General Gerasimov was not appointed to defend current Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. This was the strategy of his predecessor General Surovikin, and it clearly was not what President Putin was after in his Ukrainian invasion commander. Therefore, Gerasimov will be under pressure from Putin to deliver fast results in early 2023. Putin will definitely want something to talk about by the one year anniversary of his invasion.
However, as we have seen from the first day of this invasion, Putin wanting battlefield victories and Putin getting battlefield victories are two very different things. The courage, resilience and ingenuity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (supported with western weapons and munitions) has seen to that. Despite the influx of tens of thousands of mobilised troops, it is highly likely that there will again be a gap between Putin’s expectations for the 2023 offensive operations of the Russian military in Ukraine, and their capacity to actually deliver their results.
In summary, it is almost certain that the Russian Army in Ukraine will undertake offensive operations to meet Putin’s political objectives of securing his annexed territory in the coming weeks and months. The Ukrainians will be doing everything humanly possible to estimate the most likely areas where these offensives will take place.
Because, if they can do this, they may be able to both blunt the Russian attacks while undertaking their own offensives to recapture Ukrainian territory. And that, as President Zelensky has forecast, is a critical humanitarian, political and military imperative for the coming year.
Comment: This is the last few paragraphs of an article by retired Australian Major General Mick Ryan. The full article is well worth a read.
I’m not alone in thinking the Russian winter offensive is already underway. The continuing 58th CAA attacks on Vuhledar are part of this offensive. So are the long running assaults in the Bakhmut area, where the Wagner Group and their convict meat have been reinforced with Russian Army units. Now the Russians, reinforced with VDV troops, are conducting limited attacks north and south of Kreminna/Svatove. Unless Gerasimov’s plan is merely to keep the Ukrainians off balance in the hope of staving off any impending Ukrainian offensive, I see no good military reason for Russia to be spreading their clearly limited offensive power across such a wide front. However, all these offensive actions are in line with Gerasimov’s marching orders to conquer the Donbas territory that Putin has already proclaimed to be part of Russia.
Perhaps Gerasimov is gambling that one of these efforts will yield enough success that it will be worth reinforcing. Of the three efforts, the Bakhmut offensive has at least yielded some success. They captured Soledar and have also advanced south of Bakhmut. They may eventually take Bakhmut or force the Ukrainians to give it up at a cost of many months of heavy fighting and tens of thousands of Putin’s troops, mercenaries and convicts. Taking Bakhmut would not be meaningless. It is now a necessary step to trying to take Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, the real objective in Donbas. With last year’s loss of Izyum and Lyman to Ukraine’s Kharkiv counteroffensive, the hope for a pincer move on Slovyansk and Kramatorsk were dashed and Bakhmut became the only way forward. Unfortunately for the Russians, the entire area of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk is a fortress. Putin will lose a lot more time and a lot more dead and maimed Russians before the gates of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
The other two areas of Russian offensive activities may be spoiling attacks. The Russians cannot afford the loss of of Kreminna and/or Svatove. A loss there would put Ukrainian forces within striking distance of Starobilisk, a critical transportation hub for Russian forces in the Donbas. The Russians also fear a buildup of Ukrainian forces in the Vuhledar area for a potential Ukrainian drive towards Mariupol or further west towards Melitopol. Any one of these axes of advance is a likely candidate for a combined arms counteroffensive with meaningful quantities of Western armor, IFVs, artillery and missiles fully integrated into Ukrainian combat brigades.
Yes indeed, IMO, this is Putin’s last shot at defeating the Ukrainian army and the fall of Zelensky’s government in Kyiv. If this attempt in the Spring/Summer fails and the war drags on another year, it will be extremely difficult for Putin to mount another serious campaign to defeat the Ukrainian army on the battlefield. Since past performance may not be a guide to future performance, we’ll have to see how well each army performs in this next phase of the war and whether Gerasimov can outfox and ram through Ukrainian army defensive positions?
What is fascinating is the number of correspondents calling for the US as well as the Europeans to not arm the Ukrainians. Their argument is a rather circular one.
Don’t arm the Ukrainian army coz otherwise Armageddon. Which implies let Putin colonize Ukraine. If the Ukrainian army defeats the Russian army in Ukraine then Armageddon. None of them are calling for the Russian army to withdraw behind Russian borders coz Armageddon. The Russian army will attrit the Ukrainian army anyway, so give up and let Putin colonize Ukraine to save lives. As if the Russian army & intelligence will be merciful of Ukrainian nationalists in that event?
The reality is that the US and the Europeans have not armed the Ukrainian army with offensive weapons that are competitive with what the Russian army has. The Ukrainian army has not been supplied with long range missiles that can strike logistics hubs deep in Russian territory. Let alone destroy Russian infrastructure in Moscow and other cities well within Russian borders. They have not been supplied with jets or sophisticated drones. They have not been supplied large quantities of long range artillery and battlefield guided munitions that can strikes 100s of miles from the frontlines. Of course the Iranians supplying the Russian army drones and other material is totally acceptable. No problem with Rocketman and Xi arming Putin’s forces too.
What gives? Aren’t these arguments really just smoke to enable the Russian conquest of Ukraine. If that’s what they want, why don’t they just come out and say it?
“Don’t arm the Ukrainian army coz otherwise Armageddon.”
“The reality is that the US and the Europeans have not armed the Ukrainian army with offensive weapons that are competitive with what the Russian army has.”
What amazes me is the notion that, having failed to overwhelm one of the poorest countries in Europe, Russia would turn its now depleted forces against Ukraine’s vastly better armed neighbors. Ukraine is winning with hand-me-downs, but the real stuff is out there. The countries that have it don’t want to use it, but if push comes to shove they won’t be scraping the barrel for usable Mig-29s.
This is not about Putin colonizing Ukraine but about Russia stopping further major NATO expansion towards and around Russia. Ukraine happens to be the battlefield, but it could have been Belarus or Kazakhstan, or Georgia.
Ukrainian politicians (either pro Nato or pro Russia) failed their citizens by allowing the country to become a battlefield in a struggle between NATO and Russia instead of pursuing the path of true independence and neutrality.
NATO expansion is the result of independent countries deciding on their own to petition for membership in NATO. It is their right to affiliate themselves with whatever organizations they choose. Belarus chose to affiliate with the Kremlin. If Orbán remains in power in Hungary, perhaps they will choose to leave NATO and seek affiliation with Russia and the CTSO. But I doubt the Hungarian people would stand still for that.
When a country joins NATO and the EU, it gives away a part of it’s sovereignty. They are no longer truly independent.
As recent times have shown, if they choose to use SWIFT, the dollar, US technology, US armament, financial system etc, they additionally give away a part of their sovereignty.
Hungary is a good example of a country that although a part of both organizations, tries to protect the interest of its people by not allowing itself to be drawn into this conflict and harm its industry and the citizens by completely sanctioning Russian energy products.
Even before this conflict, during the refugee crises of 2015, Hungary went against EU diktat and protected its borders.
They protected their citizens again, during the Swiss Franc and mortgage crises in 2015, pissing off the European Central Bank.
Perhaps that is why Hungarians keep electing Victor Orban.
Ukrainian politicians were too busy filling their own pockets to protect the interests of their citizens.
Wiz; when a country is colonized it loses all sovereignty. That’s what Russians expect; a subservient Ukraine. The war is 100% about Russian imperialism. Every post ’91 satellite and colonized nation (except) Belarus) has opted to seek membership w/NATO. They have all, even Finland and Sweden, come in to NATO b/c of Russian imperialism.
Hungary is one of those satellites that thought joining NATO was a good idea.
Here’s what the foreign minister of Hungary had to say the, other day to the US ambassador:
”It is completely irrelevant what (Ambassador David Pressman) or any other ambassador thinks about the domestic political process in Hungary because it has nothing to do with him. It is not his place to interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs,” said Szijjarto.
“We do not accept governors or regents. He was not sent to tell us how to live in our own country. That era is over. Hungary is a sovereign country, and no one from outside can tell us how to live.”
Imperialism indeed is the problem here but not the Russian one. Russia is reacting (badly) to actions of the real hegemon.
I see Samanatha Power is in NATO member Hungary. America expects a subservient Hungary. Oban obviously isn’t playing along.
It is Mexicos and Cubas right to affiliate with Russia but it is stupid for Russia to provoke the US.
Those decisions are up to Mexico, Cuba and now Venezuela, not Russia.
TTG: “Those decisions are up to Mexico, Cuba and now Venezuela, not Russia.”
A thoroughly tone-deaf comment, TTG.
Great powers do not like other great powers pissing in their backyard. That is just the way it is, and just the way it has always been.
Venezuela is free to appeal to the Russians for an affiliate between the two. But it can not force Russia to agree to that notion.
Russia would be foolish to agree to such an arrangement, and I for one would be confident that they have enough commonsense to demure.
TTG: “NATO expansion is the result of independent countries deciding on their own to petition for membership in NATO.”
True, but nobody can force NATO to act upon that petition, and it would be foolish for Washington to throw the door wide open.
That you don’t see any problem with that is a glaring example of exactly why Russia has been pushed beyond any reasonable expectation of patience.
A simple question for you: what if Russia had petitioned to join NATO in 1991? What do you think the result of that petition would have been?
I say the questions of affiliation are up to Venezuela, not Russia. You call that tone deaf and then go on to explain that Venezuela is free to make those decisions. Do you have a comprehension problem? Russia and Venezuela already have several economic and military arrangements. We don’t like it, but we’re not going to invade Venezuela over those arrangements.
Putin did ask to become a NATO member when he first came to power. He didn’t like the fact that he would have to apply for membership just like anyone else. He expected a special invitation.
Ukraine and Georgia have applied for membership back in 2008. NATO did not accept the applications at that time for full membership. Neither country is likely to obtain full membership in the near future.
TTG: “You call that tone deaf and then go on to explain that Venezuela is free to make those decisions. Do you have a comprehension problem?”
No, I do not have a comprehension problem, but you appear to have serious issues with straw man arguments.
The issue is not the desire of the minnows to seek comfort under the umbrella of a great power.
From THEIR point of view that is thoroughly understandable policy objective, and I certainly would not criticize them for posing the question.
Where I would criticize is the stupidity of a great power on the other side of the world to say “Yeah, OK, come on in” when they know for an absolute certainty that this will antagonize great powers in the region.
That, to me, it thoroughly reckless to the point of being homicidal.
You keep talking about this as if what the minnows want is what is important.
When did that happen? Was is “never”? Or was it “not ever”?
“Putin did ask to become a NATO member when he first came to power. He didn’t like the fact that he would have to apply for membership just like anyone else. He expected a special invitation.”
You need to check your history, TTG.
It was Stalin who applied for membership of NATO, and it was only after his application was refused that he formed the Warsaw Pact.
Stalin never applied for NATO membership. The most he might have done was express interest in a NATO designed solely to keep Germany down. Molotov expressed interest in joining after Stalin was dead and buried. The idea was also bandied about in the later Gorbachev years and in the Yeltsin years. NATO even talked about it seriously in the Yeltsin era. Back then 10th SFG(A) and the 45th Spetsnaz Brigade did two exchange exercises. They also engaged in joint combat patrols in the Former Yugoslavia.
Putin most definitely asked for an invitation to join. However, he soured on that idea when so many former Soviet satellites applied for membership and were accepted as equal members. Those new members were becoming westernized militarily by NATO design. I doubt he was ever willing to see those former satellite countries as peers. Nor did he have any desire for the Russian military to become westernized.
Yeah Right –
Stalin died in 1953, Warsaw Pact was formed in 1955 in reaction to Adenauer securing FRG membership in NATO.
USSR didn’t actually apply but expressed a willingness to consider joining.
The problem is not that independent nations can petition NATO for membership. The problem is that NATO said they wouldn’t except new members, and did it anyway. And they lied again about defending democracy in Ukraine when they replaced the elected government by a bunch of ‘yes-men’, handpicked by Victoria Nuland in 2014, after which they scotched the political line-up to make sure no non-pro-NATO party could be elected, before fake elections were set up in preparation of civil war that same year.
When Ukraine, advised by NATO, got it’s backside whipped, they hastily signed this Minsk Accord, which was supposed to provide a peaceful way out. But alas, those signatures didn’t mean a thing, since no signature of any western politician ever means anything. We now know it was a ‘peace in our time’-scam, meant to buy time for NATO for a rerun of the 2014-2015 clash they lost.
Contrary to NATO’s expectations, Russia limited itself to ‘posing’ opposite Kiev, hoping to settle the conflict at the negotiating table, and they almost did. But again they were stabbed in the back by untrustworthy Ukrainians under guidance of Boris Johnson et al. And after mobilizing and switching to high gear in the military industrial complex, they are ready to destroy everything NATO is going to send to Ukraine, and then some. Still waiting patiently until the west runs out of everything to throw at them, and then they will sign a new treaty with Zelensky, if he is still around, because by the looks of it NATO is purging the government and removing all of his friends.
Russia limited itself to ‘posing’ opposite Kiev, hoping to settle the conflict at the negotiating table, and they almost did.
I admittedly was a little surprised to what extent “the West”, meaning the US, actually responded to Putin’s ultimatum. It felt a little ill-conceived to me. … In spite of all, it had a slight taste of blackmail.
But yes, the war makes matters much worse.
Otherwise I largely agree with your perspective.
BP you said what I have been thinking these past four or five days. Yes, a thousand circuitous reasons not to arm Ukrainians. Technology is different, training time is long, the Russians will get really mad at me, logistics present problems, there aren’t enough men; usv usv usv!! The real reason is; they are throwing Ukraine under the bus in hopes it will bring them respite from those 10 foot tall Russians. Yet, if other sovereign states don’t care about Ukraine why should they care about the Balts. Who really who gives a shlhip if some Estonian has to kiss a Russians dupa. Does it matter if the Russians over run Moldova as long as they leave me alone? Yes I would prefer it if the “nattering nabobs of negativism” just said what they really mean. Slavs s/b Russian serfs for all I care just don’t hurt me.
We saw this from the Europeans throughout the ’30’s. Just recently the retiring Finnish P.M. wondered if Europe would come to its senses. I don’t believe so. But take heart. KC just beat Philly in the SB. Philly had the ball 60% of the game, had a better offensive line, and was the betting favorite. Yet after a long fight KC won. The race is not always to the swift, the fight is not always to the strong. Persistence (and luck) helps.
Well TTG, of all the people I know personally in England and Germany I’d be hard put to find even one who disagrees with you! All believe we in the West are fighting a just war in the Ukraine.
It’s a hell of a thing to do, rolling your tanks into another country, and there’s got to be a very good reason for Putin doing that. So I’m far out on a limb when I argue that on February 24th there was nothing else he could do.
But I can’t see what else he could have done.
On the subsequent conflict, I see the experts and the analysts beginning to grudgingly accept that military defeat is now inevitable. That’s probably the way it’s going to end. But though that’s most likely, it’s been possible for weeks now that it might end with political change in Kiev.
The ultra-nationalists in control in Kiev have had only had one hope since February 24th: that Washington would come in in force to tip the balance in their favour. That hope was dashed at the start when Biden said he wouldn’t be getting American forces directly involved.
Must have been a “what the hell do we do now” moment for Kiev. For eight years they’d had solid Western backing building up their army. Suddenly, when it mattered, the West wasn’t there for them.
Hence the early attempts to arrive at a settlement, Belarus and Istanbul and I believe several other less publicised attempts. That blocked, all Kiev could do was soldier on in the hope that Washington would finally come across with the backing they’d need. Hence Zelensky traveling around all over the West selling the case for more backing to all and sundry.
It’s now clear that 1, they’re not going to get that backing and 2, even if they did Washington doesn’t have the military capability to beat the Russians anyway. Not in this theatre.
So Kiev’s left high and dry. The ultra-nationalists cannot accept defeat. It’d now mean the complete and final end of all they stand for. But we’re now seeing the ultra-nationalists in control of the Kiev government being side-lined one by one. That could indicate there are those in Kiev who see their current course is a dead end and are looking for a way out.
I still believe military defeat is the most likely way this war will end. The Kiev armed forces are in an impossible position. But the outside chance of it ending with political change in Kiev should not be left out of the reckoning altogether.
The ultra-nationalists lost political power in the two elections after the February 2014 Maidan Revolution. By 2022, they had no more power in the Verkhovna Rada. Zelenskyy is Jewish, a native Russian speaker and far from being an ultra-nationalist of the Pravy Sektor/Svoboda type. But the vast majority of Ukrainians including Zelenskyy and those in the Verkhovna Rada are now vehemently anti-Russian. Putin’s invasion has forced that issue.
Your reading of the situation in the Donbas prior to the invasion is based on a false interpretation of the increased shelling witnessed by OSCE observers. I’ve explained that to Mark Gaughan below. Look at the reports themselves rather than accepting subsequent interpretations. Putin did not have to launch his invasion. Whether he ever had enough control over the DNR/LNR leadership to silence their guns is another question.
Did anyone other than the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observe what was happening there at that time? What is the OSCE affiliation with NATO and non-NATO countries and how might that impact their evaluation?
There were some photos and videos of separatist strikes on Kyiv controlled villages just prior to the invasion as well as Ukrainian Army accounts of shelling while they were ordered not to shoot back in order to avoid a provocation. That doesn’t mean they never shelled separatist territory. I think they knocked out a separatist mortar position in their first use of a Bayraktar drone.
Russia, Belarus and other non-NATO countries were part of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine. There were observers from 57 OSCE states. Their observation reports were blandly neutral. Most of the reports of heard explosions did not differentiate between artillery/mortars being fired and shells landing. I do remember one report of artillery being fired from the east of Donetsk and shells landing to the west of Donetsk within separatist held lines.
Going back to what point in time, ’91 or 2014 or some other date?
This was in January-February 2022.
So rather meaningless given the Russians, amongst others, have complained for years. Thanks.
Casualties in the Donbas were on a steady downward trend since the end of the 2014-2015 fighting. In 2021 there were only 28 civilian casualties on both sides of the LOC. The shelling picked up in February 2022 as the LNR/DNR leadership tried to goad Kyiv into an overreaction that would trigger a wider Russian involvement. Here’s an article which breaks out the casualties from the start of the conflict.
“Of the civilian casualties, the vast majority occurred in 2014 and 2015, with 1,428 and 862 civilian deaths and injuries in these years respectively. Despite continued sporadic shelling across the line of control, which divides the region of Donbas, civilian casualties have fallen quite consistently since 2014, with 28 recorded last year. Fewer civilian casualties are also likely to have occurred as numerous civilians have fled the worst impacted areas in Donbas since 2014, leaving an aging population, many of whom cannot leave. In many instances of shelling since 2014, the perpetrator has not been identified, but where they have, Ukrainian separatist forces have been responsible for at least 667 civilian casualties and Ukraine for 783.”
So there is more than just the OSCE and more than just 2022. Thanks.
TTG, one question, if I may.
Looking at your AOAV site, admittedly very, very superficially (gotta return to my renovation tasks at hand):
Am I misguided: There are figures from February 24, 2022, to February 2023, but none whatsoever for, let’s say, Dec 1, 2021 to February 23, 2022? Or better still, statistical resources over the month continually since 2014?
Searching their database between Dec 1, 2021 and February renders zero for Ukraine.
This has to do with their way to collect matters? No reports? Zero? Only reports about Russian troops amassing around Ukraine?
This database only covers what is reported in selected English language news sources. It’s more a database of what these sources saw as worthy of reporting at the time.
“AOAV uses a wide range of English-language news sources, many of which are translated by the publisher. The most commonly-used sources are AP, AFP and Reuters.”
TTG – the question of whether this is a just war hinges on whether Putin had any alternative to invading on February 24th.
Very oddly, I found myself discussing that point recently, not with my compatriots (fat chance there!), but with a man your side of the Atlantic. Rather than burden the Colonel’s site with further argument on that point I’ll link to that and say that with that discussion, I’ve shot my bolt. I believe Putin was in the right and the West in the wrong and have no further arguments at my disposal.
But since February opinion has been split on that question of who’s in the right, with opinion in the West I’d say pretty well unanimously against my view. Accepting that, what now?
Most still believe Ukraine’s in with a chance. In that case, it makes sense to give them what help we can. But it seems to me self-evident, whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, that Ukraine’s not in with a chance and never has been. There was never going to be a straight military victory and with our comprehensive defeat in the sanctions war no other way of breaking the Russians.
In that second case, it’s a question of wrapping up this war as best we can in order to save pointless deaths. That’s what I believe we in the West should do, but I fear our Western leaders will be as useless in stopping this war as they were in prosecuting it.
Further, I believe that while our leaders are taking their time scrambling for fig leaves to cover their defeat, those pointless deaths will increase greatly in number. We are urging our proxies on to further efforts knowing full well that we are only urging them on to their deaths.
I’m grateful to you and to Colonel Lang for allowing me to put this view on Colonel Lang’s unique site. Having put it the question still remains, how will all this work itself out?
And there, the odds are still very much on straight military defeat. But the Kiev government is not as stable as all that so we should be accepting the possibility, however unlikely it may seem to us, that we may see political collapse or at least political change in Kiev instead. .
You and most
If Putin was truly concerned about the DNR and LNR, he would have totally stopped the shellings and shootings from that side of the LOC long ago. He could have made a concerted effort to develop the DNR and LNR within the Russian economy. He did neither. The DNR and LNR descended into an image of a 1930s Soviet hellhole. I thought there was a possibility back in February 2022 that he would finally put overwhelming Russian forces on that line to ensure the shelling would stop. Instead, he believed his own myths and got greedy.
TTG – Yes, I believe many in the West would have been acceptant, though not happy, had Putin only put his forces into the self-declared republics and gone no further. I believe that might possibly have been your position at the start.
But what upset even those in the West who were sympathetic about what had been happening in the Donbass was that he went further than that. Much further. Did he have to?
That’s a military question. Had Russian forces merely moved into the Donbass and then sat inert behind the LoC, would that have restrained Kiev? Quite clearly not. Those were no negligible forces on the Kiev side of the LoC. And they’d have had full freedom of movement and everlasting access to Western supplies and help.
The only approach the Russians could adopt was to go in and disable or hamstring the Kiev forces. That they did in the first period of the war. Except in the small unit fighting for which they had been trained and equipped by NATO – and in which they often conduct themselves with heart-rending courage and tenacity – the Ukrainian army has not been a serious fighting force since.
Nor was it expected to be. It was expected that the Russians would defeat the Ukrainians in the first few days, with guerrilla or partisan warfare to follow.
That quick defeat was expected because most Western military experts could not think outside our way of conducting war. In any case, it was the sanctions war that was expected to defeat the Russians, not some relatively minor military scrimmage on the outskirts of Europe.
Though there is for me always an air of unreality about any discussions of what the Russians could or should have done. We were provoking them to move. The provocation was extreme. It was up to them to decide how to respond to that provocation, not up to us to tell them.
In the event they responded in a way that was not only entirely unforeseen. Allowing for the hitches that occur in any military enterprise, they responded in a way that’ll have the military historians studying their strategy admiringly for decades. Tough luck on us. But if we poke the bear we can’t object when the bear does a bit more than poke back.
Where I object, and have done from the beginning, is to our use of the Ukrainians as the stick to poke it with. That stick’s now getting chewed up past reason – truly, the Ukrainian casualties are horrendous – and I’m grateful you have allowed me to put forward a plea here for it to stop.
TTG – this time I really am going to make sure to clear those irritating little fragments that fall to the bottom of the box when one is typing. And something else. When are you going to give us another Syrian report? Those were the best reports on the internet bar none. Any chance of more?
Just before the invasion, Biden made a cryptic remark about an acceptable invasion or something to that effect. Maybe he meant it. Maybe it was just another one of his many gaffs. But it was said and it left Russia an opening for an acceptable invasion. Coming to the aid of the newly recognized DNR and LNR may have been that acceptable invasion. It could have easily been sold as a peace keeping operation. Kyiv already directed her troops on the LOC to restrain from firing back in an effort to avoid giving Russia more excuse to cross the LOC.
If this was the extent of the Russian invasion, this full on war would have been avoided, NATO would not have been energized and sanctions, if any, would have been of the lip-service variety. Russia still wouldn’t have access to the waters of the Dnieper Canal, but that could have been the objective for a future diplo-economic operation.
I agree with you that the casualties of this war are horrendous. It will only stop when Russian forces leave Ukraine. If Ukraine lays down their arms while Russians still occupy Ukraine, there will be many more Buchas.
I haven’t followed the military events in Syria for some time now. That conflict was easier to follow than the one in Ukraine because there were only a few units that determined the course of events. I may renew my interest in that conflict, but for now I’m occupied with trying to figure out the Russo-Ukraine conflict. I’m also fully involved in this year’s tree work.
Ukrainian “ultra nationalists” appear in your comments. Can you please define “ultra nationalists”. How can one distinguish them from a regular old nationalists.
As to Putin I have an idea about what he could have done in eastern Ukraine. He could have let Ukrainian/Ukrainians and the Ukrainian/Russians sort things out for themselves. Were Russian speakers in east Ukraine prohibited from repairing east into Russia proper? Putin encouraged, nee provoked the insurrection in the east and achieved the pretext he wanted to recolonize Ukraine – his wish all along and Russia’s intent since 1914.
If you don’t mind me saying so, but ‘ increased shelling ’ refers to shelling being the norm for eight years in a row. Eight years in which NATO built fortifications opposite the LPR and DPR, thus recognizing that those areas had been lost. Lost to the people who lived there, who didn’t recognize the Nuland installed regime, and subsequently scotched political line-up, after the parties they would have voted for were removed from the ledger.
It’s a good thing Ukraine built those fortifications along the line of contact. They clearly foresaw a renewed Russian attempt to seize the rest of Donetsk and Luhansk. What you call the “Nuland installed regime” was gone with the presidential election of May 2014 and the parliamentary elections in October of that year. The elections of 2019 put even more distance between between the Ukrainian government and the “Nuland installed regime.”
Respectfully, honestly, but you are mistaken. The Nuland-regime scotched the political line-up, to exclude any political party even remotely looking like it could return the country to a more neutral status. Next they held ‘elections’. I’m fully aware that in the US it is somewhat similar today, where you are allowed to choose from two flavours of ‘Warparty’, but in most European countries that is a very recent development, with only marginal political parties talking straight.
With the people in the DPR and LPR, and Crimea unable to vote, and no political party representing the Yanukovitch-line favoring a partnership with the Russian-led tradeblock, Porochenko even looked like a moderate, compared to the far right and the other oligarch vultures with dual nationality and accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
Zelensky was Kolomoisky’s boy. Handpicked by the Cypriot/Israeli/Ukrainian oligarch to make the people think he would work with the ‘Minsk Accords’, and fight corruption. It was lie. With Trump he kind of looked fairly good, but the moment Joe Biden, Victoria Nuland’s boss back in 2014, was back, he kinda ‘exploded into view’ as the ‘go to guy’ if you wanted war.
Although the Nuland preferred bloc led by “Yats” Yatsenyuk did well in the 2014 election, it lost to the Poroshenko bloc. The far right parties lost a lot of seats in the Verkhovna Rada election that year. The self-proclaimed leaders of the DNR/LNR blocked meaningful levels of voting in territory under their control. That definitely affected the outcome of the elections. Kyiv was all for wider voting in the breakaway republics since Kyiv still considered them as legitimate parts of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy had no political aspirations until people in his production company formed a political party in 2018. Yes, Kolomoisky did support him, but once elected Zelenskyy did not spare his old benefactor from his anti-corruption efforts.
Throughout her short history as a recently independent country, Ukraine has seen political parties rise, fall, split and unite. She has not been dominated by any two flavors of war party as you suggest. We should be so lucky. There has always been a strong “”Russian” faction in Ukraine, but that has been waning since 2014-2015. That faction is now a pariah in most of the country.
Why are you denying the simple fact that the sole purpose of the Nuland installed regime was to deny political parties favouring the Russia-led economic perspective over the ‘EU/NATO’-offer access to the ballot-box?
True, Team Nuland probably didn’t expect Russia to act by accepting the request from the semi-autonomous Crimea to come to the rescue, and secure the peninsula without a shot fired, and they most certainly never expected to be soundly defeated by LPR and DPR ‘rebels’ who rejected their coup against the elected government.
Worse, while they thought their ‘Peace in our Time’-scam (the ‘Minsk Accord’), a similar trick used by this rather unsavoury gentleman ruling Germany ninety years ago, would work out in their advantage, with a great strategy to topple the government in Russia, they tripped over their own tripwire, and the entire plan exploded in their face.
My proposal would be to return to adult solutions, and restrict the ‘Gamers’ to their desktops and Las Vegas. This is a colossal mistake, costing Ukrainians their lives, their livelihood, and chances for their children, while we in Europe are too close to the fire already not to get burned. This is so terribly childish, and such a tremendous waste. Unless you own a weapons-factory, or a bank sitting on a ton of stolen Russian assets?
I think you are right that of the three current RU offensive efforts that Bakhmut is most promising for them. And fits with Putin’s political aims. However, I’m not ready to write off Vuhledar and especially Kreminna as ‘spoiling attacks’. With 300K mobiks they could turn one of those two easily into a breakthru, either real or attempted. I’d suspect Kreminna in the north. It appears to have more protectible LOCs, but the only way to truly defend them is to push back the UKR out of GLMRS range of Svatove.
And if they were successful there it assists in taking Bakhmut, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk. But I’m doubtful they would succeed barring major Chinese arms shipments.
I wonder if current operations are designed to try to tie up as many Ukrainian reserves as possible, hence the lack of focus. Russia has been massing troops in the north and in Belarus under the guise of training and joint exercises for some time now, so my guess would be that the main offensive will come from there.
The main reason for this would be logistics. We have seen that Russian logistics is heavily dependent on rail and they have trouble supplying troops more than 50 miles from the railheads. Logistics in Donbass and Zaporizhzhia is already strained to supply troops that are currently in position. Advancing further would put additional strain on their limited road transport capacity. Attacking from the north would place Russian troops close to Belgorod and Kursk depots, simplifying logistics.
I’ve seen analysis that Ukraine is holding some 70,000 troops in the north to guard against such attack, but these are spread over a wide arc. If Russia really has a couple of hundred thousand troops available to throw in, these may be able to isolate Sumy and Chernihiv and force Ukraine to transfer troops from the south, allowing easier advance there.
So the current attacks may be an attempt to divert this reserve force south, rather than a true offensive. From the reporting so far, Ukraine has not taken the bait, they are shifting their forces within the southern theater to repel the attacks rather than transferring troops from the north.
“I wonder if current operations are designed to try to tie up as many Ukrainian reserves as possible, hence the lack of focus.”
I think so.
Although a lawyer has trade my passion and university degree was in modern European history
History is not just about learning dates and times but also about learning various theories of history
One of them is about when a stronger country/culture imposes itself upon one which is militarily conquerable
Two things can happen :
One: there can be a fusion between cultures Think Rome conquering Greece
There was a mutual respect and a fusion(eg Romans spoke Greek and the Greeks benefited from the Pax Romana among other things)
Rome revered Greek culture and incorporated into its own
The other is is if what is perceived as an inferior culture imposes itself on one that is superior
Think Russia a one dimensional military power imposing itself on Eastern Europe post 1945
When that happens the conquered culture stops evolving at the point of imposition
(When I first went to East Berlin for the first time in 1982 it was like I stepped back into 1959 with fashion, signs, and cultural
Societies are threefold: economic, cultural, and military
If this is rejected then time stops
Russia can only offer a military option. They are Eastern looking , offer no real economic behavior to emulate, and are Byzantine in outlook. Therefore it holds no attraction for Western looking nations
And that is the reason most nations on Russias western borders reject its hegemony
Years from now I would not be surprised if Ukraine adopts a Western alphabet and conforms it’s railways to western gauge.
Russian/Ukrainian/Eastern European history only dates from 1945?
Modern European history is normally considered from the Congress of Vienna (1815) to present.
Charles XII and Fredrick the Great lived when and had what affect on events long before the second defeat of Napoleon?
Russian/Ukrainian history dates from 1147AD when a Ukrainian, Yuri Dolgoruki a Prince of Kiev took over a minor village on the Moskva River. That village, inhabited primarily by mushroom gatherers, eventually became Moscow.
I’m not the one in need of an Eastern European history lesson. But I appreaciate that these people have been fighting each other for centuries before my ancestors help make this country.
JN; Ukraine has been trying to gain freedom from Russia since 1900. Certainely (?) Russia was a more advanced culture/civilization then Ukraine. Why d/n Ukrainians embrace Russian hegemony? UR rite that Russia offered only military oppression of her eastern European neighbors but shouldn’t backward less deserving people like Balts, Ukrainians, and Bulgarians, welcome Russian cultural advantages?
I do not think so because the Balts (who are not Slavic) and the Ukrainians (who are) could always contrast Western economics and technology with Russian economics and technology, and clearly wanted what theWest had to offer. Even the Russians wanted what the West had to offer.
Russia historically was a net importer of Western technology and capital (think Peter the Great studying boat building in Holland or French financing which paid for the building of the Trans Siberian railroad).
Then here is the question for you Nawroki, if Balts to Slavs, including Russians, wanted western civilization and technology, why was the Russian answer for social organization always terrorism and totalitarianism. Politics are part of a nation’s civilization. Why is the Russian solution always repressive?
I have my answer. What’s yours?
That is easy
The Western tradition is humanistic
The Eastern is Byzantine
Completely different outlooks by two different cultures
Everybody wants to benefit from advances in technology
But that does not mean everybody has identical views on problem solving or how they order their societies
JN you have Byzantine confused w/Oriental. Byzantium was every bit as humanistic as Rome.
Bill and James,
I believe two centuries of living under the “Tatar Yoke” has helped shape the nature of Russia and the Russians. For Ukraine, the centuries of Lithuanian, Polish and Austro-Hungarian influence diminished Tatar influence.
I think TTG has it right. The Mongols d/n influence Ukraine as deeply as Russia. That’s why, IMHO, Russia is comfortable with eastern ideas about civilization. Ukraine, particularly Halycnia, has had German, Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Austrian, Jewish, and Slovak influence. It is a mongrel grouping of people (no thorougbreds there) who look west. I confess, the Tatar’s of Crimea confuse me re their perspective. East/West ??? Had I the hand of God I would strike a line along the Dneiper River and give the east to Russia. As per Cyprus, I would take a vertical N/S line right down the middle of Crimea and divide it b/t Ukraine and Russia. That would not satisfy the Russian. He wants to restore “his” empire. If he is successful Moldova will be next.
TTG – Don’t talk to me about tree work. All my ash trees are dying. In a country where all are worried about cost of domestic heating, my only worry is how to get them down fast enough before the disease spreads to adjoining woods. Which I think it’s done anyway.
The Syrian conflict is far more complex than the Ukrainian. I hope you’ll find time to keep unravelling it soon. And I’m missing the Colonel’s culinary exploits. The German word “üppig” is the only way to describe those steak recipes. All I can offer by way of keeping my end up is the startling fact that I have recently succeeded in currying a swede. The vegetable, you understand.
The Nuland/Sullivan/Blinken lot are not my cup of tea. Nor their exploits. But the United States is. Your politics is more like cage fighting than ever, but there’s something alive there and out of the ferment a better politics might come. Don’t hope for that from Europe. A continent with Europoodles for leaders and sheep for voters isn’t going anywhere but down.
My view of the Ukrainian war has remained unchanged since February. We provoked Russian military action in order to get the Western electorates behind a sanctions war that was supposed to bring Russia to its knees. Didn’t work and all we’re doing now is watching the blowback hit Europe. But …
For me there’s one mystery left unresolved. Scholz. Many American commentators view him merely as the new boy on the block who got rushed into it all by Biden.
I don’t agree. He had more agency than that. However wet behind the ears he might have been (not that much, I reckon) the BND looks like the best informed and most realistic Intelligence Agency in Europe when it comes to keeping an eye on the Ukraine. Forget the Dutch and UK agencies. They’re more into stove-piping stuff to the politicians that the politicians want to hear. Or stuff they want the politicians to hear. But there are any number of indications that German Intelligence was more on the ball.
So Scholz knew the true position in the Ukraine. Yet he still went for the sanctions war. So we end up with a German statesman deliberately backing a Kiev regime that he knew full well was under the thumb of extremist thugs with a taste for swastikas.
Ironic, that, in a country like Germany that prides itself on having nothing to do with swastikas ever again. And now Scholz ends up as the only German leader in eighty years to send Panzers in against Russia. The White Tiger rides again, if you remember the extract from the film I linked to several months ago.
That’s the puzzle still unresolved. What was Scholz up to? How did he think he’d get away with it with his electorate? And what does it say about the docile German voter that he has?
“That’s the puzzle still unresolved. What was Scholz up to?”
Scholz, as you note, is not really a newbie. So the strategy not making sense possibly just means that the goals are different from you have in mind. I think he is “not letting a crisis go to waste.” Germany under Angela Merkel had developed a clearly unsustainable dependence on oil obtained from an unreliable Russia. But it was really hard to see how the German people and businesses could be induced to tolerate the pain required to terminate or even reduce that dependence. Then suddenly Vladimir Putin presented him with the most effective possible political explanation for such efforts. I think that he is doing things that he wanted to do anyway. So his strategy makes perfect sense if you understand that to be his goal.
The issue of providing German tanks is less clear. I always thought that Germany had grossly reduced the size of its armored forces because they had evaluated tanks as not that useful anymore. They also considered the chance of war breaking out to be pretty low. (As the Vietnamese learned in 1979, the fact that something makes no sense doesn’t mean they won’t do it.) Now Germany finds that they have cut perhaps too much And it will take time and money to correct that. Whatever their thinking, they are not articulating anything coherent for the likes of you and me. The discussion always settles into technical detail. Which is very real, but avoids the “why” part of their intentions.
Fredw. I can follow that reasoning. But why was Scholz engaging in a sanctions war with Russia and at the same time still expecting to be able to rely on Russian gas and oil?
He was certainly expecting the gas to keep flowing through NS1. That was important for German industry, Not only that, Germany and Poland are reported to have put in a request recently for substantial amounts of piped Russian oil.
So one the one hand he wants to break the Russian economy. On the other, he’s hoping Russia will keep sending him the fossil fuel he needs while he’s doing so. Doesn’t make sense to me.
Germany’s ended up cutting its own throat while attempting to cut the Russians’. And that was predictable from the very start. The only explanation I can advance is that Scholz expected to win the sanctions war quickly, before the blowback hit German industry.
That was a very risky gamble to take. The more so in that 1, there was no plan B to fall back on if the gamble failed and 2, the German industrialists, the Fed, and many economists were against the sanctions war from the start. Apparently Fed officials were going round Washington beforehand saying “don’t do it!”. A similar message must have got to Berlin.
And yet Scholz did it.
That is for me an unresolved puzzle. As for the tanks, that’s just weird. They have little military value even if they get there in time. But their symbolic value is immense. I saw Putin emphasising that almost immediately the deal was announced. Weird doesn’t begin to describe the mess Scholz got into there.
I disagree w/t premise that Shultz had no alternative to NS oil. Germany has coal; it could have gone nuclear. Trump told him and Merkle what was obvious – don’t do Nordstream! But they did. I think the Germans are content w/Russia “owning” eastern Europe and they the west. Nothing has changed since Stalin and Hitler. As to tanks the Germans are making sure no armor will arrive in time to help Ukraine this spring. There has been the big announcement and now there will be the long wait. German tanks will arrive after the fighting is done; as planned. Bismark was supposed to have said “the English are just a nation of shopkeepers”. I guess he meant, no balls. I wonder what the Germans are .. a nation of ?
EO I gave you credit for knowing more history than that which began in 2014. Yet you conveniently (or deliberately) neglect the 100 year effort (you do get that that means 1914 not 2014) for Ukrainian independence, and continue to suggest Ukraine is filled w/latent Nazis. In those two features you perfectly agree w/Putin who says there is no Ukraine but if there is its filled w/Nazis left over from ’45. News flash, Bandura and his ilk were present in Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Armenia. They were there to get rid of the Russians. I wonder, when Putin completes his brutal destruction of his fraternal Slavic brothers, if he’ll train his guns on the latent Nazis popping up in the Baltics. Expunge the lot, right. Speaking about Russians their provocation was Ukraine’s independence. You cant be a 21st century European Empire if your most important colony says “er, we aint”. I sense a sympathy for the Russian Empire from you. “The Ukraine” only exists in Russian minds. The country has been Ukraine for 31 years. Would you still call America “the colonies” 1n 1812? Well, come to think of it … Some Brits, if you are such, can’t get that “sun doesn’t set” thing out of your system. This fight is about Ukrainian independence. Always has been.
Bill, the Ukraine that you talk about never really existed, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzGpUVX0Q54 The Galicians weren’t part of the Ukraine until 1939. And yet they talk about the Holodomor affecting them, when they were part of Poland.
Russia’s budget deficit explodes as latest sanctions bite
A couple “bullets” in article :
-Oil and gas revenues dropped 46% from January 2021 levels.
-Military spending drove government outlays up 59%, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Will a pending Russian offense be “all or nothing”? A “strategic retreat” by Ukraine in the east could cost Russia large loss in troops and further festering of their moral. All adding to the “costs of war”.
“Oil and gas revenues…..from January 2021 levels”
I wonder what it is compared to 2019 levels.
If as some correspondents claim that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a reaction to NATO expansion and concern about NATO forces on the Russian border , did Putin have to take the bait?
His army has been fighting in Ukraine for a year with significant losses and has accomplished none of his objectives.
I’m doubtful of this thesis. It appears to me that he over-estimated the strength of his military and decided to show who’s boss.
You kind of answered your own question. He went in expecting to pull of another Crimea, but the plan failed. Instead he started what is quickly becoming WW3.
Putin strikes me as a man who does not overthink his decisions. You can’t be a president of Russia for so long, looking as healthy as he does at his age if your mind is under great stress.
IMO, guided by his own sense of morality/justice and experience Putin talks and smiles and tries and at one point just says f*ck it, pulls the trigger and lets the chips fall where they may. It’s the Russian way comrade.
I would guess that being the president of a place like Russia requires a strong streak of pragmaticism. Objectives can change. Seems like the new objective is to extend the occupation to the original oblast borders of Luhansk and Donetsk. He might be thinking of if that can be accomplished he could then offer a face-saving deal such as abandoning the occupied areas of
Zaporesia, perhaps even Crimea if the old condition of guaranteed access to the port. It’s what I would do in his shoes, anyway. The humiliation of simply quitting would seem too much to bear…even though he now knows it was a mistake.
The push will be towards Sloviansk.
Russia clearly miscalculated Ukrainian resistance to their initial invasion efforts. It was a matter of incompetence, a sign of how Russia remains as backwards as ever. The whole invasion was clearly an act of folly, but it must be said they pulled their punches in hopes of winning over Ukrainian people, as if they believed they could win the war without firing a shot, by merely rolling in their tanks.
One must always wonder a few things. Are they, the Russians, going to consider a settlement anymore? Do they care if Ukraine is reduced to a wasteland? Can a change of Russian leadership be realistically achieved to avoid this possibility as I see no other means of a Russian “victory”? If such a fate were to befall Ukraine, is the world really ready for a war? Are the Russians? IOW, ready for a war of losers, without winners.
Bill – I know the history’s grim but it’s today that matters. Either the “Banderites” have commanding influence over the Kiev regime today or they don’t.
I think they do, importantly in education, indoctrination of the young, in the Intelligence Services and in the armed forces. Plenty of material on that and much from Western sources.
Used to be reported on in the Western press. No longer. Pilger speaks of an information war he’s never experienced before. General Vad talks of the same – “unprecedented” is the term he uses – and sees a concerted effort in the German press to that end.
Now there are indications that the hard liners are being shifted in Kiev. Let’s wait and see if that’s so. But as long as they are there, defeat for them is unthinkable. It would mean the destruction of any chance of maintaining their hold. They prefer to sacrifice their own rather than face that prospect.
But it’s still possible that the war will end with political change in Kiev rather than in military defeat. Maybe unlikely but as said, let’s wait and see.
I think the old Ukraine could have made a go of it as a country. I wish it had. It was a fine country and a fine people. But external and internal pressure made that impossible. The failure of Minsk 2 underlined that.
Zelensky was voted in on a peace ticket. His majority was large and from all areas of the old Ukraine. Whether he intended to carry out Minsk 2 we’ll never know, but if he did that chance was lost at Zolote; and I’m not sure that chance was ever there.
I’m not sure if many in the States are aware that what we have seen for several years now in the Ukraine is a civil war on which has been superimposed a West/Russia war.
On “Imperial Russia”, it does look to me they’ve done well to pull themselves out of the ’90’s. This conflict will accelerate that process. But that’s not really our affair. As you said some time ago, the Russians are now “riding East”.
E.O.; Pol. change in Kiev us just a euphemism for regime change. Ukraine will “de facto” submit to colonial status b/f Russia. That’s exactly the point. The Ukrainians don’t accept being anyone’s bitch. BTW, I note you are still back in 2014, and Minsk. Think 1914 b/c events don’t just happen; the past is responsible for the present. You deny it but w/o past determination and sacrifice by Ukrainians, Russia and Ukraine would never have come to “the Maiden”, 2014, Minsk accords. Isn’t the question obvious, “what in the world is Russia doing mucking up the affairs of another sovereign nation?” According to Russians “the Ukraine” is not sovereign. According to Ukrainians, Ukraine is. Muddy the water all you will, this is a war for Russian Empire vs Ukrainian Independence.
Bill – I mentioned General Vad above. His remarks support General Kujat’s observation made at the time there was talk of cutting off access to Kaliningrad. General Kujat pointed out that the state of European NATO was such that the Russians could walk into the Baltics any time they felt like it. Vad is similarly realistic.
I can’t find a source for the Vad statement via google but Helmer gives much of it. This is the part that caught my attention:-
” “Military experts [and those] who know what is going on among the secret services, what it looks like on the ground and what war really means – are largely excluded from the [German public] debate. They do not fit in with the formation of media opinion. We are largely experiencing a coordination of the media, the likes of which I have never experienced before in the Federal Republic.”
I can assure you that from what I’ve seen of events in Germany recently it goes further than that! There is active suppression of dissent there. Moving from First Amendment America, with it’s freewheeling expression of any opinion under the sun, to the stultified debate I see in Germany, is like moving from daylight to shadow.
On the Ukraine we clearly differ. But when it comes to the defence of Poland, not. Of course you need a strong defence against any possible future eventualities that might arise. So, even more, does my own country. But in both cases I don’t believe this is the right way to go about it.
Am I to understand Polish independence is valuable but not Ukrainian? Why, are Ukrainians lesser humans than Poles. If protection of British independence was worthwhile, and protection of German sovereignty worthwhile, why are Ukrainians undeserving. You mention the Balts. I agree Russia could waltz in any time they want. NATO forces there are a “trip wire” much as the V Corp and 7th Army was in W. Germany. Would independence of E/L/L be worth a fight. Or are they too unworthy. Don’t be shy. Is Finnish independence worth a fight w/t Russians? Callow fellows the Europeans.
Bill – I think Ukraine could have become a successful country had the Minsk Accords been observed. Now I don’t know how well the Donbass will fare under Russian rule. We’ll have to wait and see.
But they’ll clearly fare a lot better than if the Kiev forces had got in among them. And it clearly wasn’t right, the way they were treated during the past eight years when under rule from Kiev. So we come back to the question. Should Putin have left them to their fate?
I honestly don’t see how he could have done, cautious and risk-averse as he is. Had he done, the Russians would have chucked him and his administration out and put in an administration that was prepared to go in and save the Donbass. Putin’s a softy compared with the hard liners here there and everywhere in Moscow.
Millions of Russians are saying Putin should have gone in earlier. Well, he didn’t because he was scared of the sanctions. Now the boot’s on the other foot and we in Europe are scared about the blowback from the sanctions we’ve imposed.
I’m afraid all I can say about that to my fellow Europeans is, “Tough”. We should have thought of all that and told Kiev to stop the shelling and pull their army back from the LoC.
We could have done that. We didn’t. And now we live with the consequences.
Poland, Ukraine, UK, Balts, Fins ?
You “forgot” to include in your little list all the countries the US interfered with, regime changed, sanctioned, bombed, invaded and occupied.
What about their independence and sovereignty ? Are they lesser people ? Are they not worthy ?
Jumped or pushed?
More proof to the old saying “There is no substitute for victory”.