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

The Pointlessness Of Continuing The Ukraine War (And Its Future)

So, this map tells you about half of what you need to know about the war in Ukraine this year:

For this, some hundreds of thousand of soldiers and civilians have been killed, wounded, raped, tortured or made into refugees.

From fairly early I’ve been saying that Ukraine should be settled by peace negotiations.

This is why.

This is WWI bullshit. Ukraine is gaining nothing, and Russia is gaining little (they’ve significantly improved their alliances and their ability to produce war goods.)

Ukraine is under extreme stress. Western countries are becoming less willing and able to support it, they’ve engaged in multiple waves of conscription and are at the point of trying to force men who fled Ukraine to come back, sign up, and go into the trenches.

There’s a fairly strong argument that France never recovered from the manpower losses of the Napoleonic war and WWI.

Now, as for the future, these sorts of wars end when one side can’t keep it up any more, and when it can’t the war ends fast or large gains are made. The country most likely to not be able to keep it up is Ukraine, it has far fewer men and resources than Russia, and those allies providing armaments are losing the will or ability to keep doing so, while Russia’s allies (who provide mostly parts, other than Iran and North Korea, who could care less about sanctions) find Russia’s needs easily supportable.

It’s hard to say “when” this will happen, but it could even occur during the next Russian offensive, it’s more than possible.

Ukraine should have negotiated for peace back in April of 2022. They had almost done so, according to many sources, when Boris Johnson visited and suddenly they changed their mind.

What have they gained by continuing to fight? Nothing but a lot of dead people they can’t replace and a pile of destruction.

As for the West, we are clearly “fighting to the last Ukrainian” and that’s despicable.

End the war. Ukraine is very unlikely to get better terms later than sooner.

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Political v.s Physical Tipping Points


  1. mago

    Humanitarian and environmental consequences are obviously of little or no concern to Western leaders and their boy Zelensky.

    This destruction will echo for generations on every level, assuming that we avoid nuclear Armageddon. Some cockroaches may survive that event, but not much else.
    Lots of evil karma on the world. Love, not so much.
    Yes. End the war. Please.

  2. Willy

    Western allies could’ve easily helped Ukrainian fighters push Russia back, had they the nerve to gain air superiority while laughing off Putin’s nuclear threats.

    Without Putin, Russian resolve dissolves. I never heard of Russian citizens rising up en masse demanding Putin do something about Ukrainian Nazis, Jewish Nazis, and the spreading Nato neoliberal hegemony.

    In a saner world we citizens would know exactly what Putin wants, and what Ukraine and its allies want, and then push them for a negotiation. But we don’t live in that world. I think we live in the world where anything that benefits the puppetmaster class, will be prolonged by the puppetmaster class, Putin included, because they know how to do it.

  3. bruce wilder

    Not feeling that I really can know much about the course of war, i have focused more than is healthy on the competing narratives.

    Much of the commentary on the former Twitter never rises much above the level of sports talk among the opposed partisans of rival football clubs.

    There are two views of the stalemate along the lines of course. If Ukraine cannot move forward, apparently neither can Russia. On the other hand fighting on the defensive may favored Russia in a war of attrition.

    The undeniable facts of Russia’s greater population and economic weight would seem to put Ukrainian victory on Zelensky’s terms beyond possibility.

    Realism argues for prudent accomodation, but the neocons in the West and the right’s grip on Ukie politics say otherwise.

  4. Ian Welsh

    The people most likely to replace Putin are, by all accounts, to his right on the Ukraine war, and think he has been mishandling it because he hasn’t been harsh enough, nor gone all in.

    The war cannot be won without NATO direct intervention, no. I am less sanguine about the possibility of that spiraling out of control into use of nuclear weapons and without NATO absolutely refusing to strike targets inside Russia it is very unlikely Russia would not start hitting non Ukrainian domiciled targets (especially if the planes getting air superiority were not based in Ukraine.)

  5. Steve

    US and NATO decision makers thought they had the clear upper hand at the beginning. Biden, Blinken, Stoltenberg and others could barely conceal their glee. They thought sanctions would be the end of Russia and that they would be in control in Moscow by the end of the year. Instead it all has boomeranged back on them. Most of them have gone quiet in recent weeks. Talk of a ceasefire suggests they are looking for a face-saving gesture that allows them to ream Ukraine and come back in a few years with another go at Russia. Russia has no incentive to go along with them. To paraphrase Shrub, this will end at a time of Russia’s choosing, unless the West continues to escalate. Recent events seem to make that less likely.

  6. Soredemos

    The reality is that Russia is winning handily. Their main goal isn’t conquest of territory, so trying to determine the progress of the war based on colors on a map is inherently pointless. Russia will get as much or as little territory as it wants after the Ukrainian army utterly shatters, which is inevitable at some point.

    Russia is bleeding (actually has already bled; there’s physically not much left to send even if political enthusiasm wasn’t fading) NATO dry. Meanwhile for Russia the war is essentially a sideshow. It’s being paid for out of increased oil and gas revenue, and while Russia is currently in the depths of a great expansion and upgrade of its military (which was already very modern and formidable to begin with), only a minority of those troops are deployed in Ukraine. The rest are being held outside the country in case they’re needed to counter NATO directly. Meanwhile many units get rotated through Ukraine as a way to gain experience, and the conflict is proving to be a way to gain knowledge of numerous NATO systems and how to counter them outside the devastating context of WW3.

    Whereas Ukraine itself has no war industry left, and is entirely dependent on the usually subpar (yes, neither was used in ideal circumstances, but it is shocking how garbage the Leopard and Challenger tanks have turned out to be. It’s cope that were just killed by mines or artillery. Examples of both have been killed by anti-tank missiles from the 1990s. Pathetic. It’s likely only a matter of time before an Abrams gets killed) hand-me-downs of NATO states. As for manpower, it has gone beyond scraping the bottom of the barrel and is now digging under the barrel.

    This is WW1 not in the sense of an endless stalemate, but in the sense that first suddenly, then all at once as eventually the husk of the Ukrainian army will shatter like the Imperial German army did.

  7. Steve

    If Russia takes Odessa and Kharkiv, or Kharkov to them, I suspect the rump Ukraine would pose much less of a threat even if NATO does decide to use it a forward base for rockets and other offensive hardware. At the very least, Russia could destroy that equipment with its own rockets as it detects them. Given what it is doing in eastern Ukraine, I don’t think Russia would have any reservations about preemptive strikes anywhere anytime in rump Ukraine to prevent its fortification by NATO.

  8. Ian Welsh

    Taking the entire coast would cripple Ukraine permanently and would be high on my list if I were in charge on the Russian side.

  9. Purple Library Guy

    Boris Johnson?! Go around listening to Boris Johnson and you should expect to get a fate far worse than you deserve.

  10. different clue

    I don’t think the RussiaGov considers the war pointless from the RussiaGov’s own point of view. If it attrits Ukrainian manpower to zero faster than it attrits Russian manpower to zero, it is a demographic win for Russia. If it attrits NATO EUFUKUS warfighting power to the point where NATO EUFUKUS truly dares not start a direct war with Russia for several decades to come, then it is a geopolitical win for Russia.

    Why would the RussiaGov want to artificially stop the war prematurely? The RussiaGov will want to ride Ukraine all the way down to zero. And then the RussiaGov personnel will sit back and laugh as the Galiciakrainian Banderazis and Azovazis launch terror raids and plant bombs all over as much of NATO EUFUKUS territory they can reach, in revenge for NATO EUFUKUS not having supported Ukraine hard enough or fast enough.

  11. different clue

    Now here is a strange video I saw while reading down through reddit. It is titled . . .
    ” The head of the Russian occupation administration of Zaporizhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, said that Russia’s goal is to occupy not only Ukraine, but also the Baltic countries, Poland and Finland. Because these states are “the historical lands of Russia”. ” And it offers a video of the administrator speaking and gives what it says are translation subtitles.

    Is this real or is this deepfake? If it is real, what should we be thinking about regarding it? Here is the link.

  12. Z

    Russia plans to seize the Ukrainian coast. They have to, for the security of their state. But that’s non-negotiable presently to the West because they have too much invested … in a myriad of ways … to surrender Odessa.

    Time is not on our rulers’ side though and some say that the Ukrainian Army is finally breaking down … mind you that many of these folks have been saying this for the past year … but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that that is indeed the case at this point because Ukraine’s current army largely consists of soldiers that came from their third mass mobilization and, according to former British defense secretary Ben Wallace, the average age of their soldiers on the front is over 40! These ain’t folks who eagerly jumped into this fray. Some of them were literally dragged into it. They are also old enough to know firsthand how corrupt their country is and some of them, a significant amount I’d imagine, actually prefer that Russia win the war. But they’re stuck sitting in a ditch and hoping for the best, rightfully terrified. I reckon many of them, perhaps most, personally think it’s best for them to surrender.

    Time is running out in Ukraine for War Pimp Zelensky too. He needs to get out or he’ll eventually be killed. There’s no way he can stay in Ukraine but, if he can get out, he has a luxurious future to look forward to, though I’d reckon it’ll be a bit more cramped for him than he’d prefer.

    So, we’ll see what stunt our reckless rulers will pull next. They’re losing. Every move they make, Russia effectively counters. Russia’s military and military weapon manufacturing capacities are greater than the West’s and Russia is fighting a next-door neighbor so Russia has logistical advantages.

    Our rulers won’t give up though. Instead, they continually raise the stakes and escalate. Where will their escalations lead? They’ve blown up gas pipelines to their supposed allies. They’ve destroyed a huge dam. They’ve bombed bridges. They’ve sent flocks of drones to bomb Moscow and they routinely terrorize Crimea.

    Russia’s greatest vulnerability in Ukraine, in regards to its potential impact, is the Zaporizhia power plant. As time runs out on our rulers’ options in this conflict, it would hardly be surprising if they wave an air ticket to Tel Aviv in front of War Pimp Zelensky’s face and try to get him to bomb it in order to attempt to force a freeze to the conflict from nuclear fallout. It’s been a topic of discussion in the past and Russia has probably had some stark talks with our rulers in regards to the ramifications of that.

    The primary physical fronts of WWIII are currently Ukraine and Syria, with Ukraine, of course, the hottest front but Syria fraught with its own risk and the most complex front with the Russian military present (on invitation from the Syrian government), the U.S. military squatting on prime Syrian farmland and oil fields (not on the invitation of the Syrian government), the Israeli air force periodically flying bombing sorties in Syria, Iran supporting the Syrian government, and a bunch of militias milling about that are armed and paid by the various state participants.

    Tensions are also percolating, as they always are, between Iran and Israel and Israel’s rabid Rottweiler, the U.S.. Africa is getting hotter and Serbia-Kosovo has been sparking up and the CIA is no doubt working on other provocations such as the recent one regarding Armenia.

    Russia can potentially checkmate the West if the Chinese military is invited into Syria and Iran because China is the only country that can afford to shoot down the Israeli jets that facilitate the U.S. military’s theft of Syria’s oil and food. Israel has the power of nuclear escalation over Iran and Syria. Russia, perhaps because they don’t think it wise to escalate on a second front and maybe due to fears that it would cause dangerous fissures within their government, doesn’t want to pull the trigger. It wasn’t all that long ago that Berezovsky, Browder, Khodorkovsky and their homies had a controlling share of the Russian government bribed and blackmailed. In fact, this was why Berezovsky, who basically vouched for Putin as president (Putin probably couldn’t have become president without his blessing), had a huge falling out with Putin when, within weeks of taking office, Putin declared the right to dismiss politicians on his own. Putin, in Berezovsky’s mind, double-crossed him, because Berezovsky believed he could control Putin’s presidency with the corrupted governors that he and his homies had blackmailed and bribed. Berezovsky then began crying that Putin was a danger to Russia’s fledging democracy and was eventually run out of Russia. It’s hard to imagine every remnant of that oligarchic influence and infiltrative ties from those times washed away in twenty some years.

    China doesn’t have those worries though and Israel does not have the power of nuclear escalation over them. If Israel is forced to pay a price for bombing Syria and can’t actively support the U.S. military in Syria then the U.S. will be sitting by itself in Syria surrounded by hornets’ nests and have to navigate their way through a militia mine field of hostility to transport out their booty and potentially bombed by weapons that boomeranged back at them from Ukraine.

    Our rulers would seriously have some skin in the game then and might reckon that it’s more face-saving to negotiate their presence in Syria away then than to flee. That could … along with political instabilities, anti-U.S. sentiment in Europe, financial market calamities and $150 a barrel oil … potentially bring them to the table for serious negotiations on how a multi-polar world is going to work.

    The knight on the geopolitical chessboard in all of this, potentially able to strike U.S. vassals Japan or South Korea in each direction should Japan and South Korea try to enter the fray in some way in China’s neighborhood, is a North Korea possibly armed with hyper-sonic missiles complements of Russia.

    So, WWIII and a path to a multi-polar world in my mind will likely ultimately be decided by how deep China is willing to directly jump into the fray. Will they be willing to shoot down Israeli jets in Syria and maybe even take some sort of military action against the U.S. in regards to Iran?

    And our rulers have known this, that China could play a critical role, a decisive factor, in this conflict and the Middle East and it is at least part of the reason, possibly the primary one, that they have been so eager to feign as if they are willing to go to war with China. Sure, there are some factions of the anti-China crowd that actually are crazy enough to want to go to war with China and think they can win it and our rulers will let them run their mouths but ultimately they won’t militarily act on their hysteria.

    Regime change in Russia has always been their primary objective IMO. With Russia’s energy resources in their hands, which they had their mitts on before Putin came to power, our rulers could disempower OPEC and force China and Saudi Arabia into subjugation to the dollar.

    Our rulers only wish to contain China and occupy their military with concerns over Taiwan. There is no way our rulers can actually get Taiwan to eagerly do their deeds like Ukraine did because the Taiwanese are not as geeked to go to war as Ukraine was. Also, the U.S. has no serious back-up plan to replace China’s manufacturing prowess at home or elsewhere and if they actually tried to war with China, they would get all sorts of resistance from corporate America on it.

    It’s always been about Russia, in my view. Russia is not merely a stepping stone to go after China and even if China did not exist, our rulers would still covet and pursue Russia’s vast resources. Our rulers had that place on its knees a few decades ago and they want it under their thumb again.

    So, their animus is laser focused on Russia and Putin, not China, because they have no hope of controlling China and its resources and no hope of getting Taiwan to rebel, only dreams to box China into using the dollar and ultimately be able to exchange paper money for real goods by playing the world’s banker and biggest bully.

    Xi has also never taken anything from our rulers. But to the Browders, Kolomoiskys, Khodorkovskys, Kagans, and their likes, Putin has.


  13. StewartM


    This is WW1 not in the sense of an endless stalemate, but in the sense that first suddenly, then all at once as eventually the husk of the Ukrainian army will shatter like the Imperial German army did.

    But that German army bled its opponents too, so it’s not an attractive option.

    I have read articles back in the late 1970s wondering if the defense in war had once again caught up with the offense, maybe even surpassed it, and the ‘next war’ would look far more like a WWI meatgrinder than the blitzkriegs of WWII or the Arab-Israeli wars. This is another data point. The map Ian posted looks an awful lot like the minuscule gains of WWI that cost hundreds of thousands of casualties.

  14. StewartM

    As for the West, we are clearly “fighting to the last Ukrainian” and that’s despicable.

    I have wondered if the Russians won outright, would the West then sanction Ukraine too in order to show ‘how much we love them”. Mind you, from what everything I’ve heard or read, if anyone is being adversely affected, it’s ordinary Russians and not the leadership class. Somehow the logic of ‘free trade’ with China– “Trade with them and they will become more democratic and more friendly to us” is not universally applied. (Apparently that truthism only is valid when you can either exploit labor–yours and/or theirs–or loot the country for its assets).

    In my mind, Ukraine shouldn’t exist. There was only one referendum held on the future of the post-Soviet state, in 1991, and that indicated that some 78 % of Soviet peoples voted to ‘keep it all together’. Then Yeltsin and the heads of Ukraine and Belarus ignored the popular will and granted each other independence, apparently for the sole reason of upgrading their jobs and status (you go from being the head of a Soviet ‘republic’ to the leader of an independent state). Since then, surveys of the ex-Soviet republics, including Ukraine, have consistently indicated a majority (c. 60 %) of respondents agreeing that “we were better off as one country”.

    Think of it this way–would the US be better off if all 50 states became independent countries? Probably not economically, certainly not militarily. Moreover, an autocrat would likely win power in one or more states, and for terrain or water or some other reason start a war with another state. Being weak, foreign powers would cast their die into such contests, or bribe these new small nations to do their bidding.

    Would Americans think this is a desirable outcome? Then why did we, ‘for the people of X’, promote it for other states in regard to the former USSR? Seems to me this is not done for THEIR interest, but to keep a former opponent weak and not have the ability to challenge us. It’s definitely not in the interests of Ukrainians,long-term.

  15. Quite Likely

    Where do you get your war news? Seems pretty at odds with most of the expert analysis I’ve seen – the trend seems to be the more educated about the situation an analyst is the more optimistic they about Ukraine’s chances.

  16. Ian Welsh

    Ah, my first laugh of the day. Thanks.

  17. Soredemos

    @Quite Likely

    I genuinely can’t tell if this comment is earnest or not, but the Ukrainian offensive has turned out to be one of the most complete military duds of the last hundred years.

  18. Feral Finster

    The fundamental problem that Russia faces is that Russia has no way, short of launching an all-out nuclear strike, that can so much as mildly inconvenience the decisionmakers in Washington. Hell, they waltz in and out of Kiev every day for photo-ops, air raid sirens blaring so that they can pose with The Little Twerp, looking all stirring and resolute.

    Therefore, those decisionmakers have no incentive to back down. Ukrainians die? They could give a shit. It’s not as if Nuland has to write fat checks from her personal bank account, and it’s not as if Ukrainian officials’ kids will have to stop partying in the hottest nightspots in Europe and the US to be shipped off as meat for the Ostfront.

    Of course, the war is increasingly unpopular, as well it should be. So what? WWI was hardly popular in the United States and American participation was of no benefit to the average frustrated American citizen. The government simply ignored its citizens, criminalized dissent and cranked the propaganda machine up to the max.

    Of course, the United States destroyed Nordstream. So what? The European response has been to not ask questions, and if pressed, to say that they are bad slaves who deserve to be beaten more.

  19. Feral Finster


    Russia boasts some 15 air-to-air refueling aircraft. The United States alone has over 600 such aircraft. This makes sense, as the Russian military is designed for defensive operations and the United States for offensive.

    So if Russia is planning on invading Finland, etc., they apparently plan on doing so without any close air support.

  20. Purple Library Guy

    Russia cannot directly impose any consequences on the United States, it’s true. But, whether the US foreign policy types have figured it out or not (I’m pretty sure at least some of them have), Russia winning the war, or even Russia negotiating a tie and having its economy still intact, has huge knock-on effects in terms of the whole foreign policy environment for the US. A lot of US strength comes from that sense of . . . not exactly invincibility, or the impression that they will WIN whatever war they go into, but more that if they get pissed with you, you will be toast whatever the formal outcome. Like, Afghanistan won the war, but the US is fine and Afghanistan is screwed. Venezuela’s government survives, but the Venezuelan economy got torched by sanctions and currency manipulation. Nobody wants to be the next Afghanistan or Venezuela.

    But Russia . . . is fine. Their economy is fine. The sanctions don’t seem to be hurting them, fighting NATO-by-proxy doesn’t seem to be hurting them. If they win or tie the war and come out largely unscathed, that means you can now buck NATO without getting hosed. A lot of countries are paying attention to whether that is the case. A lot of countries may start figuring they can get away with doing a bit more of their own thing.

    IMO, the resemblance to WW I has some reality, but it’s only partial. It does seem clear that large frontal assaults against credibly held enemy lines give you lots of casualties and few or no gains. But standoff weaponry is much better than it was during WW I. Artillery was already very important then, but artillery/drones/missiles/bombs from planes/etc are even more important now. It is possible to take territory slowly without too many casualties if you use standoff weaponry to basically kill almost all the defenders before you advance.

    IMO the apparent parity between the Ukrainian and Russian forces in terms of territorial gains is something of an illusion. The Ukrainians have been gaining territory by spending their forces like water. They have been largely unable to gain territory any other way. The Russians have been gaining territory mainly by using standoff weapons to crush resistance before they advance. There have been exceptions, which have mostly been disasters and led to generals getting sacked. Even the big Wagner offensives seem to have been mostly done by sending forward small groups to spot enemy forces by getting attacked, so you can bombard them. You lose a lot of people in those small groups, but it’s still not the same as a big frontal assault. And of course now more and more, the identification of enemy forces is being done by drones.

    There are two reasons for this difference in approach. One is that the Ukrainians seem to be thinking much more in territorial terms, and have a certain urgency in terms of achieving successes. If they leave the outcome to attrition, they’re toast, and if they don’t deliver any impressive outcomes, NATO could abandon them. The other is that Ukraine simply has far less in terms of standoff weaponry than Russia does. Far less artillery, far less air power, far fewer missiles, somewhat fewer drones. They simply can’t pulverize a section of front before advancing the way the Russians can. It’s not like they don’t do their best with artillery prep, but their best is just not enough. Particularly since their short to medium range artillery cannot survive long on the battlefield–Russians target it. At this point, nearly all their standoff damage is done by drones, HIMARS, and the occasional Storm Shadow missile. Of those, the only element they have in quantity is drones. And they’re using them quite well, but it’s not enough. So the Russians can, given time and patience, pulverize a section of the front enough that advance is feasible, while the Ukrainians can’t and have to advance into real enemy resistance if they are to take any territory.

    This has implications for attrition rates. It is my considered belief that attrition rates in this war are lopsided. We start with lopsided attrition rates simply because Russia has so much more artillery and so on, and those do most of the killing. We get more lopsided attrition rates because artillery duels favour the side with more, so the ratio of Russian to Ukrainian artillery has almost certainly been rising over time. Certainly watching the day to day engagement, I’m seeing a lot less Ukrainian artillery strikes lately, although still quite a few drone strikes. And we get still more lopsided attrition rates because Ukraine is forced (really not their fault IMO; they have little choice) into tactics that result in higher casualties, whereas Russia is in a position to be more patient and orient its tactics towards preserving its forces.

    And this lopsidedness of casualties is not IMO something we usually saw in WW I. The Germans inflicted more than they took because their tactics were better, because trench warfare was a new thing and the British just seem not to have been as good at figuring it out. But it was at best 3:2. I’m pretty sure the Russians are killing multiple times what they lose, both in terms of men and materiel.

    It remains my opinion that at some point, the Ukrainians will have lost so many people and so much stuff that they can’t strongly hold the whole front. They won’t be able to effectively reinforce places that are losing defenders from bombardment. At that point the Russian forces will start squidging through the cracks in the line, and every time Ukraine rushes people to plug one gap, they will be opening up another. As casualties continue to mount, you’ll reach the point where Ukraine can’t stop a major breakthrough that starts cutting off Ukrainian forces that don’t retreat fast enough. At that point it’s the end unless Ukraine can pull back behind a major river–and even there, nothing is stopping Russia from attacking from the north again. I’m not sure how long this will take–but as far as I can tell, the big Ukrainian offensive ran through most of the Ukrainian strategic reserves. They already have quite a bit less to plug into weak points in the line.

    One small moral point: I disagree with the people who say it’s immoral for Ukraine to fight. Could we get real? Someone invades your country, you fight. It doesn’t matter if they had their reasons, it doesn’t matter if NATO set you up to be a threat they couldn’t ignore, none of that stuff matters. Your country’s being attacked, you fight the people attacking it, you spend as many people as it takes, you keep fighting as long as there’s any chance–maybe the horse will learn to talk! That’s what everyone does. It is a pity that things are this way, I am not happy that lots of Ukrainians (and Russians) are dying, but nobody saying that the leadership are immoral to fight back would say the same if it was their country invaded, even if their country was being invaded because their country had been pursuing totally dickish politics.

  21. Ian Welsh

    Once you’ve lost, you’ve lost. They aren’t going to get a better deal than they were offered back in 2022.

  22. Soredemos

    @Purple Library Guy

    Why shoukd I take it as axiomatic that if a country is invaded citizens should naturally defend it? A nation is a vague, abstract, essentially fictional thing. It shouldn’t just be assumed it’s something worth killing and dying for.

    And for Ukraine specifically, the context matters and shouldn’t just be brushed over. Citizens of a country should defend it? Who are these citizens? And whose country? Not Donbass, apparently. Because the context is that Kiev spent eight years waging war against what it claimed were Ukrainian citizens, albeit smearing them as ‘Russian separatists’ (wanting a United States of Ukraine is not separatism).

  23. Willy

    The country you live in determines a lot about how you get to live your life. If you think your life has been pretty good, I suppose you’d want to defend that. Ukrainians haven’t had the best luck living under Russians so I get that part. I’d probably want to fight back too.

    Maybe long-time Americans would understand better if the British suddenly invaded the USA. Or more accurately considering the time scales involved with Kievan Rus, was invaded by Danes calling themselves Anglo Saxons.

    Some say vice versa has already happened to an extent and the Danes just haven’t figured it out yet. Could such a thing been a better play for Putin? It seems that some leftists are unwittingly saying so.

    But then I do know a couple who moved from Argentina when the USA was cool and Argentina wasn’t, who recently decided to give their ancestral Spain a whirl now that the USA isn’t cool anymore. They even had a cool house here too. I think my point is, most people want to defend their stuff and defend their culture which helped them get that stuff. And others don’t, as much.

  24. bruce wilder

    In the war of narratives — the propaganda war, in other words — Ukraine started out way ahead, especially in the West among the Russophobic and those who woke up in February 2022. They had lots of help, especially among the uniparties that “govern” the U.S. and Western Europe. That war is not going well for Ukraine today — they have been losing ground internationally as ex-colonial governments have remained “neutral” or aligned with Russia or the BRICS. And, even among the Russophobic, they are not doing that well. In the U.S., Ukraine aid is an effective cudgel — just ask the former V-P, Mike “not my concern” Pence. Zelensky has apparently lost Poland. When you have lost Poland . . . . Poland for reasons I cannot fathom is fighting a two-front war of the imagination antagonizing both Germany and Russia simultaneously.

    The contested narratives of war are not just empty exercises in “disinformation” or “mal-information” or clever phrases in speeches or on social media. They are inextricably linked to the Grand Strategy of War: that is to say, to the framing of war as a means to achievable ends.

    I don’t know that people are always understand that “winning” or “losing” are not automatically defined by the act of war itself. Just because a state chooses to go to war, it is not always obvious to any contestant what act or achievement in battle — if any — would mark “winning.” War is an argument with weapons and a means of persuasion. Defining the objectives of a particular war is a step in the direction of defining what it would mean to win the argument, sure, but it is also a step in the direction of defining when and how war will transition back toward diplomacy and “normal” relations between states which have embarked on a relation of military hostility.

    Zelensky has defined Ukraine’s objectives as the expulsion of the Russian state (and implicitly, “Russians” by some vague, unspoken definition) from Ukraine’s theoretical territory. In general, Ukrainian propaganda has employed tropes of extreme alienation from Russia and all things Russian including language and religion, not to mention the damn bridge.

    The Russian stance is not the mirror image of Zelensky’s, though there is an unspoken goal of ethnic cleansing in the claimed territory. The Russian view is that Ukraine has so much in common with Mother Russia, ethnically and historically, that claims to be a separate nation-state are somewhat exaggerated.

    The Russophile observers of the conflict see considerable restraint in Russia’s approach to battle and tactics. That’s an interpretation to layer over the necessary consequences of limited military capability. The Russians have chosen approaches that they could execute with the resources they have available. But, it is true, I think, that they have focused more on exhausting Ukraine than on destroying it. Ukrainian “exhaustion” is the Russian argument for why Ukraine should negotiate a settlement.

    The U.S. has made the Ukrainian state and its governing elite entirely dependent on massive flows of financial aid, much of it in the nominal form of loans that imply Ukraine ends the war deeply in debt internationally. To negotiate a settlement with Russia will greatly diminish any flow of aid from the West, maybe even reverse that flow if the repayment of debt becomes an issue in the near-term after a settlement.

    How does Putin and Russia envision an end to this war? Ukrainian collapse followed by what? Regime change in Ukraine? Chaos?

    Or, regime change in the U.S. (and at least parts of Western Europe) that diminishes aid to Ukraine. Some U.S. Presidential candidates are talking an immediate move to negotiated settlement, which implies largely accepting territorial fiat accompli as a model of Russian terms without really knowing Russia’s terms.

    I always see doom on the horizon for the U.S. economic “system”. But, I might not be wrong this time — all the elements for political and economic crisis of the first order seem to be coming together very rapidly and sooner rather than later. The U.S. is very fragile at the moment and the centrists sucking down the cocaine of “normal” do not seem to be aware that they are dynamiting the foundations of “our democracy” and the almighty dollar.

    I honestly do not see the ability to reason about politics and economics among the ruling elites. It is not just that the neocons continue to be stupid and in power, but something else that seems to be making mainstream public opinion insipid and vacuous and indifferent.

    The Ukraine War is nurturing a confident dissent and critical thinking among some on the Right that has been sorely lacking in general, dissent and critical thinking that has disappeared from the center and center-left.

    A sharp right-turn is not what I want for my country or the world, but it seems that is what is coming on like a tsunami.

  25. Mark Level

    Excellent & informed analysis on this site, as usual. I’m particularly impressed with Z’s lengthy, detailed take, & like DiffClue’s EUFUKUS acrostic for the West– currently the “Axis” in world affairs as the declining hegemon, whereas China + Russia + Iran + Brazil etc. are the Allies to overthrow the fascist Reich called the “Rules Based Order”– meaning US makes the Rules, which it is not bound by, e.g. neither Russia nor US has signed onto the International (sic) Criminal Court at the Hague, but Putin is charged with “genocide” for sending Ukrainian teens in Donbass (& thus under bombing from Ukraine) to music camps away from the bombing, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz etc. face NO threat of Hague trials despite killing millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Haiti, as well as systematic genocide, torture, detentions without trial lasting decades at Gitmo & elsewhere of (imagined or alleged) terrorists, etc. etc. . . .

    Oh, & a pedantic note, Ian– Iran & N. Korea COULDN’T care less about sanctions” is correct, not could. If you could care less that means that you do care, which clearly they are incentivized not to, as they have no agency in the Empire’s arrogant actions against them.

    EUFUKUS makes the Rules & issues the Orders. The non Anglo-USian masses have no rights other than obey or be tortured or jailed or killed. And all to protect (oligarchic) “democracy”!!

  26. Tallifer

    It is depressing how intelligent people can be trapped in a bubble of misinformation and prejudice, but when Calvin said that man is totally depraved he did not except thinkers.

  27. StewartM


    One small moral point: I disagree with the people who say it’s immoral for Ukraine to fight. Could we get real? Someone invades your country, you fight.

    Let’s use an analogy closer to US politics. Should Southerners have fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War? Sure, the Confederacy was “their country” but it was a new one. As it turned out, many Southern whites (never mention blacks) didn’t fight at all, and a considerable number of Southern whites and blacks fought for the Union side. (Confederate soldiers called white Southerners who fought for the North “homegrown Yankees”). In fact, every Confederate state save South Carolina furnished regiments for the Union army.

    I say this as polling as recent as ten years ago had over half of the former republics, including Ukraine, agreeing that “yes, we were better off as one country instead of separate countries”. I say this as no fan of Putin (he’s a horrible person, methinks) but I believe that reunifying the old Soviet state is the correct policy goal. I just wish it was someone else other than Putin doing it.

  28. Feral Finster

    @Purple Library Guy:

    I wasn’t arguing any of that, other than that the West will continue to double down. Ukraine is running out of warm live bodies? The response is to Send In The Poles! They won’t be happy about it, but nobody will ask them, and besides, nothing could possibly give a Polish government official (or the average frustrated Pole) greater joy than the opportunity to fellate an American. And that goes double if that Pole’s loving service would somehow spite a Russian. If that isn’t enough to do the trick, send Germans, Brits, whatever!

    Similarly, if Congress isn’t going to appropriate money for Ukraine, Biden will use other means. This shows where his real priorities are,

    And another “Russian missile strike on innocent Ukrainian civilians!” Gee, these seem to happen pretty regularly when Blinken is in town or when Zelenskii is really shaking the begging bowl.

  29. mago

    Psycho Killers
    Burning Down the House

    Everyone’s a Talking Head

  30. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    I got the FUKUS part of EUFUKUS from Canadian former diplomat and Russian affairs observer and blogger Patrick Armstrong. He coined the acronym FUKUS for France – United Kingdom – United States. It was easy to add EU to that. And easy to put NATO in front of that, for . . . NATO EUFUKUS.

    About Russia’s latest performative war crime in Ukraine . . . if the RussiaGov wants to keep Ukraine fighting until the last Ukrainian of fighting ( and maybe even biological reproductive age) has been deleted from physical existence, then the RussiaGov would want to keep Ukraine enraged and outraged enough to keep it in the field fighting fighting fighting. That’s how Russia turns Ukraine into the immediately post-Chaco-Wars Paraguay of Europe.

  31. capelin

    @bruce wilder

    “The Russian stance is not the mirror image of Zelensky’s, though there is an unspoken goal of ethnic cleansing in the claimed territory.”

    I seem to recall that early on Russia explicitely stated they were going into Ukr to “get rid of the Nazies”.

    “The Russophile observers of the conflict see considerable restraint in Russia’s approach to battle and tactics. That’s an interpretation to layer over the necessary consequences of limited military capability. The Russians have chosen approaches that they could execute with the resources they have available. But, it is true, I think, that they have focused more on exhausting Ukraine than on destroying it. Ukrainian “exhaustion” is the Russian argument for why Ukraine should negotiate a settlement.”

    If Russia were the West, there would not be a hospital, water treatment plant, railway, or daycare still standing in Ukraine. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.

  32. Jorge

    I have seen it claimed that the Russian strategy is not WW1, but the Spanish Civil War. Strategically, Franco won after several months. But, the Republican side was incapable of surrendering; he knew they would be a massive thorn in his side afterward.

    He then spent maybe 2 years inviting these fanatics to dance in front of his guns, and they did. He kept at this until enough fanatics had died in a war of attrittion that he didn’t mind putting up with the remainder.

  33. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    Another neat little acronym recently came to mind, but there isn’t a current reality to apply it to.

    When the US and UK government got together with the Australia government just recently to form some kind of defense group for the “Indo-Pacific Region” . . . the acronym spelled AUKUS, for Australia, United Kingdom, United States. Australia should really try to make amends with France, which fancies itself a Pacific Power because it owns several South Pacific islands, and make it part of that group. Then they could call it AuFUKUS . . . for Australia, France, United Kingdom and United States.


  34. Curt Kastens

    The entire picture as it stands now does not add up.
    The most obvious part that does not yet add up is that the Ukraine side launched a counter offensive this past summer. Any idiot who has read even one book on military strategy and tactics would have been able to predict with out air support the offensive did not have a chance. It seems that it was launched based entirely on the hope that the Russian forces would run away. But anyone even slightly familiar with the situation, which those in the US MIC intellegence branches would certianly be would know for certian that Brian Berletic and Scott Ritter and Retired Colonel McGregor are rebroadcast with subtitles to members of the Russian military and the comments of these pundits have given a huge moral boost to the Russian military in the same way that the German military communications officer in WW 2 did when he managed to get the real figures about German casualties to the Russians.
    There have been many pundits who have given reasons why it was neccessary for the Ukrainians to launch the offensive. They all boil down to, it was neccessary to maintain western political support for Ukraine. But this is clearly a lie. Since when has the Pentagon ever wanted political support for its actions? We all know that they have the power to create the perception that they have politcal support even when they do not.
    One must consider the opportunity cost of launching an offensive as well. All the forces lost trying to take territory from the Russians will not be there to prevent the Russians from taking territory from the Ukrainians. So the entire strategy of going on the offensive seems to be blatantly flawed.
    Yet General Milley and General Nakasone and General Austin and others at their level are not idots, though the clearly sometimes pretend to be. Noe if this offensive was launched and failed it clearly has to be because that is what it was suppossed to do. In addition to the lack of airpower, and the inabilty to pulverize the Russian defences even before an offensive even started we can add the slow pace at which the Ukrainians were resupplied by the west. Is the explination for that the west really could not have done any better??
    To me the real explination for the fake attempt to capture the Crimea is a longer term multilayered attempt by the Pentagon to create a plausible narrative for the upcomming twists and turns of world history. The qustion is whether or not their attempt will be successful. Not only do sorcorers in the Pentagon have to manuver the Russians (and Chinese) in to the correct position for their plan to work the climate has to play along as well. The sourcerers are going through all of this trouble against a backdrop in which the world appears to be entering a stage of abrupt climate change.
    Bonzai! Bonzai! Bonzai!
    There is also the possibilty that on the deepest flore of the rabbit hole the Pentagon leadership is working with the Russian leadership and the Chinese leadership to manuver everyone else in to a position that we can reaped by the grim reaper leaving them as the last people standing. But if that is the case everything will go pretty much as planned due to the vast oversight of all of humanities moving parts.
    Anyways a 1.75° C global anamoly for an entire month seems to be some pretty good evidence that the final chapters will have to play out in the not very distant future.

  35. Curt Kastens

    Yes, it appeared that the US plan A was to embarrass Putin out of office and in the ensuing chaos colonize Russia. When that did not work it seemed that there was no plan B. That Wagner BS was clearly not plan B.
    Plan B is certianly much more subtle. Getting lots of Ukrainians killed while waging an apparently ill thought out offensive must have been the first step.
    My previous post which supports this idea has not yet been posted. And I have doubts that it will be posted.

  36. GrimJim

    I still see no reason to change my evaluation of Putin’s goals from the map I presented some time back.

    That result is ever more likely the longer Ukraine keeps fighting. At this point they can still negotiate something less than total defeat.

    But they will reach the point where their lines break irreparably. Sooner than later. Mass exodus and ethnic cleansing follows, and Putin takes everything he wants, as on the map, which does not include the western region that becomes the rump Ukraine. He leaves that as a gift for NATO.

    It might take as little as two weeks. It shouldn’t take more than two years. My feeling is, barring a massive investment in men and materiel by NATO, far beyond sending them the dregs of their old, obsolete leftovers, were looking at just before winter or shortly into spring.

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