Ukraine – does the US have a Plan B?

1 Apr

But no fewer than three items have landed in my inbox this morning, all pointing to the piece I am about to replicate in full. One was from Alain in France, the second was a comment by Dave Hansell on my March 27 post, Russia and the art of war, while the third was my notification of a new post by Simplicius the Thinker. 1

All three point, in Alain’s case directly, to an Asia Times piece of March 25 by one David Paul Goldman. Of whom Wiki says:

David Paul Goldman is an American economic strategist and author [who] writes from a Judeo-Christian perspective and often focuses on demographic and economic factors in his analyses … Goldman was global head of credit strategy at Credit Suisse 1999-2002, Global Head of Fixed Income Research for Bank of America 2002-2005, and Global Head of Fixed Income Research at Cantor Fitzgerald 2005-2008. He subsequently was a partner at Yunfeng Financial in Hong Kong, an investment bank later acquired by Jack Ma. He continues to advise CEOs and institutional investors. He is a regular contributor to Claremont Review of Books, Law and Liberty, Tablet Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and First Things (where he was senior editor during 2009-2011).

Three references to the man on the same morning? Apropos of neither corporate media feeding frenzy nor obviously synchronising event? As I’ve claimed before, the universe is messaging me! To such uncanny coincidence let me add that former Swiss Colonel Jacques Baud features in both the title and a substantial proportion of Simplicius’s post today. That’s right, he who had top billing in Russia and the art of war, the aforementioned March 27 post which moved Dave Hansell to throw in his own two penn’orth.

Like Colonel Baud, Mr Goldman merits a mention; if not in that long and lengthening list of men and women I call gamekeepers turned poacher, then in that long and lengthening list of men and women I call canaries in the coalmine. The two have a way of merging inextricably.

To David Paul Goldman then, writing on March 25 that:

America has no Ukraine Plan B except more war

US foreign policy establishment blindly intent on beating Russia on the battlefield and crushing its economy. Neither will happen

Somewhere last weekend a few dozen former Cabinet members, senior military officers, academics and think tank analysts met to evaluate the world military situation. 

I can say that I haven’t been so scared since the fall of 1983, when I was a junior contract researcher doing odd jobs for then Special Assistant to the President Norman A Bailey at the National Security Council. That was the peak of the Cold War and the too-realistic Able Archer 83 exercise nearly set off a nuclear war.

Now, the US foreign policy establishment has staked its credibility on humiliating Russia by pushing NATO’s borders to within a few hundred kilometers of Moscow, while crushing Moscow’s economy through sanctions. 

It has pulled every chit it has with European governments, mobilizing its legion of journalists, think tankers and stipended politicians to promote the Ukrainian proxy war, with the intent of degrading Russia’s armed forces and ultimately forcing regime change in Russia.

The messaging from the most distinguished participants – former Cabinet members with defense and national security portfolios – is that NATO is still determined to win at any cost.  Said one rapporteur: 

The question is whether Russia can generate strategic reserves. Its officer corps is at 50% strength and it has no depth of non-commissioned officers. The Russians are taking massive losses of 25,000 to 30,000 a month. They can’t sustain the will to fight on the battlefield. The Russians are close to a breaking point. Can they sustain their national will? Not if the rigged election [of Vladimir Putin this month] was any indication. Their economy has real vulnerability. We need to redouble sanctions and financial interdiction of supplies getting to Russia. The Russians have a Potemkin portrayal of strength.

All the above is demonstrably false and known to be false by the rapporteur in question. The notion that Russia is taking 25,000 to 30,000 casualties a month is ludicrous. Artillery accounts for about 70% of casualties on both sides and by every estimate Russia is firing five or ten times as many shells as Ukraine. Russia has carefully avoided frontal assaults to preserve manpower. 

The most important fact about Putin’s re-election is that 88% of Russians voted, a much higher turnout than in any Western democracy. Russians may not have had much choice of candidate but they had a choice of voting or not. The massive turnout is consistent with Putin’s 85% approval rating according to the independent Levada poll. 2 

Putin’s Approval or Disapproval Rating in the Levada Poll. Source: Statista

Instead of collapsing, Russia has become the focal point for a reorganization of global supply chains and their financing, and its economy is growing, rather than shrinking by half, as President Biden promised in March 2022. 

Ukraine is running out of soldiers and can’t agree on a new conscription law. One prominent military historian expostulated, “Everywhere you go in Ukraine you see young men hanging around and not in uniform! Ukraine refuses to go all in.”

Russia produces anywhere between four and seven times more artillery shells than Ukraine. Ukraine’s air defenses are exhausted as its old Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles have been fired and NATO’s stocks of Patriot missiles are dwindling. 

Russia has an inexhaustible supply of Soviet-era large bombs fitted with cheap guidance systems, fired accurately at Ukrainian targets from Russian aircraft standing 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) off. With five times Ukraine’s population, Russia is winning the war of attrition.

Another rapporteur at the weekend meeting denounced Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders for worrying too much about the “nuclear threshold” – the point of escalation after which Russia might use nuclear weapons. He demanded that Germany supply its long-range Taurus cruise missile to Ukraine, with a 1,000-kilometer range and a two-stage warhead suitable for destroying major infrastructure.

Senior German air force officers last month discussed using 20 of the Taurus missiles to destroy the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland, in a conversation covertly recorded and published by Russian media. The conversation also revealed the presence of hundreds of British and other NATO personnel on the ground in Ukraine.

Taking the war to Russia’s homeland and destroying major infrastructure is one way to transform the proxy war with Ukraine into a general European war. Another is to deploy NATO soldiers in Ukraine, something that French President Emmanuel Macron has broached (but almost certainly does not intend to do).

Remarkably, not a word was said about a possible negotiated solution to the conflict. Any negotiated outcome at this juncture would award Russia the Eastern Ukrainian oblasts that it has annexed and probably give Russia a buffer zone reaching to the east bank of the Dnieper River – followed by a normalization of economic relations with Western Europe. 

Russia would emerge triumphant and American assets in Western Europe would be degraded. The impact on America’s world standing would be devastating: As several attendees observed, Taiwan is watching carefully to see what happens to American proxies.

The rules of the meeting prevent me from saying much more but I am free to report what I told the gathering: Sanctions against Russia have failed miserably because Russia had access to unlimited amounts of Chinese (as well as Indian and other) imports, both directly and through a host of intermediaries including Turkey and the former Soviet republics. 

But Russia’s economic resilience in the face of supposedly devastating sanctions is only one reflection of a great transformation of world trade. China’s exports to the Global South doubled during the past three years and China now exports more to the South than to developed markets. China’s unprecedented exporting success, in turn, stems from the rapid automation of Chinese industry, which now installs more industrial robots per year than the rest of the world combined.

This is evident, I added, in China’s newfound dominance in the world automotive market but it also has critical military implications. China claims that it has automated plants that can make 1,000 cruise missiles a day—not impossible given that it can manufacture 1,000 EVs a day, or thousands of 5G base stations. 

The implication is that China can produce the equivalent of America’s inventory of 4,000 cruise missiles in a week while American defense contractors take years to assemble them by hand.

No one disputed the data I presented. And no one believed that Russia is taking 25,000 casualties a month. Facts weren’t the issue: The assembled dignitaries, a representative sampling of the foreign policy establishment’s intellectual and executive leadership, simply couldn’t imagine a world in which America no longer gave the orders. 

They are accustomed to running things and they will gamble the world away to keep their position. 

That last has been my fear since the earliest days of this blog. It would be a relief to know the scale of the problem, hinted at in footnote 1, was acknowledged but everywhere I look – most importantly the Alice-in denialism of corporate media systemically incapable of being truthful on such matters, but also the idiocies of a wokerati  which, blithely oblivious to the dangers of a dying empire, thinks sexist or racist tweets the worst crimes under the sun; and a Far Left which, without offering any alternative in the face of provocations it readily acknowledges, damns the Russian SMO – I see only sand, and ostriches without discernible heads. 3

* * * 

  1. Simplicius is always worth reading and today’s post, from which David Goldman’s is linked, is no exception. Though I read him several times a week, I seldom present his posts in full on this site. That’s not because his mildly self-congratulatory air mildly irks me, though it mildly does. It’s more that his posts are long and, though full of important and fascinating detail, lack the overarching command and structure to keep the reader from drowning in the same. And while this next point is not a flaw – Simplicius doesn’t have to do everything – it’s worth noting Dave Hansell’s comment, here it is again, that:

    … in focusing exclusively on the comparisons between the Russian and Collective West ways of waging conflict, [he] misses a fundamental point which … Michael Hudson has been banging the drum about.

    … the features and characteristics Simplicius describes in terms of conflict/warfare are systemically applicable across the entire Western paradigm. Every facet … of the Western model – from economics downwards along all axes – … has negative efficacy built in as standard operating procedure. It’s not just warfare; it’s policy making, logistics, education, etc, also communication, language, thought patterns, organising principles and everything else in between and what that generates.

    What Dave and Professor Hudson are getting at is that the implications of decisions taken half a century ago, Chicago School thinking synchronised by the Thatcher and Reagan administrations and rippling through the collective west for decades to follow, now permeate every aspect of western culture. Though most obvious in the export of manufacturing to the global south, and eggs-in-one-basket reliance on finance-driven rentier  forms of capitalism, it can be seen in the acceptance of things unthinkable – homeless beggars on our streets, jails run for profit, and local authorities on the brink of bankruptcy – when Mrs Thatcher entered 10 Downing Street. (Less than a decade after Harold Wilson, in Britain’s last real show of independence from Washington, had refused to commit British forces to Vietnam.) It can also be seen in the way market forces have been allowed to run unchecked – look no further than science and languages dropped by universities because “customer choice” prefers Film Studies – in every walk of life. Most important of all it can be seen in the erosion of any meaningful democracy; an inevitable product of such extraordinary levels of wealth, via debt ownership, in ever fewer hands. What the proxy war in Ukraine has exposed is that neoliberalism is not only immoral but a monstrous practical joke mired in its own inherent contradictions.

  2. On the Russian presidential election of March 18 I responded – So Evil Putin rigged the vote. Really? – to a Guardian piece by Chatham House Russophobe for hire, Samantha de Berne. My arguments there are similar to those of David Goldman.
  3. More uncanny synchronicity! As I was giving this post a final proof read, an alert came in from Naked Capitalism. Introducing a post by Michael Hudson – Germany as collateral damage in its new cold war – Yves Smith picks up the denialism theme:

    Not only are Western commentators loath to admit how much they over-estimated the impact of shock-and-awe sanctions against Russia, but they also seem to be allergic to admitting to the remarkable job Russia did of reorienting its economy. Russia very rapidly substituted for most European exports (some gaps were harder to fill, like auto and aircraft parts) and shifted trade activity to China, India, Turkey, Africa, and other “Global Majority” members. But Russia was also significantly an autarky and rich in raw materials. By contrast, Germany has no solution to its dependence on energy imports, formerly at very favorable prices from Russia.

    But then again…what would have happened if Germany accused the US of being behind the NordStream bombing? The US (and the UK and the Baltics) would have screamed that Germany was making insane accusations and aiding the evil Putin. And if Scholz had dared do so, Robert Habeck and Annelena Baerbock would have joined the US in the hanging party.

    Yup, there’s no sugarin’ it. Things ain’t what they’re said to be.

3 Replies to “Ukraine – does the US have a Plan B?

  1. Followed the link.
    No surprise though.
    Best BLT comment was “authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot” but as we all know, Google, Microsoft and elected officials are always excellent at abdicating responsibility.
    Thanks for the link. You sure it’s not an April Fool stunt?

  2. The US and the collective West are, as Dave put it a “Malice in Blunderland” hotchpotch of the most stupid and boggle eyed idiots you could find on this planet. There’s a reason US GI’s came up with FUBAR and SNAFU to describe US Plan A’s, usually because Washington meat heads didn’t have a Plan B and couldn’t organise one. That much is obvious in their murderous escapades involving plunder and massacre all over this planet and resultant catastrophe both financially and militarily for the US and still they believe their own hype about being the “indispensable” nation, we still , living in movies that tell the world how exceptional they are at failure. The UK is no better, believing as they do that we are still GREAT Britain, as opposed to the insignificant little, broken island off the west coast of Europe, we actually are.


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