By Paul Craig Roberts - January 20, 2023
As readers know, I am a critic of Putin’s “limited military operation” in Ukraine. It was eight years late, and its limited objective is unrealistic. Putin needed to occupy Kiev the minute he saw the US coup unfolding. Failing this, he needed to reincorporate Donbass in 2014 prior to its partial occupation by neo-Nazi militias and Ukrainian military. He failed to act in a timely fashion because he was deceived by the West with the Minsk Agreement, which was a delaying tactic to keep Russia at bay until the US had built and equipped a Ukrainian Army.
I understand why the Kremlin limited its intervention last February to clearing the Independent Donbass Republics of Ukrainian forces. Putin did not invade Ukraine, because he did not want widespread death and destruction in Ukraine, long a part of Russia with extensive intermarriage and mixing of populations. Where the Kremlin failed was in not realizing that Washington would not permit the conflict to be limited to the clearing of Donbass.
Having delayed necessary action for eight years, the Kremlin needed a lightening, overwhelming attack that knocked the entirety of Ukraine out of action immediately before Washington and NATO could get involved. Instead the limited military operation was confined to the territory of the breakaway republics, proceeded slowly to spare civilian lives and infrastructure, and involved little of the Russian Army. The fighting was undertaken by the Donbass militias and a private military organization, the Wagner Group, that functions as an auxiliary to the Russian Army. The Kremlin did not have ready any reserves to maintain the ever-lengthening lines of the slow Russian advance that gave Washington time to widen the conflict. It was this that made possible the limited Ukrainian “counterattacks” that had no meaningful effect. The Russian lines in two sectors pulled back in advance and made penetration impossible.
The Russian pullbacks were misrepresented as “defeats” and gave rise to such nonsense as “Ukraine in Crimea by Christmas.” Washington and NATO are lost in their own narrative and believe their own propaganda.
Mike Whitney looked beyond Western propaganda for information and presents his findings here — https://www.unz.com/mwhitney/ukraine-is-the-hammer-about-to-fall/ — that there are now 540,000 Russian Army soldiers stationed around Ukraine and in Belarus provisioned with enormous numbers of tanks, artillery, rockets, missiles, and ammunition prepared to launch this time a real invasion. If this report is true, it indicates that Putin has learned from his many mistakes. If the report is false, it suggests that Putin is incapable of recognizing the reality that he faces.
In the Western world Russian studies has degenerated into Russophobia. Objective experts are a thing of the past. One of the few remaining objective experts wonders if the stage is now set for a ground war unanticipated by Washington and NATO. If events have forced Putin to abandon his limited operation, Ukraine will simply be rolled up.
The Polish defense minister seems to be reaching a similar conclusion. There are indications that mobilization is beginning with the callup of 200,000 reservists. Whether this is to protect against Russian attack or to occupy western Ukraine which Poland still claims while Russia takes the eastern half or to be sent as reinforcements for Ukraine is unknown.
If Zelensky and Washington are capable of reason, the reported assembled Russian invasion force, if actually present, will not have to be used. The destruction of Ukraine can be prevented by Washington’s acceptance of the return of the Russian liberated territory to Mother Russia and agreement that Ukraine will be a neutral disarmed state and never a member of NATO.
Putin has said that by spurning his diplomacy, the West has left force as his only means of dealing with the West. Putin’s previous reluctance to use force has worsened the situation. Now if he uses force late in the game, Washington will be confused. How will Washington respond if the Russian Army rolls up Ukraine? Washington will commit the world to nuclear war if Washington thinks a commitment of US soldiers to Ukraine’s defense would stop a Russian Army advance. The American soldiers would be slaughtered along with the remaining Ukrainians. What then? Can arrogant Washington overflowing with hubris accept defeat, with the consequence being the likely dissolution of its European NATO empire, or will the madmen who are misruling us push the button?
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