What the ‘chattering classes’ of Russia are talking about: update

My harvest of impressions from the past 48 hours of monitoring Russian political talk shows and news bulletins of Russian state television is filled to the brim with both highly interesting and at times frightening and off-putting developments. 

The most momentous is perhaps what I just saw 15 minutes ago on the latest edition of Время покажет (Time Will Tell), a talk show I know from the inside having twice been a panelist there in 2016-2017. The program opened with mention of the forthcoming European visit of Joe Biden which has two cities on its itinerary:  Brussels for the next regular G7 and NATO gatherings, and….Warsaw.

Why Warsaw? The presenter notes that this meeting with the Polish leadership might be linked with the planned visit of President Duda to Washington next week. But then she moves on to link it was another announcement made yesterday by the US envoy to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. In the video recording of Thomas-Greenfield projected onto the screen, the envoy tells us that while the United States has no intention of sending any military personnel to Ukraine, any member country of NATO has the right to do so on its own.

This matches up nicely with the latest Polish government thoughts aloud to the effect that it might just move some troops across the Ukrainian border to secure its own eastern flank. In this way, the Poles would be doing no more than the Turks have done in Syria, where they still are parked in the predominantly Kurdish sector of the country in violation of international law.

 Meanwhile, per the talk show presenter, Hungary has already said it will not consider any clash with Russia resulting from forces sent by any NATO member state to Ukraine as justifying action under the famous NATO Alliance clause 5 of “all for one and one for all.” In other words, per the management of Time Will Tell, a little and probably very short lived Russo-Polish war will follow. Complete defeat of Warsaw is foreseen, even if it would take longer than the 2 days projected by the Polish army command itself not long ago; longer because so much Russian armed strength is presently committed to holding down Ukraine. As the presenter joked, this might mean the end of Polish statehood…

A bit earlier today, the latest edition of Большая игра (The Great Game) hosted by Vyacheslav Nikonov also was full of interesting commentary.  Over the past several years, Nikonov proved his talent for leading public discussions of the most serious topics in US-Russian relations with some of the best minds in Russia. His program today was one more demonstration that The Great Game has moved ahead to rank above Vladimir Solovyov’s talk show in terms of intellectual content.  Like the above mentioned Time Will Tell, The Great Game uses video clips of Biden and other U.S. and Western leaders as the starting point for discussions.  I mention this by way of answer to the several readers of my essays who could not imagine that Russian state television disseminates more than the official Kremlin point of view.  In fact, the views of the foreign adversary are given extensive airing before they are demolished by Russian experts.

In today’s show, the American views to be demolished were those of the President and of the Pentagon commenting on Russia’s use this past week of its hypersonic missile Kinzhal to attack a military target in Ukraine.  President Biden was quoted as saying that he saw nothing special about the Kinzhal other than speed, that its warheads were the common variety.  The Pentagon was quoted as saying that the Russians “appear” to have fired their Kinzhal in Ukraine, which would be a wasted effort for the given target.

 Nikonov’s guests pointed out that the target of the first Kinzhal strike was a “nuclear attack hardened” structure 60 meters underground and protected by reinforced concrete dating from Soviet days. Inside this bunker were Ukrainian missiles and other munitions of high value.  In other words, thanks to the incredible energy of mass and speed, the Kinzhal using what they characterized as one of its weaker potential conventional, as opposed to tactical nuclear charges could destroy a target otherwise considered protected against a nuclear armed ICBM.  Nothing special about this weapon system, eh?

Meanwhile, some of the Russian state programming these days is awful in the thesaurus meaning of ‘extremely disturbing or repellant.’  The latest edition of 60 Минут  (Sixty Minutes) with Yevgeny Popov and Olga Skabeyeva took a strong stomach to sit through. To be sure, the repellant material on the screen is coming from Ukrainian state television and includes the following: first, the televised statements of a Ukrainian government representative addressed to the wives and fiancées of Russian airmen, warning them that they will soon be widows, that Ukrainian forces will follow them to the ends of the earth to take revenge for their role in the current war, that they will be killed while vacationing on the beaches of Turkey, etc., and second, the televised address of the head of a Ukrainian medical institution telling the doctors under him to castrate any Russian prisoners of war who come their way, because they are not people but cockroaches.  Add to this the testimony of escapees from Mariupol who describe the methods of torture and disfiguration inflicted on them by the Nazi battalions in the city.  The source material is full of hate, and the airing on Russian state television also is not innocent: it has the clear purpose of inciting hatred for Ukrainians among the television viewers and so to prepare them for the much more cruel conduct of the war that Russia is likely about to implement, given that its human resources are insufficient to further prosecute the war quickly under the gentlemanly rules observed up till now.  To be specific, the Russians may switch over to the “American Way of War” out of necessity, meaning use of carpet bombing to ‘neutralize’ the Ukrainian forces, both regular army and nationalist battalions just to the west of the line of demarcation. 

The objective of a new and vicious though completely ‘legal’ attack on the Ukrainian troop concentrations will be in line with the recommendations of Clausewitz, who obviously enjoys great respect in the Kremlin: namely to win a war by destruction of armies, not by capturing cities.  Thus, it is very likely that Kiev will never be conquered, that the regime will capitulate because it has no more fighters in the field to resist the Russian presence.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

17 thoughts on “What the ‘chattering classes’ of Russia are talking about: update

  1. The abandonment of gentlemanly conduct will be necessary, considering the continued supply of arms, the stated goal of the USA to bog down Russia in an Afghanistan-like continuous conflict, paid for of course with the lives of Ukrainians.

    In the long run, such conduct might actually save lives of Ukrainians, if it leads to a peace deal rather sooner than later.

    Down the road, however, any real peace and probable insurgency will depend on what happens to the structure and governance of Ukraine.


    1. If Parubiy and his ilk can overthrow a government once, they can do it again. All to America’s applause and help of course. If Russia can’t mobilize Ukrainians themselves to counter this distasteful lot, they might as well just throw in the towel and welcome to Fascism 2.0 in Europe.

      No doubt soon, they’ll be sporting designer nazi rune in the halls of Congress, the more obscure sorts of course – since they’ll have no idea of their history.

      Slava Uhrinia!


  2. Thankyou – this is very interesting.
    I agree Russia is really waiting for Ukraine to capitulate. The question then becomes how? Both US and Azov seem determined to prevent him doing the humane thing.
    The longer this goes on, the more westerners can see just how awful our policies are.
    Zelensky was praised here in UK for his Churchillian “we will fight them on the beaches” type of speech to our parliament. No one pointed out that Churchill made that speech on the day that the last Brits were escaping France at Dunkirk, and just before France agreed an Armistice.
    The equivalent for Zelensky should have been “we will fight them on the Vistula”. And he should have made it by end February.


  3. As regards the 60 Minutes segment, it could simply be intended to justify the present mode of operation without conditioning the public to accept an escalation in civilian casualties. After all, one of the main arguments against the war is that the abstract goal of “denazification” is merely a Kremlin talking point and not worth even the current level of collateral damage in Ukraine and economic damage in Russia; the clips shown on 60 Minutes support the argument that “denazification” is absolutely necessary, and that “our cause is righteous”.

    I think that the author infers too much from the segment and that an attempt to undermine arguments against war ‘a la russe’ does not necessarily imply an attempt to build support for war ‘a l’americaine’.

    Although, it’s entirely possible that this is just wishful thinking on my part.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent piece, thank you. Regarding: “Thus, it is very likely that Kiev will never be conquered, that the regime will capitulate because it has no more fighters in the field to resist the Russian presence…” there are quite a few indications that the US and Ukraine have long prepared resistance strategy, tactics and forces so it’s quite possible that, just as with Mariupol, there will be no surrender, therefore no peace, therefore perpetuation of discord, hatred, violence, distrust and – perhaps the main goal – geopolitical sense of emergency or war-footing. This will allow the ongoing push towards totalitarian ‘techno-fascism’ and new social contracts to proceed.

    In other words, the Ukrainian ability to maintain the status quo, which is emergency and war, will further the collapse of the post-war order by precipitating the collapse of the US and its satellite minions in Europe.


  5. From what I have gathered, Russia has already switched over to the “American way of war”. As The NY Times likes to tell me, the Russian offensive has stalled, what it doesn’t mention is that Russian Air Force sorties have increased from 60 a day at the start of the war to 200 and now to 300 a day. This is not counting missile and drone strikes. I don’t know what the Russians were originally planning for, but now they are ramping up bombing while largely pausing their land operations everywhere except Mariupol and are the Donbas.

    The NY Times also told me that while Ukrainians have successfully targeted Russian land forces (unstated but almost entirely through ambushes), they have no ability to stop missiles, with the subtext that this is very nefarious, desperate and unsportsmanlike of the Russians. (What about every American military operation since Desert Storm, I wanted to scream lol).

    Incidentally, I’ve been mostly avoiding mainstream media for the past two weeks, but I just peaked at a New York Times article about the Ukrainian Air Force humiliating the Russians. I was left wondering, am I totally wrong in my understanding, I mean the American newspaper of record can’t just make stuff up completely, right? From what I have gathered, the Ukrainians are basically not flying any sorties at all. Like it seems zero over the past two days. Yet the article was sourced from Ukrainian government and military. With one American think tanker to provide sobriety.

    I don’t understand, what is going on? Propaganda and “hopium” provide a lift in the moment, but what happens when they are proved wrong by objective reality? What is the psychological drive behind this hysteric reaction in the West? It’s an honest question, I have no idea, the things I can think of shouldn’t have had such a drastic result


    1. What is the psychological drive behind this hysteric reaction in the West?

      For a not particularly small share of humankind, power, domination over the next fellow (or country, or continent!) is an awesomely addictive drug.

      The myriad rationales, theories, “ideologies”, fabricated, even in good faith, to justify actions taken out of that addiction add nothing to the truth of the matter.

      When they stumble on a power replying “no” to their orders, what happens in their minds is very like every drug addict if you tell them they must stop taking the drug they are addicted to.

      If you haven’t seen this play out in your family of birth, “church group” or local political group, and about anywhere, you are either very lucky, or not very observant.


    2. I mean the American newspaper of record can’t just make stuff up completely, right?

      That’s so cute. Of course they never would make stuff up from whole cloth. They let someone else do it and then spin a story around it. That’s journalism.


  6. 1.
    The usual game of the Americans. We know about the concept of a nuclear war limited to Europe from the time before 89.
    The question is: How will NATO behave if Poland starts a war with the RF?
    The Poles have already shown how to shift responsibility for stupid ideas, by willing to fly their Mig-29s to Rammstein to hand them over to the Ukrainians.
    The Americans’ original enthusiasm for this triangular deal ( Mig-29s for Ukraine, F-16s for Poland) ebbed somewhat after that.
    So the outcome of Biden’s meetings will be really exciting …

    The RF will implement its plan, and one should know that such a planning of the Russians may look very flexible, depending on how history develops.
    Therefore, today we can not say anything about the fate of the state of Ukraine.

    Of course, this also applies to the actual way of conducting this military operation.
    But that will not change the crucial principles:
    – no destruction of Ukraine
    – minimal civilian casualties
    – respect for the military, insofar as it adheres to a military ethos.
    – Liquidation of all forces acting outside this ethos, especially those responsible for war crimes or bearers of racist, nationalist, chauvinist ideology, and in this context consider “slaughtering Russians” as their most sacred duty.

    And one should be aware of the fact that the RF accepts considerably more own losses for these principles than we are used to from various grandiose military adventures of the USA and NATO in the last 30 years.


  7. Thank you for this very helpful post. I really appreciate the review of the Russian news from different programs. My Russian listening skills are just not sufficient for handling some of the rapid fire discussions o news channels. I appreciate your summaries very much.


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