In my report on “Day Sixteen” of the Ukraine-Russia war a couple of days ago, I provided a brief summary of the opening segment of the 9 March edition of the Russian political talk show “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.” I directed special attention to the words of Mosfilm Director Karen Shakhnazarov, who set the tone for an unusually grave discussion of war prospects and political stability within Russia.
However, I saved for separate discussion and did not mention one key point made by Shakhnazarov that was picked up by other panelists and became a general topic for discussion: that the Americans are doing everything in their power for this to be a long war and Russia must avoid at all costs following their playbook.
For the Americans, the longer the war drags on, the easier it is to impose ever more punishing sanctions to which European and other allies will also adhere given the negative impact on public opinion about Russia from the scenes of destruction in Ukraine that are shown daily on television. The prolongation of war is supported by the never ending messages of support to the valiant Ukrainian fighters coming in from the United States and the Collective West, from the $13 billion in aid just approved by Congress, from the weaponry and munitions that NATO Member States are now sending in to Ukraine. No one in the West is telling Zelensky to save his country, to save his people by just giving up and submitting to Russia’s demands, though there are reports that Israeli Prime Minister Bennett did just that a day or so ago in a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader.
Of course, a separate issue is whether Zelensky could raise the white flag and live to see another day. Russian social media which reported the story of Bennett’s call also posted comments to the effect that Zelensky counts for nothing, that the army and radical nationalists will not follow any orders he may give.
Perhaps for these reasons, the Russian military command through its spokesman Major General Igor Konoshenkov today declared that any convoys carrying foreign weaponry into Ukraine will be considered to be ‘legitimate targets’ and will be destroyed. When the military materiel is exhausted, the Ukrainian forces will have no choice but to surrender.
Meanwhile there are questions about how the Russians will impose demilitarization and denazification in case of victory. Yes, they will have destroyed the military assets of Ukraine by their bombing campaign. However, if the Russians simply get up and leave Ukraine upon signing a peace agreement on recognition of the independence of the Donbas republics and on recognition that Crimea is now Russian, it is entirely foreseeable that the West would rearm Ukraine very quickly, possibly within one year by simple drawdown of the surplus tanks and other gear now in storage in EU countries.
As former Soviet-Russian diplomat, political scientist and activist Nikolay Platoshkin argues, denazification means more than arrest of Nazi radicals in the army, which is by itself beyond the capabilities of the 150,000 Russian troops now at work on Ukrainian territory. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVp_AONS2BY -in Russian) It means bringing into play Ukrainian Russian-speaking civil society, which has been cowed into submission by eight years of terror inflicted by radical bully boys across the country, so that identification and court proceedings against neo-Nazis and nationalist gangsters proceed without Russian participation. The whole educational system in Ukraine must be reformed to replace the hate literature that currently fills the classrooms and libraries in the guise of textbooks is purged. All of this requires a more comprehensive and effective outreach to the Ukrainian public than the Russian leadership has demonstrated in its conduct of the war till now.
As I mentioned in my last essay, a long, drawn out war may destabilize the Russian government as war protesters rise in numbers and effectiveness. It would also put in jeopardy the support Russia receives from its close friends abroad, China and India. Already now Chinese international broadcaster CGTN is broadcasting news on the Ukraine conflict that is almost undistinguishable from CNN or the BBC in its one-sidedness in favor of the Ukrainian ‘victims’ of Russian aggression. The notion that the Russian-Chinese relationship is ‘greater than an alliance’ will come into question if the war goes on more than one month.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022
11 thoughts on “The Americans Want a Long War”
Today, in the morning news at 07:00 our public broadcaster in Brussels, the “capital” of the European Union, once again spread a piece of troubling propaganda. Litterally:
“The Russian Defense Ministry admits that the humanitarian situation in several cities in Ukraine is catastrophic. Several evacuation attempts at the port city of Mariupol failed again yesterday, according to Ukraine because Russia is blocking convoys of civilians.”
The channel does report the catastrophic humanitarian situation, not that Ukrainian neo-Nazi militias are preventing the evacuation of civilians and consequently using them as human shields. Later, the channel goes even further: it put several reporters who operate from behind the battle line, on the stand to confirm, explicitly or implicitly, the narrative that Russia is hindering the evacuation of civilians.
Our public broadcaster apparently feels that listeners are stupid. Surely Russia has every interest in evacuating innocent civilians from the battlefield. This false reporting comes on top of the infuriating censorship of all media that can expose the other side of the situation. Western media bear a huge responsibility for the war dragging on.
“Already now Chinese international broadcaster CGTN is broadcasting news on the Ukraine conflict that is almost undistinguishable from CNN or the BBC in its one-sidedness in favor of the Ukrainian ‘victims’ of Russian aggression.”
My observations ever since.
As I see it, China wants to avoid being sucked into the sanctions vortex, in order to achieve its goals set for its economy, but maybe a much more concerning issue is something else.
The question is, given the inordinate and absurd reaction by the west to a self-inflicted wound in Ukraine, what has Russia to lose in the current climate? It is squeezed by sanctions, assets frozen, so why not choose the “nuclear” option that will hurt Russians as much as anyone else, but does it matter anymore?. This is the shutdown of all energy shipments, strategic minerals, agricultural products, etc. to the west, or major parts of it.
This really will bring down the world economy, as, despite the attempts by the west to substitute energy supplies from Russia with other sources, that will not be possible within the timeframe those “politicians” have set, or ever.
Once that source has run out, and the competition for scarcer resources really begins, there will be no thought for “luxury” items like cars, the next I phone, etc. the choice will be heating of driving to whatever workplaces will be left or spending it on food that becomes much more as deliveries of Russian fertilizers are ended, and also their supply of wheat.
I think this fear of a breakdown of the economy is what might drive the biased reporting by CGTN, which as a state-run enterprise is, of course, expressing the views of the government that supports it, as does the CBC, BBC, France 24, Al-Jazeera, etc., and to signal that China joined the chorus of the west to drive the RF into a position where it has to accept a less than satisfactory, for Russia, outcome of the conflict.
I watched a few clips and in those I do not hear the CNN propaganda. In fact, in this clip one can hear the civilians saying the Ukrainian tanks fired a few shots and then moved back to hide behind the civilian building. Then it fired again and so on. This is a war crime. At least Israel blamed Hamas of war crimes when using the same tactic.
Having watched Vladimir Putin’s initial address announcing this special operation, I hazard that he perceives it as a battle to preserve Russia exactly parallel to WWII. Simply his characterization of the leadership of Ukraine as Nazi’s might be construed to support this idea. Hence, leaving aside logistics and possibilities, the Russian leadership will not bend an inch before it achieves the goals he announced. Does Russia care about the support of China? I daresay they do, but not enough to relinquish their goals in this conflict.
Where, if all that were true, does this lead us? The United States has a proven track record in the first use of nuclear weapons, ostensibly to end a war… by bombing at least one entirely non-military civilian target Nagasaki. Does anyone suspect for an instant that it would hesitate to repeat this initiative today? I don’t.
And it is as Russia’s government perceives it to be.
What troubles deeply about Doctorow’s remarks on China, which we have no reason to suspect not being spot-on, is that China apparently hasn’t realized whom Russia, and China itself, are, and are going to be, dealing with.
If China’s support for Russia is so fundamentally conditional and limited, Russia is likely to end up by being subdued. If Russia is subdued and, like the other countries, put under control, then the same system of forces subduing it and taking its control will have only China left to conquer, subdue, take control of.
And I don’t see how they would not achieve their only goal, at that point (they’d have their contemporary instruments of pressure, plus Russia’s government and the pressure it could generate, all available to direct against China).
Therefore, I am surprised by Doctorow’s remarks, which I don’t believe (but I hope) to be made in error.
“Does anyone suspect for an instant that it would hesitate to repeat this initiative today? I don’t.”
They would have if they could have right after WW2…they just didn’t have enough nuclear ammo to complete the task. Operation Unthinkable: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/from-1945-49-the-us-and-uk-planned-to-bomb-russia-into-the-stone-age
The problem now: if the US plans a first strike, this might not be successful enough with the A-135, ABM-3 system to defend in Russia. The result will be a likely massive counterattack and will include NATO countries as well.
If anyone strategist thinks that is a feasible option to solve a problem militarily they should be locked up, the key thrown away, and the name forgotten.
China: CGTN maybe doing a bit of maskirovka.
China is already supporting Russia by allowing use of it’s credit card/Swift alternative which is three times larger than Visa in turn-over. No Paris, but Thailand, Vietnam, etc will be available for vacations of the upper classes. More important, there is no way China will throw away it’s energy and food sovereignty to naval blockade by USA. Russia supplies prime imputs of oil, gas, uranium, perhaps soon coal, plus wheat, timber, and most important, military technology and an opportunity to test it against NATO equipment in a real shooting war. Why not say a few nasty things that will show up on Western Liberal screens if it postpones the eventual, there is an understanding between the leaders. Every day China grows stronger, and the West weaker.
China knows that Russia is the armed partner that they need. Not the Chinese army.
Just look at the military expenditure of GDP in China. Around 1.5%. Nowhere close to US or NATO overall. China alone is a sitting duck. And they know it.
There is no way the war in Ukraine can be wrapped up within 2-3 weeks short of a Russian withdrawal. Russian forces did not even try to enter Kyiv yet, and are not very close to taking Kharkiv. The Ukrainian government has nationalists telling them never surrender, it has Western opinion overwhelmingly on its side, it has the belief that wait long enough, and Russia will withdraw on its own.
Very simply, for Putin, if he withdraws without an effective capitulation by the Ukrainian side, it will be correctly viewed as a humiliating failure inside Russia, in the West, in Ukraine, and everywhere else. He would be lucky to make it to the end of 2022.
I also get the sense that China is not, shall we say, fully happy about this military adventure. The western reaction is getting out of hand, Russia is still selling energy to Europe, world markets are unsettled and a huge financial crisis is a distinct possibility. China gains nothing from this. However, this is all water under the bridge. A sunk cost. China can try to prod Putin behind the scenes, but if Putin decides to continue, there is not much China can do that would not make its own situation even worse. Push too hard, Putin falls, China loses its only significant ally, Russia goes into the Western camp. This would be viewed as a near miraculous result in the West, and the Chinese government would very much be next in line. There is no going back to 2015, China is already vilified in the West, stories of concentration camps, stifling of HK, America’s only real potential rival. How many buttons can the West push in Taiwan? Essentially forcing China to intervene and running this play all over again. And good luck to China without Russian energy and a western full court press.
If you glance at the global times today, you still see China firmly supporting Russia. There are Chinese versions of Atlantic Integrationists in China as well, plenty of them, but I don’t get the sense that they are setting policy.
I think there are things Russia can do outside of the military sphere that can improve their negotiating position, both with the West and with China. The simplest is energy counter sanctions. This will impose very significant costs on Europe and perhaps even trigger an immediate financial crisis, which will help clarify minds in Europe and get them to press the Ukrainian side for an agreement to Russian demands. As things stand now, time is against the Russians but it is for the West. An energy cutoff would help even the score. Also, an energy cutoff to Europe (as well as to Japan and S Korea) will help China by giving them an economic win from all this – suddenly their much lower energy costs will give them a big advantage in industries where they compete with the West and Japan/S Korea.
I don’t understand what Russia is waiting for. My 2 hypotheses are that 1) Putin wants the money from energy sales, and is generally in no hurry or state of panic, or 2) there is huge pushback from finance, economy and business people in Russia who are much more pro-Western than the people in the military, security services, and foreign ministry.
Obviously Ukraine’s military has not simply collapsed with the Russian invasion, but its confidence will have been badly shaken, its resources drastically reduced. This I think needs to be taken into account when predicting the course of the conflict. With around 150,000 troops and the very best of US ordinance arrayed against the Dombas, it still could not take the two small enclaves. It could not even stand its ground after a couple of weeks. And it’s not that this was the result of the massive injection of firepower from Russia’s army – as Mr Doctorow has pointed out, they actually fanned out to the north and south, to carry the invasion in a pincer movement. The Dombas were largely left to fight their own battles. And it’s not that the attack came as much of a surprise, it had been predicted for months, in truth provoked. But the fact is these swaggering fascists and their dream of Ukrainian supremacy are actually pretty second-rate as soldiers. They know it now, and more importantly, so do the Americans. This was always going to be a proxy war between Amerika and Russia so this carefully managed confrontation will come as a disappointment tactically and strategically to Amerika.
Yes the Ukrainians can adopt a scorched earth policy in the grand tradition, even as they retreat west and in spring, but this does nothing for their ambitions, nor for the Americans’. They can boast about fighting to the last man, but since this seems to entail hostage shields (also something of a best practice) this turns out to be only to the second last man, already something of a compromise. And it is the steady emptying of the Ukrainian myth of ruthless warriors that I suspect will dissolve the pockets of resistance, the lingering guerrilla war. They will have even less territory to fight for, even less of an ally (and Bennet’s advice is surely no more than a stage whisper from Washington) and stand diminished even by their own miserable standards. They are already losers, even with the best preparation, and now it is only a matter of how much they are prepared to lose. I think Russia can afford to encircle major cities, pursue a divide and siege strategy for another three or four weeks. In that time the population will have time to see Russia does not intend to reduce Kiev to Grozny 2.0 .
Comments are closed.