Ukraine – a wintry endgame?

30 Nov

What follows makes grim reading. That being so, I’m yet again rolling out my most heavily-used image: two maps which compare an actual situation with a hypothetical. This comparison, and the genocidal arrogance and hypocrisy it calls out in flashing block neon, is a cornerstone of my tiny pushback against an Orwellian mantra dutifully and daily repeated by ‘our’ systemically corrupt media.

The mantra has two words: “Putin’s war”. For the pathologically incurious, kept that way by the limits silently placed on debate by said media, that’s the alpha and omega of the Armageddon-inducing scenario on Russia’s doorstep, now in its tenth month.

(Or for the few who’ve been paying attention, its ninth year.)

This image says different.

Please feel free to show me I’m deluded in saying a US-led west has since 2014 baited Russia with one Ukraine-specific provocation after another, and since 2005/6 with lies, insults and provocations of a more general nature … 1

… deluded too in the corollary that, far from being Putin’s doing, the appalling suffering of the Ukrainian people is stamped: Made In Washington … 2

… aided by a comedian 3 nominally in charge in Kiev but in reality a biddable if fractious servant of the USA, and prisoner of his own country’s highly organised far right.

All of which I’ve said before, in greater depth, detail and nuance. But as winter conditions – and hundreds of thousands of fresh Russian troops on the one hand; billions of dollars of US ‘aid’ on the other – look set to intensify Ukraine’s suffering, I see fit yet again to issue a reminder of the plethora of evidence showing this war to have long antecedents, instigated in Washington with two prime motives:

  • Regime change in Moscow or, failing that, weakening Russia in a long and costly war of attrition. 4 (While business booms for America’s $1tn a year for-profit arms industries.)
  • Coercing Europe, Germany especially, into greater reliance on Washington as the craven leaders in Berlin – doubtless with heavy hearts – forego lucrative business contracts with Russia and hence China in favour of appeasing an increasingly unappeasable Uncle Sam.

So there, again, you have my take on why this horror show is happening. (And there, again, I’m ready and willing to debate anyone wishing to defend the “Putin’s war” thesis.) Now let’s take a look at what Mike Whitney – who featured four days ago in Why does the West hate Putin? – had to say yesterday, November 29, about what is about to happen.

Endgame Ukraine; Putin’s Battleplan

Ukraine’s unquestioned strategic center of gravity is its western corridors to the Polish border where the vast majority of its war support enters the country. Their operational center of gravity is their resupply lines emanating eastwards from Kyiv to Ukraine’s various frontline positions. Without those two corridors, it would be nearly impossible for Kyiv to sustain wartime operations for more than a few weeks. Putin, therefore, may calculate the best use of those 218,000 additional troops will be to launch a three-pronged axis to cut both of those supply routes.
 Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis, Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and Contributing Editor at 1945
I want to emphasize again that all tasks of the special military operation… will be unconditionally fulfilled. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Another day of large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine’s hobbled energy infrastructure has plunged much of the country into darkness. The relentless attacks—which continued through the night and into the early morning hours—have intensified dramatically as Russian combat troops continue to join their units along the perimeter in preparation for a major winter offensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin has waited patiently for the Zelensky regime to grasp the gravity of their situation and press for bilateral negotiations. But the Ukrainian president has stubbornly rejected diplomacy at every turn opting instead to fight til the bitter end. He is fully supported in that decision by his backers in Washington who see the conflict as an opportunity to weaken Russia so it cannot obstruct US plans to “pivot” to Asia. The transformation of Ukraine into a frigid, uninhabitable wastelands is largely the result of Washington’s voracious geopolitical ambitions. 

This is from a November 23 post at the website Moon of Alabama:

Previous attacks had limited the distribution capacity to some 50% of demand. Controlled blackouts over several hours per day allowed to give some electricity for a few hours to most parts of the country. The attack today created a much larger problem. Not only were distribution networks attacked but also so the elements that connect Ukraine’s electricity production facilities to the distribution network. All four nuclear power stations of Ukraine with their 15 reactors are now in shutdown mode. Kiev along with most other cities of Ukraine no longer has electricity.” Ukraine – Lights Out, No Water And Soon No Heat”, Moon of Alabama

And this from South Front the following day:

As a result of the ongoing massive strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure facilities, the situation in the war-torn country is becoming critical. Cold weather has set in all over Ukraine, and most citizens were left without water and electricity. Many of them will not be able to survive in such conditions. However, the Kiev regime continues to fight with Russia with bravura slogans, ignoring the price of hundreds of lives of civilian people. Kiev’s Western partners continue to fuel the fire and expose the hypocrisy of their policy.

The widespread power outages are accompanied by freezing temperatures that will inevitably lead to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Millions of Ukrainians will be forced to flee across the border seeking refuge in Europe. Others will be left to hunker-down in makeshift emergency shelters that are sporadically heated by diesel-powered generators. There is no prospect that Ukraine’s dilapidated power-system will be fixed quickly if ever. And even if it could be cobbled-back together in some improvised capacity, it would only be a short-term fix. The fact is, the Russians have identified the main substations, terminals and auto-transformers across Ukraine and are picking them off one-by-one. Unable to defend itself against the daily barrage of precision-guided missiles, Ukraine is gradually being bombed into the Stone Age.

The objective of the Russian operation is to undermine Ukraine’s ability to wage war. The attacks on Ukraine’s power-grid, railway hubs, fuel deports, bridges and command-and-control centers are merely Phase 1 of a 2-phase operation that is designed to defeat the enemy and bring the war to swift end. Russia has gathered roughly 500,000 troops in a combat Strike-Force that will traverse the country along three main axes annihilating Ukrainian Forces wherever they are encountered and seizing key cities along the way. Critical supply-lines from Poland will be blocked, leaving troops at the front cut-off and vulnerable to attack. Eventually, the regime and their Right-bloc security forces will be killed or captured. Moscow will not allow a government that is openly hostile towards Russia to rule the country.

This is from an interview on Rumble with Colonel Douglas MacGregor:

There are now 540,000 Russian troops stationed around the outskirts of Ukraine preparing to launch a major offensive that I think will probably end the war in Ukraine. 540,000 Russian troops, 1,000 rocket artillery systems, 5000 armored fighting vehicles including at least 1,5000 tanks, hundreds and hundreds of tactical ballistic missiles. Ukraine is now going to experience war on a scale we haven’t seen since 1945.
Everything has now changed… the large probability of offensives beginning in the next few weeks, whenever the ground freezes completely and the Russians judge their forces to be ready. and they will move in and they will finish off this Ukrainian state, let’s not kid ourselves, The regime in Kiev is likely to be annihilated along with the remainder of its armed forces….
The biggest mistake we in the west could make is to involve ourselves. We’ve done enough damage….and I think what we are going to see…. is the total destruction of this rump Ukrainian state. Now, what happens afterwards, I don’t know. I’m quite confident that Russians do not want to remain in western Ukraine …Russia is now treating Ukraine as a real enemy. Previously they were not. and this is not understood in the west. Ukraine is about to be annihilated.

(Question—Is there any chance that US combat troops will be sent to fight in Ukraine?)

MacGregor—We’re in no position to go to war with Russia, and anything we would do on the ground would fail miserably and we’d be embarrassed. But obviously no one in Washington is listening…There’s no real understanding of how desperate the situation is in western Ukraine. So what we can look forward to along with this massive (Russian) offensive is the migration of millions of more Ukrainians into Europe because they have no place else to go….. The Ukrainians know what’s coming. There’s not much they do about it at this point, but instead of throwing them a lifeline, we’ve essentially told them to sink with the ship that they’re on.” Col. Douglas Macgregor, “Ukraine is about to be annihilated”, youtube; 6:35 min

While no one can say with certainty how the offensive will evolve, two recent posts at the military website 1945 provide a compelling and detailed explanation of what might take place if Putin decides to deliver the knockout punch to the Ukrainian armed forces and the political leadership in Kiev. The articles were written by  Daniel L. Davis, a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed in combat zones four times.” Here are a few excerpts from the two pieces:

If Putin orders an all-out attack, it will most likely start with a massive air, missile and drone attack to complete the destruction of the Ukrainian electric grids, substations, fuel storage facilities, rail yards, diesel locomotives, and communication facilities. Intent will be to make it intensely difficult to support the UAF, complicate communications, make intra-country movement of troops much harder, diminish their capacity to logistically support troops in disparate fronts with food, water, medicine, ammunition, and spare parts ….
By increasing the burden on Kyiv to take care of the civil population throughout the country, there will be yet fewer resources to allocate to supporting the war. If Kyiv prioritizes supplying the combat units, civilians could freeze to death or starve as a result, putting the government in a terrible no-win situation….
The key to understanding what Putin’s objectives may be is to assess what an additional 200,000 troops could reasonably accomplish in Ukraine: a three-pronged axis of advance designed to sever Ukraine’s life blood – the supply corridor from the Polish border through which all NATO supply and equipment enters Ukraine.“
Putin could launch an all-out attack on Ukraine but it could be his downfall Daniel Davis, writing on the site, 1945

Much of what Davis anticipates has already taken place, so we will move on to his more stunning scenarios. The post below was published just one day after the article above. Here’s what he says:

In this final edition, I will lay out what I contend is the most dangerous course of action Ukraine could face: a ground campaign to deprive Ukraine of its lifeblood from the West…. What I represent in this analysis…. represents the gravest danger to Ukraine …
In this scenario, Putin recognizes that the number of troops he has for the task remains insufficient to capture large cities – and that he doesn’t need to capture major cities to succeed. Instead, what he may seek to do is identify and then take out the Ukrainian center of gravity. (which) military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. (defined as.. “the hub of all power and movement (of the enemy), on which everything depends.”
Meaning, in war, the overall objective should be to deprive the enemy of the one thing he must maintain to win the war..
In my assessment, Ukraine’s unquestioned strategic center of gravity is its western corridors to the Polish border where the vast majority of its war support enters the country. Their operational center of gravity is their resupply lines emanating eastwards from Kyiv to Ukraine’s various frontline positions. Without those two corridors, it would be nearly impossible for Kyiv to sustain wartime operations for more than a few weeks.
Putin, therefore, may calculate the best use of those 218,000 additional troops will be to launch a three-pronged axis to cut both of those supply routes: the priority effort in the west out of Belarus with the objective of Lviv, a supporting effort to the northeast in the Sumy direction, and supporting axis from the east to reinforce the current offensive in the Donbas.
A Russian attack out of southeast Belorussia with the objective of Lviv would represent the greatest strategic threat to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). Virtually all of the UAF’s weapons, ammunition, and repair parts enter the country from Poland through several land routes towards Kyiv. If Russia were to cut these routes off by attacking along the Polish/Ukraine border down to Lviv, Russia could cut off the majority of the shipments of war material from the West, without which Kyiv would not long be able to sustain its forces at the frontlines in the eastern part of Ukraine. …
If Russia employs a three-axes advance with its newly mobilized combat forces, added to the roughly 200,000 troops already engaged – and critically, avoids trying to invest cities – they will have a chance to focus their combat power where Ukraine is weakest, and in ways that are mutually reinforcing to other axes. This course of action would represent great risk for Zelensky’s troops, but it isn’t without significant risk for the Russians either. …
Putin Could Launch a Big Winter Offensive in Ukraine to Cut Off Weapons, Daniel Davis, also on the 1945 website

There is, of course, no way of knowing whether the war will actually play out in-line with Davis’s scenario. It does seem likely, however, that Russian strategists have already figured out that the war cannot be won without cutting off vital supply-lines to Poland. That is the main artery that sustains the conflict and allows Zelensky to avoid negotiations. For Putin, attempting such a move would be a risky gambit that could precipitate his political downfall, but if he fails to seize the opportunity to force Kiev to the bargaining table, the war could drag on forever. There are no easy choices but—in this case—it appears the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.

Mike lives in Washington state and can be reached at

* * *

  1. I take this dating – of 2005/6 as the start of the demonising of Russia through its leader Vladimir Putin – from evidence supplied in the previous post, which also featured Mike Whitney.
  2. On this point I part company with those critics of the US empire who, while sharing my take on the war’s antecedents, nevertheless condemn Putin for invading Russia. I have yet to hear anyone set out a convincing alternative course of action open to Russia. Few even try. Since mainstream media maintain a wall of silence on anything, gross or subtle, which might dilute the Putin’s War mantra, they see no need to posit any such alternative. For them – let no one accuse these fools of overcomplicating things!  – Russia invaded Ukraine because it is greedy and its leader is evil. For its part the far left takes as its start point that Russia is a capitalist state (true) and an imperialism to boot (false) ergo only the rising up of the workers of the world (a fantasy) merits the support of true socialists. Far left Ukraine commentary, therefore, is with vanishingly few exceptions dedicated to reasserting with stupefying predictability those boilerplate positions.
  3. No. In calling Mr Zelenski a comedian I’m not resorting to ad hominem metaphor
  4. A weaker Russia would please Washington not only as an end in itself but for reducing or even eliminating her ability to come to China’s aid in that other war the US ruling class is gearing up for.

5 Replies to “Ukraine – a wintry endgame?

  1. This is a frightening and sobering read. I feel for people suffering in Ukraine, as I feel for those suffering in all war zones around the world. The common factor in all these wars is of course the US empire doing what all empires do. People freezing in a much colder Ukrainian climate than ours, while I’m comfortable in my warm house which we can still afford to heat despite the rocketing cost. I, like millions, am unable to imagine what it like living in a war zone. We used to hear about Iraqis living without electricity and drinking water after the invasion. Don’t remember anyone apportioning blame for that or the suffering and deaths in all the other countries they’ve bombed and invaded.
    I don’t know whether or not the scenarios set out by those you quote are realistic, but one thing we do know is that the “west” will blame Putin alone.
    I’ve said before that I no longer raise Ukraine in conversation because of the predictable response I always get, and I noticed that people who used to rant about what a monster Putin is no longer mention him or Ukraine. The pathologically incurious seem to also have a very short attention span. I really hate criticising those around me, some of these are family and friends, but they just don’t know and show no interest in the subject beyond a mainstream headline.
    We’ve had the obscene spectacle of Boris Johnson pleading with people to help ordinary Ukrainians with medical supplies after he ensured this war would continue, the same man who as PM did give a shit about the NHS, lied about funding for it and lied about “40 new hospitals”.
    Anyway, another excellent piece, as was the previous one on Putin hating.

    • Thanks Margaret.

      We used to hear about Iraqis living without electricity and drinking water after the invasion. Don’t remember anyone apportioning blame for that or the suffering and deaths in all the other countries they’ve bombed and invaded.

      It’s a telling indictment of how media – including those which build a bank of credibility through willingness to criticise the establishment on lesser but still important matters – collude, on matters vital to power, in maintaining the amnesia you elsewhere refer to. If they were truly independent they’d be calling out this and all the other hypocrisy.

      Glad you raise the grotesque double standards on the Iraq v Ukraine wars. After half a million Iraqi under-fives had been killed by Clinton’s sanctions long before the invasion, the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ took out Iraq’s generators despite drinking water being dependent on electricity powered desalination plants. The mismatch of coverage is actually raised in the discussion I keep plugging, between Brian Berletica and Andrei Martyanov a couple of weeks ago.

      We the public voice our approvals, and scream our detestations, in line with agendas set by what those media do and do not tell us.

  2. Meant to add that I emphatically agree with everything you say in point 3.
    Apart from anything else, the WSWS repeating the “workers of the world unite” fantasy as a solution to all the worlds illness, is beyond ridiculous.

    • I’ve been saddened by the stance taken by many on the left, including Stephen Gowans. I reviewed his excellent 2019 book, Israel: a beachhead in the middle east, and continue to recommend it wherever it’s relevant to do so.

      But for a long time now, Steve has been preaching – in respect of Russia and China both – a version of the old SWP strapline from Cold War 1: “neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism”. Here in the real world that’s a recipe for crying “a plague on all their houses” while waiting, as Steve’s compatriot the late great Leonard Cohen put it, “for the miracle to come”.

      Here’s an extract from a piece appearing on his site today:

      According to a June 2022 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,

      Russia has 5,977 warheads,
      the U.S. has 5,428, and
      China has 350.

      Moscow says that NATO expansion is an existential threat. Seriously?

      Yes Steve, seriously. And are you saying the Nato expansion maps I keep showing are no cause for Moscow to get more than a little antsy?


      • Yeah. The nukes are beside the point, and I sincerely hope they will remain that way. The real point is the literally hundreds of US bases and germ warfare laboratories on the borders of Russia and China, the encroachment of NATO countries on the Russian borders and now onto China, the constant destabilising actions and attempted or actual coups in foreign countries by the CIA and the imperial wars fought by the only real imperial warmongers – the US. Plus the significant lack of these on the US borders.

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