The number one news item on Russian state television on 26 April was the meeting in Rammstein, Germany of defense officials from the United States and 40 allied countries to set policy on providing military assistance to Ukraine, including the provision for monthly such meetings going forward.
The U.S. delegation was headed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and his remarks were parsed by Russia’s ‘talking heads. They also delivered their considerations on the practical value of the deliveries of heavy weaponry that Germany and other European countries pledged during the gathering.
As is now the rule, the very best discussion of these issues was on the political talk show “The Great Game,” which features the most calm and collected analysis of the day’s hot news items. None of the panelists tries to shout down others, which has been the long tradition of such shows. All are warned by the moderator against presuming to give military advice to the nation’s Commander-in-Chief. And yet even here it was clear that the mood of panelists is for more decisive action against Ukraine right now, meaning the bombing of the ‘decision making institutions’ in Kiev, as the Russian Ministry of Defense proposed to do a week ago in response to Ukrainian missile and artillery attacks across the border with Russia. This was made all the more topical by the statements of the British delegation in Rammstein encouraging the Ukrainians to do precisely that, and by the corresponding offer to ship appropriate missiles to Kiev now. The panelists also want the transportation infrastructure of Ukraine to be destroyed without delay in order to prevent the new heavy weaponry being shipped to Kiev from ever reaching the Ukrainian forces at the front.
Surely the bombing of central Kiev will come, effectively removing the Ukrainian regime. But it will come at the moment of choosing of Vladimir Vladimirovich and will signal the Russian decision to break up Ukraine into several states, as the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev yesterday said might be in the cards if the war drags on due to Western intervention and cheerleading.
With respect to Lloyd Austin’s statement yesterday that the United States’ objective is to greatly weaken Russian armed forces over an extended period of time, the panelists on The Great Game offered an interpretation that is well worth repeating here. The Russians view this as an admission by Washington that the Ukrainians’ position on the battlefield is hopeless. The Americans now seek to redefine their objectives so as to turn a defeat into an apparent victory. Whatever happens on the front lines in the coming days and weeks, Washington will be able to say that it forced Russia to dip deeply into its store of missiles and other high tech gear, that it forced Russia to lose a substantial part of its professional soldiers. The objective is now intentionally vague and stands independently of the possible loss of Ukrainian’s main army forces adjacent to the Donbas in a ‘cauldron’ of confinement where they will be killed like herrings in a barrel.
As regards the newly announced shipment of super tanks from Germany and other high tech gear from other NATO Member States, the Russian panel appeared confident this will be too little, too late and would be mostly destroyed on the ground by Russian missiles and aerial bombing.
The foregoing is all more reassuring about our future survival here in Brussels and in New York than any U.S. declarations yesterday that nuclear war is off the table.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022