Saturday 19 March 2022

The Russian invaders are stalled in Ukraine, for now



"It seems to me that Russian don't believe so much in their civilising mission, but they are convinced of our decadence." Emil Cioran in 1986.

"Migrants Syria Trump Brexit Putin. I’ve never known politics be so interesting. Well not since the coup in Moscow and before that 1989." My Facebook status 6 years ago yesterday.

"A world is collapsing before our eyes", tweeted by French ambassador to the USA Gerard Araud in November 2016, as it became clear Donald Trump had won the presidency. He hadn't seen anything then.

The world is being transformed in extraordinary ways and fast. As Mark Twain's Pudd’nhead Wilson said, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t."

How strange compared to the comparatively dull period between 1948 and 1988.

Even as a schoolboy in Brezhnev's Era of Stagnation I saw that the Cold War kept the peace - in Europe.

Putin would not have invaded the Ukraine were Trump in office because he would not have enraged the most friendly US President he could ever hope for. But that's in the past.

Should the West have sent troops into Ukraine after Russian proxies seized parts of the Donetsk oblast? I and almost everyone thought not in 2014 and did not even want a Nato backed proxy war there, but now I wonder if we were all wrong. 

But that's also in the past. 

The explanation for why the American defence establishment (the 'deep state' as Trumpians call it) long hated Putin might be less because of Donetsk and Crimea than that they blame him for 
President Trump, but the Americans wanted to wrest Ukraine from his orbit long before Trump was elected. 

That's in the past too. 

What matters is ending the war quickly. 

Can China help?

The French Foreign Minister says the Russians are only pretending to negotiate.
"Just as in Grozny (in Chechnya) and Aleppo (in Syria), there are three typical elements - indiscriminate bombardment, so-called humanitarian 'corridors' designed to allow them to accuse the other side of failing to respect them, and talks with no objective other than pretending that they are negotiating.
The Russians have stalled for a week. Nato and Ukrainian anger are the crucial factors delaying the invaders. Al Jazeera (the best source of news) commented:

This is one of the big surprises of the war so far: that Russia’s military with its “new” professional army has barely achieved any of its strategic objectives and, in terms of applied combat power, logistics, command and control and general morale and focus, has underperformed across the board. 
Military communications have been so bad that Russian generals have had to move much closer to the front lines to exert some control over the tactical situation there. Three generals have so far been killed in the war, an almost unprecedented number in any modern conflict.
It's four now plus, someone said, a Chechen general.

Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman on Wednesday 16th, three days ago:

The strains on the Russian war effort are already evident, from the army’s hesitation about trying to fight their way into cities and the recruitment of mercenaries, to the reported appeal to China for help with supplies of military equipment and Putin’s fury with his intelligence agencies for misleading assessments and wasting roubles on Ukrainian agents who turned out to be useless. He is now having to choose between a range of poor outcomes, which the US suggests may include escalation to chemical use (which would be both militarily pointless and test further Western determination not to get directly involved).
We are now beyond the point where Putin has much ‘face’ to be saved, even if it were a priority for the other major powers to save it. In launching this disastrous war he has revealed himself to be not only a vicious bully but also a deluded fool.....
As there can be no Western-led peace talks without Ukraine, it should be made clear to Moscow that for now this is a card for Zelensky to play. The future of the Russian economy can then be in his hands. Should a moment come to start to ease sanctions, some leverage will be required to ensure that any agreement is being honoured. There could be a link to reparations for the terrible damage caused.
“Fanaticism”, according to George Santayana, “consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” As his original war plans failed Putin has insisted his forces follow a disruptive and cruel strategy that has put his original aims even more out of reach and Ukraine with a say over the future of the Russian economy.'

David Goldman also on Wednesday:
Zelenskyy now accepts Ukraine neutrality, Lavrov accepts Ukraine sovereignty (minus some Russian control of Donbass, not to mention Crimea, I assume). That's the shape of a compromise, along the lines of Minsk II. As Steve Bryen has been writing, that was the only basis for a negotiated solution before, and remains so now. Russia originally proposed Minsk II; the French and Germans signed on; Washington opposed it. For all the blather about Russian Army incompetence, it looks like Putin is accomplishing his objective: Beat up Zelenskyy until he accepts Russia's original terms. Of course, if you believe that Putin is a new Stalin who wants to restore the Russian Empire, his army hardly seems up to the job. But if Putin's war aims are highly focused (keep Ukraine out of NATO and missiles far from the Russian border), he seems to be succeeding. The cost well may be higher than he expected, but he can still sell oil and gas -- the Netherlands gas price has fallen by half since the crisis peak. After the dust settles and the virtue-signaling loses its novelty value, Putin will have won.

Lord (Conrad) Black on the Mark Steyn Show on GB News made interesting points including: sanctions against Russia won't work because Russia can get anything it wants via China (I am not sure if he is right ); there is no possibility of nuclear war; the numbers of dead are very tiny compared with the destruction of Tokyo, Warsaw or German cities in World War II (obviously); Macron is competent, unlike Biden or Kamala Harris, but there are intelligent people in the US government like Jake Sullivan. 

Mark Steyn made the point that, unlike 1941-5, when Stalin threw away millions of young lives, Russia has far fewer young men. It's the first time I saw GB News but Mark Steyn is always good.

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