Sunday 4 September 2022

Trying to find out what is happening in Ukraine


People send me articles contradicting the Western narrative about the Ukraine and often they seem to me to be very misguided.

The idea that Putin did not intend to capture Kiev seems very unlikely. Most people expected him to take most of the country in a couple of weeks. 

No-one knows for sure. David Goldman says Putin was being opportunistic about attacking Kiev. That could be. Fighting street by street is terribly hard.

We really don't know.

Here is a story someone sent me from a left-of-centre blogger called Moon of Alabama. He says that the purpose of the Kherson offensive is to encourage Nato countries to keep giving Ukraine money. I can easily believe that.

It says the offensive has failed, very great numbers of Ukrainian soldiers were killed and what's left of the Ukrainian forces are trapped. I don't see any evidence for that in the blog post, just some links to pages that tell you very little, including one to 
the Russian Rybar Telegram channel.

Sir Lawrence Freedman says this is the line pushed by Russian bots and I'm sure that's true. 

Presumably if there is any truth in it it can't be kept from us.

Or perhaps it will. Reading between the lines of the latest news the silence about the Ukrainian offensive might mean that the offensive failed and the Ukrainians have gone back to doing what they were doing before. 

I don't trust contrarians but I don't trust the news coverage in the Times, Telegraph and BBC. They repeat Ukrainian press releases without critiquing them. I shall cancel my subscriptions this month to the first two.

Their stories all follow the MI6 line and make it clear that what the reader is meant to feel. Losing faith in sanctions or wanting a negotiated peace is a big danger, readers are told.

Why not let readers make their own judgments?

Because the media are political actors.

And, we know, very unreliable sources of information, even in peacetime.

Here is a very interesting analysis from someone studying for a doctorate in philosophy about the war and how it will end.

First, even with Western support, I don't believe that the Ukrainian armed forces can force the Russians to leave Ukraine or even go back to pre-February 24 lines.

There are many people who know more than me about modern warfare, which is not difficult since I know almost nothing about it, who disagree and think Ukraine will eventually pull it off but that's a case where I choose to dismiss what experts say because it makes no sense.

My argument for this view is very simple, but so far I haven't heard anything in reply to it that didn't sound like magical thinking. The gist is that I don't think Ukraine has enough offensive weapons to do large-scale counteroffensives, nor that it will any time soon.

Russia has turned out to be much less strong than we thought, but is very, very slowly winning at present and is too strong to be driven out of the territories she has gained by Ukraine.

I realise that many experts like Sir Lawrence Freedman are emotionally involved in what they understandably see as a battle between good and evil. I suspect that this affects their judgment. The wish is father to the thought.

Anyway, people have had enough of experts.

As Henry Kissinger said in the Washington Post on March 5th: 

"For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one."

Putin is a wicked man but he isn't Hitler, any more than Saddam, Milosevic or Nasser were. I am not sure that Hitler originally wanted to conquer the whole of the continent, but Putin is concerned simply about Ukraine. 

A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Nazism, and the thing about spectres is that they probably don't exist.

Like most wars (think the original Crimean war) this one is happening by mistake, big mistakes by Putin but not only by him.



    This article confirms my story about Boris Johnson persuading Zelensky to stop negotiating with Putin. A top US foreign policy expert has acknowledged that Russia and Ukraine could have reached a peace agreement in April.

    The admission came this week from Fiona Hill, a veteran US diplomat who served as the US National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia in the Donald Trump administration. An article that she co-wrote with Georgetown University Professor Angela Stent for Foreign Affairs magazine said Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in April were apparently conducted by the Russian side in good faith.

    “According to multiple former senior US officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbass region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries,” the article said.

    A peace-for-neutrality agreement was proposed by Ukraine in a draft document that it delivered to Russia during the March 29 talks in Istanbul, Turkey. The Russian military announced its withdrawal from some parts of Ukraine as a gesture of good will, right after the offer was made.

    Days later, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky declared that Kiev had discovered evidence of war crimes in territories abandoned by Russian troops, particularly in the town of Bucha. He claimed that the Ukrainian public would not allow him to negotiate with a nation that, according to him, was committing a genocide of his people.

    Russia said the evidence of war crimes had been fabricated and considered that Kiev had used the allegations as a pretext to ditch peace talks and continue fighting in the hope that Western military aid would allow it to win on the battlefield. According to Russian diplomats, Moscow wrote up a formal peace agreement based on Ukrainian proposals and sent it to Kiev, but never heard anything back.

    In May, some Ukrainian media linked the collapse of the negotiations with pressure imposed on Kiev by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The UK leader publicly opposed a negotiated solution to the crisis in Ukraine and urged Kiev to fight on to obtain a stronger position in future talks.

    Johnson visited Kiev on April 9, reportedly almost without warning and with a message for Zelensky that he could not get the deal he wanted from Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper, he branded Putin a war criminal who could not be trusted and said that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they [the West] are not.” Security guarantees for a neutral Ukraine from major world powers were the cornerstone of the proposed peace deal.

    Senior Russian officials repeatedly stated that Moscow was willing to settle the conflict and warned that the decision to terminate talks only made the final conditions worse for Ukraine. The leadership in Kiev insisted that talks could only happen after Russia fully withdrew its troops, including from Crimea, which Moscow considers its territory.


    1. Jacques Baud
      Video, En subs:

      Latest interview:

  3. I'm not convinced Hitler wanted all of Europe. He didn't even want a Western front but was forced by circumstances (and surprised by the UK's reaction) to advance in that region. His "living space" desires were in the less densely populated areas in Central and Eastern Europe, where the soil was rich and the land was capable of supporting an exponentially growing population.

    1. You are right, of course, but anything you say about Hitler can be misunderstood or distorted and get you accused of defending him. In fact he defeated France and conquered Europe because England and France went to war with Germany but he must have known that war with France was inevitable because of the First World War.

    2. I'm not defending Hitler, he was a warmonger with imperialist ambitions (in the Eastern part of the continent) which he never hid. Plus the other things he did, ahem, but they weren't part of this topic. I was strictly referring to his stated preferences, which never included land conquest in Western Europe. War with the UK and France may have been inevitable, but his motivation was not land conquest. He ideally just wanted them to leave him alone in the East.

    3. Exactly right, of course. It is obvious, except to most people it is not. There was no way France and her allies could prevent him doing what he wanted except by allying with the Bolsheviks, and that was not acceptable to Poland, for understandable reasons.

  4. I take what I said about The Times back. Richard Spencer in the Times last night wrote a good article.
    "The absence of verifiable information has led to wild claims on both sides. Some pro-Ukrainian accounts say their army has broken through on three fronts, with the Russians disillusioned and running away. The informal network of pro-Russian accounts online, meanwhile, boasts of the offensive’s failure, with thousands of Ukrainian dead said to be left in its wake. “Cynical butchery,” one pro-Russian report termed it, without providing any visual evidence for its claims of huge Ukrainian losses.
    "The accounts of injured soldiers who left the battlefield for treatment as recently as this weekend suggest the advance is slow going, with heavy but not necessarily catastrophic casualties. They confirm a handful of more precise Russian battlefield reports, which concede Ukraine has made some gains but has taken losses and would be vulnerable to a counter-attack if Russians could muster their strength — a big if."

  5. 'Putin did not intend to capture Kiev'

    The West does not want to see the situation as it really is. The Russian-speaking coalition has launched its offensive with an overall strength inferior to that of the Ukrainians in a ratio of 1-2:1. To be successful when you are outnumbered, you must create local and temporary superiorities by quickly moving your forces on the battlefield.

    This is what the Russians call “operational art” (operativnoe iskoustvo). It is the art of maneuvering military formations, much like a chess game, in order to defeat a superior opponent.

    For example, the operation around Kiev was not intended to “deceive” the Ukrainians (and the West) about their intentions, but to force the Ukrainian army to keep large forces around the capital and thus “pin them down.” In technical terms, this is what is called a “shaping operation.” Contrary to the analysis of some “experts,” it was not a “deception operation,” which would have been conceived very differently and would have involved much larger forces. The aim was to prevent a reinforcement of the main body of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass.

    Jacques Baud
    September 1, 2022