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

Is Putin Conducting a “Stalinist” Purge of Russia’s Intelligence Service?

I find this story says more about the West than it does about Russia:

A “Stalinist” mass purge of Russian secret intelligence is under way after more than 100 agents were removed from their jobs and the head of the department responsible for Ukraine was sent to prison.

In a sign of President Putin’s fury over the failures of the invasion, about 150 Federal Security Bureau (FSB) officers have been dismissed, including some who have been arrested.

All of those ousted were employees of the Fifth Service. This a division was created in 1998, when Putin was director of the FSB. It’s purpose was to carry out operations in former Soviet Union countries with the single aim of keeping them within Russia’s orbit.

Now, when Stalin purged the secret police, the party, or military, he purged based on perceived loyalty — as well as to get rid of people who were too popular or powerful, and whom he thus regarded as a threat. It’s generally conceded that Stalin’s military leadership purges were part of why the Red Army was, at first, defeated badly by the Wehrmacht.

Does this describe what Putin is doing?

It’s possible, of course, that these officers tried to tell Putin the truth about Ukrainian ability to resist, and Putin wouldn’t listen. But isn’t it also reasonable to think that, if Russia had expected significantly less resistance from Ukraine’s military than what they actually encountered, it is because that’s what the intelligence service told Putin and the military command? So couldn’t this be Putin getting rid of those secret agents who screwed up, and is, therefore, appropriate? And given that thousands of Russian soldiers have died, in large part due to faulty intelligence, and Russia’s position in the world has been damaged, is it not appropriate for the head of the responsible division to go to prison? (Though, he’s been officially accused of corruption, not incompetence.)

Who was fired because of incompetence in Iraq or Afghanistan? What intelligence agents or generals were let go because they made predictions which did not come true? Would the US be better off if those who kept saying that victory in Afghanistan was just around the corner had been fired or even court-martialed?

The West has such a culture of impunity for elite incompetence that elites think that whenever elites are fired or punished for anything it’s “Stalinist.”

Likewise, during the war, we’ve had reports of a number of Russian general dying in combat. Western commenters were aghast, but shouldn’t generals be close enough to the front lines to be in some danger? Isn’t that, actually, good leadership practice?

Russia has serious problems with how it is run; if Russia doesn’t fix its corruption and demographic issues, I think it will fall out of the “Great Power” category in time. But I also posit that Putin holding important people to account for their failures is a positive sign, not a negative one.



Macron (Radical Neoliberal) vs. Le Pen (Reactionary Fascist) in France


Accountability #2: Sweden’s Decision to Let Old People Die Who Could Have Been Saved


  1. Blueberry Hill

    Look what happened to JFK when he considered purging the CIA. When he refused the insane advice of the military brass to engage in nuclear war with Russia over the missiles in Cuba. Accountability is anathema to the Overlords and their sycophantic minions. Instead of Colon Pal being purged after lying about WMD in Iraq to justify the illegal invasion, he was recently glorified in death. Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush Jr. and ALL Congress Critters who supported the Iraq Invasion & Occupation are war criminals just as surely as Putin is by their own logic and they should be in the Hague with Putin.

  2. Astrid

    The latest Duran YouTube video claim that this information is coming from Bellingcat, if so this information should be treated very skeptically.

    It seems to me very unlikely that this would happen now. Even if there were significant intelligence failures, you don’t do major staff changes in war time unless you absolutely have to, and I don’t see failures that rise to a level of needing heads to fall now. So unless they found a massive compromise in their intelligence service, i just don’t understand why they would do this now versus quietly shifting people out in 3-6 months for failing to perform to expectations.

    Strongly agree that a healthy society must bring down senior officials and politicians for failure. We see this with the Shanghai authorities over their handling of COVID. They will not lose their heads but they cannot be allowed to stay in power. What the West currently have are the equivalent of WWI generals sending thousands upon thousands of young men to die miserably in the trenches for nothing, from their comfortable quarters miles from the front line.

  3. vmsmith

    >”What intelligence agents or generals were let go because they made predictions which did not come true?”

    You may recall that when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it didn’t get its ass handed to it by the Taliban in the way that Russia has been getting its ass handed to it by the Ukrainians. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was pretty successful by comparison.

    >”Would the US be better off if those who kept saying that victory in Afghanistan was just around the corner had been fired or even court-martialed?”

    I spent 23 years on active duty, and even though I retired just before 911, I paid pretty close attention to events in Afghanistan. I don’t recall anyone saying even once that victory was just around the corner, let alone that people kept saying it.

    >”Likewise, during the war we’ve had reports of a number of Russian general dying in combat. Western commenters were aghast, but shouldn’t generals be close enough to the front lines to be in some danger? Isn’t that, actually, good leadership practice?”

    Yes, it is good leadership practice. And American generals were constantly on the battlefield in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The difference is that the American military is generally competent enough to use secure communications and practice OPSEC (operational security), so that the location of the generals isn’t compromised to the extent they can be targeted.

    Furthermore, in an actual battle, good leadership would be for the general to keep himself out of the fray and (1) let the battlefield commander—e.g., battalion commander, brigade commander—do his or her job, and (2) ensure that that battlefield commander gets all the support he or she needs.


    U.S. military and intelligence people made a number of mistakes during both Afghanistan and Iraq, no question about it. If you were to do some research, you would find that, in fact, officers were relieved of command when they erred.

    The big difference here is that the U.S. did not come anywhere near as close to getting its ass handed to it in either Afghanistan or Iraq as Russia has in Ukraine. The Russian failures to date have been failures of epic proportion. And firing and/or arresting 100 or 150 intelligence agents is an absolutely stunning admission of failure.

  4. Zotter

    I think you are being just a touch willfully ignorant here Ian. Saying that no elites were held accountable in the USA for Iraq/Afghan but Putin is purging them in Russia is off the mark. Plenty of people had their careers ruined or ended their military jobs in quiet shuffling in the USA, and in Russia there is only one elite. He is the one who made the mistakes and who is now firing everyone else for his f’k up. At best, these events are just about dead equal (accounting for USA vs Russia ‘cultural practices’.) At worst, if these people being removed in Russia are actually being outright killed or black sited, that’s quite a bit worse than what happened over here.

  5. Ian Welsh

    This article details some of the many lies told by US generals, etc…

    As for the fact that the US lost in Afghanistan, that is obvious and anyone arguing otherwise is being specious at best.

    Iraq was a mess and when the US withdrew most of its troops it had to pay militias to let it out, you don’t do that if you won.

    Part of the reason Americans keep losing is that Americans refuse to admit when they lose. Vietnam seems to have been a rare exception and I’ve even seen denialism there.

    American exceptionalism is easy to maintain as long as one makes sure to ignore the exceptions.

    As for “admitting failure”, that’s exactly the wrong attitude. When things have gone badly, you admit it and get rid of or at least discipline the people responsible. Assuming this really happened, it’s a rare sign of proper functioning in Russia. Every country makes mistakes, countries that don’t hold people responsible make more mistakes over time.

    Pretending everything went well when it didn’t is what foolish elites do. (The Brits, in their heyday, were particularly savage at dealing with military officers and colonial administrators who fucked up, and that’s one of the reasons they created the largest empire ever known to man. The current Brits have nothing in common with their imperial cousins except some inbred bloodlines.)

    Failures must be admitted, there must be consequences and the failures must be learned from.

  6. Ian Welsh

    OK. Who were the generals and senior intelligence operatives who were punished for fucking up in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    I also don’t see the problem with punishments. for military officers who do their jobs badly. Used to be routine at one point, in fact.

    Americans wonder why they spend more than the next 7? nations combined and lose wars. Attitudes like “oh, they were held accountable by being shuffled sideways or let go with a great pension” without being blamed are a large part of why.

    This absolute refusal to really hold elites accountable for any level of fuckup, is why western civilization is in inexorable decline (and if you don’t think we are, you are just wrong.)

    (Really, a couple of these comments are making my case better than I ever could. Amazing.

  7. vmsmith

    I’m not going to do your homework for you and search for each and every public story, but here’s a case of the top commander in Afghanistan being relieved in 2009:

    If you simply Google “U.S. military officers relieved afghanistan” and set the time frame from 1/1/2002 until, say, 12/21/2016 I think you’ll see that you’re wildly off the mark in your assertion.

  8. Blueberry Hill

    U.S. military and intelligence people made a number of mistakes during both Afghanistan and Iraq, no question about it.

    The biggest mistake of all, or was it when you consider cui bono, was invading and occupying both countries to begin with and under false pretenses no less. But hey, I’m happy they did because I feel so much safer now. As if. What a joke of you consider war crimes a joke. Both corrupt bloody endeavors served to rationalize a ridiculously bloated defense budget for a military that doesn’t give a wit about keeping unwashed Americans safe and secure.

  9. Willy

    Putin doesn’t strike me as the short who after being publicly humiliated in some horrific public failure, would throw himself under a bed to weep. Seems more like the type who’d look for scapegoats and imprison them. People like that are far more driven by power than actual merit.

    So we compare with W Bush. Dubya wasn’t necessarily evil, more the blind faither fool easily conned by the power-driven cunning he’d foolishly let into his oval office. His before and after life seems to proves this. But as noted, he did have a far more competent military, thanks to both the insane levels of funding and a higher degree of a culture of competency. If only the Russians had been so lucky.

    But Putin did recently activate General Genocide, a proven winner, the Lawrence Taylor of the military, more destroyer-machine than man. That is, if Lawrence Taylor had been as utterly oblivious to destroying innocent sideline bystanders like cheerleaders and towel boys as he was the opposing quarterbacks.

    But if destroying innocents is part of the General’s strategy, I think it’d make him even worse than Taylor. If I was Putin, I would’ve made every effort to join NATO, to then try and undermine them from the inside. Or make them irrelevant. Or to focus on a new enemy.

    I’m open to some kind of ‘plans within plans’ thing going on, that Putin is actually a chess master genius who’s carefully setting up western NATO neoliberalism for a big fall. But this doesn’t seem likely, because usually the obvious is just that.

  10. Willy

    Oh dear, I said “short” instead of “sort”. Was that a Freudian slip?

    On second thought, probably not. Millions of Ukrainians might agree.

  11. Z

    Shoot, if the people in the U.S. who screwed up U.S. foreign policy were purged and the ones who were right on the wrong things hadn’t been tossed out long ago we wouldn’t have the anti-Putin zealots calling all the shots in our State Department right now in this extremely damaging endeavor to the U.S. (((you know the country whose interests they are supposed to be representing))).

    The scariest aspects of this matter is the realization that the egos of the Zionist Trio running our State Department and the lead stiff of Weekend at Biden’s prevent them from admitting they f*ed up and to begin mitigating the damage and that might just lead us into nuclear annihilation.

    They are leaning way too far out beyond their skis IMO and are getting close to face planting perhaps all human life on earth by using U.S. weapons and it appears U.S. mercenaries/CIA assets in Mariupol right now and producing about three false flags a week to try to attain worldwide public support or indifference (((just as good, if not better))) for the war but they are failing badly largely due to the existential sacrifices that they are imposing on the world from inflation and food shortages.

    As Russia bears down towards destroying the Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, can we trust these egotistical idiots who probably most, if not all, are on either amphetamine scrips that Hitler would have been envious of or are ingesting Modafinil and its nihilism to not bring in U.S. and/or NATO air power to rescue the Ukrainian forces? I don’t because they keep ginning up justification for it with their CIA produced false flags and running their increasingly intellectually-insulting propaganda in the U.S. statestream media.

    We’ll know these egotistical idiots, who don’t give a flying f*ck about the U.S. and particularly its citizens, as well as Ukraine and its people, have given up on trying to induce dopamine pings for themselves and are starting to back down if and when we begin to see stories in the NYZ Times, the Grey Jezebel, our rulers’ paper of propaganda, critical of Zelenskyy. That will be the sign.

    Meanwhile, anti-U.S. sentiment is building across the globe and this is a positive because it is the most likely source of a cohesive international force in which a huge global movement can grow that is needed to quickly and radically change our political and economic systems in order to stop our rulers from destroying us and the planet’s life sustaining capabilities. The flash fires have begun and of particular interest is Pakistani citizens protesting the soft coup our rulers bullied upon Pakistan by likely bribing and blackmailing Pakistani military leaders and politicians.

    Our best chance IMO of getting the huge change in direction we need in order to avoid ecological collapse is that there is a huge international movement against the U.S., the inflation and food shortages they are foisting upon humanity, and large-scale activism against fossil fuel usage and that those energies fuse, along with substantial protests in the U.S. (and they are already happening for medicare-for-all, student loan forgiveness, climate change, labor issues, etc.) and then something happens ecologically that our rulers can not ignore or believe they can control or mislead us on. If we are extremely fortunate it will be something as potentially non-lethal as heat and water issues in Phoenix which causes a max exodus from the city this summer. Hopefully then our rulers will be concerned enough with their own survival and insecure in their positions of power that they will do something radical for the good such as a rapid move away from fossil fuels and funding a Manhattan Project style public program for renewable energy, something which should have been done five decades ago.

    Anarchism isn’t going to do it, it would take too long for some sort of cohesive structure to develop from its ashes that can tackle these huge problems which are going to require an immense amount of international cooperation. So, the unfortunate fact of the matter IMO is that we need to use existing governmental infrastructure to turn this barge around fast enough to avoid ecological devastation.

    Even then though we are dependent upon the production team of Weekend at Biden’s to help pull it off and execute on those plans which would, step one, require packing the lead stiff in the freezer for good and Kamala Harris taking over and displaying leadership capabilities and wisdom of which she has shown zero signs of possessing thus far.


  12. somecomputerguy

    I strongly suspect that a significant number of those dead Russian generals are not from enemy fire. I also suspect that a significant improvement in Russian performance is a direct result.

    Thomas Ricks in 2012;
    “Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling noted during the Iraq War, a private who loses his rifle is now punished more than a general who loses his part of a war.”

  13. DMC

    I don’t seem to recall anybody being purged for being part of the team who recommended the literal combat ships or the f-35 getting sacked. Those were boondoggles of Stalinesque proportions that should have resulted in some Purge level as firings. But all those people probably retired with full pensions.

  14. Soredemos


    It really is amazing to watch people just blindly swallow propaganda about the supposed Russian setbacks in Ukraine.

  15. bruce wilder

    Classic Lambert: “What if our organs of state of security are staffed up with people who are crazy as loons and corrupt to the bone?”

    Years ago I remember a story, never refuted, that some covert units gathering intelligence along Pakistan’s wild frontier masqueraded as an NGO distributing polio vaccines, but being fake they chose to use a fake vaccine and a local outbreak followed discrediting the effort to eradicate polio globally in one of the last places polio remained endemic.

    That is more than a mistake. That is the kind of error someone should be fired for, because it indicates a fatally poisoned culture is at work in the agency.

    It is the same mentality that led a stinker like Obama, aided by the likes of Bernanke and Geithner, to “rescue” the banksters in 2008 and call it, “saving the world”. The country will never recover from that.

    I do not know if we can believe any story floating around the Ukraine war — so many players are intent on spreading disinformation and are well-practiced. So, Putin firing operators seems convenient; for what? would be the operative question and the answer should be more than “for a mistake” because it is a special kind of mistake that counts.

  16. Frogger

    @vnsmith “The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was pretty successful by comparison.”

    The US invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent war for control of the country lasted 20 years and in the end the country went back to the Taliban and the American occupiers were sent packing.

    Maybe the Russians will be booted out of Ukraine in similar fashion but the Ukraine war isn’t even two months old yet. A bit early to be proclaiming it a complete disaster for Russia, no?

    You claim to have fought in Afghanistan so you of all people ought to be acutely aware that your country’s war against the Taliban ended after 20-years of fighting with the American military being defeated and forced out of the country. To add insult to injury, the colonial regime Washington set up folded before the final US troop withdrawal was even complete and the puppet ruler you installed looted the Afghan treasury and absconded to the UAE without putting up even a token resistance.

    Why are you trying to convince (delude) yourself that America’s war for control of Afghanistan was “pretty successful” despite the cold hard facts of the matter telling a very different story, namely that the US and its NATO allies objectively lost the war to the Taliban?

    If you were trolling for shits and giggles that would be one thing but it’s clear that you really do believe what you are saying.

  17. Debra Cooper


    “It’s possible, of course, that these officers tried to tell Putin the truth about Ukrainian ability to resist, and Putin wouldn’t listen, but isn’t it also reasonable to think that if Russia expected a lot less resistance from Ukraine’s military than happened because that’s what the intelligence service told Putin and the military command that, then getting rid of the secret agents who screwed up is appropriate? And given thousands of Russian soldiers have died, in large part due to faulty intelligence, and Russia’s position in the world has been damaged, is it not appropriate for the head of the division to go to prison? (Though he’s officially accused of corruption, not incompetence.)”

    The other possibility is

    That the officers gave him the information they knew he wanted to hear.
    Because doing anything else was hazardous to themselves…

    So they either did not consider other possibilities
    Or they didn’t look or analyze too hard
    Or they very much knew that negative information would not only be roundly rejected but place themselves in some kind of serious jeopardy

    That kind of behavior is often quite common in authoritarian regimes….

    From the Mafia to Nazi Germany to…Donald Trump
    Actually most authoritarian regimes operate on that kind of “principle” almost all the time
    The truth is not a valuable commodity in those regimes

    That is the problem with authoritarian regimes that are also kleptocracies…it both promotes and hides incompetence

  18. RobK

    Woah I’m think I’m suffering vertigo! Just like that the war isn’t going so well for Russia in this corner of the internet. It’s position in the world has suffered! The paradigm changed so fast (and the change is so unremarked upon) I almost suffered whiplash.

  19. Ian Welsh

    it is both possible to believe that Russia is winning and that by not winning in a more crushing way they have taken losses they wouldn’t have taken otherwise and that other nations fear them less, which damages their position in the world.

    My tolerance for sarcastic comments is minimal and this will be the last one I let thru.

  20. Ian Welsh


    yes, good point, though I don’t think it’s limited to authoritarian regimes. In our regimes you just don’t promote people who will tell you things you don’t want to hear.

  21. Blueberry Hill

    Frogger, do you believe what you are purporting? That America was defeated in Afghanistan or Iraq? If you do believe that, you’re as delusional as vnsmith. The Pentagon budget is growing leaps and bounds and defense contractors’ profits have never been better. Afghanistan and Iraq were crucial to this outcome and as such, they were both wins, not defeats. Sure, conventionally it can be argued America lost in Iraq and Afghanistan but like God, Convention is dead and so yesterday.

  22. Carborundum

    I think there’s some unconscious mirroring going on here to fit things into a conceptual framework that takes as an accepted precept that Putin is more competent than the typical western leader. I don’t see a lot of good evidence for that in this domain – given the opacity of the issue (any Russian speakers in the house?), what I see is a lot of following IO-driven narratives.

    The difference between recent American and Russian military performance is that the Americans overwhelmingly won the wars of maneuver but lost the far more difficult wars of attrition and culture (the meta-learning being that COIN buys you time, expensively, virtually always *nothing* more). The Russians are performing relatively poorly at the war of maneuver. They may “win” something in the sense that military force may produce some locally favourable political realities, but the costs they are bearing are extreme. Not least, they’ve spent a lot of coin pushing the notion that they have a first tier military force, as an indicator of national and international stature. That clearly just isn’t true. They’re a second or third tier military with ICBMs, which makes them very dangerous and likely to be the object of unprecedented in post-Cold War times levels of containment. If the point of strategy is to increase the options available to you, this has not been a great experience.

    To the major point of the post, if I wanted to make sure that there was no one outside the military to counter a new narrative that Russian performance wasn’t as bad as it appears, the very first guys I’d purge would the guys in the external power structure that knew how bad things really were (i.e., the line department in the FSB tasked with Ukraine). If the narrative that Putin’s power centre is more in the intelligence community than the military is true, this may indicate an interesting horse trade. If true, only time will tell whether it’s one made from strength or weakness (assuming we can see anything at all through the IO generated BS).

  23. Ché Pasa

    It’s impossible for me to fathom how Moscow’s stated objectives can be achieved through the means deployed. Of course it’s made more difficult by the extreme levels of propaganda, induced anti-Russian hysteria, and what appears to be the bovine recalcitrance and stupidity of the Ukrainians in their rulers in Kiev or Lemberg or wherever they are.

    Of course it didn’t have to be this way. There were and are alternative means of dealing with the problems Putin has referenced, and those means were on offer before Feb 24. But it was clear that the USandNato wanted — needed? — open warfare with Moscow and would take nothing less.

    They got their wish, but to what object? Much as I can’t see how Moscow can achieve its stated objectives through the present means, I don’t see Brussels and DC achieving theirs. What, exactly, is the point of all this?

    Whether Putin is now purging his officer ranks of the military and intelligence services is relatively unimportant. What seems to be the case is that the Kremlin has now fully adopted a Grozny-heavy program to crush any further resistance “once and for all”, concentrating firepower east of the Dnieper and, yes, flattening cities along the way.

    Grozny has been rebuilt, by the way, in a kind of stunning Oz-like manner, and Chechen fighters supposedly volunteered to go to war for Russia in the Ukraine. Chechen resistance evaporated, or rather was dispersed around the world and exterminated at home. That was the tactic Russia deployed in Syria — and so did the United States, so there’s no moral high ground to be claimed by one or the other. They both engage in mad destruction and slaughter when and where they choose.

    NB: I love the way keyboard generals know exactly what’s happening, who is winning, and how long it will take their chosen victors to clear out their chosen enemies. There’s something so primal about it all. Fulfillment of dreams, I guess. It doesn’t really matter which side they’re on. The point is the conflict. “War is the Health of the State,” eh? Never truer.

  24. RobK

    It was possible to see this war was going poorly for Russia more than 7 weeks ago at this point (if you weren’t getting your information about the war in the analysis of Scott Ritter and your Twitter guy disproving Oryx who thinks Zelensky is in a polish basement).

    It is indeed possible to believe that Russia may ultimately beat Ukraine in military combat, while also noting that they have lost this in every way that matters (expanded NATO, their second most powerful in the world military exposed as a complete Potemkin sham, damaging technological import sanctions, an insurgency to come which will be an order of magnitude worse than any we’ve seen this century assuming they achieve any territorial gains). But you haven’t made any of those notes (first light echoes of them today).

    It’s indeed even possible to frame an entire Cold War narrative that’s shaping up in the 21st century, boldy predict the underdog as winner, while failing to note the actual military partner of that underdog team is humiliating itself daily and hemorrhaging it’s soft power and the perception of its hard power.

    But all those possibilities make me question the types of people who make these analyses, and predictions l. I once admired their clear eyed realism about the west, but was it realism or ideological blinders focused on hate. Were they even sincere in their criticisms or are they just nihilistic elements inserted into western discourse to demoralize. Where is their oh so admirable realism when it comes to Russia?

    This will be my last comment if you let it through, or don’t. Ian I don’t know if you are in fact a Russian asset (your behavior since this war broke out really makes me wonder as you deny the evidence in front of all of our lying eyes). Assuming you aren’t, you need to seriously rethink your antiwestern biases as they’ve utterly stripped your analytical abilities. The war in Ukraine is the greatest geopolitical win for America (completely unearned, completely undeserved) I’ve seen in this century. It’s most credible military rival is unmasked as a joke, its conventional power now widely viewed as an order of magnitude greater than all other conventional militaries. Europe has been drawn in close. Sanctions weaponized to a greater extent than ever with Europes blessing and approval. Chinas primary partner for the new century a net drain on them for a long time to come. You talk about the coming cold war, but the primary reason the cold war went the way it did was the USA and USSR considered themselves at rough military parity. The combo of China and Russia are very far from that, For Cold War great power competition to work for China it needs to be able to credibly threaten its proxy military efforts will have an impact on the USA and it’s interests. It can’t do that and the partner it was relying on for that has shown it made a very bad call in it’s strategic planning. You’ve gone out on a bunch of limbs the last two months, most seem to originate from some gut hate of the west you have rather than reason or analysis. I honestly can’t help but be extremely disappointed.

  25. Ian Welsh

    Ah, the “Russian asset” and “hatred of USA” tropes. I will hold Rob to his word to not comment again as an accusation of “Russian asset” is something no one should do without proof. (Don’t try and say “I don’t know if you are a Russian asset” is not an accusation. It’s just a cowardly one, meant to avoid legal liability.)

    And I still expect that in the end, unless they let themselves be drawn into a multi-year quagmire (which I always warned against), Russia will win. Of course, it is possible I am wrong, I have not claimed infallibility in judgments of war, though my overall record is just fine, thanks.

    (Anyone who doesn’t hate America is American and/or deeply immoral, as an aside, but as with my hatred of Putin and Johnson and Modi and Trudeau and Ford and most of the EU’s leadership and so on, I try not to let it affect my analysis. No doubt it sometimes does nonetheless. People who are conspiring to kill a billion plus people thru climate change along with a variety of other actions intended to hurt huge numbers of people are the people I find worthy of hate.)

  26. Z

    It is absurdly early to declare that Russia has failed in this war, especially with all the complexities and facets of it that have yet to be unfurled.

    The fact that the U.S. statestream media is so hysterically spouting the narrative that Russia is losing, Zelenskyy is constantly asking other countries for more support, the U.S. and NATO continue to pour weapons into Ukraine, and we are being force-fed information about supposed Russia war crimes at such a rapid rate (((too rapid to actually confirm any of them though the U.S. statestream media rarely attaches a modicum of doubt to these claims))) doesn’t point towards Ukraine winning the war and Russia getting “its ass handed to it” though.

    Time will tell, the Zionist Trio that runs the “U.S.” State Department and the lead stiff at Weekend at Biden’s are digging in, convincing themselves by repetition and echoes that the war on Ukraine is a war of rigid principles that must be fought for and that they are in fact heroes for sacrificing Ukrainians and impoverishing, as well as potentially starving, hundreds of millions of innocent people with inflation and food scarcity in their brave quest to defend these principles makes one wonder how far they’ll wander in their ego-enhancing, dopamine-pinging delusions and what form it will take and damage will ensue.

    I think any rational, even-minded analysis of what the “U.S.” State Department is doing in this matter would come to the conclusions that taking into account what is being risked against the potential benefits and probabilities of winning war in any form or fashion is foolhardy and reckless.

    I don’t agree with all of this, but I do on the general gist of it in regards to the failure of the “U.S.” State Department:


  27. Ken Cox

    Ian, you seem to hate a lot of people and have stated your reasons for doing so. It also seems as though a lot of your writing stems from this hate.

    Is there anyone currently in a position of influence that you admire and think worthy of your respect and praise?

  28. Z

    When you publicly arm-twist and threaten leaders of other countries if they don’t join your coalition against Russia and they change course and follow your diktats and then they can’t provide for their people then you become a target for blowback.

    I’d imagine that what the U.S. is doing is offering U.S. dollars to these countries to keep their populations fed and economies healthy during this world-wide inflation caused by Biden’s Sanctions. The form that will take is that these countries will announce price controls and then the U.S. will cover the costs for them with U.S. dollars which are created by mere key strokes on a computer at the Federal Reserve.

    We won’t get these price controls in the U.S. though, or if we do it won’t be before we are on the brink of social collapse, because this is the bastion of capitalism and they got their militarized cops and their vicious, divisive economic system to deploy against U.S. citizens.


  29. Astrid

    Everyone here seems very sure that Russia failed in objectives around Kiev, but I don’t see anyone address Ritter’s assessment that given the size of the force around Kiev (50K near Kiev) compared to Mariupol (also 50K for a much smaller city and force), Russia always intended it to be for tying up the bulk of Ukrainian forces outside of Donbas.

    Ritter calls this shaping the battlefield and noted that a similar approach was taken for Desert Storm, where Iraq was misled to believe an amphibious assault and caught offguard by the land based one.

    As for who is winning outside of the battlefield. Russian support for finishing the way and for Putin had risen substantially from the start of the war.
    The ruble is back to its prewar valuation.
    Putin is openly moving against West looking liberals and it sounds like many of them already gave up on the West. Internationally, the Chinese and Indians are far more firmly behind Russia than 6 months ago. The UNHRC vote show the drift from the UN condemnation of the initial invasion.

    Furthermore, the Western behavior in response to this war is shaping the Eurasian future that Putin, Xi, and the anti Western Eurasians want but would not get one their own. They want to detach from the unipolar world and now EU and AUKUS is giving it to them. The wins cited above regarding NATO expansion and more defense spending is nothing – the West has poured in tons of money for decades but their weapons systems suck, their troops can’t fight outside of full spectrum dominance scenarios, and good luck getting oil and gas and metals after 2022. What’s the West did is an own goal akin to the US response to 9/11, except an order of magnitude bigger and dumber.

  30. Ian Welsh

    I admired Corbyn when he was Labour leader even if I thought he was too nice. I admire Sanders to a fair degree. Melenchon seems pretty good, though I haven’t studied him in detail. Arden in New Zealand did a good job on Covid until recently. I think her re-opening is a mistake, but we’ll see how it plays out.

    I can’t think of anyone in power in a major country I respect, though.

    And that’s the problem. I don’t think my standards are that high: don’t act like a psychopath would be the very short summary. And they all fail.

    I’m genuinely shocked (truly genuinely) that the majority of people don’t hate the people who run their governments. They should, because those people’s records in most countries (China is a partial exception) is of impoverishing them so as to make the rich richer, letting them die and get sick to a plague, and so on, and they’ve been doing this shit for over 40 years now.

  31. Willy

    But NATOs eastward expansion frightens us nuclear Russians!
    But the USA’s done it!
    But those Nazis!
    But Ukraine has always been part of Russia!
    But doesn’t the rebuilt Grozny justify the means?
    But it’s a noble cause!

    Tell that to millions of innocents.

    Personally, I call it “the stopped clock strategy” because of how ridiculous it is. Or if I was to state it more publicly, the “just keep slinging mud until something sticks strategy”. SOP for psychopaths BTW. Hide themselves, hide their true intentions, always make everything somebody else’s fault.

    And so I ask, what if nobody had done anything? What if Russia was just allowed to take Ukraine? I’m curious about how others believe the end result would have been.

    Personally, I find the millions of innocents fighting back in this situation to have an appeal for me, even if there are (and will always be) the not-so-innocent amongst them.

  32. Z


    What makes you think that there are millions of innocents fighting back? Zelenskyy was elected on a platform for peace ( but dissent in Ukraine against the war is punishable at this point and in some places it is punishable by death. They either flee or stick around and hope for the best.

    And was the sacrifice necessary? What if Ukraine didn’t cross a red line that Russia long ago drew and therefore there was not a war and the vast majority of Ukrainians could have gotten on with their lives? What if Biden didn’t sanction and isolate Russia from world trade causing hundreds of millions of people who are not from Ukraine to suffer from inflation and food shortages?

    I don’t find the forced sacrifices that the Ukrainians have had foisted upon them, not to mention the hundreds of millions of non-Ukrainians, or Ukrainian civilians having to flee or deal with the fear of missile attacks or guerilla warfare and deal with shortages of necessities to be appealing. I doubt it feels that way to them either.

    I also doubt that there are millions of innocent Ukrainians who are fighting back … I don’t count Ukrainian soldiers as innocents since they signed up and are drawing a paycheck for this … because I’d imagine that the vast majority of the Ukrainian non-military who stuck around never wanted the war and are just trying to survive it.


  33. Ché Pasa

    What if nobody had done anything?

    Good question.

    It didn’t have to be this way. Russia has no objective interest in “taking” Ukraine. There is nothing to be gained and much to lose. That’s why so many of us, including I believe Ian, didn’t think Russia would invade. But what did we know? As it turns out, nothing, or at least not enough.

    Now we’re seeing a very complex opening battle in WWIII. This is not going to be a Cold War Redux. This is going to be a nasty, long and bloody physical war that ultimately will embroil the globe. Russia started it — in that they went to battle first. But the West precipitated it through months and months of belligerence, bad faith, and lies. Not blameless angels…

    It’s horrifying what’s happening to the Ukrainians and to the Russians thrown into battle and, yes, to all the mercs and NGOs operating in the so called battle space.

    10% or so of the Ukrainian population has fled the country — mostly women and children. All the military aged Ukrainian males have been drafted into defense service (though it’s obvious many are shirking, and that’s possibly the source of some of the dead bodies we’re told are Russian WarCrimes.

    At least another 15-20% of the population is internally displaced. An untold number of non-combatants have been killed or injured. Parts of some cities have been destroyed. The comforts of Western countries have never been commonplace in Ukraine, but now they have ceased in many areas. Food, fuel, water, electricity, heat, a roof overhead, hospitals, transport, clothes, money… all sorts of things we (still) take for granted have vanished for millions of Ukrainians, and they are subject to what must appear to be arbitrary bombardment.

    It’s terrible and it didn’t have to happen.

    Russia started it, and it appears they too will fight to the last Ukrainian.

    And perhaps that’s the intent: depopulation. Not limited to Ukraine.

  34. Feral Finster

    Ian, organizations are very good at creating sociopaths.

    Look at the average frustrated colonial civil servant in the British Empire. A decent enough chap, educated, a churchgoer but not too devout, kind to his wife and a devoted father to his children, but at the office he would either order whatever monstrosities that were needed to be ordered in the name of Queen and Country, or he would be replaced by someone else who would.

    I express no opinion regarding whether any alleged purge of intelligence officers has any basis in fact, other than to note :

    1. Anything Russia does is automatically declared “Stalinist”, especially when the audience are conservatives. Anything Russia does is automatically “fascist” and/or a the result of theocratic tyranny, when the audience are liberals.

    2. The surrenders of Ukrainian troops are increasing, and those who surrender don’t look too good. Armor and equipment losses seem to be falling, probably because there isn’t much left to destroy.

  35. Z

    And perhaps that’s the intent: depopulation. Not limited to Ukraine.

    Our rulers have created a lot of killing fields that’s for certain: Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc. and Biden’s Sanctions are going to create more.

    If it’s not a feature, they certainly don’t seemed concerned enough by it to stop it either.


  36. Carborundum

    People don’t spend much time with Ritter’s assessment because it’s not that great a parallel to the case he’s making. The Desert Storm feint involved keeping a couple of expeditionary brigades afloat, a liberal sprinkling of PsyOps and a special operation seeking to mimic an amphibious landing. (Notably it did not involve spreading 40 clicks of soft-skinned vehicles over a two lane MSR and a failed airhead seizure.)

    The more analogous Desert Storm operation involved 1 and 2 MARDIV, which went hey diddle diddle straight up the middle breaching Iraqi defensive lines, running over something like eight line divisions and actually taking Kuwait City (the Kyiv-equivalent for those keeping score at home). They didn’t fix those forces to buy time/space for other maneuver elements, they destroyed them in toto.

    Bottom line, Ritter’s interpretation depends on the Ukrainians having a lot more forces in the Kyiv area capable of maneuvering effectively than I see any indication they had. This really doesn’t seem to be a “big arrow” conflict like he bills it – it’s smaller units and smaller distances.

  37. Debra Cooper


    Yes it is true most bosses prefer yes men to no men. However there are people, good leaders who actually prefer the truth. I know some of them.

    But in terms of negative outcomes to telling the boss what the boss doesn’t want to hear, there is a real qualitative difference between NOT being promoted and being put in jail…or worse.


  38. Soredemos

    Look, I’m just some random dipshit on the internet. But I’ve also followed the battle maps from day one. Kiev and Kharkov were never a major focus, and Russia never sent more than light recon troops deep into Kiev. The heaviest fighting was always in the east, with north of Crimea also being a major theater early on (they secured the water supply to Crimea quickly, but Kherson took a while to take). Mariupol in particular was always priority number one.

    The media can assert that Russia tried and failed to take Kiev and the north all it wants, but that won’t make it reality. The way that Russia *completely* abandoned everything in the north of the country and retreated back into Belarus tells me they never intended to hold any of that territory to begin with (much to the detriment of anyone who put on a white armband to show their support, or at least neutrality. Here’s a criticism: Russia should have offered to take those people with them, rather than leaving them to the Ukrainian thugs). Again, following the maps daily, Russia was taking new territory literally hours before the total withdrawal. For weeks I figured the plan was to surround these cities, because that’s what they were doing. There was no attempt to take Kiev or Chenikov; the fighting was always to surround. It looks like even that was all a giant feint.

    Russia isn’t falling back on a plan B. They’re doing phase 2 of what they planned all along. The main objective was always the east. Attacking elsewhere served to divide and distract Ukrainian military power while it was systematically deprived of military infrastructure and heavy equipment. The Ukrainian Donbass front is not some new target.

    It’s quite maddening to see all the talking heads chattering about the ‘new Russian plan’ of focusing on the eastern Ukrainian grouping (which none of them probably even knew existed before they were handed their new talking points. Hey, don’t ask a follow up question about why there was such a massive grouping on the Donbass front or anything. People might start to accuse such a questioner of journalism…) when that was clearly the focus from the start if you actually followed the daily battle events.

  39. Astrid

    An effective feint needs to be credible. You might fool an isolated Iraq with a small expedition force and well planted rumors. The Ukrainians are supported by the full force of Western intelligence. For the feint to be believable, Russia need a strong show of force to make them believe that it is serious about taking Kiev.

    Yes, Russia could have destroyed the Ukrainian forces early on as Americans do in their campaigns. But then it would be doing so against a fraternal people who voted overwhelming to make peace with Russia only a few years earlier. That’s a hard sell internally and externally. It would make implacable enemies of a population in their borders, spook their friends and potential allies internationally, and turn off their own populace. We see that they have ratcheted up destruction as Ukrainians and the West hardened their stance, but they’ve always pursued proportionality and good conduct to give themselves a chance of winning the peace.

    And winning the peace is something that the West isn’t even capable of doing anymore, so forgive me for being skeptical about westerners lecturing about departures from the Western playbook.

  40. Carborundum

    Roughly one sixth of total Russian forces were committed to the Kyiv axis – that’s a lot of combat power to divert to a non-major focus. Based on the pattern of dispositions, I’d say that they intended to hold Kyiv at threat as a lever in post-conflict negotiations. Having borked taking Hostofel and maybe whatever that airport to the E of the city is (working from memory here) for basing and getting bled far more than they anticipated, I’d say they made the decision to get the heck out of Dodge, reorganize and redeploy to the east.

  41. Feral Finster

    Note that Russia was forced back from Kiev, Chernigov, etc..

    They just left on their own, so to speak. They could have left those troops in place, had they wanted to.

  42. different clue

    If America is worthy of hatred for conspiring to kill a billion plus people through climate change, then Canada is equally worthy of equal hatred for equally conspiring to kill the same billion plus people through climate change.

    The drive to sell Alberta Tar Dreck is a strictly Canadian conspiracy. The Alberta Tar Dreck-mongers equally conspired to force their Keystone XL Pipeline across America against the desires of almost every American in the path of that pipeline. The drive to force the Enbridge Pipeline Tunnel under the Straits of Mackinaw is a strictly Canadian petro-conspiracy against the same billion plus people in general, and against America in particular.

    ( So anyone who doesn’t hate Canada is Canadian and/or is deeply immoral as an equal fair-and-balanced aside. I am open to any Indigenous Turtle Islander suffering under Canadian White Racist Settler-State Occupation to tell me that I am wrong about that).

  43. StewartM

    On whether or not the Kyiv operation was a ‘feint’….

    It has long been a practice of Russian (Soviet) war-making to attack on several fronts or avenues of attack, and then to reinforce the points of success. During WWII, during river crossings such as the Dnieper in 1943, many such crossings were made. A few of these might be wiped out or ignominiously driven back, more would gain a secure foothold but then become stalled, but usually several more would succeed. Such tactics took advantage of the German weakness–while some German formations were still among the best in the world, they couldn’t be everywhere at once, and nor could the Germans defend everywhere adequately at once, and where there wasn’t many Germans, Soviet forces would be pushing through.

    (Why the Western Allies didn’t treat the English Channel the same way, as a big river, and make multiple landings instead of staking everything on one all-or-nothing landing, has always baffled me, as the Germans were in as bad or even worse shape trying to cover all the possible Allied landing sites with too few troops and thus couldn’t be in strength everywhere).

    So the Kyiv operation could have well have been a serious attempt. If the areas in the East had suffered more reverses while the Kyiv operation gained success, the Russians would have reinforce the Kyiv axis. Russian tactics have usually relied on such an opportunistic approach.

    On everything else, I don’t think we know that much about the state of the war. While US intelligence estimated high Russian losses, what has gone unreported is that they were also estimating high Ukrainian military losses (2,000-4000 dead in the first ten days, then they stopped making any public estimates, but extrapolating from that could mean 10,000 or more Ukrainian troops have been killed (I can’t find it, but I saw one estimate of 24,000!). So things may not be going terrifically well for either side.

    I tend to believe that there has been a purge on the Russian side in recognition of the screw-ups that have been made, particularly in logistics, but elsewhere too. Though Putin needs to purge his oligarchs for looting the Russian military more than anyone else.

    I think it likely the Russians did commit massacres in Bucha and elsewhere. I put this down to the hazing that goes on in Russia’s military forces:

    Dedovshchina encompasses a variety of subordinating and humiliating activities undertaken by the junior ranks, from doing the chores of the senior ranks, to violent and sometimes deadly physical and psychological abuse, not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or torture, including sexual torture and rape.[citation needed] When not leaving the army seriously injured, conscripts can suffer serious mental trauma for their lifetime.[citation needed] It is often cited by former military personnel as a major source of poor morale.

    Often with the justification of maintaining authority, physical violence or psychological abuse can be used to make the “youth” do certain fatiguing duties.[citation needed] In many situations, hazing is not the goal, and senior conscripts exploit their juniors in order to provide themselves with a more comfortable existence, and the violent aspects arise when juniors refuse.[citation needed] There have been occasions where soldiers have been seriously injured or killed.

    Brutalize people, and they become brutal. This is not just a Russian problem, part of the likely cause of the atrocities committed by US troops in Vietnam was due to the ‘toughening’ of basic training that began in the US army after Korea (as a foolish attempt to keep any POWs from cracking under pressure in captivity). Besides, the US has no right to complain about someone else’s war crimes, when we failed to even enact even the mildest of punishments on our own transgressors.

  44. Soredemos


    They didn’t fail at taking Hostomel. Oh, I know, Ukraine claims it slaughtered 300 paratroopers there (actually, first they claimed they slaughtered them to a man, then they claimed they just forced them to retreat into the nearby woods). A simple question: where are all the bodies?

    And I’ll extend that question to the war as a whole. The Ukrainian side has not even begun to show any signs of conducting this war in any kind of civilized manner, so forgive me for not accepting premise that Ukraine is simply refraining from posting piles of corpses all over Telegram to gloat about.

    They expect us to believe their ludicrously high Russian casualty figures (which are worse than ‘fighting the Wehrmacht in 1943’ levels), yet can never seem to demonstrate their reality.

    And before you bring it up, no, I don’t accept the Oryx database as evidence. It’s a professionally run intelligence op that lies. It does things like claim pictures of the same vehicle from multiple angles are multiple vehicles.

  45. Soredemos

    @Feral Finster

    A bunch of those troops are still in place, across the border. The threat remains, so Kiev has to keep troops in place to counter it.


    Weird framing. 5/6ths of your forces being directed elsewhere, most of them east, would indicate that the place that gets 1/6th isn’t exactly a priority. Also, that 1/6th would have only been about 10,000 troops (the media is finally coming around to admitting that Russia never deployed hundreds of BTGs to Ukraine).

  46. Ian Welsh

    Sure, every country’s government which isn’t doing something about climate change which is a major producer of greenhouse gases is worthy of hate. I didn’t say it here, but on twitter I listed Canada’s government as among those I hate, for a variety of reasons. Although while it’s terrible per capita, since the population is small it winds up not being nearly as big as many others.

    Sorry, no gotcha.

  47. Willy

    Z, Che, or possibly others… where do you get your news? Your opinion? I’m have a hard time finding your views outside of this place.

    I’m curious about minority opinions since mine appears far more mainstream. (I don’t consider a hatred for stuff like corporate socialism/neoliberalism/military-industrial complexes to be minority opinion, just underreported by the MSM, because I see it reported/opined in a wide variety of information sources including even on occasion, Fox News).

    I wonder why when I’m recommended stuff like say, the Epoch Times from somebody, why I’m compelled to do a little homework and find out where their “only the truth” minority viewpoints come from.

  48. different clue

    The Alberta Tar Dreck sands are the biggest burnable pile of fossil carbon in North America. The Canadian petro-conspirators want to mine all of it and sell all of it to get all of it burned into the atmosphere by the bigger countries which the Canadian petro-conspirators want to sell it to. The only way the bigger countries can get it all burned is if the Canadian petro-conspirators get all of it mined and sold and shipped to them.

    So that is the Canadian petro-conspiracy’s desired enablement of big global warming by big countries which the Canadian petro-conspiracy desperately wants to enable by selling the big countries all the Tar Dreck in Alberta.

    So if you get to hate America rather than the “American government”, I get to hate Canada rather than the “Canadian government” for the same reason, because of Canada’s deep desire to have an America-sized impact on global warming by selling
    an America-sized pile of Tar Dreck to all the furnaces and engines in the world. And Canada’s deep desire to destroy America’s best farmland and aquifers to get the Tar Dreck to market through the Keystone XL pipeline.

    But I fully understand that you don’t hate Canada because you are Canadian for the same reason I don’t hate America because I am American.

  49. Ian Welsh

    Parse little bits of language all day if it pleases you.

    especially as you don’t even mean it, but are trying to make a point.

  50. Carborundum

    Soredemos, I understand that you are some random guy following the maps closely. I’m the opposite – a non-random guy with domain expertise barely looking at the maps drawn by people very far away, based on challenging sources and fragmentary collection (their prime mover data is pretty chaotic with all sorts of bias, access to overheads to organize it is kinda okay but access to sigs for insight into dynamics and mindset is non-existent – all of this makes the plots fraught and very subject to interpretative projection).

    I would encourage you to look at the analogous Soviet historical operations (the initial movement into Afghanistan, Hungary, etc.). Overall, I think they thought the Kyiv axis was going to be a lot more of an admin move than it turned out to be – I’ve never seen overheads of a logistics train that “casual” for a polite term (you’d be failed on the basic logistics officer course for performance like that – and that’s the direct assessment of a friend of mine who ran multiple cycles of our course).

    The analytical razor that I would use on the force levels is this: could they have achieved the same effect (increased focus on Kyiv, keeping mindshare and resources from other axes) with significantly fewer forces? I think the answer here is yes – as you note, there was significant penetration of recce / SOF elements into Kyiv and the Ukrainians were absolutely shitting themselves about “saboteur” activity (remember how central SOF activity was in the Crimean campaign). The really characteristic aspect of this conflict to me is how little massed maneuver of forces there has been – the action around Kyiv wasn’t generally armoured / mechanized force on force, it was mainly small anti-armour teams pulling ambushes on small packets. You just don’t need 1/6th of forces to tie those guys down and allocating less force keeps the environment from being so target rich (which it pretty clearly was – when you’re losing MBTs to dumb bombs from drones, that says something about target density and situational awareness).

    Looking at it from the other perspective – was 1/6th of forces enough – I’d have to say that the notion of allocating this many forces to hold Kyiv at threat only looks stupid knowing it failed. If it had worked, they’d have the national capital encircled, maybe have had a successful coup de main taking out Ukrainian political / military leadership, and the negotiations would be in a very different place. If that’s the strategy, 1/6th of forces is entirely reasonable – the bulk of my forces have created new realities on the ground in the east (which is the centre of gravity) and the Kyiv axis is in effect a cocked pistol to the head of my negotiating partner. That’s a good strategic outcome. Their problem is twofold: 1) they did a poor job of implementation (combination of mindset and sub-optimal skills – this stuff is harder than people think it is), and 2) they ran into a group of people who have had the benefit of seeing the Russian way of war up close and personal, had the educational experience of having been beat by it, and had the time and space to learn from it.

  51. Frogger

    @Blueberry Hill “Frogger, do you believe what you are purporting? That America was defeated in Afghanistan or Iraq? If you do believe that, you’re as delusional as vnsmith. The Pentagon budget is growing leaps and bounds and defense contractors’ profits have never been better. Afghanistan and Iraq were crucial to this outcome”

    Do you really think the impetus for these wars was a desire to increase the Pentagon budget and MIC profits? You do go on to admit that the US lost the conventional war but then say “like God, convention is dead.” If this is the case then the US must be losing its wars on purpose. Do you really believe that?

    Arms industry stocks went up considerably after Russia invaded Ukraine, too, and didn’t Biden just announce another Pentagon budget increase? You don’t need to launch two full-scale invasions and fight a futile 20-year-long war to boost MIC profits and Pentagon spending. Was doing Iran a favor by taking out its arch enemy in Iraq and bringing the Shiites to power also a goal of the GWOT? Following your logic the answer would have to be “yes”.

    Correlation does not imply causation. You are making excuses for incompetence and failure.

  52. Ché Pasa


    I’m not Russophobic by nature.

    When I realized in elementary school that the anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda we were being fed constantly was a crock, mostly false, intended to stir up hatred and fear of The Other, I decoupled from it. Even then, there were lots of alternatives to standard state sponsored propaganda about the Soviet Union and about practically anything else. Over time and a good deal of study, I came to understand some of the reasons why things happened the way they did in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, though understanding is not excusing.

    I came to understand the suffering of the Russian people(s) for untold centuries. And their endurance and spirit.

    Ukrainians are part of that story and history. Twenty-thirty years ago or so, I had the opportunity to interview some Ukrainians who’d come to the US as religious refugees from the Soviet Union. The old man of the group had survived WWII and he wanted to talk about it. He didn’t speak English, and I only spoke a little Russian, so we talked through a translator (may have been his daughter or granddaughter, I’m not sure now.) I think he wanted her to hear his story too. He said that when the Nazis invaded, he was just starting high school. Everything stopped, and many died. There was little food, no luxuries, the men were drafted to fight, women and children went hungry or were taken away to work for the Nazis. Many people were rounded up and shot, Communist Party members and Jews especially. He said his mother died. His father “disappeared.” He and his two sisters survived by hiding and stealing. His younger sister died from some illness. He and his older sister found refuge with a family in a city the name of which I’ve forgotten, and through them became Soviet Army auxiliaries, primarily for reconnaissance. His older sister was shot. He escaped with his life several times. He said he could hardly believe it when the Nazis were defeated. They had seemed so invincible. And he said he deeply admired Stalin for pulling the country together to fight and win.

    He had left Ukraine because the government was allowing religious minorities to emigrate if they wanted. So he did.

    During the Euromaidan protests in Kiev in 2013 and 2014, numerous livestreams were available and after the coup, Ukrainian tv stations continued to livestream coverage of news and incidents like the Odessa and Mariupol massacres committed by Right Sektor hooligans and (in Mariupol) by UKR National Guard against those who dared to disapprove of the coup and its leaders. Hundreds were killed. It’s hard to explain how witnessing these things –even from afar — affected me. It was abominable. Even some of the tv personalities who supported the coup were horrified. There were numerous reports of murders of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers during this period, too.

    By the time of the current conflict, it was fairly obvious how determined the USandNato were to engage Russia in a proxy war with Ukrainians as the cannon fodder.

    I thought Russia would say no. I was wrong.

    Jacques Baud is actually the first person I’ve read during the current conflict who shares most of the views I hold. He seems not to have a propaganda intent, though is obviously not anti-Russia.

    Even the mainstream “news” seems to be backing off accepting Ukrainian propaganda as gospel, and some of the formerly pro-war (against Russia) personalities and news rooms have started to question the merits of sanctions and fueling the fighting.

  53. Soredemos


    For Ukraine, Scott Ritter, Gilbert Doctorow, Patrick Armstrong (when he occasionally posts), and Moon of Alabama are all useful sources. Vinyard of the Saker is a useful source for daily summaries and translations of interesting Russian government statements and opinion pieces (with the heavy caveat that Saker and his community are insane: they’re committed Russian nationalists who believe everything is part of an existential battle between Orthodox ‘true Christianity’ and literal Satan). The blog Awful Avalanche is another very useful source for translations, with the added bonus of not being run by a crazy person.

    Patrick Lancaster and Graham Phillips are a couple of YouTube reporters who provide very useful on the ground reports, mostly from Donbass. Both are openly biased, and doubtless they selectively include only the interviews with people whose views align with their own, but they provide an extremely useful outlet for hearing what people in places like Mariupol actually have to say. Biased they may be, but they also aren’t just taking pictures of a freaking cat in Kiev like most Western ‘journalists’.

    Similarly, Gonzalo Lira provides a very useful view from Kharkov (before this war, he was some sort of self-styled ‘red pilled’ male dating coach, teaching viewers how to ‘probably handle’ women. All very gross and stupid, but he could kick puppies for a hobby and it still wouldn’t undermine the fact that he is actually in the warzone).

  54. Soredemos

    Welp, looks like Lira has disappeared and no one can get in contact with him. He’s said before that if he doesn’t post daily it means he’s been kidnapped and/or murdered by Ukrainian intelligence.

  55. different clue


    I read Saker for a while when some other blog led me to Saker. When Saker changed the visual format of his blog to something visually uglier and harder to use and to read, I stopped reading it.

    I once tried finding again a Saker post I had read but I never could find it. It was a present-day throwback to the Christianity of Late Antiquity, when the Christians were first conquering the Roman Empire from within, and were then consolidating their Culture-Imperial Brain-Control of their Roman Empire conquest. It was a faithful reflection and restatement in present day terms of the anti-Judaitic or anti-Judaismitic ( or whatever one wants to call it) position of the Early Imperial Christian Church when it was still at brainwar with the Judaic community of its day in Rome. It was not ” medieval”. It was deeply pre-medieval and basically from the days of Late Classical Antiquity and earliest Post-Classical Post-Antiquity.

    It was a very strange sort of live action time capsule to read. The current Saker blog is so user-hostile that I don’t know if it could ever be found.

  56. Soredemos

    @different clue

    Yeah, Saker is literally antisemitic. He doesn’t even try to hide it.

    I’ve figured for a long time that people like Saker only hate Nazis because Nazis once invaded Russia. There’s no deeper philosophical or ethical element to their opposition. If you simply took fascism and inserted a bunch of Russian Orthodox pandering talking points into it, Saker would be 100% on board with it, probably insisting all the while that it isn’t fascism. He’d probably even happily send gay people (or as Saker insists on calling them, ‘sads’) to concentration camps with ping triangles.

  57. different clue


    I did not / do not see Saker as being antisemitic in any modern sense. I tried my very best to describe what I saw, which is that Saker is a pre-medieval Late Antiquity style early Christian literalists and believes in our own day the antijudaismitic material written by the Early Christian Power-Builders such as Saint Paul and Saint Augustine and so forth, when they were laying the basis for Christianity’s brain-war against the Jews of the Roman and then Christian Roman Empire.

    His mind is a time capsule of early Christian thought and belief carried into our own day from 1,200 years before the invention of antisemitism as we know it. He would eagerly welcome into the Old Believing Eastern Orthodox Church any Jews who sincerely converted to Old Believer Eastern Orthodoxianity. That is not antisemitism as we know it.

  58. different clue

    Though on reflection he certainly uses all the modern antisemitic tropes from the Learned Elders of Zion sources and re-labels it the Anglo-Zionist Empire. So there is that.

  59. Soredemos

    @different clue

    Given how often he blames everything on ‘AngloZionists’, I’d say he’s far more than just an archaic throwback in terms of antisemitism.

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