Ukraine: will our leaders’ folly kill us all?

7 May

It’s hard to overstate my contempt for the spineless technocrats masquerading as the West’s political leaders. What to conclude from the strutting, the breathtaking failures of reason and ‘post-truth’ disdain for facts on display in our Macrons and Camerons, our Blinkens, Bidens and Baerbocks – other than that these are men and women of profound mediocrity; smug fools with a wholly unmerited sense of entitlement? Men and women, their flaws and conceits in full view for all with eyes to see, who nevertheless presume to shepherd us through the most dangerous moment in human history.

Arrived at by their reckless stupidity.

The proxy war on Russia is aggressive, born of arrogance in Washington and cowardice in its satellites across the collective West. It can only be understood in light of two things. One is that the sun is setting on 500 years of Western hegemony currently led by Washington. The other is that its decades of provoking Russia …

… as shown above and, inter alia, by Maidan meddling and bad faith not so much confessed as bragged about in respect of Minsk were conceived as ways of shoring up that hegemony.

Instead they have hastened its decline.

Our leaders’ denials of having knowingly provoked Russia amount to a flat out whopper whose widespread acceptance, in the face of evidence easily adduced, is a triumph of narrative over reality which reveals our media as systemically incapable of speaking truth to power when it most matters.

The speed of Western decline begs more detailed explanation, given in many posts on this site but merely summarised here. It points to the West’s material, intellectual and indeed spiritual degradation at the hands of some five decades of Neoliberalism. That Western leaders grossly overestimated their ability to crush Russia, on the economic if not military front, is not the result of some metaphysical hubris dropped from the sky to bestow divinely ordained madness prior to their destruction. Rather, it can be traced to the logic of capital – innately self-contradictory when left to its own devices – as elites opted to offshore industry in favour of a financialisation which enriched the few, cast the many into varying degrees of precarity, and for good measure fine-tuned their armies’ fitness to police the global south (while boosting Raytheon shares) even as it weakened their ability to wage a war of attrition against a peer adversary.

(These are specimen charges: the failures I speak of are multi-faceted and of diverse stripe.)

The chickens were always going to come home to roost, Ukraine or no Ukraine, but decades of baiting Russia with lies, sanctions, threats and insults have proved a powerful catalyst. And now we are where we are; way too close for comfort to thermonuclear escalation.

Which would be a tad less scary had we grown-up leaders capable of acknowledging the extent of their folly, and making a decisive change of course; still possible even at this late hour. Alas, we have no such leaders.

(I didn’t set up this site to sing the praises of Putin, Lavrov or Xi but I do challenge you to study these men – you’ll need an uncensored browser and search engine – then tell me they don’t exude a maturity and gravitas embarrassingly absent in their Western counterparts. This too is a product not of otherworldly processes but the logical outcome of a short-termism baked into the West’s rentier  driven political economies, their specious claims of democratic/open society values underwritten by nothing more substantial than that superficially combative media caste.)

Rather, they look to double down on their ego-fueled idiocy. Since it has at long last dawned on them that they cannot defeat Russia in a conventional war, even with NATO boots on Ukraine soil, will their peculiar blend of panic and barely concealed vanity tempt them to take things to the next level?

Cue for this piece by Stephen Bryen. It appeared on his Weapons and Strategy substack on May 3, and came to my attention this morning via Jan Oberg’s excellent TFF site. 1

France sends troops to Ukraine

Will the Deployment Trigger a Bigger War?

France has sent its first troops officially to Ukraine. They have been deployed in support of the Ukrainian 54th Independent Mechanized Brigade in Slavyansk. The French soldiers are drawn from France’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, which is one of the main elements of France’s Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère).

In 2022 France had a number of Ukrainians and Russians in the Foreign Legion. They were allowed to leave the Legion and, in the case of the Ukrainians, return to Ukraine to join Ukrainian forces. It isn’t clear if the Russians returned home.

The Legion today is run by French officers but the rank and file are all foreigners. Volunteers that join the Legion have the option to adopt a new name under the rule of anonymat (being anonymous). That original requirement has been modified in recent years so a volunteer can decide whether to keep his given name or adopt a new one. Legionnaires serve for a term of 3 years after which they can ask for French citizenship. If a Legionnaire is wounded, he is entitled to gain French citizenship without any waiting period. There are no women in the Foreign Legion.

The initial group of French troops numbers around 100. This is just the first tranche of around 1,500 French Foreign Legionnaires scheduled to arrive in Ukraine.

These troops are being posted directly in a hot combat area and are intended to help the Ukrainians resist Russian advances in Donbas. The first 100 are artillery and surveillance specialists.

French President Emanuel Macron has been threatening to send French troops to Ukraine for months. He has found little or no support from NATO countries outside of support from Poland and the Baltic States. Allegedly the US opposes sending NATO soldiers to Ukraine (other than as advisors).

One of the questions to immediately arise from France’s decision to send soldiers from its 3rd Infantry Regiment is whether this crosses the Russian red line on NATO involvement in Ukraine? Will the Russians see this as initiating a wider war beyond Ukraine’s borders?

France itself does not have many troops to put on Ukraine’s battlelines, should the French government want to do so. According to reports, today France cannot support an overseas deployment of a full division and won’t have this capability until 2027 at the earliest.

The decision to send Foreign Legionnaires is, itself, a peculiar French compromise. France is not deploying its home army and, besides the few number of officers, all the other men sent are not French citizens.

France’s decision has two meanings, beyond the obvious one of potentially triggering a pan-European war.

First of all, it allows Macron to send troops to Ukraine and act like a tough guy without encountering much home opposition. That’s because no French army soldiers are being sent and there is no consequent conscription or other measures in the offing. This clearly reduces the potential fury of Macron’s political opponents.

The second reason is Macron’s anger at having French troops, almost all from the Legion, getting kicked out of Sahelian Africa and replaced by Russians. Control of Francophone Africa, and the riches it provides to French politicians, has been broken by the revolt and revolution in Africa and a decisive tilt to Russia, either directly or through PMC Wagner (the Wagner Group) now clearly under Putin’s direct control. This “humiliation” is felt in the Élysée Palace and particularly by Macron who, his opponents says, has lost France’s influence and harmed France’s overseas mining and business interests.

A particular blow is in Niger, an important supplier of uranium to France. France gets 70 percent of its electrical power from nuclear power generators. Global uranium supplies are tightening and prices rising. With Russia and Kazakhstan, along with Niger, on the top of the heap in terms of supplying uranium for nuclear reactors, France has a home economic security problem. The US decision to ban Russian uranium (but probably not realistically in the next few years), the Russians could deal a serious blow to France and the United States by cutting off supplies.

Given the risk of losing access to uranium, or at least enough of it to supply France’s reactors, Macron has to hope that his troop deployments to Ukraine won’t trigger a Russian embargo on sales to France.

It isn’t clear how the Legionnaires can help the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians know how to operate artillery, and they have sophisticated intelligence support, some of it generated by their own FPV drones and spies, and some of it thanks to US and other NATO intelligence and surveillance assets supporting Ukraine.

Anyway, the Ukrainian issue is not about how to use artillery but where the ammunition is supposed to come from. Ukraine continues to complain it lacks adequate supplies for 155mm howitzers.

The decision to put the Legion soldiers in Slavyansk is extremely provocative and goes against statements from the French side, including Macron, to the effect that if France sent troops they would replace Ukrainian army units in western Ukraine who could, therefore, be moved eastward to fight the Russians. As Slavyansk is on the front line, this French image of a soft deployment is turning into a war with Russia directly.

A key question is how NATO will react to the French decision to deploy. As France is acting on its own without NATO’s backing, the French cannot claim support from NATO under its famous Article 5, the collective security component of the NATO Treaty. Should the Russians attack French troops outside of Ukraine, this would be justified because France decided to be a combatant, and forcing an Article 5 vote would seem to be difficult if not impossible. Of course, NATO members individually could support the French, either by sending their own forces or by backstopping the French logistically and in communications. For example, there is no way a single Foreign Legion soldiers can go to Ukraine without passing through Poland. Will the Russians see this as evidence they are at war both with France and Poland?

Right now no one can answer any of these questions with any degree of certainty. It is unlikely the Russians will long tolerate a buildup of French army troops, even if they are Foreign Legion soldiers. What Russia will do in response is not certain.

* * *

  1. Amid the fog of war, truth its first victim, Jan Oberg’s cautionary note while introducing Dr Bryen’s piece is worth replicating in full:

    As the discussion under this article indicates, it is not easy to know what exactly is the truth and who to rely on. However, I would not be surprised if, in the future, we see more and more reports like Bryen’s here turning out to be valid. It is only a short while ago that the New York Times revealed that the CIA has been all over the place in Ukraine since 2014. Nobody would have believed somebody who had written that a decade ago. So let’s read and see how truth comes out…

9 Replies to “Ukraine: will our leaders’ folly kill us all?

  1. Hi, hope you’re well.
    Fucking scary. Cannot overstate my contempt for Cameron and his ilk.
    I’ll maybe comment again when I’ve got time to finish reading.
    Margaret x

    • Hi Margaret

      I’m well thank you and enjoying breathtaking Nordic vistas.

      While this site can never condone profanity, the sitch is indeed fucking scary. And off the fucking scale offensive.

      Phil x

  2. I understand that French and UK ambassadors in Moscow were summoned for a dressing down by Lavrov and warned their countries risk being viewed as co belligerents – with all the attendant risks of being attacked themselves.

    • The fact that it is only possible to “understand” that the ambassadors were summoned for a dressing down underscores the level of control of the narrative within the Western Corporate media propaganda model.

      Here’s Sky parroting The Official Narrative (TON) line from the UK Foreign Office: “The UK’s Foreign Office, however, contested the claim saying the ambassador had not been “summoned” but he had just taken part in a diplomatic meeting with ministry officials.”

      You have to search outside of the Corporate media bubble to find any serious analysis and comment as to what actually took place over the last few days in order to fully grasp the seriousness of the situation:

      As Mercouris points out here the Corporate media have barely covered this story and its implications.

      Implications underlined not just by the inevitable Russian response – tactical nuclear drills in the Southern Army Sector and the reported dressing down – but of related Statements by very senior sources within the Russian elite (Medvedev): “None of them will be able to hide either on Capitol Hill, or in the Elysee Palace, or on Downing Street 10. A world catastrophe will happen.” Underscoring the ultimatum that any attacks by Western weapons on Russia will be met with strikes on Western military bases not just in Ukraine but outside.

      Thankfully, it appears that the message from the Russians calling the bluff of the Western elites has had the desired effect of getting the Western elite to at least temporarily back off.

  3. I think what’s interesting is that the UK Govt chose not to make much of it – it could have been used to further the dominant narrative of bad bullying Russia by spinning it as a provocative outrage that the West would stare down. Suggests to me the UK govt was caught unprepared for this response from Russia.

    • Let’s face it – the UK government would be caught unprepared for the sun rising tomorrow.

      Let’s see if the idiots retain any sense of self- (and our) preservation, or not. Going by their previous record, I’m not hopeful. Maybe the money men will step in.

      • I read a comment a couple of days ago to the effect that the Foreign Legion are a fully integrated part of the French Army system. So even though the soldiers are not actually French citizens, they are in the French Army. I doubt that the Russians will be making any such petty distinctions when it comes to landing a three ton bomb on them.

  4. Seems as though there’s 2 schools of thought: 1) West is backing out of project Ukraine (Mercury’s et al); 2) West is biding its time (Sleboda).

    • Hard to say yet. I was wrong about the $61bn “aid” to Ukraine, when Republicans finally withdrew their insistence on pairing it with tighter immigration controls at home. Not that it’ll make much difference to Ukrainians other than prolong their appalling ordeal.

      As you and I have previously agreed, for the Russian leadership and peoples, this is an existential war – hence, inter alia, Putin’s landslide re-election in March.

      (His Western detractors, mainstream and Left, show no sign of acknowledging just how much Russia’s economy has bounced back on his watch, and how the still rampant corruption which exploded under Yeltsin is being tackled. See Simplicius the Thinker’s piece today, with Scott Ritter quoted in full, on purges within the leadership; mostly by sackings but in at least one case by jail time.)

      In the US-led West, by contrast, the Ukraine war is part of a wider existential struggle for the elites only. As with Palestine – where our leaders’ unconditional backing of Israel is equally existential (as shown by leaders holding to it regardless of the hit to domestic approval ratings) – and other matters like rising censorship, vaguely defined ‘hate crime’ under the guise of liberal values, and the machinery to curb popular discontent – the mask of Western democracy is fast slipping away.

      Meanwhile Washington has stepped up its interference in Georgia, which I read as bearing out Mark Sveboda’s assessment.

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