I’ve already written how Putin will not survive and Russia will end up an economic basket case. Please go read those if you believe this piece is an argument that Russia will win the war — it won’t, at least not in the way it intended.
Germany’s former Navy Admiral Kay-Achim Schonbach nailed what was to come in January, 2020 (if only I had such predictive powers!). As he said, the cost of avoiding war, perhaps, could have been free. What I want to talk about is what it might cost us— in the future.
What it cost Britain 80 years ago. Why there’s an expression won the battles but lost the war.
Russia, by withdrawing its troops, has admitted defeat in its effort to scare Ukraine into replacing its government with one more favorable to Russian policy.
That doesn’t mean Zelensky’s government will survive in the long term. By pointing out various Western hypocrisies Zelensky is wearing out his welcome.
In the South, and along the borders to the East, Russia controls a lot of territory. I doubt Ukraine has the military power to remove those forces. Before the invasion, we were shown many scary satellite images of large Russian battalions. Afterwards, we’re shown none.
Of course, for intelligence reasons neither military wants to show its operations. However, after 6 weeks I’d think we’d get some old images. Why haven’t we?
I believe Western interests do not want the public to comprehend how powerful, large and well-organized the Russian military remains in the East and South. What we get are Russian losses from reconnaissance missions or other small engagements. Recently, it is horrific photos of dead citizens in the streets. We’re shown the trees, never the forest.
Hundreds of barrels of ink has been spilled in documenting all the Russian military equipment losses. The ~250 Russian losses of the T-72 tanks is certainly impressive; until one does some research and discovers that Russia has 9,750 more.
The media says Russia is withdrawing from the North to prevent it from losing in the South. Is it losing? Isn’t it risky allowing Ukrainian forces in the North to move down to fight in the South, if Russia withdraws? Why doesn’t Russia seem worried about that? Why doesn’t Russia keep up the pressure in the North to prevent Ukraine from sending more equipment to the South?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I only want to point out that the media ignores that the answers may not fit well in the Ukraine-will-win narrative. The truth may be simple. Russia has met its objectives in the South just like it says it has; that is, it has full control and is under no risk of losing it — no matter what Ukraine tries.
My wife hollered from other room, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” — Aldous Huxley.
I’m going to assume that, short of a U.S. lead entry into the war, with all the air power it has, Russia can hold the South indefinitely. Remember, its supply routes are not threatened in the flatter South (unlike the woodier North).
So now what? Can Ukraine prosper with Russia occupying the South and always threatening another push up north? How can Ukraine industry rebuild under those conditions? Ukraine was already under duress from the ongoing Donbas conflict.
Okay, so Russia becomes a pariah nation, like Iran and North Korea. We forget that under Soviet times it didn’t do much business with the West. Some old Russians are resigned to going back to a similar situation.
Life in the West certainly improved through the cold war, so maybe this is a good thing! And it might be!
Nonetheless, there are huge differences between then and now.
- 5.6 billion more people on the planet (population 2022–1940)
- Huge stresses on energy and food supplies from climate change
- A pandemic
- China is now a military superpower, much larger than Russia
- Oil/Energy shortages from lack of new investment.
- Continued growth of racist, religious or nationalist far-right groups
In a few months Russia might be able to surround Odesa and wait it out. Ukraine won’t give it up.
There are strong far-right groups in Ukraine who would interfere with any effort by Zelensky to negotiate a deal with Russia. It’s one thing for Ukrainians to unite in stopping Russia from invading Ukraine. It’s quite another for them to agree on a settlement concerning how much of Ukraine Russia continues to occupy.
Like the Donbas, the Ukrainian South becomes a stale-mate. Politics become volatile. Isolation and nationalism continues to grow — everywhere.
What’s to prevent another few years, even decades, of the West supplying equipment to Ukraine which fights Russia in the South, but with little change to who controls what?
A month ago I laughed at those predicting such an outcome. I’m laughing at them no longer.
The world moves on. Russia sells its oil/gas to China and India directly, while Europe buys it on the black market. If there’s one thing terrorists the world-over love — it’s opportunities in the black market!
While nationalist groups battle Russia in Ukraine, similar nationalist groups in the West begin to take on their own governments (Portland riots, etc.). They have fertile soil. The increasingly economically disenfranchised.
People forget Russia may have never invaded Ukraine if Germany connected the Nord Stream II pipeline when it was physically ready. Russia may have never invaded Ukraine if NATO stopped training Ukrainians and arming them (from 2014 to present). There have been many provocations, like Zelensky talking about acquiring nukes (300 miles from Moscow!) and Kamala Harris and Blinken not immediately squashing that idea.
Imagine Cuba today saying it wants to acquire nukes; then put yourself in Putin’s shoes.
We can call Russian “war criminals” until we’re blue in the face. We can send Ukraine all the stingers and javelins we can manufacture. What will it change? For now, Russia’s sphere of influence remains intact. In months it may begin to grow. Why not?
Russia may have lost Ukraine as a whole, but as every week drags on we lose too. Destroying Russian tanks with $250,000 missiles does little to benefit the American trying to keep up with his truck payments.
There are many global economic developments that would scare the bejesus out of Westerners — if they kept up. Recently, Russia has had to lower the price of oil to sell it. Buyers are taking advantage. However, eventually the tide will go the other way and Russia will raise prices.
Net-net, the Ukraine invasion must raise energy prices globally. Prices only decrease in periods of peacetime.
China has long tried to keep prices lower to the West to grow its industry. With the economy crumbling (and it is for many Chinese homeowners) it may raise prices and accept the economic hit to favor nationalist strength — just as Russia is doing.
To put it bluntly, think of a future where Russia, China and other nations say F__ the global economy, we’re going to make sure no one messes with us. We too, will walk softly but carry a big stick. So what it our populations go back to rice and beans for a while. Too much computer time is bad for you anyway.
That is the single most scary pivot, the transition from an economic focus, in Russia and China, to one of nationalism. Goodbye iPhone, hello AK-47 and military patches.
Lately, United States anti-Russia foreign policy hawks are drinking champagne every night. Russia is losing tanks and other equipment. Their military looks like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. They are exhausting their advanced missile inventory. Putin is supposed to be the judo expert. Yet here we are, watching him flail on the Ukrainian mat.
He has time to get up.
Europe and Asia are at war. Liberal democratic countries are fighting with words. Nationalists are fighting with tanks. We’ve been here before.