Written by Julian Macfarlane, Tokyo-based forensic journalist and geopolitical analyst
If you are like me, you probably expected a quick end to the war in Ukraine in the winter last year when the Russians called up 300,000 reservists with an additional 100,000 volunteers.
There might have been casualties if they had launched an offensive then– but while Russian policy departs from the Western concept of total war, they can make sacrifices when they have to–as they did in the first few weeks of the SMO. At that time they hoped for a strategic success that would force Kiev to negotiate.
Those losses could have paid off if the Americans had not scuppered the agreement almost achieved in Istanbul.
The SMO continued—but NATO had in effect declared war on Russia—not that anyone “declares war” anymore. Russia adapted–in for a Long War—a hybrid World War, in which the Ukraine was just one battlefield.
Russia’s new army of some 400,000 so far hasn’t been used. People on either side keep on saying: what are they waiting for?
The war just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. A kind of military constipation.
When, oh when… do we get to flush?
In the meantime….
Bakhmut, Bakhmut, Bakhmut….
Continuing with my military colonoscopy —
Russia had destroyed one NATO/ UAF army in the first months of the war.
By the end of summer last year, it had destroyed another.
Ukrainian successes were just farts in the wind. Kharkov? A nothing campaign. Kherson? An abject failure. The capture of Kherson City. A tactical nothing.
Bakhmut should have fallen after Soledar.
For the Ukrainians to throw away more lives in the meatgrinder that is this otherwise unremarkable town known only for its salt mine seemed incomprehensible.
Bahkmut is not even its real name, which is Artemovsk. It is really just one of the fortified towns in what I have called Ukraine’s “Maginot Grid”— although “fortified” might be a stretch.
The French knew how to do it right. Not shown here are the cafes and restaurants.
They figured they could just kick an old lady and her puppy out on the streets while they set up an anti-tank gun in the living room to shoot at marauding Russians and raided her refrigerator.
That didn’t work out so well.
So the UAF ended up making do, the old-fashioned way, a la WWI.
At the end of the Phony War, the Germans, who were outnumbered by allied forces, just as the Russians have been, bypassed the Maginot fortresses, ignoring the French invitation to join them for wine and cheese.
So, why haven’t the Russians done the same —going around the UAF’s “fortified” towns and villages to attack Western Ukraine?
While Germans needed a quick end to the war with French and the British after they realized neither was going to negotiate, a fast conclusion to the SMO is not in Russian interests after their failed negotiations— and would not end the larger war.
As a result, the Russians are leveraging their superiority in weaponry to attrit the Ukrainian forces stuck in static positions all along the entire “contact line”— killing 10 Ukrainians for every soldier under red, white and blue colors. (Russia, not America). At the same time, they are attriting the American empire economically and diplomatically.
Why then is “Bakhmut” so much in the news? There are lots of important towns on the contact line — Ugledar and Avdeevka, for example— as well as some towns like Kherson City and Krasny Liman once considered important but now irrelevant strategically. Is “Bakhmut” significance merely because it is in the middle of the contact line and stands out on the map?
“Bakhmut’s” real importance is simply that Zelensky said that holding onto it was crucial —at a time when he figured he could hold it. The Western media celebrated that pronouncement and made it a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. (Drum roll, put your hand over your heart, God Save America!)
In the West, stories are more important than realities. Unfortunately, this is a single episode series and up for cancellation.
The Bakhmut Story brought to you by….
Yes, the Bakhmut Story is brought to you by the folks at the CIA network. Buy one Bullshit Burger, get one free.
Zelensky is an actor—as are most politicians in the West. Not a good actor – but, hey! —he tries. It is appearances that matter. And the show must go on. If only because it pays really, really well.
Still, if this were a real TV drama, I would switch to another channel. It is a tedious, boring re-run of worn-out tropes. But in the US, nowadays there are no other war channels — only one.
Get used to it. The remote doesn’t work.
Same old, same old—Ukrainians hiding in Bakhmut’s sewers and old buildings, coming out to get killed or getting slaughtered inside. This Whack-A-Mole is called “winning” —according to the Sponsor.
Zelensky says he will fight bravely to the last. As everyone know, he’s a hero. (Drum roll again)
Volodymyr —or “Vova”, which is what his wife calls him in Russian between the sheets, says he will fight to the last –but, of course, that means fighting to the last man (or woman) he can conscript.
If things go badly for his regime—well, one of his houses in Beverly Hills awaits.
If that much mentioned “last man” dies, blown up by the Russians—or shot in the back by Ukrainian snipers as he tries to surrender in hopes of a decent meal and a change of dry socks, Zelensky will just send in another pulled off the streets out of his wheelchair by his goon squads.
Inside Bakhmut, there have been about 15,000 to 20,000 Ukrainian troops at any given time. The Wagner Group has just 6000, although outside the city there are about 20,000 Russian troops, at least according to Alex Mercouris’ sources. No, the Wagner Group has not lost 20,000 men in Bakhmut! The entire group has less than 50,000.
Estimates of losses for the UAF are all over the map from just 70,000 to 300,000. In any case, they are down to about 100,000 troops, some say less, about 80,000, along the entire “contact” line.
Zelensky knows that once the RF liberates Russian Ukraine—that is, all of Eastern Ukraine including Odessa—the Banderite base — Western Ukraine– could fall in weeks.
Western pundits say that Putin doesn’t want to be burdened by occupying a Western Ukraine whose people have been brainwashed over the last decade. That may have been true last year. But in 2023, things are changing.
With depopulation due to war losses, emigration, war fatigue, and economic exhaustion, Western Ukraine is likely becoming more controllable than the Western media classes/ asses think.
People tend to go with the flow. When the music changes, they dance differently. Most Western Ukrainians are not hardcore Banderites – who, in the end, will do as hardcore Nazis did at the end of WWII and flee to the welcoming embrace of the US and Canada.
Just as many Japanese actually welcomed their American occupiers who did not do to them what they would have done if things were reversed, Western Ukraine may well welcome the Russians restoring order and helping them rebuild. The Russians are proving what they can do in the territories newly added to the Russian Federation, which are enjoying huge benefits from their liberation from corrupt Ukrainian control. The Russians keep their promises.
As in Mariupol.
These building were built last year!
As the SMO continues, Russia is proving they can rebuild for the better while Zelensky’s crew guts the economy, wallows in corruption, and goes downhill fast.
The Impatience of Prigozhin
Many in Russia are impatient with the Russian’s command’s slow-motion war.
One of those is the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ex-con and former hotdog salesman who became a caterer to the Kremlin. Like Putin, with whom he is reportedly friendly, he is half Jewish and was born poor. They are, after all, both survivors.
But Prigozhin is not a military man – although in a war, everyone is a military man. Whatever he is, he is outspoken.
“I have drawn up a very simple and clear plan for Russia’s victory in this war. I ask every Russian citizen to study and support it. It consists of 12 items:
- Immediately stop the supply of gas and any resources to those countries that supply the Kiev regime with military equipment.
- Why the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the GUR and SBU buildings in Kiev were not destroyed, if these structures officially commit terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation. Destroy it!
- Clearly and clearly define the boundaries of the SVO. Our soldiers don’t know what they’re fighting for. Kharkiv, Odessa, Nikolaev, can you answer this question once and for all? This is our historical land, and we will liberate it. That’s it, period, no illusions and “agreements”.
- Why are the railway bridges in Ukraine still intact, along which military trains travel to the Donbass? This task is completed by a rocket attack in a few hours.
- Immediately start military operations near Kiev. Zelensky gives orders to bomb Donetsk, Belgorod, and the Bryansk region. It is not necessary to destroy Kiev, but the front near the Ukrainian capital will quickly cool down the hotheads who dream of bombing the Crimea and other regions of Russia.
- Make the oligarchs work for the country and for Victory! Take away the assets of billionaires living abroad and in luxury mansions and send them to the military. This should be a priority for the state. Everything for the front, everything for Victory!
- Ineffective commanders and military leaders should not just be dismissed, they should be brought to justice! This will raise the morale of all fighters when they see that justice really exists.
- Every commander of an army, company, division, or platoon must regularly come to the front line. First, this is the only way he will get an understanding of how his fighters fight and how they live. And secondly, this is the only way to properly plan operations: not from a warm headquarters, but right on the spot!
- No negotiations with Kiev — you can only sit down at the table with the real owners of Ukraine, that is, with Britain and the United States. And that can only be discussed on the terms of their withdrawal from Ukraine and in no other way.
- We have a mobilization resource of 31 million rubles! It is necessary to select 500 thousand of the most motivated citizens, exclusively volunteers, and equip them with the highest level of equipment, and they will sweep away everything in their path. We have the richest country. Look at the success of PMC Wagner with the number of no more than 30-40 thousand.
- Put the country on a “war footing”. There should be no illusions in this matter. Everyone has to work hard to win. Introduce a military tax — for everyone with an income above the subsistence minimum. Those who do not want to fight — let them help with rubles.
- During the Second World War, two relatives and one adopted son of Stalin fought. Until such a thing happens in our country, the people will not fully believe that the entire leadership of the country is interested in Victory. (Thanks to “Frank” at Moon of Alabama)
(Thanks to Frank at MoA for this quote)
Slow wins the race—and the Revolution
Prigozhin’s ideas would be the way to go if you wanted a fast, short-term, tactical solution. But:
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu
Putin is going slow with a long-term strategy — and, Russian tactics constantly evolve, according to the situation in line with Svechin’s concept of war as the supreme martial art.
This sometimes gives the impression that the Russians don’t know what they are doing. Not all—rather, they learn from their mistakes and adapt creatively.
This not one of America’s “Forever Wars”. But it will take time since the Ukraine is just part of that much bigger— hybrid world war mentioned earlier. Changing the whole world is a lot harder than just getting rid of a few Nazis with ugly tattoos and a leader who plays the piano with his penis.
Russia has started a revolution, with China now joining in.
You may recall a guy called Thomas Jefferson. He said:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”
Of course, Jefferson definition of “all men” was exceptionalist. He really all “white males who owned property”.
Putin’s version is more like this:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all countries are created equal”.
Jefferson’s declaration focused on the “tyranny” of the British Crown, the mild-mannered George III who was mostly just doing what parliament told it to do. In his speech to the Federal Assembly and in his Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation statement, Putin also identifies an imperial tyranny – the United States—whose new Nero while the world burns is an aging old guy who doesn’t fiddle, except with pubescent girls and can’t quite remember his name—rather less personable than England’s “Farmer George”.
Let us remember that revolution only begins with military conflict; the end takes longer. It’s a process. The US never finished its. Russia’s is just beginning. If you read Putin’s speech, you can see that a new Russia is emerging, with reforms and efficiencies in all areas of society, including education, infrastructure, industry and government— things that America has talked about for decades but never implementing.
America: fascism without a Fuhrer.
Whatever the Declaration of Independence says, the US’s revolution stalled, if in fact it ever was more than a transfer of power from elites in Britain to elites in Washington.
The US never prioritized “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” much less the equality that Jefferson calls “self-evident”. At war for most its history, its priorities are different, driven by greed, lust for power and the exploitation that is the core of predatory monopoly capitalism. This is a conflict culture.
As it declines, the US more and more fears freedom of enterprise, and competition. Just ask the Chinese. It can have no equal partners—only vassals or slaves.
However, this is the country that invented our modern notion of PR.
The artful use of lies to sell delusion and in many cases death and to perpetuate rule by a few. Words take on twisted meanings. So American “exceptionalism” is a nice way of saying Amerika uber alles, which is the real definition of unipolarity. Amerika has no Fuhrer as the Reich did — rather a small group of invisible Fuhrers. The real government of the US is invisible.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
Unfortunately for the US, Putin’s concept of multipolarity is now being embraced by an increasing number of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
It is a fundamentally democratic concept—accepting difference and diversity– not just in politics and political systems– but in culture, tradition and goals. So now we see countries as far apart as Iran and Saudi Arabia coming together.
Xi Jinping, vilified in Biden’s recent State of the Union speech puts it well.
Only the wearer of the shoes knows the fit. How true. But the US wants everyone to war size 9. And that won’t change quickly, bunions or not.
Let us remember, that while Rome rose quickly it took centuries to fall. The longer the SMO goes on, the more the US and its vassal states flail about, weakening themselves and the stronger Russia and China—and the rest of the world—become. Still, we must be patient. “But the US and its system is rotting and you don’t want to be under the tree. It is not just the fruit falling on your head. But the whole tree.
The US is dangerous.
Fortunately, its people are not really willing to fight for beliefs that change with the next news cycle.
Nations have personalities, too
The US is not going to give up because it doesn’t know any other way to do things.
It will never accept defeat in the Ukraine because to do so is to admit that the foreign policy and its policy of economic and global exploitation that have left a death toll of 20 to 30 million since WWII was wrong. If the US were a person, they would certify it as psychopathic.
It has charm and intelligence just like Ted Bundy – but lacks empathy and altruism and a sense of guilt or shame.
Functional psychopaths use charm and charisma to manipulate others in pursuit of self-serving goals. Behind the charm, they are ruthless and chameleon-like, thriving on risk and chaos, to exploit others, to achieve their goals.
Being American therefore means never having to say you’re sorry.
Ask the North Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Syrians and the Afghans. Not to mention most of Latin America.
Tellingly — like most psychopaths, the US focuses on short term satisfactions.
Putin, by contrast, is both highly empathic and altruistic. And he wants Russia to be that way too. He cares.
However, As a KGB officer, Putin learned to judge people objectively and accurately against the background of their own cultures and beliefs. He has applied the same skills to assessing the US and Europe. He recognizes there are no quick fixes and Russia must look at the long term, reinventing itself to take its place in a new world.
As a result, the war in the Ukraine goes slow, wearing down the world’s tolerance for American lies, deceptions, greed and lusts. At the same time, wearing down even Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians’ tolerance for the incompetence, bigotry and cruelty of their Neo Nazi leaders.
Bakhmut is falling –the Russian flag has now been raised over the city center. The UAF occupy a smaller and smaller portion of the city, right now just the Western part. The “musicians” as they are called, are taking that part of the city a building at a time, an estimated 3 to 8 apartment buildings where the Ukrainians hide.
Roughly 85% of the city of Bakhmut itself is under Russian control.
Avdeevka also. Ugledar will take more time because of the advantages of its site for the UAF but Ukrainian losses there are unsustainable; the Russians less so, after initial missteps from which they have evidently learned.
Most important of all is air power and new technologies.
The Ukrainians inherited a very effective AD system from the Soviets, which the Russians have been destroying.
As Brian Berletic notes, the Russians are now using aircraft very effectively along the contact line. They have a range of advanced weapons including glide bombs.
In addition, the Russians have refined their strategies for more effective use of helicopters and Su25 aircraft despite short range portable air defense systems. Where, early in the war, Russian copters operated behind the lines singly seeking out Ukrainian assets they now operate in pairs, usually dissimilar pairs – a larger Mi-24 and a dedicated Ka52 attack copter, who protect each other, with radar suppression and the Vitebsk electronic warfare system , which provides protection against the optical homing heads of MANPADS. This system is also fitted to Su25s.
Targets may also be identified first by drones with laser designators.
The Ukrainians are being worn down all along the line, as are the Americans and Europeans in the larger economic and diplomatic battlefields.
Ukrainians biting back
We can expect the Banderite government of Ukraine to resort to even more extreme measures, like a vicious animal.
There will of course, be even more suppression of dissent, hate crimes and religious discrimination at home—but also terror and cruelty including attacks on civilians, assassinations, massacres, and atrocities of all kinds.
All such things serve to unify the Russian people while alienating a certain segment of the Western Ukrainian population itself.
In March 2023, over 80 percent of Russians approved of activities of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The popularity level was five percent higher than in September 2022, when it stood at 77 percent. (Statista)
Prigozhin wants Russia on a war footing– but he is preaching to the converted now — most Russians are more and more ready to make sacrifices. Their support will increase with any attack against Russian territory.
With the fall of Bakhmut and later Avdeevka and perhaps Ugledar, the Ukrainians will no doubt attempt their much talked about “counteroffensive” against Melitopol and Crimea but also possibly another in the east.
I am sure the Russian Command are hoping for that. They have been waiting. They are prepared.
Russian engineers have fortified not just the area around Melitopol but in the Northeast as as Brian Berletic says in a must-see video.
a.) slow down a rapid large-scale attack designed to overwhelm a numerically smaller but better equipped Russian BTG before it can organize a response. The “B” in BTG stands for “Battalion—maybe just 800 men, although backed by artillery and tanks. That’s the “reactive” part of strategy. Martyanov calls it “active defense.
b.) direct Ukrainian armor and vehicles into kill zones That’s the proactive part of “active”.
Remember the Ukrainian offensives in Kharkov and Kherson?
In Kharkov, the Ukrainians were able to take control of a lot of empty land – at the cost of at least 20,000 troops and a lot of equipment. The Russians didn’t really bother to fight for territory, just decimate the UAF. In Kherson, the Ukrainians were slaughtered, and their efforts cost them another 30,000— possibly more.
The “retreats” from Kharkov and Kherson were strategic repositioning that allowed the Russians to consolidate their defenses – at the expense of the Ukrainians and certainly at the expense of any counteroffensive.
For the UAF to mount a major offensive like this, it must employ almost all of its remaining armor and artillery—out in the open. Even a hundred Leopard IIs would make little difference. The Russians have already killed 8,500 Ukrainian tanks, as many as 500 over the winter.
And now the RF have hundreds of new tanks and aircraft and missiles – and a fresh, new army of 400,000 reservists – not conscripts — now fully trained for this new kind of war — but not yet deployed –and with a new command structure based on recent experience.
One reason why the Russians have not bombed the railway bridges as Prigozhin wants is that they want the Ukrainians to move equipment to their forces in the South – so they can destroy them. The Russians are even deploying obsolete tanks and naval guns for use as artillery. More bang for the buck.
One writer has suggested that the UAF could cobble together an army of 400,000! But without air support, artillery and logistics, this would be as suicidal as Japan’s last attempts in the Pacific War.
And does the West really have the will to fight?
The counteroffensive we are told was supposed to be early this month. Now, it appears to have been postponed. Logically, it should never happen because it cannot be successful. But the West is mad – and so too, the Ukraine.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
—TS Eliot. The Hollow Men
The American world is ending and a new one is being born.
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