Is the Russia-Ukraine war at a crossroads?

In a new 25-minute live broadcast devoted to the war, Iran’s Press TV showcases key issues from this week’s developments on the front lines, including the latest bombardments of the Zaporozhie nuclear power station and the missiles which fell on Polish territory, threatening to bring in NATO as full co-belligerents. The panelists were asked to comment on likely ‘end game’ scenarios for this war.

As we know, mainstream Western media is rock-solid in its predictions of ultimate Ukrainian victory, with the Russian evacuations of Kharkov and Kherson as their leading arguments.  In the alternative media, opinion is divided over whether there will indeed be a new Russian offensive in coming weeks when the 220,000 recently mobilized reservists still in training are ready for action or whether the U.S. administration will push Zelensky into negotiations with the Russians that temporarily or even permanently put an end to the fighting.

A lot of attention is directed in world media to the resistance of Zelensky to entering into negotiations. That is explored as well on this Iran TV program. However, an issue which is not addressed there is the willingness and even the ability of the Russian President to enter into negotiations. 

Ever since the October mobilization of reservists, the military operation in Ukraine has de facto become the war of a nation in arms about which everyone in Russia now has an opinion. The fact is that Russian society from top to bottom is very unhappy with the present state of the war – but their discontent is with what they see as the pusillanimity of their own government in not responding more resolutely to Ukrainian provocations in the form of continuing artillery strikes on the Kursk and Belgorod regions from the Kharkov oblast just across the border or through atrocities such as the just released video of the cold-blooded murder of Russian prisoners of war by gleeful Ukrainian soldiers. The withdrawal from the city of Kherson inflamed the passions of the Russian public who demand better explanations in their parliament and on their television than they have received so far.

The pressure on Mr. Putin is from his own patriotic supporters, and an untimely truce for negotiations right now could lead to civil disorder in Russia.  This is not idle speculation: it was perfectly clear from the latest edition of yesterday’s talk show Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov in which a deputy speaker of the Duma from the ruling party United Russia and a Duma committee chairman from the Communists took an active part, meaning that the nation’s elites are moving with the popular current against Defense Minister Shoigu if not against those still higher in the Kremlin. Meanwhile, discredited Russian Liberalism is taking down with it the commitment to free markets for the sake of more effective war production. There is serious talk of reintroducing Five Year Plans. And the recent official approval of plans to proceed with traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s in Russian cities was denounced as inappropriate for a country at war in an existential struggle with NATO.

We may conclude that the Special Military Operation is indeed a watershed in Russian domestic politics.

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/20/693093/Ukraine-War-and-Nuclear-Escalation

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

For translation into Italian (Roberto Pozzi), French (Youri), German (Andreas Mylaeus) and Brazilian Portuguese (Evandro Menezes) see below

La guerra tra Russia e Ucraina a un bivio?

In una nuova trasmissione in diretta di 25 minuti dedicata alla guerra, l’emittente iraniana Press TV illustra i punti chiave degli sviluppi di questa settimana sul campo di battaglia, tra cui i recenti bombardamenti della centrale nucleare di Zaporozhie e i missili caduti in territorio polacco, che minacciano di coinvolgere la NATO come co-belligerante a tutti gli effetti. Ai relatori è stato chiesto di commentare i probabili scenari “finali” di questa guerra.

Come sappiamo, i media occidentali mainstream sono tutti certi della vittoria finale dell’Ucraina, e interpretano le evacuazioni russe di Kharkov e Kherson come prove della loro tesi.  Nei media alternativi, l’opinione è incerta su come la guerra evolverà’ nell’immediato futuro, ovvero se ci sarà effettivamente una nuova offensiva russa nelle prossime settimane, quando i 180.000 riservisti recentemente mobilitati saranno pronti all’azione, o se l’amministrazione americana spingerà Zelensky a negoziare con i russi per porre temporaneamente o addirittura definitivamente fine ai combattimenti.

I media di tutto il mondo prestano molta attenzione alla resistenza di Zelensky ad avviare negoziati, e anche di questo si è parlato durante il programma televisivo iraniano. Quello di cui pero’ nessuno media parla è la questione della volontà o addirittura della capacità del presidente russo di avviare negoziati. 

Da quando è cominciata la mobilitazione dei riservisti l’ottobre scorso, l’operazione militare in Ucraina è diventata de facto la guerra di una nazione in armi, sulla quale tutti in Russia hanno ormai un’opinione. E la società russa, da cima a fondo, è molto insoddisfatta dell’andamento della guerra – e la ragione del loro malcontento sta nel fatto che considerano il proprio governo pusillanimine per non rispondere con maggiore determinazione alle provocazioni ucraine. Provocazioni come i continui attacchi di artiglieria sulle regioni di Kursk e Belgorod dall’oblast’ di Kharkov, appena al di là del confine, o le atrocità come quelle viste nel video recentemente apparso sull’omicidio a sangue freddo di prigionieri di guerra russi da parte di soldati ucraini visibilmente raggianti. Il ritiro dalla città di Kherson ha infiammato le passioni dell’opinione pubblica russa, che chiede spiegazioni migliori di quelle ricevute finora in parlamento e in televisione.

La pressione su Putin proviene dai suoi stessi sostenitori patriottici e una tregua intempestiva per avviare negoziati in questo momento potrebbe portare al disordine civile in Russia.  Non si tratta di congetture infondate: è emerso chiaramente dall’ultima edizione di ieri del talk show Domenica Sera con Vladimir Solovyov, a cui hanno partecipato attivamente un portavoce della Duma del partito al potere Russia Unita e il presidente di una commissione della stessa Duma di parte comunista. La loro partecipazione al programma televisivo significa che l’élite politica del paese si sta muovendo in sintonia con l’opinione pubblica e contro il Ministro della Difesa Shoigu, se non addirittura contro chi occupa posizioni ancora più elevate al Cremlino. Nel frattempo, l’ormai discreditato “liberalismo” russo sta portando con sé nella tomba anche le proposte usare di usare meccanismi di libero mercato per migliorare la produttività dell’industria bellica. Si parla seriamente di reintrodurre piani quinquennali. E la recente decisione del governo di procedere con le tradizionali celebrazioni di Natale e Capodanno nelle città russe è stata denunciata come inappropriata per un paese in guerra in una lotta esistenziale contro la NATO.

Possiamo concludere che l’Operazione Militare Speciale è davvero uno spartiacque nella politica interna russa.https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/20/693093/Ukraine-War-and-Nuclear-Escalation

La guerre Russie-Ukraine est-elle à la croisée des chemins ?

Dans une nouvelle émission en direct de 25 minutes consacrée à la guerre, la chaîne iranienne Press TV présente les points clés de l’évolution de la situation sur le front cette semaine, notamment les derniers bombardements de la centrale nucléaire de Zaporozhie et les missiles tombés sur le territoire polonais, qui menacent de faire de l’OTAN un co-belligérant à part entière. Les intervenants ont été invités à commenter les divers scénarios possibles pour la fin de cette guerre.

Comme nous le savons, les médias occidentaux dominants sont solides comme le roc dans leurs prédictions de victoire finale de l’Ukraine, avec comme arguments principaux les évacuations russes de Kharkov et Kherson.  Dans les médias alternatifs, les avis sont partagés sur la question de savoir s’il y aura effectivement une nouvelle offensive russe dans les semaines à venir, lorsque les 220 000 réservistes récemment mobilisés et toujours en formation seront prêts à l’action, ou si l’administration américaine poussera M. Zelensky à négocier avec les Russes afin de mettre temporairement, voire définitivement, un terme aux combats.

Les médias mondiaux accordent une grande attention à la réticence de Zelensky à entamer des négociations. Cette question est également abordée dans le programme d’Iran TV. Cependant, une question qui n’est pas abordée est celle de la disposition et même de la capacité du président russe à participer à des négociations.

Depuis la mobilisation des réservistes en octobre, l’opération militaire en Ukraine est devenue de facto la guerre d’une nation en armes sur laquelle chacun en Russie a désormais une opinion. Le fait est que la société russe, du haut en bas de l’échelle, est très mécontente de l’état actuel de la guerre – mais son mécontentement est dû à ce qu’elle considère comme la pusillanimité de son propre gouvernement, qui ne répond pas plus résolument aux provocations ukrainiennes sous la forme de frappes d’artillerie continues sur les régions de Koursk et de Belgorod depuis l’oblast de Kharkov, juste de l’autre côté de la frontière, ou d’atrocités telles que la vidéo qui vient d’être publiée du meurtre de sang-froid de prisonniers de guerre russes par des soldats ukrainiens jubilants. Le retrait de la ville de Kherson a enflammé les passions du public russe qui exige de meilleures explications dans son parlement et à la télévision que celles qu’il a reçues jusqu’à présent.

La pression exercée sur M. Poutine provient de ses propres partisans patriotes, et une trêve prématurée pour les négociations pourrait entraîner des troubles civils en Russie.  Il ne s’agit pas là d’une simple spéculation : la dernière édition de l’émission-débat “Dimanche soir” avec Vladimir Solovyov, à laquelle ont participé activement un vice-président de la Douma issu du parti au pouvoir Russie Unie et un président de commission de la Douma issu du parti communiste, l’a clairement montré. Pendant ce temps, le libéralisme russe discrédité est en train d’emporter avec lui l’engagement en faveur du libre marché au nom d’une production de guerre plus efficace. Il est sérieusement question de réintroduire les plans quinquennaux. Et la récente approbation officielle de plans visant à poursuivre les célébrations traditionnelles de Noël et du Nouvel An dans les villes russes a été dénoncée comme inappropriée pour un pays en guerre menant une lutte existentielle contre l’OTAN.

Nous pouvons conclure que l’Opération Militaire Spéciale constitue effectivement un tournant dans la politique intérieure russe.

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/20/693093/Ukraine-War-and-Nuclear-Escalation

Ist der Russland-Ukraine Krieg ein Wendepunkt?

In einer 25minütigen Livesendung über den Krieg hat Iran’s Press TV Schlüsselfragen der Entwicklungen der vergangenen Woche an den Frontlinien präsentiert, einschließlich der letzten Bombardierungen des Saporischschja Atomkraftwerks und der Raketen, die auf polnischem Gebiet eingeschlagen sind und die gedroht haben, die NATO in den Krieg hineinzuziehen. Die Diskussionsteilnehmer wurden gebeten, die wahrscheinlichen Szenarios für den Endkampf in diesem Krieg darzustellen.

Wie wir wissen, sind die westlichen Mainstreammedien felsenfest von dem endgültigen Sieg der Ukraine überzeugt. Ihr entscheidendes Argument ist die russische Evakuierung von Charkow und Cherson. In den alternativen Medien sind die Meinungen geteilt darüber, ob es tatsächlich in den kommenden Wochen zu einer neuen russischen Offensive kommen wird, wenn die 220.000 kürzlich mobilisierten, noch trainierenden Reservisten bereit für den Kriegseinsatz sind, oder ob die U.S. Administration Zelensky zu Verhandlungen mit den Russen zwingen wird, die die Kampfhandlungen vorübergehend oder dauerhaft beenden werden.

Große Aufmerksamkeit richtet sich in der Weltpresse auf den Widerstand Zelenskys gegenüber der Aufnahme von Verhandlungen. Auch dies wurde in diesem iranischen TV-Programm behandelt. Ein Thema, das dort jedoch nicht angesprochen wurde, betrifft den Willen oder gar die Möglichkeit des russischen Präsidenten, in Verhandlungen einzutreten.

Seit der Mobilisierung der Reservisten im Oktober ist die Militäroperation in der Ukraine de facto zu einem Krieg eines Landes unter Waffen geworden, zu dem jeder in Russland eine Meinung hat. Tatsache ist, dass die russische Gesellschaft von unten bis nach oben sehr unzufrieden mit dem Stand des Krieges ist – aber ihre Unzufriedenheit richtet sich darauf, was sie als Zögerlichkeit ihrer eigenen Regierung ansehen, weil sie nicht resoluter antwortet auf die ukrainischen Provokationen in Form von fortgesetzten Artillerieangriffen auf die Gegenden von Kursk und Belgorod aus dem Oblast Charkow über die Grenze oder in Form von Gräueltaten wie das kürzlich veröffentlichte Video mit dem kaltblütigen Mord an russischen Kriegsgefangenen seitens schadenfroher ukrainischer Soldaten. Der Rückzug aus der Stadt Cherson hat eine ärgerliche Stimmung in der russischen Öffentlichkeit hervorgerufen, die dafür bessere Erklärungen in ihrem Parlament verlangt, als sie bisher erhalten hat.

Der Druck auf Herrn Putin kommt von seinen eigenen patriotischen Unterstützern, und ein unzeitgemäßer Waffenstillstand für Verhandlungen könnte jetzt zu zivilen Unruhen in Russland führen. Das ist keine reine Spekulation: in der letzten Ausgabe der gestrigen Talkshow Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov wurde dies sehr klar, wo ein stellvertretender Sprecher der Duma von der Regierungspartei Vereintes Russland und ein Duma-Kommissionsvorsitzender der Kommunisten aktiv teilgenommen haben. Diese waren der Meinung, dass sich die Stimmung der Eliten des Landes in Übereinstimmung mit der Strömung in der Volksstimmung gegen Verteidigungsminister Shoigu und auch gegen diejenigen richtet, die noch höher in der Kreml-Hierarchie sitzen. Gleichzeitig demontiert der diskreditierte russische Liberalismus das Engagement für freie Marktwirtschaft zugunsten einer effektiveren Rüstungsproduktion. Es wird ernsthaft über die Wiedereinführung von fünf-Jahres-Plänen nachgedacht. Und die kürzliche behördliche Genehmigung, mit den Planungen zu den traditionellen Feierlichkeiten zu Weihnachten und Neujahr in russischen Städten zu beginnen, wurde als unangemessen für ein Land verurteilt, das sich in einem existentiellen Kampf gegen die NATO befindet.

Daraus kann man schließen, dass die militärische Spezialoperation tatsächlich einen Wendepunkt für die russische Innenpolitik darstellt.

A guerra russo-ucraniana está numa encruzilhada?

Num novo programa dedicado à guerra, a Press TV iraniana levanta as questões importantes dos eventos desta semana nas linhas de frente, incluindo os últimos bombardeios da usina nuclear Zaparozhie e os mísseis que caíram em território polonês, ameaçando trazer toda a OTAN como parte beligerante. Se pediu que os comentaristas ponderassem sobre possíveis cenários para o final desta guerra.

Como se sabe, a mídia convencional ocidental está inflexível em suas predições da suprema vitória ucraniana, com as evacuações de Kharkov e de Kherson pelos russos como seus principais argumentos. Na mídia alternativa, as opiniões estão divididas entre se realmente haverá uma nova ofensiva russa nas próximas semanas, quando os 220.000 reservistas recentemente convocados estiverem prontos para combate após finalizarem seu treinamento, ou se a administração dos EEUU forçará o Zelensky a negociar com os russos para temporária ou permanentemente trazer um fim às hostilidades.

Na mídia internacional, muita atenção é dirigida à resistência do Zelensky a entrar em negociações. Isto é bem explorado neste programa da TV iraniana. Entretanto, uma questão que não é endereçada nele é a vontade, e mesmo a possibilidade, do presidente russo entrar em negociações.

Desde a convocação de reservistas em outubro, a operação militar na Ucrânia se tornou na prática a guerra de uma nação em armas sobre a qual todo o mundo na Rússia tem uma opinião. O fato é que a sociedade russa de alto a baixo está muito infeliz com o estado atual da guerra, mas seu descontentamento é com o que vêem como a pusilanimidade de seu próprio governo em não responder mais resolutamente às provocações ucranianas, na forma de contínuos ataques com artilharia nas regiões de Kursk e Belgorod, desde a província de Kharkov do outro lado da fronteira, ou de atrocidades, como no recém divulgado vídeo do assassinato a sangue frio de prisioneiros de guerra russos por exuberantes soldados ucranianos. A retirada da cidade de Kherson acendeu as paixões do público russo, que demanda em seu parlamento e em sua televisão explicações melhores do que receberam até agora.

A pressão sobre o Sr. Putin se dá por seus próprios aliados patriotas e uma trégua para negociações inoportuna poderia levar à desordem civil na Rússia no momento. Isto não é mera especulação: estava perfeitamente claro na última edição do programa de entrevistas Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov ontem, no qual o líder do partido no poder, Rússia Unida, na Duma e um presidente de comitê na Duma do Partido Comunista tiveram participação ativa, sugerindo que as elites da nação estão se movendo junto com a corrente popular contra o Ministro da Defesa Shoigu, senão contra aqueles mais acima no Kremlin. Enquanto isto, o Liberalismo russo está em descrédito pelo desmantelamento do compromisso com mercados livres para o bem uma economia de guerra mais efetiva. Se fala seriamente em se reintroduzirem Planos Quinquenais. E a recente aprovação de se dar seguimento aos planos das celebrações do Natal e do Ano Novo em cidades russas foi denunciada como inapropriada para um país em guerra numa luta existencial contra a OTAN.

Pode-se concluir que a Operação Militar Especial é mesmo um divisor de águas na política doméstica russa.

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/20/693093/Ukraine-War-and-Nuclear-Escalation

20 thoughts on “Is the Russia-Ukraine war at a crossroads?

  1. Yes, the Russian response to Ukrainian/NATO provocations has been very weak so far. Even many of my fellow Ukrainians are puzzled at this. There are a few possible reasons for this weak response:

    1. Russia is actually so incompetent and/or weak that it cannot respond appropriately.
    2. The Kremlin is actually planning a response so big, e.g. an attack on NATO directly, i.e. or a Hiroshima/Nagasaki type of response.

    The Western media assumes #1, and has been harping on this from the beginning. But I (and many fellow Ukrainians) think that #2 is likely. In that case, allowing Russian public opinion to fester in anger against Ukraine and their Western allies makes sense, as it builds political will for a massive response.

    Furthermore, Mark Milley’s and other US high level pushes for Ukraine to settle down and negotiate (despite seemingly being in a position of strength) also seem to support the idea that the Pentagon is aware of a potentially massive escalation in the works in Russia, and is doing what it can to prevent that response by diplomatic means. After all, Russian nuclear submarines have already left their naval bases, as reported about 10 days ago on CNN.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the Russians are likely planning a big response, but I expect it will be the destruction of Ukraine via conventional weapons/forces. I do not see an attack on NATO or nuclear weapons being used. I do think the (soon-to-come?) offensive will be decisive. I wonder if it will be “big arrow” or continue to be one of attrition…. I’m not sure the former makes sense on the modern battlefield and all the comments from Russia tend to lean towards the latter. We’ll see when it happens.

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  2. The discussion was interesting. I was surprised that Mr. Doctorow thinks the U.S. will quietly leave the conflict and leave the EU “holding the bag”. I think rather, once the Ukraine falls, the U.S. will push for more weapons to Poland, Romania, and possibly the Baltic States. There will also be a push for Finland and Sweden to join NATO (or for Turkey to allow them to do so). Unfortunately, I see the West doubling-down on pushing weapons to the borders of Russia, not quietly shrinking with its collective tails between its legs…. Stupid doesn’t stop being stupid, unfortunately.

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  3. “We may conclude that the Special Military Operation is indeed a watershed in Russian domestic politics.”

    Thousands of young Russian men have been killed, maimed, and/or tortured. When Russia is prepared it will strike. To think that she will negotiate a peace right now is a fantasy. Preparation takes time. Isn’t there a Russian saying about that?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The US NATO EU Ukraine are anyway agreement incompatible. Any peace treaty, any form of paper they would sign or even a UN resolution(like for Minsk 2), would simply have zero value. According to Col Macgregor it is possible that NATO enter Ukraine (if not officialy), under Poles, Romanians (eventualy baltics) a kind of coalition+ an army of PMC (already present against Wagner), thousands of mercenaries, instructors even jihadists if ever necessary.This will happen only if Russia goes ‘to far’ inside Ukraine. Odessa is US UK red line which will lead to attack or on Russian army in Donbass or even in Russia (but no nuke, no big city like Moscow will be hitted).
    They EU US UK are starting the ‘oil cap’ next month (diesel as of feb 23), VDLeyen wants to put a natgaz cap, but Germany and Italy don’t want it. Russia will be declared a ‘terrorist state’ by Nato, the EU (europarl this wednesday) and some countries of the EU (Prague dit it already).Strikes on the ZNNP civil nuclear facility are to push for more Russian concessions to ridicule the Kremlin, they want UN Blue Helmets, talks of 2.000 (who in fact will be intel agents like the OSCE agents did in Donbass for years. If Russia accepts it, Putin will be the laughting stock of the World, another russian territory given back (even if to UN).In the goal to facilitate the very last chance Ukrainian counter offensive with up to 60.000 men (mainly nato mercenaries 2/3, Ukrainians 1/3).
    If Moscow refuses they will try to launch a real strike and we will have a Fukishima 2.0 depending of the wind direction and force that very day.’ Terre brulée’ strategy for NATO: ok we can not get it back but you too and many will die(mainly pro russians or russians, not a problem for NATO to the contrary). They hope a limited civil nuclear ‘event’ will have a gigantic P R effect against Russia(as they will accuse Russia to bomb herself of course), and if lucky a limited effect to a small part of pro Russia Ukraine or even inside Russia. If a few eastern Europe receive radiations, they don’t care, only Western Europe,US UK CAN are important for Nato…

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  5. 1. Die Russen wollen eigene Verluste so gering wie möglich halten.
    2. Die Russen wollen Opfer unter der Zivilbevölkerung vermeiden.
    3. Die Russen wollen das Land nicht kaputt machen.
    (2. und 3. auch vor dem Hintergrund, daß sie das Land danach ggf. ganz oder teilweise am Hals haben.)

    Das schränkt den Handlungsspielraum des Militärs erheblich ein.

    Und Punkt 2 und 3 haben bei Kriegszügen des Westens nie oder allenfalls eine untergeordnete Rolle gespielt.

    Und ich habe keine Zweifel, daß die Russen auch “Bombenteppichmuster häkeln” könnten, das wäre wahrscheinlich vergleichsweise billig. Aber sie wählen Präzisionswaffen.

    Und ich verstehe nicht, daß solche einfachen, naheliegenden Überlegungen einem durchschnittlichen Verstand offenbar nicht zugänglich sind … und weil das so ist, erübrigen sich auch Ausführungen zu einer Reihe ander schwierigerer Aspekte der Geschichte, wie “Pläne” und “Optionen” in einem größeren Kontext …

    ________________________

    1. the Russians want to keep their own losses as low as possible.
    2. the Russians want to avoid civilian casualties.
    3. the Russians do not want to destroy the country.
    (2. and 3. also against the background that they have the country afterwards if necessary completely or partly at the neck).

    This considerably limits the military’s room for maneuver.

    And points 2 and 3 have never played a role, or at best a subordinate role, in the West’s war campaigns.

    And I have no doubt that the Russians could also “crochet bomb carpet patterns”; that would probably be comparatively cheap. But they choose precision weapons.

    And I don’t understand that such simple, nearby considerations are apparently not accessible to an average mind … and because that is so, there is no need to elaborate on a number of other more difficult aspects of the story, such as “plans” and “options” in a larger context …

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  6. I was unable to watch the Iranian broadcast – technical problems my end – but was intrigued to learn from Byron’s comment that Mr Doctorow thinks the US will quietly leave the conflict, but B. offered no details. This is my prediction too.
    But rather than expand on that, I want to address the impatience of the Russian public with the prosecution of the SMO. Unlike any other military conflict I can think of, Ukraine in 2022 is an intensely and continuously negotiated encounter between the U.S. and Russia – from agreeing on resolution of satellite intel, to weapons and deployment of ‘mercenaries’ and special forces, prisoners and their declared status – all of this has contributed to a mysteriously stop-start nature of the operation and to many baffling inconsistencies to a coherent account of events. The most obvious examples are the liberation of Mariupol and the absence of NATO commanders amongst prisoners, the unaccounted for two helicopters of ‘evacuated’ commanders prior to liberation, and secondly the liberation of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, in which a force of around 14,000 Ukrainian forces when eventually surrounded, manage for the most part to abandon their equipment and ‘escape across open fields’ to Seversk, even though that route is supposedly occupied by Russian paratroops.
    So much of the events simply do not make sense because there are continuous negotiations between Washington and Moscow about what can and won’t be done or admitted, giving the conflict something closer to the flavour of a real-time war exercise. I suppose this is the digital world. While both sides offer day to day records of hostilities, they are at best half the story, and from a Russian perspective it quickly wears on the patience of a country with a very keen sense of patriotism and justified suspicion of the west. The recent retreat from the Kherson region is another baffling about-face. The Russian military did their best to justify, but given their substantial forces there (a 3rd Corps, prior to mobilisation) and successes in repelling the Ukrainian advance, a cauldron or surrounding seemed unlikely, while Ukrainian air strikes on the bridges and dam after months had not proved effective. But again, what is really going on is plainly some behind-the-scenes negotiation, not with Kiev or even the Pentagon, but with a powerful faction within the Biden administration. The fact that Moscow would cede so much of what is now its own territory, is a measure of the gravity of the stakes. There is clearly a window on this mystery deal and is not unrelated to the season. Should it fail, the Russian public will no doubt get more bang for its buck, unfortunately the rest of the world will as well.

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