Follow Up on The Moron Thing

I had gotten a comment on my earlier post, and as it questioned opinion rather than an issue of fact, I thought it appropriate to respond in much more depth to a wider audience. It goes a good deal deeper than the first post, but the context that forms opinion is vital in as complicated issue as Ukraine.

I approach any issue related to public policy – and particularly, war – as skeptically as I can.

Having experienced what feels like a lifetime of government lies advanced by an often-subservient news media, it’s difficult to be anything but cynical about much of what one hears, whether from a government official (standing behind a podium) or a “trusted voice” (sitting behind a desk on television).

Warnings About NATO Membership

So, with Ukraine, given memories of the Maidan coup in 2014 and the interference of the US cookie brigade (Nuland, McCain, et al.), as well as the reports through the Trump years of the state of corruption in Ukrainian governance, even more skepticism seemed to be needed.

This was particularly true with the efforts to have Ukraine join NATO, which would only further encircle Russia with hostile states.  The Russians had already experienced NATO live-fire exercises in Poland within ten miles of the Russian border – the US message was clear.

I read the warnings of the many US government officials that have, over many decades, written and spoken with alarm about NATO expansion into eastern Europe; and in particular, the existential risk to Russia of NATO membership by Georgia and Ukraine.

Those officials included Jack Matlock and William Burns (US ambassadors to Russia); Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and George Kennan (writer of the containment memo). Russian studies specialists such as Stephen F Cohen (professor at Princeton) also warned of the risks.

With so many warnings, and with Russia pushing back, one has to wonder what would drive NATO (read, the US) to continue to push for membership by Ukraine?

Geo-strategic issues aside, I think it comes down to the hubris and the self-deception of US political “leaders” who basically believe their own bullshit.

That hubris is bipartisan, as both political parties declare the seemingly divine responsibility of the US to be a “force for good”, “given that we see farther because we are good”, and we are “the indispensable nation”, creating “our own reality.”

But what if they don’t understand the risks, or listen to the professionals who try to explain those risks?

Risk of Nuclear Escalation

As a young commissioned officer in the service, I carry memories of two experiences I had.

The first was an operational briefing in which the map of a certain continent was shown, revealing all targets for nuclear strikes covered by my branch of the service.  It was sobering.

The second was a highly-classified exercise in which I was a supporting player. It concerned escalation, under a specific set of circumstances, from conventional to nuclear weapons.

Those two memories laid the baseline for my belief that only existential risks to the US are sufficient to risk direct confrontation with another nuclear-armed state. Nothing else is worth the risk.

Any armed conflict between NATO (read the US) and Russia must be avoided – the risks of miscalculation and the system overwhelming decision makers is not to be underestimated.

I find the breezy advocacy of some politicians and consultants as to actually waging tactical nuclear war as beyond madness – they should all be committed to a mental institution.

I will say that in spite of US accusations of potential actions by other countries, I have long believed it would be the US to first use tactical nuclear weapons – and there is no pride in that statement.

So, what’s the specific risk with Ukraine membership in NATO, with basing of dual-use missile systems?

Consider hypersonic missiles stationed in Ukraine (same issue with Poland).

Flight times would vary by launch location, but all are under ten minutes.  There would be no time to be skeptical or ask for confirmation. This would put Russia into a “launch on warning” mode – absorb an attack with probable decapitation of leadership, or respond before that occurrence by launching nuclear weapons (whether tactical or strategic).

That’s the nightmare world that’s being created by NATO expansion to Russia’s borders.

Problems of Mainstream News Organizations

I do my best to avoid any of the major news organizations – whether ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, or NBC – nor do I read the major newspapers (New York Times or Washington Post).

Any sampling of their output seems to me to be rather pedestrian and offer only approved narratives – whether US or Ukrainian; and some cases, with reporters injecting personal opinions into reports.

Commentary is fine, but should be labelled as such.

A perhaps greater indictment, at least from my perspective, is the lack of skepticism.

War coverage is dangerous and difficult for reporters – far too many have died attempting to report from various war zones over the decades.

My concern is with the mainstream journalists, “reporting” from “Kyiv” or “the Pentagon”,  who have not gone out with Ukrainian (or Russian) forces in the field, but have been content to receive briefings in a hotel bar.

Someone has to measure the distance between what’s officially reported for approved narratives, and what’s actually happening where the dying is done.

Additionally, many of the same reporters have limited understanding of things military – necessary to provide viewers with needed context.

To cite only one example.

The media is quick to excitably report about the weapons systems being shipped by NATO countries to Ukraine.

Assuming those weapons are actually able to make it to the Ukrainian staging areas, no one has reported on what happens after they are delivered. And that assumes they’re not destroyed in Russian long-range missile strikes.

The logistics of incompatible weapons systems – with differing requirements for maintenance personnel, spare parts and consumables; fuel; lubricants; and ammunition – are complex and difficult, and require a sophisticated infrastructure and support troops. If the Ukrainians don’t have those capabilities, that puts NATO advisors and trainers into increasingly greater risk from standoff Russian strikes.

And then, there is the training of troops in foreign weapons systems in which they’ve haven’t been trained or only have documentation in a foreign language. Even five days training isn’t going to cut it with much of anything above small arms and hand-held anti-tank weapons.

Sources of Information

So, if I don’t’ listen to US mainstream news, where do I get my information?

There are a number of European and US commentators who have geopolitical and military backgrounds I find informative.

The Europeans include Andrei Martyanov The Saker, and The Moon of Alabama. The US commentators include Jacob Dreizin, Larry Johnson, Douglas MacGregor, and Scott Ritter.

I do not agree with all their views, nor do I agree with some of their political ideas (particularly the US guys).  But all in their professional experience bring worthwhile perspectives that are valuable in formulating an opinion.

And to cite the one article that reinforced much of my thinking, I point to Jacques Baud.

Mr. Baud is a former colonel in the Swiss General staff. He had worked in Swiss strategic intelligence, specializing in Eastern Europe; with training received from US and British intelligence agencies. He had worked at NATO on several programs related to Ukraine. And, he also worked for the UN on issues of rule of law and security institutions, as well as working on small-arms proliferation.

His article is here.

Additionally, his interview with Aaron Mate of The Grayzone is below, where he amplifies many of the points in his article:

US, EU sacrificing Ukraine to ‘weaken Russia’: fmr. NATO adviser

Start of the Russian Operations

With that as background, we come to the critical issue of the proximate causes of the war.

Vladimir Putin invoked Article 51 of the UN charter – responsibility to protect – as his justification. Whether that holds up will require legal assessment after hostilities.

His fear was the 12-14 Ukrainian brigades (60,000-80,000 troops) in eastern Ukraine that were preparing to invade the Donbass; the GRU military intelligence agency of the Russian General Staff revealed documents from Ukraine in mid February that indicated a start of the Ukrainian offensive in March, 2022.

The increased shelling by Ukraine of the Donbass starting on February 16th seemed to validate those reports; the Russian operation began on February 24th.

Whether those documents are a false flag, or another form of psychological warfare,  will need to be investigated and judged.

There have also been reports that intelligence on the so-called bioweapons labs were a motivating factor. Whether those are indeed bioweapons labs, and if they indeed exist, will be a question for UN investigators.

Finally, Zelensky – who ran as a peace candidate who supported the Minsk process, indicated Ukraine would conduct no further negotiations with Russia, and more ominously suggested Ukraine might acquire nuclear weapons.

And that brings the hard question of what was Russia to do?

Russia’s Options Prior to the War

People have stated Russia should have continued to negotiate.

In fact, Russia had been supporting a diplomatic solution for at least eight years since the start of the Minsk process; emphasizing the need for negotiations between the warring sides in Ukraine.

It has been said of the Russians they’re extremely tough negotiators, but they keep their word when an agreement is reached.

That is not true of the US as it abrogated three Senate-approved treaties with Russia: The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (US withdrawal in 2001); the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Treaty (US withdrawal in 2019), and the Open Skies Treaty (US withdrawal in 2020). The US also withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in 2018.

That three of those withdrawals were done by the Trump administration may be significant domestically, but is irrelevant from the Russian perspective – it is the US that abandoned its treaty obligations.

And if they were to negotiate, negotiate with whom?

NATO (specifically the US) has had no interest in peaceful negotiation without Russia capitulating on all of their demands. As I said in my previous post, it is clear the US goal is the breakup of Russia or at least the end of Putin.  Recent comments by US officials, including the Secretaries of State and Defense, reaffirm that goal.

And on the later point, if Putin were to go, someone like a Nikolai Patrushev – a US hater and hard liner – might replace him.

Fundamentally, I think Russia, once it saw the increased shelling in the Donbass (in what it saw as confirmation of the GRU report), did not feel it had anyone it could trust in negotiations.

I am uncomfortable with the decision Russia made to start hostilities, but I am unable to see any alternative that would have respected their legitimate security concerns – and that is troubling.

So, at this point, the war is underway and the decisions will be made on the battlefield.

Moral judgements about war, and this one in particular, will not bring the conflict to an end – it will be the Russians’ plans for achieving their objectives – things that no one outside of the Russian leadership really understands (and certainly not US commentators; in particular, the retired, failed generals).

The only other out would be immediate negotiations between Ukraine and Russia given the situation on the battlefield. However, that would require the US to guarantee Zelensky’s safety from the right-wing groups and neo-Nazis who have threatened his life if he pursues negotiations.

I continue to see headlines of how Ukraine is winning and will ultimately prevail and wonder what motivates those pushing that narrative; Russia has fought this war with one hand tied behind its back. They have the capability to do whatever they see as needed to win.

And that would only prolong the killing.

The only real truth in this damned war – as in all wars – is death and destruction. The loss of so many lives – civilian and military (on both sides), and their hopes and dreams for their futures, and the impacts on their families from their deaths, and the destruction of the societies that reared them – is another reminder of how low humanity can descend.

It is for this that I feel the most revulsion for the last three US administrations (Obama, Trump, and Biden).

Since 2014, Ukraine has been treated as a chip in the great-power game, as Mr Baud and others have explained. Any of those three US administrations could have changed course and sought and supported negotiations. None did. They must share with Putin and Zelensky responsibility for the war that is underway.

Atrocities and War Crimes

The Russians have been accused of atrocities and the destruction of Ukraine. There may be validity in the claim.

However, as Mr. Baud wrote, several of the claimed atrocities are suspicious.

It was clear the Russians were limited with their attacks in the opening maneuver phase of the war. Command and control facilities and other legitimate military targets were hit.  It appeared to me they were avoiding population centers.

Compare that to any videos of the opening phases of the “shock and awe” attacks by the US in Iraq in 2003 where power stations, water treatment facilities and other elements of the civilian infrastructure were destroyed. It may be forgotten now, but many Americans were thrilled by the videos of the explosions.

Their destruction of the city of Mariupol will require investigation. Some of the destruction that was claimed as attacks on innocent civilians may have been attacks on military units using those facilities as civilian shields.

It should be noted the Russians did offer civilians safe passage out of the city, but European reporting indicated Greek students, among others, were told by the Azov brigade that they could not leave. There have been a number of other reports of civilians being used as hostages and human shields, and not allowed to leave combat zones.

War crimes have certainly been committed by both sides.

With something approaching or exceeding 500,000 troops, it would seem tragically inevitable. Whether blood lust, rage about the deaths of comrades, or sociopathy, civilians and captured enemies have been horribly treated. Independent on the ground investigation by the UN after the war will be required.

But I do not believe that either the Russian or Ukrainian regular army units or troops are engaged in approved war crimes against civilians or captured enemies. Still, any allegations of individual war crimes by either side should be investigated and criminal actions prosecuted.

However, the same absence of organized war crimes can not be said of the Ukrainian security services.  They have videotaped themselves committing horrific attacks on captured Russian soldiers, and there are videos of executed Ukrainian civilians (wearing white armbands – symbolic of supporting Russia) – unlikely done by Russian troops.

Bucha has been widely held up as a Russian atrocity. At least some skepticism is needed then about those reports.

The reported timelines don’t make sense.  And I watched a Ukrainian language video of one of the first units of Ukrainian special forces to enter Bucha; no one ran up to them and reported atrocities and no bodies were seen; everyone seemed rather calm. It was only later after Ukrainian security services began a sweep that bodies began to appear.

The only way to stop the war crimes is for the war to end.

So what happens from here to get to that point?

End Game?

The best possible result, and even that brings horror, is for Russia to complete the encirclement and destruction of the Ukrainian army in the east within the next several weeks; destruction through continued mass desertions and surrenders of Ukrainian troops as the best solution. Otherwise there will be a lot more killing to complete that destruction.

At that point, it should be obvious to most international observers, and hopefully, the Ukrainian leadership, the war is lost.  It would also be of extreme benefit if that reality was officially recognized by NATO (and specifically the Biden administration and the Republicans).

A process could then move forward using the principles of the Minsk agreements as as staring point, but also reflecting the conditions on the ground and the legitimate security concerns of Russia.

A peace agreement could be possible if the safety and integrity of the Zelensky administration can be guaranteed from right-wing and fascist elements within the Ukrainian security services.

But I believe a real peace will not be acceptable to NATO (and especially the US) as too much has been invested over the years in fomenting this conflict. As I said in my last post, Russia must be eliminated as a threat so complete focus can be on China.

One would have to hope the European members of NATO would reject US “leadership” on this issue and press for a true peace; but to this point Europe has been consistently weak and servile to the US imperial ambitions; now apparently to include NATO deployment to the Pacific to counter China.

I fear an insurgency will begin once any peace “agreement” is reached.

So, at some future time this madness will be revisited at a much higher level of violence; and next time (if it can be avoided between now and when this war ends) nuclear weapons will be involved.

Remind me again.

Why are we supposed to be the good guys?

Update: Jacques Baud provides updates in an interview recently recorded.

 

 

Author: Tom

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