So will Zelensky get his $60bn?

15 Feb
Disclaimer: I am neither a military expert nor indifferent to the appalling losses in this needless war, most of them Ukrainian. If my tone appears detached it’s because I’ve had to acquaint myself with some of the realities of war. Venting my emotions can only cloud the picture to no useful end.

Guardian, February 13, 2024

Bear with me as, in attempting an answer, I go round the houses. On January 3, in a footnote to my post on Hamas and the fog of war, I wrote of the Avdiivka salient, south of Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast of eastern Ukraine:

One of the most hellish examples of a salient – a bulge at the front, exposed on three sides to enemy fire – was Ypres in WW1. Its third and final battle, Passchendaele, saw the war’s highest death count, at over half a million. Though often depicted as futile, that is an assessment informed by ground taken and lost. As such it foreshadows one of many miscalculations NATO made in its proxy war on Russia. German losses at Passchendaele were lower than Britain’s and France’s, but less easily replaced – no colonials to recruit – and by that fact a major influence on the war’s final outcome. Like Ukraine, WW1 was a war not of territorial gain but attrition. The horrors of both notwithstanding, the macabre arithmetic was – and is – decisive. Even were Zelensky to get his requested billions in materiel – spoiler alert: he won’t – and even if they didn’t disappear down a black hole of Kiev corruption – they would – no amount of money or arms can conjure new soldiers into existence. [emphasis added]

The West’s misrepresentation of Russia’s SMO as a land-grab has propaganda value, obviously. But it also reflects genuinely erroneous thinking by NATO commanders with zero experience of fighting, even by proxy, a peer adversary. (Though in truth that last descriptor flatters NATO.)

Either way – and likely both, since cognitive dissonance makes credulous the liar – that radical misapprehension continues to infect media coverage of this US-led proxy war on Russia.

The catastrophic failure of the 2023 spring summer autumn counteroffensive is now, belatedly and grudgingly, acknowledged by some of our systemically corrupt media. But the admissions come with a new falsehood, product of the thinking identified in my previous two paragraphs. The war, we are now told by the likes of Economist and Guardian in the UK, Washington Post and CNN in the USA, is at a stalemate. The proof? That the lines have barely shifted in months:

If this were indeed a war of territorial conquest then, yes, that relatively unchanged battle front would point to a stalemate. It isn’t though. Russian commanders spent late 2022 and early 2023 digging in east of the Dnieper, in tiered lines of fortification several kilometres deep. Since then they have seen Zelensky sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian lives in the meat grinders of Bakhmut and now Avdiivka, places of little strategic value given the nature of the war. 1

Since this map, in late December 2023, Russian forays have further closed the ‘jaws’ on Avdiivka

Why would Russian commanders sacrifice their men in premature advance? They have the reach to degrade Ukraine’s fighting power – a story in itself both of deindustrialisation in the West, and the profit-driven as opposed to effectiveness-driven nature of America’s military industrial complex – with drones, long range missiles and artillery shells; for none of which is there even a scintilla of evidence, as opposed to absurd claims in the Daily Mail and its ilk, of shortage.

This is the context in which Zelensky has made the dangerous move of firing his commander – a Nazi affiliated Valery Zaluzhny popular with his generals – to replace him with Aleksandr Syrsky, his soubriquet as the Butcher of Bakhmut telling its own story.

(Transfer to Adviivka of the far right, Bandera-idolising elite troops of the Azov Battalion …

… may serve a dual purpose. Besides stiffening the Ukrainian lines, at a salient now in danger of total encirclement because Syrsky and Zelensky have designated this a hill for others to die on, it also gets these natural allies of Zaluzhny out of Kiev. Needless to say, the Azov will be aware of this second motive and is likely making its own plans.)

It is also the context in which America’s Senate has passed an aid package, decoupled from the Mexican border issue and with $60bn of its $95bn earmarked for Ukraine, now on its way to a Republican dominated House of Representatives almost certain to block it.

Almost  certain. Might the GOP allow the ‘aid’, with or without border conditionality, as rope for the Dems to hang themselves? Russia has the power, this time for real, to sway the US election in November. If Moscow greenlights a crushing advance on Ukrainian forces, on the eve of that comic opera otherwise known as US democracy, Biden, or any replacement, will be toast – of the burnt to a crisp kind should it follow a further $60bn to a country no longer of interest to an American people famously averse, as USAF Col. Karen Kwiatkowski noted, to losers …

… in the name of a war now playing especially badly in the ghost towns of America’s rust belt, home to those whom Hillary (who lacks Meryl Streep’s excuse of knowing nothing about the real world) dubbed “the deplorables”.

Home in fact to Trump’s most solid support base.

Am I overthinking this? Perhaps. And I don’t rule out having to eat my words – it would hardly be the first time – on those $60bn which, if allowed through, could only delay the inevitable while adding to the slaughter. Here again is the final sentence of the quote I opened with, now differently emphasised:

… Even were Zelensky to get his requested billions in materiel – spoiler alert: he won’t – and even if they didn’t disappear down a black hole of Kiev corruption – they would – no amount of money or arms can conjure new soldiers into existence

Let me finish by handing over to The Duran. As luck would have it, the two Alexes were mooting this very question only yesterday. At under fourteen minutes it’s a shorty by their standards.

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  1. Defining the war as at a stalemate is, consciously or otherwise, political. If it can be sold as such to Western backers, they may indeed be persuaded that an injection of materiel can break the deadlock. In this as in many other things, Western media are complicit in needless slaughter.

    Of course, in some Beltway circles such salesmanship pushes at an open door. On the one hand NeoCons, MIC and the revolving door between them never saw a war they couldn’t profit from; on the other, Team Biden has no wish to go down in history as the regime which ‘lost’ Afghanistan and Ukraine.

2 Replies to “So will Zelensky get his $60bn?

  1. The other aspect of this package is how much of it will not actually leave the USA but instead find itself in the pockets of companies such as Raytheon, Blackrock et al as a result of the Washington lobbyists of those vested interests?

    • Twas ever thus. I was grimly amused to learn that the Beltway cognoscenti dubbed the current ‘Defence’ Secretary, Lloyd Raytheon Austin.

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