Putin’s Calculations Were Correct

Ukraine will lose the war against Russia in the medium term – the only question is how high the price will be


Tomasz Konicz, translation by OlIver Blackwell

How bad is the situation in Ukraine? Well, at the end of November, the White House felt compelled to deny reports that the United States and Germany were trying to persuade Kiev to enter into peace talks with Russia. Negotiations would amount to a “monologue of surrender” and there were no signs of a “substantial” willingness to negotiate on the part of the Kremlin, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department explained. Earlier, Western media reported that European and U.S. diplomats had visited Kiev to explore the conditions for peace talks. “Rough sketches” of “what Ukraine would have to give up in order to reach such a deal” were also drawn up, NBC reported in early November.

Link: https://exitinenglish.com/2024/04/28/putins-calculations-were-correct/

In reality, the optimal time for negotiations with the Putin regime has long since passed. In November 2022, after the recapture of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the humiliating withdrawal of Russian troops from the region west of the Dnieper, there were at least potentially optimal conditions for a “deal” with the demoralized invaders. Since that last great victory for Ukraine, the situation in the war has fundamentally changed in Russia’s favor. Since the end of 2022, Ukraine has not achieved any significant successes on the battlefield, while Russia scored its first symbolic victory with the fall of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in March 2023. This year’s Ukrainian summer offensive was a disaster, consuming much of Ukraine’s scarce military resources while allowing Russia to increase its material superiority.

Trenches, Bunkers, Drones

The Russian approach aimed at wearing down personnel and using lots of material, successfully established during the capture of Bakhmut, is now playing out in fast motion in the small town of Avdiivka, a suburb of the pro-Russian metropolis of Donetsk, which has been turned into a veritable fortress by Ukrainian troops since 2014 – and will soon fall. The city of Kupyansk, in the northeastern Kharkiv region, is also under threat. It is a mindless war of attrition in which the Kremlin is using its material advantage to bleed Ukraine dry. Every time either Russian or Ukrainian troops try to advance with concentrations of troops and tanks, they are pummeled by precise, drone-guided artillery attacks. Jubilant Western reports of high Russian casualties in the offensive mostly ignore the fact that Ukraine is suffering similarly high losses – and that Kiev can afford them far less than the Kremlin.

The strategic situation is reminiscent of the First World War, when the inability of all belligerents to the conflict to break through to the front led to months of “material battles.” Despite the monstrous six-figure number of casualties already claimed by the Russian war of aggression, the fighting in Ukraine may not be as heavy as at Verdun and the Somme, but for those affected, burning to death in the bunkers and trenches of the war zone, it is pure hell. There is nowhere to retreat to, as the omnipresent drone fleet has specialized in attacking the entrenched conscripts in their positions. “Hate drops” is the nickname that Russian military bloggers have given to this tactic of attrition.

In this war, the largest European slaughter since the end of the Second World War, it is quantity, not quality, that counts. The idea of using superior Western weapons technology to push the Russian army out of eastern Ukraine has been put to rest after the fiasco of the Ukrainian summer offensive. Russia has more artillery, more drones, more tanks, more aircraft and more manpower. At the beginning of December, Putin announced a further increase in the Russian armed forces by several hundred thousand troops. The Kremlin was also able to conclude several arms deals with North Korea and Iran, which ensured the mass supply of drones and artillery shells. According to intelligence sources, North Korea has supplied the Kremlin with one million artillery shells, while the West has so far been able to deliver only a third of the one million promised. Russia’s arms industry has been ramped up and is now producing at full speed, there is a shortage of labor, and Russian energy and raw material exports are financing this war economy.

The Russian military is also being innovative, trying to use the old Soviet weaponry as effectively as possible. Masses of existing Soviet aerial bombs are being cheaply converted into satellite-guided glide bombs, which Russian bombers drop outside of the range of Western-supplied Ukrainian air defenses, with explosive charges weighing anywhere from 500 kilos to 1.5 tons. Thermobaric missile systems, the use of cluster munitions on both sides, mine launcher systems that cut off retreating units after they have been shot up – the apparent stalemate at the front is paid for with human lives that are thrown at a military machine that is calibrated for wear and tear. That is until, at some point, a section of the front falls into disarray and a tipping point is reached, after which things can happen very quickly.
Crumbling Home Front?

On the home front of both warring parties, there is a growing unwillingness to be burned out in this increasingly efficient war of attrition. In the aggressor’s hinterland, in Russia, a movement, tolerated by the Kremlin, has emerged among soldiers’ relatives, who demonstrate for the return of their sons and the men who were mobilized last year. According to polls, the high number of casualties and the largely static front line are causing war-weariness in Russia, but at the same there is still a clear majority in favor of a victorious peace. The Russian people want peace – but only on Russian terms.

Despite the partial mobilization in the fall of 2022, the Kremlin has succeeded in isolating the majority of the population from the direct consequences of the war. The Ukrainian drone attacks and incursions into Russian territory have done nothing to change this. Moreover, after the “plane crash” of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, there was no organizational pole around which dissatisfaction with the course of the war could gather. In any case, the only realistic chance for Ukraine not to lose this war was through internal political discord caused by the war and/or a collapse of the Kremlin’s power vertical. Both became unlikely after Prigozhin’s death and the changing fortunes of the war.

In the beleaguered Ukraine, where elections scheduled for next year have been suspended because of the war, war-weariness can sometimes be quantified in concrete terms. According to the EU’s statistics office, some 650,000 men of military age have fled Ukraine for Europe since the war broke out. Ukrainian cemeteries have to be expanded in order to bury the hundreds of daily victims of the Russian war of aggression. In early December, relatives of soldiers who have been fighting since the beginning of the war demonstrated in Kiev for the possibility of demobilization. After more than a year and a half, they demanded that others finally go to the front.

In an obvious change of narrative, leading Western media are now also reporting on the growing doubts among the Ukrainian people surrounding the continuation of the war, as they face massive Russian attacks on the economically devastated country’s infrastructure this winter. As Russia prepares for a long-term war, new waves of mobilization in Ukraine are provoking increasing resistance, as the rampant corruption means that it is mainly poor, unconnected Ukrainians who find themselves on the front lines. In addition, if the war situation continues to deteriorate, there is a danger that the fascist Ukrainian right wing, which has gained influence in the military and state apparatus during the war, will at some point seize power.
Growing War Weariness in The West

The fact that the functional elites of the West no longer believe that Ukraine will win became clear at the last meeting of NATO foreign ministers at the end of November. The FAZ reported that NATO was scaling back its goals and that even “holding the front” was considered a success. But as long as Ukraine does not give up, “we should stand by it,” the newspaper commented. To what extent, however, remains to be seen. In the United States, Kiev’s main backer, right-wing Republican opposition to further military aid is growing rapidly in Congress, meaning that the long-term continuation of the war – and the Kremlin is planning a very long war – is uncertain. Europe, on the other hand, would not be able to keep Ukraine afloat militarily on its own.

It is specifically the war in Israel and Gaza that has fueled the debate about continued support for Ukraine because of the resulting material shortages, but there are also structural factors behind this growing war-weariness. The West would effectively have to switch to a war economy in order to provide enough material for the Ukrainian front. But this would be a momentous step that the West is not prepared to take. And even that would probably not be enough, since Ukraine simply does not have enough people to send into battle. Ultimately, only direct military intervention could save Ukraine from defeat in the medium term, which will not happen given the risk of a nuclear exchange of blows.

It is questionable whether negotiations offer a viable way out of this war. As we all know, the imperialist appetite comes with eating, and Putin’s war aims change as the war progresses. Russia’s military situation is much better now than it was a year ago. As a result, the price of peace will be higher, partly because Russia has suffered heavy losses and Putin, for domestic political reasons, absolutely must win a victory in Ukraine. This is not just about the territory annexed by Russia (the Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts) or other territorial claims (Odessa, Kharkiv), but also about the existence and sovereignty of the Ukrainian state. Moscow will not agree to Ukraine being tied to the West and will even work towards a “regime change” in Kiev to form a satellite state in the event of further military successes. It is well known that Putin considers the Ukrainian state to be a fiction.

Ukraine thus finds itself wedged between a West that is now primarily concerned with damage control and a militarily strengthened Russian imperialism that will demand a very high price for peace.

Originally published on akweb.de on 12/12/2023

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