The first casualty when war comes is truth.
Hiram W Johnson, Republican Senator for California, 1917.
Originally Aeschylus, 525BC-456BC
The previous post led to an interesting debate on the current situation in the Ukraine between commenter, Joachim Dengler, and the original author, Wayne Hooper, as follows:
The underlying assumption of the previous post is “a desperate Putin, if backed into a corner”.
What if there is not a desperate, but a winning and confident Putin, who has up to now reached a considerable amount of the goals that he had set himself? Are we aware what his goals are, which he clearly stated at the beginning of his “Special Military Operation”:
1. Self-determination of the people of eastern Ukraine,
2. Demilitarization of Ukraine,
3. No NATO membership of Ukraine,
4. De-nazification of Ukraine.
The fundamental misunderstanding in the west is that we are thinking in terms of land gains, which mean very little to the Russians. The two offensives of the Ukrainians and the following apparent “stalemate” (as we call it) over months has cost Ukraine about 300,000 soldiers killed and a similar number wounded, facing 20,000 rounds of artillery every day. The coming Ukrainian offensive will most likely be like the “Ardenne offensive of WWII”, Ukraine as well as the West have to a great deal run out of ammunition and military equipment, there is hardy any more Ukrainian air defense. The side effect of this war is not only the demilitarization of Ukraine, but of Europe and most of NATO as well.
On the economic field one can say, that all the western sanctions against Russia have failed, with the only result of impoverishing Europe and de-industrializing Germany, greatly enhanced by our own green-dominated government. Sometimes I say, that the Morgenthau Plan would have been a welfare program compared to what we are going to face from the anti Russian (and expected anti-Chinese) sanctions and from our lunatic government.
At the same time Russia is flourishing, not making the Soviet mistake of stepping up military production at the cost of civilian, but improving both.
Regarding geopolitics, 19 countries want to join BRICS, and day by day we see de-dollarization in international trade relations.
So why should Putin be desperate? This view exists only in the western media.
In the old days of the cold war 90% of western intelligence about Russia was collected by reading their newspapers and official publications. Why aren’t we doing this today, in order to learn how they think – in particular if we consider them as an enemy?
Putin is very open and direct regarding his intentions, one only needs to listen to him. A good place to start is his speech and the following discussion at the Valdai conference in 2022: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69695
In order to justify some of his claims Joachim Dengler may have access to different and more accurate sources than we have here in Australia. Here are some of his claims and, after a quick bit of Googling, some responses to them.
1. Putin’s aim was the self-determination of the people of eastern Ukraine:
“In late September 2022, in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian-installed officials in Ukraine staged referendums on the annexation of occupied territories of Ukraine by Russia. They were widely described as sham referendums by commentators and denounced by various countries. Currently, the validity of the results of the referendums has only been accepted by North Korea, and no other sovereign state.”
These referendums have a striking similarity to the one Hitler imposed on Austria in 1938:
A referendum on the Anschluss with Germany was held in German-occupied Austria on 10 April 1938, alongside one in Germany. German troops had already occupied Austria one month earlier, on 12 March 1938. The official result was reported as 99.73% in favour, with a 99.71% turnout.
The Austrian government had planned a referendum to assert its sovereignty for 13 March 1938, but Germany invaded Austria the day before in order to prevent the vote taking place.
Political enemies (communists, socialists, etc.) and Austrian citizens of Roma or Jewish origin—roughly 360,000 people or 8% of the Austrian population—were not allowed to vote in the plebiscite.
2. Putin wished to achieve the de-nazification of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government is not controlled by any Nazi Party or organisation and President Zelensky is a Jew—it would be a very strange Nazi party indeed which elected a Jew as leader of the government!
“Anti-Semitism has little resonance even among more extreme Ukrainian nationalist elements, while polling demonstrates that Ukraine is among the least anti-Semitic and xenophobic countries in central-east Europe”.
“Putin has stated that the move was undertaken “to protect people” who have been “subjected to bullying and genocide,” and that Russia “will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”
Putin’s destructive actions — among them the devastation of Jewish communities — make clear that he’s lying when he says his goal is to ensure anyone’s welfare.
On its face, Putin’s smear is absurd, not least because Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and has said that members of his family were killed during World War II. There is also no evidence of recent mass killings or ethnic purges taking place in Ukraine. Moreover, labeling enemies Nazis is a common political ploy in Russia, especially from a leader who favors disinformation campaigns and wants to stir up feelings of national vengeance against a WWII foe to justify conquest”
3. “Ukraine as well as the West have to a great deal run out of ammunition and military equipment”
This recent news report indicates that the Russians may have supply problems:
“The owner of Russia’s Wagner military contractor threatened Friday (May 5) to withdraw his troops next week from the protracted battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, accusing Moscow’s military command of starving his forces of ammunition.
It is not the first time Prigozhin has raged about ammunition shortages and blamed Russia’s military, with which he has long been in conflict.”
4. On the economic field one can say, that all the western sanctions against Russia have failed.
The Russian Government is significantly dependent on revenue from oil to keep its war effort going. Russia has had some success in circumventing the sanctions imposed by Western nations but the latest figures show that revenues from oil tumbled by nearly 40% over the past year.
“The West’s attempts to curtail the Kremlin’s ability to finance its war on Ukraine are starting to bear fruit. Russia’s oil and gas revenues are dropping, along with its overall economy, while its budget deficits are growing. The early results of 2023 show that a combination of price caps, import bans and lower market prices is working even as Russia’s energy exports flow.
The upshot is that Russia’s revenues from oil and gas exports tumbled by nearly 40 percent in January 2023 ($18.5 billion) compared to January 2022 ($30 billion). The revenue decline will be even steeper in the coming months, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted.
Targeting Russian energy makes sense because it accounts for roughly 18 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and at least a third of its state budget revenues. Yet despite the loss of revenue, the damage to the overall economy remains surprisingly slight, at least according to official numbers, which some question.
Russia’s GDP shrank to an estimated $1.5 trillion, or 2.1 percent, in 2022. The 2023 forecast ranges from no growth (+0.3 percent), according to International Monetary Fund projections, to a 5.6 percent decline, based on the estimate from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But some critics say that the Russian government’s concealment of official data is masking deeper problems.”
5. The two offensives of the Ukrainians and the following apparent “stalemate” (as we call it) over months has cost Ukraine about 300,000 soldiers killed and a similar number wounded.
The “fog of war” inevitably means that the true number of casualties is distorted by both sides for morale and propaganda purposes. A search of half a dozen websites indicates a variety of estimates for the dead and wounded on both sides but one feature is common to all these different estimates—the casualties for Russia are always higher than for Ukraine. Pentagon sources give following figures:
Casualties Dead R 189000-223000 43000 U 124500—131000 17500
“Western governments report that Russian losses in the war against Ukraine are approaching a staggering 200,000 killed or wounded, with roughly 40,000 dead. These figures are almost three times greater than the death toll Moscow saw in 10 years of war in Afghanistan”. (Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/10/russia-ukraine-casualties-putin-war-military-politics/)
JD only stated Putin’s avowed aims. He didn’t say he agreed with them, hence much of WH’s argument is really directed against Putin. The real issue is Russia’s access to the warm water ports of Sevastopol and Rostov on the Don. Should Ukraine join NATO, Russia would become landlocked by a hostile foreign power. Putin’s stated concern is with “the self determination of the people of the Ukraine”. Well, he would say that wouldn’t he?
I believe Russia will win this war in the long run because it has greater access to key resources, particularly oil and gas. It is a common mistake to underestimate one’s enemies as “mad” or “unstable” or “in failing health”. Putin does not have to be “desperate” or “in a corner” in order to wreak economic havoc on Western Europe as envisaged by WH in the previous post.
Under the circumstances, perhaps it would be better for everyone should Ukraine not join NATO.