Newsweek, December 5 2023. Click on the screen grab to access the story
Contrary to Western expectations 22 months ago – Marxist 1 no less than mainstream – Russia will not only win the war the collective West had for decades goaded it into …
… but it will do so on terms very much less favourable to Kiev than those on the table in spring 2022, when Boris Johnson told Volodymyr Zelensky to pull the plug on peace talks with Russia that would have left Ukraine territorially intact, subject only to guarantees of its staying out of NATO and honouring Minsk 2.
After all that has gone down, even if the Kremlin leadership is inclined through enlightened self interest to magnanimity, I can’t see the man on the Moscow omnibus buying it. A month ago, in Taking stock – Gaza and Ukraine, I wrote that:
Ukraine stands exhausted and mortally bleeding, its leadership on the verge of civil war. Having made the fatal calculation that Uncle Sam would stand by it come what may, Kiev will lose swathes of Russian speaking territory in the east and south, with a worst case scenario of losing Odessa and all access to the Black Sea (and with it the Mediterranean) to become a landlocked state. Goodbye Odessa; goodbye every other grain exporting port. Hello a rump Ukraine, its streets the fiefdom of fascists aggrieved, armed to the teeth and baying for the blood of ‘traitors’. From sick man of Europe to basket case in two years which saw a nation’s youth – and its not so young – cut down in hundreds of thousands.
And for what? This is a war that need not and should not have happened but which Washington – on the back of its own hubristic calculations – moved heaven and earth to provoke and keep going.
The only upside I see for Ukraine is that Russia will not want a failed state on her border. But in the aftermath of victory, such far-sightedness won’t be easy to sell to Russians whose husbands and sons and fathers and sweethearts will not be coming home.
As for Boris, well, his legendary flair for walking away from every unholy mess he creates …
Whether we buy Arestovych’s extravagant claim that “Kyiv had won the war” – at a time when the West was constantly crowing over Russian ‘failure’ to achieve ends it never sought 2 – is beside the point here
… is not as egregious as globalists either side of the Atlantic would have us think. A Billy Bunter ego may make Boris more visible, but his sociopathy is shared with the Bidens and Nulands, the Stoltenbergs, Baerbocks and von der Leyens. All have blood on their hands and all, if past form is any guide, will in due course be inducted, like Blair, Bush and Kissinger before them, into that Imperial Hall of Fame where the authors of genocide from afar morph into elder statesfolk, their lofty sagacities pored over by stenographers whose objective function, whether they recognise it or not, is to service in ways gross or subtle the rentier oligarchs of an illusory democracy.
Then again, the past may prove an unreliable guide. As many have been pointing out of late, the times they are a-changing.
Faster than any of us foresaw.
In the meantime let’s assess in bullet points the Ukraine situation. As ever, feel free to correct me on any of the following:
- The war was provoked by a West whose goadings I summarised on September 11. Those who, in defiance of the most basic facts, continue to decry Russia’s move in February last year as “unprovoked” and “Putin’s war” may be stupid, wilfully ignorant or flat out liars – or indeed, all three.
- Ukraine cannot win. In recent weeks this has become clear to all but the most deludedly denialist of our systemically corrupt media. (Some, like Time and Newsweek, are now in the game of exposing by daily drip feed their ‘quality’ audiences to this truth.) A much heralded and much delayed counteroffensive has failed. Russia has command of the sky, while Western tanks – German Leopards, British Challengers and US Abrams – have not only arrived in numbers too low to make a difference, but are qualitatively outclassed by Russian materiel. It is low on ammunition and low on manpower. Boys, old men and women are thrown criminally untrained into the meat grinder of Zelensky’s vainglorious obsessions. To these battlefront realities we can add two more. One is the withholding of funds, and exhaustion of arms stocks, on the part of a West which not so long ago told Kiev to “Stand Up To Russia – We Have Your Back For As Long As It Takes”. (Now exports are in freefall as neighbouring states block truck transports, Black Sea ports fall to Russia and drastic cuts to social services become a new year certainty.) The other is an upsurge of internecine plotting. It’s not just the Zelensky-Zaluzhny rift but – here and here – the lethal simmering of political and army elites feuding over how and when a leader past his sell-by date has to go. And the speed of collapse? That will likely be determined less by the Russian advance, which will continue to be slow and cautious, than by just how long leaders in Brussels and Washington can get away with prioritising their political survival – and the leaders in Kiev their literal survival 3 – over the Ukrainians sent out in their tens of barrel-scraped thousands to die meaningless deaths.
An estimated several hundred thousand Ukrainian troops, many of them forcibly conscripted, died between spring 2022 and now. If the conflict freezes without Ukraine officially joining NATO, then they literally died for nothing.
Moscow based US political analyst Andrew Korybko writing today, December 7
- Russia emerges stronger than before the war. The rouble Joe Biden had vowed to “reduce to rubble” rides high and so – courtesy the sanctions which boomeranged spectacularly – does her newfound manufacturing self sufficiency. John McCain’s boorish “gas station with nukes” dismissal was always wide of the mark, but never more so than now. Having stood up to the West and prevailed, her standing with the non Western world is higher than at any point since the fall of the USSR.
- Conversely, the US emerges weakened by its proxy war. As in a Greek Tragedy, its efforts to reverse its imperial decline have only served to hasten the same. Its one tangible gain is the weakening of its biggest trade rival, a German led EU. Speaking of which …
- … other than Ukraine, Europe is the biggest loser. (Its people and manufacturing output, that is. It may be harder now than in Blair’s day for leaders who put US interests before those of their countries to glide into lucrative and ego-pampered retirement, but I’m not holding my breath for the day they stand in the dock at The Hague or, better, a court truly capable of upholding international law.)
Once more I’ll leave the last words to Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris. This Duran video sees them at their best. In under forty minutes they move from war zone sit-rep, through broader logistics to great power realpolitik. As the end game approaches, will Europe be side-lined – or thrown under a bus – when Washington talks turkey with Moscow?
* * *
- Days after Russia’s SMO began, a communist took me to task for “rejecting revolutionary principles in favour of realpolitik”, and for not sharing his faith in that parallel universe of cigarette trees and soda water fountains where condemnation of “Russian chauvinism” is not music to the ears of US empire-narrative managers:
… well, thanks for your frankness. In a nutshell, you are a socialist who has given up on socialism, so you’ve chosen barbarism. You may regard this as an ad hominem attack, but It is not, it is an attempt to drag you away from your embrace of a stinking corpse.
The Spanish Inquisitors had similarly laudable intent. This would-be saviour of my lapsed revolutionary soul continued:
Nearly all of the reasons you give to justify your stance is true, yet your argument amounts to pure sophistory, because you leave out some crucial facts, most importantly is the Putin clique’s utter contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty. This is in complete continuity with Stalin’s brutal – and yes, genocidal – policy towards Ukraine, a complete reversal of the Bolsheviks’ support for Ukrainian self-determination … and Stalin’s policy was itself a reversion to czarist white Russian chauvinism.
I was unsurprised by his failure to set out alternative steps Russia could have taken in the face of years of Western provocation. It’s a failure widespread on the Left. As for self-determination – for Ukraine but not, it would seem, for Donetsk, Luhansk or Crimea – Lenin was a realist, not an emotional dreamer. His exchanges with Rosa Luxemburg on the subject were not conducted in the shadow of a Ukraine – corridor for every Western invasion of Russia – ruled by a US proxy intent on joining an alliance predicated on her encirclement. No nation could accept such a thing and the only argument on offer from the Far Left is that Russia should be socialist. Which is a variant on the line: dear oh dear, if you’re trying to get to Rome you don’t want to be here!
- Propaganda aside, two factors led Western media and politicians to attribute goals to the Kremlin whose non achievement could be derided as defeats. One is falling for their own spin in taking Moscow’s declared aims of Kiev neutrality, self-determination in the east, and ‘denazification’ as cover stories for a land grab. The other is that NATO generals with no experience of fighting a peer adversary, even by proxy, misread at every turn what the Russians were doing. Since the second miscalculation boils down to mistaking a war of attrition for one of territorial conquest, the two are causally related.
- Ukraine’s oligarchs could teach the Borgias a thing or two on the settling of scores.