Ukraine: Russia’s escalatory options

12 Jun

You may be sick of seeing the image below. I must have used it at least twenty times. Truth be told I’m sick of it myself but it’s just too damned useful …

… it sheds too much instantaneous light on the hypocrisy, of which I’m a zillion times more sick, not only in Washington and its vassal allied states across the ‘collective West’ but in Western corporate media which to their last mouthpiece and dutiful stenographer have maintained a deafening silence on the truth it reveals. I recently pointed to two UK instantiations, Economist and Guardian, but if we’re doing a tally it’s more efficient by far to ask which media have not maintained the said silence; have not studiously ignored – else slyly defended – the glaring double standard the two maps depict; the one by a hypothetical, the other an actuality of what a sane world would decry as the screamingly reckless.

So I keep showing the image. Not that there aren’t other smoking guns ignored with greater or lesser adroitness by our systemically corrupt media. For an itemised count, see The Guardian Media Group warmongers and its follow-up, Where might Zelensky store his F-16s?

It’s just that the others are wordier, lacking the same graphic immediacy.

For a long period, even after the nightmare years of shock therapy on President Yeltsin’s watch had ended, Russia sucked it up. One reason being that, as I’ve noted more than once of late:

The old cold war was only superficially ideological. Russia’s vast natural wealth, markets closed off to Western capital, and above all 500 years of the West fearing a Pan Eurasian threat to its supremacy were – and remain – its key drivers. Putin’s error, failing for all his passion for history to grasp these realities, was to think the West would embrace a post Soviet but not subservient Russia.

Indeed, one gamekeeper-turned-poacher, a Reagan appointee to the US Treasury, stood the West’s “appeasement” trope on its head. Paul Craig Roberts had, like Russia expert Stephen Cohen and the genial Irish-American who hired them, assumed the cold war would end with a dismantled USSR. Bear this in mind as he damns ‘appeasement’ not by the West but Moscow. Here he is in March 2018, writing under the title, Can nuclear war be avoided?

Two factors are driving the world to nuclear war. One is the constant stream of insults, false accusations and broken agreements the West has been dumping on Russia year after year. The other is Russia’s response, or more correctly the lack thereof.

Articles documenting Washington’s betrayals and provocations of Russia are online and on my website. There is no point in repeating them here.

I have pointed out that the Russian government’s factual, diplomatic, and legal responses actually produce more provocations and insults. [Here Mr Roberts cites others making the same point]

Russia has two alternatives to the self-defeating response its government has chosen. One is to turn her back on the West, cleanse herself of Western embassies, businesses, media, and NGOs, and cease relying on Western communication systems and bank clearing mechanisms. The West has nothing Russia needs. The West is exhausted and corrupt. The future lies in the East of which Russia is a part. Russia should focus on partnership with China and the East and simply stop responding to blatantly false accusations and provocative insults.

Russia can be part of the West only if she surrenders to Washington hegemony. One would have thought that by now the Russian government would have figured out that Washington is determined to marginalize and isolate her, discredit her government, dislodge Putin and install a puppet like May, Macron, and Merkel; or failing these efforts, push Russia to the point where her only alternatives are to surrender or go to war.

The RF President had indeed laboured under Pollyanna delusions about “the West” (shorthand for the creditor oligarchies ruling that entity under a fictitious cover of democracy). But at some point, certainly before the above was written, the leaders of a chess playing nation, masters of the long game and reading spatial patterns, began preparing an economy recovering from the Yeltsin years for the second of the two alternatives posed by Mr Roberts. They heeded Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus:

If you want peace, prepare for war.

Its response to Russia’s SMO, four years after Mr Roberts’ piece, reveals several things about the West. Since all have been detailed in other posts, here I’ll simply list them:

  • It had grossly underestimated Russia’s strength: military and economic.
  • It has spent most of the past thirty months in denial of this truth. Now that is no longer an option, it is in panic of the most perilous kind.
  • Arrogance and orientalism aside, so serious a miscalculation speaks to chickens coming home to roost for an imperialism whose rentier  oligarchs outsourced manufacturing to the global south. Of the many implications, two are especially pertinent:
    1. In the West’s hyper-financialised economies, GDP is a misleading indicator of wealth creation, hence of those economies’ strength relative to Russia’s.
    2. Russia’s war-sector is, on a far smaller arms-spend, outproducing – not only in quantity but in many areas also in quality – America’s. Why? Russia’s is geared to waging effective war, America’s to bloated profits and wowing arms fairs. The ‘fit’ between the industrial and military wings of Russia’s capacity to wage war, always close, is now seamless. Her army is now the world’s most battle hardened (followed, for all its degradation and demoralisation, by Ukraine’s) and unlike the West’s is attuned not to wars of policing the global south but of deadly attrition. Contrary to Hollywood myth, such wars are decided not by the derring-do of “special forces” elite units but by numbers of shells and numbers of men.
  • Other than Ukraine itself, the big loser is Europe, whose comprador  leaders, neoliberals groomed by Washington, have betrayed their people to serve US masters. For this they have been punished in the recent European elections. None more so than France’s very own Vidkun Quisling:

Macron has sought to prepare the French, and the Europeans, for a “surge” in military support for Kiev. He placed Ukraine at the heart of his campaign, a tone-deaf decision that cost him the support of even his core voters whose priorities don’t include saving Zelensky’s corrupt regime. The French have different concerns and most importantly, they don’t want to be dragged into a senseless war with Russia. (Italian economist, Laura Ruggeri)

Which brings us back to the West’s “panic of the most perilous kind”. Moscow has reminded that West of Russia’s superiority in hypersonic missiles, and a legal obligation to use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of an existential threat to the homeland. But unlike the US, whose escalation ladder has – as I noted three posts ago – “missing rungs”, she has powerful options short of the ultimate, end of times nightmare.

One is cited in The military genius of the Economist, when I spoke of “taking out Ukraine’s entire power supply, a capability it has long refrained from exercising …”

Not for the first time I was a tad behind the curve here. In her elegant intro to a somewhat more cluttered piece by John Helmer, Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith begins:

It is odd how little attention Russia’s campaign against Ukraine’s electric grid is getting, given that it is the sort of blow that the West and Ukraine can’t stop or even blunt. The kinetic war is getting vastly more attention, presumably because it is much more familiar and also consuming lots of funds, weapons, and men. Helmer points out below that the Washington Post has quoted Ukraine sources saying at least 86% of Ukraine’s generating capacity has been destroyed.

Russia’s SMO has not shown the ruthlessness of the 2003 ‘Coalition of the Willing’, which from the get-go targeted Iraq’s power grid at eyewatering cost in civilian lives, infants especially – think water desalination … think sewage  … think Madeleine Albright … think Gaza … But as John Helmer points out in the article proper:

In the very long history of siege warfare, there has never been a case of letting the enemy’s civilian population run safely away from his castles and cities until the fortifications and army which remain must choose between surrender and destruction. 1

Another option short of the nuclear takes us back to the two maps, digitally threadbare from overuse, I began with. Here’s Britain’s Financial Times just yesterday, June 11:

What was it granny told us time and again, back in the day? About sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander …

* * *

  1. Do Mr Helmer’s remarks apply equally to Gaza? They do not. Israel, as better informed heads than mine have pointed out, has no way of achieving its stated objectives. Four retaken hostages – at cost of 270 Palestinians slain – do not a victory make, and Hamas cannot be defeated. Outside of what Paul Craig Roberts rightly calls the corrupt West, Israel is seen as a lawless pariah. Russia’s objectives by contrast – security on her border, de-Nazification in Kiev and stability in east Ukraine (which now entails territorial loss for Kiev where once it need not have) – move closer with each passing day.

One Reply to “Ukraine: Russia’s escalatory options”

  1. On the more general subject of escalatory options:

    “The Geneva International Peace Research Institute (GIPRI) has accused the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

    The complaint was filed by GIPRI against the European Commission head at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 22 May.

    The complaint, supported by various human rights groups and prominent scholars and experts in international criminal law, urges the ICC prosecutor to initiate investigations based on the information provided against von der Leyen.

    “Reasonable grounds exist to believe that the unconditional support of the President of the European Commission to Israel – military, economic, diplomatic and political – has enabled war crimes and the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” the complaint read.”

    More information:

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