Streetwise Professor

June 11, 2024

A Simulacrum Carrier Symbolic of a Simulacrum Military

Filed under: History,Military,Russia — cpirrong @ 5:52 pm

If Forbes’ David Axe is correct, Russia has finally given up on attempting to resurrect its lone aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov. Too bad! It’s been a source of material for me for years. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that I was a pioneer in mockery of the the ship, with posts going back almost 16 years. I was especially fond of pointing out that this naval colossus never left home–although it very seldom left home–without a salvage tug bobbing in its wake. (It only made seven–seven!-deployments in 33 years).

Old Smoky–or was it Old Brokey?–was hardly a big boy carrier even when it was brand spanking new. It used a jump ramp rather than catapults, which seriously limited the capability and carrying capacity of the aircraft it operated. And it operated relatively few aircraft–about 36, of which only 22 were attack/fighter types.

There has been no official announcement of Kuzentsov’s demise. Axe infers its fate from the fact that many of its special-built aircraft (MiG-22KRs) have been deployed to operate from land (including Crimea). But this could just be another manifestation of Russian materiel losses over Ukraine (and domestic accidents, such as yesterday’s crash of an Su-34) forcing it to resort to stopgap measures.

Although the ship is clearly useless, and a money pit, Russia has persisted in keeping it alive. All to give the impression that it is a serious naval power.

Just how pretentious this is is reflected in the current deployment of a Russian “flotilla” (in the words of the FT) to Havana. The “flotilla” consists of one nuke sub, one frigate (the Admiral Gorskov, displacement 5,400 tons), one oiler, and–wait for it!–one tugboat. I guess it could be worse: the FT could have called it an armada. (The media hyperventilating over this pipsqueak squadron has me rolling my eyes).

The Russian navy has been ravaged by a nation without a navy: the Black Sea Fleet has lost about one-third of its hulls, including several of its most capable, to Ukrainian drones (airborne and seaborne) and cruise missiles. It has all but abandoned its former home port of Sevastopol, and scampered to Novorossiysk, essentially abandoning the western Black Sea. And it is reported that yesterday one of its larger combatants suffered severe fire damage in the Barents Sea.

It is a simulacrum of a navy, perhaps intent on living up to the glory of Admiral Rozhestvensky’s Baltic Sea Fleet in 1905.

Not that Russian efforts on land are exemplary. Indeed, looking at the wreckage of the Russian campaign in Ukraine I am hard pressed to find in all of history a worse military performance on any level–tactical, operational, or strategic. Putin has achieved the triple crown of failure.

But he is apparently ebullient nonetheless. According to the Institute for the Study of War he “articulated a theory of victory” in which “Russian forces will be able to continue gradual creeping advances indefinitely, prevent Ukraine from conducting successful operationally significant counteroffensive operations, and win a war of attrition against Ukrainian forces.” Further:

Putin stated that Russian forces aim to “squeeze” Ukrainian forces out “of those territories that should be under Russian control” and therefore Russia does not need to conduct another mobilization wave. Putin asserted that Russian crypto-mobilization efforts are sufficient for this approach and that Russia has recruited 160,000 new personnel so far in 2024 (a figure consistent with reports that the Russian military recruits between 20,000-30,000 recruits per month).

In other words, Putin thinks that suffering 30,000 casualties per month (most of which are KIA or too badly wounded to return to combat) to gain a few kilometers here and a few kilometers there is not just sustainable, it’s the path to victory! (It is highly likely that the “crypto-mobilization” has basically created a steady state where the influx of recruits just balances casualties).

These force generation efforts do not just sweep up unfortunate Russian citizens (disproportionately from non-Russian republics), but also shanghai African students attracted to Russia by promises of a free education. They also attract impoverished Nepalese, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, etc., by dangling promises of lucrative pay–which if they live to collect (highly unlikely) may not receive it anyways. Russia also routinely reneges on promised payments to families of KIA–and even frequently fails to give the supposedly honored dead a decent grave.

And maybe saying “a few kilometers here and a few kilometers there” gives way too much credit. The vaunted Russian attack on Kharkiv initially gained a few kilometers in two mini-bulges, but was stopped after a few days, and in the past week Ukrainian counterattacks have ejected the Russians from most of those paltry gains achieved at disproportionate cost.

Falkenhayn and Pyrrhus stand aside before true greatness.

This is a truly twisted man, perfectly content to reinforce failure after failure, to sacrifice untold numbers, all to satisfy his grandiosity.

Meaning that Russia’s army is a simulacrum as well. There is much angst in Europe over the prospect of Putin launching an attack on some Nato countries, especially the Baltics or Poland. How? With what? To what end–other than an even more catastrophic defeat?

Yes, perhaps Putin is just delusional enough to do it. Or perhaps he will adopt Eisenhower’s advice: “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” But if he does, it will not solve his problem, except in the way that death solves all problems.

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  1. “…that suffering 30,000 casualties per month…”
    War has lasted for 26 months, i.e. 30k*26 = 780k in irretrievable losses for a force that started out with 120k-150k, you say? – yeah makes sense…

    …All to give the impression that it is a serious naval power…”
    agree, the Russians will never reach the competence of the US navy, as witnessed recently in “operation prosperity guardian”…

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — June 12, 2024 @ 2:46 am

  2. The USN may not be competent but at least it’s large. Whether it will remain large when compared to the Chinese navy, Lord knows.

    As for sneering at carriers without catapults: alas the Royal Navy has only two carriers, both without catapults. We should never have built the bloody things in the first place but they provided jobs for voters in the PM’s constituency.

    France has a catapulted carrier. It’s nuclear-powered too. But having only one carrier sounds pretty daft to me. Maybe buying a second was reckoned far too expensive. If it came to a war, of course, having only one might prove far too expensive.

    The British compromise is to have two, one of which spends much of its time broken down. Sometimes I could scream.

    Comment by dearieme — June 12, 2024 @ 6:52 am

  3. The joke Russian navy is getting a bit long in the tooth(less). Since at least 1904.
    The destruction of the Russian fleet at Port Arthur was considered the only victory of land forces against a navy. Might the same fate await Sevastopol?
    It’s geography. Russia is a land power only. But a resourceful and dangerous one.

    Comment by philip — June 12, 2024 @ 6:02 pm

  4. A further point, prof, if I may.
    The Russo – Ukrainian war is not a civilisational conflict. It’s a territorial dispute.
    Given that most inhabitants of the Donbas and Crimea are Russian speakers and presumably Russian sympathisers the idea that Ukraine can recover its pre war territorial boundaries is mad.
    A peace deal – however reluctantly signed by both sides, who both lose – is the only way forward.

    Russia – and to a lesser extent, China – are ideological vacuums. Nations want to stay secure in their borders and run their affairs as democracies or dictatorships as they see fit.

    The real enemy is not an ideology we have already defeated. Communism is so twentieth century. Islam, on the other hand, is on the march.

    Comment by philip — June 12, 2024 @ 6:52 pm

  5. @philip

    “Given that most inhabitants of the Donbas and Crimea are Russian speakers and presumably Russian sympathisers…”

    Given that most inhabitants of certain North American colonies in 1776 were English speakers yet apparently not quite English sympathisers, your presumed part about Donbas and Crimea is presumably unfounded and/or based purely on Russian disinformation.

    Comment by Ivan — June 13, 2024 @ 4:06 am

  6. You may well be right, Ivan. I’m no expert on the ethnic quarrels of slavs.
    However, if only a minority of people in the Donbas and Crimea are Russian sympathisers this will be a thorn in the side of any “new” Ukraine that recovered the territories.

    Comment by philip — June 13, 2024 @ 8:21 am

  7. @philip

    Islam has nothing on the non-ideological ultra machismo cults which have swept Russia, China, India, the US, most of S.America, and seem set to sweep the rump of Europe. The UK mercifully seems to have shaken itself free for now, but for how long? Voter dementia-amnesia seems to be a thing nowadays.

    Craig – there’s no such thing as a Mig-22KR. Details matter, esp to a military historian.

    Comment by David Mercer — June 13, 2024 @ 12:03 pm

  8. @philip

    “I’m no expert on the ethnic quarrels of slavs.”

    You clearly aren’t, otherwise you would be able to recognize that your experise is irrelevant in the context.

    Comment by Ivan — June 13, 2024 @ 3:06 pm

  9. @philip

    “if only a minority of people in the Donbas and Crimea are Russian sympathisers this will be a thorn in the side of any “new” Ukraine*

    This is nothing new. There used to be a very sizable minority of USSR sympathisers in Ukraine. Obviously, it slowed down Ukraine’s progress, but it is nearly extinct by now. Same thing will happen with the sympathisers of the rump-USSR (or the rump-rump-Russian Empire) that is today’s Russia.

    You started with a wrong assumption, so you keep arriving at wrong conclusions. It is very much a civilisational conflict.

    Comment by Ivan — June 13, 2024 @ 3:48 pm

  10. Well that’s me told off Ivan.

    I pray for some sort of peace settlement in Ukraine and I’d want one to favour Ukraine, but the sooner one happens the better. Russians and Ukrainians are dying for a parch of land which is only arguably worth more than the life of a Pomeranian grenadier. It’s a tragedy. I’m OK that so far we are paying for it through our taxes but I suspect our generosity may have limits.

    @David Mercer
    As a fan of the administrative state you would say that.
    I regard the encroachment of the state, big pharma, Islam, net zero and sundry other invasions of the private sphere as civilisational threats.
    But that’s just me. We can differ.

    Comment by philip — June 14, 2024 @ 4:00 pm

  11. @philip

    Unfortunately, you cannot just pray a genocidal maniac away. And “the sooner the better” does not seem to have too much priority politically, so Ukraine “is not encouraged” to destroy Russian refineries because of unfounded fears that gas prices in the US might increase, or Germany blocks sanctions so some German companies can make money supplying the Russian war machine.

    “Russians and Ukrainians are dying for a parch of land”

    That’s what Russian disinformation would like you to believe. But they also made the gaffe of accidentally telling the truth:

    As I wrote here before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine started, the problem is the Russian version of “peace” is more deadly than Russian war, and Ukraine has witnessed it first-hand too many times to just give up and die quietly so as to not incovenience anyone.

    “I’m OK that so far we are paying for it through our taxes”

    Like in so many other cases, we are paying through our taxes mainly for the incompetence and corruption of western politicians. Russian imperialism could have been stopped in 2008 at the latest at a fraction of the cost. But here we are.

    Comment by Ivan — June 15, 2024 @ 3:16 am

  12. @philip

    It is just sad that I have to repeat what seems to me a simple, straightforward and undeniable point: legitimate borders of souvereign countries shall not be changed by force. That is it.

    It simply does not matter whether there are pro-Russian and pro-Communist people living in Ukraine and how many. It simpky does not matter that Crimea used to be a part of Russian Federation within the Soviet Union or that significant part of the modern Ukraine was conquered from Osmans and Tatars in XVIII century by Russian emperors (actually, mostly empresses).

    These are interesting facts that help to understand the history of these lands but they bear no relevance today whatsoever. What matters is the Constitution of the Soviet Union that was in force at the time of the Union’s self-disbandment in December 1991 with the borders of the constituent republics defined as they were. These are the legitimate borders of the newly independent countries and, like legitimate borders of any other country, they are inviolable, period.

    Now, if Russia felt Crimea should belong to it or maybe some parts of Ukraine might be willing to join Russia, it could always approach Ukraine with some offers: it coukd be a purchase deal or some territorial exchange or whatever. But they chose the path of war.

    Needless to say they shoukd never be rewarded for that.

    Comment by LL — June 16, 2024 @ 6:07 pm

  13. @LL,

    The problem with the idea of sovereign and inviolable borders is that the west broke that convention back in the 1990s, when it broke Kosovo away from Serbia.

    The Russians made that very clear to the western powers as and when they were doing it. They told them, ‘You are breaking the convention that sovereign borders are inviolable. If you do this, we also will begin re-shaping borders in our interests’. Of course, the west just ignored them. And so we got the invasion and re-shaping of Georgia.

    The other problem the west created for themselves was the idea of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, which they used as a pretext to invade Libya and dethrone Gadhaffi. From there, it was very simple for the Russians to claim they had a Responsibility to Protect the people of eastern Ukraine from being murdered – outright slaughtered, really – by the regime in Kiev.

    So, things ain’t as simple as you make out.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — June 17, 2024 @ 10:08 pm

  14. Yes, that’s exactly how I remember it: the Russian invasion of Georgia in 1992 was in response to the western support for Kosovo in 1998. Similar to how Russia invaded Finland in 1939 in response to Finland’s joining the aggressive NATO block in 2023.

    Comment by Ivan — June 18, 2024 @ 12:52 am

  15. “The problem with the idea of sovereign and inviolable borders is that the west broke that convention back in the 1990s, when it broke Kosovo away from Serbia.”

    The conclusion that Slick Willie was to blame will usually be correct.

    Comment by dearieme — June 18, 2024 @ 9:18 am

  16. “the west broke that convention back in the 1990s”

    Would you be so kind to remind us which country took the territory of Kosovo by force and annexed it?

    There is no “Kosovo precedent” no matter how much the Russians are trying to invoke it. No one has ever said borders cannot change. But they can only change legally, not by force.

    Comment by LL — June 19, 2024 @ 1:56 pm

  17. The Kosovans unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. This declaration was then recognised, and so legitimated, by many nations, including the US and UK.

    The Russians warned the Americans that the Kosovan declaration would set a precedent which disrupted the post-War agreement that sovereign borders are inviolable. The response they got was, essentially, ‘Fuck off Ivan. Sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told.’

    So the Russians have taken the Kosovo declaration as a precedent, and use it to shape the political geography and reality of their region to suit their interests. Which is the behaviour of a great power to a lesser power. It follows Thucydides’ formula, ‘The strong do what they will, and the weak endure what they must’. I’m not making a moral judgment here.

    The problem we have is that, regardless of Russia’s actual state of being, which the Prof lays out with sparkling wit on this blog, Ivan THINKS he is still a great power. And so he insists on being recognised as a great power, and feels free to act as a great power – this means shaping the political geography and reality of his region to suit his interests. And if this means making war on Ukraine to get the Ukraine’s political elite to, in short, ‘Sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told’, Ivan will do it. He IS doing it.

    For me, this war is essentially about whether or not the US will recognise Russia as a great power. Russia is making its case on the battlefield. The US is contesting it. If Russia wins the contest, the US eats humble pie, and is forced to accept Russian claims to great power status. Can you imagine that happening? LOL! If Russia loses, it gets broken up and Putin makes a guest appearance at The Hague. Neither side can afford to lose. Both sides are heavily armed with the most destructive weapons science has devised. Unless some adults step up, calm things down and start bashing heads together to get both sides to cut a deal, the near future looks grim.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — June 19, 2024 @ 4:53 pm

  18. The West would have been wiser to dissuade the Kosovans from UDI and instead have ramped up the pressure – on both Kosovans and Serbia – to reach a viable long-term settlement, and in practice that was going to require a divorce. After what the Serbian government had done in Kosovo in the recent past, and given the extreme animosity that the vast majority of the Kosovan population held Belgrade in, as well as the ethnic gulf between them (Albanian is not a Slavic language and very few Albanians are Orthodox Christians) any “solution” that involved returning Kosovo to Belgrade’s rule was not workable.

    Kosovo had been almost equal in status to the ex-Yugoslav Republics which did achieve widely recognised independence, in some cases following armed conflict – it was technically territorial subordinate to Serbia but had been largely autonomous, until Serb nationalists took more direct control of it during Yugoslavia’s dying days. Despite Putin’s warnings, (most of) the West’s recognition of Kosovo wasn’t that big a jump, legally and politically, from the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia’s disputed secessions during the early stages of Yugoslavia’s dissolution. It had been getting increasingly difficult to keep a lid on Kosovan desires for independence (shutting down pro-UDI institutions and maintaining Kosovo’s status as a protectorate in all but name would have required a beefy “peacekeeping” intervention) while Serbia had been showing little sign of flexibility, with a negotiated solution looking decades away. In retrospect Western recognition was unwise and premature, and more focus on strengthening institutions and state capacity would have given Kosovo a smoother start, but it’s worth remembering the context that got us here. I’ll also second the poster who questioned the wisdom of R2P – any time you bring a concept like that into the legal battlefield, we should think how our enemies could use it as a tool against us.

    On the other hand, the West has rightly made it very clear that it was quite unacceptable for Kosovo to get swallowed up by Albania. Any dreams of a Greater Albania, possibly incorporating parts of North Macedonia and even the Greek borderlands, have been relegated to the political fringes. This is a call they got right.

    Russia has fought a war of terroritorial acquisition, at varying degrees of intensity, since 2014. It has cited the Kosovo precedent but it is far more akin to the territorial acquisitions of Hitler and Stalin in the 1930s. Even they held “referenda” to “prove” that they were now the rightful owners of their new lands. Putin’s recent call for a ceasefire provided the Ukrainians withdraw entirely from the provinces he annexed is rather telling on this point. He annexed Zaporizhzhia oblast despite not ever controlling its capital and principal population centre. His current ceasefire demand is that Ukraine just hands this over to him (as well as the capital of Kherson oblast, which Ukraine has retaken). This makes clear a point that Russia had been deliberately ambiguous on for a surprisingly long time, that their annexation did not only apply to territory under their military control. (For example, they delayed publishing maps of the officially annexed territory – presumably the ambiguity was regarded as a useful negotiating chip, since as Putin regularly reminds us the Russian Constitution forbids him from handing over land once it is recognised as Russian soil in domestic law. Of course the equivalent point in the Ukrainian Constitution is ignored!) So how can they possibly argue their referendum held in the scraps of land they did control were a legitimate grounds to annex the entire province?

    Anyone looking at this and saying “just like Bill Clinton!!” is being obtuse, not least because the Kosovo UDI came several presidential terms after Clinton left power and there’s no doubt at all what the vast majority of Kosovans desire. With Russian speakers in the south and east of Ukraine, it’s more complicated. A lot of the really hardcore Ukrainian nationalists (think Azov, or the Shakhtar Donetsk football ultras) are proudly Russian-speaking. These provinces, including Crimea, all voted in favour of Ukrainian independence at the end of the USSR. On the other hand, events since 2014 have led to cultural and even religious efforts to reduce Russian influence, and this would make any reintegration of those provinces more troublesome – there will certainly be people who find it harder to fit into the Ukraine of 2030 than the Ukraine of 2010. But then the reason for Ukraine’s dramatic cultural turn has got two legs and lives in Moscow.

    It would be a wonderful thing for world peace if we could all just find a way to live with the current facts on the ground and move back to a situation of peaceful cooperation. But this strikes me as about as unrealistic as the diagnoses of leading western politicians in 2014: Wolfgang Schäuble claiming it was very important the West did not rearm or spend more than 2% of GDP on the military after the Crimean annexation in case Russia “misinterpreted” it, Merkel claiming that Crimea showed we needed to “extend Putin a hand”. Accepting that wars of territorial acquisition are a legitimate way to resolve border disputes is a rather risky thing in Europe where every major border has been subject to serious historical dispute and many have ethnic minorities straddling either side. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, where the legitimacy of borders is even further cast into doubt by most of them being colonial remnants or arbitrary strokes of a bureaucrat’s pen, and absent the security and economic architecture (love ’em or not) of NATO or the EU to prevent things heating up, the idea of normalising wars of territorial acquisition could be absolutely disastrous. Putin’s playbook – claim you’re protecting your own people, claim there’s a territorial dispute when there wasn’t before, claim you have nothing to do with the Little Green Men and wait a few years before giving them medals, recognise the independence of places captured by your proxies then “acquiesce” to their “demands” for you to annex them, subject to a “legitimising” referendum – are hardly novel. But a stamp of approval from the international community for such tactics would be a new development, and a bad precedent.

    The biggest obstacle to a peace deal is that there’s nothing Putin can offer that any conceivable Ukrainian government wouldn’t have to be utterly mad, or utterly desperate, to accept. Which is why the “pro-peace” lobby are so in favour of cutting Ukraine adrift to face Russia alone – they may struggle on for a while, but eventually they’ll either be conquered and Russia can appoint a new Ukrainian government surprisingly eager to sign Ukrainian territory away to their new forever-ally, or the Ukrainians will realise the game is up and agree to anything. Then the international community can say they disapprove of Russia’s aggression if they wish to excuse themselves a little morally, but at any rate the Ukrainian government’s signature has validated the new state of affairs so we’re all prepared to accept it as the new legal reality. That’s bleak, but it’s peace, of a kind, for now, and until the same playbook gets repeated elsewhere – by the same actor or a freshly incentivised copycat.

    But what’s the alternative, provided Russia is still in a position to keep fighting? Putin is unlikely to drop his demand that Ukraine adopt, at a minimum, international neutrality (and his preference would be for them to be locked into customs and economic union with Russia). Nor would he be likely to drop his requirement for Ukrainian de-militarisation. Russian nationalists and Kremlin outriders and propagandists will keep chirping about how Kharkov, Odessa, even Kiev, are “Russian cities” on “Russian land”. Russian agencies will continue to fund Russian Empire revanchists inside Ukraine. In such circumstances, how long can anyone expect “peace” to reign before the next territorial nibble? I can see no way that Russia can guarantee to Ukraine that “we have had our fill and won’t be back for more” – Russia has promised Ukrainian territorial integrity before, but not stuck to it. Even if such a promise were honestly made, it would not be credible. After all, one Russian government cannot bind the next – if the next leader after Putin gets into domestic difficulty, would another adventure in Ukraine, a new trophy in the restoration of the motherland, not be a tempting outlet? Ukraine could only treat territorial guarantees as meaningful if the country were allowed to adopt a strong “hedgehog” defensive position, so prickly that nobody would dare prod it (I believe Kyrylo Budanov has discussed this strategic concept) and/or a meaningful alliance with Western powers enforcing Russia’s guarantees (though the West has let Ukraine down before). Even then, Russia is skilled at grey “hybrid war” techniques that inflict damage without triggering international intervention and put pressure on opponents not to respond for fear of appearing to be the aggressor. This undercuts any defensive posture or alliance mechanisms.

    Ultimately Ukraine’s greatest guarantee is if Russia is too weak to meaningfully attack and has learned that attempts to take Ukrainian territory are too costly to repeat. In such circumstances, Ukraine may accept “peace through strength” even if not all territories are returned – I don’t think Ukraine is likely to recognise their annexation, as that option is so unpalatable, but it may accept a frozen dispute in hopes of a later resolution. (Not utterly unlikely – Russians surely won’t want to be kicking around with North Korea and Iran forever. If, in a few decades, Russia tries to join European or Western economic or political institutions, then Kyiv will hold a lot of cards – it’s how the Greeks finally got the “North” put in to “North Macedonia”, and may well be how the Kosovo-Serbia dispute reaches final resolution.) In this sense, arming Ukraine to the teeth seems more likely to produce a peaceful outcome sooner, at least provided Putin is rational enough to accept he has got all the pluses he can out of his adventure and from now on the minuses column is going to fill up, and provided the Ukrainians are realistic about the limits of their ability to retake territory by force. Anyone in Washington (or Paris or Berlin for that matter) with the “smart” idea to force the Ukrainians to accept a disastrous “peace” deal, in which future Russian incursions and conquests are all but guaranteed, is likely underestimating the friends Ukraine has in other threatened countries in Eastern Europe and the commitment from some Western capitals too. That might only be enough support to keep Ukraine hobbling on, but provided there’s no realistic peace offer from Russia on the table, and particularly no way to credibly guarantee an end to future subversion and incursion attempts, they’ll hobble on until domestic morale collapses completely. If that does eventually achieve “peace”, it will be an ugly sort that undermines one of the major dividends of WW2 (that for millennia, countries had expanded their borders by force of arms, but for the last few decades this has been denormalised) and demolishes the credibility, reliability and strength of “The West” in the eyes of future potential partners.

    Comment by Anon — June 20, 2024 @ 6:24 am

  19. @Anon Many thanks for this well-informed and informative contribution.

    Just two things:

    – ‘arming Ukraine to the teeth seems more likely to produce a peaceful outcome sooner, at least provided Putin is rational enough to accept he has got all the pluses he can out of his adventure and from now on the minuses column is going to fill up, and provided the Ukrainians are realistic about the limits of their ability to retake territory by force’; they tried that, after Rasha took Crimea in 2014; it didn’t work, not least because of the matter I refer to in my next point;

    – you don’t mention NATO anywhere in your comment; if there is one thing motivating Putin to gamble everything, and spend real blood and treasure, in subduing Ukraine, it is the thought of NATO sitting right there in force on his south-western border, with a large knife pointing at Russia’s soft underbelly.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — June 21, 2024 @ 1:13 am

  20. I also noticed Anon did not mention “Nazis” or “biolabs”. It’s almost as if discussing ridiculous Kremlin propaganda is not conductive to understanding the essence of the matter.

    The only sense in which Putin is afraid of NATO is that he is afraid he won’t be able to invade a NATO country at his convenience.

    Comment by Ivan — June 21, 2024 @ 3:27 pm

  21. “Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian official heading the Russian occupation of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said on June 27 that it is “time to burn everything Ukrainian down to the root” so that “there is no trace left.”

    Oh look, he too fails to mention NATO. He must have been secretly hired by NATO while serving as Russian ambassador there.

    Comment by Ivan — June 28, 2024 @ 1:27 am

  22. Ivan argues like every Slavic ethnic partisan I’ve met over the last 30 years.

    Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break,

    Wouldn’t breaking up Russia mostly benefit China, not the US? The ‘Stans’ would lose all leverage & become Chinese colonies.

    Comment by Andrew — July 1, 2024 @ 8:01 pm

  23. @Andrew,

    Possibly. I think the neocons see taking Russia out as a necessary condition for then going after China. This may have been the reason for the neocons’ so obviously ‘baiting’ the bear to go into Ukraine – they really did think such an adventure would cause Putin’s regime to collapse.

    So – yes, agreed; but only if the US stops there and doesn’t follow up in Asia.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — July 12, 2024 @ 4:01 am

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