Tuesday 17 May 2022

Early morning thoughts about the Ukraine

I couldn't see the date of the Sky News Australia interview with Colonel Richard Kemp to which I linked, a couple of days ago, but in yesterday's Telegraph he has changed his tune and no longer dismisses the mainstream media war news as Ukrainian propaganda or at any rate thinks the Ukrainian army has beaten the Russians badly at Kharkhov.

'This was not Putin’s plan; indeed it wasn't even his backup plan. Once the attempts to take Kyiv failed, he wanted to continue assaults against Kharkiv while simultaneously attacking the Donbas. These two efforts were going to be the consolation prize. Yet he has now failed in the former and is behind schedule in the latter. And even if he continues to make steady progress in the Donbas, he will soon need reinforcements, and it is not clear where he will find them in sufficient time.

'Ukraine now has the opportunity to redeploy troops from the north of the country to fight in the east. Putin knows this and, it seems, has instructed Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko to deploy his own forces close to the border with Ukraine under the guise of military exercises. This directly threatens Kyiv and will have the effect of fixing Ukrainian troops in place for the time being. It is another sign that Russia is increasingly concerned about the balance of forces in Donbas.'

The clever people who thought the mainstream media had it wrong and Russian invasion is going to plan were mistaken, but if Russia decides to be much more brutal she may still defeat Ukraine or rather the Anglo-Americans and Ukraine. We don't know.

Patrick Cockburn, in the interview to which I linked, points out some of the contradictions in the received wisdom. Putin has gone mad but nevertheless won't use nuclear weapons, for example.

I wonder what would have happened had Biden and Boris sent a couple of battalions to Kiev before the invasion.

Had Putin not invaded in 2014 a pro-Russian Ukrainian government might have given him the things he wants. 

As Masha Gessen said, he is a good tactician but poor strategist, who doesn't think more than 6 weeks ahead.

A Cambridge don supposedly met Napoleon and said it was clear that he hadn't gone to Cambridge. Putin, who also didn't go to Cambridge, 
is certainly no Napoleon, for which we should, I suppose, be thankful.


  1. Perhaps, as in Afghanistan, the goal here is not “victory” as the term is normally understood. One likely possibility is the most obvious one: We are using Ukraine to weaken Russia, so Ukraine’s lack of victory and extensive self-destruction through a war of attrition would also maximize the costs imposed upon the Russians.

    As with the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, prolonging the fighting is sometimes not a bug, but a feature in foreign policy. While weakening Russia has been an obvious goal of the West since the early 2000s, our dimwitted Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin let the cat out of the bag by saying so explicitly on a recent visit to Ukraine.

    Whatever happens in Ukraine, it will not be a Russian defeat. Russia will not abandon Crimea, nor the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, which it has recently recognized. Ukraine, even with vast numbers of NATO-supplied weapons, cannot prevail on the battlefield. So the longer the war goes on to “weaken Russia,” the more Ukraine and its people will be weakened, killed, and impoverished by the fighting.

    While putting up a tough fight might enhance their negotiating position and increase their respect on the world stage, this has already been achieved. Eventually, the matter will have to be resolved with a compromise.

    Christopher Roach

  2. Irina Zvenigovo commented:
    How odd that he changed his tune so dramatically after the interview he gave on Australian television that you posted -- on which he seemed fairly sure that events were being reported only from a Ukrainian perspective.
    Yes, it was undated. However, it began with discussion about the murdered Al Jazeera journalist (which happened on Wed 11 May) and everywhere I've looked the interview was posted by Sky News Australia on Sun 15 May. It's reasonable to assume that the interview took place between Thurs 12 May and Sat 14 May - which would mean that his view had completely altered in the space of 4-5 days. Either that or the Telegraph did a bit of editorializing. I would guess that what the Colonel has to say in Australia - when he's away from this country - would be truer to his actual views, since Australia has less of an axe to grind. Whereas in UK he's unlikely to get into print unless he bangs the drum for Ukraine. He has already said that most the mainstream media here are repeating Ukrainian propaganda.