Immutable truths and Ukraine


In geopolitics, there are a number of immutable truths. 

First and foremost, all nations act in their own best interests.  We can all point to assorted examples but the United States exercising its foreign policy can be a brutal display of self-interest.  This is magnified because the USA is (currently) the dominant force on the planet from almost every angle you care to name.  Therefore, its actions almost always have a ripple effect across most other nations.    

Secondly, nations will sometimes act as a collective (EU; ASEAN; AUKUS; NATO; BRICS+ etc.) for assorted reasons and every now and then, nations will be substantially unified (UN).  But the overriding consideration is always: what’s in it for us or, how can we leverage this to our benefit? 

Another immutable truth is that at a macro level, nations don’t take a short-term view.  Nations will view their progress, or the protection of their interests, years or decades in advance.  In some cases, the progress or interest is seen as an indispensable, permanent national requirement and the nation will plan and manoeuvre accordingly.  Even these early stages can take many years/decades.  

For example, President Xi of China is convinced that the west is in decline and the east is in the ascension.  A fundamental shift in empires is underway.  In the broadest sense, he sees his role as ensuring that China will emerge as the dominant global financial and military power with the absorption of Taiwan back into China’s controlling orbit.  Whether that absorption of Taiwan occurs in five, ten or fifty years is partially irrelevant; the absorption will occur, and the west will be unable to prevent it as China will be pre-eminent.  Xi’s legacy, whether he is alive or dead by that time, will be as the revered father of a globally dominant, modern and re-united China. 

China is a definitive example of long-term planning and laser focussed national self-interest.  It must also be said that in many respects, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has all the hallmarks of a long planned, national interest engagement.  It is well known that Russia believes the west will grow weary of supporting Ukraine long before Russian resolve will diminish.      

Yet another immutable truth is that things are rarely as they seem.  This truth is often obscured by the MSM who seem intent on feeding us the most simplistic, lowest-common-denominator biased drivel and rarely delve into the driving forces behind a nation’s decision making process.  But a ‘wheels within wheels’ approach that borders on Machiavellian is often in play.     

And finally, ‘follow the money’.  Apparent altruism between nations, even when it appears to occur, only goes so far and money usually comes with conditions attached.  Nations will use money to coerce, encourage, blackmail and bully another (usually smaller) nation to do its bidding in pursuit of the foregoing immutable truths.    

Bearing those truths in mind, I was pondering Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the forthcoming Presidential elections in the United States.  In particular, the implications if Donald Trump is elected.

In an interview on CNN, Trump said that if elected he would end the war between Russia and Ukraine “within 24 hours”.  You can be certain that the comment struck fear into the heart of Ukraine President Zelensky.  I imagine the citizens of Ukraine were also alarmed.  On what terms would Trump end the war?  What pressure would be brought to bear on Ukraine?  

In considering Trump’s remarks (conditional on his being elected and following through), it appears that Trump will pull funding and military materiel support to force Ukraine to the negotiating table. If the stars align and the foregoing pre-conditions actually occur, I do not expect a sudden withdrawal of support but even the gradual strangulation of supply will achieve the same outcome.

Perhaps Trump is also relying on his (self-professed) ability as a ‘deal maker’ to limit Russian demands to Ukrainian territory or his (alleged) relationship with Russian President Putin.  But whether the next US President is Trump or almost anybody else, Ukraine has a potentially serious future problem. 

Trump has frequently remarked that he has no appetite for ‘foreign wars’ and whilst American soldiers are not losing their lives in Ukraine, the cost to America is measurable in dollars – and those dollars are mounting up at $US115+bn to date (of the ~$US210bn total).  Trump’s view is that the money should be spent in America to improve the lives of Americans – and it appears that many of the Republican Presidential candidates have similar opinions. 

Moreover, a significant portion (39%) of the overall American public seem to agree (up from 31% 6 months ago) that the conflict must be ended as soon as possible.  Sure, not a majority but neither is it insignificant and perhaps more disturbing for Ukraine, the number is increasing. 

Along party lines, the contrast is stark. Republicans are more likely now (50%) than when the war began (9%) to say the US is doing too much to support Ukraine.  Republicans are also more likely today (49%) than in January 2023 (41%) to prefer ending the conflict quickly, even if it allows Russia to keep captured territory.

Democrats on the other hand have been the most supportive of US military support for Ukraine. They have overwhelmingly and consistently favoured a war in which Ukraine attempts to regain lost land.  However, Democrat opinion has also shifted in the past six months from saying America could do more to saying it has done the right amount.  In other words, the ‘blank cheque’ approach is nearing exhaustion.

So, the next American election could be fundamental to Ukraine’s future. 

We must ask ourselves however, if America were to withdraw support for Ukraine, how would the other western nations react.  I expect the response, notably by the UK, France, Germany and the Baltic states to be unpleasant.  Having expended many billions of pounds, francs, deutschemarks and zloty whilst assuring their respective populations that this was a necessary cost, the withdrawal of American support for Ukraine will be a gross humiliation for those leaders.  Not to mention a stupendous display (again) to Europeans of the changeable nature of American political will.

The recent NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania did not present Ukraine with the definitive pathway to NATO membership it was seeking (demanding).  Several NATO leaders commented that “we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes” with one notable comment being “for ten years if necessary”.  Uh huh, sure.  The ebb and flow of geopolitics tells us that is absurd.  Of course, the MSM lapped it up and dutifully regurgitated it for the masses to marvel at the resolve.  

I imagine Zelensky is watching the American political scene like a hawk and praying that the American elections see Biden returned to power or at least, Biden’s military support for Ukraine is supplanted into whomever is the new President.  If there is even a modest chance that Trump or someone else with similar views on support for Ukraine is likely to be elected, Zelensky knows he will need to act.

The west cannot be relied upon to provide open-ended and permanent support because we don’t do that.  And if the Russia-Ukraine conflict devolves into a stalemate, the public and political support will gradually fade as the west, especially the US, are paying much of the bill but with no result.  It appears that if the Republicans win the next election, the fold-back of support may well be accelerated which will force Zelensky into talks under intense pressure.  Initiating negotiations when your primary backer is heading for the door is never a good start. Zelensky cannot be so naive to think the west’s current support is a bottomless well of largesse.  He will need to find a way to the negotiating table, and sooner rather than later in my opinion, because the inevitable and immutable truths of geopolitics are lurking in the shadows.


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Old Goat
Old Goat
July 16, 2023 2:26 pm

The dying in Ukraine will stop when the “west” stops supplying weapons . This is likely to be coming soon as arsenals are getting emptied . Does anybody remember Afganistan ? We have a bunch of muppets in charge and reality has left the building .

Vicki
Vicki
July 16, 2023 2:37 pm

If the the allies of Ukraine were serious about attaining a fair and equitable solution they would pressure the UN into conducting fair and managed elections in Luhansk and Donetsk. This was eventually achieved in the case of Croatia and Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia. The participation of Australia in the elections in Cambodia shows that managed elections can be achieved.

The initial negotiations in Turkey indicate that a resolution could have saved many many lives. What is the damn point of the UN if it can’t initiate the resolution of a war that may escalate into a European disaster?

Bruce
Bruce
July 16, 2023 2:48 pm

The PRC inevitably absorbing Taiwan?

The “mainland’s” demographic bomb and its environmental bomb and its resources bomb may join in disagreement.

Interestingly, a decade or so ago, I heard someone with an “interesting” background conjecture that if Taiwan holds steady they may be the ones with the job of scraping together the broken shards of the China created by Mao and Xi.

A more pertinent question, especially for the “neighbours” who have land borders with the “Central Kingdom” are probably a bit nervous; how does a “developing country” deal with tens of millions of “refugees” Given the variable treatment of post 1975 Viet and Khmer refugees ……

Also given the current scale of Chinese “projects right across Africa and large chunks of South and Central America, how will the folding of “central control” play out?

dover0beach
Admin
July 16, 2023 4:13 pm

I don’t think China-collapse is any more likely than China as global hegemon. China will likely be dominant in east Asia, India will be dominant in south Asia, and they along with a few other nations will be the great powers of the 21st century. If that is how it plays out, Taiwan will probably come to some arrangement with the mainland or continue in its international status twilight zone.

Roger
Roger
July 16, 2023 4:14 pm

First and foremost, all nations act in their own best interests.

Mmm…

Japan attacking Pearl Harbour was in their best interests?

Napoleon marching on Moscow?

Operation Barbarossa?

The various quagmires Americans have gotten themselves into since Vietnam?

And now Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine.

Perhaps the first immutable truth of geopolitics is that incautious leaders overreach.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
July 16, 2023 4:31 pm

So, the next American election could be fundamental to Ukraine’s future.

Haha, no. The 2024 election will be stolen, and the Dems will keep the circus rolling because the graft is epic.

On the other hand Russia invaded a sovereign state and anything that happens to them is their own silly fault. The geopolitics offered a textbook perfect opportunity to cut Russia off at the knees, which is pretty much what has now happened. Sadly Russia has knobbled herself for a generation, possibly two. The only really viable answer is to pull out to the 1991 borders and rebuild. Putin can’t do that and live. So the whole stupid bloodfest will continue. Maybe Ukraine will collapse, maybe Russia will collapse, but it’s all pride from Putin that is causing it. He’s certainly not a Richelieu. I’m sad, Russia deserves better than this.

Yep I think Ukraine is a cesspit of corruption. But Biden is corrupt and that is his natural language, also ditto the Dems. So they will support Ukraine for the foreseeable future. Power and money all point in that direction. I can’t see Putin overcoming that, short of China going full monty. Even then that won’t help him greatly, and maybe it could be worse than even that…there’s a lot of yummy real estate in eastern Siberia if the gloves come off.

dover0beach
Admin
July 16, 2023 4:41 pm

Mmm…

Japan attacking Pearl Harbour was in their best interests?

Napoleon marching on Moscow?

Operation Barbarossa?

The various quagmires Americans have gotten themselves into since Vietnam?

It seems to me that you are relying too heavily on their failing more than on their actions being incautious given the context and situation.

And now Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine.
Perhaps the first immutable truth of geopolitics is that incautious leaders overreach.

That is a far better description of Zelensky and co. then Putin. Over the last decade, the apt criticism of Putin is that his actions re Ukraine have been overly-cautious. Too circumspect. And that delay has been costly.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
July 16, 2023 4:41 pm

The whole stupid fiasco is so like the Italo-Greek War of 1940-41. Fascist Italy vs fascist Greece. The West held their nose and supported Greece, who though outnumbered and outgunned stopped the Eyties cold. Hitler then had to rescue Mussolini, which was a diversion that just might’ve prevented him winning WW2, since forced a delay of his invasion of Russia until late June.

Being rescued by Hitler did not turn out well for Benito. Being rescued by nice Mr Xi would likewise not go especially well for Mr Putin methinks.

Roger
Roger
July 16, 2023 4:52 pm

It seems to me that you are relying too heavily on their failing more than on their actions being incautious given the context and situation.

Not at all; in each instance objections were raised on the attacking sides.

In spite of that, in each instance the leader overreached and by doing so eventually brought about his own downfall (which is still playing out in the case of the US and Putin’s Russia.)

Whether China or Trump emerges as the peacemaker, Putin will not have achieved his stated goals.

Vicki
Vicki
July 16, 2023 5:10 pm

A few days ago the Hudson Institute gave the floor to an investment guru, Kyle Bass, who delivered a stunning appraisal of why he expects China to move very soon against Taiwan.

After reading Jim Molan’s book and other analyses, I had already come to believe that China will launch an attack well within the latest 4 years time frame that seems to be current in western diplomatic circles.

Amongst other facts, Bass identifies China’s stockpiling of wheat supplies, securing of alternate oil supplies via the Saudis, negotiation of new supply chains, rapid buildup of their navy, & restrictions on OS travel of Chinese etc as indicative of imminent preparations. Bass says that while 86% of their exchange is still in dollars this could still be used to cripple their economy – though this is a diminishing weapon.

This is a significant address to the Hudson Institute & is well worth listening to.
(BTW an amphibious attack on Taiwan is best undertaken in the months of May and June and August).

Vicki
Vicki
July 16, 2023 5:10 pm

The Hudson address of Kyle Bass on China’s plans for attack on Taiwan :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibzAth26WBs

dover0beach
Admin
July 16, 2023 6:21 pm

Not at all; in each instance objections were raised on the attacking sides.

Some thing doesn’t become incautious because objections were raised.

In spite of that, in each instance the leader overreached and by doing so eventually brought about his own downfall (which is still playing out in the case of the US and Putin’s Russia.)

The trajectory of Japan, for instance was already likely in that direction, given the existing US embargo, so by ’41 it wasn’t so much overreach as a calculated move to avoid, how ever slightly the chance of success was, inevitable decline.

Whether China or Trump emerges as the peacemaker, Putin will not have achieved his stated goals.

There will be no peace agreement that involves NATO in Ukraine. Given the recent meeting in Vilnius, he’s already won.

dover0beach
Admin
July 16, 2023 6:29 pm

My lack of confidence in the Chinese brokering a deal is that it will need to involve a complete rupture between NATO (Europe and US) and Ukraine, and what can the Chinese offer Ukraine? Sure, they probably have a lot to offer economically, but militarily, what would be the security arrangement? Would China really go to war with Russia over Ukraine and, moreover, would the Ukrainians even believe their assurance they would?

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
July 16, 2023 6:32 pm

There will be no peace agreement that involves NATO in Ukraine. Given the recent meeting in Vilnius, he’s already won.

Haha. A Mr Pyrrhus could probably comment on how won he has won. More victories like this and there won’t be a Russia. Small victorious wars are Russia’s Achilles heel. /Plehve

dover0beach
Admin
July 16, 2023 6:45 pm

Haha. A Mr Pyrrhus could probably comment on how won he has won.

Russia doesn’t have the disadvantages that Pyrrhus did, but Ukraine does.

Damon
Damon
July 16, 2023 11:06 pm

The above arguments fail, if you recognise that small, wealthy countries (Israel, Taiwan)), whether they admit it or not, have access to nuclear weapons.

Petros
Petros
July 17, 2023 5:46 am

Sounds like Greece, Speedbox. It was the great advantage of the British that their public servants were largely not able to be bribed by hoi polloi. A different story for the elites of course.

Rufus T Firefly
Rufus T Firefly
July 17, 2023 7:38 am

UN Resolution 2758, (October 1971), clearly stated that Taiwan belonged to PRC.
Chiang Kai Chek, (the leader of Formosa), was told by U Thant, (UN Chief), that he held no authority in the UN and to get out.

Another group of Russo-Sino apologists agrees 100% with those remarks.
I refer to the US State Dept.

https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/taiwan/

Just last week, the US Congress scuttled a proposal, to conduct an audit on all monetary aid to Ukraine.
Well, to be fair, how would St Volodymyr the Pure and the Biden Crime family continue to accumulate massive wealth, if an audit was conducted? I mean, really!

Far better that tens of thousands of Ukrainians die, than any rapprochement be attempted. That is obvious.
Luckily, Ukraine is winning, ….., right?

lotocoti
lotocoti
July 17, 2023 8:13 am

I reckon my moneys on China.

A Russian military victory would be more palatable for the weasels of Foggy Bottom than a Chinese mediated peace.

OldOzzie
OldOzzie
July 17, 2023 10:38 am

Cracks in NATO’s Ukraine Project

GORDONHAHN
July 13, 2023

Cracks are emerging in NATO’s anti-Russian alliance centered on Ukraine. NATO’s Vilnius summit exposed growing tensions between NATO members and between them and their Ukrainian client state as a result of growing risks of defeat in their proxy war. These tensions are destined to grow as Kiev’s position on the front continues to deteriorate. In Kiev, signs of panic and the likelihood of rising civil-military tensions pose the grave threat to the West’s plans to deal Russia a strategic defeat and to prompt Putin’s removal. Western and Ukrainian hopes and expectations have been unrealistic all the way around from the start.

The Failing Ukrainian Counteroffensive

With Ukrainian forces failing in the long-planned and much-touted counteroffensive, the stakes already are much higher half a year later, even putting aside for the moment the issue of the crucial NATO summit in Vilnius.[1] Western and Ukrainian expectations and claims regarding the potential of the counteroffensive are exposing the hideously phantasmagorical expectations of most in Washington, Brussels, and Kiev. After six weeks of Ukraine’s highly costly counteroffensive, instead of territorial gains Kiev’s forces are being routed, experiencing enormous casualties, losses of territory on the Oskol river, an operational encirclement of Avdiivka, and successful Russian advances on the Kupyansk-Liman front lines. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on July 11th that the Ukrainians have suffered 26,000 casualties and lost 3,000 units of equipment, including 1,244 tanks and fighting vehicles as well as APCs, artillery pieces, and mortars, since June 4th when the counteroffensive began.[2] To put this into the perspective of Ukrainian weapons requests and NATO capacity and willingness (or unwillingness) to meet them, in December 2022 last year Zalyuzhniy told The Economist that he needed “300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs, 500 Howitzers.” In such case, he thought it “completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23rd.” But the Ukrainians never received anything like this, and the West nevertheless pressed Zelenskiy to underataken the ill-considered idea of a broad counter-offensive against the revived Russian army. The Ukrainians have lost more equipment in just six weeks of the counteroffensive than Zalyuzhniy had requested; this without even reaching the first line of the Russian forces’ three well dug-in defense lines in the south and making even less progress in the east. Ukrainian forces have not been able to take and hold even one small settlement along the entire line of contact extending from Kherson to Kharkov. They take territory at great loss of life and equipment only to relinquish the same territory a few days layer with more losses. Not surprisingly, cracks are appearing in the Ukrainian ranks.[3]

On this background it is hardly surprising that tensions between Kiev and its Western patrons are running high, with each side blaming the other for the military farce. Both Zalyuzhniy and Zelenskiy are at odds with the West for its failure to provide sufficient military equipment for a counteroffensive the West itself has demanded as a kind of test as to whether Kiev deserves continuing military aid. In turn, Zelenskiy made his disenchantment with NATO and the West known both before and during the summit. In a June 30th Washington Post interview, Zalyuzhniy seemed to be airing both his opposition to the conduct of the counteroffensive without sufficient fire power (recall the pre-offensive pressure from Kiev for the provision of F-16s) as well as Kiev’s grievances regarding insufficient arms, thus setting up the West as scapegoat for the counteroffensive’s failure. He condemned that Western expectations that the Ukrainian military do what no Western or Russian military would ever attempt to do – carry out a major offensive without air and artillery superiority – ‘pissed him off.’ “This is not a show,” Zalyuzhniy said; a comment that might be construed as a subconscious slight against the showman president who seems hell bent on winning an unwinnable war by a very bloody path, while he and his wife bask in the global limelight, outshining such spirits of our disinformation age ‘superstars’ as Greta Thunberg, and Zalyuzhniy’s coerced soldiers and even commanders die in pools of blood and mud for precisely what? “It’s not a show the whole world is watching and betting on or anything. Every day, every meter is given by blood,” Zalyuzhniy complained. “Without being fully supplied, these plans are not feasible at all.”[4] Of course, these unfeasible plans were not wholly or even mostly hatched in Kiev.

If one did not know already, Victoria Nuland told congress in late May that the US government and likely military has been working on them “for months.” Thus, the Biden administration is responsible for this unfeasible plan, along with so many others. These are the wages of servicing present-day America. The wages were made clearer at NATO’s Vilnius summit.

Summit of the Deluded, Dismayed and Defeated

Zelenskiy entertained and publicly promoted the most unfeasible, inflated expectations. He regards too highly his ability to charm, cajole, and convince people to do and succeed in doing what he wants, whether it is accepting Ukraine into NATO here and now, receiving ever increasing arms supplies from NATO members’ whose stocks are depleted and defense industries have been wound down, or pushing through three reinforced lines of defense 35 miles deep with a few tanks and a hodgepodge of trained soldiers and a larger coteries of poorly trained soldiers recently scraped off the streets of Kiev, Lvov, and Sumy. Of course, many politicians suffer from this delusion of charisma and mastery over history. Putin, for example, at times has overestimated his ability to convince his ‘Western partners’, as he liked to call them, of the correctness of the Kremlin’s thinking on this or that issue. Western leaders are deluded by their belief that they are fulfilling democracy’s global destiny at the ‘end of history’.

At any rate, the effect of the counteroffensive in failure is to ensure that NATO would do what it was going to do and has been doing anyway: hanging Ukraine out to die on the altar of NATO expansion ‘as long as it takes’ in the hope of provoking a color revolution in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian casualties, destroyed cities and towns, millions of refugees, and tens of millions of ruined lives have and will not cause NATO to throw out the playbook. They just will edit it a little: a security guarantee with loopholes, a NATO-Ukrainian Committee, dispensing with a ‘membership action plan’ for a Ukraine that may not exist ‘after victory.’

Years of successfully pulling the wool over people’s eyes and Western fawning over him since February 2022 led Zelenskiy to overestimate the power of his personality and his communication skills. There was never any chance that the NATO summit in Vilnius would offer Ukraine membership, a membership action plan (MAP), or a shortcut to membership no matter how charismatic Zelenskiy imagines himself to be. These hopes were as delusional as were the repeated Ukrainian decisions not to forego NATO membership before and after Maidan, before and after Minsk, before and after Putin’s proposals on a new European security architecture and his massing of troops on Ukraine’s borders, before and after his February 2022 invasion, and before and after the March 2022 agreement to end the war by Kiev renouncing the goal of NATO membership and returning to the Minsk format. What kind of policy is it that demands Ukraine’s movement towards NATO membership, backs a coup to achieve it, and then arms the intensely anti-Russian Maidan regime while not offering Kiev NATO membership in the face of decades of protestations from the military and nuclear power next door that it views such actions as a grave threat to its national security? But it is worse than that. The Washington/Brussels consensus tells us that Putin is a hungry, imperial dictator determined at all costs to conquer ‘all of Ukraine’ and reestablish the former USSR, meaning taking all the Baltic and Transcaucasus countries as well. If we are to be guided by the concensus’s analysis, then we are left with the unavoidable conclusion that Washington and Brussels pushed Ukraine into the claws of the aggressive, angry bear they themselves riled and aggravated. No matter. United together, ‘we will not waver’: Ukraine will fight ‘as long as it takes’ to defeat the bear on behalf of the United States and its subservient allies.

Before the summit Zelenskiy pulled out all the stops: his usual simulacra, then trading at the Turkish bazaar, even blackmail. He faked an impending nuclear incident allegedly being planned by Russia, only to have the IAEA refute his claim that Moscow had positioned explosives on the roof of the Zaporozhiya nuclear power plant. He convinced Tukish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to break the agreement that the neofascist Azov commanders captured in Mariupol and transferred by the Russians to his custody would remain in said custody for the duration of the war. The PR of both these moves was to cover for the losses rather than the promised gains produced by the counteroffensive. So entranced by enthusiastic welcomes the West (not the world) over, he thought his threat not to attend the summit should NATO not present him the PR gift he needed and thought his due – NATO membership and the resulting adulation as national hero of most Ukrainians (though not necessarily from the neofascists that helped force him into this war) that would have come with it.

But Zelenskiy attended the Vilnius summit. Reports from the show Vilnius revealed a desparate Zelenskiy resorting to frantic backroom cajoling in order to beg for concessions on NATO membership. This would bring the alliance closer to entering the war and more of its arms at a sufficient level to defeat an increasingly powerful Russian force, or it might provoke the Kremlin into actions that would inspire NATO to finally take Kiev’s neck out of the noose into which NATO itself put it.[5] But the NATO summit declaration repeated what is now a bromide, having been stated 15 years ago—that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO” and would be admitted once more “democratic reforms and security reforms” are implemented. Of course, no country has ever implemented democratic liberalization during war time. History, including America’s own history shows that countries authoritarianize in wartime—take the internment of the Japanese during World War II or the suspension of habeus corpus during the U.S. civil war, for example. Such reforms may be drawn out in any hypothetical reconstruction period after a ‘Ukrainian victory’ or other form of an end to the war.

The lack of compromise was reported to be a consequence of resistance to Ukraine’s accession to NATO now and in the future coming from Germany in addition to Hungary and perhaps Bulgaria, which recently refused Zelenskiy further arms transfers during his recent visit to Sofia. Germany apparently refused to sign on to a draft that included some vague language about Ukraine’s accession that has not been disclosed. Germany appears to be adamant about avoiding any potential direct military conflict between NATO and Russia, and depending on how the war plays out it may mount resistance to Ukraine’s accession even after the war. Germany is already in a recession, and there is no sign that the economic dislocation created by the war, mutual sanctions, pipeline explosions, etc is likely to abate any time soon. The social explosion in neighboring France probably has been instructive as well for some in the German leadership.

Zelenskiy’s desperate, ultimately failed attempt to get Ukraine moving more rapidly to NATO membership ended up alienating his ‘allies. In a social media post Zelenskiy essentially accused US President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders of showing disrespect for Ukraine by not admitting her for membership now—a measure that would require NATO to enter the war.[6] He called the lack of a timeline for membership “unprecedented and absurd,” even though NATO apparently agreed to waive the time-consuming standard membership action plan (MAP) process and President Biden had said in a pre-summit interview that Ukraine could enter NATO after the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war has ended. Thus, Washington and Brussels were “enraged” by Zelenskiy’s understandable desperation. His statements “seriously angered” the US delegation in Vilnius and surprised and frustrated NATO member-country advocates for rapid accession of Ukraine to the alliance, who saw dropping the MAP as progress. In the Americans’ opinion, this “adventure” was used by the Ukrainian president as a negotiating tactic. NATO member-country diplomats found the situation “very tense.” Later, Zelensky pulled backed his tone, saying he was “grateful” to NATO members “for their willingness to take new steps” to help Ukraine. [7] But membership was never to be at Vilnius or any time before Kiev defeats Moscow, and in that case Western arms will not be in sufficient supply for years to save Ukraine, given Western virtual economies. Nor will any ‘security guarantee’ from NATO amount to any change, since NATO will still not enter the war under such a paper guarantee and cannot increase weapons flows from NATO countries to Kiev. Entering a war NATO itself fomented is not in NATO’s plans. Washington and Brussels prefer that Kiev fight a far superior military power ‘for as long as it takes’ to do what is in the West’s interests—that is, weaken Russia. Despite the weapons, training, intelligence, and pats on Zelenskiy’s back, it can be said not just of Moscow but of Washington and Brussels as well: “They wept for Ukraine, but they destroyed it.”[8]

Rising Tensions in Ukrainian Civil-Military Relations

Wars always increase civil-military tensions in one way or another. The Prigozhin mutiny in Russia underscores the point. Tensions in Ukrainian civil-military relations emerged early in the war: in spring 2022 months after the beginning of Russia’s ‘special military operation’ around the Russian capture of Mariupol at the rank-and-file level, in particular among the ultra-nationalists and neofascists. During the siege of Azovstal’ that sealed the fate of Mariupol, the deputy commander of the neo-fascist Azov Battalion fighters there criticized politicians like Arestovich who warned the Azovtsy to “mind their own business.” There was widespread dismay across the Ukrainian social net that the civilian authorities were not doing enough to break the encirclement either militarily or through negotiations.[9] The Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s statement that a military operation to break the Azovstal’ encirclement was not possible could be seen by some to have been the result of the generals’ breaking under civilian pressure.[10]

Tensions between civilian leaders and the top brass emerged by late spring when in May, then Ukrainian presidential spokesman Aleksei Arestovich openly criticized the military leadership, referring to “criminality” and “treason” that need to be investigated and punished. Voices representing the military shot back, criticizing Arestovich and other civilian critics. One military voice reported to be close to Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Viktor Zalyuzhniy asserted: “Hundreds of killed and wounded men and women every day are securing (your) tasty coffee in sunny Kiev. Every day. And to search today for someone to blame among them is far from the best idea. The guilty are not in the army, though there are some who can answer for something, the guilty are in the high offices that formed the budget policy and determined who would serve in key posts.” One Ukrainian journalist predicted that if the Office of the President continued to criticize the military, the consequences for the critics would be “devastating.”[11]

In early June, Zelenskiy and commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Viktor Zalyuzhniy differed over the timing of withdrawal from Severodonetsk and where to form a new defensive line against the Russian offensive in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. While Zelenskiy demanded that the army hold out as long as possible and create a defensive line close to the city, risking encirclement of thousands of troops, Zalyuzhniy called for puling back forming a defensive line running north-south through Kramatorsk.[12]

On 7 September, General Zaluzhnyi and Lieutenant General Mikhail Zabrodskii, the first Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Rada’s Committee for National Security, Defense and Intelligence, wrote a revealing article for UkrInform, the most important aspect which were indications of the Ukrainian military command’s disagreement with President Zelenskiy’s decision to conduct the offensives in the south in the Kherson direction and in the north in the Izyum direction.[13] The officers felt that this was being undertaken without the proper preparation and sufficient manpower and weaponry for what seemed to be largely political reasons at great costs to Ukraine’s personnel and weapons stockpiles without any real prospects of making a permanent breakthrough on either front. This should sound familiar.

The Zalyuzhnyi article read like a cryptic critique of Zelenskiy’s September counteroffensives in the south and north. In arguing for the creation of a Ukrainian military capable of conducting a counteroffensive “in 2023” to take Crimea, Zalyuzhnyi notes: “turning to the situation in which the Armed Forces of Ukraine are likely to be in 2023, everything seems less clear. In fact, for the Armed Forces of Ukraine the situation will be a complex combination of the actual position of the contact line, the availability of resources and a set of combat-ready troops and, obviously, finding strategic initiative to be in the hands of the enemy.

At the same time, following this logic, we express strong reservations about the outline of the line of contact from the point of view of the Ukrainian side. Its contours have an extremely unfavorable configuration again on the Izyum and Bakhmut directions. The enemy’s significant interference shackles any operational maneuver for the Ukrainian troops and requires, in fact, a double set of forces to contain it.” In other words, the Ukrainian military, they argued, lacked the forces necessary for conducting the counteroffensive then underway at that time around the Izyum bridgehead in the north, slightly east of Kharkiv.

The situation “in the south and east is no better,” continued Zaluzhnyi: “The threat of the enemy’s advance in the direction of Zaporozhye has already been noted. In addition, the danger of the enemy developing partial success in the direction of Gulyai-Pole is not disappearing, which, under certain conditions, could pose a threat to the capture of the entire grouping of Ukrainian troops in the East. The existence of the enemy’s operational bridgehead on the right bank of the Dnieper River requires additional efforts to prevent its expansion.” This was accomplished in the famous withdrawal of Russian troops to the west bank in autumn of last year. Zelenskiy appeared to have been proven right then, but this ‘victory’ was misleading, as both in Kharkov and Kherson, the Russians were not defeated militarily but simply withdrew without a fight in order to limit casualities and in the Russian tradition wait for a better time to recoup the territory retreated from when the correlation of forces are more clearly in Russian forces’ favor.

Zaluzhnyi called for a delay until the army was better supplied and later conducting “several consecutive, and ideally simultaneous counter-attacks during the 2023 campaign.” He outlined a series of measures – the creation of 20 new brigades and weapons systems capable of striking Russia at a depth of 2000 kilometers, for example — needed to be taken before any such counteroffensive, any offensive to take Crimea, and any attempt in 2023-24 to bring the war to Russian territory and its population. It was a cryptic signal that Zaluzhnyi chose as his co-author a leader of the opposition ‘European Solidarity’ party led by former president Petro Poroshenko, who is under indictment by Zelenskyi’s prosecutors.

The article came out on the background of ‘chatter’ in the Ukrainian and Russian press, media, in particular on Telegram channels reporting that Zaluzhniy was opposed to Zelenskiy’s plan to conduct dual counteroffensives at the time, that Zaluzhnyi recently convinced Zelenskiy to halt the southern counteroffensive in Kherson and instead divert resources to the northern counteroffensive in Izyum, which helped convince the Russians to retreat from Kharkov. The article overall, therefore, was a cryptic expression of Zaluzhnyi’s disagreement with Zelenskiy’s hasty Kherson and Izyum offensives and was important for at least three reasons. First, it was more evidence of the tensions between the military and political leaderships in the country – understandable in the current near catastrophic situation Ukraine finds itself in – and between the Office of the President and Zelenskiy, on the one hand, and the military command and elements within the political opposition, on the other hand, over the conduct of the war. Second, such tensions risk the politicization of the military and a grave deterioration in civil-military relations – a precondition for a military or palace coup supported by the military. Third, an alliance of the Poroshenko-supportive portion of the Ukrainian opposition with any military opposition –particularly if the neofascist element in society and the military joins a plot — would pose a grave threat to Zelenskiy’s regime.

It is very likely that Zalyuznyi and Zelenskiy will be at odds again if they are not already. One Ukrainian source in the Office of the President claims that the Biden administration has given up on any progress in the counteroffensive and that “a complete collapse” of Zelenskiy’s foreign policy regarding Western support, which is now expected to decline sharply. It was said that Zelenskiy’s promises regarding the results of the counteroperation were overdone and that has led to the political failure (https://t.me/rezident_ua/18713). Zalyuzhniy might be saying: ‘I told you so.’ Zalyuzhniy’s allusion to a ‘show’, asserting that the war is not one and is having a high cost in blood, not only underscores both the contradiction between any professional military’s ethic and ordinarly civilians, whether officials or citizens. Military officers and sericeman have a different view of the world and certainly war, especially once the shooting starts. The blood and sacrifice are deadly serious matters and impart a sense of romantic patriotism, unique sacrifice, a sense of comradely brotherhood, and a corporate self-identity that sets soldiers apart from civilians. The ethical gap between soldier and citizen can be narrowed by military leaders adopting a similar seriousness of purpose regarding the war effort and those who sacrifice. When civilian leaders appear to be overly enamored with themselves, their public fame, and foreigners or to be using the war effort for political purposes or subordinating that effort to political expediency than the ethical gap widens. It might widen further if the civilian leadership is taken with ‘shows’, fakes, simulacra and the like, as is the Zelenskiy government.[14]

Alienation of this kind can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if in addition to a wide military-civilian ethical gap the war effort is going badly and is seen by the military as going so because of a decadent civilian ethic in relation to the war. Zelenskiy’s love for the limelight, inflated opinion of himself and his abilities, his lack of military experience, and the well-known corruption of himself, his wife, and his inner circle, and civilian elite all grate on the Ukrainian officer corps as well as Ukraine’s numerous and well-armed ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists. The worse the news from the front, the greater Zelenskiy’s image will exacerbate his relations with the military and its loyalty to his leadership. At some point in this process, should it not be arrested, there will come a military coup. It is interesting that in Zalyuzhniy’s Washington Post interview he noted that he is in close contact with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Cheifs of Staff Armed Forces General Mark Milley and that the latter is in agreement with him on the insufficiency of the supplies coming from the West for achieving the goals of the counteroffensive. Although Milley is retiring, there are certainly U.S. hawks who sympathize with Zalyuzhniy and may tire of a Zelenskiy who bites the hand the feeds it and does not provide for some minimal level of liberty to allow his Western backers to maintain the fiction of ‘Ukrainian democracy’. In short, some day a Zalyuzhniy-led coup against Zelenskiy’s interminable shows and the Arestoviches’ pontificating coffees might find support in DC.

CONCLUSION

The tensions between Zelenskiy and his Western backers, on the one hand, and Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s military high command will untenable for continued stability in the NATO-Ukraine war effort should failure on the front persist, let alone should a Russian counteroffensive produce more territorial gains for Moscow in Odessa, Kharkov and/or left bank Kiev. Zelenskiy must either cease the offensive to please the latter and thereby displease the former, or he can push forward with the offensive to satisfy his backers and to keep the military equipment flowing and thereby alienate the Ukrainian military. One way out of this conundrum is victory on the battlefield, and that seems most improbable. The other exit path is NATO’s abandonment of expansion to Ukraine and the opening of peace talks with the Kremlin, and that seems equally as implausible. In months, crunch time may be coming in Kiev. In this context, it comes as little surprise that, according to some reports, Zelenskiy was lobbying NATO for support (only moral support apparently) for implementation of the proposed Polish-Ukrainian Union and the deployment to western Ukraine of a Polish-Lithuanian brigade or army corps this year perhaps to be supplemented later with Latvian and Estonian troops. Supposedly, NATO refused to discuss it, and therefore Zelenskiy now has passed on the idea.[15] I sense that in a pinch the project may go forward anyway. If it does, crunch time comes closer for all Europe. If it does not, the war ends early next year, and NATO expansion dies on the steppes of eastern Ukraine.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Ukraine perhaps is winning in a different sense, however. Its brand of thinking and even governance seems to be conquering the West. US congressional representatives and other government officials have allied with Ukraine’s neofascist since the Maidan. Most recently, NATO held its Vilnius summit one day after the the 80th anniversary commemorating the July-August 1943 height of the 1943-45 Volhynia and Eastern Galicia massacres of hundreds of thousands of Jews and 50-60,000 Poles carried out by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Its leader, Stepan Bandera is the hero of Zelenskiy’s Maidan regime and has central streets and squares named after him all over ‘democratic Ukraine’. Zelenskiy laid a wreath at a monument to the Polish victims even as he honors their murderers’ successors with medals and state awards. It is the West and Ukraine’s ultra-nationalists and neofascist who undermined the Minsk peace accords and prevented Zelenskiy from developing normal relations with Moscow. In terms of ‘governance’, we were recently informed that Zelenskiy’s secret police, the SBU, has been recommending to the FBI which US citizens’ social media pages should be shut down as part of the FBI’s censorship of Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts, as revealed in the U.S. House of representatives report.

See https://judiciary.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/republicans-judiciary.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/fbi-sbu-staff-report-7.10.23-sm.pdf and https://news.yahoo.com/fbi-ukraine-sbu-told-social-102100906.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall.

[2] to [14] Follow

Bruce
Bruce
July 17, 2023 10:50 am

Xi is tap-dancing like Fred Astaire.

China MUST act in a set timeframe, because their SELF-MADE major crises are maturing quickly.

Population implosion. The one-child policy, traditional first-born sex preference (male) and a resultant 30 million plus surplus of military-age men who can NEVER find a bride in China.

The 100 million “oops” over-count in their last census

Massive environmental damage from centrally planned industrial expansion.

Obliteration of the domestic pork industry courtesy of “Swine Flu”. That was the motivation for the complete “capture” of the Canadian pork industry, from Pen to Wok; total vertical integration. See also a big chunk of Australian meat production.

Rapidly rising demand for oil from ANYWHERE. This is not just for sewing-machine lubrication.

The vast amounts of high-grade anthracite bought from Australia is NOT destined fur the new thermal-coal-fired power stations the build each MONTH. China has plenty of lower grade, high-sulphur coal domestically. The SULPHUR-free Oz stuff is for making high-grade (red; “Mil-Spec”) steels. Sulphur in serious steel produced fatal flaws in the material, especially in high-stress STAINLESS steels.

Supplementary:

The Three-Gorges dam has already been “over-stressed”, once. This potential nightmare is upstream from some placed called “Wuhan’, which is apparently home to one of their most popular “bio-warfare” labs.

Calling yourself, the CENTRAL KINGDOM and insisting that ALL must pay tribute to the “Emperor”, is not likely to win many friends, grovelling supplicants, maybe, but “friends”?

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
July 17, 2023 10:58 am

Don’t know about Greece, Petros. But the corruption/graft permeates every strata of Ukraine. It’s actually quite stunning how the society operates.

Yep, like Greece. As I recall at one stage hundreds of doctors were filing income tax returns near or below the zero tax threshold. “Fakelaki” is your word for the day. The Greek government were flying helicopters around Athens looking for pools in people’s backyards as an indicator whether they were avoiding tax.

Not just Greece of course, I suspect places like Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are pretty much the same. No surprise it is endemic in Ukraine. It goes with the neighbourhood.

Corruption in Greece (wiki)

OldOzzie
OldOzzie
July 17, 2023 11:23 am

About the Author –

Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu

Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.

Petros
Petros
July 17, 2023 11:46 am

People started buying camouflage netting to put over their swimming pools in Greece. Tax avoidance necessity is the mother of invention. I really wish people would appreciate how important it is to have an honest public service here, otherwise we just end up like all these other countries.

another ian
another ian
July 17, 2023 1:46 pm
Dot
Dot
July 17, 2023 3:54 pm

If the the allies of Ukraine were serious about attaining a fair and equitable solution they would pressure the UN into conducting fair and managed elections in Luhansk and Donetsk. This was eventually achieved in the case of Croatia and Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia. The participation of Australia in the elections in Cambodia shows that managed elections can be achieved.

I agree. Peacekeepers from peripheral countries too.

C.L.
C.L.
July 17, 2023 5:45 pm

Great post, Speedie, thank you.

“THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING NATO”

That piece by Dmitri Orlov is brilliant.

His 2020 essay, Watch This! – on the fall of America – is very entertaining.

Morsie
Morsie
July 17, 2023 7:50 pm

Corruption occurs in all countries.My old man got up the list for Housing Commission homes by giving a guy a new toaster.It was our first house.
The bloke later went to gaol when he got a bit greedy over some land deals.
To think this sort of thing doesnt happen here is naive.

jupes
jupes
July 18, 2023 5:44 pm

First and foremost, all nations act in their own best interests.

Not Australia. Almost every decision made, may benefit the ‘elite’, but it certainly doesn’t benefit the nation.

jupes
jupes
July 18, 2023 5:53 pm

The geopolitics offered a textbook perfect opportunity to cut Russia off at the knees, which is pretty much what has now happened. Sadly Russia has knobbled herself for a generation, possibly two.

Bruce, seriously mate, that’s just embarrassing.

The only really viable answer is to pull out to the 1991 borders and rebuild.

Prediction. That will never happen.

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