Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The “Exceptional” U.S. Suffers Crushing Defeat in Debaltsevo   


“There’s no city left. It’s destroyed.”

— Anonymous Ukrainian soldier following the battle of Debaltsevo

In less than a year, the United States has toppled the democratically-elected government of Ukraine, installed a Washington-backed stooge in Kiev, launched a bloody and costly war of annihilation on Russian-speaking people in the East, thrust the economy into a downward death spiral, and reduced the nation to an anarchic, failed state destined to endure a vicious fratricidal civil war for as far as the eye can see.

Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine’s US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in what-came-to-be-known-as “the cauldron.”  The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander  Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most of the troops within the pocket. The Ukrainian Armed Forces suffered major casualties ranging between  3,000 to 3,500 while a vast amount of lethal military hardware was left behind.

According to Zakharchenko, “The amount of equipment Ukrainian units have lost here is beyond description.”

Additionally, the US-backed proxy-army saw many of its crack troops and top-notch units destroyed in the fighting leaving Kiev unable to continue the war without assistance from allies in the US or Europe.  The full impact of the defeat will not be known until angry troops returning from the front amass on the streets of the Capital and demand Petro Poroshenko’s resignation. The Ukrainian President is responsible for the massacre at Debaltsevo.  He was fully aware that his army faced encirclement but ordered them to remain in order to satisfy powerful right-wing elements in his government. The disaster is even more terrible due to the fact that it was entirely avoidable and achieved no strategic purpose at all. Extreme hubris frequently impacts outcomes on the battlefield. This was the case at Debaltsevo.

The debacle ensures that the bumbling president’s days are numbered. It’s nearly certain that he will either be replaced or hanged sometime in weeks ahead. He has already flown his family to safety out of the country, and there’s growing speculation that both Washington and the far-right nationalists who occupy the Security Services will insist on his removal. That paves the way for a second Ukrainian coup in less than a year, a grim reminder of the tragic failings of US policy in Ukraine. Check out this blurb from a post at the Vineyard of the Saker:

“Looks like the Nazi death squads are on the march again, this time they are looking at Kiev.  Thirteen death-squad (aka “volunteer battalion”) leaders have now declared that they are forming their own military command under the command of the notorious Semen Semenchenko. Officially, they are not in any way opposed to the current regime, so said Semenchenko, but in reality their rank and file members are pretty clear about what they want to do: organize a third Maidan and toss out Poroshenko.

What makes these 21st century version of the SA so dangerous for Poroshenko it that he, unlike Hitler, does not have a 21st century version of the SS to eliminate them all overnight.  In fact, according to many reports the entire southern part of the rump-Ukraine is now “Kolomoiski-land” fully under the control of the oligarch who finances these death-squads.  Add to this the fact that most of the Rada is composed of the very same battalion commanders and assorted Nazi freaks, and you will why Poroshenko is now very much in danger……

The sad reality is that there is simply nobody in the Ukraine capable of disarming these so-called “volunteer battalions”.  There are now thousands of uniformed Nazi freaks roaming around with guns who can now impose their law of the jungle on everybody.  It sure looks like the future of Banderastan will be something like a mix of Somalia and Mad Max – a failed state, a comprehensively destroyed economy, a collapsed social order and the law of armed gangs of thugs.” (The Vineyard of the Saker)

If Poroshenko is doomed to be the scapegoat in the Debaltsevo cock-up, it’s only because he followed the foolhardy advice of his Washington paymasters. Had he listened to his military advisors instead, he probably would have withdrawn his troops earlier and spared himself a Gadhafi-like demise.  Now, that’s probably no longer possible.

Poroshenko’s desperation has led to an appeal to western allies and the United Nations for the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine.  The request is an admission of defeat and has no chance of being implemented, mainly because it  violates the terms of the recent peace agreement (Minsk 2.0), but, also, because voting members on the Security Council (Russia and China) are certain to veto the idea. Clearly, Poroshenko, who is increasingly embattled and reviled, is grasping at straws hoping to avoid the same violent end he ruthlessly inflicted on so many of his countrymen. Here is a brief summary of recent events from the World Socialist Web Site:

“The debacle suffered by the Kiev regime exposes the utterly reckless and frankly stupid character of the policy pursued by Washington and its EU allies in Ukraine….

The initial attempts of the Kiev regime and its CIA backers to subjugate east Ukraine by sheer military terror, relying on fascist militias and select units of the Ukraine army that it considered to be reliable, have failed….

Nevertheless, Washington is pressing Kiev to prepare for a renewed offensive and is still discussing directly arming the Ukrainian army against Russia with US weapons….

In west Ukraine, the population is evading or resisting draft orders to obtain more cannon fodder for the east Ukraine war. At the same time, Ukraine’s economy, cut off from its main industrial base in east Ukraine and its export markets in Russia, is collapsing.

“The country is at war that they cannot afford to fight. There is no economy any longer….Gerald Celente of Trends Journal told Russia Today. “That $160 billion loss of trade with Russia has destroyed the economy, when it was already in a severe recession. It went from very bad to worse than depression levels.”

(“US-backed Kiev regime faces military debacle in east Ukraine war“, Alex Lantier, World Socialist Web Site

Washington has largely won the information war, having persuaded Congress and the American people that US policy in Ukraine is “just”, but on the ground, where it counts, Washington has encountered one catastrophic failure after another. This process will undoubtedly persist until the costs are too exorbitant to bear.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at




MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”