at least mention one possibility.
A deliberate withdrawal? A possible explanation of the why and the how
Okay, first, a caveat. I am NOT saying that this is what happened. I am ONLY presenting a hypothesis that goes as follows:
The RGS did not want to attack the 2nd line Nazi fortifications which roughly goes, well, along the axis shown on the map above: Kharkov, Izium, Slaviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut/Soledar. Doing so would have cost way too many Russian lives.
- There is strong evidence that the Russians did not seriously try to defend Balakleia, Shevchenkovo and even Izium. The only “dug in” once across the Oskol river near Kupiansk
- While the initial Ukrainian force was relatively small (initial estimates spoke of 3 BTGs and special forces only), a much larger force (3 brigades according to some sources) soon poured into the terrain abandoned by Russia. This made it possible for the Russian to inflict huge losses on that force, its supply lines and even its headquarters.
- If the Russians had heavily and statically defended Balakleia and Izium, the enemy forces could have shown much more caution and not exposed themselves the way they did.
- If the Russians had organized a major evacuation prior to the enemy attack, that would have tipped off NATO (which, of course, is the real enemy here!) about the Russian plans.
- Leaving a token force could have been a bait. Yes, this is horrible, because if that was really the case, the soldiers in Balakleia or Izium were basically sacrificed. However, that happens in ALL wars. Does anybody see a difference between a false attack as a feint and leaving a token force behind? Either way, the chances of such forces are bad, but they are accepted for the greater good, in this case, one could argue that leaving an exposed token force was infinitely better for the Russian plan than to have to take on the NATO forces along their fortified lines. Frankly, I am surprised at how well and for how long this tiny force fought!
What about the civilians in all this?
Truthfully, I don’t know.
In one of his videos, Gonzalo Lira said that all the pro-Ukrainian population of Kharkov has long left and that only pro-Russian people stayed. Lira is in Kharkov, so who am I to argue?
However, Andrei Martyanov said that in reality, most of the pro-Russian civilians were evacuated and that this argument about “sacrificed civilians” is basically a canard and another NATO PYSOP talking point.
Again, who am I to say?
I will say this: from a purely military point of view, if you are willing to sacrifice your own soldiers you must also be willing to accept the loss of innocent lives, especially if this loss of innocent civilian lives prevents a much bigger loss of civilians lives.
However, if that was the calculation, I think that it was a mistake or, should I say, it was the correct decision, but poorly executed. Here is why.
Where the Russians failed (again)
One word – PSYOPs. For all the military rationale hypothesized above, this does not address the absolutely terrible effects of the current PR disaster. Why do I call it a PR disaster? Two reasons:
- First, the undeniable and successful execution of the PSYOP operation by NATO
- Second, the fact that even a lot of pro-Russian people believed the NATO talking points
It is all fine and dandy to separate military and civilians “worlds” as I did in the introduction, but in the real world they are forever intertwined.
To fully understand this, we need to look at how the Russian 6th column operates or, rather, how NATO PSYOPs use the Russian 6th column.
I defined the Russian 6th column as a mix of ultra-patriots, emo-Marxists, folks who are angry because they are not needed by, or even cared about, the current Russian leadership, “allislosters” (folks who mantrically repeat “all is lost! all is lost!” and “Putinsoldouters” (folks who mantrically repeat “Putin has sold out! Putin has sold out!”).
Some of them are undoubtedly agent provocateurs, but MOST ARE SINCERE! Why? Because of the awful Russian counter-PSYOPs combined with a superb multi-billion dollar western PSYOPs industry.
Furthermore, I have come to the sad conclusion that many military arguments are simply too complicated for most people to understand. Not only are they often rather technical, but they are also much longer, meaning that it is impossible to defeat people who operate by slogans with long, detailed arguments. It simply does not work.
BTW – I know that what I am trying here is largely futile. I do it because my conscience dictates this and not for any other reason.
Adding to this is the illusion of expertise that so many non-experts have, quite sincerely so. They read about war (Clancy), saw it on TV (Hollywood) and are being literally *fed* talking points by NATO PSYOPs. There is only that long ANYBODY can resist this before becoming affected.
The superlatively important Asch conformity experiment
I will not explain it here, just read the Wikipedia article about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments. I could also add here the known dialectical principle that “quantity can acquire quality on its own“. The bottom line is simple: our brains are hard-coded to naturally side with the majority. So if enough people declare that, say, the Moon is triangular, then, eventually, folks will start believing it. They will even start SEEING it (read the Wikipedia article if you have not!).
Of course, here we also have a bell curve. Some will always believe the perceived majority, others will eventually believe it, and some will not. But the number of those who will “mentally cave in” will always be MUCH bigger than the number of those who will critically use their own brain to try to ascertain reality as best they can.
Now, with this in mind, we can now start to see why the Kremlin is deeply mistaken in its lackadaisical counter-PSYOPs. And it gets worse,
How NATO uses the Russian 6th column
The Neocons have long figured out that the liberal Russian 5th column is either dead, or hiding. This is also true of the Atlantic Integrationists in the circles of power who have either kept a hyper-low profile or even made a 180 and are now patriotic firebrands (I think of Medvedev here).
Truth be told, the worst 5th columnists have already physically left Russian for the Baltic statelets, Poland, Israel or the UK. And those who have stayed are so ostracized by the general public that they have basically given up, at least for now. At the most, maybe 1 or 2 percent of the Russian population still takes them seriously.
In sharp contrast, the 6th column is much larger, by at least one order of magnitude. And this is no wonder, the 5th column was rather homogeneous and while it had access to critical circles of power (Kremlin, government, Russian media, industry, finance, etc.) it never had any real traction with the 65-70% “stubborn” Russian “simpletons” (быдло) who continued to vote for Putin no matter what.
So some really sharp folks figured out that it was a waste of resources to accuse Putin of being an “Asiatic dictator” wanting to recreate a Stalinist “Mordor” and it was far, far more effective to accuse him of either being weak, or dumb, or corrupt or all of that wrapped into one. Remember, the Asch conformity experiment now.
Before the war, the 6th column was having very little success, the main reason was that Putin was having many more successes than failures. So, that is crucial to understand,
The absolutely worst nightmare of the Russian 6th columnist and assorted ultra-patriots is to see Putin succeeding at anything. They would much rather see Russia defeated than a triumphant Russia led by their oh-so-hated Putin!
Of course, they would much rather have Russia win, but only if led by them (or leaders they would approve of).
There are quite a few such folks in Russia and, since they were not getting much traction with the Russian “simpletons”, they reached out to a much more gullible audience: pro-Russians in the West.
And that strategy worked.
Not totally, but MUCH better than trying to get anything done inside Russia.
The western PSYOPs, of course, gave the 6th columnist a quiet and indirect, but devastatingly effective support. And that is the combo we are now facing. I will try to sum it up in a table:
|Criteria||NATO+Russian 6th column||The very few|
|Money||billions of dollars||donations|
|Exposure||US-run IT sector||bans everywhere|
|Goal ||elicit strong emotions||understanding|
|Required level of expertise||none||high|
|Intellectual energy and creativity required by proponents ||none, NATO PSYOPs supply all “arguments” in the form of slogans and talking points||demanding and exhausting|
|Governmental support||high||inadequate at “best” (think RT here!)|
|Career prospects for proponents ||excellent||suicidal|
|Financial prospects for proponents ||excellent||very modest at best|
We can see that this is a totally unequal fight from the get-go.
But there is more to it.
The proverbial pro-Russian westerner
Egos. How do you think the folks who caved to the Asch conformity felt after discovering that not only were they wrong, but they were SO wrong that they even had hallucinations? Pretty bad, of course.
Which brings me to the proverbial pro-Russian westerner who, quite innocently, fell prey to the combined efforts of the planetary conformity experiment executed by NATO and with full support of the Russian 6th columnists?
How do you think they will feel once they realize not only that they have been cleverly played, but that by their actions they have HURT, not helped, Russia? They will feel awful, especially if they have any notion that they are expert enough to comment on these issues.
The sad, but very human, truth is that for many (not all, time will show) “proverbial pro-Russian westerners” a Russian defeat is psychologically preferable to a Russian triumph IF Russia is led to that triumph by Putin.
Simply put, if “Putin” wins, then they were conned. This is especially devastating with folks who are insecure or have a big ego. In fact, if anything, insecure folks with big egos see this entire SMO as a fantastic opportunity to be accepted again in the “comme il faut media”, including RT.
There are also putatively “pro-Russian” websites and individuals out there who, basically, sold out to specific interest groups and the latter are very much on the fence about which side to support. At worst, they are western-funded (even when they deny it) agents provocateurs.
At this point, I have to apologize for the length of this text (already over 3250 words at this point!), but I am not even done yet!
This is the “power of FUD”: you cannot debunk slogans with other slogans, at least not when you are the infinitely weaker party in the informational space. That is why trolls are so effective, it takes them infinitely less energy to spread FUD than for us to debunk them.
That is a reality we won’t change and we have to accept.
[Sidebar: just to give you an idea of the vast the range of NATO PSYOPs can be, I will give you two extremes I personally observed: on one hand, we have bots who try to post comments every day in spite of the fact that they have been banned years ago already and that their comments (almost) never pass moderation. So these trolls don’t even *care* if anybody reads them, all they care is “fulfilling a quota of posts”, this is certainly true of IAs, but also some paid humans. On the other end of the spectrum, I now clearly see something rather interesting: there are a number of trolls who first tried to post a number of putatively pro-Russian and even pro-Putin comments, which they did, and who expected that to give them at least some degree of protection against bans, which it did not. This is a much more sophisticated approach, yet I have seen it personally in several cases. Yes, there are “pre-positioned trolls” just like we now can all see that there were “pre-positioned fake pro-Russian websites” out there. These were only “activated” on D day and hour H: the initiation of the SMO.]
I will now finally address my main argument:
Russian military victories are seriously undermined by the pathetic Russian PSYOPs
And just to clarify, I am not only saying that NATO PSYOPs are hurting Russian society, I am also saying that they are now clearly hurting the Russian soldiers doing the fighting and the entire military effort!
It is often said that armies are the product of a specific society, and I agree with that. If I submit that it is clear that Russian society is susceptible to FUD, I also submit that a lot of good people in Russia and in the West are fed up with the way the Russian government treats them and, frankly, I wholeheartedly agree with them.
It’s not “just” that RT online is clearly run by Atlantic Integrationists (at best!), but the mountain of anger in Russian society with the entire informational space [is real]. I am sure that we can find people out there who think that Konashenkov is an effective spokesman, but I am also sure of two things: they are in the minority and I sure disagree with them.
What I often read in the Russian blogosphere is this: “stop treating us as children, you can trust us with the truth!“. And while I totally understand that military secrets must be kept secret, I also believe that ONLY secrets should be kept secret. IF the Russian government, including the Russian military, want the support of the Russian civil society, they MUST stop treating Russian civil society as if it was solely composed of enemies, imbeciles and children. If not – there will be consequences, possibly severe ones.
This is especially important if we realize that there are seven different wars taking place at the same time:
- The SMO to denazify and demilitarize the Ukraine armed forces
- The war to liberate and protect the Donbass
- The war to defeat NATO in the Ukraine
- The (as of yet) unnamed but obviously existing strategic operation to defeat NATO, militarily and politically
- The war to remove the threat/risks of even more wars against Russia
- The war to liberate Europe from the AngloZionist yokes (yes, two separate yokes)
- The economic and political “war” to create a multinational and “multi-model” international world order in which all countries are accepted as fully sovereign and the relations between these sovereign countries are regulated by international law
The first phase was almost over in a few weeks, but then NATO began to print billions of dollars to inject into the war (reminder: the US alone is spending 228 million dollars PER DAY on the Ukrainian op!). Hence the “resurrecting” aircraft (rotary and fixed-wing), artillery batteries, air defense systems, supplies, etc.
In terms of manpower, the Nazis can count on almost limitless “meat” to throw at the Russians, and they have successfully kept at least some well-trained forces. The most dangerous development, however, is that it appears that NATO countries have run out of properly trained “Ukrainians” (many of them are not), and that they have now decided to operate a lot of NATO hardware by sending PCMs (not really new) and even NATO forces disguised as PMCs and “advisors”!
Oh I can hear the choice of sweet voices singing to me “but Kiev threw all they had at these suicidal counter-attacks, the entire NATO military (because that is what this is now) will crumble in days or weeks!!!“. Hey, I SURE hope so. But can we or, for that matter, the RGS “bet the farm” on that?
I don’t think so.
Not only that, all the evidence shows that the US and NATO are, indeed, “betting the farm” right now, and God only knows what these shaitans (literally) are capable of next!
There is no limit to their hate. And they know they are betting the farm.
Now is the time to be more cautious than ever and not make rosy assumptions.
True, militarily, the US and NATO don’t stand a chance. But is that good enough?
I don’t think so. While these two cannot “win”, they still can extract a huge price from the inevitable Russian military victory. Just look at the rumors about a possible mobilization in Russia. Short of a fullscale NATO intervention, Russia has no need for any mobilization: it would only create panic and chaos, while “plugging holes with meat” is a NATO tactic, not a Russian one. IF, and that is a big if, the RGS decides that it needs more forces (manpower and/or gear), it can get what it needs from the standing Russian armed forces. But think for a second in terms of not even PYSOPS, but simple clickbaiting. Which headlines will get the most clicks:
- Russia might mobilize, sources say (love that “sources say” thing)
- Russia currently has the manpower and gear needed for the current stage of the SMO
I think that the answer is obvious. And I am telling you something I know for a fact: many pro-Russian westerners are only in this for the money (or visibility, which is the same). I won’t list them, on principle, but most readers already know who these guys are.
From the list of “seven wars” I made above, only the very first one was won. And it was a short-lived victory.
Russia still has to win the other 6, and that will take many months and, for some, years.
Could there be a sudden collapse of the West somewhere down the road? Sure. I personally cannot even imagine what the EU will look like next Spring. But we cannot simply assume that.
In other words, while US/NATO PSYOPs might not win the war for the Neocons, it might prove an absolutely phenomenal force multiplier (see here for a discussion) for the efforts of the combined West & associated colonies. In other words, countering US/NATO ought to be a strategic goal for the entire Russian government.
Now, let me ask you – do you feel that the entire Russian government has set such a strategic goal?
I sure don’t.
What I can already submit now is that the well-known “fog of war” has been massively enhanced by the Internet and modern PSYOPs while, at the same time, military operations have become much more complex, especially one like the SMO.
By the way – have Russians made mistakes? OF COURSE they have; try assembling just 100 [fully] equipped men somewhere and YOU will make mistakes :-) In the military, mistakes come with the territory, literally, and they include such things as friendly fire, poor planning, incompetent officers (they will always exist!), and even major miscalculations. The problem is not in making mistakes, the problem is when an incompetent Russian government does absolutely *nothing* halfway credible to prevent western PSYOPs from blowing these mistakes out of any semi-reasonable proportion (my favorite are all the “strategic” this or that constantly spewed by ignoramuses!). By the way, one man tried: Ramzan Kadyrov. To those who speak Russian I recommend listening to his rather emotional message here: https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/2810 (it is small consolation for me to hear that he is as frustrated as I am).
There are even a few in Russia who want to replace Shoigu with Kadyrov. That is obviously overkill and quite silly, but I sure would advise the Russian government to accept Kadyrov’s offer to train those Russians who “don’t get” information operations in Chechnia. Absolutely! Send them, beginning with Konashenkov!
Conclusion – we are very alone
So here we are, quite alone. And by “we” I don’t mean some kind of royal (or academic) pluralis majestatis, I mean we who are trying hard to help Russia in what any moral person ought to see as one of the most “just wars” in history (if only because it is an existential war for the survival of the peoples of Russia). We are “psychologically shot at” (remember, Asch!) from all sides. Our enemies have means that we can’t even really imagine, many of our so-called “friends” are nothing of the sort, and the Russian government is very much part of the problem, not the solution.
Personally, I can hardly convey to you how frustrating it is for me to observe all this without having the means to do anything about it. Frankly, the trolls are not the worst of it. The worst is to think about Russian leaders (civilian and military), high-ranking officials, decision-makers, corporate leaders, public figures and many others who do have the means to help, but who do absolutely nothing or, even worse, *pretend* to be trying.
In Soviet times (which some are nostalgic for) there used to be a saying “the government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work“. Well, the Russian government sure pays all these powerful figures a lot, and they are *still* pretending.
And the price for that will be paid in Russian (and Ukrainian!) blood and tears.
That is all I had to say for today.
One of the submission guidelines of this blog read as follows: “please do not worry too much about your knowledge of the English language. English is my 3rd or 4th language (out of six) and I make tons of mistakes: grammar, typos, verb coordination, etc. Contents are far more important than form, so worry first about contents and second about form. After all, this blog is about ideas, not language. Try to make your text clear and understandable, but don’t try to sound like Shakespeare (it won’t work anyway).” Well, today I will apply it to myself. I tried to get as much info across as I had the energy for. I don’t have the energy to edit such a long text for anything except content, and I may well have made silly mistakes anyway.
So I ask for your understanding.
PS: for other options take, please
And watch Andrei Martyanov‘s latest:
And for those (few) who had the time, energy and courage to read it all, here is something to cheer you up:
Pro-Russian mass demonstrations in Serbia
A WWII war song with English subtitles:
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^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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