The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Clarity on Putin’s Aims

This video which I first saw at Naked Capitalism, is the best explainer of what Putin is probably trying to do, why and whether he’s achieving his goals.

I don’t endorse all of it, but it’s worth watching.

The first 10 minutes alone, if you aren’t inclined to more.


Whataboutism, Justice And What To Do When We’re As Guilty As Russia


March of De-Dollarization: Russia Selling In Rubles


  1. Astrid

    I think the full interview is pretty worthwhile and reflect my understanding of the situation. You can speed up the video with the gear icon. I usually listen at 2x.

    Ian, I’m curious where you disagree with Ritter. Assuming it’s something other than whether this is a war crime or not.

  2. someofparts

    Just finished watching the whole thing. Thanks.

    Noticed that toward the end, Ritter confirmed sentiments Astrid expressed in comments on the last post. Watching what we are doing in Ukraine, China is about to get serious about bringing Taiwan into the fold. I liked Ritter’s remarks that it would be a smart move if Taiwan approached China and asked how they could become a secure part of the mainland without going through what Ukraine is enduring.

    What seemed like a blind spot in Ritter’s analysis is that a good outcome depends on Zelinsky. Without that, you get a Ukrainian government-in-exile in Poland, and Russia has to occupy Ukraine forever. If I heard all of that correctly, it sounds to me like Zelinsky is guaranteed to be assassinated.

    Was also struck by the point that without key exports from Russia, no computers and no cell phones for us. Yikes.

  3. lim

    Comment from Trump when he is serious and not putting on a mask

  4. Astrid

    Ritter apparently loves to talk, and he covers largely the same ground with Aaron Mate and Max Blumenthal today. Onen new tidbit about Zelensky’s continued survival. It sounds like Russians may be protecting him through their assets in the SBU and may be able to extract him when he makes a deal with them. It’s at least an interesting theory.

    I think the calculus for China has shifted in two ways. One is that it’s getting pushed into the Eurasian economic entity and detaching from the US dominated world order. There’s no going back to status quo ante. Too much has been said and done to return to the old understandings. China’s best option is to find is best advantage within this new Eurasia. Doesn’t matter that this isn’t what China wants (which is probably another 5-10 years of further growth and US decline). Abandoning Putin and Russia is absolutely not an option.

    Second is Kinzhal. If it did destroy that deep anti-nuclear bunker and can fully evade interception, China will want it very very badly and use it to take back Taiwan ASAP, before the US develops countermeasures or equivalents. This is the weapon that can keep Americans out and prevent Taiwan from firing missiles on Ningbo and Fuzhou, because if they do, China’s can retaliate against carriers and presidential bunkers without going nuclear. There’s a window to use this weapon for offensive purposes before it’s neutralized or diluted. Moscow will be very reluctant to share this weapon with anyone else, but they owe China big time on Ukraine and may feel compelled to back China on Taiwan.

  5. Art

    I think Ritter is limited by his focus on Russia in WW2 and the Cold War. The first was fifty years before the soldiers fighting in Ukraine were born and the later about forty years before the oligarchs and blatant crooks took over and simply let the main-line military and military industrial, particularly aerospace rot.

    He claims that Russians are showing heroic levels of self control. I suggest it is far, far simple than that. That they have thrown everything they have at the issue and are simply out of virtually everything. Why aren’t they using their masses of rocket artillery? Perhaps because they are fresh out of rockets. How can they be out of such basic war materials? I think of it as a double whammy. Autocracies tend to lie to the head man. Oligarchies tend to run like mafia with every transaction getting skimmed, at every layer. Combine the two and rockets used in Chechnya get replaced only on paper.

    Don’t think something so basic can be allowed to happen? In a competent and well led army your right. But then again entire columns wouldn’t run out of gas, wouldn’t be communicating in the open, wouldn’t lack both paper maps and GPS.

    I think Ritter, with all respect, is picturing a much more capable military and operating from the assumption that Russia simply can’t lose. He bends over backward to fit their failures into a bigger plan.

    Second, I think, as with many others, the framing tends to be US/NATO versus Russia. Overlooking the fact that Ukraine is and should be seen as an independent nation. Reinforced by the treaty Ukraine signed with Russia that essentially said so. If Ukraine wants to train its military, not a bad idea given Russian actions in Crimea and Donbas why shouldn’t they turn to NATO? It is a good standard.

    I suspect the reason the Azov units got training early was because they were the most organized and prepared at the time to receive such training. Certainly their geographic location was clearly going to be central to any conflict with Russia and their unfortunate ideology can be handled in any survivors after the fight. When they are punched out and tired of war. Make lemonade.

    Ritter overlooks that all that “grinding down” is also happening to the Russians. A major concern when the accounts of Russian units lacking food, fuel, and abandoning equipment have gone from anecdotal to backed by clear evidence. Ukrainians are heartened by fighting for their homes. Russians, cold, hungry and abandoned by the leadership that couldn’t be bothered to arrange for fuel and food, and on foreign soil don;t get that morale boost.

    Ritter seems very sure that the Russian military is resilient, will adjust, and, after a few minor setbacks, will rally and show it is still the machine that stormed into Berlin. Worm’s eye view here bu I just don’t see it.

    There are limitations, a non-representative sample, but so-far this about as good as it gets with documenting losses:

    An interesting document. Regularly updated.

    A few reasons I don’t think things are going to plan is:

    Tanks (279, of which destroyed: 116, damaged: 4, abandoned: 41, captured: 118)

    Armoured Fighting Vehicles (198, of which destroyed: 87, abandoned: 34, captured: 77)

    Infantry Fighting Vehicles (265, of which destroyed: 136, damaged: 2, abandoned: 31, captured: 93)

    Okay … okay losses were expected.

    But then there are those pieces that make you go Hmmmm. In a well run war these sorts of losses should be rare. Not so rare in this case:

    Communications Stations (11, of which destroyed: 3, abandoned: 4, captured: 4)

    Surface-To-Air Missile Systems (40, of which destroyed: 20, damaged: 1, abandoned: 7, captured: 12)

    Radars (2, of which destroyed: 1, captured: 1)

    Jammers And Deception Systems (6, of which destroyed: 2, damaged: 2, captured: 2)

    Please don’t take my word for it. Dig down to the individual cases. I have yet to find any duplicates. I don’t always wholeheartedly agree with details of what is shown but most are pretty clear-cut.

    Also, as an interesting exercise, try to estimate how many Russians that equipment represents in killed, wounded, deserted.

    Ritter seems very confidant that the Ukrainians will fold in a few days. Funny, I was just thinking that about the Russians. He probably has better sources than I do but he also has a history. Habits of mind that, as I point out, perhaps leads him to the right conclusion, ‘they will lose hope’, but speaking of the wrong side: Ukraine. Time will tell.

  6. Astrid

    Art, we shall see. But for me, the reason why Russians are so restrained so far is simpler, they were fighting to liberate ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. You don’t firebomb a city full of your own people, not if you want them to talk to you afterwards. They’re already moving to a more brutal tempo in Mariupol (they already gave Azov an ultimatum to surrender that’s passed, I guess no more Azov POW going forward) and are ready to starve Kiev out, and use missiles to take out Western Ukrainian military targets, etc.

    I totally disagree with your assessment on Russian and Ukrainian morale. The Ukrainians in the east are the occupiers of the local ethnic Russians and were cut off from logistics. The Russians are fighting to liberate ethnic Russians from literal Nazis, and they have good logistics backing them, as evidence by the flow of aid coming into the Russian occupied cities. Also, they’re moving and making stay progress.

    Also, did you miss that Ritter’s assessment is based on the fact that Russians took out fuel depots early and Ukraine’s NATO standard training means they rely on significant logistics to continue war fighting. They’re not guerilla fighters living off the land with local support. What happens when they can’t get munitions and fuel and are cut off from functioning command and control?

    As for casualties, so far the Russians have not reported equipment casualties for either side. I believe they gave a KIA of around 1,000, though that may be excluding Chechen and separatist KIAs. So that website is aggregating based on solely on Ukrainian reports, many of which are already discredited as coming from past conflicts or reporting Ukrainian side casualties. Even taking the numbers as given, they show Russians hurting but not that they are running out of equipment, fuel, and supplies.

    Maybe I’m imagining this because I want Ukraine to denazify and a multipolar world, albeit at likely significant costs to my long term standard of living.
    We shall see.

  7. someofparts

    “But then again entire columns wouldn’t run out of gas, wouldn’t be communicating in the open, wouldn’t lack both paper maps and GPS. ”

    None of those things are true.

    Also, you seem to imagine that Russian oligarchs run the place the way they do in the US and that is not true either.

  8. Ramzan Kadyrov

    Putin’s aims are a world where Russia is at the center surrounded by a thousand Chechnyas as subservient vassals with sadistic clowns like Kadyrov serving as Putin’s puppet in the various vassals spread across the diaspora. It really is this simple and what’s sick is, you and Ritter and the like support such a notion as the answer to the malevolence of neoliberalism. A guy like Kadyrov would have the likes of you executed for being a homo. If you’re not raping women, which in Chechnya is the same as having sex with a woman, then you are a homo therefore you, Ian, are considered a homo by the likes of Kadyrov and would be executed and apparently you welcome that as the new world order to replace the sickening neoliberalism your decry daily.

  9. Lex

    Try expanding your information sources. Yesterday anonymous DoD officials started putting out statements undercutting the Admin’s propaganda (which is mostly sourced without question from the Ukrainian command). So far, Russia has flown fewer sorties and dropped less airborne munitions than the US did on the first day of air strikes in 2003. They are doing so to reduce civilian casualties because this is effectively a civil war and nothing would turn the Russian public against it faster than wantonly killing civilians who are friends and family of Russians in Russia.

    Second, pull up the Wikipedia article on Deep Operations. Running out of fuel was something happening to the small, reconnaissance in force groups but it’s doctrinally accepted because the point is to move fast and disrupt rather than gain and hold territory. And since Russia is delivering hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies daily, they’re probably not running out of food for the military.

    If Russia losing as you describe, where’s the film of mass surrender or the documentation of significant Ukrainian counteroffensives? Or even large reinforcement from Russia? You may also want to update your understanding of the Russian military rather than assuming it’s still 1999. Ritter likely represents what actual US military analysts are saying privately. The public statements are for your consumption and part of the information war, notice how most of them come from retired or private sector analysts rather than DoD briefings.

    Right or wrong, long term success or failure are different questions. The current facts on the ground though do not match your description.

  10. Ken Cox

    The thing about the internet is that finding something that aligns with one’s own viewpoint is never more than a few clicks away.

    Perhaps the line “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” from an old Buffalo Springfield song sums it up the best?

  11. Ché Pasa

    Scott is very knowledgeable, and he was pilloried by the Cheney regime for being right about Iraq’s absence of WMD stockpiles and capabilities.

    He’s also into the drama of all these things, including the Russian ability to come back from near defeat.

    We’re not in a position to know what’s going on and I think the extravagant claims made of what what’s “known to be true” are relatively useless. Propaganda is overwhelming. Most of what we “know to be true” about what’s happening is false. I assume our rulers have a somewhat better handle on the facts — but that assumes they care, and I’m not at all sure they do.

    Much as we might want to make this USandNato vs Russia, or Biden vs Putin, or Hillary vs Trump, or what have you, it is more accurately characterized as Russian oligarchs and fascists against Ukrainian oligarchs and nazis. The Ukrainians are backed by the USandNato — which should be giving the rest of us a great deal of pause but is seemingly taken for granted. Russia is backed by… well, no one. Not even China.

    The rest of the world is staying out of it.

    Of course we’ll all feel the effects of it for a long, long time to come.

    So my question stands. Why is this happening? Why now? And why there?

    The repercussions are already being felt generally, and some, at least, are dire. There will be many shortages globally. Food, of course, being most important for those billions in precarious circumstances. But also shortages of materiel necessary for advanced comfort and convenience. What will be the consequences of the loss of Russian oligarchs’ money to launder in the West? Real estate collapse? Or even something worse?

    A Russian alliance with China seems formidable, but what if Russia not only loses the Ukrainian campaign but is then attacked by Ukrainian nazis backed by the USandNato? The goal within a serious faction of our ruling class, stated decades ago, was the defeat and dismemberment of the Russian Federation. Then on to Beijing. So what happens if it does happen? How formidable is the alliance between China and the Kremlin, if the Kremlin is occupied by… nazis who have defeated Russian fascists?

    Recently I’ve seen hints in various places that that is actually what the game plan is. Russia vs Ukraine is the preliminary match. There is much more to come.

  12. bruce wilder

    Appreciate Art’s comment for providing the stark alternative narrative interpretation.

    Even where specific facts are known and not disputed, how they are interpreted is a matter of choice and judgment. It is very easy for anyone with even a slightly partisan leaning to start rooting, just to make the narrative coherent, filling in with speculation or counterfactuals or projection with no basis, other than the imperatives of storytelling.

    I am frightened by the mass sentiment in favor of Ukraine sweeping the West. That seems to me to setup a dangerous potential. I am afraid of what Poland might initiate.

    And, I do not see an end-game for Russia that could make the hot part of this conflict short, as Ritter seems to expect.

    I also do not think the West — elite leadership or general publics — will handle the consequences of a long conflict well. Even if the Russians find a way to “freeze” the conflict, which I doubt can happen, I do not see how sanctions and corporate business withdrawals can be reversed. The blowback from that, especially in dollar finance, will unfold over years to come. And there is no “return to normal” (defined by the status quo ante) ever for the West.

  13. Art

    I add that there is a section, near the bottom, of Ukrainian losses:

    “Ukraine – 520, of which: destroyed: 196, damaged: 12, abandoned: 37, captured: 275” (In red)

    Their losses have been quite substantial. I am somewhat less concerned with the larger radar systems.

    I’m well aware of the limitations of this sort of study. That the information is always going to be heavily biased with Russian losses being recorded and Ukrainian losses far less likely to be posted. Some of this has to do with Ukrainians having cell phones and internet service.

    I am not using this as a score card. I am saying that the scale of Russian losses speaks to the nature of the fight. That:

    “Tanks (280, of which destroyed: 117, damaged: 4, abandoned: 41, captured: 118)” is pretty substantial . In the WW2 battle of Kursk according to Wiki Germany had “252–323 tanks and assault guns destroyed”.

    I have a very hard time imagining a Russian general saying ‘We lose 280 tanks: captured, abandoned, or destroyed in this campaign but these are acceptable losses’. I imagine if that was said out loud in a planning meeting borscht would fly.

  14. Purple Library Guy

    @Art I looked at the link. The claimed information strikes me as incredibly unlikely. It claims the Russians have lost more than three times as much heavy materiel as the Ukrainians. This is modern warfare, and the Russians have complete air superiority, they have missiles which the Ukrainians mostly don’t, and they have more artillery. There’s no way the side with all that is the side losing all the tanks and stuff. That’s not how it works.
    (There’s not much point my looking more closely–I’m quite willing to stipulate that the internet’s ability to create hoaxes is better than my ability to detect them)

    Secondarily, all your points about the possible nature of the Russian military apply roughly tripled to Ukraine–Russia is corrupt as all get out and full of oligarchs, but Ukraine is its own universe of corruption and oligarchy, and its economy has been in serious decline for decades to the point where it is now getting awfully close to third world status.

    Russia’s economy has been uneven, but it remains a place where real production happens. And it has some good managers who are fairly serious about getting things done, which I’ve never heard of in Ukraine. What I’ve read over the past fifteen years or so suggests that the Russian military has been engaged in a fairly determined modernization and recovery program ever since the Chechen wars, and Putin may be many things but he has always struck me as a competent manager–you can see when he talks with journalists about internal issues, he talks in detail off the cuff about all the files. And he cares about the military. I really doubt the current Russian military is the total disaster the media mythmakers have been at pains to present. It’s just another example of the classic point–propaganda always shows the evil enemy as simultaneously incredibly weak and incredibly strong.

  15. someofparts

    From NC this morning –

    Last comments from Yves Smith and Michael Hudson –

    from Smith –

    “IMHO the big self destructive move was the freezing of $300 billion of Russia’s central bank reserves (and if you think “freezing” does not mean “permanently expropriating” you are smoking something strong). That said Americans were willing to use their banking system abusively. No one who holds meaningful dollar assets … is safe.

    To put this in context, that $300 billion represents dollar payment for past Russian exports. This is the functional equivalent of selling $300 billion of oil, gas, wheat, platinum, nickel, copper, you name it, making delivery, and having the buyer stop the check and keep the stuff.

    So Russia is in the process of implementing counter measures.”

    and from Hudson –

    “Your explanation was wonderfully clear, Yves. I’ve circulated it to my UN colleagues after a morning meeting with the Near East and India for a meeting. They are seeing dedollarization as a means of de-indebting themselves, especially in view of the rising energy and food prices that will make payment of their foreign debt impossible.

    The IMF is trying to give them SDRs to pay dollar bondholders, but the representatives I spoke with today look forward to a Eurasian-backed alternative set of institutions to the IMF and World Bank, starting with a kind of Clean Slate. That was their motive for inviting me to the meeting.

    The amazing thing is that it is the US itself that has chosen to dedollarize the world — and perhaps with it, its dollarized debt burden for the Global South.”

  16. Ian Welsh

    I simply don’t find those Russian casualty numbers persuasive at all. I let them thru so that the counter-argument can be made cleanly, but I don’t believe them for a second. Part of why I tend to give non-consensus arguments here is that most of the coverage I’m seeing is entirely West/Ukraine driven, and especially anything from the Ukrainians side I just don’t believe, because they’ve been caught in repeated lies and then after that media just accepts what they say again and again.

    I also don’t believe Russian propaganda, but most of that we don’t get.

    As for finding someone who agrees, the “nice” thing about this situation is that we’ll know some things fairly soon,though I suspect that we won’t know real casualty figures possibly for years. If Ritter’s right, we’ll know in a few weeks to 2 months max, I would think.

  17. Willy

    I tend to judge another’s intelligence by the accuracy of their future predictions. Probably why I dont read certain commenters with their “predictions”. But then I’ve been wrong before. Still, Ritter doesn’t explain what by most other respectable accounts, is a strategic Russian failure on almost every level.

    But maybe, sometimes to get rid of Nazis you just gotta be like a Nazi? Or maybe, it’s easier to just proclaim Putin a hubristic malignant narcissist?

    So which came first, Putin being threatened by NATO, or the wee nations of eastern Europe running to NATO after being frightened by Putian Russia? Or was Putin reacting to the tenacles of neoliberalism the only way he knows how (not to mention those dangblasted Nazis)? Or is neoliberalism yet another mindless cultural power center juggernaut sent careening by hubristic idiots now long dead (who might’ve ironically, been Nazis)?

  18. NR

    Ramzan: Ian has explicitly called Putin evil and a war criminal on multiple occasions, so I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that he “supports” him in any way.

    That said, there are quite a few Putin fanboys who comment here, which is disturbing to say the least.

  19. Willy

    Lauren Pazienza was a young woman recently arrested for impulsively running up to an elderly woman, a complete stranger to her, calling her a bitch, then very forcefully shoving her to the ground after which the old woman died.

    Lauren tried going into hiding and eliminating all her social networks but was caught anyways. People who knew her in school have come forward claiming that she was a serial bully. Her parents were not poor, nor did she have an underprivileged abuse ridden childhood. Lauren is described as “a socialite”.

    The simplest explanation is psychopathy or other psychological malady of some kind.

    I’d have trouble with people trying to debate over whether the old woman stranger deserved it because she was a threat to Lauren in some way. Sometimes the obvious really is just that.

  20. Art

    I read the Freethought site and came across a video that summarizes a lot of my thinking about Ukraine and Nazis.

    @Purple Library Guy:
    I explicitly that that sort of site is NOT a scorecard. There is no actual comparison between sides due the many differentials in reporting. Classic sampling error. The owner seems to be just reporting on current open source materials. Mostly Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

    While it would not be impossible to fake I have made a point of following reports and can say that when a new video or photo comes up on other sources it seems to take what I think is an appropriate amount of time to appear on his list.

    Also image search seems to show the small but roughly representative sample to first appear at an expected interval. In other words of those dozen or so I tried on image search none of them first appeared before Feb 24, 2022. All seem to pop up within a day or two of the listing.

    I guess it isn’t impossible that someone has been hoarding a trove of pictures of destroyed Russian equipment to use for propaganda purposes but it seems unlikely.

    And wouldn’t they be presenting it through MSM instead of a backwater site like .oryxs? It was just luck I found the site. It was pretty far down the listings.

  21. Astrid

    Well, monster or not, Russia/Putin seems to have a sound case for justified war given that Ukraine war shelling the DPR and LPR after their declaration of independence, and they formally asked Russia for assistance to defend themselves against Russian aggression. The evidence in the ground suggest that Ukraine war planning what could be characterized as a genocidal war against DPR and LPR, given the massing if Ukrainian troops. It’s it only not a war crime if you arrive after your countrymen are mostly slaughtered and your Nazi enemies are entrenched on the ground?

    I also find it bizarre that anyone would easily dismiss Russian military prowess. They handily won every 21st century war they’ve been involved in (Syria, second Chechen war, and Georgia), right? Tough brutal wars against tough brutal people backed by the West and Gulf Arabs. What’s this superior army that their being compared to? NATO? The US? The Saudis?

    Just because the Chinese are trying to be neutral and not entirely happy with Russian actions, doesn’t mean they won’t support Russia to the hilt if they have to. Their long term survival and dignity demands it. They never gave up on Pakistan or DPRK, not matter how wacky they got. They went to war against the Vietnamese, for Pol Pot. You think Western gaslighting would scare them away from maintaining their interests?

  22. Astrid

    Arf, that was terrible proofing even for me. I meant “and they formally asked Russia for assistance to defend themselves against *Ukrainian* aggression.”

  23. Lex

    There is not a great power leader in any of our lifetimes that isn’t a war criminal or guilty of crimes against humanity. So attempting to frame international relations, peaceful or violent, in terms good/evil is a pointless exercise that impedes functional analysis of any situation. All we have to go on are the words and deeds of those great power leaders, with the former being likely untrue and the latter being violent.

    Since Kissinger clearly stated that we don’t have friends, only interests, the operative question is what are the US interests in Ukraine? Democracy (never been high on our priority list), economic development (clearly not or almost a decade later there would be visible improvement for Ukraine), social stability (still as corrupt as it’s been for decades)? The US has no track record of improving any of these three facets of society anywhere we’ve inserted ourselves for at least a generation. So if not those, then what is the US’s great interest in Ukraine?

    Because clearly our interests in Ukraine are existential to the degree that we’re willing to potentially destroy the world economy and plunge billions of people into poverty in order to fulfill those interests. Those interests are so important that we weren’t even willing to discuss a negotiated security arrangement for Europe. Whatever those interests are, they’re important enough to risk violently destabilizing Europe beyond the completely avoidable Ukrainian conflict.

    Maybe rather than analyzing Putin and Russia we should analyze the west? (Not directed at you, Ian.) Because I’d very much appreciate understanding what the goals of my country are here.

  24. Art


    “Arf, that was terrible proofing even for me.”

    Not a problem. I understood what you meant.

    LOL I screwed up using “your” instead of ‘you’re’. Yes, English is my second language. Primary is a series of grunts, grimaces, very meaningful licks, and a considerable amount of interpretative dance.

  25. Astrid


    What a great question! I have seen a couple ideas floating around.

    1. Great Reset – they’re intentionally cranking the system to purge and/or enslave “useless eaters”. Many left and right wing variants of this.

    2. Hijack by extra virulent acolytes of Brzezinski stemming from early 20th century eastern Europe.
    Sub Zionists, Commies, Nazis, MIC, FIRE, Rothschilds, etc.

    3. Need for a unifying foe, no matter the cost.

    4. Terminal decadence and stupidity due to lack of discipline of the elite.

    5. Our AI god is F_ing with us, much like when we torment a SIM in The SIM game.

    6. Obviously, somebody is trying to offload an abundance of popcorn.

    7. I personally think it’s some kind of species-wide Peter Principle. Our doom is inevitable, let it not be too painful and hopefully somewhat amusing.

  26. Purple Library Guy

    @Art: You can SAY it’s not a scorecard. But it is one. And you can SAY you’re not using it as one, but if you’re saying look, these people are losing lots of stuff and these people aren’t, so it’s the people losing lots of stuff who will soon be giving up–then yes, you are using it that way. Your disclaimer is just to make you sound neutral in hopes that your argument will gain more purchase–a not unreasonable argument tactic, but sorry, you’re being disingenuous there.

    And it doesn’t really matter if it’s inaccurate because the website is dishonest or is in good faith pulling dishonest things off the web or there are just factors making a difference in whether Russian destroyed stuff will hit the internet more often than Ukrainian destroyed stuff (eg locals have reason to upload the Russian stuff but not the Ukrainian stuff, while the Russian armed forces are playing their cards close to their chest and their soldiers aren’t supposed to go around uploading militarily relevant visuals to the “information superhighway”).

    Whichever way, sorry, I find it inconceivable that complete air superiority and general superiority in standoff destructive capability is going to lead to lopsided losses against you. Far as I can tell, the Ukrainians are finding it very difficult to maneuver and are instead mainly defending positions where they can be concealed or dig in, because if they move around in the open they will be hit by explosive munitions from long range.

  27. Astrid

    More seriously, the first 30 minutes of today’s The Duran has more interesting ideas than on “what were they thinking” than I can excavate from my head. I do find them much more bearable when listening at 2x speed.

  28. bruce wilder

    . . . what is the US’s great interest in Ukraine?

    I do not think the U.S. has one. For large-scale group to formulate a common and coherent identification of shared interest as a commonwealth requires considerable deliberate rationality — other words, opinionated but reasoned exchange. It is the great redeeming virtue of a well-functioning democracy that a common or general interest is recognized and tended to, and the great vice of monarchical courts and authoritarian tyrannies that corruptible factions and intrigues guide policy without adequate consideration of means, institution-building and consequences.

    U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked institutionally by the combination of the intelligence agencies and the arms-selling military-industrial complex. Ukrainian policy has been staffed conspicuously by the children of immigrants from the region who are pursuing ancient grudges that are no business of the U.S. as a whole. And, they have gotten support from a cottage industry of think tanks financed by the MIC, whose primary interest is weapons sales and service on a huge scale.

    As for the place of “good v evil” in international relations, we have reached a farcical level, in which PR hacks spin out wildly inaccurate though superficially plausible narrative fairy tales to a nation of idiots who can scarcely find the disputed territories on a map. I would not concede that that means morality does not matter, though I will allow that getting your morality from fairy tales once you have passed the age of 8 is a questionable practice.

    Fundamentally, ethics matters when ethics restrains power; a common understanding of a shared interest in a commonwealth can lead to an enlightened pursuit of self-interest, which, not incidentally, calls on power to set limits on control. It seems to me that that is a core element of what Ian preaches from time to time, though unfortunately he must most often point to examples in breach. “The powerful do as they will and the weak suffer as they must.” The case for ethics is founded on the premise that the wealthy and powerful also lose in immiserating the poor and weak. (The wealthy and powerful won’t know it without deliberate thought and philosophical dialectic and the poor and weak will never be able to act effectively in concert without raising their consciousness, as it were.) Just an example: the neoliberal penchant for appealing to “the rule of law” as a sacred principle shows how much reputational value attaches to a moral ideal of universal fairness as superior to rule by thugs and bullies, even if, in practice, “the rule of law” is nothing but the hypocrisy of “rules for thee, not for me” and brand fumes from neoliberal sati.

    If the U.S. had the benefit of wise and thoughtful leadership in foreign policy, I imagine that it would look a lot like the institution-building program of Wilsonian idealism as re-imagined by FDR: support for a United Nations and beneficent international institutions like the IMF or the World Bank, run by high-minded experts, a Good Neighbor Policy of support for constitutional democracy and economic development with a broad-base of beneficiaries and so on. We live in a moment of terminal decadence for those institutions, long after Michel’s Iron Law of Institutions has run its course over the cliff and into the swamp. In retrospect, the old saying that “all power corrupts” has not been violated due to American exceptionalism after all.

    As for Ukraine, in a more ideal 21st century, I think I would have preferred to have Clinton declare that a new World Order after the fall of the Soviet Union called for a dissolution of NATO, or at least a withdrawal of American domination of that alliance. It is hard to see how that could happen without a lot more consciousness among the American public.

    I think American diplomats in Ukraine should have counseled against gross violations of the Ukrainian Constitution such as the Maidan overthrow. (A negotiated transition was in prospect when Nuland and others lit still more matches to inflame the situation.) Rather than NATO training Ukrainian fascists in the manly arts of shoulder-fired missiles, I think the model of Finland could have been pressed as an instructive example. Finland made Stalin’s Soviets pay a price back in the day, and the Russians did not forget, but the Finns also carefully avoided making threats. Finland, like Austria, made its way to a quiet, prosperous national life in neutrality in the midst of Cold War. It is absurd to think Ukraine did not have better options than the one it chose with the encouragement of the U.S. and E.U.

    Americans, for the most part, do not think about Ukraine or know much. Still, I think it reprehensible that American diplomats would not have railed strongly against the aggressive prejudice legislated against the Russian language. These measures were not wholly draconian, but they were wielded symbolically as a big Felix Unger to the linguistic and ethnic Russians of Ukraine and it was an unnecessary provocation both internally and vis a vis Russia itself. Some brutal episodes, including the use of snipers in Maidan to murder innocents under a false flag and the burning alive of three dozen protesters in Odessa, were never adequately investigated or prosecuted — and that sends a message; American diplomats ought, imo, to take the side of the angels in such cases and press the truth hard, though I doubt they did anything. There is a place for morality in diplomacy and that is where it is, to lean on the side of the angels for the good of all — not the “war is a racket” spirit of gunboat diplomacy of supporting any bastard that is willing to be “our” bastard that drives most historic Anglo-American foreign policy.

  29. someofparts

    Astrid –

    What a great site. How do I find it again? Did you say it is the Duran? On Rumble?

  30. Art

    I am saying that, even looking at the information provided with a critical eye, that the photos, and the numbers derived from those photos and videos look genuine.

    Do the work. Look at the pictures. Search for them and find the earliest recorded date available. If any of this is faked I’m unable to detect it. Perhaps you will do better. I’m hearing a lot of objection as to how these figures can’t be right but nobody highlights the discrepancies that, if it’s faked, must be there. And there in a big way. Show me.

    Vague platitudes and a wave of the hand doesn’t get it. ‘It has to be wrong’ because it contradicts my assumptions is not a strong argument.

    As far as I can tell, after many hours trying to find the flaws, the site creator is doing exactly what he says he is doing. Old saying : If you tell the truth most won’t believe you.

    Note the timing of events. Like just today it was revealed that the Russian navy seems to have effectively lost a ship, had one damaged. Check out the video on other sites and reporting. And then note the report that shows up on the oryxs site under: Naval Ships.

    And no I’m not comparing the two sides. It says something about Russian losses. That site has much less to say about Ukrainian losses. Although I think fewer armored losses per day after the initial three days makes some sense.

    I think this has to do with the doctrine the Ukrainians are fighting under. Way back in the late 1970 I trained under a similar doctrine. I wore a steel pot, load bearing equipment that went under the name ALICE. We were training for the day when “Ivan” was going to come through the Fulda gap, We were trained to break up into ten-man teams, raid supply lines, and disrupt lines of communications.

    Hit hard and then fade away. Dragons, LAWs, DP grenades launched by M-79 s. were our main anti-armor weapons.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight but I’m not neutral. And no I don’t groom my arguments for propaganda effect. I think Ukraine is an independent nation and they get to chose what they do. I think that Ukraine was slowly coming out of deep corruption. Fact is that Putin only had an issue with Ukrainian corruption when his hand selected ruler, a man that was epically corrupt, was deposed and the new government started to nibble away at the rampant corruption. Yes, Zelinski did lock up some of his opponents. After decades of corruption he needed to show the general public, that they needn’t fear the thugs fearless leader left behind. If the wider public objected they forgot to mention it.

    As for Nazis, lots of them going around. We have them in the US. Guess that makes us a Nazi nation also. They are a worrying but minor faction. Last election they got no seats in the Ukrainian congress. This parallels my own thinking:

    Win or lose I think Ukraine is in a strong position. Plan on Ukrainians resisting into the indefinite future. Look for all remaining unaligned nations bordering Russia to seek NATO membership.

    I think I’ll leave it there.

  31. StewartM

    Purple Library Guy:

    @Art: You can SAY it’s not a scorecard. But it is one. And you can SAY you’re not using it as one, but if you’re saying look, these people are losing lots of stuff and these people aren’t, so it’s the people losing lots of stuff who will soon be giving up–then yes, you are using it that way.

    If you have read any articles that link to this page, you’d see the explanation that yes, while from the photographic evidence that Russian material losses (say, in tanks) seem to almost four times greater than Ukraine’s, the Russians have a 6:1 advantage in that category. So no, you can’t say it shows that one side is winning or losing.

    And also, there are plenty of ambush videos being posted by the Ukrainians showing the Russians—well, being very stupid and committing gross tactical errors. I don’t think these are staged, if Ritter is correct and the Ukrainians have been trained to NATO standards, if this is some “David vs Goliath” battle then David is a welterweight who has been hitting the gym daily under the supervision of a personal trainer, while Goliath is a past champion heavyweight who’s been sitting on the couch and hasn’t had a real fight in years. But even this does not mean necessarily the Ukrainians are winning; from late 1942-through 1943 the Red Army, while strategically and operationally competent and which turned the course of the war at Stalingrad and Kursk, still made a fair share of gross tactical errors due to the relative inexperience of its junior officers. The Red Army was winning the war at that point, but in a very costly fashion.

    Later, in 1944 and 1945, they improved markedly in tactical operations and their losses fell.

    But really–as Ritter himself says–to defeat and occupy the country you need a lot more guys than what the Russians committed. And it seems to actually win they would have to do just that. We don’t have an inkling of Ukrainian manpower casualties, which is key, because despite some folks on DKos telling us that the Ukraine fighting shows “tanks are dead!” the historical record of warfare is that the side with tanks not only is more likely to win than the side without, but also win with fewer personnel casualties than the side without (which is why tanks are useful, their presence actually cuts your manpower losses). So if the Ukrainians are taking on Russian armored spearheads with infantry alone, they might be losing more than we’re seeing. Then again, the Russians may be tank-heavy because they’re strapped for infantry manpower; it’s baked into their demographics.

    Basically–there’s a lot we don’t know. However, if the Ukrainians were winning so easily, why are they crying for so much help?

  32. Astrid


    We shall see soon enough. The Russians MoD channel on Telegram seems to be releasing more concrete numbers for themselves and Ukrainians, now that they consider the battle of Mariupol to be largely over. I don’t know much about military history and tactics, but what’s coming out of MSM and Ukraine makes no sense to me. What i hear from Russian sources and their “shills” at least have a logical coherence.

    You want to take a look at these two analysis pieces and see if you can pick their logic apart.

    Ritter’s time frame estimate it’s primary based on assumption that the Russians already blew up most of Ukraine’s fuel and munitions depots and command and control capabilities. Further that there’s no way for the West to supply more without getting calibr missiles at the border. Meanwhile, i see evidence of Russians evacuating large numbers of people in newly occupied area and bringing many tons of humanitarian aid daily. That doesn’t seem like something an on the ropes military would be able to do.

  33. Astrid


    Their YouTube channel is at

    I likely don’t agree with most of their politics, but they appear to be realistic, morally centered people who don’t like seeing anyone, on any side, suffer. Honestly that puts them above Western “realists” such as Mearsheimer, who seems so enthralled with their realism that they forgotten their morals and that there are people suffering on the other end of their little geopolitical games.

  34. someofparts

    Okay Art, here ya go, from MoA –

    “The Dutch “open-source-intelligence analysts” who came up with those stupid numbers are the people who run the Oryx website …

    Counting published photos from dubious sources in a war where both sides use the same equipment is as dumb as it gets. …

    The figures and pictures do not provide “a glimpse through the fog of war”. They ARE the fog of war. …

    Russian soldiers are prohibited from carrying cellphones and from taking pictures. … Ukrainian soldiers do carry cellphones and upload pictures of all kind. There are often several of each disabled vehicle from different perspectives which makes for a lot of double and triple counts. There is also the inconvenient fact that both sides use the same Soviet weapon systems which often makes it impossible to identify the side to which a vehicle belongs.

    Last but not least the authors of Onyx are obviously taking sides in the conflict arguing to send more arms to the Ukraine as if that would change the inevitable outcome.”

  35. someofparts

    Thanks Astrid. I haven’t finished watching the first video you posted, but I probably will after I post this. I was just impressed with the insights I was hearing. May watch it twice to be sure I caught everything. Also was pleased that most of the books mentioned are things I’ve read and still have in my library. I like it that I can go look at them again myself if I want to think more about the things that were being discussed. Your impression of it, compared to people like Mearsheimer is also something I had not thought about but want to consider as I listen to the rest of it.

  36. StewartM

    Astrid and others:

    You want to take a look at these two analysis pieces and see if you can pick their logic apart.

    It’s an argument by analogy to WWII, and not bad, but we still don’t have the numbers from the ground. My temptation is to question the claims of both sides. The bottom hasn’t fallen out of the Ukraine defense nor have the Russians given up, so maybe neither side is as badly hurt as they claim the other is.

    I still question whether the Russian force is of adequate size to do the job it was sent to do, and I think Ritter would agree with me if that job has to be “occupy all Ukraine” against a resistance that does not give up. Even if the goal is just to “pacify” Ukraine.

    I fully concur with the dismissive anti-Russian bias of too-many Western military commentators (Kos’s commnentary is actually pretty good, details-wise, but he accepts the Ukraine’s numbers and moreover you can tell (since he’s ex-military himself) he was trained to think in the Soviet stereotypes handed down from our interviews with ex-Nazis post-WWII). As someone who’s been reading WWII stuff on Soviet weapons, weapons development, and battles, I’ve now come to see so much of that German stuff was hokum.

    Moreover, now that the Soviet archives have opened up, we’re seeing not only that the Russians were far more efficient than the Germans told us (at least by 1944-45), but also many other “truths” told us by emigres like Solzhenitsyn or Vladimir Rezun were not very true at all . Like the one that said Soviet POWs freed from German prison camps went automatically into the Gulag, as Solzhenitsyn would have you believe–the truth was that 90 % were cleared, 8 % went to penal battalions (and no, serving in a penal battalion wasn’t a death sentence either) and only a minority went there. Most were able to go home. That makes complete sense, because by 1945 the wartime damage done to Soviet agriculture was so severe they needed as many guys back on the farms as possible, else the Soviet Union would be staring at famine. That’s also why formations star disappearing from the Red Army order of battle–they either needed them at home, or doing other jobs.

    Moreover, most of the people who went to the Gulag survived. Khrushchev gets almost no credit in the West for clearing out the camps.

  37. Astrid

    Of course the Russians will lie or obfuscate when it’s to their benefit to do so, but they know there’s a price to be paid if they’re found to be lying later on, both to their own population and their allies and potential allies. I don’t see any rationale to lie about the recent numbers reported by the MoD. The few times when they gave inaccurate information, such as Putin’s comment about not using conscripts in battle, it’s been quickly acknowledged and corrected. On the Ukrainian/msm side, I see debunked stories continue to be distributed. This encourage me to take what comes out of the Russian side, as imperfect and partial as it may be, much more seriously than Ukrainian claims. There’s are also more lots of in the ground footage of Mariupol and interviews with locals, of a scale that seems difficult to fake.

    I agree that if the Russians achieve their objectives with numerically far lower numbers and against a motivated, NATO trained world class army, it would be a stunning victory. They appear to be doing so by disabling Ukrainian logistics and command and control activity, then breaking and disorienting the ground forces, to be taken out one by one, as sea mammals might go after a school of herring. We’ll see if it’s sufficient. I tend to think it is because without oil and munitions, Ukrainians can’t fight even if they have the will to do so. And outside of strongly indoctrinated Nazis, is there really will to fight to the death, in a country that voted 75% for Zelensky to reconcile with Russia?

  38. Ché Pasa

    I’ve been seeing more and more debunking of pro-Ukrainian propaganda in the mainstream. This is surprising to me for the simple reason that pro-Ukraine, very nearly pro-Nazi (without using the word) cheerleading has been universal among most high profile news outlets from the get go. Now, I don’t know, something has flipped, and despite the Heroic Resistance of the Ukrainian People (and oh, that Zelensky!), at least some of the lies, and the ridiculousness of them, are being acknowledged. Some. It’s a start.

    I cheerfully admit I have no idea what’s going on on the ground or who will ultimately succeed in the current conflict any more than I knew the outcome of the Bosnian wars. That other European war that’s now airbrushed out of existence.

    But there is now open discussion of the defeat and dismemberment of the Soviet Union… erm, Russian Federation… to once and for all prevent it from ever “threatening the peace of the world” again. Use of nukes to do so is by no means out of the question in the minds of the happy keyboard warriors intent on reducing Russia to a glowing cinder and vast empty wasteland.

    This has been, of course, The (Neo-LibCon) Plan for decades, and the Kremlin has been well aware of it. They knew it pre-collapse and they know it now, and they know that if they don’t win this conflict in some form, they’re doomed. It is existential for them.

    Whereas for the Uke Nazis and their backers in the West, they can bide their time. The Ukraine isn’t going to go away because it falls under Russian suzerainty again. But Mother Russia itself could very well disintegrate.

    The sad thing is that so many otherwise innocent Ukrainian civilians are suffering severely. Up to a quarter of the population has been displaced, cities are being besieged and partly reduced to rubble, and ethnic strife is vastly increasing. Very much like the forgotten disintegration and civil wars of the Former Yugoslavia. On a much bigger scale.

    Whoever comes out on top, continuing civil war is almost inevitable.

    It’s a crying shame due to at least equal parts Western craven cupidity and Russian hubris.

  39. NR


    Your comments are usually very insightful, which is why it’s disappointing to see you repeating Russian propaganda like this. The argument that Ukraine is overrun by or controlled by Nazis is simply false. Yes, the Azov Battalion are fascists–no question about that. But at their peak in 2017, they numbered 2,500. This year, when Russia invaded, their numbers were 900. That’s less than one half of one percent of the size of Ukraine’s military. And in the last election, their political party got 2% of the vote and did not win a single seat in the legislature.

    I seriously urge you to look into the situation. Russia’s claims here simply do not mesh with reality.

  40. Ché Pasa

    Well, actually NR, I’m not repeating “Russian propaganda.” The numbers of Ukrainian Nazis have never been as important as the power they wield, and that has been considerable since the Euromaiden uprising. Azov Battalion is one of many neo-Nazi/fascist outfits. They are not widely popular, never have been, but they are deeply embedded in the Ukrainian government, police, security services and military.

    I can’t say for certain, but they may be operating on the ground as terror-death squads, targeting remaining Russian-speakers, Roma, and other “undesirables.”

    I wish it weren’t so, but Ukraine has had a long and deplorable history of outrageous pogroms and worse toward targeted minorities, much of it stemming from misplaced nationalism whether it is Russian based east of the Dnieper or Austrian-Polish based in the west.

    Ultranationalism leads to horrors that parallel many of the horrors of our own imperialism. Russian actions in Ukraine are wrong, inexcusable. So is the ultranationalism of the present Ukrainian government and its oligarchs. So is the neo-imperialism of the West.

    Together with the USandNato, they’re playing a terrible and extremely dangerous game of chicken.

  41. bruce wilder

    “The argument that Ukraine is overrun by or controlled by Nazis is simply false.”

    I mentioned the other day that the above is an example of a rhetorical trope that has become distressingly common in the New York Times, which is supposed to be reporting on conditions and events. It is obviously not, in a factual sense, “simply false” as NR concedes. It functions as a rhetorical excuse for bias via deliberate omission: “our” narrative is true, you see. No “he said, she said” here even if he and she are fighting.

  42. NR

    The claim that “neo-Nazi elements have infiltrated Ukraine’s military and police” could/i> be true to some extent (just as it’s likely true in America), but it’s very murky and it’s impossible to fully disprove. Which, of course, makes it ideal for use in propaganda. The point is that the cases where we do have clear numbers, such as the Azov batallion’s membership and the political support for Ukranian’s fascist political parties, do not support Russia’s claims in any way. That fact alone should make people very suspicious about anything Russia says on the matter.

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