THE AMERICANS are doubling down on their commitment to keep the Ukrainian armed forces in the field against the Russians. The Biden Administration’s decision to dispatch another billion-dollars-worth of state-of-the-art artillery to Kiev has been met with fury in Moscow. The rage of Putin and his mouthpieces is understandable. Washington is giving the Ukrainians the weapons they need to keep the devastating Russian self-propelled guns out of range of the Donbass cities Moscow must take to secure anything remotely resembling victory.
What do the Americans know about Russia’s present military situation that makes them willing to incur Putin’s wrath in this way? The Russian President has warned the United States and its Nato allies repeatedly that the supply of weapons capable of fundamentally altering the strategic balance of its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine will produce unimaginable consequences. By this, Putin is clearly alluding to the Russian Federation’s nuclear capability. “Give Ukraine too much help,” he is saying, “and I’ll use my nukes.”
That’s a big bluff to call.
To find out why Biden and his Defence and National Security advisors may be willing to call Putin’s bluff, we have to go all the way back to January and February of this year. From the wealth of detail relating to Russia’s offensive plans for Ukraine – subsequently borne out by the facts of the Russian invasion – it is clear that there had been a massive breach of Russian military security. Somehow, the Americans were reading Russia’s political and military leaders’ mail.
Obviously Putin, himself a counter-intelligence specialist, took steps to close up the breach. Senior figures in the political and military hierarchy started blipping off Russian screens.
It is highly doubtful that the Americans would feel confident enough to call Putin’s nuclear bluff if they did not have it on very good authority, from those in a position to do so, that any move toward the tactical or strategic use of nuclear weapons by the Russian President will result in his immediate deposition.
This could mean something thoroughly cinematic – like a patriotic bodyguard drawing his pistol, shooting Putin and his advisers dead, crying “Long Live Russia!” and then turning the weapon on himself. Alternatively, it could involve the commanders of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces sending an H-Bomb tipped missile hurtling into Putin’s supposedly blast-proof nuclear bunker. (Spoiler Alert: There’s no such thing.) Or, it could amount to senior officers in the know quietly communicating Putin’s location to the Americans in sufficient time for them to carry out the deposition themselves.
Certainly, there can be little doubt in the minds of senior Russian commanders that the Americans know pretty much exactly where they are at any given moment of the day or night. The sheer number of Russian commanders killed by sniper-fire or drone-strikes since 24 February makes that terrifyingly clear. They will also know that if Putin is insane enough to actually order a tactical nuclear strike, the American response will be a massive, decapitating, counter-strike that will leave Russia leaderless and rudderless. Precisely because Russian nuclear-war-fighting doctrine devolves launch authority, in extremis, to battlefield commanders, the Americans will make damn sure that there are no battlefield commanders left alive.
In the context of this discussion it is important to remember that when the world was literally on the brink of Nuclear Armageddon in October 1962, it was the good sense and humanitarian instincts of the political commissar aboard a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine under attack from US Navy-launched depth-charges, off Cuba, who persuaded the vessel’s commanders not to respond with its nuclear torpedoes. By refusing to put his key in the unlocking mechanism, he saved himself, the crew, and the whole world from nuclear annihilation.
There is absolutely no reason to suppose that Russian patriots have become so extreme that, rather than depose a delusional and potentially genocidal president, they would see the whole of Mother Russia – along with the rest of the planet – reduced to a radioactive ash-heap. Nor is it fanciful to suppose that Russia’s most intelligent and capable citizens have not long since realised that their country has no viable future as an independent nation if it persists in the folly of attempting to “Make Russia Great Again” by force of arms. The only questions that matter now are: How many of those intelligent and capable citizens are there in the upper echelons of the Russian armed forces? And: How many of them have a working back-channel to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff?
The point of maximum danger will come if/when a day arrives when the Russian forces in Ukraine lose all offensive capability and begin to fall back under Ukrainian pressure. That moment is likely to come when the state-of-the-art weaponry currently being dispatched from the United States is effectively deployed on the battlefields of Ukraine. Weapons with the power to shut down the massive artillery barrages Russian military commanders rely upon to take their objectives.
In the hugely popular television series, Game of Thrones, the stark warning that “Winter is coming” struck fear into the hearts of all the peoples of Westeros. Along the bitterly contested battle-lines of the Russo-Ukrainian War, the warning that should strike fear into the Russians’ hearts is the seasonal opposite of the Game of Thrones. Not the bitter snows of winter, but the sun-hardened fields of the Ukrainian plains, across which the Blue and Yellow Walkers can move with deadly speed.
What stark warning should Putin fear?
“Summer is coming.”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 3 June 2022.
Can the Ukrainians throw the Russian Army out of the Donbas?
I think not, even with the new American weapons. All the new weapons will do is even up the balance in artillery. However the new weapons will be sufficient to prevent further significant Russian advances. A stemmata in the Donbas.
However the new weapons may be enough for major Ukrainian offensive to win back Kershon.
A look at the map of Ukraine shows a possible outcome. Russia keeps what it already has got in the Donbas. They keep the land bridge from Crimea to the Donbas. This land bridge essentially borders the Sea of Asov, so is not relevant for Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. Ukraine wins back Kershon and the area around the Dnieper river.
It is easy to see why President Macron and others (various writers in the NY times) suggest that there needs to be a settlement. The West can't let President Zelensky be the sole director of overall Western strategy. I am sure he knows this, but he does not want any western weakening yet. He has to fight to win Kershon. That will take time and a substantial amount of western weapons.
The above settlement will result in Ukraine having reasonably defensible borders, with various rivers demarking the international boundaries. Yes, Ukraine loses territory, but they already lost most of it in 2014.
What would Ukraine want?
First and foremost, security guarantees. Maybe NATO has to be the guarantor. It is not the same as Ukraine being a member of Nato though it has similarities. Crucially Ukraine won't actually be part of Nato.
More importantly Ukraine will need a well trained and well equiped military, reorganised on western lines with western weaponry. With a population of 45 million, the permanent Ukraine military would need to be 500,000, with a well trained and equiped reserve. Somewhat like Israel, able to field an Army of 1 million within days, with all the necessary equipment. Such an Army, along with a new airforce and navy will be able to stop Russian aggression. The West will have to initially equip this Army.
Ukraine will swing west, and become a member of the EU.
Russian humiliation is avoided, at least in part, by the fact they have Crimea and the Donbas back, linked by the Mariupol land bridge.
POPE KEY FIGURE IN AVERTING NUCLEAR WAR OVER CUBA
The Soviet nuclear submarine's political commissar wasn't the only person helping avert a nuclear attack during the Cuban missile crisis.
Here's a record of dealings between Pope John 23 and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, taken from Thomas Cahill's 2002 biography of the pope (pp 205-206). John, near his death from cancer, was writing his last public statement (encyclical) when, writes Cahill:
'The Cuban missile crisis developed and in short order the world stood on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, while [President John F.] Kennedy and Khrushchev took each other's measure.
'When the crisis was resolved, Khrushchev told Norman Cousins, editor of 'Saturday Review', that "what the Pope has done for peace will go down in history"....
'Through intermediaries, including Cousins, Khrushchev had asked John to make a clear, evenhanded public statement on behalf of continued negotiations between Washington and Moscow. This would give him cover with the military hardliners in the Kremlin who were itching, like their counterparts in Washington, for a nuclear confrontation. It would be a sign that even so important a figure of the Western world as the pope was for negotiation and against war. John understood what was wanted.
' "I beg heads of state," he pleaded in his broadcast from the Vatican on October 24, "not to be deaf to the cry of humanity: peace, peace. Let then do all that is in their power to save peace; in this way they will avoid the horrors of war, the appalling consequences of which no one could predict. Let them continue to negotiate.... To promote, encourage and accept negotiation, always and on every level, is a rule of wisdom that draws down both heavenly and earthly blessings."
'That should do it,' writes Cahill. 'No Kremlin general could believe that a Catholic US president was preparing for war in the face of such a plea; and Pope John stood patently on neither side of the argument but in the middle. If this was simpleminded thinking, the simplemindedness was on the Soviet side. John's sophistication was in putting together the words that would impresas them properly and erase all doubts about the sincerity of his neutrality and therefore of the passionate desire for peace held by many in the West, which Kennedy would have to be mad to ignore.
'Two days later, a pope for the first time made page one of 'Pravda', the enormous headline even quoting John's plea to the leaders "not to be deaf to the cry of humanity".
'By October 28, Khrushchev had blinked first and the crisis was over. He later told Cousins that for days "the Pope's message was the only gleam of hope' coming from the West and, one may infer, the only thing that enabled him to hold the warmongers at bay.'
Not only is summer coming, but winter's going to be very early this year.
Generally overlooked, in what is the current Ukraine saga, is there are three wars playing out simultaneously within the Special Military Operation.
The civil war between Kiev and Donbas, the war between Ukraine and Russia, and the war between NATO and Russia.
The outcome of the civil war was was decided on day two, Feb 26th, and one'd know that if one obtained a semblance of balance from Russian 'propaganda' as well, not just from our own western brand.
The Kiev vs Russia operation is also going the Russian's way. That's been confirmed by Henry Kissinger, among others, who has recently become very vocal on the need for a peace agreement.
One wonders what has rattled NATO's cage after just 100 days of Russian 'incompetence' wrecked their eight year military buildup and strategy.
Might it be blow-back from the full spectrum sanctions designed to cripple the Russian economy, thereby creating massive unrest among the population with the aim of forcing regime change? Is that coming home for us too?
Or is it the superior quality of the Russian Forces and equipment?
Or just colonial hubris.
No matter what, it may be useful to cram for the upcoming disaster that's hurtling towards us all, in the Western Alliance.
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