This afternoon, President Putin was back on state television, which showed a 2minute 30 second video clip of his summary report to members of Russia’s Security Council on the course of the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine that is now proceeding.
The following is my translation of his little speech as broadcast on http://www.smotrim.ru:
“The main fighting is not with the Ukrainian regular army but with the nationalist formations [Azov and other special battalions] who, as is well known, bear direct responsibility for the genocide in Donbas and for spilled blood of innocent civilians of the People’s Republics. In addition, nationalist elements integrated into the regular Army units, incite them to resist… Moreover according to the information we possess, the Banderovtsy [WWII Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, hero of the present day radical nationalists] are placing heavy artillery, including volley fire systems, in downtown areas of major cities including Kharkov and Kiev. They are planning to attract return fire from Russian attack units straight into residential blocks. Essentially they are operating just like terrorists around the world. They take cover among civilians in order to then level accusations against Russia for killings of innocent people. It is well known that all of this is happening on the advice of foreign consultants, above all American advisers.
“Once again I appeal to the servicemen in the armed forces of Ukraine. Don’t allow the neo-Nazis and Banderovtsy to use your wives, children and old folks as human shields. Take power into your own hands. It will be easier for us to come to terms with you than with the band of neo-Nazis and drug addicts [reference to Zelensky, a cocaine user] who settled in Kiev and have taken the whole Ukrainian people hostage.
“I also want to give the highest ratings to Russian soldiers and officers. They are acting bravely, professionally, heroically carrying out their warrior’s duties and successfully ensuring the security of our people and our Fatherland.”
It is difficult to follow the progress of the Russian military operation, because they are intentionally holding back information in keeping with the PsyOps nature of their modus operandi that aims to confuse and demoralize the enemy. As Putin mentioned, the Russian forces are appealing directly to Ukrainian soldiers and officers to desert and go home. There are indications that this is succeeding, as it certainly enabled the Donetsk and Lugansk home armies to make considerable advances towards retaking the larger territory of their original administrative units (oblasts) which they lost to the Ukrainian army back in 2014.
As I understood, casualties of the Russian incursion in Ukraine on Day One numbered 141 Ukrainian combatants, zero civilians. If true, these numbers are miniscule compared to what the United States and Europeans were projecting from the beginning. Why is that so? There is a reason for everything.
I will use the interview with retired General David Petraeus on the BBC which I watched last night to explain. Wearing a well tailored suit, he looked very much like a corporate Board member as he delivered his professional assessment of the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine at the end of Day One. He said he wasn’t impressed, that the Russians were advancing very slowly, presumably because they encountered unexpected resistance from Ukrainian forces. He added that their coordination of air and ground forces was poor compared to the American war-making machine. In conclusion, he observed that on Day One of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, in which he took part as commander of the 101st Airborne Division in the drive to Baghdad, they traveled much farther and faster than the Russians are doing now.
The smart looking BBC interviewer did not dig deeper. Let’s do that now: the U.S. onslaught on Baghdad was savage, causing perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths. Iraqi lives, civilian and combatant alike, counted for nothing. By contrast, as I noted in my news analysis yesterday, the Russian armed forces have been given strict instructions by Putin, through Minister of Defense Shoigu, to treat the Ukrainian servicemen with respect and to allow all those who lay down their weapons to leave the field of battle and go home through a corridor that will be opened for them. In addition, the Russians have been instructed to stay clear of cities and to avoid shelling residential blocks, all with the aim of avoiding civilian casualties to the extent possible. These various constraints of course slow down the progress of the Russian forces.
Let us assume that what the Russians are now saying about themselves has a grain of truth: namely that this show of humanity goes back to their traditional gallantry at war. In this regard, they cite Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Unfortunately the reference is not entirely convincing, because in 1812 the Russian peasantry and other irregular bands of fighters had no qualms about murdering captured soldiers of the Grande Armée. In my view, something else is operative and explains both the commands and the resulting miniscule casualty figures so far: good political sense, the understanding that the Ukrainians, both civilians and men in arms, must not be unduly antagonized if there is going to be a durable settlement when the military victory comes. It does not serve Russian interests to stoke fires of revanchism.
During this day, Zelensky appealed to the Russian leadership to hold peace talks, and tentatively there was agreement for representatives of both countries to meet in Minsk. Why Minsk? Because the Ukrainian airports have been put out of action and the Kiev representatives can instead travel by car to Minsk without difficulty. However, in the end this initiative came to naught. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained that a meeting will be possible only after the current military operation achieves its objective of denazification. From Vladimir Putin’s speech today cited above, it is clear that the Kremlin has no interest in talking to the present Ukrainian ‘gang’ in power and is pursuing regime change as its end game.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022