Friday, 30 December 2022 — Moon of Alabama
What really hit me last year was the dearth of correct analyses in main stream media and in politics with regards to the war in Ukraine. Little if anything is based on facts. More than 90% of the published output is propaganda.
The ‘western’ plan was to draw Russia into Ukraine to then ‘kill’ it by economic sanctions. As Biden said when he announced those:
We have purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our Allies.
And I want to be clear: The United States is not doing this alone. For months, we’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well more than half of the global economy.
Twenty-seven members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy — as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many others — to amplify the joint impact of our response.
I just spoke with the G7 leaders this morning, and we are in full and total agreement. We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in Dollars, Euros, Pounds, and Yen to be part of the global economy. We will limit their ability to do that. We are going to stunt the ability to finance and grow Rus- — the Russian military.
We’re going to impose major — and we’re going to impair their ability to compete in a high-tech 21st century economy.
We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on Russia’s currency, the Ruble, which early today hit its weakest level ever — ever in history. And the Russian stock market plunged today. The Russian government’s borrowing rate spiked by over 15 percent.
The assumptions behind these sanctions about the state of the Russian economy were completely wrong. Russia no longer had a low level economy. Yes, its GDP in dollar terms was much lower than those of most European states. But its GDP per capita measured at purchase power of the ruble was quite high. Russia’s GDP also includes a much higher percentage of real production and a lower percentage of dubious ‘services’. Its health care sector is 5.6% of its GDP. In the U.S. it is 16.7%, without creating a much better outcome. If one looks at Russia’s production of steel, concrete and electricity per capita, things of real value, one can see that it is as much developed as other major middle income countries in Europe.
The sanctions not only failed but hit back at those who issued them. Just look at Europe’s energy crisis. Due to the sanctions issued in 2014, when Russia reintegrated Crimea, it knew what was coming and had prepared for it. Within weeks the rubel went so high that the central bank intervened to lower it. ‘western’ companies in Russia were quickly taken over or replaced by Russian ones. Trade with China and other non-western countries grew immensely. Russia’s total GDP decline in 2022 will be 2.5-2.9%, not the 20+% some western ‘experts’ had predicted. Some of the European countries that issued the sanctions will have a much sharper decline.
Russia was and is rich. It produces lots of food and has all the natural resources it could wish for. Its economy is mostly self sufficient. Its population is well educated. It has the military means to defend itself. How anyone thought that Russia could be brought to its knees by sanctions is beyond me.
Them came the war. In April the attempt to make peace with Kiev failed after the U.S. prevented Kiev from signing a deal. In consequence the Russia forces pulled back from Kiev. It never had had enough troops there to conquer the city. (One needs 1 soldier per ~40 inhabitants to occupy a city. Russia had only half of the needed force near Kiev.) The ‘experts’ called that a ‘defeat’ when in reality Russia had switched to a different plan that required a different disposition of force. It next took the Luhansk Oblast from Ukraine and switched to defensive tactics. The new aim was to bleed the Ukrainian forces while incurring few Russian losses.
Then came the Ukrainian attempt to take Kherson. That failed. A parallel Ukrainian attempt in the Kharkiv region was more successful as Russia had already removed most of its forces from that area. But take a map and look at the Kharkiv area that Russia ‘lost’. It has little industry and no important natural resources. What is its actual value for Russia? The southern land corridor from Russia to Crimea was way more important and that is where the troops had gone.
The Kherson region west of the Dnieper turned out to be difficult to supply. The new military command wanted the 30,000 troops holding it to move elsewhere. The Russian troops moved to the east side of the Dnieper without any losses. The Ukrainian military command in that area acknowledges that it failed in its main mission:
[Maj. Gen. Andriy Kovalchuk, who was tasked with leading the Kherson counteroffensive] set out to bisect the Russian-occupied area on the west side of the Dnieper and trap the Russian forces. “My task was not only to liberate the territory,” he said. “My task from the start was to occlude and destroy the force. That is, to not let them leave or exist.”
The first task was fulfilled by Kovalchuk’s successor only after the Russian forces had withdrawn from the area. The second part of the task was, despite high Ukrainian losses, left unfulfilled.
Like with the Russian pullback from Kiev the ‘experts’ claimed that the move east of Kharkiv as well as into the Kherson region were Ukrainian victories. From a military perspective neither qualifies as such.
Now you have BBC ‘experts’ predicting ways the conflict could go in 2023. There analyses of the real situation are so bad that you wonder what disinformation they are based on.
Michael Clarke, associate director of the Strategic Studies Institute, Exeter, UK
Both sides need a pause but the Ukrainians are better equipped and motivated to keep going, and we can expect them to maintain the pressure, at least in the Donbas.
Around Kreminna and Svatove they are very close to a big breakthrough that would throw Russian forces 40 miles back to the next natural defensive line, close to where their invasion effectively began in February.
Andrei Piontkovsky, scientist and analyst based in Washington DC
Ukraine will win by restoring completely its territorial integrity by spring 2023 at the latest. Two factors are shaping this conclusion.
One is the motivation, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian nation as a whole, which is unprecedented in modern war history.
The other is the fact that, after years of appeasement of a Russian dictator, the West has finally grown up to realise the magnitude of historical challenge it faces.
Barbara Zanchetta, Department of War Studies, King’s College London
The costs of the war, both material and human, might break the level of commitment of the Russian political elite. The key will be inside Russia.
Past wars in which miscalculation was a crucial element, such as Vietnam for United States, or Afghanistan for the Soviet Union, only ended in this way. Domestic political conditions shifted in the country that had miscalculated, making exit – either “honourable” or not – the only viable option.
Sadly, this will continue to be a long-protracted political, economic and military battle of resolve. And by the end of 2023 it will most probably still be ongoing.
Ben Hodges, former commanding general, United States Army Europe
By January, Ukraine could be in a position to begin the final phase of the campaign which is the liberation of Crimea.
We know from history that war is a test of will and a test of logistics. When I see the determination of the Ukrainian people and soldiers, and the rapidly improving logistical situation for Ukraine, I see no other outcome but a Russian defeat.
David Gendelman, military expert based in Israel
The occupation of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions will continue but a major Russian breakthrough like a drive from the south to Pavlograd to encircle the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas is less likely.
More probable is a continuation of current tactics – a slow grinding of Ukrainian forces on narrow directions and a slow advance, like in Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas, with possible same tactics in Svatove-Kreminna area.
I can confidently say that, except for a small likelihood for the very last prediction to be true for some time, all others conclusions above are delusional nonsense. They are not based on facts and numbers but on wishful thinking. They are in themselves mere propaganda. (Watch Webb Union and History Legends having fun with them.)
The delusion about the military state of the war is even worse when it comes to the political side.
Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters
A new gulf is emerging between the president and much of the country’s elite
The above headline is from today’s Washington Post. The unfounded basic assumption of the piece is that Russia is failing in its war. Its conclusions rest on some Carnegie ‘expert’ and anonymous sources in Russia. It is contradicted by the reality of the war and the results of current polls in Russia which show strong support for Putin and the government. It also ignores the fact that Russia has good relation with most of the rest of the world and that it also has powerful allies:
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed Friday to deepen their bilateral cooperation against the backdrop of Moscow’s 10-month war in Ukraine, which weathered another night of drone and rocket attacks following a massive missile bombardment.
Putin, during his call with Xi, noted that military cooperation has a “special place” in the relationship between their countries. He said the Kremlin aimed to “strengthen the cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China.”
Xi, in turn, said through a translator that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation,” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world.”
Ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown stronger since Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Just last week, Moscow and Beijing held joint naval drills in the East China Sea.
China, which has promised a “no limits” friendship with Russia, has pointedly refused to criticize Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, blaming the U.S. and NATO for provoking the Kremlin, and has blasted the punishing sanctions imposed on Russia.
Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid the tensions with the U.S. over Taiwan.
‘Increasingly isolated’ seems to mean something different to the Washington Post writer than to the rest of the world.
The delusion and lack of good analyses about military and political issues is accompanied by a delusion about the economic future of the ‘west’.
Here is a bit of reality:
Credit Suisse contributor Zoltan Pozsar has continued his ongoing series about Bretton Woods III where commodities will dictate the new world order. For his last dispatch of the year, he described how the world is now shifting to a multipolar order “being built not by G7 heads of state but by the ‘G7 of the East’ (the BRICS heads of state).”
“My sense is that the market is starting to realize that the world is going from unipolar to multipolar politically, but the market has yet to make the leap that in the emerging multipolar world order, cross-currency bases will be smaller, commodity bases will be greater, and inflation rates in the West will be higher,” the author explained.
I could go on about these issues for some time.
My feel this year was that political, economical and military issues discussed in the main stream media have parted from the objective reality more than they have done at any previous time in my life. I sometimes look into a mirror and think ‘well, maybe its just you.’ But it is not just me. Other analysts have come to similar conclusion. But, like me, neither of them gets quoted in main stream media and neither is paid in a traditional sense to publish on these issues.
Which, thinking of it, may well be the root of this theme.