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

Putin’s Goals, A Map, For Discussion

I didn’t make this map and it isn’t based on what I think. I put it up because reader GrimJim sent it to me and I think it’s well done and a good place to start a conversation.

Putin's Goals by GrimJim


Reorienting About How Well Russia Is Doing In Ukraine


Open Thread


  1. Mark Pontin

    With link —

    1/ Big Arrow War—a primer. For all those scratching their heads in confusion, or dusting off their dress uniforms for the Ukrainian victory parade in Kiev, over the news about Russia’s “strategic shift”, you might want to re-familiarize yourself with basic military concepts.
    2/ Maneuver warfare is a good place to start. Understand Russia started its “special military operation” with a severe manpower deficit—200,000 attackers to some 600,000 defenders (or more). Classic attritional conflict was never an option. Russian victory required maneuver.
    3/ Maneuver war is more psychological than physical and focuses more on the operational than on the tactical level. Maneuver is relational movement—how you deploy and move your forces in relation to your opponent. Russian maneuver in the first phase of its operation support this.
    4/ The Russians needed to shape the battlefield to their advantage. In order to do this, they needed to control how Ukraine employed it’s numerically superior forces, while distributing their own smaller combat power to best accomplish this objective.
    5/ Strategically, to facilitate the ability to maneuver between the southern, central, and northern fronts, Russia needed to secure a land bridge between Crimea and Russia. The seizure of the coastal city of Mariupol was critical to this effort. Russia has accomplished this task.
    6/ While this complex operation unfolded, Russia needed to keep Ukraine from maneuvering its numerically superior forces in a manner that disrupted the Mariupol operation. This entailed the use of several strategic supporting operations—feints, fixing operations, and deep attack.
    7/ The concept of a feint is simple—a military force either is seen as preparing to attack a given location, or actually conducts an attack, for the purpose of deceiving an opponent into committing resources in response to the perceived or actual actions.
    8/ The use of the feint played a major role in Desert Storm, where Marine Amphibious forces threatened the Kuwaiti coast, forcing Iraq to defend against an attack that never came, and where the 1st Cavalry Division actually attacked Wadi Al Batin to pin down the Republican Guard.
    9/ The Russians made extensive use of the feint in Ukraine, with Amphibious forces off Odessa freezing Ukrainian forces there, and a major feint attack toward Kiev compelling Ukraine to reinforce their forces there. Ukraine was never able to reinforce their forces in the east.
    10/ Fixing operations were also critical. Ukraine had assembled some 60,000-100,000 troops in the east, opposite Donbas. Russia carried out a broad fixing attack designed to keep these forces fully engaged and unable to maneuver in respect to other Russian operations.

    11/ During Desert Storm, two Marine Divisions were ordered to carry out similar fixing attacks against Iraqi forces deployed along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border, tying down significant numbers of men and material that could not be used to counter the main US attack out west.
    12/ The Russian fixing attack pinned the main Ukrainian concentration of forces in the east, and drove them away from Mariupol, which was invested and reduced. Supporting operations out of Crimea against Kherson expanded the Russian land bridge. This phase is now complete.
    13/ Russia also engaged in a campaign of strategic deep attack designed to disrupt and destroy Ukrainian logistics, command & control, and air power and long-range fire support. Ukraine is running out of fuel and ammo, cannot coordinate maneuver, and has no meaningful Air Force.
    14/ Russia is redeploying some of its premier units from where they had been engaged in feint operations in northern Kiev to where they can support the next phase of the operation, namely the liberation of the Donbas and the destruction of the main Ukrainian force in the east.
    15/ This is classic maneuver warfare. Russia will now hold Ukraine in the north and south while its main forces, reinforced by the northern units, Marines, and forces freed up by the capture of Mariupol, seek to envelope and destroy 60,000 Ukrainian forces in the east.
    16/ This is Big Arrow War at its finest, something Americans used to know but forgot in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan and Iraq. It also explains how 200,000 Russians have been able to defeat 600,000 Ukrainians. Thus ends the primer on maneuver warfare, Russian style.

  2. ptb

    Feeling is that Ukr demographics, esp as now evolved post 2014, would make this map plainly unrealistic.

    The top 3-4 most Russian leaning Oblasts (not incl Donetsk/Lugansk), might go smoothly, especially if the UAF takes their frustrations out on the locals in the course of the war. But elsewhere it would imply an involved, hands-on pacification, transition, and rebuilding process, and huge flows of displaced people. Also think of the example of “deBaathification” in Iraq.

    This war isn’t about the land anyway. If a no-NATO-basing agreement can miraculously be reached, I’d expect restoration of most land besides DNR and LNR (borders as-recognized 2/22), and perhaps azov coast for practical reasons. Black Sea coastal real estate and Energodar nuke plant are bargaining chips IMO. Crimean water supply canal prob would become a treaty item too.

    If no-deal / frozen conflict ending, then I think we’re looking at a crescent shape similar to current lines on the ground, minus Kiev area to be abandoned as a liability, plus a more Donbas area expected to be captured.

    If Odessa capture attempted, IMO would be resisted with everything UA has, to retain sea access. Also is within more convenient radar / other-support range of NATO allies, so not expecting battle there, unless after major unrelated escalation.

  3. someofparts

    Well, I’m going to use this opportunity to pose a question to Ian’s brain trust here in comments. If the Russian objective is to keep the bristling weapons of NATO at a safe distance from her borders, what about Estonia, Latvia or Finland? Is there some history here that I wasn’t taught, some reason why these nations are not as menacing as Ukraine?

  4. Lex

    That’s likely pretty accurate, but the assertions of wanting ethnic cleansing in the east are pretty far out there. Russia won’t stand for active Ukrainian nationalism in the eastern oblasts, but that’s hardly the same as ethnic cleansing. Westerners make too much of the linguistic-religious divide because we’ve been conditioned to it by the Ukrainian far right.

    He told Ukraine that if they want to de-communize, he was happy to oblige. This map is close to the 1920’s borders when Lenin officially called the red area “Ukraine”. The river is probably a good border. I’m not sure he wants Kiev, if only because it becomes a huge flashpoint in the future.

    What the west is generally missing in these discussions as that while this could be spun as a “win” for the west, it puts a bomb in the lap of NATO. OUN-UPA wasn’t originally against Russia so much as Poland. As it is there a few million Ukrainians in Poland now and europe’s generosity about refugees was mostly PR. Nobody wants anymore and Poland doesn’t actually want any at all.

    The likely secondary effects of this split would be destabilization as Poland either try’s to get away, or more stupidly, take what used to be Polish and initiated the modern path of the current, fundamental issues. Hungary and Romania will at least want slices that Stalin took from them, and those ethnic groups are already making noise about wanting to leave Ukraine.

    If I was Putin, this is exactly the division I’d seek. It’s not without risks, but the military risks would likely be reduced to essentially terrorism. It will destabilize and de-NATOfy the region. And the EU/NATO/US will not be able to cope with the new Ukraine unless it denazifies it. The hard right will have their ethno-state and will behave accordingly. It will also turn on NATO because it was told it would be supported. Fascist terrorism in Europe will be on the menu, and the EU will be an easier target than Russia. Unless the US/EU totally abandon the new Ukraine and seal up the borders. But see above on ethnic separatists.

    The new Ukraine would potentially have gas transit, but not for long since Russia is turning east (and the Germans could turn NS-2 back on, designed to get around Ukrainian transit which is why the US hated it). If Ukrainians cut it, the damage will be mostly to Europe that ukraine relies upon for everything.

  5. bruce wilder

    The map expresses a cariacature of Putin’s possible fantasy wishes as an exponent of trans-Russian nationalism. The reality of Putin’s politics is conservative calculation. The actual Russian Federation is multi-ethnic, multi-religious. He has to temper his celebration of the Orthodox Russian identity with sensitivity for the sensibilities of non-Slavic, Muslim subjects of the RF. Witness the noisy, bloody Chechans in Mariupol.

    I think Russians would question the wisdom of creating an homogenous Western Ukraine in the place of an economically and politically divided Ukraine. The bias of Western Media has hidden the onslaught of anti-Russian policy from the Ukrainian government since 2014 — cultural, economic and political. One way to draw an ideal Russian vision of Ukraine might be a return to political and economic balance, with the pro-Russian interest again legitimate and electorally competitive. The western narrative emphasizes that war has further ignited Ukrainian nationalism, extinguishing such a possibility of retreating from the Ukrainian policy of charging pro-Russian politicians with treason, eliminating the Russian language and violent shaming. But maybe Russia still thinks a neutral Ukraine founded on a balanced division linguistically or ethnically is possible.

    Anyway, I think Putin is a careful calculator — the foolish gamble of this reckless war notwithstanding. The two Republics in the East he must have and also water for Crimea, but he may feel Russia benefits from ambiguity rather than clean lines of resolution.

    And, I think he is looking at a political map of the Russian Federation in his mind more than Ukraine. He is anticipating his own departure from power (peacefully presumably) and he wants to leave behind a Russian politics immune to the subversion he sees coming from the West. He is going to seek a way to stiffen Russian resolve to turn away from the West. He is getting some help repatriating the oligarchs. But I doubt the war is popular or can be made popular in cynical Russia. The negotiations in Istanbul will have to find a way to model a settlement that makes sense back home in Russia and I doubt that that is the map above.

  6. Feral Finster

    What is the cartographer’s evidence? The proposals that Russia put forth to Ukraine in the talks in Istanbul were rather different for what the cartographer thinks Putin wants.

  7. Dan Lynch

    GrimJim’s map is as good a guess as any, but Putin is pragmatic and will consider any viable options that develop.

    My guess is that if, as currently rumored, Zelensky offers a deal that meets Russia’s minimal demands — no NATO, no foreign soldiers, no Nazi militias, no nukes, & give up claims to Donbass & Crimea — Putin will take the deal. Then Donbass will have a referendum to merge with Russia. Whatever remains of Ukraine will be an unstable hellhole, but that will be Europe’s headache, not Russia’s. Let Ukraine join the EU? Sure, then the Schengen rule will allow Ukrainians to flood into Europe. Have fun with that.

    Many Russians will object to such a minimalist peace deal. Ramzan Kadyrov recently posted a video objecting to the peace negotiations and advising Putin to let his soldiers finish the job they started. But that is a typical military attitude, similar to U.S. soldiers who objected to abandoning the Vietnam war or the Afghanistan war.

    On the other hand, if a peace deal is not reached soon, then I expect Russia to continue obliterating the Ukrainian military and to continue gaining territory until Ukraine “cries uncle.” Once Russia gains that territory, they’re not going to want to let give it back.

    It would be in Ukraine’s best interest to do a peace deal ASAP. The longer they wait, the worse deal they will get.

  8. Willy

    Reminds me of Vichy France. Except with a lot more civilian destruction and refugees, due to all the military sloppiness.

    I don’t understand why some people can’t equate forceful military conquest with the supposed more peaceful corporate socialism, as two sides of the very same coin, even when they fight each other and amongst themselves. Why is this so confusing?

  9. Stephen T Johnson

    Caveat: I don’t have much of a clue how this will play out, and as far as I can tell, no one else does, either, so we’re all guessing. I think that Ukraine is virtually certain to be dismembered, the question is: Who get a chunk? There was a map on (apparently) Polish TV, showing Poland taking a big chunk, centered on Lvov/Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg with Hungary and Romania having a slice each – The link was appallingly long, just try “polish tv ukraine map” on Google or whatever. Of course, they’re also dreaming of taking Kaliningrad by force, so take their ideas with a few kilos of salt.
    I doubt very much that Ukraine, or whatever it ends up being called, will have a Black Sea coastline when all the shouting’s done, though whether it’ll mostly be Russia / Novorossiya / Malorossiya / the People’s republic(s) of [wherever], who knows. It’s a safe bet that Crimea will include necessary connections to the Dneiper so Ukraine can’t try cutting off the water again, but beyond that, take some scisors and cut away, I guess.

  10. DMC

    This seems overly ambitious for the Russians. All Putin has said he wants is for the Right Sector to stop shelling Lugansk and Donetsk and to maintain access to Sevastopol, where western fleet is based. And to stop the persecution of Russian speakers, mostly in the East.

  11. ptb

    Good point. It would suggest that the threat of the talk of NATO encroachment, ie Ukraine but also Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, isn’t purely about the missile-strike geography, but more like a (very loud) demonstration that the Russian gov’t is serious about chasing major external challengers out of it’s sphere.

  12. Ché Pasa

    Basically, that map is what I initially saw as the outcome of this war way back when it started.

    Now, not so much. It’s not as likely as I initially thought it would be. There’s more subtlety with these combatants than we as Bully Americans are used to. Whatever negotiations are underway — and for what purpose — they’re working out something else again. Donetsk and Luhansk as quasi-independent client states with Mariupol as the port; Crimea to Russia without further discussion; neutral Ukraine within the slightly reduced borders; no NATO or US advisors; military limited. Etc. In other words, pretty much what Putin demanded before the hostilities commenced.

    Of course whatever they work out — assuming they do — will be subject to Imperial veto.

    So it’s an exercise in futility.

    Change will come through another doorway.

  13. Feral Finster

    FWIW, the United States is actively trying to prevent a peace deal.

    “The official said one consequence the US is concerned about is keeping the European allies unified on economic pressure and military support as Washington expects some of them to press Ukraine to accept a peace deal to end the fighting.”

  14. Mark Pontin

    GrimJim’s guess/assessment about the extent of what Putin and Russia may go for is about the same as mine — maybe a little more maximalist. For what that’s worth now, which is nothing.

    We will see. But a couple of reasons why as against the more minimalist versions of what Putin may go for proposed by people like …

    ptb: *This war isn’t about the land anyway. If a no-NATO-basing agreement can miraculously be reached, I’d expect restoration of most land besides DNR and LNR (borders as-recognized 2/22), and perhaps azov coast for practical reasons.*

    It’s about the land, too — and some of the offshore waters, also.
    “Dietrich Wanke, CEO of European Lithium, emphasises the importance of lithium mining in Europe: “Lithium is currently mined almost exclusively in Australia, Asia and South America. This fact, coupled with the forecast that demand for lithium will more than double in a few years, means a serious situation of dependency for Europe’s industry.”

    Furthermore, Ukraine, with Russia, supplies 30 percent of global wheat exports. Russia has an even bigger chokehold on the global economy if Putin can keep the wheatlands east of the Dnieper.

    Lex: *…the assertions of wanting ethnic cleansing in the east are pretty far out there. Russia won’t stand for active Ukrainian nationalism in the eastern oblasts, but that’s hardly the same as ethnic cleansing.*

    ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is a strong term of art because it implies genocide and mass murder. Whereas sending the majority of non-Russian Ukrainians east of the Dnieper packing as refugees into the west doesn’t necessarily require that.

    It *does* eliminate the possibility of Washington’s desired quagmire for the Russians, on the one hand, and on the other hand, as Lex also notes, “it puts a bomb in the lap of NATO …there a few million Ukrainians in Poland now and europe’s generosity about refugees was mostly PR. Nobody wants anymore and Poland doesn’t actually want any at all. ” So my guess is the same as GrimJim’s: Putin probably will want to turn as many non-Russian Ukrainians as he can into refugees headed west. Not nice, but there we are.

    One more point.

    David, a retired British civil servant who comments at NC, said this: “I think the US is now relegated to a minor role in this crisis, though they will probably be the last to realise it. They have nothing to offer Zelensky: they are not going to intervene militarily, and any equipment they send will probably be destroyed before it can be used. They can’t offer NATO membership, they can’t send trainers into Ukraine, and there’s not much of the Ukrainian forces left to train anyway. It’s the Russians who will dictate the outcome, and the Turks, and possibly the Chinese, who will facilitate.”

    Very possibly true, it seems to me. If it is, heads are going to explode in Washington over the next couple of months and calls for rash military action — escalation — will emanate from the neocons at State. Interestingly, the DOD has offered the only official counter-narrative to the shrieking propaganda from State and the MSM, with a couple of generals pointing out that in fact the Russians are not bombing and shelling civilians indiscriminately. So we can hope that the Pentagon digs its heels in against being pushed into some stupid escalation.

  15. Thorstein

    I see two major negotiating points on the map:

    1. Will Ukraine concede everything east of the Dnieper? It’s a defensible border, but it’s also a lot of territory.

    2. How much does Putin/Ukraine want Odessa and Black Sea coast?

    I suspect NATO will concede 1 before 2.

  16. someofparts

    Just finished listening to this. It is long, almost two hours, but really opened my eyes to the context in which Putin has operated since he came to power.—YDDIQ

    So much critical information in the piece I could not begin to share all of it. However, one chilling observation toward the end was that, had it not been for the fluke of Trump’s election, all of the events currently transpiring would have happened several years ago and Putin would have lost, because Russia was not ready. The other chilling remark at the very end is that a false flag is coming and it is going to be awful. Nuland will make certain of it.

  17. Paul Damascene

    Plausible go at a map. Some question as to whether Russia might actually prefer to see much of the yellow zone divided up by Hungary, Poland and perhaps Romania, and whether a contiguous bridge not just to Transnitria but to the TransCaucasus (primarily Russian speaking) might also be contemplated.

    The idea of a shared / divided Kiev–as with Berlin in the past–is interesting. And the idea of the red zone running north / south along the watercourse rather than running east west further south is I think insightful. After the Crimea’s water was cut off for years, by an upstream Ukraine, it seems entirely plausible that NovoRossiya would want control of the watercourse right up to the (Poland? Belarus?) border.

    Standing in the way of this is that the current ultranationalist Ukraine may prefer to see its own cities destroyed (as one might blow a bridge) rather than see them surrendered to Russia. Odessa and even Kiev. The Nazis in Mariupol and Kharkiv, even vastly outnumbered by a Russophobe population, have proved immensely destructive to dislodge. Drone footage of Mariupol looks like a post-apocalyptic video game set at the moment. This was an vibrant and industrial important city.

  18. VietnamVet

    The map of “What Putin Wants”, one month into the war, is already obsolete. With the redeployment, Kiev (jointly held) is out of the question. A rump Ukraine is viable if they retain Odessa and have access to the Black Sea. When Mariupol falls in days, Russia will have control of the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin will never give that up. But on a whole, this war is a disaster for Russia. The sheen of strength and competence is gone. What remains to be determined is where the cease-fire line will be drawn and will enough of the occupied land returned so it is portrayed as a Ukrainian David standing up to the Russian Goliath.

    Peace would be good. It would reduce the real risks of a nuclear war.

    The West and Germany, in particular, need Russian resources — energy, goods and raw commodities. Without them, a crash of the digitalized western financial Ponzi scheme is inevitable along with a Depression, hyperinflation, shortages, or worse. The West is depleted, badly led, poor, and sick. There is no chance that the USA will agree to setting up a DMZ up the Dnieper River then across to Donetsk and Luhansk provinces; a new Iron Curtin separating East from the West. Predatory capitalism is dependent on having resources and labor to exploit for the benefit of the wealthy.

    The Russia Ukraine War (if humans survive) will mostly likely be depicted as the end of the Western Empire and the beginning of China’s century.

  19. Soredemos


    No, Russia has more than demonstrated their strength and competence. The media can spew all the laughable lies it wants, but the intelligence agencies and militaries of the world will have a much clearer view of how things have actually transpired. Russia has made a mockery of a NATO trained and equipped military that outnumbered its invasion force 2 or 3 to 1, and that while largely not committing their best forces and fighting with at least one hand tied behind their back.

  20. bruce wilder

    The YouTube by Gonzalo Lira, supposedly broadcasting from a secret location in Kharkiv, was interesting — he knows a lot about Victoria Nuland, that’s for sure, and has just enough propensity toward paranoid fantasy to get the narrative of Victoria Nuland’s role in provoking war approximately right, imo. His narrative of statesmanship in the 21st century is more realistic, morally and practically, than the attempt (if that is what it turns out to be) to remake the geopolitical map with short, sharp wars, as if Zelensky and Putin were the reincarnation of Napoleon III and Bismarck. (Boris Johnson, the hulking blonde Turk, donning the mask of Lord Palmerston?)

    We live during the blowing of a strange zeitgeist. I noticed this about the Oscars’ incident: the most popular thing to do in response was to lecture on the (im)morality of violence in response to a bad joke (like no one would understand that) and the next most popular thing was to speculate on whether the whole thing was staged for the cameras. I feel like the Russian invasion of Ukraine is blowing in the same cross-cutting winds: the most popular thing is an hysterical, “cancel culture” pile-on, condemning the rank immorality of what the Russians are doing, as if no one would realize that if a whole bunch of people who know little about it really were not lecturing us all at length. And, then just below that a few rungs of the ladder, there are people who want to interrogate the narrative for factual inaccuracy and deception or even a long-planned effort of conspirators to provoke Russia into catastrophe, and, of course, the “hypocrisy” of the loudest voices.

    The de-centralized dramatics of the “cancel culture” ejection of Russia from the financialized, globalized neoliberal dreamworld cannot be overemphasized, and it is not colored onto that map. Many of its effects and consequences cannot be undone, nor can they even enter into the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Can Ukraine usefully offer to withdraw their strident objections to NS2 as part of the deal? Presumably some words could be put down on gas transit through the old Soviet pipelines, continuing uninterrupted thru the war we might note, but what would they be, since even war has not tempted either party to an interruption? Can Ukraine restore McDonald’s restaurants to the San Diego giant? Or will the world just accept Uncle Vanya’s BikMac?

    More momentously, who is going to negotiate the release of the Russian currency reserves? They are not Ukraine’s to restore, are they?

    The predicate of Western sanctions, backed by inflexible adherence to “moral principle” and “the rule of law” is that nothing at stake or in dispute is negotiable. There isn’t even a specific quid pro quo, Russian behavior that would automatically result in the relaxation of the sanctions. If Ukraine cuts a deal, negotiates a settlement, it could leave the Western powers in an awkward position, as dollar hegemony and global supply lines crumble. Italy, put on the precipice of national bankruptcy by the euro, riven by COVID,and heavily dependent on Russian gas since NATO’s Libyan revolution fractured, now led by the unelected bankers’ banker, Mario Draghi, is going to negotiate its situation with who? Where on the map are Italy’s colors?

  21. Lex

    The idea of Russian military incompetence is hilarious. Remember that according the sources which promote this view, the Russian forces ran out of food, fuel and ammunition last week. Has Russia yet exceeded the number of sorties and tonnage of bombs the US dropped on day one of the 2003 Iraq invasion? As of a week ago it hadn’t, according to DoD.

    And yet, in a month it has captured territory larger than Britain with a relatively small force against a prepared, well equipped and NATO integrated military. Ukraine started this war with almost half the tanks the US has. It has 500 or so left. The best of the Ukrainian military is now enveloped and it likely is nearly out of food, water and ammunition.

    Worth repeating that in 03 it took the US 3 weeks to reach Baghdad and to do it on that schedule they had to go around and leave most of the Iraqi military as well as level everything with air power. Nobody was supplying Iraq with high level intelligence; no major power had trained the Iraqi army; nobody was pumping arms into Iraq. And the US didn’t have to play anything carefully to avoid escalation to nuclear war. Lotta projection going on in the west.

  22. Carborundum

    What we’re seeing is the antithesis of maneuver warfare. Given the relatively low combat power the Ukrainians can muster, the pace and coherence of Russian movement should be far more fluid. Instead, we’ve seen numerous failed attempts at operations in depth, we’re seeing Russian combat power repeatedly being served up in digestible bite-sized pieces, and we see logistics that look to be the ultimate goat rope. If they were going up against a higher capability adversary that was willing to make the hard decision not to defend everywhere (i.e., to practice maneuver warfare themselves), they’d be even worse off.

  23. Willy

    Had it been Dwayne the Rock instead of Chris Rock, it’s highly doubtful that Smith would’ve done any slapping. Had Ukraine kept its nukes or joined NATO, it’s highly doubtful that Putin would’ve invaded. I too, remember the days when simple things were simply explained.

    It got harder when something peacefully sold by elites as being beneficial to everybody, wound up only being beneficial to the elites who did the selling. Harder but not impossible. You’d hope that could be simply explained as well.

    While the powerless suffer, all we powerless seem able to do is to hobnob over what the powerful elites next moves might be. Who shall Putin, NATO, and the neoliberals be slapping next? I sure hope it isn’t me. So I’ll go ahead and pick a side.

  24. Feral Finster

    “Nobody was supplying Iraq with high level intelligence; no major power had trained the Iraqi army; nobody was pumping arms into Iraq. And the US didn’t have to play anything carefully to avoid escalation to nuclear war. Lotta projection going on in the west.”

    Lex makes an especially good point here. Nobody was supplying Iraq with satellite recon or secured communications in 2003.

  25. jimmy cc

    i am so old i remember when Scott Ritter was saying it would take the Russians hours in Ukraine to do what it took months in Iraq.

    that was in January.

    if Russia want to commit an occupation force, this map may work. i doubt Russia will do that.

  26. Ché Pasa

    Some things to keep in mind:

    — It’s been the goal of the USandNato to create Ukraine as an ethno-nationalist state essentially cleansed of ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and Russian influence. This goal is transformational and has been the modus operandi of all post 2014 governments in Ukraine and is the policy of the USandNato wrt Ukraine.

    The rabidly anti-Russian Nazis/fascist/Right Sektor thugs have been given a virtual free hand to do as they will, and they’ve taken full advantage of their liberty. Murder, massacre, dispossession and displacement of millions, replacement with “Aryans”, etc., has largely removed Ukrainians of Russian descent from Ukraine west of the Dnieper, pushing them into Donbas, Belorussia, and Russia itself. Odessa and Mariupol, for example, were sites of Right Sektor massacres and murders of Russians to the extent that many survivors abandoned the cities — which were formerly majority Russian-speaking. In 2014, I witnessed via Ukraine teevee livestream the massacre at the Odessa Trades Union Hall in which dozens of Ukrainian anti-coup protesters were burned alive, a similar number disappeared, and hundreds were injured by raging mobs. In Mariupol, I saw livestreams of about 100 Victory Day celebrants shot down in the streets by emboldened Ukrainian “security” forces.

    This was nothing less than a terror campaign to kill or dispossess Russians and Russian sympathizers from lands and cities where they had been born or had long lived — mostly because of the language they spoke or their ancestry.

    The struggle over Donbas since 2014 has caused more than ten thousand deaths, most of them civilians, most in the separatist held territory which is under constant bombardment by Ukrainian forces. We’re propagandized to believe just the opposite, that the separatists have been killing thousands of innocent “ethnic” Ukrainians all these years, and it’s not true.

    The Russian invasion is at least in part a consequence of these and other internal anti-Russian genocidal factors in Ukraine together with the obvious USandNato support for, indeed encouragement of, a Ukrainian government that looks the other way (at best) and enables the continued campaign against Ukrainians of Russian language or descent regardless of statements to the contrary or agreements like the long abrogated Minsk Agreement.

    Ukraine has never been an ethno-state until instigated to become one by USandNato alliance with the Right Sektor Nazis and the coup in 2014 that deposed Yanukovych.

    That doesn’t justify the invasion in my view, but at the same time to ignore what’s been going on (as the Western media does) or to encourage more of it (as our Western rulers do) indeed to fight a proxy war against Russia to the last Ukrainian is insane, immoral, and so self-destructive that I can only conclude our rulers have a death-wish, not just for themselves but for all of us.

    At the same time, I think Putin and the Kremlin rulers aren’t much different.

    Surely those Ukrainian rulers bunkered in Lemberg or wherever they are aren’t much different either, are they?

  27. Jeremy

    Gonzalo Lira interviewed by Eva Bartlett:

    In his opinion, the war is almost over.
    It’s now just a question of Russia mopping up the few remaining Azov battalion and Rt. Sector trash.
    Really worth a listen.

  28. Soredemos

    @Ken Cox

    What a complete joke of a piece.

  29. Ché Pasa

    DW and a number of other outlets in the West have done similar “fact checks”.

    They all come to the same conclusion: Yes, there are Nazis, fascists, and right-wing elements in Ukraine, “like there are in all Western societies — and in Russia, too”, they are not in government — except for the military and security and police forces that have integrated Nazi, fascist and right wing elements like the Azov Battalion (which isn’t as bad as it used to be except when it is and is rewarded for it). They only get a few percent of the vote, you see, in those terrific democratic uncorrupt elections, so they aren’t a factor, except when they are.

    No mention at all of the murders and massacres committed by these outfits, no mention of ethnic cleansing, no mention Zelensky banning Russian-leaning and leftist/leftish political parties and activities but not interfering at all with Nazis and their confederates. Indeed, encouraging them.

    And they all make note of the fact that Zelensky is Jewish, so… obviously… there couldn’t possibly be a Nazi problem in Ukraine. Could there?

    From the similarities of these “fact checks,” it’s obvious that they have been placed in various Western media by a propaganda shop with a set of bullet points. They all agree there is a problem with Nazis and violent rightist thugs in Ukraine, but it’s not really that much of a problem, any more than it is in any other Western country, and they all claim it’s more of a problem in Russia. Neener, neener. And it’s oh so insulting to survivors of the Holocaust to assert that what’s been going on in Ukraine since 2014 is anything like what happened during WWII. So stop it.

    Some of us can recognize the Doublespeak.

  30. bruce wilder

    I agree with Soredemos: that essay by Robert Farley for is very poor.

    I have wondered for more than a decade about whether had a coherent working definition “fact” that would allow them to distinguish their work from the manufacture of talking points. I guess not.

  31. Willy

    Ken Cox, good information. But then, I’m one of those weirdos who prefers plausibility and even science, to oddball facebook funded by some sociopathic autocrat.

    Not to mention, I know people from that part of the world who have direct contact with what’s going on there.

    People here are making predictions. Let’s review 6 months from now to see how all this has fallen out.

  32. Willy

    bruce, where do you get your information?

  33. bruce wilder


    I am afraid I may not be getting much of any information at all from mainstream media. I do read the New York Times and so have been exposed to a firehouse of reports “from” Ukraine that align with The Narrative.

    I have some acquaintances in Ukraine, Russia and Crimea going back some years and so have a little background acquired over years of casual interest piqued as news events occurred. That’s the only admittedly thin basis I have, beyond an ear for the too-convenient factoid, to question any of it. Oh, and I have a moral sensibility that is appalled by war and therefore, the resort to war.

    Ché Pasa did an admirable job of taking apart the piece as the piece of deceptive propaganda that it was.

    There are some other set piece propaganda memes that show up and I recognize. One of our commenters brought up “Putin is the richest man on earth.” There is precious little real evidence for that, but there is something interesting in the chosen theme given the prominent role of famous billionaires in U.S. political economy. (By Forbes’ estimates, the top 3 or 4 American oligarchs — Bezos, Musk, Gates, Buffet — would be richer than a hundred Russian oligarchs. What does that mean, if we are trading in factoids?) Of course, I presume Putin’s official self-presentation of middle-class personal economic attainments is also false, without knowing the truth. As a rational person, I know if Putin had $200 billion in property, there would be a lot more showing than there is — I have no information beyond reasonable skepticism. There is a lot of reluctance among Western propagandists to acknowledge that Putin might be the Russian nationalist he appears to be.

    For what little it is worth, I think Putin made a mistake in invading Ukraine, and is unlikely to be able to gain from the adventure or reach a satisfactory settlement of the issues for Russia. I also think the resort to war was immoral and that may color my view of the practical with what I hope is morally practical.

    As for the progress of Russian arms in Ukraine, the stage smoke of propaganda laid over the “fog of war” does not leave much to work with. My priors are such that I do not put much stock into blanket assertions of Russian military efficiency and capability. Scott Ritter seems out over his skis on some of his enthusiasm for Russian military competence. Globally, we are in the midst of a long-anticipated revolution in military technologies bringing on a belated revolution in tactics that will follow but has not happened. Both Ukraine and Russia are in possesion of vast quantities of Soviet hardware that was obsolete thirty years ago, but neither is well-equipped with a full panoply of equipment and tactical training for 21st century war with each other (and we can be grateful for that because the casualty count with a full array of battlefield drones and robots will not leave many biologicals breathing in war as it emerges in five or ten years).

    The NY Times narrative of the moment turns on the Russians wanting to take Kiev to topple the government of Zelensky. I can believe that optimistic Russians might have hoped for Kiev and Kharkiv to surrender, but I see no evidence that the Russians wanted to conquer those cities regardless of the resistance. They have not destroyed the infrastructure of key services to force capitulation or brought the troop numbers or logistics for the job. So the Scott Ritter narrative of limited strategic intention seems more plausible than the somewhat contradictory mainstream narrative that twists itself to keep the white hats on the Ukies and the black hats on the Ruskies at all times and in all respects.

    The mainstream narrative of Putin as Hitler of the Year requires extreme skepticism of his intent and disregard of his own statements regarding goals. So, as Russia’s military turns to securing the territorial claims of the Donbass Republics by trapping the core of Ukraine’s regular army which (if you believe the Russians) were encamped in the East poised to resolve the issue of Russian separatist states by destroying them in a lightening strike in a few months from now. That is a Russian military and territorial ambition much, much less than the one depicted in the OP map, but more in line with Russian official statements.

    A simple way to narrate Russian failure is to project goals they are not commited to and note the “failure” to achieve them. A “maximalist” negotiating position will also be attributed to Russia to explain why the U.S. seeks to prolong the conflict, violence and economic sanctions indefinitely without noting the cruelty of U.S. policy.

  34. Anon123

    Dear Mr. Wilder

    Scott Ritter has been more right than wrong on this one. I find him over the top as a way to counter the over the top pro Ukraine narrative. For example, go to Pat Lang’s SST. The old Colonel and commenter TTG appear to be regurgitating comic books.

    The rumors that the Ukraine operation is being run by the Pentagon, and the Ukraine army is considered the best in NATO, creates a problem.

    Lets talk no fly zone. We have 200 million dollar per plane F-35 fighters versus 1970’s Russian technology. Do you see a problem here? I think this shows 21 century war will be like 1970’s war. And this is Ritters point. Twitter and F-35 and Javelins seem to be losing to older more proven technologies. I mean the F-35 is supposed to be invisible to Russian radar. I guess Ukraine gets the NFZ when the bugs in the invisibility cloak are fixed.

    Second point is fuel. Europe is running out of diesel. Have fun with that land war in Asia with no fuel. And have fun with that land war in Europe with no fuel. But hey – maybe Elon Musk will find a fix to the problem. Maybe we can just have Amazon Prime or Uber sort things out.

    Reality appears to be clashing with the fantasy of 21 century war.

  35. ptb

    It seems that events proved my previous guesses wrong.

    Russia has completely pulled out of not just the region adjacent to Kiev, but most of the “North” – including Sumy and in particular Chernihiv, which was the focus of a fair amount of effort judging by circumstantial evidence (such as aircraft sorties, which is a high risk activity), and a near total news blackout from both sides unlike the South/East/Kiev areas.

    One map trying to represent this:

  36. bruce wilder

    Whether events will clearly contradict the Western narrative of underdog Victim Ukraine defeating Russia seems even more remote to me now than when Putin initiated the invasion. It is telling that very few Western maps identify the location of the core of the Ukrainian Army, situated on the Donbass frontier — too close to an admission that Ukraine planned to crush the separatist rebellion. But, now the Russians must force their surrender in some fashion that cannot be denied to have any hope of getting Zelensky to negotiate a settlement that is anything more than a temporary truce. I still do not see an endgame for Putin. I would like to know what Russian casualties and material losses really are. Their withdrawals from Kiev look pretty orderly.

    In the meantime, the breakdown of global supply chains threatens to spin out of control, with famine a live possiblity in the most marginalized places and inflation and banking crises across the West.

  37. StewartM

    The very best and most objective news I’ve seen on the military operations in Ukraine:

    Nicholas Moran is a military enthusiast who makes videos of among other things, taking tours of tanks. When asked about the Ukraine war, he declines to comment on what he thinks the war ‘proves’ because of insufficient evidence; however, he is willing to offer comments on what can be said with confidence the war is NOT ‘proving’ (like, ‘tanks are obsolete’; just because a weapon may be mis-used in combat does not make it useless).

    He also opened my eyes to what the videos posted by Ukrainians show or don’t show (I did not know that they had been apparently edited until I read his commentary). Lastly, he also says that ‘every horrible thing that happens in war–a school, a hospital, etc, being hit’ is not necessarily a war crime’ which is what the pro-NATO crowd screeches incessantly. (Funny, how when we do all that same stuff, it’s a ‘tragic mistake’, but the Russkies don’t get that excuse, even though we sneer at them and call them incompetent–which if someone is incompetent, then wouldn’t they make more mistakes?… but nooooo we say they planned it all).

    Oh, and for the record—Ukraine’s government is claiming that 900 civilians have died due to the Russian invasion. By contrast, almost 7,300 Iraqi innocents died in the US invasion leading up to the capture of Baghdad. Where was the screeching over those innocent lives lost?

  38. Willy

    Agree with the video StewartM.

    The Chieftain makes good horse sense regarding the fog of war. For example, that supposed 40 mile long convoy which was on its way to encircle Kiev… Maybe it was actually a 1 mile long convoy shown 40 times?

    I guess we’ll all have to wait and see about our military predictions here. Not being a military strategist, historian, or military anything beyond having playing a general once as a 7 year old, I’ll go ahead and predict that there’ll be a whole lot more civilian casualties. In Putins war against the Nazis.

  39. somecomputerguy

    Russia should be the wealthiest nation-state on planet. Look at what it is instead, under Putin.

    Basing your plans on a speedy military victory, is the opening chapter for every epic military disaster.

    You are Putin. You have two military officers standing in front of who are up for promotion.

    One is a natural leader. Everyone who is has ever worked for him has said they would follow him to hell. He is also a military genius who, even with the limited mandate of a minor command has implemented startling innovations.

    The other candidate is a corrupt fuckup. When he takes charge, performance plummets. He blames his subordinates for everything.

    You are Putin. If you promote based on competence, what does the leadership of the officer corps need you for?

    Ideally, you want people in charge who would never be there if you didn’t put them there. Who owe you everything.

    If you promote the the genius, how long before he comes for your job? At least if the fuckup comes at you, you know you can handle him.

    If Trump got to run the military for ten years what would it look like, do you think?

    Mercenaries are useful for providing training, or in one-sided fights. Or if you can dump them in Fort Zinderneuf so they can’t run. The historical tendency of private-sector soldiers, is to exit stage left, or turn on their employers if given the opportunity, when things go south. If you are there to collect a paycheck, dying prevents that.

    The disinclination of any soldiers, anywhere to die for a kleptocrat usually manifests in U.S. allies. It turns out that low ranking soldiers regardless of cultural background, are not stupid enough to die for someone else’s bank account.

    Defense intellectuals carry the idea that soldiers are that stupid, as a core belief, and make elaborate calculations based on it. The next time an allies army displays their usual common sense, we should put those people out front to lecture them about how taking someone’s paycheck, and then refusing to die for that paycheck is morally reprehensible in the extreme. I’m sure that will work.

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