by Ian Thorpe and Phil T Looker, 26 July 2022
Last month the Russian military high command announced an "operational pause" in the Donbas. region of Ukraine, where the most intense fighting in the current conflict has been focused. Such breaks are not unusual in a high-intensity war of attrition, because of the vast supplies required and damages inflicted. Armies need to regroup, re - supply, review progress and give the troops time off.
Naturally, given the one sided tone of reporting by mainstream media of the five month old war, which has gone something like: "Ukraine are winning this war, the Ukrainians are driving Russian forces back. Ukraine's army have retaken most of the territory occupied by Russia, Putin has been humiliated. Putin is on his deathbed, boy are the Ukrainians giving those nasty Russian bullies a good thrashing. Oh dear, another major Ukrainian city / military stronghold has fallen to the Russian onslaught, the reporting by mainstream broadcast and print media in the west has claimed there must be another reason that Russian military activity has decreased.
Well for reasons stated above or possibly other considerations it has decreased. Russian artillery fire has been reduced, and there seem to have been less offensives. But of course we do not get told anything remotely resembling what is really going on.Thus while the Russians are regrouping in Donbas and reviewing strategy, but still advancing, western media reports the Ukrainians have started hitting targets on the Kherson front in the South.,even making their lies more incredible by claiming the Ukrainians have actually taken more territory off Russia in the South, than the Russians have off them in the Donbas. It's bollocks of course, the Ukranian army (and their American helpers but you didn't learn that last bit from me, OK?) have fired a few long range missiles from American Himars systems into Russian occupied territory and managed to hit one or two significant targets.
Kherson is very important strategically - it is the only foothold that the Russians have north and west of the Dnipro River, which is the major strategic barrier that runs across Ukraine from Crimea to Kyiv. If the Ukrainian attack was anywhere near being successful, Russia would have called the big guns up to the front. They have not done so which suggests they are not unduly worried.
While there is an element in the west who glorify war (see Wilfrid Owen's poem Dulce et decorum est,) most of us just want the fighting to stop. Mention this however and the mob will attack, accusing one of being 'Putin's poodle, hating democracy (as if the corrupt, neo - Nazi Ukrainian government is anything to do with democracy, a fascist, a right wing nutcase, a propaganda troll on The Kremlin's payroll and all sorts of nonsense. These people then go on to call for escalation of the war, direct intervention against Russia by NATO, supplying the neo - Nazi nutters in Kiev with nuclear weapons and sensing in the SAS / US Navy Seals to take out Putin. It's difficult to have a rational exchange of opinions with such people.
Even before the current conflict began we knew the Russian military would be brutal and ruthless, if not quite competent in prosecuting their war. They have a reputation going back hundreds of years. We knew that the government in Kiev had been provoking Russia on an almost daily basis since the pro - western elements were put into power following a coup d'etat engineered by the USA and NATO. Anyone with even the most tenuous hold on reality knew Ukraine could not win this war without direct NATO involvement, and that direct intervention would escalate a local conflict into a global war.
This blog, my colleagues and I, do not want any war, we do not want innocent Ukrainian civilians dying, we do not want Russian soldiers dying. But what we three old gits and our occasional contributors knew from day one and before is that the Russianm mindset and the east European mindset operate on a different set of values to those of us in the west.
Second, Ukraine has no real option to finish the war, they cannot win and only by winning could they persuade Russia to accept a ceasfire on Ukrainian terms. Russia on the other hand can simply withdraw - despite its aggression - and cripple Ukraine economically as they are now crippling the economies of Ukraine's main supporters in the European Union.
If Russia withdraws it is unlikely to suffer the type of attack that it itself perpetrated. This means that the timing of the end of the war is in Russia's hands.
Third, there is a need for unity in the West, not to escalate the war but to put pressure on Ukrain to accept reasonable terms for surrender and bring Russia to the negotiating table. However the UK govt need to dissociate Europe from America's efforts to use this conflict as a proxy war against Russia . It is largely a one-way war as any perusal of European media will confirm, and whatever is reported from the front line in Ukraine, in the economic war Putin is winning hands down as Europe faces energy shortages, food shortages, runaway inflation and the fragmentation of the European Union. However the perpetration of a continuous state of hostility between Russia and Europe benefits no one except Putin.It certainly does not benefit the United Kingdom.
1. Gas: Should Russia cut off the gas supply half of Europe (and most of NATO) will be plunged into economic meltdown and social chaos. Attitudes and unity could change very quickly if the Russians weaponise this vital commodity. USA, the EU and their allies were quick to sanction Russia, crying foul now Russia is sanctioning them is hardly credible.
2. Grain and vegetable oil: Not only are some poor countries now facing a food crisis as wheat and cooking oil, two essential commodities that Russia and Ukraine are the largest exporters of. UK is fairly safe on this one, we get most of our imported grain from Canada, but other west European nations rely on imports from Russia and Ukraine.
3. Battlefield nuclear: The Russian army in the field may have been brutal but Russia's high command has been very restrained. Were they to roll out the big weapons the slaughter would be on an unprecedented scale.
4. Fertilizer: Russia also provides the raw materials for over 50% of the commercial fertiliser used to boost crop yields. So were the war to end tomorrow and the grain start flowing again, the shortage of fertilizer will ensure a vastly reduced harvest and shortages next year.
Outcome? Stalemate. I can't see Ukraine ever getting Crimea back, and it will be hard going to re-take the South and South East. It's very easy for those sitting comfortably in the West wanting Ukraine to fight to the bitter end. But in reality that is going to cost. Crimea especially will be such a major operation I doubt Ukraine could do it without the direct involvement of the U.S. U.K. France and other NATO members, and that would risk escalation to a global conflict should China grab the opportunity to annexe Taiwan while Washington was looking the other way.