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

Ukraine Has Lost & A Negotiated Peace Is The Only Sane & Humane Solution

OK, I’m on the record from the start saying Ukraine would lose the war militarily. The counteroffensive has failed. NATO equipped and trained an entire army for Ukraine and it didn’t even get to the main defensive lines.

The Americans told the Ukrainians to charge entrenched, mined positions without air superiority and in the face of an enemy with more artillery than them.

That went about as you’d expect.

The Ukrainians are not taking back the territory they have lost, let alone Crimea, which was always a ludicrous fantasy.

Ukrainians are dying like flies and I am firmly on the side that says that their casualty numbers have to be higher than the Russians, because the Russians are launching a ton more artillery shells and have air superiority. Meanwhile six million refugees have moved to the EU, and I’ll bet most of them will never return to Ukraine, which was a depressed and extremely corrupt nation even before the war.

Russia has not been squeezed out by sanctions and is not going to be. China will not let it happen and most of Africa and Latin America are on their side, while India wants more trade with them. The nation hurt most by sanctions is probably Germany, which is losing much of its energy price sensitive industries (very important industries that have been world leaders for over 100 years in many cases.) Since Germany is the industrial heartland of the EU (and cemented that by using the EURO and enforced austerity to devastate other EU countries industrial base), this will hit the EU hard.

Russia, meanwhile, is churning out ammunition and weapons and buying them from North Korea and Iran, who don’t care at all about US sanctions, for obvious reasons. In the West, weapons warehouses are bare and we don’t have the capacity to restore them, nor are we ramping up production quickly.

So Russia has a larger population and army, and more weapons and equipment than the Ukrainians. They have air and artillery superiority.

The only road forward for anyone who isn’t a horrific bastard is a negotiated peace. Russia (sorry) is going to get the Russian parts of Ukraine, and Ukraine is just going to have to suck it up. If the war continues, Russia may attempt to grab the entire coastline and that would make Ukraine a land-locked country.

The longer the war goes on, the worse for Ukrainians. The war is lost and a negotiated peace will save tens of thousands of lives and make it so that Ukraine is less of a complete basket-case after the war.

There will be a guerilla war after any peace. It could be won by the Ukrainians, but I doubt it. Eastern Ukraine is flat and occupied mostly by Russian speaking sympathizers who want to be in Russia.

Sometimes you lose the war on the ground. Russia will not get everything it wanted, but they will get some of what they wanted and so will Ukraine, in the sense that they may get real security guarantees or NATO membership after the war is over.

But Ukraine has lost. Pretending it hasn’t is ridiculous and monstrous. Throwing more hastily conscripted soldiers into the meat grinder is stupid and evil.

The best possible end at this point is a negotiated peace.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 6, 2023


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  1. Tallifer

    Being only an historian and not a military expert nor one who painstakingly examines every combat video and its geolocation, I cannot gainsay your conclusion.

    However, I will say that the conclusions you draw are entirely contrary to those drawn from sources and analysts I consider very reputable and knowledgeable.

    I suggest this article alone as a merely an introduction to an alternative (and to me factually grounded) view of the war:

    (The weekly podcasts by the Telegraph, Battleground Ukraine, Shield of the Republic and less frequently War in Ukraine Updates also have excellent analyses.)

  2. Tallifer

    Also, the Third World and OPEC might not be so firmly in Russia’s pocket:

  3. bruce wilder

    The narcissism of those who would “control the narrative” to “win” exemplifies a general problem with the set of factions that control and drive U.S. foreign policy. For those of us living in reality, the unvarying policy has been to destroy one unfortunate country after another: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya. From the Russian point-of-view, that list includes Serbia. The joke about fighting to the last Ukrainian did not take long to surface. That Russia itself is in the cross-hairs — not just Ukraine — is obvious to Russia and it will limit what is negotiable. I doubt very much that Ukrainian membership in NATO is in the cards Russia is willing to play. There’s no security for Russia after the war if Ukraine is armed or its security “guaranteed” by a militarized and aggressive Poland.

  4. Bill H.

    Didn’t even read the peace. Negotiated peace means America admitting that it’s military alliance cannot beat Russia, and after all of the grandiose statements emanating from Washington, that will not be allowed to happen.

  5. Daniel Lynch

    Agree with all that, but negotiated settlements tend to happen when there is a stalemate. That’s not the case here. Russia is winning, and Russia will continue to win. Both sides view the conflict as existential.

    The U.S. Civil war did not end with a negotiated settlement. WWII did not end with a negotiated settlement. The fighting went on until one side was militarily vanquished.

    I can’t predict the future, but I’m not seeing a negotiated peace this year. It’s certainly a tragedy, but it is what it is.

  6. elkern

    I strongly agree. And *now* would be the best time for Ukraine/US/NATO to start negotiating.

    First, they can claim (to home audiences via pet media) that they have “won” by taking back some territory recently (though Russia would probably get pretty much all of that back in the negotiations.

    Second, if Ukraine keeps blowing up bridges in Russian-occupied areas, Russia will respond in kind, with much greater force & effect. Russia has been pretty selective about blowing up infrastructure in Ukraine, but I’d bet that would change soon (unless negotiations get under way).

    Third – and most importantly – Ukraine’s “turn” (as if this is a game of Risk or whatever) is almost over, so Russia will probably go on the offensive again soon, at a time when Ukraine’s forces are (somewhat) exhausted. This may be quite bloody for Russia (as well as Ukraine), but would probably result in significant breakthroughs, leaving Ukraine in an even weaker position at the inevitable peace talks.

    Of course, US internal politics hangs over everything. The GOP is in the enviable position of being able to attack Biden no matter what he does: Trumpists gripe about wasting US tax $ overseas, while the traditional Big Money Neocons paint Biden as weak for not starting WWIII. Liberals will have a hard time swallowing anything less than complete “victory” for Ukraine, but will never vote for Trump or other modern Republicans. But still, if talks begin *now* and proceed quickly (haha, yeah), Ukraine will be mostly forgotten by November 2024.

    The big question is whether non-Right-wing MSM will help Biden sell Peace Talks as the best available option (easing Liberal qualms). If Trump is the GOP candidate, MSM will help Biden, but if the GOP somehow nominates anybody else, they may not.

  7. Willy

    What’s the reason for no air support again? I thought Biden was trying to start WWIII.

    You’d think the world leader in the growth of coal energy after all this Ukraine would be Germany. But it’s China, again.

    At least we have our heroic Google spending big to spur green innovations. It’s cheaper than fossils. Next step make it reliable. Maybe Google will steal just the right green energy scientist’s personal information to make it happen?

    Personal lesson learned from Ukraine: never give up your version of nukes no matter what the promises being made. Sure, you can negotiate with nice people like the Dutch. But if a person with empire ambitions tries to get you to lessen your own power in some way in the name of “peace”, you’ll need to get ready because they’ll be coming for more someday. Know their history and habits.

    Anyways, whatever Ukraine gives up territorially in any negotiation will be lost forever. And there’s absolutely no guarantee that Russia will remain satisfied with what it got.

  8. Ventzu

    Ian, you seem to think Ukraine has agency. This has been a US proxy war to weaken Russia. The neocons totally miscalculated. But what do they have to lose by prolonging the war. Indeed the whole of the leadership of the west, and their sycophantic media, would be in danger of being exposed as incompetents and liars.

    Remember Russia running out of missiles and artillery, this time last year? Or the counteroffensive would be some form of shock an awe which the terrify the disorganised Russians and cause them to run away? Or the peace settlement agreed in Turkey in march 2022, which was rejected by the US, and conveyed by Boris the messenger-boy?

    Ukraine lost a long time ago. The west has just propped them up.

    At some point, one hopes the Ukranians will wake up and realise that they have been sold out by their corrupt elite, and the collective west.

    The issue now is not to admit defeat, and prolong as long as possible, without having to spend quite so much. Maybe encourage the Poles to go in. Keep Russia distracted. And then pivot to China.

    The last days of empire.

  9. Even if anything you said was true the West should never accept any peace where Ukraine looses territory. When you use the words “Russian parts of Ukraine”, you show much Russian propaganda you’ve swallowed.

    We can’t allow states to move borders by force. Before that is allowed NATO intervention would be preferable, Russia would be suicidal to use to use nukes.

    As a German I’m proud of the European response and glad for NATO.

  10. vmsmith

    People have been underestimating Ukraine for months, beginning with Putin’s disasterous underestimation of it on 24 February 2022.

    Meanwhile, the Russians have shown themselves to be about as inept in every aspect of warfare as one could imagine. Which is why we are on day 529.

    So I’m not even close to calling it a done deal.

  11. StewartM

    Tony Wikret provided one interesting angle on why the West is so interested in Ukraine’s “freedom”:

    I really always thought this type of war was the very reason the breakup of the USSR (opposed by almost 80 % of its voters, with majorities saying well into the 2010s that the breakup of the USSR was a bad thing, not a good thing) was such a harmful event. A war like this was almost inevitable. But the continuance of the USSR, once it had gotten its act together, would have been a possible counterbalance to US geopolitical power, which is why our foreign policy ‘experts’ are so ‘het up over Ukraine.

    Me, I see the USSR as having done us a favor, as that counterbalance limited the number of ‘cowboy adventures’ our leaders could do, which was really a net plus for the US. Moreover, we never saw any peace dividend after the Cold War ended, nosiree, we’re always ‘living in a dangerous world’ we are told by the TeeVee talking heads.

  12. Purple Library Guy

    That said, at this point I think the Russians may have reason to want to keep pushing until what’s obvious if you’re looking dispassionately becomes completely, brutally obvious and Ukraine can no longer hold together its whole defensive line, so as to get a better deal.

    This is particularly the case since Russia does not trust NATO to keep any deal it makes, so they are going to want to insist on terms so stringent NATO cannot rig them. Certainly if I were them, I would be very wary of any deal that could be worked the way the previous Ukraine deals were, just to buy time until the next army can be built.

  13. Ian Welsh

    Ukraine never had control of its nukes, the Red Army did, and wasn’t going to let the new government have them, the deal was the best Ukraine was going to get. That said, I agree that if a country wants some safety, they need nukes.

    Most people choose their sources based on their biases. I won’t claim complete immunity, but the stuff I rely on most is fact: for example that Russia both has more artillery and launches far more shells, or that it has air superiority and that it has a larger population and so on.

    There’s a lot of propaganda out there, on both sides (but we get far more pro-Ukrainian propaganada here in the West, just as Russians and Chinese would get far more pro-Russian propaganda.

    You have to find a way to cut past it.

  14. GrimJim

    NATO will fight against Russia to the last Ukrainian, and then when the last Ukrainian is dead or fled, will simply tighten up its borders with Russia and start another war in some other disposable border state. Why do you think they are letting the Finns join the death cult?

    And NATO is a death cult. It exists solely to kill Russia or die trying… Of course it is happy to let others do the dying for it, first. But then, when they run out of other chumps, that’s what they have the Baltic states for, not to mention again now the Finns, and there are those nice Central European Sucker States, aka cannon fodder, to feed the needs of the MIC.

    Wait, what, we can’t produce real armaments anymore? I guess we just need to sell those suckers more old guns and flak jackets and send them to the front. More grinding, more profits, and eventually we’ll win…

  15. mago

    Don’t feed the trolls.
    Smith and and kala so transparent.

    Ukraine war captures cancerous headlines while pustules fester and burst across the stans.

    Shit’s more perilous than obvious.
    Not to be enigmatic about it.

    Just another commenter on a blog, yo

  16. VietnamVet

    We are getting an up close look at wartime propaganda. Both sides have lost contact with reality. If anything, Russia is closer to the truth but it made a huge strategic mistake in invading Ukraine rather than using the West’s inherent inequality and arrogance to bring about its inevitable collapse. So the war drags on proving once again the two or three time death rate for soldiers attacking fortified positions.

    Ukrainians will fight to the last man. Russia will have to totally mobilize to get the forces and armament for maneuver warfare to take Odessa and make Ukraine a rump state. If either side, NATO or the Russian Federation falls apart like 1917, or if Poland or another NATO state or Crimea is invaded by the new Red Army or a Euro-White Army; the last of the remaining mercenary forces will ignite their nuclear weapons before trying to skedaddle away. It is just that the West desperately needs Russian energy resources or North America faces permanent shortages and high prices with its sick poor surviving population migrating north. It will be the 1970s, once again, except way worse with climate change’s extreme weather events and variant pandemics. COVID-19 infections are starting to climb once again despite proclamations that the pandemic is over.

    The only way out of the stalemated war is an armistice and DMZ like 1953 for the exact same reason why General Dwight D. Eisenhower said he would go to Korea. Peace and the rule of law for all are the only way that humans can possibly continue to inhabit the earth.

  17. different clue

    So . . . Ukrainians will fight to the last man? What if that is what the RussiaGov had in mind all along? That sure would demilitarize Ukraine for a long time to come. It would be a “Chaco War” outcome, leaving Ukraine the Paraguay of Europe.

    Here is a video from ” UkraineVideoWarReport”. If it is real, and if it is current, and if it is like this for all areas of Russian warfighter supply capacity, what is Ukraine’s future here?

  18. Art

    I think you are wrong. On damn-near every point.

    Nothing you said lines up with what I’m seeing and hearing.

  19. Tallifer

    1. The Ukraine’s military strength and effectiveness is growing through training, experience, Western supplies and resourcefulness.

    2. Russia’s military strength and effectiveness is slowly weakening through insufficient training, loss of elite units and of officers, lack of economic strength (vis a vis the West; not vis a vis Ukraine).

    3. The Ukrainians’ latest tactic in their constant adaptation is to forgo unsupported (meaning no airpower) American thunder-run tactics and instead pursue careful, methodical and slowly inexorable tactics: already their artillery is dominant (because of striking ammunition dumps and of counter-battery fire), and they advance with an advantageous loss ration on every chosen front.

    4. Like the Vietnamese, Afghans and French (in WW1), motivation for survival is on the side of the Ukrainians. They are in this for the long haul. The nation in arms! … That said, I do recognize the desperation of many Russians to cling to their imperial nostalgia.

  20. Tallifer

    *loss ratio, not “ration”

  21. StewartM


    I wouldn’t put much trust on Kos articles on this, as Markos calls anyone who dismisses anyone bringing a less pro-Ukraine/anti-Russian perspective to the table as ‘tankies’. Kos keeps churning out articles predicting imminent Ukrainian victory that never has come about. It’s all beginning to sound like German propaganda on the Soviets in WWII (you know the Russians are losing men and equipment at a 5:1 ratio, they’re incompetent, they’re only in the fight because of sheer numbers, etc. etc) and we now know how all that WWII narrative was crap. What I think Markos in particular is echoing is his Cold War-military background and what he was taught in the US Army.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine’s flaws are unspoken. Just a week ago I was watching a young gay Ukrainian expat telling his story on Youtube, and he reported how one of his friends in Kiev was brutally beaten up by members of the Azov battalion. Think that’s going to make the Western news?

  22. Soredemos


    The reality is that the NATO trained and equipped Ukrainian army (their third army so far in this war) just battered itself to pieces before even reaching the first of three main defense lines. It’s genuinely one of the most pathetic displays in all of military history. They’re ‘switching tactics’ as a desperate cope. They’ve lost too many men and too much hardware to maintain conventional operations. They have no air power or defense, and an order of magnitude inferiority in artillery. They can’t win. It’s over.

  23. Feral Finster

    The problem that Russia faces is that there is nothing that Russia can do, short of launch a nuclear strike, that will so much as mildly inconvenience the decisionmakers in Washington.

    Even if the Kiev regime were to collapse today, their puppets in Ukraine would just bunk off to their Italian villas and their Miami condos.

    Therefore, Washington has every incentive to keep on doubling down.

  24. Willy

    Common sense dictates that Russia is at least triple what Ukraine is. David would have to be awfully crafty to overcome that Goliath. Vietnam and Afghanistan had caves and jungles, were geographically attached to big friendlies, and had lots and lots of martyrs ready to go. Ukraine’s sovereign history is muddled and lacked holy jihadi’s ready to go against satanic/fatcat interlopers. Plus they were basicly surrounded on three sides.

    But still, 500+ days of battle?

    If I was Putin, I would’ve practiced my podium pounding. Given more speeches about Making Russia Great Again. Posted more billboards showing shirtless handsome me looking up worshipfully to our Russian god. Because thus far, Russian hearts and minds haven’t seemed very much into this.

    But yeah, if Ukraine won would some batshit faction take control? Could anybody have predicted that Vietnam would go back to capitalism or Afghanistan Taliban?

    a militarized and aggressive Poland.
    I got a kick out of that one. The only thing more existentially threatening than Ukrainian Nazis? Those dark and sinister Polish empire builders. Would it be better to stick to the idea that NATO is a proxy for neoliberalist fatcats? Maybe satanists too, for those who go that way.

  25. Ian Welsh

    You’re welcome to disagree with me or other commenters on almost any subject, but do so politely. (This is not aimed at any comments let thru.)

  26. Purple Library Guy

    I don’t watch much in terms of analyses of how the war is going. I watch daily shows about what’s happening on the front today, from a guy who is probably marginally pro-Russian but seems genuinely uninterested in hyping either side; when either side does something effective, he says they’ve done something effective; when they do something and get defeated, he says they got defeated.

    So, first, looking at the day to day conduct of the war, it seems like both sides do good things and both make mistakes, and both sides have good soldiers and not so good soldiers. I don’t really understand where this magical Russian incompetence is supposed to come from other than “the pro-Ukrainian side really needs it to be true”. Why would it exist? The Russian military is a professional force with strong traditions and tactical doctrines forged in many conflicts, and Russia as a country has a strong belief that it is in a dangerous position–so, while there is plenty of corruption in Russia (as there is in NATO and certainly in Ukraine) it seems likely there is a lot of agreement that military corruption must be kept within bounds. So why would the Russian military somehow be massively inferior in all ways? And again, from watching the day to day conduct of the war, it does not appear to me that this fairy-dust incompetence exists. Competence seems fairly evenly matched, except the Russians’ superior tactical position allows them to play certain things to reduce their casualties.

    It’s certainly true that the Ukrainians have hit some Russian ammo depots and have done some effective counterbattery fire with their artillery. Well, duh, they have some artillery, they’re using it, that’s gonna happen. But it is equally true that the Russians do the same, and on a somewhat larger scale. It seems, just following along day to day, like the Russians are killing significantly more Ukrainian artillery than the other way around. But even if the attrition rate were equal, it would favour the Russians. Because if I have 2000 artillery pieces and you have 500, and then we each kill 250 artillery pieces, I’ve lost 1/8th of mine and you’ve lost half of yours.

    Also, the Ukrainians have had noticeable success killing Russian armoured vehicles and to some extent artillery units with drones. There have been a couple of places where this has actually been so effective it has given them a local tactical edge and allowed them to advance a bit. But the Russians are also doing this, and their drone use seems to be accelerating as they ramp up drone production. And their explosive drones are heavier, more capable of taking out actual tanks.

    It seems to me that the basic nature of modern military technology turns out to favour the defense . . . up to a point. The thing is that what with missiles and drones, terminal guided artillery and even simple old fashioned infantry antitank weapons, if your force is visible it can be killed. And in order to attack, you have to make your force visible. So if the enemy is holding an area, and you attack it, a bunch of your force will be killed. It is possible to take territory, but you have to basically crush the enemy holding it first, so they’re really only barely holding it at all. Hunt down their artillery, their ammo depots, make the roads reinforcement and supply would take unusable, hit their defensive positions with artillery and bombs. And that’s what we’re seeing, particularly from the Russians, but also the Ukrainians when they’re not feeling time pressure pull rabbits out of hats. Rather than big attacks, they do little probes, just enough to force some defenders to, like, defend, and in doing so reveal themselves so you can bomb them; repeat until the enemy is really low on defensible positions, then try an advance.

    But the Russians are overall more effective at this long slow game because they have more bombs/artillery/drones/helicopters/other standoff weapons. And no, this advantage does not seem to be disappearing based on some mythical extreme congenital incompetence because Russians are untermenschen or something.

    Incidentally, my estimate is that before the big counteroffensive, the Ukrainians were losing about 500 men/day (along with equivalent materiel). Since it began, that increased to maybe 700/day or a bit higher, but the amount of armoured vehicles and tanks lost vastly increased. 500/day is about 180,000 a year; 700/day is about 250,000 a year. This can go on until it can’t.

    It looks like the whole counteroffensive thing is running out of steam. There’s maybe one or two last pushes gonna happen and then we’re returning to the longer run situation where the Russians keep probing and making a little push here, get a little distance but then the Ukrainians move in reserves to stiffen resistance and it peters out, but then there’s another place down the line that got left a little open by that and the Russians push there, and every time the Russians erode the Ukrainians a little more. This keeps on until someone makes peace or the Ukrainians find themselves without enough materiel to effectively defend the whole front. And the whole time, it seems as if the Russians are making new materiel significantly faster than they’re losing it.

  27. Carborundum

    From the failed seizure of the airhead, negotiated peace was always going to be the required outcome. The more interesting question is what do negotiations look like when neither side is able (or at least able at an acceptable cost) to manufacture more favourable realities on the ground?

    This looks a lot to me like both sides seeking to conserve forces, focusing primarily on lower cost, trending towards symbolic / psychological, attacks. I see a lot of talk about casualty levels, but little to no good data. Similarly, there’s clearly a fair bit of materiel being consumed, but we really don’t have as good a sense of the denominator as we think we do. Basically no interlocutor can be trusted and there’s a conspicuous absence of developments dramatic enough to be visible at this distance.

  28. Soredemos


    The Ukrainian strategy has been the exact opposite of any attempt to conserve forces.

  29. mago

    Black hat/white hat Hollywood dualistic/simplistic drama
    The minions follow toxic storylines shouting hooray for our side (apologies to CSN&Y).
    War is an ugly bloody no win situation repeatedly re-enacted.
    The pro this and the con thats.
    Toxicity repeated constantly everywhere you look and maybe where you dwell.
    Western leadership follows inbred ideologies institutionalized over generations, and they don’t know any better.
    It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s that they’re dumb.
    Enjoy the waning summer days and light

  30. mago

    Not a rhetorical question
    Why is there so much hatred in the world?

  31. Soredemos


    It’s not hate. A key thing to understanding geopolitics and the movements of entire nation states is to stop anthropomorphizing them and treating them like individuals with emotions. This war isn’t driven by hate. It’s driven by Russia finally putting its foot down and taking overt actions to not allowing a NATO proxy state on its border. Ukraine fucked around and found out, basically.

  32. GrimJim

    We’re looking at the first modern incremental attrition war.

    Grind grind grind. Boars in the forest.

    The current Russian plan, such as it is, is to grind down the Ukrainians until there are no more Ukrainians that Ukraine can throw into the grinder.

    Russia has superior numbers. They took just enough territory that Ukraine *must* fight to take it back.

    It is kind of a Reverse Cannae Magnet. The Russians set up their defensive perimeters in such a fashion that they force the Ukrainians to attack in a specific pocket to push through. The Ukrainians go into the pocket and get grounded up. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    The boars in the forest now come to the slaughterhouse and present their necks. Saves time and effort.

    Eventually some faction in Ukraine will notice their people are all dying or fleeing and try force out the current batch of NATO apparatchiks. They will probably lose, as will the second and third. Finally, Ukrainian strength will wane until either the Ukrainian oligarchy is overthrown and/or flees and the new powers make a deal and/or the Russians actually break through and take the east to the Dniepr (and Odessa and the coast in the southwest)

    The Soviet War in Afghanistan lasted 10 years. That was hardly considered an existential war. The Ukrainian War is considered such by Putin, and for any other strongman that would take his place after his death, whether natural or in a coup.

    500 days is nothing. The slaughter has only just begun.

    And if the Ukrainians continue to escalate by hitting targets in Russia — scoring propaganda points in the West but to no real effect — Russia will simply hit them harder.

    Remember, this is not about just territory. Russia needs to make sure there are fewer Ukrainians. Period. And as long as Ukraine obliges them, they’ll keep doing what they do.

    Escalation will take it to further levels of ethnic cleansing. Western propaganda aside, the Russians have been damn circumspect in hitting civilian areas. Far more so than the US has ever been, in any war.

    But if they piss off the Russians enough they’ll just start purposefully mass bombing Eastern civilian positions.

    When the civilian population has either died or fled West of Kiyv, what are they really defending anymore?

  33. Willy

    Why is there so much hatred in the world?

    Because hatred is the art of the possible. Most people can rationalize anything in their quest to live their best life, even letting themselves be told what “living their best life” means. Everybody knows the guy who’s been persuaded that if we only got rid of “Islam”, “the Jews”, “America”, “Brandon”, “Ronald McDonald”… then we’d get to live better lives.

    A better question is: if you’ve been targeted for hate by an ambitious empire builder, what’s your most effective defense?

    This war isn’t driven by hate. It’s driven by Russia finally putting its foot down and taking overt actions to not allowing a NATO proxy state on its border. Ukraine fucked around and found out, basically.

    So why didn’t Putin say so from the beginning? And if people didn’t get his facts right the first time, then why not repeat, repeat, repeat until they did? At least you’d get the satisfaction from saying I told you.

    We all get why we had NATO back in the Soviet day. They had stuff like Warsaw Pacts, Iron Curtains, Berlin Walls, and “we will bury you”. Of course any “democratic” capitalism is gonna be expected to try and buttress against all that. But since none of that exists today, then why all the NATO? Had I been Putin, I would’ve laid out all the harm neoliberals had done to both mother Russia and Ukraine, their ultimate intentions, and then described what my own rebuilding and prosperity plans for Russia and Ukraine would’ve been. I never would’ve gone down the bizarre alley of blaming Nazis.

  34. Tallifer

    @GrimJIm @Soredemos @Purple Library Guy @Willy et alia:
    I offer this well-documented and well-reasoned article as counter-proof and counter-argument against claims that the Ukrainians are losing more proportionately or even more numerically than the Russians. (Not written by Markos whom some here discredit.)

  35. StewartM


    Also, the Ukrainians have had noticeable success killing Russian armoured vehicles and to some extent artillery units with drones.

    This *may* be true, but we don’t know. As the tank Youtuber Nicholas Moran has indicated, the tank-kill videos that we are seeing (from the Ukrainians, at least) have been edited. I’ve also seen some from the Youtuber “Red Effect” on Russian footage that he describes (and questions) and it also shows the Russians destroying German Leopard tanks. Finally, no one is showing the videos of the failed attacks on tanks (the tanks are hit, but nothing happens), only the successful ones.

    This leads to your second observation:

    It seems to me that the basic nature of modern military technology turns out to favour the defense . . . up to a point. The thing is that what with missiles and drones, terminal guided artillery and even simple old fashioned infantry antitank weapons, if your force is visible it can be killed.

    This is a trend that has been going on some time. It even started during WWII, when tanks ran roughshod over infantry defenses at the start of the war (caveats thrown in) but by the end of the war everyone had mastered the art of reinforcing infantry units with anti-tank assets (which included not only hand-held anti-tank weapons and anti-tank artillery, but also armored tank destroyer vehicles and even tanks) plus devising infantry defenses with tank-killing zones (often including anti-tank minefields). But I’ve been reading articles ever since the late 1970s asking the question “are we heading back to WWI again?”

    Tanks, coupled with infiltration tactics first employed by the WWI German army, coupled with tactical air power is what broke the bloody WWI-type stalemate and allowed for offensive success again and restored mobility to the battlefield. To whatever degree tanks become more vulnerable, one would expect the battlefield to stalemate and the butcher’s bill to resemble more and more WWI. To the stupid Kossacks to proclaim “the tank is dead!” I ask “are you REALLY looking forward to re-fighting WWI again?”

    Nicholas Moran does not believe ‘the tank is dead’ as that death has been proclaimed many times. Only tanks can provide timely direct firepower, and it still is the most survivable thing on the battlefield (he points out–Kossacks take note–that infantrymen can still be ‘knocked out’ by a single bullet or piece of artillery shrapnel, and have been vulnerable for a long time, yet no one says ‘the infantry is dead!’ (except when they are, literally)). Historically, if you have two sets of infantry, say A vs B:

    a) Give side A just one tank, and now they are more likely to win with fewer losses
    b) Give side A two tanks, and they even more likely to win with even fewer losses
    c) Give side A three tanks….

    And so forth. Even when tanks are lost, their crews are small, and often not all are killed or even wounded (and there are caveats about Russian/Soviet tanks, because of their ammo storage, even they are not necessarily the ‘death traps’ they have been painted to be*). Tanks are expensive in terms of hardware but actually cheap in terms of lives, which is why using them is part of a ‘rich country”‘s way of war fighting. Poor countries by contrast are cheap on hardware (hand out AK-47s to teenaged boys) but expensive in lives (send them charging against machine gun nests in human wave attacks).

    *– Russian/Soviet tanks store the bulk of their ammo in the bottom of the tank underneath the turret crew. When fighting other tanks, the bottom of the tank is the actually SAFEST place to store it. However, when the tank is hit from directly above (air strike, drone strike, javelin anti-tank round that approaches from directly above) then yes, a penetrating round can go through the thinner top armor all the way down to detonate the ammo in the bottom, which will almost certainly kill all the crew. But some people seem to think this is some egregiously stupid design feature when it actually isn’t. Historically the tank is most likely to be destroyed by another tank, which is why Russian designers built them this way.

  36. different clue

    And in line with GrimJim’s analysis, the RussiaGov will not be interested in peace talks until it has “demilitarized” and “denazified” Ukraine. It will be interested in projecting the appearance of being interested in peace talks, but it will take the “talk and fight, fight and talk” approach. And if it looks like the Ukraine side is losing interest in holding up its end of the grinding fight, the RussiaGov will conduct a pinprick terror raid against just enough apartment buildings or other strictly civilian facilities to renew the wellsprings of Ukraine’s rage, so that Ukraine will keep fighting.

    The military goal is to keep Ukraine fighting till Ukraine has precisely zero of anything left to physically fight with.

  37. Mark Level

    Some wise comments, & a few die-hard dead-enders. For anyone who’s seen the film “Downfall”, the likes of Tallifer et al. are nothing new– when the Russians were a quarter mile away shelling the Fuhrer Bunker in Berlin, a bunch of his subordinates came and said, “We can’t be defeated, right, Herr Fuhrer? You will save us, right?” This was the night before his suicide and he instructed his most trusted subs to do the same– the Goebbels killed their 5 children with cyanide capsules before killing themselves!! . . . Hopium and absurd propaganda (Ukraine is winning!! nonstop for over a year) don’t cut it, attrition will in this case win the day. Oh, and the World Bank and IMF (admired by our dead-enders) just admitted that Russia is now the world’s 5th largest economy, Germany #6. Oh, those sanctions worked so well!! Russia in 18 months became the Largest Economy in Europe– heckuva job, Brownie!! Wonder why morale is higher in Russia? (1 of my particularly dumb s8it Lib friends told me once “Putin” invaded, “The Russian economy will collapse in 3 days & they’ll withdraw!” Uh-hunh . . . A nation should never attack a neighbor 3-4 times its size (depending on what metric we use, population, size of economy, natural resources available, industrial production levels), even with billion$ sent from the West, the Ukranians never had a ghost of a chance. The only questions remaining: will the war end in 2023 or drag into spring of 2024? Some of the insiders claim that UKraine has been told that the plug will be pulled in December on money (already weapons like the F-16s are being “delayed”, ATTACMs denied after Beau of the 5th Column proudly announced they’d be sent for the Ukies to clean the Russkies clocks!) Already, US is blaming Zelensky not following strategy orders for NO gains made 2 & 1/2 months into the “counter-offensive”, & Zelensky & the military leadership have blamed the U$A & EU for (a) crappy equipment, (b) lack of sufficient training!! I think the Russian MoD is smart enough to take Odessa and cut off the Black Sea, & it will hold as its own the Donetsk & Lugansk regions (they already voted to join by like 90%– I guess being shelled by their government for 14 years since the US run-coup kinda disposes one not to want to be in Ukraine?) What remains of the corrupt, kleptocratic and Nazi-dominated Ukraine will be Poland and other nations’ to the West’s problems if a sufficient cordaine sanitaire is made. With the Donetsk areas and the Black Sea entirely in Russian hands again, it will flourish even further. Long after Zelensky & the other Neolib pawns have fled to their private villas “earned” by skimming off the top. Never trust the Neocons, unless you are sincerely fascist (in which case you deserve what you get) or suicidal.

  38. Jessica

    Poor Ukraine. I think that by the time this is finished, not only will Ukraine as a nation-state be severely diminished, but Ukraine as a people will be profoundly wounded in a way that will not heal quickly or easily. I’ve had Ukrainian friends in different places and different stages in my life. I wouldn’t wish any of this on them or any of theirs.
    Not for virtue signaling, but just as a reminder of what sanity would have looked like, what should have happened when the Soviet Union collapsed would have been referenda on a very fine geographical scale asking people what nation they wanted to be part of. One of the many roots of the current Ukrainian tragedy is that Ukraine never had actual national boundaries. It only had administrative boundaries that were established for various purposes within the Soviet Union. That converting those boundaries as-is into the borders of a nation state would be highly problematical was quite visible as it was happening. This is not Monday morning quarterbacking. Crimea actually held a referendum in 1991 and voted to restore its status as an autonomous republic within Ukraine and attempted to hold a second referendum on independence from Ukraine. That referendum was abandoned under the threat from Kiev of having their water and energy supplies cut off.
    In Zubok’s book about Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union, folks were very clear at that point in time that Crimea and Donbas being part of Ukraine was a big problem.
    After World War I, referendums were used to set the boundaries between Austria and what is now Slovenia, between Austria and Hungary, and between Denmark and Germany. None of those borders has been an issue since. Doing it this way works. This didn’t happen because those in a position to matter at the time had things they considered more important than the well-being of the people of the former Soviet Union. That particularly includes the leadership in Moscow, Kiev, and Washington. The Ukraine that is left after this war is over, if one is left, will most likely be smaller than the Ukraine that could have emerged peacefully and with more unity in 1991.
    I find it extremely difficult to believe that Ukraine will receive real security guarantees from the West or NATO membership unless it is able to actually win the war. I just can’t see the leaders in Moscow being willing to have even a shrunken Ukraine rearmed by a hostile West. The more that the West makes it clear that it remains committed to making Ukraine an anti-Russian weapon, the more Russia will be forced to simply eliminate Ukraine altogether as a nation-state or to install and maintain a puppet regime.

  39. Soredemos


    When something like over half of casualties in modern war are caused by artillery, and Ukraine has a 10-1 or worse disadvantage in artillery, and absolutely no airpower to speak of, no. I don’t care what articles you cite, the reality isn’t going to change. Two months into their ‘grand offensive’ the Ukrainians have yet to even reach the first of the main defense lines. Abject, utter failure. Now we’re shifting into the excuse making phase.

  40. Soredemos


    Putin has said that, explicitly and repeatedly. He’s been saying it since at least 2008. None of this is new.

  41. Carborundum

    I’m not so sure that I see good evidence for massive Ukrainian casualties. The effective discrepancy in tube artillery, though real, is significantly less than stated and rather than flail about trying to make big Army-style breaching work, they appear to have switched to infantry-forward strategies. Not fast, but probably less consumptive of difficult to replace resources. That says to me they’re not strategic idiots. That may seem a low bar, but I’ve seen a lot fail to clear it over the past couple decades.

    For me, the analytically determinative thing is less the possibility that the Ukrainians are burning through men and materiel than the new fact of the Russians having been effective at shifting to a defence that plays to their strengths. If they were trying this against a force with greater ability to shape the battlefield in depth and maneuver effectively at divisional levels, they’d be screwed – but they’re very much *not* facing that type of force. For now at least, for their reality, what they’re able to do is reasonably effective. Were I on their side, I’d be very focused on detecting the type of gradual operational attrition that seems manageable to commanders right up until one passes that critical threshold and it turns into a rout (when folks talk about hollow forces, this is a form of what they mean). I don’t see a lot of signs of that, but I the notion that we’d see that from this remove is pretty fanciful.

  42. Soredemos


    I find this kind of analysis absolutely delusional.

    The current situation is incredibly simple: the Ukrainian offensive started two months ago, and failed so utterly that it never even cleared the picket crumple-zones that are literally designed to fall after a few days. They took such losses in vehicles that now they’re forced into switching to infantry only focused tactics, which they’re trying to sell as some sort of clever voluntary shift in strategy. This new strategy has also utterly failed to produce any meaningful results.

    There’s no secret depth here to mine some more nuanced meaning out of.

  43. Jeff Wegerson

    Who makes the best propaganda? Easy, where is Madison Avenue?

    Like Vietnam, North Russia invading South Russia after forced bad bordering is a variety of self-defense. Especially if your separated people are being ethnically cleansed.

    Last century’s unwanted Russian Empire experience (while waiting for a still undelivered WW II peace treaty) combined with China’s example of trade-not-war tradition driven approach to difficult neighbors argues against European fears of Russian territorial desires beyond South Russia.

    Russia was eight years patient waiting for “Greater Ukraine” to stop bombing ethnic Russians in South Russia. She neither wanted to invade nor was she (her preferred pronoun) confident of her ability to execute an invasion, especially while expecting a severe economic counter-invasion. So far all has gone beyond her best expectations. Russia has grown both militarily and economically. The government’s approval rating continues it’s two decade and counting climb.

    I feel for everyone needing to cope with cognitive dissonance. I once got lost in a new city. When the map on the street side contradicted the map in my head it took me several minutes to turn it around 180 degrees. Even as I walked some blocks I couldn’t shake the belief that I was going the wrong way. Finally seeing familiar landmarks helped me readjust.

    Remember who for years has made the world’s best propaganda. Or at least floods our brains with it.

  44. elkern

    @Tallifer – Thx for the DailyKos link, but I’m not impressed. Frankly, it reads like a desperate attempt to prop up the desired *feeling* – that Ukraine is winning, or at least, not losing – by picking at details of a specific CNN piece which broke the rules by being pessimistic about that.

    The DK piece has lotsa details, but it ignores the larger strategic situation: the Ukrainian [counter-]offensive can only be considered a “success” if they punch all the way through to the Azov coastline, cutting Russian land-based supply lines. So far, they haven’t come remotely close to doing this.

    Sources from “both sides” seem to agree that the Ukrainian *-offensive is pretty much played out, so Russia will be able to keep supplying its forces West of Mariupol via direct land routes.

    Sorry to say, I find it hard to view DailyKos as a reliable, objective source of info on the war in Ukraine. One blatant example of this is their coverage of the sabotage of the NordStream pipes. Sample quote: “The near-universal conclusion of everyone who has looked into this is simple: Russia did it”; it’s painfully obvious that “everyone” excludes people and sources who disagree with their foregone conclusion.

  45. Jan Wiklund

    The only thing I want to challenge is “Eastern Ukraine is flat and occupied mostly by Russian speaking sympathizers who want to be in Russia.”

    We don’t surely know that. Before the 2014 coup/revolution/whatever most of them self-identifyed as Ukrainans. Many of them don’t today, but I fancy that nobody knows how many.

  46. Carborundum

    @Soredemos You speak with great certainty about things that are a very long way away and poorly illuminated. I’m not seeking nuance – what I’m highlighting is that we know pretty much jack shit and are largely filling significant enduring informational gaps with confident talk.

  47. CB

    Ian hits the nail on the head. Many on here are outraged because of how immersed they are in the western narrative. Ukraine’s defeat is just complete cognitive dissonance – we were told it was impossible.

    Of course, many of these people will not have to reconcile the fiction they believed with reality. The US/NATO will never admit a clean loss. There will be excuses and semantics and plenty of people will find justifications for why “Russia didn’t win anything” or what have you. It will only be with a few decades’ posterity that its seen universally as the disaster it always has been.

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