Sometimes television interviews play out well and in the several minutes on air I get to present without interruption a script I prepared based on questions submitted in advance. My answers typically go well beyond the intentions of the questioner. I strive to set out a point of view that I know is being overlooked in media, whether mainstream or alternative media. My media hosts kindly see this as a fair trade-off that brings in many new viewers.
Sometimes, like last night, the interview is handled by journalists unfamiliar with me and with our little trade-offs, so that my planned programmatic statement does not get aired. So be it. In the given case, I use this space to deliver the message manqué about the Russian use of drones in their ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.
My questioner was particularly interested in my view of the legalities of Russian deployment of Iranian drones that, under existing UN sanctions, they should not be acquiring. Moreover, the illegal transactions are aggravated by the reported presence of Iranian technical staff in Crimea to help the Russians master the use of these unfamiliar weapons. My response was and is: ‘legalities’ are irrelevant to the present situation of a dirty war in which the United States and its NATO allies are violating whatever ground rules there are for ‘proxy wars’ and are de facto co-belligerents through their secondment of military officers to guide Ukrainian military units on the ground and by their sharing real time military intelligence with the Ukrainians, not to mention by their deliveries of their latest most lethal weapons systems to one side in the conflict.
To speak of ‘violations of international law’ in these circumstances is to revert to the wooden language of John Foster Dulles at the State Department during the height of the First Cold War. This approach was nonproductive then and remains so today. When nations are at war, even proxy war, the only law is ‘might makes right.’ The United States has maintained its global hegemony over the past thirty years precisely on that basis and there is no reason whatsoever to deny to the Russians equal access to that modus operandi.
Yes, the Russians are lying when they deny, as they have done in the United Nations over the past week, that they procured and are using Iranian drones on the battlefield. Yes, the Iranians are lying when they say the same. But polite lies such as these are one of the key arts of diplomacy, along with use of double standards when evaluating the actions of an enemy and displays of self-righteous hypocrisy. Nothing new here under the sun.
From this, I turn to what I consider the more relevant question: why are the Russians using these drones? Does it mean their own weapons stores have been run down? Does it point to some manufacturing deficiency of the Russian military-industrial complex? These are the innuendos put up by Western media commentators when they are not bashing the Russians for violating international law over trading with Iran.
I believe there are two operative principles on the Russian side. The first is to use sparingly their most advanced weapons systems, such as their hypersonic missiles, which can evade all air defense systems but which are by nature very costly to produce and should be used only at the highest value targets. Moreover, these most deadly weapons in the Russian arsenal must be held in reserve to the greatest extent possible for use against NATO forces in Europe if the war escalates further.
For these reasons, the Russians have been using in their latest drive to destroy the Ukrainian electricity infrastructure their more vulnerable high precision cruise missiles including, in particular, the Iskander and Kalibr. As we have seen in the past few days, the Ukrainian military claims to shoot down 50% or more of these incoming missiles, depending on the density of the local air defense systems. At the same time, for the smaller targets like power substations, the Russians are effectively deploying Iranian drones, which, by their nature, are much more difficult for traditional air defense systems to down. When the Russians begin to receive still larger and more powerful drones from Iran which they have recently ordered, we may presume that they will be directed at more ambitious targets as well. The cost-benefit analysis speaks in their favor.
Since some readers have questioned the relevance of what is said on Russian political talk shows to decision-making in the Kremlin, I point out here that procurement of drones, and also of ground to ground missiles from Iran was tipped on the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov program nearly two months ago and I reported on this at the time. Panelists on that show also recommended procurement of artillery munitions, missiles and other equipment from North Korea. This materiel is easily usable by the Russians because it consists largely of copies of what the Russians and Chinese produced in the recent past. I fully expect us to find the British and American press making accusations about the appearance of North Korean weapons in Ukraine in the coming month or two. Yes, this ‘violates international law.’ And so what? It is patently absurd to expect countries that are under draconian international sanctions not to trade with one another for their own best national defense.
Finally, I add a word about the Russian objective of destroying the energy infrastructure of Ukraine. Our Western media propaganda sees only one motive here: to freeze the Ukrainian civilian population and so to take revenge on them for Russia’s losses on the field of battle in the East and South of the country. I do not deny that demoralization of the Ukrainian civilian population is one factor in the ongoing Russian attacks. Again, pointing to the Solovyov talk shows, I heard mention there of how the hardships pending in advance of winter may compel another 9 million Ukrainians to emigrate and go to Western Europe, where they seem to be so loved. All comparisons of the coming freeze in Ukrainian cities with the Stalingrad battle, which Western media have put up on the screen to elicit horror in our righteous citizenry, are rubbish: the Ukrainians have cars, they have access to international buses and trains and they can pick up and leave whenever they wish to.
Apart from further removing the Ukrainian civilian population from the theater of war and so freeing up the Russian military to storm cities, the ongoing attack on the Ukrainian power grid has one overriding purpose: to disrupt the logistical chain that brings Western military equipment to the Ukrainian military forces in the East and South of the country via the (electrified) Ukrainian train network. If that is disrupted, and the regular flow of equipment and munitions is halted, then the Ukrainian war capability will be knocked out and the war will come to an end, finally, with unqualified capitulation to the Russians.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022