Last year, right after Russian troops entered Ukraine, I said that we were already in World War III between the US/NATO and Russia (“WWIII is not a remote possibility. We are already in it”). I’ve repeated that a number of times, and in October, gave even odds on the chance of nuclear war. Since then, actions and statements of principals on both sides of the conflict have only confirmed and worsened that assessment.
Regarding statements, we had Ukraine’s former president, hand-picked by Victoria Nuland, admitting in November that Ukraine used the Minsk Agreements to build a NATO army, to “train the Ukrainian military together with NATO to create the best armed forces in Eastern Europe, created according to NATO standards.” That admission was confirmed in December by Angela Merkel, who said that Minsk “was an attempt to buy time for Ukraine… to become stronger, as you can see today.” It was re-confirmed by François Hollande, who said, “Yes, Angela Merkel is right on this point.” And it was quite emphatically confirmed in January by Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who said that Ukraine has “already become a de facto member of the NATO alliance” that is “carrying out NATO’s mission today,” “defending the entire civilized world, the entire West,” and would “absolutely” enter formally into NATO.
The kicker, of course, is German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s recent statement that “We are fighting a war against Russia.” It’s a war against Russia she intends to prosecute for “as long as” necessary, “No matter what my German voters think.”
Baerbock’s “we” is Ukraine and the EU/NATO under the leadership of the U.S.—exactly what Reznikov and she consider “the entire civilized world,” echoing EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell’s equally spontaneous and sincere remark that “Europe is a garden” and “most of the rest of the world is a jungle.” That makes Russia, in their eyes, another jungle bunny.
Baerbock is a most senior German government official. She spoke clearly and sincerely and with passion. Everybody, including Russia, heard and understood her correctly. The EU and NATO are fighting a war against Russia. No backsies on that.
In fact, Baerbock’s attitude has now been emphatically seconded by Tobias Ellwood, the head of Britain’s Parliamentary Defense Committee:
#Britain is at #War with #Russia.
Don't take my word for it!
This statement was made by the head of the #British Parliamentary Defense Committee, Tobias Ellwood. He argues that Britain is already involved in the conflict and must face Russia "head to head"
Ppl of #UK R U ready? pic.twitter.com/hsA81uo2kh
— Arthur Morgan (@ArthurM40330824) February 1, 2023
“We are now at war in Europe…We are involved in that…We need to face Russia directly.” [His emphases]
Tanks A Lot
More importantly, regarding action, there is no denying the US/NATO are making war against Russia. In October, I cited the former US Deputy Attorney General’s legal opinion that “the United States and several NATO members have become co-belligerents with Ukraine against Russia.” Whatever the legal arguments, the substantive case is impossible to ignore.
The decision to send Main Battle Tanks (MBT)—American Abrams, British Challengers, German Leopards—and other armored vehicles from various countries Is the latest incidence of the US/NATO “serially blown[ing] past their own self-imposed lines over arms transfer,” as Branko Marcetic puts it. It was taken over the strong objections of military and political leaders, who point out that these transfers are going to weakentheir own national armies. Olav Scholz in particular, whose Leopard tanks were apparently Ukraine’s favorite, is said to be “furious” at the pressure he came under from the U.S. and his own hawkish cabinet members—to whom he of course buckled, because that’s what European poodle leaders always do.
The significance of that decision is not in these 100-200 tanks. They will have to be built from scratch or de-furbished to strip out classified armor and systems that nobody wants Russia to capture, so they won’t even arrive for months, if not next year. They won’t be decisive anyway. Ukraine had almost 3,000 tanks when this battle started. What happened to them? Ukraine now supposedly has about 1,000 left. Russia had 22,000—15 years ago.
If you want to say, “Oh, but these tanks will be so much better!” I suggest you read the analysis of U.S. tank commander, Lt. Col Daniel Davis. He’ll tell you how, in Desert Storm, U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks “destroyed more than 3,000 Iraqi [T-72] tanks” without losing “a single Abrams tank.” He’ll also tell you “a little-known truth: if the Iraqis had had the same M1A1s that we had, or if we had been outfitted with the same T72s Iraq had, we still would have won” [my emphasis]. Why? Because “the T-72 operators were poorly trained while our side was highly trained,” and “ultimately, it is the man operating the tools of war that wins, not the tools themselves.” He’ll tell you that “highly trained” means things like, “a complete annual training cycle to achieve baseline proficiency required to properly manage maintenance, train for gunnery, and understand mounted maneuver tactics.”
It’s going to be practically impossible for a sufficient number of Ukrainian soldiers to “learn how to use and sustain the multiple versions of armored vehicles provided by different countries” in any relevant timeframe. All of which means many of those tanks will not be manned by Ukrainians, but by re-costumed NATO crews.
Not to mention that tanks don’t win battles without “intense coordination between armor, infantry, artillery, engineering support, and air support” [my emphasis]. Thus, fighter jets (F-16s) immediately slide into the queue—as everybody knew they must. These fighter jets also have stringent training requirements—Ukraine says they can train in six months, the UK says the “fastest” training program is thirty-five months and their current one “lasts five years.” So many of these jets will therefore have to be flown by US/NATO pilots, out of NATO airbases (since there are problems with Ukraine’s “airfield infrastructure”), against the best air-defense system in the world.
Just like they ruled out sending long-range munitions and attacking Crimea—both of which they are now OK with—Biden and other Western leaders will rule out sending those jets, until NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. neocons and Pentagon “military officials” and Poland remind them that “Russia’s victory in the war against Ukraine will be a defeat of NATO. This cannot be allowed.”
The point isn’t the tanks or the jets; the point is the logic that’s being accepted: Nothing in the queue works without everything that follows, and everything cannot be done in time, if at all. As The Economist points out(cited by MoonofAlabama), Ukraine is demanding an arsenal that is “bigger than the total armoured forces of most European armies.” Last June, Ukraine’s Defense Minister said that “[the weapons] we have already received…would have been enough for a victorious defense operation against any army in Europe. But not against Russia.” So, Ukraine is demanding that the EU/NATO/US—overwhelmingly, the U.S.—rebuild its army to be the most powerful army in Europe again. To be destroyed by Russia, again?
It’s an inexorable and accelerating ladder of escalation, and Western political leaders have repeatedly committed themselves to climbing it wherever it goes. But nothing in the queue of wonder weapons is going to prevent Russia’s victory over Ukraine, which cannot be allowed. When F-16s fail to prevent that, what’s the next rung?
The only question in this conflict between Russia and the US/NATO is whether Russia will force the capitulation of the Kiev proxy regime before US/NATO directly attacks Russian forces, initiating a final escalatory cycle that may well will likely lead to a nuclear exchange. The odds of avoiding that disaster are no better than even. And shrinking.
The media light shone on weapons distracts from the dangerous involvement of US/NATO personnel—from the “much larger presence of both CIA and U.S. special operations personnel and resources in Ukraine…conduct[ing] a broad program of clandestine operations inside the country,” reported by The Intercept, to the “40,000 US troops [including the 101st Airborne Division], 30,000 Polish troops and 20,000 Romanian troops” on Ukraine’s borders that Douglas Macgregor thinks Jake Sullivan threatened “his Russian counterparts” would “jump in” to prevent Russia from “win[ning] this war on your terms,” to the CIA “paramilitary officers…commanding and controlling” sabotage operations inside Russia, “using an allied intelligence service” to give cover, according to Jack Murphy.
After all the artillery, and tanks, and planes—which John Helmer reasonably suggests are really “for the last-ditch fortification of the western lines defending the regime between Lvov and Kyiv”—the only thing that maystop Russia from winning this war on its terms would be the direct intervention of NATO armed forces. Except those forces have depleted their own stocks of conventional arms (the U.S. itself is scrounging around for ammunition), and the U.S. cannot launch a ground offensive. Fortunately, the U.S. has (tactical nuclear) weapons designed to make up for such “surprising military developments.” Nuclear war will only get more likely with each Leopard and F-16 delivered and destroyed.
Tail. Dog. Wag.
It’s important to recognize who is playing whom in this game—namely, everybody and everybody. Kiev knows it’s not going to win with some more Bradleys or tanks or F-16s, and it is not seeking victory through them. It is using them to draw the US and EU up the ladder. Kiev knows that only U.S./NATO—which means, overwhelmingly, U.S.— armed forces have any possibility of winning this battle. The fascist forces dominant in the Kiev regime want this to become explicitly a U.S.-Russian war, at whatever level it takes. That is not something they are hoping to avoid. It’s something they know is necessary, and are seeking to make happen.
People say, correctly, that the neocons in the U.S. don’t care what happens to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, whom they are using as cannon fodder against Russia. Also true is that the fascists in Ukraine don’t care what it costs the U.S. and European countries, whom they want to use in their war against Russia. Per fascist father-of-the-country Stepan Bandera, as recently ratified by the Rada: “The complete and final victory of Ukrainian nationalism will be won only when the Russian empire no longer exists.” Ukrainian fascists want the destruction of Russia above all, and are convinced, not without reason, that, as long as Russia is destroyed, whatever the damage to Ukraine, the U.S., Europe, et. al., they will be left standing as a stronger political force. That’s what makes them such convenient partners for the neocons. It’s a tail-dog circle wag. Together, they have succeeded in making it politically impossible for Western leaders not to defeat Russia. Unfortunately, that can only seem to be done by blowing up the world.
Everyone in the US/NATO leadership knows all this. (Except maybe Slow Joe.) They know that, whatever weapons they send, Ukraine is not going to defeat Russia. They also know they will soon lose the ability to deceive people about that. Reports from establishment sources—RAND, CSIS, Washington Post—are now acknowledging that neither Ukraine nor the U.S. is ready for the kind of industrial warfare Russia is mounting. Russia is not the kind of lightly armed “war on terror” adversary the U.S. has been fighting (and largely losing to) for the past 20 years. See retired Lt. Col. Alex Vershinin’s analysis that “due to supply chain issues[,]…a lack of trained personnel [and] the degradation of the US manufacturing base”—problems that cannot be solved in a few months—“the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war.” It seems that the financializaton of late-stage capitalism in the imperial center—Lenin’s definition of “imperialism”—has taken its toll. Of particular interest in that regard is Vershinin’s observation that:
This situation is especially critical because behind the Russian invasion stands the world’s manufacturing capital – China. As the US begins to expend more and more of its stockpiles to keep Ukraine in the war, China has yet to provide any meaningful military assistance to Russia. The West must assume that China will not allow Russia to be defeated, especially due to a lack of ammunition.
Understanding all this, saner minds, including ruling-class actors who do not relish blowing up the world for the neocon/Banderite agenda—are in a panic mode, on tilt, alternately offering sticks and carrots—all, as Pepe Escobar says, “to stall…in the hope of delaying or even cancelling the planned offensive of the next few months.” Jake Sullivan sends his “We’ll jump in!” message one week; the next, it is said, CIA Director William Burns offers and/or Antony Blinken implies (in his Washington Post interview) some kind of secret deal.
This flurry of threats and inducement is a sign of their palpable and growing fear.
Western leaders may have persuaded themselves that, because Putin has not reacted to their escalations as forcefully as they think he should have, he never will. So, as Caitlin Johnstone says, they are “actively incentiviz[ing Russia] to react forcefully to those escalations,” with the clear message: “[you’re] going to get squeezed harder and harder until [you] attack NATO itself.”
Now, fearing, and entirely unprepared for, the inevitable result of that escalatory logic, U.S. leaders (or some less neocon faction thereof), throw out some kinda-sorta status quo ante, half-a-loaf for everyone, proposals. These are presented, dishonestly and insultingly (to Russia and to our intelligence) as a kindness to Putin, giving him a face-saving way out of a conflict he is losing. Really, these proposals are attempts to give US/NATO a way out of a conflict it knows it cannot win, while allowing their proponents to pose as peacemakers who tried really, really hard to stop the apocalypse they have been leading us to for nine years. In their unmitigated and unmerited arrogance, they think they get away with “I’m coaching and fighting on Ukraine’s side, now let me be the referee.”
Neither Russia nor Ukraine is eating that shit, which would demand that each party renounce core demands it is fighting for and accept another eternally unresolved stalemate. I’m for peace! Give us fifteen more years to build up NATO to a point where we might be able to defeat you! Of course, the U.S. could force Ukraine to accept anything. Russia, not so much. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is not in a panic because he knows the real disposition of forces, sharply swatted away Blinken’s camouflaged overture. Per John Helmer’s “Moscow sources”: “The Russians will not tolerate half-measures. Not like the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, not like Yeltsin in Serbia. Not like Nord Stream or the Crimean Bridge. Not now. Read Putin’s lips.”
Anything can happen in war, and Russia has been notoriously careful and tight-lipped, but Western leaders fear (and I agree) that military analysts like Scott Ritter, Douglas Macgregor, and Erich Vad are right—Russian leadership is not afraid but patient, not avoiding confrontation but meticulously preparing for it, not panicked but confident, and Russian forces in Ukraine will advance slowly, slowly, then all at once.
Vladimir Putin is well aware that he has been played: “The West lied to us about peace while preparing for aggression, and today, they no longer hesitate to openly admit it.” In a ceremony commemorating the Soviet Union’s momentous victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, which “stopped and sent into irreversible retreat” the army of Hitlerian fascism, he stated quite clearly what shit he will no longer eat:
Now we are seeing that unfortunately, the ideology of Nazism – this time in its modern guise – is again creating direct threats to our national security, and we are, time and again, forced to resist the aggression of the collective West.
However incredible, it is a fact – we are again being threatened with German Leopard tanks with crosses on board. There is again a plan to fight Russia on Ukrainian land using Hitler’s successors, the Banderites…
However, those that are dragging European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia, and especially those that are irresponsibly talking about it as a fait accompli, those who are hoping to defeat Russia on the battlefield, apparently fail to understand that a modern war against Russia will be a completely different war for them. We do not send our tanks to their borders but we have what to respond with, and it is not limited to the use of armour. Everyone must realise this.
Every day that passes without a strike on US/NATO co-belligerents is a day of Russian restraint. Those days are numbered by the words of politicians like Annalena Baerbock’s and Tobias Ellwood and the actions of their governments, who are “at war in Europe” and “need to face Russia directly.”
Anna and Tobias will get what they asked for, and the result will not play out only on the territory and people of Ukraine and Russia. Read his lips: Putin will not allow the US neocons, Ukrainian fascists, and European poodles to have the last word. As the head of the Russian arms-control delegation in Vienna, Konstantin Gavrilov, says: “If Washington and NATO countries provide Kyiv with weapons for striking against the cities deep inside the Russian territory and for attempting to seize our constitutionally affirmed territories, it would force Moscow to undertake harsh retaliatory actions…Do not say that we did not warn you.”
Note well that Putin has now suggested changing Russia’s military doctrine on nuclear-weapons use to mirror the more permissive policy of the United States:
Vladimir Putin said Russia may consider formally adding the possibility of a preventive nuclear first strike to disarm an opponent to its military doctrine…[P]erhaps we should think about using the approaches of our American partners,” he said, citing what he called US strategies to use high-accuracy missiles for a preventive strike.
Also note that Russia works with a broad definition of “nuclear weapons.” Regarding depleted-uranium munitions that are regularly used by Leopards, Abrams, and Bradleys, Gavrilov stated: “If Kyiv were to be supplied with such munitions for the use in Western heavy military hardware, we would regard it as the use of ‘dirty nuclear bombs’ against Russia, with all the consequences that entails.” So, even under Russia’s more restrictive doctrine, tanks firing depleted-uranium munitions would be considered a first use of nuclear weapons.
I’m afraid there will be more weapons delivered and more red lines drawn and crossed. Russia will show it is not afraid, but confident of its ability, to respond to any escalation, and the US/NATO will be faced with accepting defeat or using nuclear weapons.
Panic at the disco. Not a happy new year.
(For World Wars Iv and V, see the sequel on my Substack.)