Why Putin Will Not Make Peace Over Ukraine.
Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff announced yesterday that the Russian Military has now decided on the “option” to focus on the Donbas Region, rather than the “option” of taking over the whole of Ukraine. This is another deception in a long series.
Putin’s original reasons for his illegal invasion of Ukraine still apply:
- In July 2021 Putin wrote an article claiming that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Shortly before the invasion he said, “Ukraine is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space. These are our comrades, those dearest to us – not only colleagues, friends and people who once served together, but also relatives, people bound by blood, by family ties.” This was one of many rants. He sees no apparent contradiction in ordering the murder of these “dearest friends”.
- A democratic and successful Ukraine is a direct threat to Putin’s kleptocratic neo-fascist dictatorship in Russia. Putin grossly underplays the distinction between Russia and Ukraine, but they are still Slav nations with many ties of culture and history. Russians will start to ask why Russia is not like Ukraine. Successful Democracy not Nato is the threat Putin fears.
- The war Putin has waged on Ukraine since the end of February will have hight costs for Russians and Ukrainians. The Western world will help to rebuild Ukraine, and the country will go beyond it’s previous impressive state of economic progress and democratic reform achieved since 2014 (when it struggled to finally free itself of the dead weight of the influence of the Putin regime). Ukraine with a stronger economy and reinforced military forces will become a target beyond Putin’s grasp.
- The global future looks to be increasingly autocratic. The world is in the unique situation of having two emerging neo-fascist superpowers China and Russia, both with nuclear weapons, and in the case of China half the world’s economy. Belief in democracy in the West is declining. There is an imminent climate crisis. Digital technology makes totalitarian control of populations easier. Both autocratic superpowers are moving towards a coordinated foriegn policy of autocratic preservation-promotion, so failure to smash Ukraine is impossible. The Putin regime has presented itself as the creator of a “Greater Russia”, and so its credibility depends on crushing Ukraine once the invasion was started. The limits of the Putin regime’s ambitions are ambiguous. Are they the borders of Tsarist Russia, Soviet Union or Europe? The truth is that a neo-fascist power has only geopolitical domination and blackmail as a route to success, and will go as far as it is allowed.
Putin’s regime cannot settle for parts of Ukraine or a long bloody military quagmire. Both would be a defeat for the regime that has hypocritically justified kleptomaniac autocracy – with lavish propaganda – as a necessary sacrifice for the Russian people to achieve the impending return of Russia as a global superpower that can use its dominance to solve the people’s economic problems. Putin’s regime is held together by this illusion. The only real enemy of the Russian people is the Putin regime, and the cause of the economic problems of the Russian people is the Putin Regime. Putin has cornered himself by staking his regime on the successful smashing of Ukraine:
“Putin is not the first Russian ruler to deny Ukraine’s right to exist. On the contrary, Ukraine denial is a common thread running through Russian history that stretches back hundreds of years and remains widespread in today’s Russia. However, few have ever embraced this doctrine of denial as fervently as Putin, who has made clear that ending Ukrainian independence is a sacred mission which will define his place in history……..
The Russian public has been primed to regard Ukraine as an intrinsic part of Russia and encouraged to view any Ukrainians who disagree as traitors or Nazis. The entire notion of Ukrainian identity has been demonized and equated with the most notorious criminals of world history.“
[ Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine War can end in only two ways: Genocide or defeat. By Peter Dickinson 23/3/2022 Atlantic Council.]
Recently on the “Tonight with Vladimir Soloviye” show on the highly popular Russia1 TV Channel, Yakov Kedmi said in an unusually impassioned speech:
“Whatever treaty Russia may sign with the current Ukrainian regime will mean the defeat of Russia. Final and complete defeat…. In the eyes of the Russian people, in the eyes of the Russian army, in the eyes of the whole world. And then the support of India, China and the Arab world will evaporate…. When Russia sent an ultimatum to the US, Russia also sent an ultimatum to itself. It has no right to lose.It means that Russia has no power to deal with anyone. With Ukraine? With Zelensky?…. This treaty may be the beginning of the end of the Russian state. Because if you failed with Ukraine, how do you threaten NATO? How do you threaten the United States? You could not deal with Zelensky, so what are you?…. You have a choice: either you win this operation or start the final countdown.”
[“‘Final and complete defeat’: Panic on Russian state TV over the war in Ukraine.” By Sam Clench, Australian Herald Sun, 29/3/2022]
Yakov Kedmi’s rant and similar propaganda are effectively preparing Russian public opinion for the failure of the current Ukrainian-Russian peace talks. It is likely they are being used by Putin as a diversion, and Yakov Kedmi is echoing the thoughts of the Kremlin “siloviki” (strongmen).
The Russian Armed Forces are not running out of munitions, instead they have logistics problems getting them to the front lines. There is thought to be a looming absolute shortage of precision guided missiles (PGMs), but no one knows how many they had to start with, because they are produced by state industries whose finances and procurement are opaque.
According to Global Firepower website comparing Ukrainian and Russian military strength (2022), the Russian armed forces have 850,000 active personnel (over 4 times more than Ukrainian armed forces), the military budget of Russia is nearly 13 times larger than Ukraine, and Russia has 11 times more fighter aircraft.
According to the Oryx website in the first three and half weeks of the invasion from 24th February to the 20th March 2022, there was photographic evidence of the loss of 35 helicopters where 30 destroyed, 3 damaged and 2 abandoned. It is stated that the true figure is probably much higher. Of these 35 helicopters, 16 were attack helicopters, 5 transport helicopters and 14 of unknown type. So given that attack helicopters are fairly distinctive, the number of documented losses of attack helicopters could be estimated at 20. The bias of gathering evidence in a war zone, means that for every documented loss there may be two undocumented. So probably 60 attack helicopters were lost in the first three and half weeks, at a rate of 17 per week. According to the Global Firepower website again, Russia had 544 attack helicopters before the war started. At this attrition rate it would run out after eight months. The same applies more starkly to tanks, before the invasion Russia had 12,420 according to Global Firepower, it has lost over 500 in the first month of the invasion. There are problems with maintenance but it is unlikely Russia will run out of tanks.
So Putin has the military equipment and munitions to carry on the invasion of Ukraine. The peace process is probably a diversion from Putin’s side, in a similar way to those between Russia, Assad and the Syrian Opposition.
The recently reported shift in Russian Military objectives towards the East of Ukraine, is probably also a diversion that will be reversed abruptly. The regime hopes this will reduce fighting in North Ukraine around the capital Kyiv, so forces can be concentrated in smashing and overrunning towns and cities in the East and South East of Ukraine. Then the regime will focus its forces on Kyiv. This will be seen as an obvious divide and rule tactic, where Putin reducing his war aims to only apply to the East of Ukraine will be seen as another in a long line of deceptions.
Putin needs a faster victory over the whole of Ukraine, which given the refusal of Ukrainians to accept domination by his regime and Putin’s immoral neo-fascist worldview, will mean in practice the smashing of Ukraine and mass war crimes against Ukrainians. Leveling the cities by shelling and aerial bombardment is too slow and expensive, especially as Ukrainians unlike Syrians have some effective air defense systems.
This leaves the tactic of “terrorizing civilians” in deliberate mass war crimes. This occurred to a genocidal level in Syria, and is now beginning to be applied in Ukraine. This tactic involves using all available methods to terrorise civilians. In Syria from 2011, millions were made into refugees, half a million killed and tens of thousands tortured to death. Putin had no moral reluctance in enabling these crimes in Syria.
In Syria there was the besieging of towns and cities. Then the intensive shelling and aerial bombardment of civilians, focusing on hospitals and food queues. This included the use of cluster bombs and incendiary phosphorus bombs. All supplies were cut-off causing starvation and preventing medical care. Chemical weapons were dropped on populations under siege, from chlorine to the nerve agent Sarin. Sometimes chlorine was used to mask the simultaneous use of nerve agents. The Putin regime will probably use false flag operations using chemical weapons to kill Russians, to justify using them in Ukraine.
In Syria there were mass abductions and systematic torture. Sickeningly tens of thousands of Syrians were tortured to death by the Assad regime; men, women and children. Putin provided a huge and constant flow of weapons to the Assad regime that enabled Assad’s genocidal crimes. In 2015 Putin sent in the Russian Airforce to bomb Syrians directly as well.
In Syria, “local truces” were implemented, which allowed Assad with his Russian allies to concentrate forces on fewer areas, overrunning them, and then focusing on “truce” areas. Another form of the divide and rule strategy. The use of terror tactics on besieged desperate populations enabled these so called “truces” despite the visceral hatred of the Assad regime. The Putin regime will attempt to apply this deception to Ukraine as well.
The West will respond with a complete embargo of the Russian economy, which will include oil and gas exports. Currently the West is still financing the Putin regime by importing oil and gas from Russia. “In 2021, the EU imported $108 billion (€99bn) worth of energy from Russia, by far its biggest import from the country”, according to the Word Economic Forum. This will not stop Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine, but will make the aggression more expensive to the declining Russian economy. At the same time there will be intense political pressure to supply more weapons to Ukrainians as well as direct intervention.
Putin’s principal ally is the Xi Jinping’s Chinese regime, which has many routes within the network of global autocratic regimes to break sanctions against Russia. Xi currently controls the second largest economy in the world, so can power this sanction busting. The Russian economy is not going to collapse unless there are severe secondary sanctions against Xi’s regime.
The Putin regime will respond with more intensive nuclear threats, because they know this resonates with sections of the Western public opinion. This will be exploited by the small but highly vocal Putin propagandists and apologists in the West.
The world now has two emerging neo-fascist superpowers with nuclear weapons; the Putin and Xi Jinping regimes. Both have domestic public opinion increasingly hobbled by totalitarianism. Both have fascistic ideologies which place no restraints on human rights violations or reckless military aggression.
The Putin regime cannot justify direct intervention by armed forces of the West in Ukraine, as an invasion of Russia or a direct threat to the existence of the Russian state. Putin may claim Ukraine is a part of Russia, but Ukraine is clearly recognised as an independent state by the international community. There would be no rational informed justification of the use of strategic nuclear weapons by the regime. This matters because it weakens any possible claim by Putin that the use of nuclear weapons is a reasonable last resort of the Russian state.
Given the neo-fascist nature of the Putin regime there is no reason that his regime will respect any border. At some point the West would need to disregard his unjustifiable nuclear threats.
Nato is an agreement that allows countries to call for support if they are invaded. Other Nato member countries can choose how to respond to any such requests. There is no legal obligation to send armed forces. There are also hidden divisions within Nato, especially between Old and New Nato – those countries that joined after the end of the Soviet Union. Any further conventional warfare with the Russian Military will be fought with mass war crimes described above, coupled with nuclear threats. The assumption that Putin intends fighting a limited conventional war where he can be easily defeated by superior forces is not true.
There is no reason why the West could not respond to gross Russian war crimes by direct intervention to end the invasion of Ukraine, and return to the position before the invasion on the 24th February.
The question Western leaders need to be asked by their publics is “Do you really believe if Ukraine is smashed, that Putin will stop there?”
Putin is banking on Western leaders refusing to face unavoidable risk, and so not taking decisive action. He will be relying on the usual canyon between public sentiments from politicians and the strength of action taken. He will be relying on the social and political divisions that make cohesive action by Western countries difficult. We have to let him down.
[Posted by Zigmund Schulz 26/3/22, Updated 31/3/22]