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

Fighting in the Ukraine

Putin continues to outsmart his opponents, and has been smarter than I expected.  I thought he’d invade, but what he did was better (for Russia’s interests, not for Ukraine.)

Supporting the rebels, and freely allowing supplies and “volunteers” across the  Russian border, which is what appears to be happening means that Eastern Ukraine will stay in chaos as long as Putin wants it to. Even if Ukrainian forces defeat the rebels in the field, they will not be able to stop guerrilla and terrorist actions in the future.

“Sure, you can ignore Russia’s demands: but not without a price.”

And the shelling by the Ukrainian army of civilians means that support for the rebels and for Russia will rise in the East.

The cost of this sort of intervention is low, and it can keep a country tied in knots for years.

Maybe the West, instead of haranguing Putin about a country which was part of Russia or the USSR for ages, should come to some sort of agreement with him?

On the other hand, why bother?  Eastern Ukraine has nothing the West needs either, so let it devolve into a semi-permanent failed state region.

Too bad for the Ukrainians, I guess.


Why a Book On Economic Prosperity is still needed


Egypt: those who make peaceful change impossible —


  1. So when Putin engages in the same deceptive and deceitful tactics as The West in destabilizing a country to turn it into a failed state, it’s characterized admiringly as “outsmarting his opponents” but when The West does it, well, there’s nothing but disdainful excoriation. Critical consistency is lacking. Both deserve equal condemnation.

    I’ll also say, if The West was so inclined, it could have done in Iraq what Putin did in Chechnya, but it didn’t. This is not to excuse the invasion and occupation of Iraq by The West and the suffering and pain it caused, but let’s face it, considering the rightful criticism heaped on The West for the military campaign, perhaps it should have gone all the way like Putin did in Chechnya. The West should have gotten the most for its critical buck — a subservient vassal that would do its bidding when called upon as is now the case with Putin’s Chechnya.

    It is too bad for Ukraine. However, there are some, and they’re not a few, in East Ukraine who see it for what it is and are fighting back. The way to defeat Putin is to make these foreign, Russian-directed mercenaries fight on multiple fronts. As we know, if you have to fight on multiple fronts, you cannot win.

    From Dima In East Ukraine

  2. From the beginning, this disaster has been “too bad for the Ukrainians.” Many of them seem to understand that better than any of us ever will, but they have not been able to stop the machinations of those who delight in their suffering.

    The Kremlin obviously cares not a whit about the Ukrainian people (why should they?), nor, obviously does Brussels, Berlin, London or Washington, DC.

    The people are irrelevant and expendable as far as the international power players are concerned, and the more who die in the current unpleasantness, the fewer will have to emigrate — or be seen starving to death as some Greeks are doing — when the economic “reforms” really kick in.

    It’s monstrous and it perfectly exemplifies the nature of the people and systems that rule us.

  3. EGrise

    @Ché Pasa:

    “but they have not been able to stop the machinations of those who delight in their suffering.”

    Very true, and we (the US and Europe) are very much in the same boat. I don’t give a shit about Putin, I want to stop the machinations of our own homegrown psychopaths.

  4. Ian Welsh

    It isn’t just about Putin interfering though. It’s about the West interfering as well: helping overthrow the previous, democratically elected government. The idea that there are good guys here is laughable: the Ukrainian govt. is going ahead with horrific austerity, as well.

    Putin has said what he wants: a federalized Ukraine which doesn’t join NATO. That’s not acceptable to the West, apparently. Thus, war.

    Chechnya was a horrific war crime, to be sure: it was also not an invasion.

  5. Everythings Jake

    From an interview with American soldiers in Afghanistan in films by Guardian reporter Sean Smith:

    SOLDIER ONE: “These people just want to be left alone.”

    SOLDIER TWO: “They got dicked with from the Russians for 17 years and then now we’re here.”

    SOLDIER ONE: “Same thing in Iraq when I was there. These people just want to be left alone. Have their crops, weddings, stuff like that, that’s it, man.”

    What is happening in Ukraine is no different. I don’t know what will bring about the necessary kinds of changes Ian lays out so well in his prior posts, but I have begun to see that these events all are the same problem: the violence in Ukraine, the poverty in Camden, New Jersey, the global economic crisis, the environmental destruction in the Amazon and the Arctic and wherever else we’re drilling, mining, fracking, and letting a small percentage of the population fuck over the rest of us to satisfy their insatiable greed.

  6. Compound F

    The West’s motives were made clear in Z’Big’s “Grand Chessboard,” namely, controlling Eurasia, to the point point of suppressing even the thought of rivalry. This much is no different from Wolfowitz’s 1991 plan, so the main goal is bipartisan. Z’Big goes on the name France & Germany as the critical landbridge to Eurasia. Then Poland, and then Ukraine as the ultimate blow to Russian aspirations. Russian global aspirations end in Ukraine, without which Russia is confined to an uncomfortable regional status between China and Central Asia, according to Z’Big.

    With energy supplies being what (and where) they are (Europe getting 30% + of energy from Russia, and US shale a pipe-dream), and with Europe circling the deflationary toilet (and none too happy about US surveillance), even the once solid core of Europe may now become a land bridge too far, especially as other global players, e.g., Russia & China, seek to exploit weakness in dollar hegemony. A waiting game under deflationary pressure doesn’t serve the shrinking US economy. What else can they do to bail out themselves & the European core? Hence the desperate hamfistedness of Obama, Kerry, et al in Ukraine (IMHO; been wrong before!).

    On the far eastern bridgehead, the Japanese are sucking bilge, as well.

    Clocks are ticking everywhere. Even China is rehypothecated to Hell.

    It really doesn’t matter who prevails, insofar as any victors would be pursuing the wrong model (fossil-fueled growth) in any case. It’s lose/lose, no matter how you cut it.

  7. VietnamVet

    Yes, Vladimir Putin does not want to invade Ukraine. But, this is happening in his borderland to ethnic Russians. To stay in power, at some point, he will be forced to stop the massacre of civilians by Nazis going on next door. The horror of Ukraine is that it could stop right now if Western leaders negotiated a peaceful settlement. No. They are purposely allowing the killing rampage to continue. The blood of the dead is on their hands.

    This is crazy but the only purpose to extending the carnage has to be to egg on Russia to invade and justify the nuclear first strike of Russia. If true, we all are dead, the lucky ones instantly, the rest from Nuclear Winter.

  8. oldskeptic

    Sorry Ian I have to disagree. I think the west (or at least US & UK) have made the decision to go all the way. My argument follows, bearing in mind that the US thinks it has achieved nuclear primacy now. Ideally it first wants a period of fierce sanctions on Russia to weaken it. A regional conflict that also weakens it’s military would be ideal … and provide the pretext for a first strike.

    Great plan …not. The problem is that because they are idiots it will almost certainly happen much faster. How long until NATO forces are in the Ukraine…well July actually. How long before they are used against the eastern Ukrainians or even Crimea…not very long I suspect

    Take one quite plausible scenario: At that point Russia will moves in and go through the NATO forces (who after decades of killing civilians cannot fight a real war) like a dose of salt.. NATO will then use tactical nukes (their standard doctrine)…game over for the human race.

    As I see it the game is on and they are laying the groundwork just as they did before:

    (I posted this part earlier in MoA),
    OK, this is so Iraq. They are following the same old tired path and they are going to keep escalating, no matter what Russia does. Even if it surrenders totally they will still escalate.

    West: make absurd demands on a country. If they actually meet them, then lie that they haven’t. If they don’t (say because they are impossible) then escalate. Make more ‘demands’ .. lie more …escalate.

    I now suspect that, just as in the case for war with Iraq where the decision had been made months before, that the decision to attack Russia has been made. And just like Iraq this is just shadow boxing and preparing the people and getting their propaganda and military forces lined up.

    This is SOP. Seen it in Afghanistan (hand over BL or else ..ok we will hand him over…you haven’t agreed to hand him over ….. invade). Iraq (get rid of your WMD… ok done … you haven’t got rid of your WMD … invade) and Lybia and Syria.

    Now it is Russia’s turn (expect more absurd ‘demands’):
    “President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron laid down new markers for Russia on Thursday, giving Moscow a month to meet their conditions in Ukraine or face further sanctions.

    The new thresholds for action were spelled out at a joint press conference, following a Group of Seven world leader summit that was rearranged to exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin after his aggressive moves in Ukraine. The United States and Europe also have imposed economic sanctions in response.

    To avoid even harsher sanctions, Cameron said, Putin must meet three conditions: Recognize Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Kiev; stop arms from crossing the border; and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

    “If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow,” Cameron said, standing before a row of United States and British flags. “The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps. And that is what I will urge President Putin to do when I meet him later today”

    Russia had better make sure its nuclear forces are full alert in case of a first strike. If you hear a report about a Russian ballistic missile sub being destroyed (or going missing) then we are only hours away from nuclear war. That will be the first target and UK and US attack subs will be going full on to find and set themselves up to destroy them.

    So watch the movements of the RN & USN nuclear attack subs, if they all suddenly leave their ports … we are a day or two away from the big one. Also the movements of UK and US ballistic missile subs, they will move into close position for a first strike. Again if they all disappear then it will be very close. B2 deployment will be another short term indicator.

    This is the biggest crisis since 1983 and 1962..we barely dodged the bullet then…I am not hopeful now. About the only hope I see is an internal coup by the ‘old guard’ in the US foreign policy/military elite.

  9. El Guapo

    “I think the west (or at least US & UK) have made the decision to go all the way.”

    The latest bellicose statements from Ukraine’s new Oligarch-in-chief point to things getting worse but surely not as bad you suggest – even the likes of Obama can’t be stupid enough to bring nukes into the equation. There has to be some kind of limit to the stupidity, surely.

  10. Compound F


    It’s a good article. Blackstone noted that,

    “The Europeans followed [the US instigation] with a weak, obedient echo.”

    Ukraine is not the only country under energetic and financial stress. I wonder how long Europe and the US can maintain the illusion of unity. Probably longer than I imagine, but the fact is, the best horses in the glue factory aren’t nearly as solid as they pretend, and NATO must be a tiny bit concerned about driving Russian/Chinese unity.

  11. wendyedavis

    @ Compound F

    Ergo, the pivot, I guess, as in giving reasons for in that they are constructing in either ignorance or as planned, and NATO a reason to be, and to expand. I watch Africom and NATO on Twitter (the gods save me).

    Africom is ginning up US presence in Africa at an alarming rate, creating the instabiilty and chaos that their stated mission is to ….aid in the name of…’democracy for some’, I guess.

    But NATO is sending jetsandshipsandtroopsandarmaments to all the nations peripheral to Ukraine. Oh, and: Propaganda of the most sad and sick kind. #EuroMaidan frequents NATO’s account, or whatever one calls it.

    So many folks say that all of this is what a dying Empire looks like: desperate to control. But yes, weren’t many of the winners in the recent elections EU Skeptics? And according to the Guardian, Golden Dawn just came out full-till Nazi.

    But no mention of the neo-Nazis in the junta in Ukraine ever. Madness.

    Zbig. Yikes. Strange days when Kissinger is the voice of calm and reason, eh?

  12. oldskeptic

    First canaries:

    Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have just arrived in UK for a quite unusual overseas deployment.

    “Little is known about this deployment, unlike the other one which involves three B-52s that have arrived at RAF Fairford last week “. These are First Strike type deployments.

    Why and why now you might ask? Well within the ‘Beltway’ (and the satraps) there are two key myths that are believed by the decision makers and are strongly influencing both their decisions and the timing of their decisions:

    The first, long pushed and mentioned many times is that the US is about to become a huge oil and gas exporter because of ‘fracking’. Therefore, when the US gets around to building all the facilities and ports to do so, Europe won’t need Russian gas and oil, the US will, at some point in the future, be able to provide it.

    The second, far more dangerous, is their belief in their anti-missile defence systems (particularly the Aegis/SM3 ship based systems), that, along with their attack systems (land,sea and air) has given the US ‘nuclear primacy’. Therefore, if push comes to shove, Russia will have to back down or be wiped out by a First Strike. Within the ‘system’ they ‘know’ that they have nuclear primacy now… so Russia just has to suck it up because there is nothing they can do. Hence the (and much of it is frighteningly real) rage at Russia’s defiance ..”don’t they know they have already lost and the US can take them out any time they want”?

    Both are total fantasies (150 Russian ICBM launchers are mobile for example). But the facts have been pushed out by the overselling, lobbying and outright lies (by oil companies, Wall St, MSM, USN, weapons manufacturers, et al) and the ‘echo chamber’ effect of the insularity of ‘Verseille on the Potomac’ has pushed this to the level of an ‘institutional belief’.

    This (and a lot of other factors of course) has made many come to the belief that ‘now is the time’ to have a showdown with Russia to establish and lock in US dominance for the rest of the century.

    The potential for a gigadeath miscalculation because of a totally flawed, non reality based, decision making system is obvious. I’m arguing that the US is nearly at this point right now and if the momentum keeps building as it has been, it will be unstoppable very soon, taking on a life of its own.

    I was wrong, this is rapidly shaping up to be a far greater crisis than 1983 or 1962 and the speed of deterioration is frightening.

  13. jawbone

    I’m beginning to get nauseous hearing Obama sound like BushBoy chiding Saddam Husseein prior to his illegal invasion of Iraq.

    I also feel chagrined that I did not believe those who said there was barely a dime’s worth of difference between Dem presidential candidates and Repub prez candidates….

  14. As my Ukrainian friend stated “After every election their are protests. But nothing changes. If we join the EU we’re screwed, and if we join Russia we’re screwed.”

  15. Nathanael

    The fundamental difference between Putin’s invasion of the Crimea and engineering of instability in the Ukraine (on the one hand), and the US’s misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen and Somalia (on the other hand), is that Ukraine is adjacent to Russia.

    In short, the US can get away with screwing around with Mexico this way (and the US *has*, in the past), or Canada. Trying to pull the same garbage on the other side of the ocean is a much, much more fragile operation. We saw this when Pakistan cut the US supply lines. If Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and the Central Asian states cooperate, US soldiers in Afghanistan are trapped in a giant encirclement which will be destroyed easily.

    Similarly, there’s no way out for US troops in Iraq, since the US is not really cooperative with Iran, the Kurds have no interest in dealing with the US, Turkey is skeptical at this point, Jordan wants nothing to do with us. There’s Saudi Arabia, but the people there oppose the US, so depending on support from the unpopular royals is… a questionable choice.

    By contrast, any Russian agitators in Ukraine can just slip back across the border.

    Oldskeptic: you’re right, there’s a serious risk of WWIII due to the total dementia present in the US military-industrial complex. A Russian government minister warned the US that Russia could nuke it to smithereens quite recently, so maybe the madness will die down…

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