Putin committed fewer than 100,000 troops to a shallow penetration on a broad front of a country the size of Texas. Having failed over 15 years to persuade Washington and the West of Moscow’s opposition to NATO’s eastward advance, he seems to have concluded that the West would prefer negotiations to a regional war with potential to go nuclear.
Putin was wrong. He assumed that humans make choices aligning with their best interest. But humans are not rational. In international relations, identity – history, geography, race and culture – must feature in any assessment.
Instead of negotiating, Washington discarded the caution Russia’s nuclear arsenal merits, and which had guided previous American dealings. The Beltway, with no real grasp of Russia, 2 subscribed to McCain’s clueless insult of her as a “gas station with nukes.” 3
Though not a risk-taker, Putin reoriented to cut Russia’s losses and maximize Ukraine’s pending a return to the offensive. It worked. Despite the unprecedented supply of arms, cash, foreign fighters and intelligence to Kiev, Washington’s proxy is shattered. Ukraine hospitals are full of broken human beings; its dead litter the battlefields.
But Russian success makes the war more dangerous. Washington discounts Ukraine’s losses and exaggerates Russia’s. Officers present at Pentagon meetings tell me that minor Ukrainian successes (almost instantly reversed) loom large in discussions at the White House and Foggy Bottom. These reports are treated as evidence of inevitable Ukrainian victory, leaving staff officers reluctant to highlight the impact of Russia’s expanding military power. 4
Poland takes such comfort in “Russian weakness” as to risk direct confrontation. French sources in Warsaw say if Ukrainian forces are driven back, “the Poles may introduce the first division this year, to include Poles, Balts, and Ukrainians.”
Now Washington misreads a Moscow likely to detect DC intent in such moves. Biden’s order to extend hazard pay to US soldiers in Ukraine (where they are not meant to be) will heighten such a reading but it is more likely the Polish tail wants to wag the US dog. Warsaw knows its intervention would provoke a military response from Belarus and Russia, but calculates that Washington would not let Poland be destroyed.
America’s proxy war with Russia is a disaster. Make peace, you fools, before it’s too late.
A man of McGregor’s experience, intellect and connections is not to be lightly dismissed. While his words lack the greater explanatory power afforded by recognition of a US-led West unable to accept the reality of the sun setting on 500 years of global supremacy; nor, in Europe’s and Australia’s case, of the new opportunities presented by trade with Eurasia rising – his forceful pinpointing of intellectual failure brings needed cogency to what passes for thinking on the Beltway, in the Pentagon, and across the West at large.
In Broken: the implicit contract between the rulers and the ruled. Part 1, I wrote that the US, aided by the junior imperialisms of Europe, the Antipodes, Canada and elsewhere:
… invades with impunity … reneges on or tears up every treaty no longer deemed to further its interests … brags of its lies, theft and treachery … insists on its right as ‘the Exceptionalist Nation’ to flout and replace international law with a ‘rules based order’ as self-serving as it is arbitrarily imposed … rings the planet with 800 military bases, out-spends on weaponry the next ten spenders put together, has been at war for almost its entire history and has slain millions – by bombs, invasions, murderous ‘sanctions’ and terror unleashed – in this century alone. Mostly in far off lands.
… before adding that:
I don’t locate such criminal insanity in some peculiar disorder of the American psyche but in its status as the world’s lead imperialism, just when that status is under threat …
Imperialism? In a footnote here abridged I defined it as:
… the export from global north to south of monopoly capital, and the south to north repatriation of profits. It is not to be confused with the direct rule of colonialism, though both are exploitative, underwritten by force and, with minor additions and subtractions, involve the same players in the same power relations. Outcomes include (a) thwarted prosperity and self determination in the global south; (b) a hyper-financialised global north, its FIRE led economies enfeebled by de-industrialisation for the enrichment of rentiers; (c) a drive to wars of asset grab and to thwart rival empires; (d) a systemic inability to prioritise environmental sanity. Unlike many Marxists I do not see Russia or China as imperialist under this definition, but do see America’s war on Russia in Ukraine as also aimed at weakening Europe – at once its ally, vassal and trade rival – to bind it more tightly, in the face of manifest opportunities and advantages for European trade with Eurasia – to its zero sum orbit.
Viewed from these perspectives, the intellectual shortcomings Colonel McGregor so eloquently skewers seem less the products of folly; more, as argued in my post of February this year, of criminal insanity …
… which assessment reminds me to get my head down and assemble my thoughts for the threatened sequel to Broken: the implicit contract between the rulers and the ruled. Part 1.
* * *
- McGregor is one of many gamekeepers turned poacher I see as a sign of dysfunctional times. Or to shift metaphors, the canary in the coalmine.
- Washington’s post-Reagan expulsion of Russia experts has been noted by others. See my post of February 2023, Did the crazies capture the USA?
- McCain’s crass depiction of the Russian economy, like Joe Biden’s now dead in the water vow to “reduce the rouble to rubble”, is just one of a myriad insults Russia has learned to shrug off. To the West, however, Europe in particular, such under-estimations have done unforgivable harm. The roots of this delusional thinking lie in hyperfinancialisation, itself the product of an imperialist outsourcing of industry to the global south. The West’s FIRE-dominated economies, gulled by their own advertising, now mistake a wildly misleading GDP metric for true economic performance.
- “… staff officers are reluctant …” Echoes here of the disastrous (for the US) 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Its planning informed Irving Janis’s “GroupThink” thesis, a key feature being a marginalising of dissent, however well qualified the dissenting voices.